Amans Ardens

By Pip

For some reason, he'd always liked the rain. He knew it didn't suit his attitude, his image, but then again who the hell cared? It had been a while since he'd gotten out of the seven sectors of hell, and the downpour on the lush forests around Mideel fascinated him. He wasn't sure why, maybe because for seventeen years of what he used to call his life, he thought it really did rain mud, and the sky really was made of concrete and led pipes.

But that wasn't why he was here.

He shoved back his sunglasses, which worked more as a headband now, keeping his hair from completely obstructing his eyes, and turned back, looking at the mud hole that was still considered a city. He'd been sent by Reeve, the latest in Shinra's long line of failing CEO's, to not only recruit, but to find out if there was anything left in this hell hole worth keeping. As far as he could see, there wasn't.

Tents were elevated, over the oozing poisonous glow of mako, the lifestream, which was turned dull by the streaming mud. His boots, he knew, were fine; they were made to take this type of abuse. But the suit Horselaugh made them wear would never be the same again. Damn pansy suits. He scanned the place for a real building, but those had long since disappeared, swallowed by the planet, and washed down with acres of mud. The tents were set around what looked to be a giant hole in the ground, a dimple in an imperfect smile.

Why were they still there? He sloshed forward, it was impossible to walk, passing the tents and looking for a place he could sleep. The place wasn't worth the effort of rebuilding, why bother to try? But he knew it was for the same reason so many people still clung to Shinra for support, and why they'd never left Midgar. Foolish hopes, for memories of long forgotten happiness and sublime splendor. But, there were more important things to consider.

Like where he was going to find a stiff drink.


It turned out the town boasted a single cave, formed under one of the outcrops of mountains, and in that, the mud hole had started a bar.

Reno liked the place a little better for that.

He'd found a place to pitch a hammock in the woods, and set up a tarp over it to keep the rain out, and, if it came down to it, water in to drink. A couple of blankets were taken easily, and he had a home.


He hadn't bothered to change, just had left and found the bar. Due to that, he was surrounded by nice dry jerks who'd worn ponchos and slickers and boots up to their necks. Reno shook his head, taking perverse satisfaction when he splashed his neighbours, and tossed back the shot of brandy, letting it warm him. He still wasn't nearly drunk enough to think about going back into that mess, so he thought about other things.

Shinra'd brought back Tseng, against all objections, death threats, and pleas, and nobody was happy about it, least of all the raven haired Wu-tain lord. Reno found himself hating the entire situation, angry at the fact that he'd felt so much pain for nothing. But, as it was, Shinra had failed to ally themselves with the Turks once more by bringing back the single link, they'd simply made the family all the more closed, following their orders because it pleased them, not because they were bound by papers that were so easily burned. And both parties knew it.

He idly tossed the idea of calling Rude up around, wondering how his companion was doing in his quest to turn the Fluffy Blonde Thing into a Turk. He decided against it when a hand clamped down on his shoulder.

"Hey, you new he-" Whatever the kid had been about to say was lost in the kiss of an EMR meeting lips.

Reno stared down the barrel at the nightstick, eyes smoldering. "One flick of my wrist, and I flambé your brains. Understand?" The kid nodded, eyes huge. Reno continued, "Don't touch me. Do it again, and you won't survive long. Understand?" He asked conversationally, with undertones of Bad Things.

Cold steel pressed against the side of his neck, his skin barely stopping a sharp edge from slicing through muscle.

"Drop your weapon, jerk, and you won't get hurt. Understand?" The voice mimicked. Reno's alcohol fogged brain itched, the voice rang a bell, but he put the thought on hold.

"Which one?" He asked, and the knife that rested in his wrist sheath slid out, pressing against the voice's ribs.

As if on the count of three, they dove apart, the poor kid getting pushed into the bar. Reno had never believed in unnecessary hostages, that was Reeve's style. The knife slid away, and he went into a crouch, EMR crackling like a hag.

Her legs were impossibly long, smooth, a foolish guard on the right one which barely hit the top of her shorts. Big, clunky boots made her seem all the smaller and he could've sworn the last time he saw her, she hadn't filled out that top that well. Her hair had grown out a bit, now just barely touching her shoulders, but he remembered her eyes. Velvety violet, lacking the poisonous green that tainted his own, those eyes were no longer the little girl's, quick and mischievous. They were harder, a bit more devious, a bit more calculating. He wondered if they still changed to deep royal when she was pissed.

