Chapter 2: Déjà Vu
The Turks were Jacks-of-all-Trades. They could handle any situation, do any job, and make their work nearly perfect in all aspects. Being waitresses or waiters and bartenders would be no problem if they knew the procedure, and they could even pick that up rather quickly. Tifa was quite impressed, to say the least.
It had only been a few weeks and the jobs in the bar even seemed to fit the three Turks perfectly. Reno had commented that Rude would have made a much better bouncer, but Tifa never needed to limit how many people entered her bar. It was never that popular, after all. Maybe an occasional troublemaking drunk would make his way into the bar, but it was nothing that a heroine of AVALANCHE couldn’t handle on her own.
Reno was a natural bartender. He had the slick attitude, the ability to flip and mix drinks, and Tifa had to admit he was just genuinely good at it. Even some of the lingo that regulars used became new vocabulary for him. Tifa was surprised that he wasn’t drinking half of the ones he mixed, since that seemed to be his original motive to work there. So, considering the circumstances, Tifa thought that maybe he was actually enjoying the job.
“Neat or on the rocks, yo?” Reno asked a customer, already mixing the drink that was ordered. The man ordering replied, asking for the ice, and Reno turned around, threw the shaker into the air and caught it behind his back, pouring the drink without spilling a drop. The customer was happily entertained and even gave Reno a tip, which Reno accepted graciously.
Rude, however, was as stoic as ever. He wouldn’t talk much, but he took orders like a professional bartender. It was nothing as flashy or extravagant as Reno’s was, but for people who already knew what they wanted, they went to Rude. And, unlike Reno sometimes, Rude would never get any complaints.
Even Elena was a surprisingly good waitress. Perhaps she had worked as one before she became a Turk? Elena had a different kind of charisma that made people want her to take their orders, and she would receive tips from each customer. Tifa almost didn’t recognize the girl! Looks like she had really grown out of the insecure, unorganized Turk she once was. But thanks to Elena’s charismatic service, more people are ordering food, and Tifa would actually get a chance to cook more than a few times per night.
Cooking was always more fun than bartending, really. With cooking, one would actually see how much their customer enjoyed the food. It was a job that was way more gratifying than seeing someone getting tipsy. Then while they were tipsy, they would only order more to drown themselves in liquor rather than because they enjoyed the taste and effort put into it.
Tifa didn’t have to supervise the Turks anymore, it seemed. She could even take breaks now when there was nothing to cook, without having to call Marlene down. There were two bartenders working the bar and a waitress already, so all Tifa really had to do on those days was cook. It was almost too easy, and she had to admit that it was much more lively around the bar with them around. It kind of saddened her to think they were only going to work there temporarily, just until they’ve worked off the tab.
“Okay! One house special coming up!” Elena said with a salute as she stepped away from the table.
Walking over to the window of the kitchen, Elena spotted Tifa cooking and she felt a sudden jolt in her brain. Her eyes shut tightly, trying to shake the feeling away, but it merely made the pain momentarily worse. It was as if thousands of tiny bolts of lightning all struck at once inside her mind. She nearly dropped the tray she was carrying, but she managed to regain herself before anyone could raise suspicion. Elena figured she was just getting a headache from the amount of work she was doing. After all, she was working two jobs with no days off, so she brushed it off and ignored it. She stepped over to the window and called out to the cook, “Lockhart! Another house special!”
Originally, Elena had referred to Tifa as ‘Boss’, but it just felt weird, since they were basically rivals when it came to their teams. Plus the only person she ever really called, ‘Boss’ was Rufus. Elena was the main girl of the Turks and Tifa was the main girl of AVALANCHE. They had fought against each other once or twice and each knew the other was a formidable opponent, almost equal to each other, even. To think of one superior to the other was almost like giving up! So naturally, Elena reverted back to calling the woman by her last name.
“Here’s the first house special. The second one will be done in a bit!” Tifa said as she placed the order on the windowsill.
The night progressed as per usual, perhaps a little busier than usual Monday nights due to the increasing popularity, but it seemed like the usual amount of work because of the help. So, soon it was time for clean up. This was where Tifa could feel that the business had increased; it meant more dishes and mugs to wash. It was almost starting to become like a pattern for them on Mondays and Tuesdays. Tifa would have help and the Turks wouldn’t have to owe her their tab by the time it was paid off.
Most of the customers had left by then. It was a late hour and people usually have work on Tuesdays. Rude was assisting a man who had nearly passed out, and once it was certain he would at least find his way down the street without collapsing, Rude returned to help with the cleaning.
