What You Carry With You : Hero Drink (15/30)
Title: Chapter 15: Hero Drink
Fandom: Final Fantasy VII : Advent Children
Pairing: Rufus Shinra / Tifa Lockheart
Characters Herein: Rufus Shinra. Tifa Lockheart. Extras.
Note: At least with this one I totally kept my promise. Because I had no choice? :D
This chapter feels pretty failtastic, but I think it's partially because I haven't really been writing all too much lately. And there is a lot of dialogue. And yeah, it is kind of failtastic. I PROMISE THE SUCK WON'T LAST. D:
Oh, and it's also immensely long. Wow.
30_kisses submission. The prompt is "Candy."
Full chapter guide and information.
Rufus had to wonder just how he had gotten himself into this mess.
“Long, long ago… An evil shadow appeared over the peaceful kingdom of Galdia.”
He tried not to outwardly curse his decision to enter the Event Square. Did Tifa know that this was what occurred here? Bizarre stage acting? Something about the look on her face told him that she did, on some level, know what was going on. But at the same time she seemed surprised when they pulled her aside. Perhaps these things were random. Still…
“Princess Rosa was just kidnapped by the Evil Dragon King, Valvados. What will become of her?”
He winced. No backing out, now.
“Just then, the legendary hero, Alfred, appears!”
Rufus’ head snapped up. That was his cue, or rather Alfred’s cue. He pulled himself awkwardly onstage, the unfamiliar weight of a fake sword at his side. He felt utterly idiotic, cape billowing behind him like some cartoon superhero, but it was at least some small modicum of relief knowing that plenty of other men had been forced into similar predicaments.
The knight twirled onstage, in obvious contrast to Rufus’ own stagnant posture. “Oh… You must be the Legendary Hero, Alfred!”
Rufus blinked, mind racing. Speeches in front of large crowds were one thing, but this? He cleared his throat. “Yes. I have heard somewhere… in my travels through the kingdom. You have need for someone. Legendary. As myself. Legendary Hero, Alfred.”
“I know in my soul that you can save Princess Rosa! Only you. So please… talk to the king!”
“But of course. Do take me to meet… him.”
Rufus made a motion to follow the knight, but was stopped dead in his tracks when the king himself twirled to his side. What was with the actors in this stage play and twirling? It was quite… disconcerting.
”Oh, Legendary Hero, Alfred! You have come to save my beloved Rosa! On the peak of a dangerous mountain dwells the Evil Dragon King, Valvados who has kidnapped the princess. But you can’t beat the Evil Dragon King now! Talk to the one who can help you!
He fiddled with the hilt of the sword strapped to his side and waited. The king stared back. Silence reigned a moment. Had he missed something? Had the other actors missed something? He raised an eyebrow. “And that would be…”
A cough, somewhat polite and somewhat bored at the same time resounded from behind him and he couldn’t help but jolt a little before turning back and seeing a wizard in green. If that could be called a wizard. Rufus had his doubts. “Him? I suppose, if you insist.”
And why had he entered from the opposite side? It wasn’t like Rufus could see him coming or anything…
“I am the great wizard Vormon! Tell me what you wish to know of.”
Of all the stupid questions. Rufus pinched the bridge of his nose briefly before catching himself and instead running fingers through his hair. “Obviously that would be how to slay the, erm. Evil Dragon King. Valvados. Was that his name?”
“Oh! The weakness of the Evil Dragon King! It must be… It must be…”
“ Go on.”
“Yes, it must be… True love!”
Rufus’ eyebrows furrowed a little. “True love.”
“True love! It’s the only force powerful enough to withstand the fangs of the Evil Dragon King, Valvados!”
Then why am I dragging around his sword? Rufus thought before shaking his head a little. This story was getting stupider as the seconds went by. There had to be a law against this. He had to get it in the books. This was bordering on cruel and unusual.
“Oh, what is going to happen next! Oh, Legendary Hero… Look!”
