The Fallen Chapter 6
Reno started to run as fast as he could the second the let him off the plane. A quick shortcut of jumping on and riding a conveyer belt gained him his -and someone elses- suitcase, and a way past security checks that saved him at least 30 minutes if they sucked at their jobs, and several hours if they found the gun hed stuffed in the lining of the bag. He followed that with a breathless sprint to the stairs leading towards the airports exit and slide all the way down the railing, not missing a step as he landed perfectly on his feet and slammed through the doors. Only after three more blocks of jogging did he stop, gasping for air and rubbing his cramped sides as he leaned back against a brick wall. "Christ," he moaned, reaching into his pocket and pulling out a pack of cigarettes. He lit one with a match that he then tossed away into the street, and took a long drag on the cancer stick, "I have got to give up smoking."
He started suddenly, remembering, and glanced quickly down the street in either direction, grabbing both his old and newly acquired bags in case he had to start running again. There was no one there. "Oh thank you lord," he sighed, tossing away his still almost entirely whole cigarette. Hed managed to lose her. After three hours of senseless babble and inane questions, hed gotten away from that doting bimbo Yuffie. It would never stop amazing him how someone who could be that good in a fight would decide boredom was an adequate excuse to tell someone your life story, even if they were interested in hearing it, which he sure as hell hadnt been. What the fuck had he been thinking, asking her along?
The ex-Turk rose to his feet and hefted his bags, beginning at a much more normal pace down the streets. The bar was only two more blocks into the city, and Reno stopped as he recognized the name Tseng had told him on the store sign, despite the letters that had been faded almost entirely away. "The Sh00ting Star", with the two os changed to 0s... Reno couldnt hardly believe his eyes. Double zeroes was the universal street code for a place you can score anything from pot to assault rifles to hookers, though not necessarily all at once. It was a fact the police pretended to be ignorant of to save themselves the trouble. So Elena was dealing now... innocent, and straight up, never-did-drugs-in-her-life Elena was a dealer. And Reno was a card shark now, even though Elena could always beat him in 3 out of 4 hands of poker. Or rum. Or anything. The world was full of ironies, and every one of them was annoying. Reno pushed the swinging doors of the bar open and entered, reaching into his bag and pulling out a small glass vial.
The bar has about 8 people in it, but all of them were gathered around one table, laughing in a way only little green leaves could grant. Reno almost groaned at such a blatant opportunity to grab some quick gil gone to waste, but he didnt have the time to look into it. Maybe later, he wished silently, before taking a seat at the bar. Right now he had to talk to the bar maid, and he had to be nice- Tseng has said she was a bit of a bitch, though her more then evident curves presented a convincing enough argument against that fact to Reno. He signaled her with a tap of his knuckles on the wooden bar, and shot her a dazzling grin. "Hi ya Royce," he said, "Im going to need some Vodka, or if you dont have that anything over 100 proof will do, all right babe? Basically if you can light it on fire, then Ill be happy. Oh, and pour some of this in it." He handed her the vial, which she stared at appraisingly for a few moments, before shrugging and walking off to make his drink. It was, after all, his liver. Reno watched her walk away for a few moments, before spinning his bar stool around to face the entrance.
"I guess," said the girl standing there, "its too much to hope for to ask if that was water or not, right?"
Reno slumped down into his stool and groaned. Hed apparently underestimated Yuffies ninja ability to track him 6 blocks into a busy city. Or hed told her the name of the bar in some vague self defense method against her unstoppable babble, and forgotten. Whichever. He decided to simply ignore her and hope shed go away, and turned around to grab his drink as Royce slid it to him. The ignore and drink technique had worked for him with most of the other girls that haunted his life.
Yuffie, of course, had to destroy his hopes of blocking her out by sitting right next to him, though he was glad she didnt mention his all too obvious attempt to have her stranded at the air port- that one would be hard for even him to explain. He watched in amusement as she actually waited for the waitress to wander over to her, and then ordered what was quite possibly the dumbest thing Reno had ever heard. "Ill take a virgin Shirley Temple, with no cherry."
