A Soft Rain Fell on Midgar

A soft rain fell on Midgar and it brought up the oil in the road, making it shine with a wet golden glow in the light of the streetlamps. The crowds of people shuffled down the sidewalks, umbrellas held loosely and jackets opened to the abnormally warm December night.

“Finally…Christmas break.” Reno stretched as he exited the front doors of the brilliantly lit Shinra HQ, Rude and Elena in tow. “God, the last few days are always hardest, hey?”

“The days get longer towards the end,” Rude agreed, rubbing a hand over his skull and pulling up the collar of his long dark overcoat. “Especially with all this Avalanche business.”

“Yeah.” Reno squinted up through the rainy haze. The sky was purplish black overhead, and the Christmas lights strung between the streetlights seemed like a feeble attempt at the spirit of the season. “Well…uh. This time of year…yeah, I gotta take off.”

Rude nodded. “Yeah. See you later.”

“Right. Uh…hey, Rude?”


“Spot me fifty gil?”

Rude grunted and retrieved his wallet from his back pocket. Selecting a few crisp bills from the substantial stack he handed them to his partner

“Thanks.” Reno pocketed the money. “I’ll pay you back.”

“Yeah. Merry Christmas.”

“Same to you. Bye.”

Rude paused as his partner started towards the steps in front of the Shinra building. “Go easy on yourself, all right?” he called.

Reno stopped and turned slightly, grinning half-heartedly. “I’ll try…yeah, I’ll be fine. But…you know.”

“Yeah. Just watch it.”

“I know. Bye.”

“Bye, Reno!” Elena spoke up, waving. “Have a Merry Christmas.”

“Huh…? Oh. Yeah. Merry Christmas. Bye.”

Elena tilted her head to the side and narrowed her eyes slightly, watching Reno jog down the steps onto the street. The redhead stuffed his hands in his pockets and tucked his head down against the wind. The streets of downtown Midgar were busy, shoppers thronging in front of the stores and hailing cabs, and she quickly lost sight of him. Glancing over at Rude, she saw that he’d also been watching his partner’s departure. “He never does pay you back, you know,” she commented critically.

Rude shrugged. “He will when he can.”

“Well, why can’t he? He should have money, shouldn’t he? He makes just as much as you. What on earth can he be spending it all on?”

“Reno’s financial commitments are his own business,” Rude answered shortly. “Let him be.”

Elena winced at Rude’s tone, but persisted. “But I don’t understand. Besides, he doesn’t like me,” she protested, the faintest hint of a whining note in her voice.

“He likes you fine.”

“No! He doesn’t! Sometimes you can just tell with people, and I can tell with him! He doesn’t like me,” she asserted again, flaring slightly.

Rude sighed. “Elena, really…”

“No!” Elena repeated. “It’s been bugging me for ages, and everyone just tells me to let it alone. Well, I don’t want to. I’m sick of it! He barely talks to me. He hardly looks at me if he can help it. I don’t know what I did…I don’t even know if I did do anything. Why doesn’t he like me?”

Rude was silent for a few moments. “It’s complicated. It’s not that he doesn’t like you. It’s just…complicated.”

“Well, why can’t I understand? It’s not fair.” Elena scowled. “He’s not even a very good Turk,” she added spitefully. “He’s too cocky and he’s a loudmouth and then when you actually get him in a fight he runs away. He’s a coward.”

The warning look Rude shot her made her recoil slightly. “You’re a little new to this organization to be criticizing anything Reno does,” he said sternly.

Wincing, Elena immediately changed tactics and her tone became injured. “I don’t know why you’re being so mean,” she complained miserably. “He doesn’t have any reason not to like me. He’s just a jerk.”

“Elena, please. Just leave it. Christmas…is a tough time of year for him. He’ll pull out of it.”

“Pull out of what?” Elena demanded sullenly.

Shifting uncomfortably, Rude shrugged. “This…phase. He’ll snap out of it.”

“So the fact that he hates me is a phase?” Elena asked sarcastically.

“He doesn’t hate you.”

Elena rolled her eyes. “You don’t get it,” she accused. “But I’m going home. Merry Christmas, Rude.”

Rude nodded slightly. “Merry Christmas, Elena. Don’t…don’t worry too much about Reno. He’ll come around.”

