Author's Note: First, yes, the title is "A Life In The Day of Reno" on purpose. Reno's kind of skewed, so the title is kind of skewed. This takes place three days after "A Day in the Life of Tseng." It's also a lot different than either A Day in the Life of Rude or A Day in the Life of Tseng. I don't own Final Fantasy.

A Life In The Day of Reno

7:00 am

Seven am. An ungodly hour if ever there was one. It was early, sure enough, but worse, it was the hour of work. The hour that many people woke up at so that they could get up, shower, get dressed, and go to their meaningless job. It was, Reno decided as he lay groaning into consciousness from the sound of his alarm clock, quite clearly the devil. He debated grabbing his 9 mm pistol from under his pillow and firing off a couple rounds in the direction of his alarm clock. Even as he fumbled for the weapon, he remembered Tseng's last words such a time he'd tried that.

"If you ever see fit to kill someone in order to skip work, I will take your own electro-mag rod, press it to your testicles, and permanently end your night life which seems to make you so reluctant to rise from your bed come morning."

So last time had 'unforeseen consequences.' He'd fired off at the alarm clock, and forgotten that the bullets were armor piercing. They'd missed the clock entirely, gone through the wall, and ended the life of poor Seamus Rooney, Reno's seventy-three year old neighbor. Shinra had been quickly forced to cover up the death and eliminate all evidence, even to the point where they'd placed a Shinra employee in the old man's apartment and changed all the records to make it look like he'd lived there for years.

To Reno, it all seemed a little excessive. If he'd had his way, he would have told the other tenants in his apartment complex that yes, he had killed the old man, and the next person to complain about how loud his 'new-fangled music' was would get it next. If the bunch of wimps couldn't take his music with all the bass that went with it at two am in the morning, they were obviously a lower form of life and needed to be removed from the gene pool.

The redhead slapped a hand across his face and smacked his lips. He nearly began cracking his knuckles, but forced himself not to.

Obsessive-Compulsive my ass, he thought. He'd show everyone he could easily stop himself from doing all his little 'habits.'

Opening his eyes, Reno looked to the right of him. Sprawled beside him and slightly groaning was a blonde woman. The Turk picked at his memory, trying to remember her name. He vaguely recalled meeting her on the thirty-second floor, working as a secretary to some puffed up, low-end executive who'd never be seen above the sixtieth floor. The day had been Tuesday, and as the daily schedule said, that meant he'd go for a blonde.

Reaching over to his alarm clock, Reno flicked the switch to 'off', and decided to wake up his sleeping partner.

7:34 am

After Reno had his fun, he'd sent the girl on her way, giving her the usual "It's not me, it's you" speech, telling her that she'd been "okay", and that if he "ever wanted someone that unbelievably easy" again, he'd make sure to "call her sister." Now, looking in a mirror and adjusting his suit, Reno wondered when he'd gotten so soft. A year ago, he'd been twice as harsh and caused twice the tears and twice the therapy bills. Two years ago, he would have already been calling up his friends in Shinra Intelligence and inquired if the girl really had a sister, and what her phone number was.

The answering machine was droning in the background, mostly filled with messages he had no intention of even listening to. He caught the gist of most of it. Tseng complaining that he'd killed some important dignitary by accident during a firefight against some Wutaian assassins. Some girl named Candi crying her heart out. He didn't distinctly recall her, so she must not have been that great in bed. Scarlet mentioning a party later that week. Palmer asking for help with a date. Most of it would be forgotten in moments.

Reno did a turn, trying to catch a look of himself from as many angles as possible in the full length mirror, and frowned. Not messy enough. He scrunched the bottom of his shirt, trying to give it more wrinkles. He pulled a few wisps of hair from his ponytail to make it look more in disarray, made sure his tie was crooked, and readjusted his belt so it was one size too wide, so his pants sank a little bit. Then, ever so carefully, Reno ran his finger across the top of the mirror, collecting dust as he did, and then lifted his left foot and smudged as much of it on as he could. Even as he finished, he stopped, looked at himself in the mirror, and swore.

"I hate it when Tseng's right," he muttered.

From the little he knew about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, most of the people inflicted with it tended to wash their hands excessively, or have unbreakable habits that signified nervousness or repression. But even as Reno purposely made himself appear messy, the whole appearance in itself being a lie, the Turk began to get a sinking feeling that Tseng might have known what he was talking about when he accused Reno of being Obsessive-Compulsive. The redhead was about to admit defeat on the matter, then stopped. Tseng was compulsively clean. He was always making sure his surroundings were 'dirt free', and always picking at his nails, dry washing his hands, and cleaned out and polished his desk every day. If anyone had OCD, it was Tseng, and that was final.

Reno looked at his watch, and realized he was ahead of schedule. If he continued at that rate, he'd be on time for work. The redhead wandered off in the direction of the kitchen. Opening up his fridge, looking to score a quick breakfast, Reno paled visibly.

"Oh shit."

