Completion Chapter 17

Interlude Four: Understanding

By Drakonlily

Reno hit his head on the shower wall.  He wanted to go stay with his daughter, not rest and take a shower.  But he was forced by a very stern Elmyra and Shera to take a shower and sleep at least for at least three hours.  The cure materia had left him drained and he was still sore.  Just because you were healed didn't mean your body knew it yet.  He let out a haggard breath.  How was he supposed to be a hero?  He was a Turk; he wasn't a hero, at least not anymore.  There had been a time when he had thought he could make a difference; when he had saved Tifa, when he was leaking that information for Avalanche.   Now he was just a guy trying to get by, to get past not being a hero but a Turk.

Was the world worth saving?  In all honesty, the things that Yrene had told him made some twisted sense. Many, if not most, of the people on this planet were in a whole intolerant, evil, and cruel.  The planet had almost been destroyed by the greed of two men.  He himself was fighting tooth and nail to even stay alive and keep his daughter fed. So what made this planet worth even trying to save? What could he have here that he couldn't have in the Aeon world?

As if to answer his mind's questions, Tifa's voice came timidly through the bathroom door.  "Re?  Are you okay?"

He had to smile at the nickname; she always called him that. Gods, had it been over 16 years since he met her?  Maybe that's why the year apart was so easy to forget.  They had been close for years, best friends.  Then he had rescued her and she moved in with him.  Every day she had been there.  When she wasn't it was hell, Reno hadn't even missed Bethany as much as he had missed Tifa.  "Yeah, I guess."  He turned off the water and dried off, damn he was sore.

When he threw his pants on and opened the door she was still standing there.  "You don't look it."  Tifa wanted to run up to him, she restrained herself by placing her arms behind her back.

Reno forced himself to stay where he was by leaning up against the doorframe. "You should be asleep." He chided. It was just like Tifa to wander about still feeling three cracked ribs. He lost the battle not to go to her and crossed the room. 

She sat down on the bed, watching him walk over to her.  "Yeah and so should you." Tifa sighed, she didn't want to have to save the world right now.  Now she wanted to save Reno.  She watched him dry off his unruly red hair, taking the opportunity to look him over.  Tifa told herself that it was to make sure he wasn't hurt more then he claimed. That and she also looked at how nicely he had filled out over this year apart.  He always had a great build, but now he was tan, shoulder's broad from working outside.  That splash of freckles almost hid his scars, almost made them stand out more- the only truly pale place visible on his skin.  "You look stiff Re, please you really need to rest."

He sat down next to her, their bodies almost close enough to touch. "I am stiff.  I got fried too,"  he looked over at her.  Reno then blew a long red bang out of his face,  "You however, have a concussion and three cracked ribs."  The piece of hair hit the bridge of his nose again and he growled  at it, "I need a hair cut."

"I could do it for you, now that you are bothering to cut it again."  Tifa laughed and moved it for him, tucking it behind his ear.  "If you don't mind."

"Well, now that I don't have someone telling me I have to cut my hair, I think it needs to be.  I should just go like Rude."

"No! I like your hair."  Tifa exclaimed.

He smiled, "Really now?  You always said it was a rats nest."

"That’s just because you teased me.  I always-"  She smacked him on the arm, "You always fluster me when I want to be nice!"  He flinched, still sore. "That’s it Reno," Tifa grumbled.  She moved behind him and began to work on his stiff shoulders.  "Holy, you are tight Re…" 

It was nice to have someone rub his back; Tifa always had a knack for things like this.  She even got Tseng addicted to her back rubs.  Reno had never been one to enjoy physical contact.  The more he had worked for Shinra- had been forced to sleep around for their covert wants- the more he wanted nothing to do with people.  It was almost heaven to have someone touch him because they cared about him.  Someone who knew his name.  He leaned forward, giving out a contented sigh as her hands worked out another knot further down his back.