Renos drink could get a 400 pound man drunk just by sipping it over a two hour period of time, so he downed the entire thing in one gulp and slammed the glass down on the counter so hard it almost shattered. There was no particular reason for him to do it, just an old force of habit hed developed when trying to catch the eye of whatever low cut shirt wearing girl who happened to be around. He tried giving Yuffie a look to see if she realized how stupid she truly was, but she only stared back at him in confusion. "What?" she asked after a moment, glancing into a nearby glass to see if something was on her face.
He paused, wondering if it was truly worth the probable argument to tell her, and then made his usual decision when faced with that quandary- why yes, yes it was. "A virgin Shirley Temple with no cherry?" he said, idly spinning his glass around in the bar. "So what happened? Unfortunate incident with a fence post, perhaps forgot shed placed a candle on her chair?"
Yuffie stared at him blankly. "...what?"
Reno sighed. "Never mind," he said, "finish your drink. Ive got to go talk to some people for a little." Reno moved one seat over away from Yuffie and signaled Royce again, leering forward over the bar. "Hey babe, you wouldnt happen to know where I can find a tall, pale guy with a dot right between his eyes now would you?"
Royce took a step back and glared at him. Another one in the same day, that was just great. At least this one didnt start out with his gun drawn, though she had no doubt one would appear quickly enough if she tried to fake ignorance. Elena didnt pay her enough for this kind of thing, and if she wanted absolute privacy she could include an Uzi in this years Christmas bonus. She jerked her thumb towards the doorway behind her and Reno answered with a nod, quickly avoiding Yuffies glare as he went to walk through the opening in the counter.
"Hey!" she said indignantly, when it became obvious he had no intention of bringing her along. "I thought I was going to find out what was going on. How the hell am I supposed to do that from here?"
"Well..." Reno pondered on it, "you could listen really closely."
"Hah." Yuffie said, paused, and then repeated herself. "Hah. Im serious. I didnt come all the way over here just to find out that you dont like to drink alone."
"Yeah, yeah," Reno muttered, wondering to himself what the hell hed been thinking when hed asked her to go along. He didnt even like brunettes, and she was probably jail bait anyway... he had an index card somewhere in his suitcase that listed the Kalm laws for that sort of thing, but all he could remember off hand was they were a lot stricter than they were in Wutai. After all, that was half of the reason he had moved to the isolated island continent. "Believe me, youll learn what you came for, but I need to go check it out first."
Her tone was stubborn. "And why is that?" she asked, glaring over the rim of her glass as she took another sip.
"Because," he growled, "Im not really sure if this is going to be a St. Valentines day reenactment, OK? Its not like people are above machine gunning a former Turk down just for the reputation."
For once, Yuffie didnt have anything particularly annoying to say. "Oh," she uttered softly, then took another sip, finishing her drink. She looked disappointed as she stared into the empty glass, and made a mental note to get the bar tender in Green Dragon to learn how to make them. "Well hurry up."
"You got it, brat," with that parting shot, Reno side stepped between the gap in the bar and walked quickly towards the back rooms of the bar. He came across a door marked Private, and following his training to the letter, promptly pushed it open.
The first thing he saw was Elena, leaning back against the wall, and almost thought the old cliché, she hasnt changed a bit. And then he caught her eyes, and realized that couldnt be further from the truth. They werent ice, didnt have the edge of a true killer, but they were a lot colder than theyd used to be, a sort of velvet coated steel. It was the look she should have had a year ago when the Turks were still around, but hadnt.
And next to her... was Tseng. Reno blinked, stunned, having never truly believed it even when hed heard his mentors voice over the phone, which was why he had packed more weapons than clothes in his bag. His eyes instinctively went to Tsengs chest, and he could see a thin white line tracing up his neck and disappearing beneath his collar. So that was where... Reno gulped as he walked up to Tseng, looking him up and down. And then he grinned. "Tseng," he started, "what the fuck is this shit?"
Tseng smiled back at him and held out his hand. "Its good to see you, man." Reno grabbed his hand and pulled Tseng into a tight embrace, which his friend returned in full. Reno quickly released him and gave Elena the same hug, marveling at the thickened muscles he felt wrapped around his waist.