7:49 am

Reno, now wearing a pair of goggles, a Kevlar vest, and some thick over mitts, held up a blowtorch to the small black box with wires coming out the sides and a rapidly descending timer that read 5:17. It wasn't often that he found a bomb in his apartment, he was pretty sure this was the first time actually, but he was confident that he could disarm it. He was not going to lose his pad. Holding a cell in his other hand, Reno patiently waited for his boss to pick up on the other end.

"Hello?" a voice came up over the other end.

"Hey, Tseng," Reno said cheerily. "Reno here. I'm gonna be late for work today."

"You usually are. This is the first time you've ever called in about it, though. Is today my birthday?"

"Nah. If it were your birthday, you would have found a pair of hookers outside your apartment in little pink dresses with baskets filled with flowers."

"Or you'd gas me, kidnap me, tie me up, and try to convince me it was Avalanche who'd done it."

So, he was still carrying a grudge. Why, Reno couldn't understand. You'd think that someone would forget that sort of prank after… He stopped himself short as he realized he'd only done that a few days ago, after reading Tseng's file. Apparently, someone had gotten his birth date wrong. Shinra was a company that made billions of gil each year. It had an army larger than any nation on the Planet, and it made monsters that could destroy entire towns and get away with it. And whoever they had in Records and Filing couldn't get a man's birthday right.

"That, too. Listen, I'm going to be late because I found a bomb in my fridge."

"A bomb?" Tseng asked, bewildered. "Why is there a bomb in your fridge?"

"Not sure. I'll get back to you on that."

Reno hung up, put the cell phone down, and lit the blowtorch. He hadn't been able to find his wire cutters, nail clippers, or knife, and had been forced to raid his car for anything resembling a cutting tool. Leaning forward, the Turk looked over the wires and frowned. Red, black, yellow, blue, and black-and-yellow striped. He was reasonably sure if he cut one of them, the bomb would stop from exploding. Anyone who had ever seen a worthwhile action movie knew that cutting the red wire never disarmed a bomb. And he doubted it was that weird black-and-yellow striped one. It just stood out too much. It was like a little mutant crying out, "Cut me! Cut me! I give you promises of salvation and non-exploding apartments!" Reno had a girlfriend that had said nearly the same thing once, and as he recalled, his kitchen had been set on fire in that relationship.

He hated the color yellow, so he crossed that one off the list of possibilities. That just left black and blue, two of Reno's favorite colors, especially when he hit someone. He glanced down at his suit, shrugged, then decided to cut blue.

The cell phone ringing stopped him.

Reno quickly answered it and said exasperatedly, "What?"

"What does the bomb look like?" came a woman's voice.

"Who is this?"

"It's Elena. Tseng told me you have a bomb in your apartment. What does it look like?"

"The rookie's going to talk me through disarming a bomb?" he asked incredulously. "No way. No fuckin' way. You're not even on the active roster yet, and I don't see that happening unless it's over my bloody and beaten body. I've been disarming bombs since my first year as a Turk, I know what I'm-"

"No, you don't," she said firmly. "The last three times you've attempted to disarm a bomb on your own ended with you diving into a tub or out a window and narrowly surviving."

"And I've got a window right behind me now. What's your point?"

"My point is, if you blow up that bomb by accident and survive, I'm going to rub it in your face that I knew what I was talking about and you didn't. And if I talk you through disarming it, you can always later say you would have done the same thing if it were your call on what wire to cut. Now, what does the bomb look like?"

Reno was about to object again, but glanced at the timer. Two minutes left. He swore. "The base of the bomb is made out of black iron, not plastic or steel as a Shinra bomb would. It has no logos or symbols on it, and the wires aren't protected by a chassis or a shell like a good bomb would. The colors of the wires are red, black, yellow, blue, and black-and-yellow striped."

A pause. "What color is the timer read out? Red or blue?"

"Red," he answered.

"Okay, it sounds like what you have is a Wutaian fragmentation bomb. It's not very powerful, but the base houses a Fire Materia charge, as well as a case of nails. Basically, it's going to cast Fire spells and shoot out projectiles. While it won't blow up your apartment, it'll-"

"Yeah, yeah, rookie," Reno said. "I only have a minute and a quarter left. What wire do I cut?"

"Red, naturally." Even as she said it, he burned the wire in half with the blowtorch, only half listening as she continued. "Wutaian bombs are always disarmed by cutting the red wire. During the war, they had this firm belief that Midgarian troops would never cut the red wire because movies told them that the red wire doesn't disarm bombs, just blows them up."

Flicking off his blowtorch, Reno grunted, "I knew that."

8:16 am

Reno stepped into the office late as usual, only this time with a legitimate excuse. He was expecting some sort of cheering, or exclamations of joy that he was still alive. Instead, he found Elena busily typing at her computer, Rude's chair empty, and Tseng at his desk with a little blonde girl who looked about twelve. She wore a red dress, and had a somber look on her face. Clutched in her hands was a little doll that looked remarkably similar to her. Blonde hair, red dress, matching expression. She kind of reminded him of a mini-Scarlet. Reno smirked. Well, he'd always known Tseng was a little degenerate deep down, and if he wanted to keep company with little girls, then that was his business.

