The Fallen Chapter 3
Tseng took a deep breath and wiped his hair from his eyes before pushing open the cowboy style swinging doors and entering the bar, bracing himself against the onslaught of smoke filled air and the reek of alcohol that was so reminiscent of Reno's apartment; wondering if he should be wearing a pair of boots with spurs, an idiotic 10 gallon hat and a six shooter. Screw it, he figured that his Colt automatic would be just fine if a shoot out were to break loose at high noon.
A pair of skinhead redneck looking teenagers were passing a poorly wrapped joint back and forth between them, but they were far too out of it to even notice another person had entered the room, let alone anything strange that person would have to do and the room was otherwise empty, excluding the pretty young barmaid who was wiping down the counter. Tseng took another quick look around just is case and then walked over to her, trying to look as casual as possible with his imposing, out of place blue suit that bulged where his pistol lay concealed. He wore a false but very convincing grin as he leaned over the counter, sliding onto one of the bar stools. "Hello," he said, quickly reading the name tag pinned to the waitresses shirt. "Royce. Would you happen to know where I can find a women named Elena?"
The young lady shot him a glare saturated with suspicion and gave him the same look over he gave people he was about to send to the floorboards with a sucker punch. Her stare lingered pointedly at the location of his firearm and then wandered upwards to meet his eyes. "The boss isn't in right now," she said, "care to leave a message?"
Tseng's left eye twitched behind his newly stolen sunglasses in a habit that could symbolize both surprise and irritation. He hadn't know Elena owned this place, the man in the materia shop had simply said this was where she worked, although it was an inevitable fact of life that people held at gun-point were not usually detail oriented. He fixed his gaze to piercing and pulled off the glasses to reveal that fact to the waitress, who surprisingly didn't even flinch. "I know she's still here," he whispered, voice dropping to a deadly softness, but Royce Pandora met him still with an icy look before turning her back on him and simply began walking away.
The Turk quickly reached out and grabbed her by the shoulder, and she swiftly smacked his hand away, but looked in his direction again which had been his original intent. His gun had been silently drawn and was now cocked and pointed directly between her breasts. She didn't react right away, and Tseng wondered if he'd have to just shoot her and go looking for himself, but then she sagged her shoulders and let out a long sigh. "Right," she said wincing, "the gun. Always with the gun. Why is it always the gun with you people? Ell is in the back, but I wouldn't go waving that thing around her if I was you, you wouldn't live long enough to regret it."
Tseng allowed himself a small smile as he remembered the ditzy, over-talkative girl he'd asked out to dinner and tried to imagine her some kind of fear inspiring hardass killer. She'd been hired to fulfill Reno's Soldier recruitment duties and that was it, so he doubted there was anything she could do but scream in response to a gun being pulled on her. This was something he had to see.
He put a leg up on the counter and spun himself around, dropping back to the floor on the other side and ignored the look of indignation he was receiving from Royce. Tseng merely shrugged his shoulders at her and walked back into the hallway leading towards the back of the bar, seeing only one door up ahead. He pointedly ignored the word 'private' which had been seemingly cut into it and slipped in without knocking after silently twisting the knob, breathing deep in relief at the suddenly smoke free air, then choked on that breath at the scene that lay before him.
Elena stood with her back to him, stooped over a large desk that covered one entire wall of the cramped room, but he knew it was her due to the familiar blonde hair that hung down around her ears, and she was counting veritable heaps of gil, what appeared to be the amount Tseng made in a year, and was treating it like pocket it change. It was then the Turk realized they probably sold more then booze and food here, and the two punks in the front had probably just been sampling the house special. So that waitress Royce had meant 'burn-out druggy' when she'd said 'you people.' Tseng didn't take offense though, he knew how pale he looked.
Elena must have heard him choke because she stood suddenly straight and wiped her hands on her shirt, a handful of gil clenched tightly in her fist. "Hey Royce," she called out, "I'm getting your paycheck right now, just hold on for a few minutes..."