Tifa finished that last knot at his pants line and shook out sore hands.  She traced the outside of one of the broken angel's wings tattooed on his back.  She remembered when he had first gotten it over ten years ago.  The stray thought that the color held well ran through  her mind. Realizing what she was doing, she scooted back from him and pulled her legs up Indian style. "Do you feel better?"

On an impulse Reno laid back, resting his head in Tifa's lap, "yeah, I do."  He closed his eyes, thinking about things they had told each other a long time ago.  Something made him have to ask her again.  It hit Reno that maybe this was the answer to his question. Two questions in one, giving meaning to this fight they found themselves thrown in.  When he opened his eyes again Tifa had leaned forward, her hair fell around their faces like a curtain.  "Teef?"

Those wine toned eyes locked with blue ones, "yeah?" When she spoke it was a whisper, as if this intimate zone her hair had made begged more quiet tones.

A lump formed in Reno's throat.  He swallowed it. "You remember what I had asked you, just before the Avalanche thing?"

She looked down into his face, how could she forget?  Her 20th birthday, Reno had asked her if she could do it.  If she thought that they could stop Shinra.  She had been sure then, positive that Shinra would fall.

Then, then he asked her something else, if she would want to stay with him after the fall.  Tifa had laughed, told him he was her reason for fighting Shinra, so he could have his freedom. 

Lastly, he had asked if she would want to marry him…

"You mean on my birthday?"   She brushed those bangs back yet again.

She remembers… That nagging voice of Reno's had all but made him to believe that she had forgotten about him. "Yeah, you didn't…"  How was he going to ask this?  "Did you change your mind?"  Reno had to know.  He wasn't going to toss his heart in for a fling.  He needed a promise.

"Did I change my mind?"  Tifa blinked,  then she moved forward, brushing her lips with his.  "No, did you?" 

He looked shocked at first, then he sat up and looked at her over his shoulder. He turned all the way to face her, pulling his own long legs into the same position Tifa was in.  "So, Tifa?  Would you marry me?"

Instead of talking she moved forward, bringing their faces close.  "Yes."  She let herself slide next to him. "And you still need to sleep."

"So do you." He laid down on the bed, pulling her down with him.  "Only for another two hours.  Then I am going up to the sick bay." 

She snuggled her back into his chest, letting his arm tighten around her waist. Then she felt his lips barely brush the nape of her neck. Tifa arched her back, pressing herself into him.  She shivered as his hand drifted down from her stomach to her hip. "I thought I was supposed to get some sleep?" She murmured dreamily, her own hand reached behind her to touch his cheek.

"I said in two hours…"  Reno's voice trailed off into her soft hair.  She rolled over, his hand traveled over her hip to the small of her back.  He pulled Tifa closer and kissed her, feeling her hands on his shoulders and her lips parting slightly.  She pulled him over her.  Reno propped himself up on his elbows, looking down at her.  "I love you."

"I never stopped loving you Reno."   Tifa's hands moved to his back, stopping at his pants line.

Reno blinked at her statement.  It wasn't the admission of love that surprised him. Reno realized for the first time in seven years he was with someone who knew his name.  Someone who knew HIM and actually cared.  "I know."

Again their lips met, this time harder, muffled moans rose in their throats.  Tifa's hands found the front of his pants and unfastened them, pushing them and the boxers he had under them, down further on his hips.  Reno backed off of her and she sat up, their lips still locked.  This kiss was finally broken by Reno throwing the pants to the side.

She slid out of her own clothes quickly.  It had been too long in coming, she needed him.  Those blue eyes never left hers even as she fell back down to the bed.  Tifa let her legs entwine with his as he settled above her.  She arched against him.

One last kiss on her lips then his mouth trailed down her cheek, to her neck, collar bone and further.  "Ohh Re…"   her voice came out shaky, a breathless sound.  His tongue traced around her nipple and one hand slid between her thighs. 

 She moaned, lifting her hips to meet Reno's hand.  It was sweet torture, feeling so amazing and yet she needed more.  Tifa pulled his head from her chest to catch his mouth with hers. 