Making his way to his desk where he planned to take a nap, Reno was stopped short by Tseng's call. "Reno, you have a mission."

The redhead sighed dramatically and turned to face his boss, who made a gesture for him to sit in the chair directly across from him. He complied, and was almost temped to put his feet up on Tseng's desk, but thought better of it. Last time he'd pushed the Wutaian's buttons that far, it had ended with Reno a bloody mess on the floor, and Tseng casually cleaning the stain on his knuckles while giving a condescending speech about respect for one's chain of command.

"What's up?"

"You're being placed on guard duty for the day. This is an unofficial mission, off the books, so no reports will be written about it."

"Who's footing the bill? President Shinra? Because I sure as hell don't work for free."

Tseng glanced over Reno's shoulder deliberately. Reno craned his head and saw Elena working diligently like a good little rookie, then resumed his normal slouched position. Tseng, seeming content that Elena wasn't listening in, looked at the girl, then said, "Rufus Shinra is paying for this one, in cash, but he doesn't want his name mentioned anywhere in conjunction with this girl, and doesn't want it getting back to anyone at all that it's the Turks protecting her. So for the duration of the day, you're to go about out of uniform and in disguise, and make sure no harm befalls her."

"Why me? Why not give her to Rude, or do it yourself? Hell, let Elena take care of it. I hate kids."

"I can't. I'm too high profile. Even in disguise I would be identified. Rude can't either. He's watching the Cetra today. And Elena's too new. It has to be you."

"Fine, who is she? And if she's so damn important, why do I only have to guard her for today?"

Tseng sucked in a breath, and then answered, "Her name is Raina. Raina Shinra. And today is her tenth birthday."

Reno felt the blood drain from his face, and his palms get sweaty. He almost objected violently, nearly told Tseng where he could stick his job. And then stopped. And stared at the girl. She was young, confused, and quite clearly scared. Chances were, she had no idea what was going on. Had no idea why she was surrounded with strangers, why her half-brother had chosen to surround her with them. She was just the bastard daughter of a tyrannical and insane corporate president. She was one of the two potential heirs to an economic kingdom she couldn't even comprehend, caught in a game of madness. She bit on her lip, and held on firmly to her doll as if it were a shield. Happy birthday to her.

"I'll do it," he said.

"Now, I know you don't…" Tseng started, and then stopped, realizing Reno had agreed. "I have a set of clothes and a bottle of cheap hair dye for you in the bathroom. There's also some make up to cover up your scars. Be quick. We need her out of here."

Reno was already up and moving before Tseng could finish.

8:33 am

Reno, now with wet, brown hair that was tied neatly into a ponytail, was dressed in a plain, brown suit. Tucked under an arm was an old cap that would go with it. His 'mag-rod, which normally hung from a leather strap about his wrist, was now tucked into his belt and out of sight.

He didn't say a word to either Tseng or Elena as he stepped out of the bathroom, just walked up to his desk, his every stride fixed with purpose. A letter with drawn hearts was all over it, with a name written on the front, reading, "CANDI."

He ignored it. He'd read love letters from all his secret admirers later. Sex was the furthest thing from his mind. He was a machine, something Tseng had taught him. The Wutaian was a perfect example of it most days, Rude a near carbon copy. They were always like this on a mission. It was rare to see Elena put on the 'game face', and even rarer for Reno to adopt it. But when they did, they were every bit as efficient as their counterparts.

Rifling through his desk, he looked for his spare 'mag-rod in the mess of paperwork, condoms and dirty magazines. He found a spare pistol and clip, but decided to leave them behind. Guns were loud, and he didn't want noise on this particular mission. He pawed through the drawers a second time, unable to find his spare 'mag-rod. He let out a growl, and threw his hands up in frustration. He'd just have to make do with one gun and one 'mag-rod.

He kept his game face on. Kept the determination going. He walked to the girl, Raina, and held out a hand to her. She hesitated, and looked to Tseng, who nodded encouragingly to her. She took it, and Reno smiled to her. She smiled back.

"My name's Reno. I'm not a good guy, but I'll be looking out for you today, alright?"

She nodded, and clutched the doll more fiercely to her.

"The doll have a name?" the former redhead asked.

Raina shook her head, but near-whispered; "Rufus gave it to me today for my birthday. He said she'd keep me safe."

Reno smirked, then helped her up from her seat. In moments, the two were on an elevator heading down to the first floor. At the sixty-fourth floor, the elevator made a ding, stopped, and a burly, black-beared man in a green suit walked in. Hurriedly putting his cap on, Reno smiled a greeting to Heidegger, praying that the fat man didn't recognize him. The executive paid him no heed, didn't even glance at him twice. The disguise wasn't stellar, and actually made Reno look more like a resident of slums than someone who really belonged in Shinra Tower, never mind someone who should be above the sixtieth floor.

Luckily, the man didn't comment on it, and two whole floors later, why the fat bastard couldn't take the stairs for just two floors was beyond Reno, the elevator doors opened up, accompanied by a ding, and Heidegger stepped out, saying, "Bye, Raina."