It being the narrator this time, Rufus hoped, no… prayed that this story was at least hitting its climax. And then he saw a man in a dragon costume bounce onstage – thankfully not twirling, with a tiara-wearing Tifa Lockheart in its menacing, plastic clutches. She seemed just as awkward there as he did and he couldn’t help but smile.
The dragon ‘roared.’ If that was what it could be called. And then it spoke.
“I am the Evil Dragon King, Valvados! I have not harmed the princess… I have been expecting… you!”
“Of course he speaks. He’s the king of all Evil Dragons, Alfred.” Tifa smirked from her spot on the floor and Rufus couldn’t help but think that if this Princess Rosa was anything like Tifa, she wouldn’t need rescuing at all.
“Ah, you are a wise and powerful princess, Rosa. Perhaps it would be best for you to rescue yourself.”
The dragon hopped in place. “Her mighty fists are no match for my powers. I am the great Evil Dragon King. Valvados.”
“Graaaarrh. Here I come, Legendary Hero, Alfred!” The dragon hopped in place for added effect and Rufus couldn’t help but think, ‘now what?’
And that’s when the wizard made it abundantly clear. “And now… Legendary Hero. This is what will happen to your beloved…”
The pause really made Rufus wonder. What would happen? Surely he didn’t speak of what the Evil Dragon King would do to her. Something about this plot-hole laden story told him it was intended for the ten and under crowd.
“A kiss! Love’s true power!”
Oh yeah. That.
Tifa was staring at him again. No, staring wasn’t the correct word. She was glaring. And that glare was something… it was a warning that struck him somewhere deep and primal. One that he knew he should heed. And part of him wanted so badly to ignore the warning. Part of him wanted to go forth and do something that would really piss her off. It wasn’t like she would retaliate there, in front of all those people. Would she?
But as he inched closer, he could feel himself lose his nerve. He could hear conversations with Tseng… Conversations with Reno of all people about how powerful she could be and then he could hear the pounding of his pulse, all encompassing. He could feel the unified stare of the crowd at his back, and when he stared into the less than pleased face of Tifa Lockheart, he could see her mouthing four words that inexplicably spelled out, I will end you.
And that’s when he leaned in close; close enough to smell, to almost taste the air around her. Close enough to see the way her body tensed and her jaw clenched. “Run,” he whispered before grabbing her hand and in one swift motion turning, breaking into a sprint, and half dragging her out and to the nearest portal to another Square.
He just hoped for something much less… theatrical.
What he got was a shack with a giant chocobo as decoration, a shoddy looking ride constructed with gears and wood, and a sharp twinge of pain that sent him nearly reeling onto concrete. Thankfully he could rest assured that while this ride looked less than safe, the railings around it were pretty stable. He took a breath. Perhaps running from Enchantment Night wasn’t the best of ideas. At least, he noticed, at some point the sword and cape had fallen off. Thankfully.
“Hmm. The gondola ride.”
Rufus composed himself before turning around. Best not to allow her to see him like… this. Worse for wear. Worn out. “I take it you’ve been here as well.”
She took a step, something unreadable passing over her features. Unreadable but not unnoticeable. “A few years ago…” She turned away, toward the park attendant and ordered two tickets, much to the surprise of Rufus. He himself had been about to suggest it, Some way to save face after effectively fleeing an uncomfortable situation. Also it would have afforded him some time to catch his bearings.
Either way it was a win-win situation and Rufus knew it, as he stepped gingerly onto the slightly swaying gondola.
It shook and shifted to life around them, pulling itself up farther and farther. He stretched out a little, sitting across from the brunette.
“I was about to kick you, on the stage.”
A grin spread slowly across his face. “I know.”
“I have to say… I’m a little surprised you didn’t try anything. And here I thought you were a complete idiot.”
“Self preservation. It’s a powerful thing.” Rufus chose that moment to look out the window. Soon they would be high above Gold Saucer, he assumed.
“What’s wrong with your leg?”
He stiffened a little. He thought he had hid it well enough, but apparently not. Still, he shrugged the question off, glazed over it with one of his own. “So you’ve been here before.” He paused. “With Strife, I’d assume.”