"Well, well, well." He stood up, not quite relaxing. "The brat. Hello…Yvette was it?" He didn't forget names. He was right. They still changed.

"Reno-of-the-Turks," she spat. The weapon in her hand never wavered. "Yuffie."

"Right. What're you doing in a hell-hole like this?" He swept the place with a glance. "Not much materia here, not yet anyway."

"What the hell would you know about materia?" She sneered. "You're nothing but an ignorant monkey working for would-be Shinra."

"You'd be surprised what us ignorant monkeys know." His eyes traveled her body and he was rewarded with a quick and easy glare.

"Cut the crap. Get out of my town."

"Your town?" Reno's eyebrows shot up. "Shweethart, I hate to tell ya this, no that's a lie, I think I'll enjoy it. This town belongs to Shinra. Or what's left of it does."

"No. They have accepted Wu-tai's help in being rebuilt, therefore agreeing to become part of Wu-tai." She moved slightly, and his EMR snapped back into position between her eyes.

"Don't be goin' anywhere on me, shweethart. We ain't done yet." He smiled, and she winced. "And unless your Big Bad Dad called up Prez Cat Boy and told him this dump was Wutai property, I gotta say that sounds like grounds for….I donno." He scratched his head with his free hand. "War?"


How did he do that? How could he smile and make it look like he was about to tear out her throat? Yuffie glowered back at him, inwardly taking in his appearance. Even covered in mud, it was obvious just who he was. Or at least, what he was. His hair was a bit longer, a bit scragglier, and seemed almost faded from the Fire Materia red it'd been last time she'd seen him. Now dustings of gold streaked it, along with black. He'd lost weight as well, not that he'd ever had much to spare in the first place. Now he seemed all hidden muscle and sharp points, pale skin that made the scars crisscrossing his hands almost invisible. But where they were invisible, the two slashes under his eyes stood out, the same blood red they must have been while healing. Sunken in, his eyes still made her want to fidget. Whereas two years ago she'd felt like swooning at the sight of those eyes, the mako-poisoned green orbs only set her on edge now, made her all the more anxious to make him pay for those years ago.

"Look, this is getting us no where," she pointed out. "Put away your weapons and get out."

He snorted. "C'mon, you expect me, of all people to disobey orders?"

"You did years ago," she countered.

"That," he spat, " was years ago. Since you have been playing magical daddy's little girl faerie, lemme give you an update." His teeth flashed again, white on the white of his skin. "No one in Shinra's the same as they were four years ago."

"Yea. Now you're all idiotic, power hungry, mindless, worthless poor sons of bitches." She blew her bangs from her eyes and realized she'd made a mistake.

The barrel of the EMR jerked her chin up at the same time her shurieken went flying and she felt his body shove her back against a wall, knocking her head sharply.

"No." He corrected, his voice laced with razors. "Now we're worthless zombies who follow poor sons of bitches. Never classify the Turks with Shinra. It's awful dangerous to do so."

And then he was gone.



She could cry, it was going so slow. When she'd heard of Mideel's need for help, she'd been elated, this was her chance to prove she could save Wutai, could rebuild the empire of her grandfathers, the dream of her father. She would bring Wutai back as a major power, and with Shinra down and out, she had a chance. But it wasn't working out like that at all.

She lacked the funds to purchase the materials needed for the reconstruction, and since Shinra's collapse, prices were up, up, and up. People needed places to live, and food was scarce.

Ignoring her blistered hands and battered body; she threw herself back into her work, catwalking across a narrow beam and sitting down. Taking the nails from her mouth, she started to hammer, singing under her breath an old worker's chant her father's weapons expert had taught her.

"Swing-swing, swing her back…." Slam, and the nail that looked surprisingly like a certain Turk wedged itself into place. "Flashing with lightning…."

She'd gotten a letter from her advisour. It was still raining, and boats couldn't go out to fish. It would be better if she opened up the tourist attractions again.

Slam. "…Snug in their homes they go…."

She'd told him no, instructed him to send out a hunting party, then trade with Rocket Town for the food they needed. He'd mentioned the Lords and Ladies were disquiet, moral of the troops was down.

Slam. "Swing-swing again…."

There was a ball to be held, then, to quiet the nobles, increase the pay of the troops. Use all the money they didn't have, she'd think of something. After all, the gods would provide, right?