"Bye, Uncle Heidegger," came the girl's response, and Reno wanted to slap himself. It just figured that his own boss wouldn't recognize him, but the fat fool would know the President's daughter on sight.

Even as Heidegger stepped out, Palmer and Scarlet walked in. Reno swore under his breath and lowered his head, hoping the cap would cover up his face. While Heidegger was an inattentive idiot and wouldn't know his own group of trained killers from a barrel of camel spiders, Scarlet would know him on sight. They'd slept with each other often enough to at least know each other's faces.

As the elevator descended, Palmer began to speak. "Big day today."

"Yes," Scarlet said. "Big party from what I hear."

"Shinra's brat is having a birthday, and we're all expected to attend." He paused as he shuddered. "You remember what happened the last time a Shinra had a tenth birthday party?"

"No," Scarlet said. "The last time a Shinra had a tenth birthday party, I was too young to be working here. It was Rufus', wasn't it?"

"Yeah," Palmer said. "And I'll never forget the President's gift to his own son. Still gives me nightmares. I feel sorry for his daughter."

Scarlet let out a cackle, and Reno found himself flexing and cracking his knuckles on his right hand like he always did when he was nervous. He just wanted the two of them out of the damn elevator. He tightened his grip a little on Raina's hand, and she squeezed back. She might not know the details of what was going on, but she probably knew something bad was going to happen. She'd have to be a complete idiot not to know that much.

Ten floors later, the elevator made a ding, and Scarlet and Palmer stepped out. Even as they did, Scarlet turned to face Reno, and said, "The look isn't you."

The trailing 'Kya ha ha' made Reno want to shoot something. The disguise obviously wasn't working worth a damn, and it seemed to be a big game to everyone. He was beginning to feel more than a little resentful about the whole situation, when finally, something in him snapped. The elevator dinged one last time as they hit the underground parking lot, and Reno drew his pistol, pointed it at the elevator control, and shot it.

"Ding, motherfucker," he said, and stepped out into the parking lot, half-dragging a frightened Raina behind him.

He walked directly to his vehicle, a sleek, black, sports car that was more a tank more than a car. It didn't look too threatening, but what most people didn't know was that the windows were bullet proof, and the panels were made of the most durable materials Reno could find. He'd had the car custom built with the idea of 'invulnerability' in mind when he had presented his idea to the Shinra techs. Bullets wouldn't even scratch the paint, and it could probably withstand a direct hit from a rocket launcher or a full out strike from a Soldier swinging a Buster sword at it. Hell, nothing short of the mother of all rocks falling from the heavens would probably destroy his baby.

He let go of Raina's hand, and then dropped to the ground, and carefully checked under his car for any foreign objects. He'd left the office drunk the night previous, and taken the train home and later to work. Someone had tried to blow up his kitchen earlier that morning, so it was safe to assume that there might be a similar bomb under his baby, right on the gas tank. After making sure nothing was out of the ordinary, Reno gestured for Raina to get into the car, opened his door, and hopped into the driver's seat.

As she sat in her seat and shut the door behind her, she asked, "What's going on?"

Reno, who had been in the process of starting up the ignition, stopped short. He'd been afraid she'd ask that question, and he'd been more afraid that he'd have to answer it. They were the only words he hadn't wanted to hear from her.

"You were born into the wrong family," he said. "Anyone born into the Shinra family is born into the wrong damn family. I'm sorry, kid, but that's all there is."

"No," she said. "That's not all there is. What's happening? Why did my brother bring me to the Turks? Why do I need protecting? Who's going to come after me? If anyone ever hurt me, my Daddy would get them good."

Reno laughed. "Trust me, your Daddy ain't gonna get anyone good."

"Why? Daddy's always nice to me. He'll protect me. Why do I need you?" Even as she said it, he could tell it for the lie it was. The tremble in her voice, the need to reassure herself more than him. Daddy wasn't nice to her, and everyone knew that. Hell, on more than one occasion, he'd hit her in public.

Well, this was it. Time to completely shatter the illusions of a little girl. Normally, he gained some sort of sick pleasure from breaking a girl's heart. But this was different. This was just a little kid, and she didn't deserve this. "Because your father's a bad man. A sick man. Not right in the head at all. Working at Shinra… you hear stories. Stories about the Shinra family. And 'dysfunction' doesn't even begin to describe it."

"What kind of stories?" She managed to sound indignant, imperious, and a little frightened at the same time.

"How many brothers and sisters do you have?"

"Just one brother. Rufus."

"That's funny. Did you know that you had two older sisters and another brother, too? Eamon Shinra. Rhiannon Shinra. Thema Shinra. All dead, because of your fucked up father."

She sniffled, and he looked to her, and wanted to swear. She was going to cry. She was trying to hold it in, but her eyes were rimmed red, and her lower lip was quivering. "Why?"

