[Shattered] Refrain 06

Track Six – Reno – No Giving Up

I knew from a young age that I was nothing but a kid from the slums. Da wanted me to believe that I could be something more, but I knew better. People like us, beneath the plate and scrabbling for life in a nearly forgotten world, didn’t live happy lives. We didn’t get to make something of ourselves. We were doomed to scrape around in the dregs offered by the wealthy above and silently curse ShinRa with every inch of our lives.

It was a crappy existence, but I was determined to stick it out. I learned what I could. I stole what I needed. I tried to find some measure of happiness. Then, Da died, and I was an orphan before I was even finished with puberty. The landlord didn’t even wait until the day after his death to give me the eviction notice. He just threw our meager belongings into a pile in the street. By the time I came home that evening, most of our valuable stuff had been taken, and I had nothing left but a pile of clothes three sizes too small and a picture of Da and me. I never even knew my Ma.

I found out that day that my life wasn’t going to be the same. Though it wasn’t perfect before, I was still doing significantly better than those runts running around with no parents at all. Da actually had a job; we actually had someplace to live and food on the table. But now, just as I was getting into the groove, I was faced with something new. I had to learn how to cope with myself. Luckily, Ryuken was there to step in and help me out. My older half-bro found out about Da and took me in as a member of his gang.

I loved my Da, so it hurt when he was gone. I felt adrift and lost, my heart torn in two. It was as if the only person who ever cared for me had thrown me away. I moped for several days until reality hit me in the form of Ryu cuffing me across the back of the head. Those that didn’t help, didn’t eat. I wasn’t allowed to give up that easily; he wouldn’t let me, and he knew Da wouldn’t have wanted me to. He asked me if I would be satisfied choosing that day to simply give it all away.

He said to me, “It ain’t so bad, eh, Ichi? Together we can do anything, just s’long s’we get up… we’ll stand tall. Don’t waste ‘nother day thinkin’ ‘bout the things we just can’t change, ne?”

And he was right. So I stopped mourning over the fact that I had forgotten to tell my father goodbye and good luck before I rushed out the door. I stopped feeling guilty over things that I couldn’t have prevented or protected Da from and tried to move on. I became an active part of the Razors, desperately trying to prove myself to a bunch of nasty street punks that viewed me as almost worse than those on the plate because I had a home for a while.

I bit and clawed and crawled my way into the second spot beneath Ryu; he wouldn’t just let me get there without working for it. I learned every street in the slums, all the best pathways and all the trickiest ways to steal. I hit back when people attacked me rather than cowering in fear and kicked out at any restriction they tried to place my way. I decided I wouldn’t waste another day with all the non-important things swimming in my brain.

And when Ryu died, I took over. I made the Razors my own, using my wits to help us all survive. My plans were what fed us, my decisions. I found us a place to live; I kept clothes on our backs. I was one of the best in the slums. I could fight better than anyone down there. Run faster, steal quieter, and I was fully prepared to believe that my fate was to be nothing more than a gang leader.

It wasn’t easy, and I don’t think I can ever forget what Daren did to me. Every time I look in the mirror I am reminded of my own weakness, of my own inability to protect myself. I allowed some man to put his mark on me as one of his prostitutes, one of his bodies for hire. After that, I killed so many people who attempted to sample the goods that I don’t think I can even tell you how many different bloods stain my hands.

It became so much that I no longer even felt remorse as I killed. I can still recall that day, so clearly in my mind, the first time that I took the life of another. He was bigger than me, bulkier, but I was faster and a hell of a lot more cunning. He cornered me in a dead-end alley, drunk and smelling of stale piss. The hunger in his eyes was unmistakable, even as young as I was I knew that look.

But he forgot the key rule of hunting. Never corner a wild animal. I was afraid, my heart thudding loudly in my ears, but I remembered Ryu’s words. That I had to survive no matter what because he was certain there was something worth living in any life, even one as fucked up as ours. He knew Da would have wanted more. It was then that I spied it on the ground, nothing more than a jagged piece of metal fallen off a fire escape from the one of the apartment buildings to either side of us.

