Shards Chapter 11
By Frank Verderosa
Brant had been working for Dulane for almost six years now. In that time he had never seen Dulane fly off the handle. He go angry at times, but had never seemed to completely lose it, at least not in public. But employees and friends that had known Dulane longer told a different story. In fact, Dulane's fits of temper were a source of legend among them. Perhaps now that he was established, Dulane no longer incurred the kind of setbacks these days that would set him off back then, or perhaps he was just mellowing in his old age. Brant didn't know. All he knew was he had been told that when Dulane had gotten mad, people had a tendency to disappear, literally.
Though Brant had never seen Dulane get really mad, he had a feeling that if anything was going to, what happened last night would qualify. Ever since he had found out, Brant had noticed that all of Dulane's employees had been avoiding their boss as much as possible. Most of them seemed to think that an explosion was unavoidable, and none of them wanted to be anywhere nearby when it happened.
Brant would have been more than happy to join them in their avoidance of Dulane. But unfortunately, that was impossible. As the man's financial advisor, he couldn't avoid the task at hand, or the company of the man standing next to him. Although Dulane seemed calm enough at the moment, he was worried that something he might say would set the man off. So it was with great care that he chose his words.
"I can't tell for sure until I get in and take a closer look, but it appears the rooms in the back are a total loss. That was where the fire started. Fortunately the fire department got here quickly. Looks like having them on our payroll paid off. Most of the building's still intact, though there's quite a bit of smoke damage. Off the top of my head, I'd say we're looking at about 150 to 200 thousand in repairs."
Dulane did not reply. They stood in the street looking at the Come Along Inn, or what was left of it.
"Insurance will cover it, of course," Brant continued, feeling the need to put what had happened in the best possible light.
"Insurance won't make up for the loss of business," Dulane muttered. "Insurance won't make up for the aggravation. Insurance won't make up for him scaring away my patrons. And insurance certainly won't make up for the loss of two good men."
His voice was almost a snarl by the time he finished.
Brant nodded, hoping it made him appear sympathetic.
"I know," he agreed. Bence and Dalton had been in charge of security. Both of them had been killed. Probably a good thing, Brant thought abstractly. If either of them had lived, they would have been sure to have been blamed.
"But we know Bence wounded him when they fought," Brant continued. "Pretty badly from all the blood."
Brant looked at Dulane carefully for some kind of reaction, but the man's face remained grim.
"We know it was Garren," Brant continued. "There's no doubt about that. Three of the girls are eyewitnesses. Do you want me to have the police pick him up? He wouldn't stand a chance in court. Arson and murder. They'd throw him away for life."
Dulane did not reply, just stood there looking at the building in front of them. He didn't even glance at Brant. His mouth a thin line, his fists clenched. Brant didn't like the look of him at all, but there was nothing he could do about it. He stood there nervously waiting for a reply.
"No," Dulane said finally. "In jail he gets a room, three meals a day, I heard you can even get conjugal visits. The jails are starting to sound like freaking vacation resorts. No, jail's too good for him. Nobody does something like this to me, to ME, and lives. I've got a reputation to uphold. Somebody disses me and they pay for it. And not by getting sent to some comfy prison. No, if that happens then what's to prevent the next upstart who comes along from doing the same thing? Once you show any weakness, you're lost. I've got to show everyone just what happens to someone who crosses me. I've got to show them so they'll never forget!"
He suddenly turned to look at Brant, and the fury in his eyes almost made the financial advisor step back.
"Forget about the police," Dulane spat out. "This is personal. I'll take care of this myself."
He turned and started to over toward their waiting limo.
"Dulane, don't do anything rash," Brant found himself calling out. "It's stupid to waste your time on this guy."
Dulane just shook his head without looking back. Damn wuss, he thought. Of course Brant didn't want him to do anything stupid. That might threaten the man's own position. All Brant was interested in was making sure his own cash flow wasn't interrupted.
Dulane stepped into the back of the car and slammed the door behind him. In front the driver glanced at him for a moment in the rear view mirror, but then turned away when Dulane did not speak.