"I don't know," he said honestly. "Your dad's messed up. Old Shinra … tests his kids when they hit ten years old. Eamon, his first son, was attacked and killed by assassins on his tenth birthday. Everyone thought it was Wutai at first. A couple years later, Rhiannon and Thema, twin girls, were taken for a car ride with their father. Tseng, just a rookie at the time, was on duty and in the limo with that one, so he saw the whole thing. Old Shinra gave them brand new purses filled to the brim with gil, then pushed them out of the car when they got to the slums, and yelled through a megaphone that they were his daughters. The daughters of Shinra. From what I hear, the two girls were raped, robbed and died of their injuries. It wasn't until Rufus that people started noticing a pattern. On his tenth birthday, he was given a Mako-mutated panther as a present."

"Dark Nation," Raina said. "He's a good pet. I want one."

"No, you don't. You see, Dark Nation wasn't a good pet when Old Shinra first gave it to Rufus. It was wild, untamed. He set it loose on Rufus when he wasn't paying attention. Kid barely survived. The thing tried to kill him, and Rufus, ever the survivor, got it to kill a guard in his place. He managed to get a stun baton off the dead guard, and knocked Dark Nation out with a few good, and very lucky, hits."

"Like Auntie Scarlet and Uncle Palmer were saying in the elevator." Her tone was suddenly very believing, and very scared.

Reno was glad that she was beginning to understand her situation, and a little saddened at the same time. And a little amused that someone out in the world actually called Scarlet 'Auntie.'

"Afterwards, Old Shinra told Rufus that he was a man, and worthy to inherit Shinra Inc. That's what it was all about. Tobias Shinra, your father, is a crazy, cruel man looking for an heir. He tested all your brothers and sisters before you, and now you're next. And worse, this time, Rufus is mixed up in it, and he's trying to protect you. Don't know if that's good or bad. But you're caught in a war between your father and your brother. And your father's the bad guy."

"And you're going to protect me?" she asked, her eyes wide.

Reno pulled a package of cigarettes from his breast pocket and stuck one in his mouth. "I'm sure as hell gonna try. If I don't, Tseng'll kick my ass."

"We're going to hide then? Until my birthday's done? Where are we going to go?"

"To the last place anyone would ever look for a ten year old girl." He paused, looked at the pack of cigarettes in his hand, and realized the horrible impression he was probably leaving on the girl. And the worse ones that would follow. He shrugged. He never had wanted to raise a kid in any way at all, but he figured if he was going to, he might as well do it the same way he'd been raised. He held out the pack of smokes to her. "Want one?"

9:19 am

Reno shut the door firmly behind him, and motioned for Raina to come out and follow him. She looked apprehensive, and more than a little worried. He gave her his best smile, though, and as always, that seemed to win the girl over. It had, after all, managed to convince her to try her first cigarette. He'd had a good laugh as she coughed over her first puff, too.

She stepped out of the car, closing the door carefully behind her, and followed him through the crowd of overeager men and to the doors of the Honey Bee Inn.

The bouncer at the door gave Reno a funny look, but the Turk produced his platinum membership card and gave the man a smile. The bouncer looked dubiously at the card, looked at Reno, then looked back at the card. The Turk nearly swore. He'd forgotten that he was wearing a disguise. So he didn't look like the man on the card. Well, he did, but he didn't. If it had been a normal membership card, it wouldn't have a picture identity on it, but Reno liked the full entertainment of the Honey Bee Inn, so of course he'd had to get the platinum card. He swore under his breath again, but kept a smile on his face. The man began to voice an objection, and abruptly stopped as he felt the tip of Reno's 'mag-rod poking him between the legs.

"Listen," Reno said as he took a step closer to the man, so he was talking directly into his ear. "I look close enough to the man on the picture, right? So there won't be a problem?"

The bouncer's face flushed with anger, and then abruptly turned white as the blood drained from it. Reno thumbed the button for the electrical discharge, knowing a fight was about to happen. Red faces were good. White faces were bad. White faces meant fighty time. Normal Reno liked fighty time. Now, however, he preferred hiding, and he didn't want to attract attention to himself.

"Reno!" a woman's voice called.

Both the Turk and the bouncer looked to the source of the voice to see a scantly clad woman in a bee costume waving to Reno from the window. Her name was Mara. Or was it Sara? Reno could never keep all the ladies in his life straight. To be safe, he called back, "Hey, beautiful!"

Reno smirked at the bouncer, who handed him back his card. Reno had to put his 'mag-rod back in its place to take it back, and gave the man a mocking bow before walking into the hallowed halls of the Honey Bee Inn, Raina holding onto the Turk's hand for dear life.

"I've heard about places like these," she said in a hushed whisper.

"I'm sure you have, kiddo. Don't worry, I'm not gonna put you to work or anything."

Raina made a sound that seemed like a sigh of relief, as if she had been really afraid that Reno would force her into a life of prostitution as a way of hiding her from her father for the day. Not that he hadn't thought about it. It just didn't seem practical. Let loose a ten year old rich girl with all her teeth in the slums? She'd be the talk of Wall Market in no time, and Reno did not want that kind of attention. Besides, Rufus would probably kill him if he learned that Reno had even thought about whoring his baby sister off as a way of protecting her. Rufus would probably order the deaths of hundreds of people and not bat an eye, but when it came to his baby sister…? Reno shuddered. Better not to even think about any stupid plans to try to 'protect' her.