For a moment, it felt as if time stopped as I considered my options. I couldn’t get past him without him catching me first. In a flash, as he lunged, I made the decision. What once was a helpless, little, skinny, redhead, turned into a dangerous, snarling animal. I snapped up the bar and plunged it into his body, over and over, blood splashing over my face and my hands, and I gagged but kept stabbing. Even after he had already fallen. Even after he had already died. I just couldn’t stop, as if by killing him, I was killing that last part of myself that managed to remain innocent.

Ryu found me then, staring blankly at a dead body and covered in the man’s fluids. The look in his eyes wasn’t chastising or even sympathetic, merely resigned, as if he knew it had to happen sooner or later. He didn’t try to comfort me, just cleaned me up and let me know what my duties were for the next day. Somehow, I think it was better that way. I don’t think I could have handled warm embraces or soothing words. Bitter and harsh reality made it much better to cope. I wasn’t going to give up or give in. I was going to survive, even if it meant becoming king of the slums myself.

There’s no giving up now.
Do you really want to give this all away?
Can’t you ever see things in a different way, some days?
No giving up now.
Such a beautiful thing to throw away.
You should think things through.
Over and over again.
All over again.Tseng caught me when I was fifteen, and from then on, I was taken out of my life of misery and thrust into a world I had never known, up above the plate, that impassable boundary. I was forced to learn to speak properly, and I was given at least a high school’s education. I learned to read and write, to spell and formulate equations. And I soaked up every word. I read history and science and economics, all these things that I did not know.

It was like something from a movie.

Then, the training began. I was given the “outfit” and a choice of weapons. I was given an access card and a series of instructions. It was much like being part of the gang once more. And then, I was stuck in a series of different regimes one right after another.

Stealth, I had already mastered, but there were a few tricks that even I did not know. Combat training, both hand-to-hand and with my Electro Rod. Then, there was accuracy and target practice for the handgun. I learned how to read a map and speak in code. I was taught how to read people’s faces for lies, even though I already knew most of those skills.

They showed me how to pilot a helicopter and a car and a motorcycle, all things I had never touched for myself. They fed me and patched up my wounds, healing up all the little things that a simple potion would have handled, something scarce in the slums. Vitamins and body training exercises one after another, though I could never build up the same kind of bulk as any of the others. I relied on agility and cunning above all.

And then, they gave me a partner.

I thought Rude was odd from the moment I met him. I teased him constantly, always trying to knock off his glasses, but he seemed to keep an extra pair on him. I didn’t know where he hid them, but it was amusing nonetheless. He took my chatter without batting an eye, not that I could see it. And when I was hard-headed or foolish, a firm rap to the side of the head from his fist, and I reconsidered. He was good for me, and honestly, he was my first real friend.

Sometimes, he reminded me of Ryuken, except that he was probably a bit nicer than my half-bro. Rude looked out for me, even when I didn’t know he was there. I don’t think I could have been given a better partner. He became like the dark brother I didn’t know I had. We liked to make jokes about that since he was so much darker than me. My eyes glowed far brighter than his did, too.

I loved to hear Rude’s stories of his life in Gongaga and his mom. I even got to meet her one day. She was the type of person I always dreamed a mom should have been. I think that might have been the first time I was ever hugged and it didn’t have alternate intentions.

Gradually, my scars faded away, and I soaked up the pain, blending it beneath all the training and the missions. I was certain I was better and stronger because I had lived through those days. I felt like one of those stories on the television, those success stories that people get on that chick channel and tell. That I know what it was like to prove that a person really could overcome anything.

I steadily dreamed less and less of the slums, the nightmares fading to dull murmurs, though there were times when Daren or that man that tried to rape me flashed in my sleep. When Reeve entered my life, it became easier to say goodbye to those horrors, to turn my back on them and move on.