Propped up on his elbows again he slowly slid into her.  Once their hips touched his arms went around her, one hand behind her head, the other just under her neck.  Her legs tightened around his, pushing him further into her.  Her hands on his shoulders, holding him.

Tifa could only get out one phrase. "Oh gods, I love you Reno."  Her eyes opened, looking at him.  Reno's forehead was touching hers. All she could see were those burning blue eyes.


Vincent Valentine didn't know what to think at all, since the episode in the temple Chaos had been silent.  Carbunkle was not a topic to discuss with the creature that lived in his body with him.  The dark man's grip tightened on the railing of the Highwind.  Carbunckle…   Gods the resemblance to Suzi was perfect.  She didn't sound the same, just a few moments being near her was enough to convince Vincent that she was not his dead wife.  But still, looking at her felt like someone was ripping out his heart.

He heard her coming up next to him on the deck, he turned his red eyes to look her over.  Crimson hair fell wildly over her shoulders and into her face.  One of Tifa's jackets covered pale, thin shoulders.  Her deep green eyes bore into him sadly.  "Can I talk to you Vic?"

He swallowed, nodded, and turned away.

She leaned next to him, a breeze picked up and she closed her eyes, tilting her head to feel the wind in her hair.  The smile on her face a haunting reminder of Suzi.  Her eyes were still closed with the passing moment when she at last spoke. "I wanted to thank you." 

He let out a humorless laugh, "thank me?"

"Yes, thank you."   When the tall man did not speak she cleared her throat.  "I mean, this is hard…"  He voice drifted off.  A moment later she pointed over to the rising moon.  "You see that?"  There was almost a childlike wonder in her voice.

"Yeah, it’s the moon."  He tried not to soften his tone, it was impossible to be cold to Carbunkle.  "Carbunkle?"

"Cari, dear.  Please, you of all creatures call me Cari."  She looked into his face, into his eyes, seeing a haunted soul and a tortured spirit.  "What Vic?"

"You wanted to- to thank me?"  Part of him wanted to touch her, to make absolutely sure that she wasn't who she resembled.  The other part of him knew already and was hating his false hopes.  She didn't give off the same air as Suzi. Carbunkle seemed ageless, timeless, something beyond feelings.  Emotion, however flooded her voice, face and being.

"I need to thank you."  She ground out, those heather eyes almost trapping him.  "I need to –to-"  she looked to the side, watching a flock of bats cross the moon.  "Everything here is so beautiful, so alive.  I believed Sillian, but this is so much more then I imagined."

"What are you talking about?"  Vincent watched the bats as well, it was easier not to look at Cari as she spoke.  He could pretend that she didn't look like the woman he missed with every breath.

"Sillian and I come from a place that is as changeless and ageless as I am.  Nothing but eternity and time.  We Aeon's do not know the things that you write off as the wind or the moon.  We can't feel the things you do."

Vincent snapped his head back over, "what are you trying to tell me?"

The red head shrunk a bit.  "Vickalor, When Sillian came here she had never felt love, she couldn't even comprehend it. Love can't last forever, no matter what poems tell you.  Hate can't last forever,  nothing can, nor will it ever.  Then Hojo,"  Her voice lased with a bitterness that it was clearly not accustomed to.  "He- he-"  it took a few deep breathes before she could speak again.  "He took forever from her, showed her hate.  Gave her a life that would end one day.  He took eternity and left her with nothing."

The railing squealed as Vincent's claw raked down it.  "I know Hojo."  Came the response.  "I sent him to hell where he belongs."

She nodded, "I never want to talk of him again, that isn't what I wanted to say at all…"  She watched the moving clouds and the sea below her.   "She wanted to die,  my own sister- my twin.  Part of me, she would beg at night to die.  I never cried, never once during the war, not when Chaos left, but hearing her I did."  She choked back something before continuing.  "I was ready to damn humanity.  Then she met you."