Tseng sighed at the non-preferential homecoming, being mistaken for a bar maid drug dealer named Royce with an attitude was not what he'd hoped for. He cleared his throat before speaking, "...Elena."
In a sudden flash he was blinded, a flurry of gil striking him in the eyes and scattering around the room as Elena spun around, a gun appearing in her hand so fast it was if it'd come from inside her jackets sleeve. Tseng's vision cleared as a click rang out, symbolizing the weapon in Elena's hand was now cocked and armed. "Don't move", she growled, "not one fucking inch."
Tseng didn't, but wouldn't have even if she'd told him too. He couldn't, he was stunned, frozen, staring at Elena as if he'd never seen her before. The childish innocence that had made her so beautiful was gone, replaced with cold, flashing eyes, a kind of wild fierceness, and a lipstick so red it rivaled the kind Scarlet wore. She now held her gun with an experts confidence, no longer gripping it in two uncertain, shaky hands. Everything in the room froze, her waiting for the intruder to speak up and him waiting for her to put a lead slug in his face. "Tseng..." she breathed after a time, her blue-gray eyes widening but not warming.
Letting out a sigh of relief, Tseng stepped forward to grasp her in his arms the way she always wanted him to after a big fight or a narrow escape, expecting her to leap into his grip and squeeze him until his ribs cracked. Instead Elena snapped forward, pushing his right shoulder back and jabbing her gun at him like a dagger. "I said don't move!" she yelled, brandishing the nails on her free hand like claws.
Tseng recoiled back, hitting the wall and gasping as he felt an exposed nail puncture his skin directly to the left of his spine. He managed to choke down a scream of pain but had to speak through tightly gritted teeth. "Elena, please..." he hissed, "calm down and put the gun-"
"Who are you!?" she interrupted him, face gone deathly pale, and the steady grip she had clamped onto her gun began to lessen as her hands shook. "How do you know my name!?"
Tseng took one quick step forward to dislodge the nail and then instantly grabbed his back to apply pressure to the wound. The pain was amazing, and Tseng could tell the nail had been covered with rust and god knows what. He'd need a tetnis shot, that much was obvious, he just hoped he didn't start hallucinating. "Elena'" he said again, beseechingly, "I know your name because I know you. Its me, Elena, Ts-"
"No!" she cut him off again, her voice teetering on the edge of hysterical, and then she spoke just a fraction calmer, "no... Tseng is dead. Tseng is gone. Your aren't Tseng."
"Elena, I-" Tseng pleaded, truly worried now.
"No!" she repeated, and this time she was screaming, and after jabbing her gun at him one more time she wrapped her finger around the trigger and closed her eyes. Tseng instantly recognized the nervous habit she'd developed before firing, and leapt forward, leaving go his puncture wound and backhanding the gun just as fired, going wide of his head and blowing a hole in the wall. Tseng pressed forward and slammed Elena into the opposite wall, and pinned her arms against it by her wrists to hold her still. She kicked at him and bared her teeth like she was going to bite him, so he did the only thing he could think of to get her to recognize him. "Elena," he asked, "would you like to go to dinner?"
The blonde Turk at him, wide eyed and in awe, before doing what she had resisted all along and met his eyes. Instantly Elena went slack in his grip, and when he released her she fell forward into his arms and the hug he'd expected to begin with took place. Her shoulders started to shake, and it took Tseng a minute to see that she was crying. "Elena?" she asked, confused, trying awkwardly to comfort her by running a hand through her hair.
"Oh Tseng," she sobbed, "What...? How?" She pulled away from him with a face filled with confusion, staring at him as if he was some divine being, jaw dropped. Tseng merely shrugged his shoulders and shook his head, hair sweeping from side to side.
"I don't know," he said honestly, "I guess it just kind of happened, but I plan to get to the bottom of it. But... where's Reno, and Rude? They're all right aren't they, I mean, how long have I been... away... for?"
They were interrupted by a sudden knock on the door, and an anxious voice called out from the other side. "Miss Elena? Are you all right? I heard a shot..."