I sometimes went back to the slums for missions or just to remind myself of what I had escaped from. But it was the first time that was the most important. I walked down the street, Electro Rod tapping on my shoulder and in full Turk dress, watching as people skittered out of my way with in fear in their eyes because they knew what my clothes represented.

I treaded familiar old paths. I looked up old hauntings and people, found out that my gang had been absorbed into another and was doing quite well. I had worried about that. I stood outside my old apartment building and stared at it in wonder, hardly able to imagine that this had once been my life. Nothing seemed to hold the same fear for me anymore.

On that day, I truly said goodbye to the past and everything in it that hadn’t been right: the hunger and the cold and the torture and the rape and every other shitty event that I suffered but lived through. I decided not to waste another day with all those thoughts swimming around in my brain because I had a new life. They were no longer important, and while they had helped me become part of the person I was today, they weren’t entirely who I was. I no longer had to define myself as someone who was raised in the slums; instead, I was someone who had clawed his way out of adversity to rise to the top. That’s my slogan.

There’s no giving up now.
Do you really want to give this all away?
Can’t you ever see things in a different way, some days?
No giving up now.
Such a beautiful thing to throw away.
You should think things through.
Over and over again.
All over again.

It was love at first sight for me when I first laid eyes on Reeve Tuesti. It was across the room in the lobby when Tseng had brought me in. He was planning on incorporate me into the Turks and was getting my name logged in the system when I happened to catch sight of a dark form in a business suit across the way. The moment my gaze locked on him, he turned, and our eyes met.

Sparks flew, and my stomach leapt, and without knowing why, I felt the urge to run across the lobby and demand his name. He seemed completely out of my league but that didn’t stop the want. He was so damn beautiful, and the way he held himself, it was as if he had every confidence in the world.

I wanted to know him, everything about him. What his favorite color was. If he was a screamer or a moaner. If his touch could heal all my wounds. If he would whisper my name.

It’s almost hard to believe that we are together now, considering all that we have been through. Reeve was straight before I got to him; now, he just calls himself “Reno-sexual” since he claims he doesn’t look at other men. Not that I would mind if he did, but it’s flattering that his eyes are only for me.

I do worry occasionally that I might not be enough for him. That he would rather have a woman. In the end, despite the feelings we shared, I was still not a woman, and his family never accepted us. They thought it was just a phase he was going through. That eventually he would throw me aside, as if we hadn’t already given all we had to give to each other.

We had nothing to lean on but each other during those times, hiding our relationship from ShinRa, sneaking around to be together. But I wouldn’t have given up Reeve for anything, not even if I was threatened to be sent back to the slums, not that I ever was. Anytime it got hard, I just remembered that all I made of my life was always based on my own thoughts.

If I wanted to be in misery, I was miserable. If I wanted to be happy, I should shout for joy. I remembered that all I needed to do was never give in to what life tried to shove my way. Reeve is my happiness, and there could be no one more perfect for me. I love the way it feels when he kisses me; I love the comfort he can offer, something I never knew I needed before. I love the idea of starting a family with him, and I love being his husband. I wouldn’t want to give him up for anything. Not a damn thing.

We’ve had our rough spots, and no one can say it has been easy for us, but through it all we persevere. He has my heart, and he has given me his. With that, how could anything separate us?

I love Reeve, and nothing is ever going to change that.

There’s no giving up now.
Do you really want to give this all away?
Can’t you ever see things in a different way, some days?
No giving up now.
Such a beautiful thing to throw away.
You should think things through.
Over and over again.
All over again.

 My life didn’t start out perfectly, and it has definitely not followed the course of my plan, but I can’t say that I am dissatisfied. In the end, I am stronger for my suffering. and I have learned one crucial lesson.

As Ryu would say, “It ain’t ova, till it’s ova, Ichi. Neva give up and neva surrender.”

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