My foray into the minds of the Turks continues, and the turn has come to Reno. It seems I write most of my fics in present-tense now, and I had no idea how hard it was to go back to past-tense until now. If you find the tenses changed somewhere in the fic, review and tell me and I'll fix it; I've stared myself blind on this, so I can't tell where the mistakes are.

Note; the last paragraph, the one on Reno, might seem even more confusing than the previous ones, but I would like to mention that I do not mean that there are seven Turks. It's a bit more complicated than that.

Disclaimer; I own none of the characters and placenames that appear in this story, as they belong to Square-Enix and I am making no money from this.

The first step to becoming a successful Turk was to go mad.

Reno had gone mad by numbers.

In his head, in the dusty corners where he kept the thoughts that no one else told him to think, there was a spot reserved for memories. He kept them there, filing away people like archivists filed away discarded paperwork, tagged and bagged until he needed them. In the calm moments between the terrorists and the falling plates, he gave them numbers.

Some were easy, like Scarlet; the number six was almost branded on her forehead, as red as the lipstick-traces she left on other people's collars. Six, sixty, six hundred, click-click-click like the clip of an empty gun, the tap of too-long nails with too-red nail polish on the varnish of someone else's bedside table, six, sixty, six hundred.

She fitted into the slot of people he ignored if he could, because even if it was five years ago now, the scratches she left on his back and on his brain have never really healed. He still flinched when he smelled her perfume.

Reeve was five-thirty, five-thirty in the morning when the stars had faded and the sun was too tired to rise, five-thirty in the morning when lamplight turned green and the paperwork was scattered all over the floor. Five-thirty in the morning when no coffee-cup was large enough, no caffeine was strong enough. Five-thirty in the morning when he saved the world, one blueprint at the time.

Reno had never been kind, but he left the sleeping man where he found him and tucked the drawings of the cat-and-moogle away from prying eyes. Even five-thirty in the morning had to be repaid by someone.

Rude, gloriously enigmatic Rude with the charcoal-black glasses, was a two and a ten; two for the times he had saved one life, ten for all the years that Reno had known him. Two for the times when the silent man had shouted, ten for the number of the bullet-scars on his back, like someone had played a morbid tic-tac-toe on his skin. Two and ten for how old he was when he stepped into the Shinra building and shouldered the weight of the blue suit. A two, a one, a zero.

Two and ten for the cost of a cup of coffee in the greasy spoon around the corner on their stakeouts, when the weather was worse than the smell of three-weeks-old socks. Two and ten for the minutes it took for the coffee to go stone-cold.

Some were difficult to label, like Elena; two was unquestionable – always the second in line, replacement, stand-in, rookie – three followed the two like a dog – the third of four, the last of three, always one step behind but still part of their unholy trinity – five came along slowly, as if it didn't belong but Reno knew it did – five heartbeats before the first bullet left the gun, five tears staining the blue, five coffins lowered into the ground when the day was done – and he kept his numbers to himself.

And some were next to impossible; Tseng, blue suits and pale skin, black hair and blacker eyes, pin-point accuracy and sense of duty that you could bend horseshoes around. In Reno's addled mind, Tseng would always be labelled one, a shiny-medals-and-fireworks one, because for Tseng to have any other place but the first was an impossible concept. Even when he left, the darkness of his own blood soaking through the blue and the sting of a dead man's sword in his side, Tseng was the first. A father, a brother, an undertaker with a smile like an angel, a cool-minded, icy-blooded killer with the manners of a prince.

Reno remembered all the times he had lost his last gil on a game of poker when Tseng put down the perfect hand with a pokerface worthy of a god. It became a tradition to burn the last of his money on a game of cards where Tseng was the shark in a barrel of fish, but now he couldn't, and the coins gathered in the bottom of his wallet.

Sephiroth, the world's greatest general and Shinra's greatest failure, bit into Reno's memory as a thousand, a thousand shattering pieces of insanity, a thousand little fractures of memory, a thousand sins that Reno wished that he could make the madman make up for. A thousand, because the price paid for those bouts of craziness was high, higher than anyone wanted it to be. A thousand because that was how many times Reno wanted him to die, at night when the nightmares crawled in and said hello again, when the memories crowded round and even the numbers blurred together.

Then there was himself; Reno, seven and last. Seven for the years it took for him to get to the top, the blood where he had walked that was never his, seven for the scars running down his arms, seven for the seven seconds that his heart stopped when he heard that Tseng was no more, seven for the days that he spent drunk under the table of the cheapest bar he could find, seven for the number of the people at the funeral. Seven for himself, seventh and last of the Turks. Seven, for that was the number of the bullets in his gun and his pockets. Seven minutes from midnight and counting.

The first step to becoming a successful Turk was to go mad.

Unfortunately, no one ever remembered the second step.