A door to the left opened up as he entered the main hall, and Mara (Sara?) stepped out, and motioned him inside. He stepped in with Raina, and firmly shut the door behind him.

"What's with the new look?" Mara asked.

Reno winked at her and said, "Turk stuff."

"Riiight," she said, then looked to Raina. "Who's the girl?"

"Elena's niece," Reno responded. "You know Elena, right?"

"Yeah, the new rookie on the Turks, right? Blonde, looks kind of dumb? Yeah. She kind of looks like her. Why'd you bring her here?"

"Why not?" Reno asked, shooting a look at Raina to keep her calm. The girl was clearly bristling from being compared to a person who 'looked dumb.'

"It's not exactly the kind of place you bring a little girl."

Reno shrugged. "Mind if we hide here for the day?"

Mara's eyes narrowed. "You're in trouble, ain't you? The disguise, the girl, and now you want to 'hide.' You're in some sort of Shinra trouble, and you want to bring it here. Listen, Reno, you're a good lay, but we don't take no Shinra trouble in here. We don't want no Shinra anythin' in here."

At the last, Raina flinched, and Reno frowned at Mara. "Listen. I'll pay you a grand. That's one thousand gil. I just need a place to stay for the day. Just the day. Then I'm out of your hair, and you're a thousand gil richer, okay?"

Mara seemed to think about it, and countered, "Two thousand."

"Fine," Reno said. "Two thousand. But I swear, if you try to double cross me, they'll never be able to find all the pieces. You get me?"

Mara gulped, nodded, and put on a false smile. "Money up front, though."

Reno reached into his breast pocket, and played his hand over the handle of his pistol. Mara was going to cross him, he knew. Safer to kill her now. As soon as he paid her, she'd probably try to find some excuse to leave the room. He could kill her right there, end the threat before it became worse. He glanced over to Raina, thought about it, and pulled out his wallet instead. No need to kill anyone in front of the girl. She already had grown up too much as it was that day.

Pulling a wad of cash from his wallet, Reno quickly flipped through it, then handed it to Mara, who grabbed it greedily, counted it, and quickly stuffed it into her bodice. She glanced to the door, and Reno casually placed his hand on his lower back and made a stretching motion, as if he were trying to work a kink out. In reality, he was reaching for his 'mag-rod, ready to fry the woman if she decided to leave.

Instead, she pulled a chair out from a desk, and offered Raina a seat. The girl looked to Reno, who nodded. Mara gestured to a bottle of whiskey on her desk, and raised an eyebrow at him.

"Shall we have a drink while the day wiles away?"

Reno snorted. While he would normally love to have a drink with a beautiful woman, even if it was on the job, that day was a special day. And he wasn't going to screw around.

"No," he answered, a little regretfully.

"Too bad," Mara said, and gave a suggestive swish of her hips, and picked up the bottle as if to pour a drink for herself.

The day was going to be unbelievably long.

It was the last thought going through his head as the explosion shook the building.

11:54 am

"What… the fuck… happened?" Reno asked with a groan as consciousness came back to him.

The back of his head felt like he'd been hit with something big and heavy. His first assumption was that he had a hang over. He'd woken plenty of times to find himself in an odd location with a splitting headache, but he didn't recall pissing away an evening drinking. Normally, he remembered that kind of thing. At least a little bit.

"Easy there," came a female voice. "You took a nasty hit in the head."

He opened his eyes, and took in the sight of the ceiling. It looked kind of familiar, but it sure as hell wasn't his own. He cracked the knuckles on one hand while he rubbed at his nose with the other, and tried to remember where he was and how he'd gotten there.

Suddenly bolting upwards, he demanded, "Where's Raina?"

A brunette woman placed a hand on his shoulder and tried to force him to lay back down. "The little girl you came in with? Mara took her."

That was all he needed. He drew his gun, grabbed the woman by the throat, and leveled the barrel so it poked up her nostril slightly. "Where?"

"Corneo's," the woman answered.

At that point, Reno only saw red. "You mean… that bitch is taking a little girl… to go see that pedophile… and you didn't do a damn thing to stop her?"

"I'm sorry," the woman said, choking on her own tears.

"Wrong answer," Reno said as he pulled the trigger.

12:47 pm

The dye was washed from Reno's hair, and he'd picked up a spare, blue suit from a safe house Tseng had set up in Wall Market. He hadn't wanted to take the effort to change his appearance again, but this was the type of situation where he had to. Corneo ruled Wall Market, and the only thing he respected was power. And wearing a Turk suit gave you power. No one ever messed with the Turks. No one living, anyway.