He had made a mistake. For the first time in a long time he had made a mistake. He had underestimated Garren's reaction to his interaction with Tifa. He hadn't expected Garren to retaliate. Forgivable, really. After all, he had taken Maralee from him, the man's own wife, for chrissake, and Garren hadn't done anything. But even a forgivable mistake still rankled. It appeared he had finally pushed the man too far.
Well, that was fine with him. He could push pretty hard himself. He had never thought Garren to be more than a low life loser, not worthy of any serious consideration. He had always had more important things to worry about. But now, now that had changed. No one had dared to challenge Dulane in more than five years now. No one would have dared to strike at one of his brothels. The whole town knew better. He had carefully cultivated that ruthless image, and he wasn't about to let some drunk change it. No, Garren was going to pay, and in a way that the whole town would talk about for the next ten years. Nobody does this to Dulane Trimolt. Nobody!
Dulane found himself staring at the back of the seat in front of him. The driver was still waiting patiently in the front for some clue as to where they were headed.
"Fifteen Linwood Street," Dulane said gruffly. "And step on it."
Immediately the car surged from the curb. Dulane heard a horn blare behind him, but he paid it no heed.
No, Garren was going to pay dearly for what he had done. Already a plan was formulating in Dulane's mind. He had known Garren for a long time. He knew just what the man's weaknesses were.
It didn't take them long to reach their destination, a three story apartment building. Fortunately, it wasn't far from the Come Along Inn. The was no place to park, so Dulane just instructed the driver to pull up in front of the building and double park. If anyone complained about it, too bad.
Dulane slipped out of the car. He quickly entered the building and walked down the hall. When he reached apartment 114 he stopped and knocked.
His foot tapped impatiently on the floor while he waited for an answer. When none was forthcoming, he anxiously knocked again, this time more loudly.
"Yeah, yeah, hold your horses. I'm comin'" he heard from inside.
A moment later the door opened to reveal a woman dressed in a floral print bathrobe, a cigarette in her hand.
"Hello Esella," Dulane said.
Esella looked at him in surprise.
"Dulane! What the hell are you doing here?"
Without invitation Dulane walked into the apartment. Esella looked at him a moment, then leaned against the wall, taking a drag from her cigarette.
"I'm here to make you an offer," he said.
"Oh?" she replied. "You've never done anything like that before. What brought this on?"
"That's not really important," Dulane replied. "Let's just say that the current situation is causing both of us problems."
"How so?" Esella asked. She closed the door, then walked over to the couch and sat down. She didn't offer Dulane a seat. "What do we have in common, besides knowing Garren?"
Dulane looked at her thoughtfully.
"You're not as young as you used to be," he said.
Esella looked at him for a moment, then frowned.
"Have you come here to insult me?" she asked.
"Not at all," Dulane replied. "I'm just telling the truth. You're still good looking, but a lot of men get tired of older woman. They want someone new, someone fresh. Someone...innocent."
"Dulane, get the hell out of here," Esella stated.
"Garren's a lot like that," Dulane continued.
Esella looked at him sharply. Dulane calmly returned the look.
"Just what is it that you want?" Esella said impatiently.
"Must be tough," he said slowly. "After giving all those years to Garren, to see him suddenly forget about you. You'd think you'd deserve better than that. You think after all this time you'd have made an impression on the man, that he might actually care for you. Tell me, Esella, do you think he thinks about you at all when he's in that young sluts bed?"
Esella stood up, staring at him angrily.
Dulane held up his hands.
"Like I said, I didnt' come here to insult you. In fact, I came her to help you."
"What are you talking about?" she said, obviously fed up and wishing he would just get to the point.
"In a way, we have a mutual problem," he said. "Tifa. I want her for...well, I'm sure you can figure out on your own what I want her for. But I need to get her away from Garren to do anything. My guess is that you wouldn't be too unhappy to see her out of the picture yourself. Maybe we should both be working on the same side here."
The frown faded on Esella's face. She stood there for a minute, then walked over to the table, crushing out her cigarette in an ashtray.
"Why should I trust you?" she asked. "I know how you use people. How do I know you're not going to use me?"
