Always There

The dusty streets of Junon. The air was thick with fog and the streets were littered with various pieces of shattered glass which gave the gutters a shimmering rainbow effect. The glass was crushed into smaller pieces as one man stalked solemnly towards a small back street bar. Reno swung the door open and was immediately greeted by a thick cloud of cigarette fumes. He made his way to the bar, slinking silently between the tables of loud mouthed hooligans and drunken drop outs. The place was filled with the dregs of society, the failures, the outcasts. He would fit right in. Reno leaned against the bar, making sure to stay in the corner, away from everyone else. There was one woman standing behind the bar. She was old and, even in the flattering dimness of the bar, incredibly ugly.

‘For fucks sake’ thought Reno ‘I’m in hell. This couldn’t possibly get worse.’

At that precise moment it did.

The old woman stopped what she was doing and called out through a pair of shutters into a back room.

"Coming." Was the reply.

The voice sent Reno into a sudden state of panic.

‘It can’t be! It couldn’t be!’ he thought

The young barmaid walked through a side door behind the bar and stepped up to the counter. She stopped suddenly and stared at Reno, not believing it was possible he was standing in front of her.

"I’m sorry," said Reno "I didn’t realise…" He turned to leave.

"Wait!" cried Tifa "you don’t have to go. Please, stay."

Reno stopped and looked at her.

"If that’s what you want…" he said, checking her reaction.

Tifa nodded solemnly. She asked him if he wanted a drink but he reclined, saying they’d both be better off if he stayed sober. She disappeared briefly to serve other customers, leaving Reno alone with his thoughts.

‘Why the hell does she want me to stay?’ he asked himself. He was soon answered.

"My shift’s over now, could we go somewhere else please?" asked Tifa, returning to the corner.

"We?" he asked, one eyebrow arched in surprise.

Tifa shuffled nervously. "I guess I….I want someone to talk to. Someone who knows what I’m on about and understands..." Tifa paused and drew herself up proudly "And you wouldn’t be in a place like this if everything was okay with you, either!"

Reno sighed and grinned slightly, wrapping his arm round her shoulders

"Come on then. I know the place."

Reno guided her through the back alleys of Junon. He kept his arm around her, partly to shield her from the biting frost, which was already beginning to settle on the roads, and partly to discourage the attention of the drunk yobs which leered from the shadows. She didn’t seem to mind, although it was obvious that she was uncomfortable being this close to him.

As they walked, Tifa kept a close eye on Reno. Although she was felt uncomfortable with their closeness, she couldn’t help but feel comforted by his mixed scent of spicy after-shave and cigarette smoke. She was so deep in thought she didn’t notice Reno had stopped and taken his arm from her until he moved away and exposed her bare arms to the bitter night air. The pair had ended up down an alley way which opened onto a small overhang which overlooked the vast ocean. Reno leaped over the small wall which blocked the metal plate off from the rest of the city. He sat down on a small step and motioned for Tifa to do the same. When he was sure she was comfortable enough, he asked again why she was there with him.

"Because I was happier then. The travelling…even the fighting, I was with friends. I felt…wanted, I guess."

Tifa’s answer was vague but Reno understood. She was talking to him because he reminded her of a time when she was wanted and needed. A time when she had a purpose, and wasn’t just drifting along on her own. Reno understood perfectly, because he felt the same. Where Avalanche had been Tifa’s purpose and source of companionship, the Turks had been his. It was however a vague answer, and Reno knew she wasn’t here to tell him just that. There was no point in asking her outright again, though. As a former spy, Reno knew just how to get the necessary information.

"I take that’s why you still wear that same outfit despite working in the roughest dive in the city, it reminds you of then."

"And I take it that’s why you’re still wearing the uniform of the Turks?" Tifa snapped back. Reno nodded and turned away from her to stare out onto the ocean.

Tifa followed his gaze onto the still waters. She noticed the surface was unbroken by waves or ripples, so that the reflection of the stars made the sky look as if that was all there was. It was beautiful, but empty. There was nothing out there, Tifa and Reno were alone. Tifa began to feel guilty for snapping at him, after all, he was being, well, nice. When she looked back, she couldn’t really say Reno was a nasty person. Okay, he was a cold-blooded assassin, but he knew how to play whatever game Shinra wanted him to play without becoming a puppet on a string. He knew when to back down, and he knew when not to start the conflict. Despite being a professional killer, he was still human. He’d shown it in Wutai and the tunnels in Midgar. She knew she should hate him but…

"Sector seven…why?" she ventured nervously, turning her gaze back to him

"A few of my friends worked near the sector one reactor."

He didn’t need to say anything else, but when he saw the guilt in her eyes he did anyway.

"We’re equal on that on, I believe." He said.

Tifa nodded silently, the tears in her eyes. She wanted to change the subject, to take her mind of the guilt and the feeling of loss.

"How are Elena and Rude?" she asked.

"I haven’t heard from Elena since that business in the tunnels and Rude…Rude was in Midgar when Meteor fell." He said, returning his gaze to the ocean.

Tifa’s eyes widened in shock and sympathy. "Oh my God! I’m so sorry."

"Don’t be. ‘Cause then I’d have to be sorry about Cloud, and whatever that jerk’s done he won’t have my sympathy."

"Cloud left. Simple as that. I don’t know why and I don’t care. I’ve lost too many loved ones to do it again. I’ve moved on." She said, her voice on the verge of tears.

"Of course you have." Said Reno. "Y’know, when I was younger, I used to wish I could’ve lived in a place like Nibelheim rather than grow up in that shit hole of a city they ceremoniously call Midgar. I thought the slums were cursed, but it’s not that, is it? It’s fate, or whatever, that’s the curse. I mean, look at us. By the time we were both sixteen we’d both seen more than most grown men ever do. And this is what it’s come to. Life’s a bitch. It throws fuck knows what at you and expects you to cope. You’re lucky to have coped this well."

On those last words Tifa burst into tears. Reno pulled her closer to him as her sob’s shook her whole body. After the sobs abated, Tifa lifted her head up and looked at Reno. There was a hollow sadness in her eyes.

"Tifa…" he started, but was cut off by the feel of her lips on his. He deepened the kiss and moaned softly as she slid her hand underneath his jacket.

Tifa pulled the knife from his inside pocket. She pulled away from Reno and flicked the blade open. Reno looked at her questioningly. He knew she wasn’t a threat, her eyes told him that, but Reno still didn’t like the situation.

"I’m not coping!" she cried through fresh sobs "I can’t do this, Reno please, I need to escape!" She pushed the blade into his hand and he knew what she wanted.

"Tifa, I can’t…"

"Reno…please…" she said, her voice strained with tears.

Reno held the knife to her chest and gave Tifa one final glance. She nodded her solemn consent.

Her last words came in choked gasps

"You would be there…whether we needed you…or not…Reno…Somehow…you were always there when…when it mattered most…you were always there."

He cradled Tifa, rocking her gently back and forth like a baby. He was lost, he didn’t know what to do. He looked at the bloodstained blade in his hand, and he had his answer. He lifted the blade to his own chest and took one last glance at the lifeless body.

The words whistled in the breeze

‘You were always there’

Reno smiled

"And I always will be, Tifa Lockheart, I always will be."