Ignoring this last comment, Elena pulled her coat closed and nodded. “Yeah. See you later.” Taking the steps down to street level, Elena approached the curb and hailed a cab.

Almost immediately, a yellow vehicle pulled up to the curb and Elena slid into the backseat, grateful that taxis almost always stopped for Turks, anticipating the big tip the blue suit usually meant. “Forty-two, East Thirty-Eighth Street, please,” she said to the driver. The blonde fell silent, resting her elbow on the ledge below the window and watching the city pass by.

Rude didn’t get it, she thought to herself. People liked Elena; that was just the way it had always been. And yet, Reno had been giving her the cold shoulder ever since she’d joined the company. It was distressing at first, but as time wore on Elena had started to become aggravated. The cab pulled to a stop at a red light and Elena started slightly as Reno crossed the street in front of her taxi. She leaned forward and watched as he passed. Catching him unaware of her presence for the first time since they’d met, Elena was stunned by how different he seemed. ‘Tired’ was the first word that leapt to her mind, but there was a sadness to the way he carried himself that went beyond any kind of weariness. The light turned green and the cab rolled forward. Sagging against the stiff leather seat, Elena decided to put Reno out her mind for the rest of her holiday.

Threading his way in between the people on the sidewalk, Reno kept his head down and pushed his hands further into his pockets. The temperature was dropping and the wind was coming up a little, making the soft rain drive a little harder, pelting against his back then and running in soft rivulets over the folds of his jacket. He shivered and quickened his pace.

Lifting his head, he glanced up at a building a little ways down the street—his destination—slightly surprised that he’d arrived as soon as he had. The walk had passed quickly, filled by a deliberate effort not to think too hard about where he was going.

It wasn’t a very impressive building. Three stories tall, but sandwiched between two taller buildings; a small apartment block and a non-descript office building. The entrance was a small, warmly lit alcove, and the door was plain glass, with the words “Glen Eden Private Care Center” stenciled in soft gold lettering at eye level.

Reno peered through the glass door at the bright warmth of the foyer. Despite how familiar he was with the place, it always struck him how different it was from other buildings of its type; warm and soft, instead of cool and antiseptic. The floor of the lobby was carpeted and had comfortable furniture and modern decorations, with a hallway that stretched out from the back of the room. It looked more like a hotel or apartment than a clinic. Briefly, Reno remembered why he’d chosen the place in the beginning, and pressed a button beside the door handle.

There was a middle-aged nurse busy filling out forms at the reception desk, and a younger nurse stood by the counter, checking things off on a clipboard. The elder looked up when the buzzer on her desk sounded and announced a presence at the doorway. She recognized Reno and pressed a button to unlock the door.

Tugging it open, Reno stepped inside and crossed the lobby to the front desk. Pulling his wallet out of his front pocket, he displayed an ID card and the nurse sitting at the desk nodded. “Go right on in,” she said softly and Reno nodded gratefully, heading down the hallway.

The young nurse who had been standing by glanced down the corridor after Reno, then at the receptionist. “It’s long past visiting hours.” she commented, the faintest trace of accusation in her tone. “We aren’t supposed to let people in during the nightshift.”

“I know who he is. He’s been here before. This is when he usually comes.”

“I’ve never seen him.”

“He doesn’t come often. You know the girl in room 112?”

“From the reactor explosion in Gongaga?”

Nodding, older nurse returned to her work. “She was a Turk. They were friends. He’s going to see her. It would be cruel to make him wait. Sometimes, there are exceptions to rules.”

The nurse wisely let the matter lie and hung up her clipboard on a pegboard behind the desk. Going down the hallway, she passed by the closed doors of rooms 101-111, then slowed and lingered briefly by the half-open door of 112.

It was dark inside—the young man who’d come to visit had turned the lights off, but in the half-light cast from the hallway, she could still see well enough. The room was well and tastefully decorated, but quite evidently a hospital room. An effort had been made to make the room look homey, but there was no hiding the machines and medical equipment, humming and beeping softly in the corner.

The bed alongside the machines was neatly made and kept, a cheery pink and ivory blanket laid smoothly over the body of a young woman.

Curious, the nurse leaned forward, peered through the open door and got a bit of a better look at the young woman inside.