Tifa didn’t answer. And while another man might just let it be, Rufus was not just another man.
“I’m going to guess Strife because you seem capable of recalling the most minute of details, but at the same time you seem less than pleased in doing so. And bemused.”
“I’m not sure I understand what point you’re trying to make.”
“Not a point. Not at all.” He waved his hand, dismissing whatever idea or claim she was formulating. “Just a mere… curiosity.”
“The other day we played a game, remember?” Tifa blew a lock of hair out of her eyes and stared at him, waiting for some response. Rufus merely nodded. “Why don’t we try it again. We’ll stop when the ride is over.”
“Be my guest.” Rufus shrugged. The pain radiated upwards, a sore ache, not quite a nagging throb, but enough to push him out of his element. Part of him knew this wasn’t going to bode well for the plan overall; that he was failing miserably when it came to this little date, but at the same time there was another, louder part of him that just wanted a bottle of painkillers.
Tifa stretched her arms overhead, smile spreading across her face like a predator who had just caught sight of something really tasty. “So what’s wrong with your leg?”
Rufus rolled his eyes. “How surprising. I would have at least waited two turns.”
“What can I say. Sometimes I have a one track mind.” She crossed her legs.
“Piecing together shattered bones isn’t exactly the exact science doctors would have you believe.” He leaned an elbow on the wooden window, partly hoping there would be a few splinters to get his mind off things. “You visited here with Strife, during Meteor, didn’t you?”
“I thought you already knew the answer to that one. Yes.” She leaned her own elbow upon the wooden windowsill and paused to consider a new question. “Did you actually think ruling with fear would work?”
“I still do, in a way. Why do you only wear one earring?”
“How did y--” Tifa seemed taken aback, almost as if she’d never been asked something so simple, but then immediately steeled herself. She’d have to be careful, he thought smugly. She almost asked a question she hadn’t intended to. “The other one is with my mother. You think it would still work?”
He shook his head, knowing this would have set her off. Clearly she wasn’t understanding what he meant. “It would. That doesn’t mean I plan on trying it again. Did Sephiroth kill her?”
“No. She died when I was younger. Why should I trust that you won’t try any of this again?” Something sad had flickered in her burgundy eyes, but just as quickly as it appeared it had been replaced with something much harder.
“You probably shouldn’t. But…”
He smiled and leaned fully against the wooden wall adjacent to the window, leg still stiffly laid out in front of him. “Self preservation, my dear Lockheart. I wouldn’t want to meet my untimely end, again.”
He wasn’t sure if that was a question or a statement, but decided to treat it as the former. “I believe it’s my turn. Why do you take care of orphans?”
She shot him a look. “I think the real question is – why don’t you?”
“Be that as it may be, I don’t recall asking that one.”
“You shouldn’t need a reason to help people, right?”
Something about the statement shook him. He knew that. Of course he knew that, but at the same time… Rufus wasn’t sure why that bothered him. He was doing enough, wasn’t he? He was doing plenty. What could she possibly know about him; about how hard he had been working. The words weren’t accusatory, but the sentiment behind them was. “You shouldn’t need a reason. No one should, but… you do. People are inherently selfish, even when they don’t mean to be.” He paused, still feeling a little shaken. “What’s your reason?”
“From a psychological standpoint, I’d probably say it might stem from your mother, first of all…”
And that was when he noticed the way her fists twitched before they clenched – when she was really angry. It was also about when he noticed that he wasn’t shaking so much emotionally as the gondola itself was shaking.
It was also when Tifa Lockheart stood up and threw the slightly swaying, shaking gondola off balance more than it already was. And before she got a chance to properly dispense with the anger that was growing; welling up, she found herself off balance and falling, something terrifying flashing mutedly on her face, before she landed half in Rufus’ arms and half on his lap.
Before, of course, being dropped unceremoniously to the floor, with a hiss and a half-yelp of pain from Shinra’s president. Rufus closed his eyes, leaning his forehead against wooden planks, and tried to even his breathing. That was phenomenally stupid. He wasn’t sure what had possessed him to play hero at that moment, especially when the woman in question had fallen halfway into his blind spot and thus fell halfway onto his leg.