Slam. "Swing-swing, and good day…"


"I bid you good morn…"

And if not, she was a thief. She'd make sure someone provided. Her land didn't need to disgrace their gods. She rose and moved to work on another patch of shingles. She could always steal from Shinra. After all, they had stolen from her.

Slam. "….Down comes my hammer…."

Stupid Shinra, stupid Turks. What was Reno doing here anyway? It wasn't as if anyone in Mideel wanted Shinra's help. It was their fault the town was destroyed, and any help now was too little, too late. It was her town now, and she would save them, no matter what the cost. Even if she had to sell her soul for the money. Wutai would rise again.

"Swing-swing again…"


Reno lounged against a tree, watching people work like dogs, fighting against the mud, rain, and wind. It was really quite admirable; they were trying harder than he'd ever seen people work before. They weren't so different from anyone else, he mused, they fought for what they loved and banded together in times of need. It was really all quite touching. He almost felt like helping.

Then again, his nails needed attention.



Yuffie blinked, glanced around. Below her stood Marine, one of the lead workers. He had a good sense of what was what, had his feet on the ground. She was glad for the large man's help, and jumped off the roof to land beside him.

"What's up?" She asked, wiping rain from her eyes.

He nodded towards a figure in the distance. "What's he doing here?" He whispered, as if being part of the Turks gave Reno supernatural hearing abilities. "People are start'n to worry, y'know. Shinra ain't all good news, and he bein' a Turk 'n all….And he attacked you the other night." He scratched his balding head. "If you want, we can, y'know, get rid of him."

Yuffie smiled, touched, shook her head. "No, he's not a threat. I'll take care of him, don't worry." With that, she turned and trudged towards the man in question.

"Hello, Yve-" He started.

"You say Yvette and I'll fix it so you can't even think about reproducing." She cut him off. "Get out of my town if you aren't going to help. I don't need you scaring the townspeople."

"They're scared of me?" He seemed amused.


"Who'll make me?" Childish to ask, but he had to.

"Us." Two men, both easily as big as Rude, flanked the petite brunette, folded their arms menacingly.

He sighed, turned to walk a bit away, making a motion for Yuffie to follow. Warily she did so, found herself shoved against a tree and caged by dripping arms.

"Look, we both know if I fight them, they're gonna end up real messed up. We also know that you can't make me leave any more than I can make you. So, I ask you, princess, what're we gonna do?" He asked politely.

"You could just leave and make everyone happy." She suggested.

A sigh. "Weren't you listening? I'm under orders to be here. Now, I wanna go back to Midgar just as much as you want to see me gone, but I'm still a Turk, and under orders to find a recruit for SOLDIER. Until I find one, I can't go. Do you understand?"

She nodded, nibbled her lip. This was awful; she needed him gone now. Her piece of mind wouldn't last long if he stayed. "You could help out." She suggested. "We always need an extra pair of hands."

He stared in disbelief. She had either swallowed her pride enough to ask him to help, or really had changed over the last two years.

"Look, how about this? You either stay and help, or leave, but make up your mind by tomorrow." She slid under one of his arms, walked off. "But if you stay, I'd suggest getting some rain gear. That suit's not gonna last long."

He was left watching the swing of her hips under the bright yellow slicker.


He hated mud.

A lot.

It wasn't raining, he thought, as he sought a better grip on the beam of wood. Instead, the southern sun beat down on the town mercilessly, baking the mud pie. Unfortunately, the mud was staying stubbornly slick, and the heat did nothing more than burn the workers. Setting the beam down on two sawhorses, he stripped off the button down shirt, threw himself back into the work. No one approached him, which he liked. He hadn't been able to sleep again, so he'd gone and started to work on one of the houses, muttering about the handiwork of fools and children. When the others had come to start their workdays, they said nothing of the new man.

Hatred for Shinra boiled to the surface of his thoughts, as he remembered doing something similar to this years ago, putting touch ups on the various 'homes' he'd had. It seemed that everything Shinra touched was ruined, taking the sparkles and leaving them to fade, making broken promises to broken spirits about broken homes and the dying planet.

He swung the beam into place, propped it up, and sent a nail driving into virgin wood, wishing for a nail-gun. Fucking Shinra.