“At least there’s no puke!” Reno said with a grin as he washed a couple of mugs. “Last week one of those ex-ShinRa regulars tried to fight me while he was drunk,” He started, putting down the clean mug and starting to mock the customer, “He was all like, ‘Hey, Turk! Wanna piece of me, you bastard?!’” He picked up another dirty one and held it as if he was talking to it, “And I was like, ‘Yeah, let’s go, yo!’ And I punched him in the gut, so he started puking and..!”
Reno turned to see there was no one even listening to him. Rude had begun putting up chairs and sweeping, minding his own business as usual, while Elena and Tifa were washing the dishes in the kitchen. “Tch. Ingrates!” A bit of a chuckle could be heard from Rude, but he kept his head down so as to not bring attention to himself. Reno, however, noticed and narrowed his eyes at his long-time co-worker.
Meanwhile.. In the kitchen, Tifa washed the used-up dishes while Elena dried them, “I’ve never had so much demand for my cooking before.” Tifa stated to jolt a conversation into action. The most she’d ever had to make was three or four in one night, and that was usually for the Turks themselves.
“Well, I’m not surprised,” Elena stated with a bit of a smirk, “You’re better at cooking than you think.” Elena took her eyes off of the dish she was drying to see Tifa looking at her with a bewildered expression. The blonde quickly corrected herself, drying the same plate more thoroughly, a tint of red coloring her cheeks, “That is, with my superior waitressing skills, of course people would order what I recommend!” An awkward laugh came from her as she put down the plate she had been drying down on the counter.
Tifa smiled to herself as she started to wash some utensils, “Thanks, Elena.” She chuckled a bit as she focused on washing, rinsing and placing the utensils on the rack beside her. “Never thought I’d hear a compliment from you of all people.”
“Well, Lockhart, despite the Turk reputation, I like to be honest sometimes.” The Turk replied defiantly, almost sarcastically, as she moved on to the utensils that Tifa was putting in the drying rack.
“You can call me Tifa, you know.”
At that comment, Elena lifted her eyes and locked them with those similar, piercing brown orbs Tifa had. A vague, blurry memory flashed in Elena’s mind. It was an intense déjà vu of a time and place she didn’t recall at all. And in that flashback was the image of Tifa, younger and dressed differently, but with the exact same expression as she wore now.
“Still calling me Sergeant, Elena? I don’t call you by rank, do I? You know me better than anyone else here.” The blurry face of Tifa chuckled softly, and then stated, “You can call me Tifa, you know.”
Elena was shocked for a moment. She didn’t know where that took place, when it took place, or how she knew that girl at the time. All she knew for certain was that it was Tifa. And just as quickly as the déjà vu came, it disappeared. She was a bit shaken from the image, and her jolting back into reality made her jump a bit. That image left her a confused and disoriented blonde.
..A confused and disoriented blonde who just cut herself with the knife she was drying, “Ah!” Elena pulled the knife away from her hand and put the finger to her lips, a reflex that came naturally when one hurts their finger. For a split second, she looked like that new Turk recruit once again.
Tifa looked at the girl beside her and caught the momentary look of annoyance in Elena’s features. Not annoyance towards Tifa, but rather at herself. It was an expression that was new to Tifa’s eyes, but it triggered yet another one of those feelings she had, except this time, it was different. It was more of an image switching back and forth between the current Elena and a younger Elena. It was that same itch she couldn’t scratch. Her head pounded for a second, as if her brain refused to let her think any further about it.
Her eyes shut and she shook her head a little. Soon enough, she regained her senses, “You should be more careful when handling stuff like that,” Tifa stated in a slightly scolding tone. She washed and dried her hands quickly, then motioned for Elena to show her the finger. “I thought the Turks would have taught you how to handle sharp objects,” She continued with a little teasing grin.
Elena’s look of annoyance shifted from herself to Tifa at the teasing, except with more of a light-hearted feel to it. She looked at her finger and saw that the cut was slightly deeper than she had originally thought, and that meant it wasn’t going to stop bleeding just yet. Finally, she showed the hand to Tifa, rolling her eyes a little, “It’s just a small cut! I’ve been through much worse, Lockha-..” She saw Tifa glance up at her with a smug smirk on her face, so Elena corrected herself, looking away with a subtle blush, “..Tifa.”
Tifa went back to examining the cut, and she couldn’t help but giggle a little at Elena’s struggling attempts to adapt to the new name. “Hm.. It’s not too deep, but it still might get infected if I don’t put a bandage.” Tifa pulled a small bandage out of a nearby drawer and wrapped it around the girl’s finger.