"I have no reason to," Dulane replied. "Except to help me get Tifa away from Garren. And that's what you want too. We can use each other to get what we both want. It's a win win situation."
Esella did not reply. She slipped another cigarette out of the pack that was lying on the table beside the ashtray. Dulane produced a lighter and lit it for her. She walked over to the window and looked out into the darkness, her back toward him. She took a long drag on the cigarette. Dulane waited patiently.
Finally she turned to look back at him again.
"So what exactly did you have in mind?"
Garren looked at Tifa, standing by the stove, but he said nothing, just sat down heavily at the kitchen table. It was obvious he was suffering from a severe hangover, among other things. His hair a mess, unshaven, he looked like hell, and yet still a lot better than he had last night.
Tifa turned back to the bacon and eggs that she had sizzling merrily on the stove.
"There's coffee made if you want it," she continued conversationally, nodding her head at the machine beside the sink.
Garren's chair scrapped along the kitchen floor as he pulled it back to stand up. He came over beside her and poured a cup, black, and took a long sip.
"You're a saint," he muttered, walking back to the table and sitting back down again, cradling the cup in his hands. Tifa glanced at him, trying to get a look at his side, but his clothes covered the wound, or what was left of it. He didn't seem to be favoring it.
"How are you feeling?" she asked.
"Like shit," he replied bluntly.
"You scared me to death," Tifa confessed honestly.
Garren didn't reply for a moment. He wiped his hand across his forehead and looked at her thoughtfully.
"Thanks again," he said seriously.
"You don't have to thank me," she replied, turning away, feeling suddenly embarrassed. She wasn't used to Garren saying such things.
"On the contrary, no matter how many times I say it, it'll never be enough," he stated.
Tifa looked at him and smiled, not really knowing what to say. She turned back to the stove and removed the bacon and eggs, placing them on plates and bringing them over to the table.
As she sat down she looked at Garren again.
"So...what was it that you did last night?" she inquired hesitantly.
Garren placed a heaping mound of eggs on his plate and shook his head.
"I'm not really sure," he replied.
The look on Tifa's face made it obvious that that answer would not satisfy her.
Garren didn't fail to notice. He sighed.
"I did a very stupid thing," he replied. "I went to one of Dulane's whorehouses and tried to burn it down."
It didn't really come as a surprise. From the condition he had been in when he returned, she had figured it was something like that. Still, the idea made her nervous.
"And what happened?"
"Like I said, I'm not a hundred percent sure," he reiterated. "It's all a bit fuzzy. I know I got the fire started, and I know I had a fight with two or three guys. That's how I got that wound. I think I got at least one of them real good. I don't really know how much damage I did."
Tifa said nothing. What was she to make of this? She had to agree with Garren, it sounded like a very stupid thing to do. And he had done it for her. She didn't want to get anybody in any trouble. She didn't want to make waves, yet it seemed that from the moment she had arrived here all she had caused was trouble.
"So what's going to happen now?" she asked, getting to the heart of the matter. "What do you think Dulane will do?"
Garren surprised Tifa by giving a snort of laughter.
"He's not gonna be happy about it, that's for sure. No one has stood up to him in a long time. Too long..."
The grin suddenly faded from his face as he looked at Tifa.
"He's probably going to come after me. In fact, it's a certainty. He can't afford to let me get away with it."
Tifa said nothing, feeling suddenly afraid.
"There's a lot he can do," Garren continued. "He's got a lot of clout. He'll probably try to kill me. Might try to take out the bar too, in retaliation."
He looked up at Tifa.
"You'll be in danger too," he said slowly.
Tifa felt her mouth suddenly dry. She couldn't help but think this was all her fault.
Garren stood up suddenly, even though his plate was only half eaten.
"I've got to get going," he said abruptly. "I've got some planning to do. I'm afraid my mind is still clouded by that alcohol. I haven't been thinking straight. We don't have time to waste."
"Going?" Tifa questioned, getting upset. She didn't like what he was saying. She didn't want him to carry through with his threat to send her away. "Where? What are you going to do?"