He'd done a little investigating before approaching the front gates of Corneo's mansion, as well. The first thing he'd looked into was the explosion that had distracted him while Mara had hit him in the head with the bottle of whiskey. Someone working at the gun shop had been playing with explosives and had neglected to tell anyone beforehand. One had just happened to go off a little closer to the Honey Bee Inn than was expected.

The second thing Reno had looked into was Corneo himself. Apparently the man liked to gather three women, usually girls, each night, and tried to find a bride. The man was a degenerate, and was allowed to continue because he was secretly under Shinra's payroll. No one was allowed into his mansion unless they were one of his men, or a woman.

At first, Reno had almost considered dressing up as a woman to sneak in there, until he realized how idiotic the plan sounded. No matter how stupid the guards were, they'd never believe a man in a dress was a woman.

Striding directly to the gate, the man there looked at Reno dubiously, and said, "No admittance."

"See this?" Reno said, pointing at his suit. "This means I'm a Turk. This means I've been trained in over five different methods of hand-to-hand combat. I could kill you with my godamn pinkie finger. I can trim a man's fingernails with a gun from a hundred meters, and I killed my first man when I was eleven. Shinra's done experiments on me that you don't even want to know about, much less see in action. So, what was that about admittance?"

The man, looking hardly impressed by the whole speech, said once more, "No admittance."

Reno sighed. Guards. They always had to pick the guys from the shallow end of the gene pool to be guards. Then again, if they were smart, they'd be working for Shinra, and not some wannabe criminal in the slums. Well, time to show to any onlookers why you don't screw with the Turks. He didn't even draw a weapon. Just extended his pinkie finger, and jabbed forward, directly into the guy's eye. The man didn't even see it coming. A second later, Reno was wiping eye goo, blood, and a little bit of brain matter off his finger on the dead man at his feet.

He walked calmly into the courtyard, where a group of thugs walked from the shadows to confront him. Reno counted them, and was surprised there were only seven, including the one that had stayed in the shadows for a surprise attack. Even more unprofessional, not a single one of them had a ranged weapon. All of them were carrying some sort of melee piece of junk.

"Oh come on," he said. "I just killed a guy with my pinkie finger. Aren't you guys intimidated yet?"

They slowly began to advance on him, and Reno decided it was time to leave some living examples. His gun came out in a flash, and he nearly emptied the clip, firing one round into the first man's chest, and the next twelve out of sixteen rounds, taking out kneecaps. With how easy it was, Reno wouldn't have been surprised if he found out if Corneo outfitted his guards a little bit better in the future. Assumed the fat Don of the slums survived the night.

Reno walked through the front doors of Corneo's mansion. From there, he encountered no resistance, and almost skipped as he whistled off-key, searching for the missing Raina. He found her, Corneo, and Mara on the top floor in a gaudy room that would have made the tackiest gay man scream like a girl.

Mara looked as if she were about to wet herself, and Corneo, cigar in mouth, held Raina close to him, using her as a human shield. The girl, doll in hand, looked to Reno imploringly. Normally, he'd shoot Mara, shoot through the hostage to get to Corneo, and then be on his way. But he couldn't do that. Not today. The hostage was the person he was supposed to be protecting.

"Let her go," Reno said in his most threatening voice, his pistol trained on Corneo's head, "and I'll let you live."

"What about me?" Mara asked.

The motion was unbelievably fast, so fast that Reno himself was barely aware it had happened. The pistol went from Corneo, to Mara, fired a bullet into her head, and went instantly back to the fat lord of Wall Market.

"One," Reno said ominously.

"You can't kill me," Corneo said.

He didn't even bother with 'two', just pulled the trigger. And heard a click. His eyes widened, and he tried recalling how many bullets he fired. One at Mara. One at that whore in the Honey Bee Inn. Thirteen at the guards outside. That was only fifteen. His gun had a sixteen bullet capacity. When else had he…?

The elevator, back at Shinra Tower. And it'd been so funny at the time. Who knew it would kick him in the ass at a time like this?

Corneo drew a gun of his own, and pointed it at Reno. "Well, Turk, it looks like you can't kill me after all."

The fat man abruptly screamed in pain, and it took the Turk a minute to register what had happened. Raina, somehow with knife in hand, had plunged the weapon into Corneo's leg, twisted, and leaped from him as he yelled. Reno drew his 'mag-rod, and let the end blaze with electricity. The Slumlord, realizing his fate was probably sealed, yelled, "You can't kill me! I have too many ties with Shinra!"

That stopped Reno, who gestured for Raina to come to his side. "I'm not going to kill you, don't you worry. But if I ever hear about you molesting any girls, or even touch a girl I happen to know, I'll kill you. I'll hunt you down, and end you."

Reno began to turn away, but Corneo interrupted him. "Wait! Do you know why I gave up the girl so easily?"

The Turk's eyes narrowed suspiciously. He didn't like where this was heading already. "Because I don't give a fuck?"

"No," Corneo said with a giggle. "Because I still think I'll win!"

The fat man dove across his bed and slapped a button, and Reno swore as the floor came out from underneath him and Raina.

