Chapter One: Bar Tabs
When you meet someone, there are characteristics and trademarks that you remember about them. For example, one might say, ‘Did you see that girl with the dark hair?’ or, ‘That guy in the blue shirt’ et cetera. That girl with the dark hair has a name, and so does the guy in the blue shirt.
Names, however, are also means of a trademark to recognize a person. There are millions of names, yet many are duplicated, so it’s not exactly original, but when someone mentions it, they recognize a person’s face, triggered by the name.
Tifa Lockhart. The big-breasted one in AVALANCHE, the girl who could beat machines down with her fists, that girl who never missed a deathblow when she was wearing the God’s Hand. All of these aliases led to one person. One person who didn’t quite know who the hell she was, but she was always the optimist on the outside.. She’d hide her own insecurities to bring up the spirits of others, one way or another.. But-
“Hey! You! More beer!”
Being called “You” sometimes could suffice.
“Yeah, I’m coming,” Tifa responded with an exasperated sigh. “I’m starting to have regulars again.” She stated with a smirk on her face, placing a mug of beer on the man’s table. The bartender, waitress, and owner then crossed her arms over her chest and tilted her head, stating in an almost motherly tone, “It’s sad to think that my regulars don’t even know my name, though.”
Ben was his name. He was a former ShinRa employee who lost his job because he was leaking secrets to the media. “Don’t worry, Cheefa! I know everyone’s name..!” He slurred, then grinned, “You don’t know mine, though.. It’s Rufus!” He stood up and turned to the group of people he was drinking with and exclaimed, “Look’it me! I’m the president of ShinRa! I’m an asshole who got the company from his daddy!”
It was bittersweet for Tifa to watch people like Ben. Sweet to see ShinRa was still hated, bitter because of the results for those who opposed them. Those lives ShinRa ruined were always ruined effectively, trying to keep their own reputation from decreasing. It was their fault the Meteorfall had occurred, it was their fault Cloud’s past was messed up as it was, and it’s their fault, frankly speaking, it was their fault the world sucked!
There were some advantages, though. She had been getting to know a few Turks on their off-days. Even though she hated ShinRa with a passion, and the Turks were, quite possibly, one of the most important variables in ShinRa’s success, Tifa wasn’t one to hold grudges towards paying customers.
“Beer me, Lockhart!” The obnoxious voice rang from a table in the corner.
The usual trio of Turks sat there. They were the ones that AVALANCHE had encountered most often, and they also were the ones who frequented the semi-newly rebuilt 7th Heaven most often. The other Turks, Tifa had never even met, and she didn’t know if she would want to. However, if they were anything like these three, then she might have made an exception or two.
Reno was a fiery haired loudmouth whom Tifa could see arguing with Yuffie Kisaragi or Barret Wallace over a smallest detail like laughing in his direction. The Turk would try to sometimes act cool and collected, but once he was started up, he’d rampage. It’s always refreshing, and even appealing sometimes, to see people with energy to spare and radiate to others. Reno was one of these people; he’d always have a snide smirk on his face and he’d probably fight for his team no matter the possible outcomes: Win or lose. That was a given as a Turk, though. Perfection was merely a prerequisite, or job requirement, for them.
To Tifa, Reno almost seemed like a male version of Yuffie. Minus the stealing and the bounciness. Maybe that’s one reason she liked having him around. Though she hated to admit it sometimes, Yuffie was one of the reasons their group didn’t fall into depression. Without her, Tifa wouldn’t have had any other female companionship and Tifa would have probably gone crazy. So without Tifa, AVALANCHE would have been a sausage fest with a Cat plushie and a dog.
Rude could have probably been the polar opposite of Reno. Calm, collected and conservative. He had never once talked about himself around Tifa, perhaps because of insecurity, or maybe he was just being plain shy. Rude was like.. A bodyguard, always with his sunglasses on and knowing how to handle himself in those Turk-y jobs.. Tifa, though, being one to see the small details in people through years of practice, could definitely see through that stony façade.
It may sound conceited on her part, but she knew that he liked her. She had that kind of sixth sense, to see those kinds of little hints and clues. It was cute, in a way, but Tifa never felt that way for him. And she couldn’t explain it, but she felt she probably never would. She hadn’t felt that way for anyone except.. ‘Enough about that,’ She forced the thought to the back of her mind.