"Don't worry, I've just got to make some arrangements. I'll be back soon."
"I want to come with you," Tifa stated.
"You stay here," Garren replied, rather sharply. "I don't want to have to worry about you while I'm out. Just stay in the apartment until I get back. Don't let anyone in, understand?"
Tifa looked at Garren unhappily.
"How long you going to be?" she questioned.
"I don't know, probably a while," he said.
"But...I was planning on meeting my friends later," she said.
"You got more important things to worry about right now!" Garren said. "You just stay in here. Don't leave and don't let anyone in."
"Do as I say!"
Tifa lowered her head.
"Yes Garren," she said softly.
He stepped forward and looked down at her.
"It's for your own good," he said. "Dulane knows the easiest way to get to me is through you. You may be in greater danger than even I am. And it's all my fault. I know I told you once that I didn't care about you, I know I told you that I was just taking care of you to repay an old friend. But that was a bunch of bull. I don't want anything to happen to you."
Tifa looked up at him, then nodded slowly.
Garren stared at her a moment more, then turned away. He opened the closet, pulled on his coat, and walked out the door. Tifa watched it close behind him, an odd empty feeling tugging at her stomach.
"What's going to become of us?" she said softly.
She walked over to the window and looked out. The streets were crowded, as usual. But she spotted Garren easily enough. She watched him walk rapidly down the street until he was lost from view. The wind outside was blowing even more strongly than usual. She could see the people struggling against it and feel it rattling the window every once in a while. A line of frost covered the edges of the window. To her surprise she could see a few small white particles blowing in the air outside. At first she thought it was some kind of trash, but when one hit the window and stuck, she realized it was snow. The wind must have been blowing it in under the plate. She stood for a long time looking out the window. They rarely got snow in Nibelheim. It was farther south than Midgar, and the mountains around it protected it from the worst weather. The winters had usually been mild. But they had gotten snow occasionally. She remembered having snowball fights and building snowmen with her friends in the town square. She smiled vaguely at the thought, but it quickly faded. Now that seemed like a lifetime ago.
The day crawled by. She did the cleaning, did her exercises, stared out the window. As the hours passed and Garren didn't return, she began to worry once more. He shouldn't be out running around. The cure materia hadn't completely healed his wound. He should be home, resting in bed. He was probably better off there anyway, then gallivanting around town. He said he had important business to attend to, and she had believed him. But was his important business hanging out in some bar? Although he had seemed very serious when he left, given his track record, would she be surprised if that was the case? Was he going to try to drown his sorrows in alcohol?
And if so, what would he be like when he returned?
Tifa sighed, realizing she was letting her imagination get the better of her. She had known Garren for a few months now, and though he drank often, more than anyone she had ever seen, he was usually able to hold it well enough. Last night had been an exception, due to extraordinary circumstances. It wasn't likely to happen again.
She plopped herself down on the couch, feeling both apprehension and frustration. She glanced up at the clock. It was nearly three now. Garren would have to return soon if they were going to make it to work on time. She looked at the front door. She had told her friends she would meet them at the Rat's Nest over an hour ago. She wanted to go, she wanted to at least let them know what was going on. But Garren had told her to stay put. She didn't think anything would happen to her in broad daylight, but didn't want to disobey Garren's directive.
She got up and turned on the radio, fiddling with the stations for a while until she found something to her liking. She laid down on the couch, thinking perhaps to get some sleep. Hell there was nothing else to do. But she wasn't tired. Instead she just found herself staring up at the ceiling.
A sudden knock at the door made her almost fall off the couch.
Her head shot up, staring at the door. In all the time Tifa had lived here, the only one who had ever come to the apartment besides herself and Garren had been Esella, and she always seemed to show up when Garren was there, as if she knew somehow. Only once before had someone come knocking when Garren wasn't home, and that had been that time when she had been scared to death that it might be a burglar.
She stood up nervously. She felt a little more comfortable here now, and a little less afraid. But not much. It struck her as odd that they should get a visitor the day after Garren had done what he had done. Did this have something to do with that?