Reno paused for a moment, a sudden, lingering doubt on his mind. He tensed up, and then turned suddenly on his heel, catching the third man in the room in a quick clap on the shoulder, which Rude returned. His best friend hadnt made a sound, but Reno had learned long ago how to detect him despite the absence of noise. "Hey, man. I hear your workin as a bouncer at some night club now," he said, "think you can get me in sometime?"
Rude shot him a small smile, and shook his head. "Hey, Im a door watcher, not a miracle worker. There is a dress code Im supposed to enforce, you know."
"Cute," Reno growled, but inwardly meant it. It had been too damn long since hed heard the ever professional Rude take a shot at his sloppiness, and it was definitely a criticism that he didnt mind.
"So," he said, addressing all three of the others. "Like I said. What the hells going on? I mean, no offense Tseng, but shouldnt you be being eaten by several varieties of earth worm at this point?"
"Nah, I keep that from happening by actually washing my suit sometimes," Tseng said, eyeballing skeptically the ragged condition of Renos clothes. "Maybe you should look into it."
Reno paused. "So I take it you have no fucking clue?"
Tseng laughed. "And you say you wouldnt make a good intelligence officer."
"Does it really matter?" Elena interrupted any response that Reno might have concocted. "Results matter, reasons dont. Things are back like they should be."
"No, they arent," Tseng corrected her, sounding troubled. Elena looked at him in confusion. "Things are as youd like them to be, it doesnt mean its right. Hey, Im as happy as any of you that Im here right now, but Im not going to start enjoying it until I find out how, and why it happened."
"Thats stupid!" Elena suddenly burst out, drawing a shocked look from the three males in the room. "Theres nothing you could learn that would make things any better than-"
"Miss Elena?" Royce said, probably not for the first time. Elenas voice had risen dramatically as she spoke, capable of blocking out the steady whisper in which her waitress spoke.
"Yes, Royce?" Elena snapped, her voice dropping in volume but the frustration still very much evident.
"You have a phone call. The lady says its urgent." Royce answered.
"Oh does she?" Elena said with sarcastic concern. "Well did she say what the hell the big deal was about?"
"Um, no Miss..." Royce admitted, "she wouldnt tell me."
"Then hang up on her," Elena said irritably, dismissing Royce with a wave of her hand. The bar maid hesitated for a moment, as if she had something else on her mind, but then went to deal with the phone call. Elena took a moment to regroup, coming the hair that had fallen over her eyes back, and sighed.
"Like I was saying," she continued, noticeably more subdued, "there is no reason to go dragging up answers to a question that doesnt matter."
Almost the second she finished her final word, a high pitched, buzzing ring rang out, yet another interruption. She looked around in irritation, her gaze falling on the source of the noise- one of Renos bags. She glanced up at the red haired Turk, her look expectant. "Well?" she asked, "arent you going to answer it?"
"Nah," he answered with a shrug, "I knicked that bag. The guys probably calling to see if Im dumb enough to answer."
They all paused for a few moments, waiting for the ringing to cease. It went on for three more rings, and then three after that, and it was showing no signs of stopping. They gave it a good thirty seconds, before exhaling harshly, Tseng gestured sharply at the bag. "Well shut it up at least!" he growled.
Reno shrugged, lifted his foot, and brought it down hard on the suitcase. The ring took a momentary rattle, and then returned, prompting Reno to stomp at it yet again. This time, a very satisfying crunch sounded, and the ringing ceased altogether. The group collectively paused, as if waiting for something, and when that something failed to occur, Elena tried one last time.
The ring came this time from Renos second suitcase, the one he had actually packed from home, and he had to move fast to snatch the bag up from the ground before Elenas foot came slamming down. "Hey!" he said defensively, clutching the bag, "I have vodka in here!"
"Answer your fucking phone!" Elena yelled at him, apparently taken beyond her snapping point.