It was Royce, the waitress. "Yes, yes," Elena called back. "Im fine."
A loud sigh of relief rang out, along with the sound of a knife sliding back into its sheath. Tseng was surprised that the bar maid was loyal enough to Elena to go after a man with a gun wielding only a kitchen blade. "Oh good... I don't usually worry, but that guy... he looked dangerous. I'm glad you shot the asshole."
Elena opened her mouth to correct Royce but Tseng lifted a finger, a familiar gesture between the two of them when she was talking too much. He nodded his head at her slowly, and drew his finger across his throat. Yes, you shot me. Elena gave Royce an affirmation and the waitress left. Tseng smiled wryly. "Shes nice."
Elena gulped, obviously not detecting the faint trace of humor in his voice. "Royce doesn't mean anything by it," she said hurriedly, "she just doesn't like men. She was raped when she was a little girl and-"
Tseng waved off the explanation. "That's fine," he said, "it isn't important. What is important though, what I really need to know, is what I've missed? Where is everyone, and why are you working here??"
"Well..." Elena breathed, clearing her suddenly thick throat. "I think we'd better sit down, there's a lot to tell. Lock the door so Royce won't interrupt, will you? Thanks..." and so they sat, and Elena talked, telling the story of Avalanche and Meteor, of how Reeve of all people was now was a high ranking emloyee in the charge of Shinra now that all his superiors were dead and all evidence of his betrayal destroyed. He had, of course, been put to the task of rebuilding the damaged slums. She told him how there wasn't enough money for Reeve to fix up his precious slums thanks to the cost of reconstruction. She told him that though Avalanche had basically slipped out of public eye they were still kept tabs on, so she knew that Cloud and Tifa had settled in Cosmo Canyon, that Barret had rebuilt North Corel, Cid had retired in Rocket Town, Yuffie had returned to Wutai... although Red XIII and Vincent had simply disappeared after their first public appearance.
After a while Tseng had to cut in. "Yes, yes," he said shortly, annoyed that anyone- especially Elena- would have taken such a vested interest in a pathetic band of misfit 'heroes' like Avalanche. "But what about us? What are you doing in Kalm right now? Wheres Rude and Reno?"
For a moment he though Elena was going to start crying again, but she merely swallowed once, then twice, and then continued talking. "Well... we... after you, well, you know, we couldn't keep going. Not that it would have mattered much, Reeve hated us all anyway, but we just didn't feel right. Even if we had felt fine about it your the only man we could ever follow. I did think for a while Reno would try and keep us together but he just went all quiet and was the first to leave. He lives in Wutai now, though I'm not sure why. Probably because its the furthest country from the Temple there is. Rude moved in some Junon apartment and hes a bouncer at one of their night clubs. And I moved here and..."
Tseng fixed her with a disapproving gaze. "Deal drugs," he supplied.
She looked horrified for a moment, as if she might try to deny it, but then she slowly nodded. "Deal drugs. I have some friends here who set me up... and I sent some invitations for Reno and Rude to come when business picked up, but neither one responded either way. I guess they don't want anything to do with me... or each other."
Tseng was stunned. Rude and Reno with an entire continent between them? They'd been like brothers, refusing to go on a mission without the other. They split drinks, an apartment, probably women as disturbing an image that was. They'd been friends since the first day they'd met on their inaugural day as Turks when Reno had punched out the presidents personal assistant for calling him 'carrot top'. "Well," Tseng managed to say slowly, "we'll just have to get them here. Are you sure theyre still.."
"Alive?" Elena asked. "Yeah. Once Reeve took over and read all of the president's filed he released the entire Turk folder- minus Vincents old files of course- to the press. Now we all have multi thousand dollar gil bounties on our heads and outstanding warrants from Nibelheim to here and everywhere in between. Even you, because we never managed to find your body. It'd be front page newspaper quality if any of us was ever taken out."
Taking a deep breath, Tseng nodded. "All right," he said, "all right. We'll have to get them. We can start things going again, but we will need money..."