Lastly, there was Elena, just another cute blonde person in Tifa’s life. Maybe it was something about the way she looked or acted, but Tifa felt a certain itch when she was around the girl. She felt an itch that she couldn’t scratch because she didn’t know where it was, why it was there, or how she would scratch it. It wasn’t a sexual itch either. At least she’d know how to scratch that. It was more of a blurry sense of déjà vu of an alternate universe whenever she made eye contact with Elena.
Perhaps she was just a hybrid of all the interesting people in her life and it made her remember them. She had the hair color, that rare blonde, which Cloud had. Maybe Tifa just had some kind of weakness for blondes. Elena had the newbie kind of feel that Aeris did when they had first met. Tifa could still recall the time the youngest Turk had leaked information out to them by accident. Tifa wondered how long it would have taken the team to get to Junon if they didn’t hear about it from Elena? Anyway, Elena also had the spunk, the defiant and rebellious attitude, which Yuffie carried. And though Tifa didn’t particularly want to think such a corny line, she had the same analyzing, brown eyes that she, herself, had.
“Quit staring and give me a beer!” Reno blurted, reeling Tifa out of her reflective reverie.
Rude characteristically remained silent as he sipped on his own beer, but Elena had to interfere, “We’ve got work tomorrow, give it a rest!” A mock-exhausted look and a bit of a laugh. Then after a moment’s pause, Elena said enthusiastically, “Beer me too!” Elena took her work seriously, yes, but a beer or two wouldn’t hurt. She was no longer the new recruit, so she didn’t have to worry about messing up. Perfection was just a part of the job.
For Elena, it was only around those two, Reno and Rude, that she could really be comfortable. She had already passed the awkward newbie stage, and she never felt any kind of attraction towards them, so insecurities were long gone. The two were like brothers to her, on off-days. On workdays, they’d have to try to keep a professional atmosphere. They had worked together for years, and even during training.. ‘Hm.. What about training?’ She thought absently. Must have lost her train of thought.
Tifa saluted them from halfway across the floor and retreated to the bar. She quickly came back with two more beers, saying as she placed them down on the table, “I should hire some help, being bartender and waitress is a killer on busy nights. I hate having to drag Marlene from a normal life to tend a bar.” However, the bills that were piling in didn’t exactly give her the funds she needed to hire any other help. “Come to think of it.. You guys haven’t paid your tabs.”
The three, including Reno, grew silent at that comment. Perhaps they sobered up at the thought of exactly how much money they owed Tifa. Reno merely stared blankly at her, his body angle frozen for a minute, Elena lowered her head, and Rude, ever prepared, took out a calculator.
The bustling of the rest of the bar continued behind them, none of the four uttering a word. Rude, however, finished the calculations and showed it to Elena and Reno with a sigh.
If possible, they grew even more silent. And the hopeless looks on their faces were priceless. Finally, Elena said, “I wonder how many paychecks that is..”
Reno chugged down his beer and slammed the mug onto the table, “We’re never gonna pay that off! Are you sure you didn’t hit a few extra zeros in that calculation?”
Tifa went through the numbers in her mind. They’ve come at least two days every week for the past year or so, not including vacations. Between the three of them, they order ten or more beers amongst each other, and occasionally some food.
Rude recalculated the price, narrating as he did, “I actually rounded down, so..” He punched in a few numbers, “We usually have ten beers.. We come every week unless something’s happening..” He trailed off as he multiplied the amount per week by the amount of weeks since they first visited.. Then he showed the amount to the others again.
“Oh.. You missed a zero last time.” Elena stated sadly.
Reno, however, stood up and pat Tifa on the shoulder, “You’ve got yourself a few helpers now!” In his mind, it meant he could drink during an extra job on his days off. He’d probably just be clean up or waiter anyhow.
Rude’s eyebrows went up behind his sunglasses, “…” Working at 7th heaven.. With Tifa as his boss..
Elena sighed and ran a hand through her blonde locks, “I guess that’s the only way, isn’t it? We’ll work off the tab.” She turned to Rude and said regretfully; “There’s no way we could pay that without getting an extra job anyways.” She stood up, turned to Tifa and put her hands on her hips, “Where do we start, Boss?”
“Do we get free beer?”