"OK, OK!" Reno said defensively, fishing around in the bag for his cell phone. "Christ, I dont know how Ive survived the last twelve months without all this fucking verbal abuse..." hastily he flipped the phone opened and pressed receive, lifting it expectantly to his ear. "Yeah, what do you-"
He paused, blinking very suddenly, and pressed the phone tighter to his ear. Several times he opened his mouth to speak, but it seemed that whoever was on the other end of the transmission wasnt ceasing their speech any, as he simply didnt get the opportunity to respond. When he finally did get to utter what could be considered as a sound, it was followed by him angrily slamming the phone down- whoever it was had hung up.
"Well?" Tseng asked expectantly.
"Im not entirely sure...." Reno said, then paused. "What the hell that was."
"OK..." Tseng said tolerantly, "how about you start by telling us who it was?"
"Uh..." Reno blinked. "Aeris?"
Rufus growled and spit obscenities as his tattered shirt got tangled up in yet another thorn bush. It only took one vain pull that ended up catching it even more to convince Rufus that it simply wasnt worth it, and Rufus tore the bloody rage from his body and tossed the remainders of it into the bush, leaving only with an even bloodier and raggier undershirt on. "If you want it you damned plant," he muttered, spitting a bright stream of fluorescent red after his shirt, "you can have it."
He stumbled forward, his foot smacking into an upraised tree root which nearly sent him dive bombing into the dirt, where he was fairly certain hed have simply closed his eyes and stayed. The Shinra executive hissed out every profanity he had ever head- and Heidigger had said quite a lot- and then made some more up on the spot. Zack has long since disappeared from view into the distance, but Rufus found both to his relief and immense disgust that he could track the Gonganan by following his blood trail easily, like hunters did with wounded deer.
The Midgar native halted in his tracks in front of an unusually large pool of Zacks lifeblood and stared at it in confusion, head swimming. It just didnt make any sense... he knew that both of them had some blood inducing wounds, but none of them had been extremely deep, and after almost two hours -it felt like an eternity to Rufus- of walking under a blazing sun all of them should have clotted up and sealed over by now. It never really hit you how much an open cut could bleed it was never scabbed over, but the young president was witnessing it first hand. He guessed that the rampant humidity could be responsible, somehow, or if mako had indeed been involved with the rats mutation it could have been the stupid furry things themselves who had caused it. Chemicals on the nails or something... all things considered, it was a hell of a way to track your pray.
Rufus spun around, eyes dancing frantically through the forest around him, but he didnt see any swarm of rats crouching there, ready to pounce forward and rip him to pieces. But even as he looked his vision blurred, blinked out, then returned, and he realized how fuzzy everything was looking around the edges. Nervous at what he may not be seeing that he should be, Rufus pushed himself forward again, ignoring the aching thirst that clutched at his throat and choked him, almost down to his knees. He thought he could make out his Soldier companions frame in the distance, which surprised him considering Zack should have been over 4 miles ahead considering the two differing paces and the number of times he had stopped to rest, his little stops for breathing coming closer and closer together over the last few miles.
The president limped forward at a slugs pace, approaching his companion and friend of sorts- at least partner in arms, at the moment, who was simply standing there with a disoriented look on his face, zoning out as he stared up into the sun. Rufus opened his mouth to call out, but suddenly felt bile rush up his throat, choking him. He managed to swallow, but couldnt seem to find the breath he had lost, and after a few moments of futilely trying to inhale, his knees gave way and he collapsed on the spot.
Zack heard him landing only as a dull thud, barely audible over the throbbing ring in his ears, and he turned, eyes half lidded and lifeless. He took a step towards the collapsed form of Rufus and felt his own feet catch up with each other, and a moment later he landed face first in the dirt.
Huh... his mind idled, this isnt so bad. In fact, its kind of comfortable... and then, blackness.
It wasnt large until a large, lumbering shape approached the two of them, pushing itself effortlessly between the leaves and the plant life of the forest, watching their fallen forms skeptically. But the warrior and the president knew none of this, lying in darkness on the hard soil of the Midgar forest, too exhausted to bleed.
Final Fantasy 7 Fanfic