"I've got that covered. Interesting thing about this business is if you skip buying a shipment your a few hundred grand up but have no more income." Elena said, tilting her head thoughtfully.
Tseng nodded. "All right," he said, "I'll need a phone."
Reno stretched out and leaned back is his recliner, placing a cold wet rag on his forehead and letting out a long, deep breath, sliding his eyes closed, just hoping the pain killers would kick in before the sleeping pills did. They always gave him a mild buzz, or maybe that was simply the absence of agony jolting through every part of his system. He sunk lower in the chair, letting three of his four limbs hang off the edges of it and groaned, more to block out the monotonous static of his broken TV than to signify any particular pain.
A sudden knock came crashing on his door, jolting him upright and bringing back the head ache he'd managed to kill off with a half bottle of Aspirin and a couple shots of Vodka a half hour earlier. Reno knew only one kind of person in the world knocked that loud, and he realized in the time it took him to kick a wad of gil and a gun under his couch that the Avalanche bitch must have sicced the cops on him.
Now he knew that he hadn't done anything technically illegal in Wutai... yet, so he decided not to make a run for it, but he did turn his nightstick up to full power just in case. At that electricity level he could cook himself a Pig- badge and all- for dinner in a little under a minute. The knock came crashing, slamming again, but a very non-authoritative, non-masculine voice came from the other side of the door. "Reno!" it screamed, "open the gawd damned door or I'll cut it off its hinges!"
Reno could have laughed in relief. It was only the Avabitch herself, probably trying to give him the gil he'd left behind or some other stupid PMSy good-doer cause like that. He took a few easy breaths to lower the pulse rate that had just jump started into the triple digits and pulled open the door just as Yuffie was about to hit it with another round of ear-splitting knocks, but she didn't have his gil- or any gil for that matter- with her, and in fact she had nothing at all. The red haired Turk waited expectantly for her to say something as she started, realizing she'd gone there for a reason and leapt into action.
"Reno!" she screamed, shoving him backwards and sticking her finger right in his face, "what are you doing in Wutai!?" Caught off guard, Reno tripped on a discarded stool and stumbled back, but quietly regained his footing and smacked her finger away, malevolence filling his bloodshot eyes, and for a moment Yuffie thought he would hit her, and she even raised her shield bearing arm to defend herself, but Reno stayed perfectly still... he actually seemed to be looking over her shoulder, studying something behind her.
Finally his calculating gaze drifted over to her, and he smiled coldly, scanning her face for every last detail as an old habit from Soldier recruitments. "How about," he said in an entirely monotone voice, "you take about six steps back, and Ill answer anything the hell you want."
Her anger seemed to break in the face of Renos bizarre statement, and she took a quick glimpse over her shoulder as if she expected Rude to be standing there with a cocked Mag., and then looked back at him with a face with confusion sketched in every line. She opened her mouth to speak, closed it, then looked over her shoulder again. "Wha... huh?" she asked.
Renos smile widened, his eyes flashing triumphantly, losing his defensive stance and taking on a much cockier pose. "You," he said slowly, relishing each word, hoping to god his hunch was right but at the same time wondering if itd really be bad if she simply broke his neck with one of her stupid ninja kicks, "are trespassing, Miss Kisargi. You are in my house on my property and you were not invited in, and as far as I can see you dont have a warrant with you... so get off these floorboards. Unless youd like me to search you for one..."
There was a moments pause as Yuffie figured out what he meant, and then a moments more as she considered running him through her Gauntlet ninja strike, but the short brunette only glared at him in disbelief for a moment before turning on her heel and marching over the doorstep shed just passed through, then turned back around and practically screamed, "THERE! Are you HAPPY now you crack smoking little freak? Now. What. Are. You. Doing. In. My. T-"
"I live here," Reno interrupted quickly but quietly, a real smile on his face now instead of his sardonic leer, even though he knew nothing good would come from taunting or provoking the daughter of Godo in the city he ran, but not really giving a damn. He hadnt really given a damn about anything in a long time, besides getting as comfortable as possible before his lungs collapsed under the coating of tar or around the puncture wound of a 38. slug.