He looked at her, hard.  For the first time he really studied Cari, taking in what was unnatural- an Aeon feeling pain.   For all his own torment, his own strife this was far more damning.  He couldn't imagine not being able to feel love, but when one actually does?  And then to lose that forever?  To lose a sister and feel that forever?  Vincent knew that all to well.  All her pain and she was actually thanking him?  "Me?" Vincent asked simply.

Cari laughed, a light natural sound.  "Yes, you.  Vic, you make it sound hard to believe, but is it?  You let her see the other side of humanity.  You showed her how to love."   The Aeon put a hand on Vincent's human shoulder.  "You made her happy.  For the time you were together, I had never seen her so happy."

"Really?"  Vincent blinked at the sound of his own voice.  It had been years since that note was in it.  Was it hope?  "I did?"

"You know that you did.  You knew her.  You and Reno were her world.  And she would have rather had the life she did, live that pain and be gone now then have never known you and loved you."  She stepped to the dark ex- Turk and looked in his face.  "Thank you for that Vic."   Then she hugged him.

He hugged her back, watching those bats fly around the Highwind again.  The earth didn't move, nothing flickered, it was more of a settling.  This would be over, this would end and he would see Suzi again.  For right now, he would let this happen, he would hope.  It felt too good to let it go.  "Your welcome."


Elena pulled her sweater around her as she walked through the hallways of the Highwind.  She had checked on the chocobos for lack of something to do.  She had paced the ship for lack of something to do.  She was now wandering with the lack of something to do.  Or someone to talk to… she thought.  She hadn't felt this lonely in a long time.  Not that she begrudged anyone their happiness.  Barret and Elmyra,  Cid and Shera they were talking old times, probably trying to talk Cid into parenthood.  Reeve and Scarlet conveniently had disappeared to their room.  If Elena knew them and she did, they had a chair under the doorknob.  Those two were so in love it was a laugh.  Rude and Yuffie?  They deserved each other.   Nanaki and Rovina were talking so were Vincent and Cari.   As for Reno and Tifa, they needed time alone.  It had been WAY too long for them to be apart.

But she was lonely.  No one had time for her, it wasn't their fault.  That knowledge didn't make her any less lonely.  She turned a corner, her thoughts wandering the last place that she thought they would- Cloud.  He was in her head a lot lately.  It was strange, she was over Tseng.  Really she was, after hearing from Tifa that he had died well it was all she needed.  Cloud was just someone to talk to though.  Someone she had a lot in common with.  Even though she didn't know a great deal about him, sometimes you just know when you are like someone else. 

A punching bag flew past her, barely missing her nose.  She leaped back with her guards raised.  The bag hit the wall in a splat of white sand.  "Holy Elle are you ok?"  Cloud's voice came from behind her.

She laughed, "yeah, Turk reflexes save the day again.  What may I ask did that bag do to you?"  Her voice trialed off slightly.  Cloud walked in front of her and picked up the leaking bag.  She had never seen the blond hero with his shirt off, she realized why.  Cloud's torso was literally covered with surgical looking scars.  Some were larger then others, but they all stood out white on his flushed skin.  He threw the bag back in the corner leaving a dent.  "Really man, did it insult you?"  She asked again, trying not to feel sorry for him, not to want to comfort him.

"Yeah it called me fat."  He joked, throwing a shirt on.  He locked his haunted blue eyes with her amber ones.  The look on his face told her that he knew she had been staring at his scars.  He didn't say anything else, just grabbed his thick jacket.

"Are you ok?"  She lifted a hand and then put it back down.  Had this been Rude or Reno she wouldn't have felt this awkward. 

Cloud looked at the bag and gave a deep sigh.  "I really suck at this 'hero' bullshit."

Elena looked at him, confused.  "You are kidding right Hero Boy?"  She moved into the doorway, stopping a few feet away from Cloud.  "You ARE a hero.  You aren't trying you kinda already saved the damn planet once.  I should know, we were trying to stop you."