She was young, or at least, she looked it, with golden blonde hair and a small, peaceful face. Her nose turned up slightly at the tip and the fringe of her dark eyelashes lightly touched her cheekbones. One of her hands rested on her stomach, fingernails neatly trimmed and buffed. For all the world, she looked as though she were sleeping. The young man from before was standing by the bedside, head bowed and shoulders wearily slumped.

The nurse drew back from the doorway as the he turned around and pulled a chair over to the bed, its legs scraping softly on the floor and creaking just a little when he sat down. Quietly, the nurse watched as the visitor reached out and brushed his fingers lightly against the girl’s cheek.

“Your hair’s getting long, honey. I’ll have someone in to cut it for you.”

The sound of the visitor’s voice reminded the nurse that private rooms were to be treated with the utmost sanctity and her eavesdropping was an offense that could get her fired. Pulling away from the door, she hurried down the hallway to attend to her other duties.

Reno had fallen silent, his long, lean body sagging forward, elbows rested on his on his knees and eyes fixed on the floor. There was total silence in the room, but for the humming of the machines in the corner.

“You know…every year…this gets harder.”

He couldn’t help marveling at how much the room changed the sound of his voice. It was no longer full of forced cheerfulness, or a dully-cutting sarcasm, or the usual lightly mocking edginess. He sounded as tired and sad as being here made him feel.

“It’s been five years. Can you believe that? I can’t. I don’t want to. I’m thirty-one. Isn’t that crazy? I think it’s incredible. It’s not really so much time; in the whole grand scheme of things…sometimes it feels like it’s gone fast. But…being here…and knowing how long it’s been…yeah, I can feel it now.”

He smiled. “You’re twenty nine. I can’t remember…you were twenty-three…twenty-four? I was twenty-six when…well…you know what happened.” He laughed quietly and somehow it made him feel a little better and a little worse at the same time. “That’s one of the things that makes this hard, I think. It’s been five years. I’ve…I’ve changed a lot. And you…well…” The smile fell from his face. “You just…haven’t.”

Reno shifted in his chair, then settled back again. “It’s not just me, either,” he continued, after a few moments of silence. “Things have changed. I’m almost…well…no. No, I was going to say that I’m almost glad you don’t have to go through what things are like right now. But I couldn’t ever mean that. It’s…I just…god, Rosalind, I can’t even tell you…

“I don’t know…Avalanche are still around. Heh. Who figured they’d last this long, hey? We used to talk about wiping them out. Man. You remember…your first mission…when…when we met, I guess. Sector 8 patrol, the reactor…you’d remember. Well…they blew it up. The reactor. I never really thought they’d actually be able to do it…not in Midgar…but they…god, I still can’t believe it.”

Reno sighed heavily and was silent again. Footsteps echoed softly down the hallway, but otherwise the room was silent. The sound of the machines had faded into background noise, like it always did. It never took long. He shifted again. The silence that was left over got to him quickly, however, and he filled it with speech again.

“The Turks are different now. You’d hate it. I hate it. There was a point in time when I was proud of what we were doing. The stuff we did. I felt like we were the good guys. Like we’d always be the good guys. Now…I don’t know anymore. Sometimes…some of the things we’re doing…the things I’m doing…I really don’t know, rookie.”

Reno shook his head and his hands clenched helplessly. “I’ve never questioned orders before. Well…no, that’s not what I mean. I’ve questioned orders. Hell, I’ve out and out refused orders. You’ve seen me. I get all worked up about it. I guess…I’m…questioning the morality of the orders. The motivations. I don’t get it anymore. I used to know why we were doing the things we did. I used to think that, despite everything, I had a fairly good hang of what was going on. But…some of the things they’re telling me to do…I…”

Managing to catch himself before his voice broke, Reno stopped and closed his eyes tightly, taking a few shuddering deep breaths. The dull pain he’d gotten used to over the years seemed larger, permeating his entire body. There were times when it wasn’t more than a dull throb at the back of his awareness. Now, it felt like the air around him was aching.