"Funny," Yuffie hissed, "real funny, smartass, but Im being dead on serious here. What are the Turks business in my town, huh? Are you going to try to rob the new materia store?? Take a crack at killing my father? Tell me! If you dont you know I can get the entire town guard in here in a second."
Reno froze, staring at her in awe, wondering if she could truly be as ignorant as her last string of questions would imply. That son of a bitch Reeve had made damn sure to mention in that information that had been accidentally leaked to the police that the Turks should be looked for separately. "Well..." he managed to get out, lost for words for one of the few times in his life, "first of all, I think you should know this my town bullshit is really funny, just damned cute, ya know? The only way this will be your town in this decade is for someone to actually take a shot at your father... which does explain why you jumped to that so quickly."
"Secondly, he continued as Yuffie was about to sputter some outraged retort, "the last job the Turks ever went on was searching for Sevens body. You do know Seven, right? You probably know him as Tseng... the guy who you- admittedly- watched die. Have you ever heard of a Cure materia, you stupid bitch? Jesus... just go away."
Yuffie blanched, stunned, as Reno advanced to slam the door in her face, not willing to admit it but hurt by his words. Tseng had been beyond the aid of anything, science or magic, no matter how potent or often it was. "I, uh, have some more questions..." she managed to blurt out, debating whether or not to block the door with her foot or go home without any broken toes.
It turned out not to matter though, as the loud ring of a cell phone cut through the silence and Reno stopped in midstep, pulling the phone from inside his jacket and flipping it open, pressed it to his ear. Instantly the Turks eyes widened and he almost dropped the phone. He started to speak back into the receiver but then glared at Yuffie, turned, and sprinted down his hall into the bedroom, slamming the door behind him.
Yuffie waited a moment, then took a few steps back into his house, glancing around to get a good look at the way Reno lived. The place seemed a lot bigger from the inside than it did from the street, but that was probably due to the fact the only real furniture in the place was a beaten up couch and a recliner, both of which leather and black. This put her off a little, shed always imagined him spending all his money on drugs and booze, not saving up to buy actually decent pieces of furniture one by one. She wondered about the gil hed left at the bar- itd disappeared seconds after she turned her back, filling some alcoholics bottle right about now, most likely.
The beep of the phone hanging up and the dull thud as Reno dropped it onto the floor told Yuffie that the Turk was about to emerge from his room, but a sudden flurry of activity followed as opposed to him coming back to argue with her some more. She waited, not so patiently -she was picking at a small hole in the leather couch- wondering what the hell was going on until the sound of a zipper being closed rang out, and Reno threw open his door so hard it smashed against the wall; carrying an overstuffed suitcase in one hand and a wad of money so thick he needed to use his thumb and pinkie to hold it. This would have shocked her, but remembering the bar, she realized it was probably all single digit gils. He made a move to walk right past her but she sidestepped, blocking his way, and raised her hands. "Hey!" she squeaked indignantly.
Reno took the time to shoot her an agitated look and seemed to be ready to snap something out, but instead he pushed past her and walked quickly out the door, leaving it open behind him. "I gotta go!" he called over his shoulder, "lock up when your done, and whatever you do, dont look under the mattress." He stopped for a moment, and turned around. "And if you do," he said with a leer, "try to keep an open mind."
Yuffie rolled her eyes and started after him, slamming the door behind her and jogging down the steps that led from the front of his house. After a moments sprint she managed to catch him, and grabbed hold of his arm with both hands so he couldnt walk off again, then stomped her foot in reminiscence of her toddler days. "Where the hell are you going!?" she yelled, "and what in the FUCK is your hurry?"
Reno glanced over, partially angry but also highly amused. "Such language..." he snickered, then looked suddenly thoughtful. For his sake, Yuffie thought, Ill ignore where his eyes just went. But then they returned to her face. "Do you want to find out?"
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