She approached the door slowly. If it was someone sent by Dulane, would they really bother to knock? Was she just being paranoid again? It could be Esella. After all, Garren had gone out unexpectedly. Maybe this time she didn't know he was gone.
She hesitantly lifted her head and looked out the peephole.
Biggs stood in the hallway outside.
Feeling relived, she quickly pulled open the door. Biggs jumped at the door opening so suddenly and unexpectedly. Behind him stood Wedge and Jessie.
"What are you three doing here?" Tifa said in surprise. She had told them where she lived, but they had never come to the apartment before. She was suprised they remembered where it was.
"You were supposed to meet us over an hour and a half ago," Biggs said, recovering from his surprise. "What happened to you?"
"We were worried about you," Jessie stated from behind him.
Tifa smiled. She hadn't expected this. It was nice to know that her friends were thinking about her.
"It's a long story," she said. "Why don't you come inside?"
Her friends obliged, walking in. Tifa closed the door after they had entered. She saw them looking around themselves.
"Nice place," Biggs commented.
She wasn't sure whether he was being sarcastic or not.
"Garren told me to stay inside today," Tifa told them.
"Why's that?" Biggs asked, the look on his face giving her the impression that he thought she was old enough to make up her own mind about that.
But their faces turned serious as she recounted the events that had taken place the night before. Biggs whistled when she was done.
"I heard about that fire. The news of it is all over town. No one can believe someone did something like that to one of Dulane's properties. I've heard that Dulane dude is one nasty character," he stated.
"Oh hush," Jessie cut in. "I'm sure everything's going to be alright. So what do you think Garren is planning to do?"
Tifa realized Jessie was just trying to reassure her. But she was afraid that in reality she had to agree more with Biggs.
"I don't know," she said. "He told me last night he was going to try to get me out of here."
"Out of here?" Wedge said. "You mean, this apartment?"
"I think he meant out of Midgar," Tifa replied.
Her friends all looked troubled at this prospect. She couldn't blame them. She felt the same way.
"I don't know how serious he was. I don't know if he even remembers it. But there isn't any doubt that he thinks we're in big trouble, that he's certain Dulane will retaliate somehow."
Her friends pondered this for quite some time.
"Why don't you come stay with us?" Wedge blurted out suddenly.
Tifa looked at him in surprise.
"At the Rat's Nest?"
"Sure, why not?" Wedge continued. "We've got room for one more. Nobody knows about the place. It'd be the perfect place to hide out."
Tifa looked at the other two. Biggs gave a tiny nod of his head when she looked at him. Jessie seemed a bit more hesitant, but she was the one who spoke up next.
"It wouldn't be an easy life," she said. "You wouldn't have your own room or anything like that. It would be difficult to support another person there. But we're willing to try, if you need us to."
Tifa looked down at the floor for a moment, feeling slightly embarrassed. Here her friend had almost nothing, but they were willing to try to help her.
"Thank you very much for the offer, but I can't," she said when she looked up again. "I can't just walk out on Garren. What would I tell him?"
"So you're just gonna go?" Wedge said unhappily. "You're just going to take off and leave us?"
Tifa looked at him unhappily.
"You know, it's funny," she said. "If this had happened a couple of weeks ago, I would have been packed and ready to go already. Practically since the moment I got here, all I've thought about is getting out of here. Yet now that it comes down to it, I find that I want to stay. But with Dulane after us, I'm not so sure that's a good idea. Maybe I'm a coward, but what's going to happen if we stay? I've been here long enough to see that Dulane OWNS the slums. Does it make sense to stay here when faced with that threat? I just have a feeling something terrible is going to happen."
"We'll protect you," Wedge stated.
The others just looked at him in surprise.
"Well...why not?" he continued. "We're fighting Shinra, aren't we? And they're the most powerful company on the planet, right? So what, we can face that but we're going to let some two bit pimp run one of our members out of town?"
He looked at his friends, but none of them replied.
"Well, are we?"
