Infamous Love Song
now I bring all our secrets
to show and tell
how we dragged each other
through heaven and hell
it’s our smoking gun
but hey, we’re still alive
baby our love song must survive
over the rhine - infamous love song
You must imagine Midgar as it was in those days, on a rainy night in what would be early winter anywhere else on the planet. But in Midgar it is only rainy, and a peculiar kind of rain unique to that city. It comes down from heaven like a benediction, it leaks through the top plate and drips below like a grudge. It washes all the mako residue from the reactor, and fills the streets with an opaque greenish fog, a kind of sentient mist, that rubs oily shoulders against the city until every streetlight and blinking neon sign sheds indistinct, verdant shadows.
One sign is lit only by a single shaded bulb, revealing carved letters, a spray of flowers. There is no neon here, only a narrow brick storefront, a plate glass window, and a door with a well-worn brass handle. This is la Vitesse, and in a city full of secrets, it is one of the best kept.
The colors are cream-colored velvet and antiqued gold, spread generously over a real wood floor, from the days in early Midgar when timber paneling was not an outdated luxury, but practical. Time and successive layers of varnish have turned it nearly black. Here and there are splashes of deep crimson: a rose in a vase and a lit candle on each table, the upholstery on the one curved booth nearest the piano. You sit there if you're wearing a blue suit and a Turk's watch, or you don't sit there at all.
There are sounds and smells that in some alchemy form a whole belonging to that place alone: low conversation, the clink of wine glasses, brandy and coffee, and a woman's voice that somehow sounds like all of them together as she sings.
Her figure is petite, but generous; a woman whose form rivals the airbrushed curves adorning the pin-up calendars down in the SOLDIER barracks. It is swathed tonight in white silk studded with rhinestones, a dress that leaves her creamy back and arms bare. Her heavy gold hair is pinned up in a smooth wave, begging to be let down. At the end of the night it will be tumbling over her shoulders in a gleaming riot, loose strands getting caught in the microphone. Her lipstick was red when she put it on, most of it has been sung off by now. Her eyes are a blue that could still pass for innocent, her smile is anything but. Her name is Eleanor ShinRa, and she is the wife of the most powerful man in the world.
No one knows that fact quite so well as the man sitting at the piano, watching her like he could drown in the sound of her voice, like it could quench even Ifrit's immortal fires. His fingers play on without him, gliding over ivory keys like they are Eleanor's thighs, supporting her music with the unobtrusive, comforting presence of a bodyguard. Which is all he is. All he must be. At least, the man in the Turks' booth fervently hopes that's the case, though he knows it isn't. All Rude can do is wish Raife would wear sunglasses too, to hide his damning adoration.
But Raife St. James is not the kind of man to hide anything. He wouldn't even be a Turk, were it not for his connections to Rude, back in less prestigious days as head of ShinRa building security. He's too honest for a thug, too kind-hearted to be the bodyguard of a beautiful woman, lonely in her luxury and neglected by her husband. It was nothing short of a setup, putting him at Eleanor's side. Jack ShinRa probably did it on purpose, because Jack ShinRa always does everything on purpose. Raife's whiskey is half-drunk, his tie half undone, his brown ponytail messier than usual, and his heart entirely lost. Rude knows it; everyone in the room knows it. And somewhere above them all, in his glass-walled penthouse, Jack ShinRa knows it.
By the end of the year, they will both be dead. Raife, in a drive-by strike obviously hired by the president himself. Rude will turn away from the streetside coffee stand just in time to hear the roar of an engine and the staccato of bullets. He will turn, guns ripped from his jacket and blazing, too late for his warning to be of any use. The car's windshield will be a cobweb of broken glass and the vehicle smashed into the curb before Raife and the coffees both finish falling. Rude will lower his pistols and think, for that moment and a long time after, it would have been better if Jack's men had shot them both.
He loses his taste for gunfire.
Eleanor will follow only days later, alone in her apartment, where her teenage son Rufus will find her body hanging from a noose knotted out of the dress she is wearing now. He will pull her down himself and for the last time in his life he will scream and he will sob, but her death takes all his tears from him. Rufus will be given Tseng as a bodyguard and spy for his father; a redheaded rentboy named Reno will take Raife's place as Rude's partner; and the world will keep on turning towards the fate laid out for it. But no one in la Vitesse knows that, and the future is far away.
It is a future where Rude looks out of another window, where 7th Heaven's neon sign spits and flickers in the downpour as the oil generator shudders through the cold night. Tifa brings over another round of beers for her old enemies, and Reno, warm and languid against Rude's shoulder, will thank her and say something inappropriate about her figure all at once. Cloud will shut him up from the bar, with a warning look and a tightening grip on his whiskey glass; Tifa will roll her eyes at all of them. Rufus and Tseng will come in out of the rain, order something warm, and sit down at the corner table that is built out of salvaged wood and sheet metal, and certainly not red velvet.
"You know what this place needs?" Reno says, shaking his bottle at Tifa. "A piano."
And somehow Rude manages to smile, as his present and his memories fold in on themselves. In both times, the rain outside turns to snow, pressing softly against the windows, begging to be let in.