“God, rookie, I’ve done terrible things. I…I don’t even want to tell you…I don’t know if you can even hear me and I don’t wanna say. I didn’t know…I never thought I was even capable of some of the stuff I’ve done. It’s…it’s not just killing anymore, it’s murdering. I can’t tell the difference. Sometimes I wonder if there ever was one. And… Rosalind, it’s so hard to even say this…you know…how it is…it used to be…how you’d watch someone die and feel cold all over and right deep down…except now it doesn’t. I can’t feel it and it scares me so bad. You can’t even imagine. I don’t feel anything. I just stand there and watch and all I think is, ‘Thank god it wasn’t me.’ That’s all I can think.”

A long silence filled the room again after the sudden burst of speech. The sound of the machines seemed to fill the room again, along with the sound of Reno’s heavy, almost ragged breathing, like the flood of emotion had been an exertion.

“And…then sometimes,” his voice came out so soft he wasn’t even sure he was speaking out loud. “…I wish it was me. I hate saying it. Christ, Rosalind, I’m scared. I…I wish I’d just die, sometimes. I think I’d deserve it. Or…or I think it’d be…easier. It’s getting so hard to get up and go to it everyday, I just wish…”

He trailed off and refused to finish the sentence. A shadow of fear had fallen over the room, but he felt it gently ebbing away in the silence, suddenly fleeting and vague, like a half-remembered nightmare.

“A few times…I’ve gotten close. To…ah…you know. I’ve had a gun in my hand, and I’ve considered it. I’ve never been more afraid in my life. I never thought this would ever happen to me. That I’d ever be there…and then I get there…and…and, god, Rosalind, I just can’t.”

He breathed a deep sigh of relief. It felt good to have said it. Tension that had building inside him, pressure from all the thoughts and feelings that he used to release a little more often than he did, pushing outward. The dull ache subsided. It stopped hurting when he tried to breathe, and after a few minutes he found he could talk again.

“It’s…funny.” Reno relaxed slightly, calm and pensive following the storm of emotion he’d managed to bring himself through. “You know…I get that far…and then I remember…something Rude said, a long time ago…he was really blunt about it. I was sort of wanting to give up, I guess and he said…he told me…that no one else really cared, no one would take care of you…I mean, if I didn’t…that I’m all you really have. I…I’m keeping you alive. I am, aren’t I? I really am. And I guess you’re returning the favor, because when I get that far…then I think of you…and I know why I couldn’t ever end it.”

Tears stung in his eyes as Reno reached out and gently took the girl’s hand. “I love you, Rosalind. And I wish I could be sure you know how much I miss you.”

Quietly, Reno slipped back into a void of deliberately suppressing his thoughts, filling his mind with the warmth of Rosalind’s hand in his, the soft sound of her breathing, the familiar smell of her skin, and the persistent, gentle beating of her pulse beneath his fingertips.

Dawn broke slowly over Midgar, a plain shade of grey saturating the city for a few long minutes, before the sunrise started and the grey became brighter and brighter as the sun rose behind the clouds that blanketed the sky. Pale white light spread slowly from the window. When it filled the room, Reno rose, stood by the bed for a few minutes, then bent and gently kissed Rosalind, pressing his hand gently against her cheek for a few moments, then quietly turning to leave. He lingered in the doorway for a brief moment, and pulled the door halfway closed before heading down the hallway. Reno crossed the lobby silently and slipped outside.

Rude was waiting in the alcove, standing with his back to one of the walls, rubbing his gloved hands together. Cold had set in overnight and a dense grey cloud covered the sky. Thin sheets of ice covered the puddles of rain from the previous evening. He looked up as his partner came out of the building.

Slumping against the wall opposite Rude, Reno sighed and rubbed his eyes.

“All right?”

“Yeah.” Reno nodded and shrugged. “You know. Considering.” He grinned a bit weakly. “I have such a hell of a time coming here…but it’s always so hard to leave.”

“She’s okay.”

“I know.”

Rude stepped away from the wall and out of the alcove. “Did you want a ride home?” he offered.

“Yeah.” Stepping out of the alcove, Reno followed his partner towards his car, parked at the curb, keeping his eyes down.

Glancing up as something cold and wet landed on the top of his skull, Rude grunted and unlocked the doors. “It’s snowing.”

Reno didn’t look up and tugged the door open, sliding inside. “It won’t last.”

All That Glitters Is Cold 3 Fanfic Competition

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