"It's not that simple," Tifa cut in. She had to admire Wedge's sincerity, but to tell the truth, she still didn't think of them as much of a threat to anyone. Sure, they had set off a bomb, and sneaked into a Shinra installation and even killed one of the guards, but how much of a threat were they, really? Somehow she still felt like a kid playing some kind of game. She was sure no one in Shinra was losing any sleep at night worried about them. "Shinra doesn't know who we are. Do you think if they did, we'd stand any chance at all? Of course not. But Dulane knows who we are, at least, he knows who Garren and me are. He knows where we live, he knows where we work. He can get to us at any time, probably. How can we fight that?"
"So you're just going to run then?" Wedge said bitterly.
"They may not have any choice," Jessie cut in, looking rather sharply at Wedge. "I don't want to see Tifa go either, but what she's saying is true. They may not have any choice. It basically comes down to hide or fight, and we know that we can't stand up against Dulanes organization, just as we can't stand up to Shinra, in a straight fight. Would you rather she and Garren stayed here and ended up getting killed. Would that make you feel better?"
"Besides," Jessie continued, turning to Tifa. "From what you told us it might not even come down to leaving. You said you weren't even sure if that's what Garren had in mind."
"That's true," Tifa replied. "He might have been too drunk to remember anything he said. But I don't think so. From the way he acted, and the look on his face, he's got something in mind. But for all I know, it may have nothing to do with leaving at all, now that he's gotten a chance to think about it. I just don't know what to think, all I know is that I'm worried sick."
She eased herself down on the couch again. She was tired of the uncertainty, she was tired of having this ill feeling in the pit of her stomach. She just wished this was all over with, however it was going to turn out.
Jessie sat down beside her and placed a reassuring hand on her shoulder.
"Don't worry about it, Tifa," she said. "I'm sure it'll all work out, somehow."
Tifa didn't reply. She wanted to believe what Jessie said, but she had no reason to. Why should it all work out in the end? People died every day, had their dreams destroyed. When she was younger she believed that everyone's wishes would come true and they would live happily ever after. But it wasn't like that in real life. Not everyone lived happily ever after. And why should she be one of the one's that did? There was nothing special about her. She had heard someone say once that the reason things were so bad here in the slums was that the plate above their heads prevented god from hearing their prayers. She was starting to believe it. It seemed that no one lived happily ever after in this place.
"I just don't know what to think," Tifa said resignedly. "And I'm worried about Garren. He should have been back by now. We've got to be at work in twenty minutes. What if something happened to him?"
None of the others answered her. It was obvious to Jessie that no matter what they said, they weren't going to cheer Tifa up.
As if on cue, the door suddenly opened, and Garren stepped in. Tifa broke into a smile, but it vanished at the frown that formed on his own face when he saw the others in the apartment.
"Who are these people?" he questioned.
"They...they're friends of mine," Tifa replied.
"I told you not to let anyone in," Garren snapped. He walked over to the table and dropped a bag he had been carrying on it.
"I told you, they're my friends," Tifa said slowly. "I didn't think you'd mind."
"Well I do," he said, looking at the others darkly. "You're entirely too trusting, Tifa. After whats happened, that's not a good quality. I can't be with you every second. When are you going to learn to start using your head?"
Tifa just stared at him, at a loss for words. She felt anger that he could say things like that about her friends, about her ability to take care of herself, and embarrassed that he would say such things in front of them. She wanted to come to their defense, tell him he didn't know what he was talking about, tell him he was being an ass. But she didn't say anything at all.
Garren took off his coat and flung it on the couch. He looked at the others, who were just standing there.
"Time for your friends to leave," he stated. "We've got a lot of things to do."
Tifa looked at him angrily. How could he be like that? How could he just dismiss her friends out of hand. Didn't he give a damn at all about how she felt about this. Didn't he see how foolish he was making her look?
She was about to speak when Jessie beat her to it.
"We have to be going anyway," she said calmly. "We'll talk to you tomorrow, okay Tifa?"
Tifa just stood there, looking from one to the other.
Without another word her friends filed out of the room, Biggs looking back apologetically as he closed the door behind him.
"How could you treat my friends like that?" Tifa blurted out when they were gone, no longer able to contain herself.
Garren just looked at her for a moment. It seemed obvious that he had no idea he had done anything wrong.