He tossed about the idea of calling in a couple of favours, getting this hellish job done so he could go back to his apartment. If he couldn't find a recruit, which he knew he wouldn't, Horselaugh'd be pissed, but if Mideel was back in working order, maybe Cat Boy'd be happy. And when Cat Boy was happy, all the good little Turks got raises.

The beam was secured, and he consulted the plans in his head, figuring out what he'd need next.

"Marine, you in here?"

He turned his head at the voice, picked up a saw. "Go away, Yuffie. Some of us have stuff to do."

"Reno?" Yuffie came to a halt in the 'doorway', mouth dropping. "You're kidding. What're you doing?"

He scowled. "Sawing. Now, run along."

Her eyes narrowed. "Don't order me around. We don't need your help."

"What?" He stopped, shook his head. "I don't get you. Yesterday you told me to help or get out, and today you're telling me to go? I would have thought you'd be thankful for the help."

"I didn't actually think you'd help!" She protested. "I thought you'd leave."

"Well I didn't, dawl face. Now, get out."

Memory triggered in the back of her mind and her eyes flashed, anger and disgust. "Get the hell out of my town, Turk, or I'll make you." She growled.

He watched the transformation from confused to murderous, tried to figure out what he'd said to cause such a transformation. Years of womanizing had taught him never to trust a woman's words, not her face for emotions, eyes would tell you so much more. There was a difference between a girl's eyes, a slut's eyes, and a woman's eyes. Girls would look with love, sluts with lust, and women with cool and calculated hatred. Yuffie was definitely not a girl anymore.

"No," He said simply, turned his back on her.

He expected her attack, turned in time to catch her, tumble her onto the ground and pin her. She didn't struggle; she bit and clawed, tore at him, trying to get free. He caught her arms, held her legs between his, and gave her mouth something to do besides curse him.

Two years ago, he thought, she had kissed to please him. Two years ago, he had kissed innocence to get her in bed. Two years ago, he'd kicked her out of his life, because innocence had no place in his life, no matter how good they were in bed. Now he wondered why he'd ever let the fireball go.

She bit his tongue, and he responded by tightening his grip on her wrists, pulling away and trying a different angle, curious. From this angle her lips were soft, from this one her lips hard. For a man who'd taken kissing down to a science, it was disconcerting to find she could turn it into an art.


Gods above and below, he tasted faintly bitter, like cigarettes and black coffee, tasted good despite it; his lips were faintly chapped. She dimly noticed the little things about him, he wasn't a sloppy kisser, there was not slobber and groping hands of the boys she'd seen before him, he was still as skilled as he'd ever been, more so. He felt hard, dry, sharp, a million things she couldn't process, she couldn't even think, just hung on for dear life.

He pulled back, rested his forehead on hers. "Now that that's out of the way." He muttered.

"Get the hell off me, you rutting pig." She spat.

"Is this about two years ago?" He asked softly.

Her eyes narrowed, shut. "How could it not be?"

He sighed allowed her to push him off, stood up. "You treated me like a whore, Reno."

"I told you the truth." He shot back. "You were lying to yourself."

"I was sixteen!" She picked up a sander, threw it at him with flawed accuracy. "Sixteen! I was allowed to act like a child!"

He sidestepped the flying power tool, stopped in front of her. His eyes were the same soft colour they'd been years before when he'd told her to grow up, and she watched him warily, wondering what he could say that would hurt her more than he had already.

"If you were old enough to have sex, princess, and that's what it was, sex, not love making, not soul bonding, plain, down and dirty, straight up sex with a side of mutual lust, then you were old enough to stop acting like life was here for your pleasure." He spoke softly, almost…kindly? "If I treated you rough, it was because you were too soft. Life isn't always nice, lust isn't always love."

She let out a breath that blew her bangs from her face, but her glare lacked heat, indigo eyes only held weariness. "I know. But we didn't have to be a one night stand, you didn't have to be such a bastard, you could have-"

"Explained it to you? Told you 'sorry dawl, I'm a bad guy, the type daddy warned you about?" He smirked. "C'mon, gimme a break. You and I both know you wouldn't have listened to that. And I didn't need a lovesick sex kitten following me."

"Screw you, Reno." She thumped a fist against his chest, relaxed as he brought his arms up to hold her against him. "You're a cold hearted jerk." She muttered.

"Yea. And you're an Ice Queen. We kinda match." He rested his chin on her head, wondered what the hell he was doing.

"Yea. We kinda do."

Pip Malloy's Fanfiction