“Are you okay?”
Rufus turned to look at her, an eyebrow raised in nonchalant curiosity – anything to keep himself from noticeably letting her in on just how not okay he was feeling at that moment. Forcing a grin that did little but mask the gritting of teeth, he replied, “You didn’t answer my question.”
She sighed, something about the slight slump of her shoulders letting him know that she was about to concede – if only a little. “Maybe I know what it’s like to be alone – to not have people understand and to have no one to rely on but myself.” Her gaze steadily dropped a little. “What did you mean when you said you didn’t want to meet your untimely end again?”
He crossed his arms in front of his chest, trying to ignore the thumping therein and internally berating himself for bringing any of that up. “I choose to respectfully pass on that question.”
“That isn’t fair.”
“Life isn’t fair.”
“You’re being childish. I answered plenty of--”
“Because I already died once. In a manner of speaking. So why do you hate Shinra so vehemently?”
“I don’t. And that’s impossible. Answer the damned question, Shinra.”
Rufus leaned forward, lips pressed together in a firm line and nearly all the amusement wiped clean from his face. “It’s not impossible. And you’re lying. Cloud has worked with us – has worked for me. Reeve and I are on good terms. Highwind is helping with air and space. Kisaragi, Wallace… everyone else is being more than civil. You on the other hand…” The more he thought about it, the more Rufus realized that that was perhaps reason number one that he was pursuing her to being with. “So why--”
“My whole life was ruined because of your company.”
There was that as well.
“So was mine, in a way.” he mused before he was grabbed, forcefully, by the front of his collared shirt, and pulled forward, now eye-level with a less than pleased Tifa Lockheart.
“How can you say that with a straight face? Your company took everything I held dear away from me and you make jokes? Sephiroth. Nibelheim. Sector Seven. Aerith. And Cloud will never be the same--”
And maybe that was when he snapped a little, irritated both with her and with himself. She was being self-righteous again. And sure she had her grievances. And sure she had legitimate qualms with the company and with his family, but at the same time she had no clue. She had no clue what she was dealing with -- Who she was dealing with. And that’s when he started blurting things out, never moving his gaze away from her own fixed stare. “Really? Because I lost everything I ever knew, after Meteor. Because all I’ve ever known was this company. So congratulations. Now you’re the hero. I work my ass off and I’m still the villain. I suppose I can’t understand your level of loss, but I can certainly understand my own…”
“Well aren’t you a damned martyr,” she growled, grip moving downward as she wrapped his tie around the grip of her hand, pulling him forward.
Rufus’ eyes widened in a surprise that might have less to do with the fact that Tifa was, in fact yanking him even further into her personal space, and more to do with the half whimper he let out upon realizing the he liked the action. It was surreal, and yet there she was,, teeth slightly bared and eyes shining with more fire than he had ever seen in her before. “And aren’t you a saint,” he managed out, low and growled. This was the second time he had been this close to her in the night, and somehow the aura that surrounded her was incredibly different. It was heat and intensity and she almost seemed to smell differently.
And then he was being pulled even closer and he could feel her own rapid breath on his cheek and practically hear her pulse—or maybe it was his own.
“Yeah, well…” And before Rufus was entirely sure what was going on, she was closing the gap herself in a clash of lips and tongue and teeth. He groaned, closing his eyes and cupping her jaw, then the back of her head with his hand; stroking hair that was surprisingly soft and silky. Or maybe it wasn’t really all that surprising. Tifa, tough as she was, had always struck him as distinctly feminine.
And she tasted like jelly beans, his frantic mind realized. The taste was soft and childish; sweet, and quite in contrast with the intensity behind her kiss. No. This kiss had to be a flavor all its own. Something spicy and harsh and yet utterly irresistible. Something that made it hard for him to even realize that the ride itself had stopped moving.
So when she pulled away and said in a voice that was half distracted, half conflicted, “This doesn’t change anything.” Rufus wasn’t surprised.
He didn’t believe her, but he wasn’t surprised.