"I'm sorry," he said, managing to not sound sorry at all. "But we've got more important things to worry about than your feelings right now. We've got to get ready to go."
"If you had come back sooner, we wouldn't have to rush to work," she said
"We're not going to work," he replied.
It took a moment for this to sink in.
"Huh?" she said. "Then where are we going?"
"Mideel," Garren replied.
"Mideel," Tifa repeated, as if the word meant nothing to her.
"Yes, Mideel," Garren repeated. "It's my hometown. I still have friends there. A few anyway. It might seem the logical place for Dulane to look for me, but I don't think he will. Even if he bothers, I don't think he thinks I'll go back there. It's too much of a small town. It would be a big adjustment. I think he's more likely to think we headed for Junon."
Tifa just looked at Garren in shock. So he really was serious about leaving...
"But...but we can't just take off," she said. "What about the apartment, what about the bar?"
"Who gives a shit about this dump?" Garren said bitterly. "As for the bar, I've already spoken to Kantrel. He'll run the place. He did it before when I went off to war so I know he and the others can handle it."
"But..." Tifa said, and then fell silent. She was going to say, what about her friends, but she already knew that Garren didn't give a damn about that.
"What?" Garren spoke up. "I thought you'd be thrilled to hear this. Haven't you been wanting to get away from this place since the moment you arrived?"
Tifa didn't reply. That was true, though she hadn't thought he had noticed. At least, it had been true. But her friends needed her now. She was a part of the group. Would they be able to get by without her?
"But if Dulane can't find you, then how do you know he won't take it out on your bar," she said suddenly. "It would make sense, after what you did to his Inn."
"Yeah, I thought about that," Garren replied. "But there's not a hell of a lot I can do about it. I told Kantrel the situation. I told him he could shut the place down if he wanted to. I don't want to endanger them, but Midgar's a dangerous place. They all know the risks. None of them have to keep working if they don't want to."
Tifa didn't know what to say. She couldn't help but feel a little lost. The world seemed to be spinning at a thousand miles an hour, and her brain couldn't keep up.
"Tomorrow morning," Garren replied. "I don't see any sense in putting it off. Better get all your things together."
That soon! She was shocked again. This just seemed so unlike Garren. But if they left then, how would she get to say goodbye to her friends. She couldn't just leave without telling them!
"I have to go tell my friends," she said.
"You'll do no such thing!" Garren commanded. "You're not going anywhere. You don't have time."
"I would have had plenty of time if you hadn't chased them away!" she said, not able to suppress all of her anger.
"I'm not going to argue with you about this," Garren snapped.
"I have plenty of time," Tifa repeated. "It'll only take me a few minutes to get my things together. I don't have much, after all."
"It's too dangerous," Garren stated.
"I said NO!" Garren snapped.
For a moment they stared at one another, then Tifa turned away. She walked over to the window and looked out.
She heard Garren walk up behind her.
"I'm sorry," he said, putting an arm on her shoulder. "But I'm only doing this because I'm worried about you. Dulane is ruthless. I can't chance having you go out there, exposed to him. Your friends will understand."
Tifa did not reply for a moment. She didn't know why Garren had treated her friends so callously, but she was beginning to get an idea. All this time she had lived with him, all the people she had met, who knew Garren, not one of them really seemed to be his friend. Kantrel, Dygus, his employees at the bar, they were civil to one another, but it was different. They didn't come over, they didn't spend any time with Garren when he wasn't at work. Even Esella, Esella who Garren made love with whenever he got the chance, even she wasn't really his friend. It was more like they were using each other. No wonder he had treated her friends so badly. After all these years of pushing people away, keeping them at arms length, he didn't know how to treat a friend anymore. Not a real one. Maybe he wasn't even capable anymore. He didn't know how to treat friends because he didn't have any. But she wasn't cruel enough to say that to his face. But suddenly she felt her anger fade away. She wasn't mad at him anymore. Instead she felt sorry for him.
She pushed his arm off her shoulder and walked toward her room.
"No they won't," she said.
Final Fantasy 7 Fanfic