Elena, however, couldn’t shake the image of the blurry memory out of her head. Where was that from? How would she have known Tifa before Meteor? She definitely looked a lot younger than she did when they first met.. And why would she ask her not to call her “Sergeant”? So many questions left unanswered, and she didn’t want to seem crazy, so she didn’t ask the girl.. Maybe it was just a dream Elena had and she was just remembering it? ‘Yeah.. That’s got to be it.’ Elena reassured herself in her mind. After all, she has been working at the bar with Tifa as her boss lately. Little did she realize, she was staring at Tifa’s face the whole time she was pondering the memory.
Elena finally snapped out of it with a little, “Eh?” when she saw the former AVALANCHE member waving her hand in front of her face, “Sorry, what did you say?”
“I said it would get infected if I didn’t put a bandage.” Tifa responded with a bit of concern, wanting to make sure the girl didn’t blank out again.
Elena then glanced down to her finger and was a bit surprised to see that it was bandaged up, “Ah, right. Thanks.” Elena brought her opposite hand up to her own temples and rubbed it a little, “Sorry, I guess I just have a headache.” It wasn’t the whole truth, but it wasn’t a whole lie. She didn’t want to say something stupid like, ‘I had a flashback of you when you were younger and you wanted me not to call you Sergeant.’
Thankfully, it looked like Tifa believed her. “Well if I can do anything to help, don’t hesitate to ask.” She began to put the dried utensils away before continuing, “Hey, if you need the day off tomorrow, I think I could handle waitressing on my own.”
Elena followed suit by starting to put away the dishes, deciding they were safer than the utensils for tonight, “Well, since Reno and Rude are going to be here, I’ll probably end up coming anyways.” Returning to an empty condo with nothing to do except microwave some instant food and turn on the T.V. wasn’t something Elena considered fun on her days off. To be honest, the most fun she’s had recently was in the bar with the other three..
Ever since Tseng’s death in the Temple of the Ancients, Elena hasn’t felt like going out and trying to meet anyone to fall for, and she could never, ever see neither Reno nor Rude as more than co-workers. Now that she thought about it, though, she had never even been in a relationship. At least, none that she recalled. She didn’t even remember ever being kissed! ‘What a pathetic life I lead,’ Elena thought to herself sadly.
Wait.. Never been kissed?
By now, they had been finished putting the clean dishes away. Elena glanced at Tifa, who was leaning over the counter and calling out the kitchen window to the other two guys, asking if they wanted something to eat. An immediate response from Reno, “A ham sandwich, yo!” And a silent request from Rude for the same thing. It was just like Tifa to look out for everyone else.
I swear I’ve felt someone kiss me before..
Elena touched her lips gently with her index and middle finger, then wondered how she could have possibly known how it felt to kiss someone. Maybe it was just her imagination running rampant, or her desperation was causing her to make up stories.. In any case, Elena’s thoughts were still going as Tifa turned to her afterwards.
Elena watched her for a moment, and then had another sudden flashback. It was sudden and brief, but it was unmistakable. Tifa had kissed her, a long, long time ago.
Wait.. Lockhart? That can’t be right.. I’d remember something like that. We’ve never even really been alone in the same room, let alone her kissing me.
“Want anything to eat, Elena? I’m making sandwiches for the guys.” Tifa asked with a smile, opening the refrigerator and pulling out some bread, mayonnaise, and sliced ham.
It’s just my imagination.. There’s no way something like that could have happened.
“Elena?” Tifa asked again, closing the door to the refrigerator and setting the items on the counter. When the Turk seemed to still look at her with a bewildered look, Tifa took a step towards her and leaned in close enough to see the girl’s eyes up close. She waved a hand in front of the girl’s eyes as she did earlier, saying, “What’s wrong?”
Then a shock went through Tifa’s nervous system when Elena looked back at her. Tifa saw the same memory that Elena saw earlier, except through her own eyes. A vague memory of Elena with her arms around her neck and staring back at her with those same brown eyes.. Then, the image of two of them sharing a kiss that neither of them currently clearly recalled.
Tifa took a step back to regain her distance and she blinked a couple of times. ‘What was that..?’ She shook her head to get the image out of her brain. ‘I’ve never.. We’ve never..’ Tifa couldn’t even think straight that moment! It was Elena’s voice that knocked her back into reality.
“Oh! Uh.. Yeah! I’d like a sandwich too.” Elena then quickly moved out of the kitchen to escape the strange occurrences, rejoining Reno and Rude in the main bar.