He threw her a "you really have no idea" look.  "WE saved the planet.  I didn't do it alone.  And you were not trying very hard to stop us.  Were you now Villain Girl?"

She bit her lip, "well no, I guess we weren't.  But try telling that to the rest of the planet.  Everyone hates us."  A thought crossed Elena's head, "You wanna go for a walk?  You really look like you could use someone to talk to."

"I don't hate you."  Cloud said simply, he didn't think long about Elena's offer. "Yeah, a walk would be nice.  Its just…  I really hate having voices in my head.  I almost killed-"

"Hey!"  Elena whirled around, "That wasn't you.  Ok?  Don't feel bad for things that you can't control Hero Boy."

The hero pushed past her, "Take your own advise Villain Girl"  They walked in silence, Cloud wished his head was as quiet.

Now this is interesting….

Rot in hell…

Been there done that.  You should visit.

Been there done that. GO AWAY.  At least for now that was all it took.  With a hiss and a tremor Havoc's voice left him.

He watched Elena walk next to him, he had gotten used to her being around him and he liked it.  She seemed on a level with him when they talked, it wasn't just the motorcycles or the fact that they knew the same people.  It was deeper.  Something about letting Tifa go had hurt him, but it had healed him more then it hurt.  By telling Tifa to go where she belonged Cloud had closed that chapter of his life.  Trying to replace Aeris wasn't his concern anymore.  In fact he hadn't really thought to miss her for a few weeks now. 

They pushed out onto the ship's deck.  Cold air making her pull her sweater tighter.   "Where did you grow up?"  Cloud asked at length.

"Junon."  She looked at the railing and shivered.

"Are you cold?"


Smooth Strife…  "You don't have to say anything Elle, I'm sorry."

Elena laughed, "You are doing it again.  Saying sorry for nothing."  She looked up at Cloud, wondering if her own face was lit up as well with the light from his eyes.  She made up her mind then, to tell him.  She needed to tell someone, maybe he would understand.  "My family wasn't poor like Reno's mom, they weren't down and out like Rude's, I wasn't exiled like Tseng.  I just was born and that was enough.  My mom and dad were working class from the harbor.  Both real sturdy with dark hair and eyes.  Then I was born, a little blonde."  She hugged herself.   "My dad was certain that I wasn't his child.  He took it out on my mom.  He started beating her, often.  One day he just snapped."  Elena's voice hitched, she pulled her shoulders closer.  The final words came out in a rush. "He threw her down the stairs of our house but that didn't kill her so he took her back up and threw her down again.  I just- just watched…"

Cloud looked at her and did the only thing he could think of- he put his arm around her shoulders and hugged her.  He bit back that part of him that hated human contact, over riding it with wanting to help her.

Elena leaned into him, continuing her story.  It seemed like once she started she couldn't stop.   "He started in on me after that, all I could do is run away.  I started racing bikes to make money so I could really run away.  He always got me back.  You ever beg anyone for something Cloud? Something really simple?"

Cloud adjusted himself to her, letting his other arm go around her.  He had begged Hojo every day for five years to just kill him.  Wasn't that’s simple enough?  All he said was "Yeah."

It seemed that Elena knew what he was thinking about.  "I did too.  I wanted him to kill me, or to leave.  Just stop hurting.  I couldn't take it anymore and I killed him when I was sixteen."  She waited for something.

Cloud filled in the blank.  "He deserved it."

"I know."  She muttered.  "Of course I am the one to go to a detention center.  From there I was shipped to SOLDIER to clear my name.  I kept racing bikes and then I met Tseng.  He was my friend.  My first real friend.  So I trusted him when he brought up the Turks…"  She stopped talking as suddenly as she had finished.

Cloud didn't say a word, he understood.  Shinra got what they wanted when they wanted it.  No one could fight them, no one but Avalanche.  Now they had to pick up pieces of a company they were all forced into.  Now they had to fight again, as if their whole lives had already not been fighting to stay alive.  They watched the sun come up like that, in a moment of understanding.

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