1:59 pm

Reno for the third time that day awoke with a groan. He wasn't sure how many more head wounds he could suffer and still keep his brain intact, but he was beginning to get the feeling he was fairly close to his daily limit. He was soaked, partially submerged in some sort of slimy substance, his ribs hurt like hell, and he found it difficult to breathe. Opening one eye, Reno saw the source of the problem. Raina was sprawled out on top of him, sobbing. She'd probably landed on top of him.

"Can you please… get off?"

Raina made a choked sound, looked up at him, and gasped. "I thought you were dead!"

"Yeah, well… if you don't fuckin'… get off… one of us will be."

The girl quickly scrambled off, standing up, and Reno sat up, finally getting a good look at their surroundings. The sewers. Lovely.

"How long have I been out?" he asked.

"An hour?" Raina said. "I'm not sure. My watch broke."

Reno nodded, and glanced at his own watch. Two O'clock. The day was nowhere even near over. Figured. Well, at least he'd managed it this far without losing his baggage. He grumbled for a moment, then stopped as his stomach growled. He muttered, "Jeez... I'm starving. I haven't had anything to eat today."

"Me, too."

"Well, soon as we get out of here, we're gonna hit my favourite restaurant. Little place called First Plate. No strippers, but I figure with you in tow, that's a good thing."

She giggled, and he joined her, making a laugh that wasn't quite a laugh. If Tseng and Rude saw him now, the two would have just shaken their heads and turned away. At that thought, Reno laughed even harder, until he abruptly stopped, remembering the events from Corneo's room.

"Where'd you get that knife?" he asked.

Raina stopped giggling and held up her doll for him to see, then turned it about. The back of it had a zipper, which had been undone. Inside, the small knife was nestled. He barked a laugh. "You said Rufus gave you the doll to protect you, eh? And I suppose he showed you that little feature when he gave it to you? I should've known."

The girl beamed at him, and he laughed again.

And then the growling sounded. And this time, it didn't come from Reno's stomach.

The Turk looked about for the source of the noise, and thought better for it. Even on a good day he wouldn't be up to fighting whatever Corneo had probably hidden in the sewers. And this day was not a good day.

"Can we leave now?" Raina asked, more than a little frightened. "I hear there are rats in the sewers. And other things."

The Turk quickly nodded his assent, picked up Raina, and ran before he was forced to encounter whatever it was that had made that noise.

2:37 pm

The two wandered the tunnels for a while, more lost than anything. Any ladders to the outside they found were rusted away to the point that putting any weight on them was foolhardy even by Reno's standards, and the tunnels that seemed to drained outside were either rusted shut, or had some sort of Mako-mutated critter that was undoubtedly poisonous hovering at its edge. While Reno would normally brave any amount of disgusting and dangerous critters, Raina wouldn't, and he couldn't force her to. He liked to think of himself as a gambler, but today, the ante was a little high for his liking.

"What's that?" Raina asked, pointing down a side tunnel.

Reno stopped, glanced down, and smiled. A dark shape stood in front of a very obvious exit tunnel. And better yet, the shape belonged to what was probably the least threatening creature in the world. There, standing as the guardian to the first plausible exit Reno found, was a chocobo.

The Turk stepped close, holding out one hand in a non-threatening manner while making cooing noises.

"Here, choco," he called. "Don't worry, I'm not going to hurt you. I just need you to move your big, feathery butt out of the way."

"It's a chocobo?" Raina asked. "He looks pretty. Majestic."

Reno shook his head ruefully, and wondered how the hell a chocobo had found its way into the sewers. Not that it mattered. He just needed to get the damn bird to...

The Turk recoiled as the chocobo pecked at his hand, and bit off a stream of curses that nearly erupted from his mouth. He was trying to keep his tongue under guard in the presence of Raina. He might've let a few slip earlier -- it was difficult to tell sometimes -- but for the most part, he was certain he'd behaved somewhat in that department.

Even as he retreated, the bird took another peck at him, squawking indignantly and standing to its full height, spreading its wings.

"That's it," Reno said, drawing his 'mag-rod. "You wanna go, fucker? Let's go!"

He pressed down on the button, and the end began to blaze with electricity. Even as he took a menacing step towards the chocobo, Raina cried out, "No!"

He stopped himself up short, turning slightly to look back at her. "What?"

"You can't kill him! Look at him! He's beautiful, and cute and... majestic!"

Reno glanced back at the chocobo, an air of cynicism about him. It just figured he had to be stuck babysitting a girl when it came time to put down the rabid bird. Still, he figured he owed her one on some masochistic level, and tried to look at the bird in a different perspective. It wasn't a weak, noisy, smelly, overgrown bird. It was majestic. It was beautiful. It was cute. He stopped in his examination for a moment, and noticed the way the bird's sides heaved, and it had its beak open up in an amused expression. Was the little fucker laughing at him? Oh, it was so... no. He had to picture nice things. Cuteness. Beauty. Majesty.

Sensing that the Turk had let his guard down, the chocobo lunged, biting into Reno's arm. The redhead let out a howl of pain as he dropped his 'mag-rod, and did the only thing that leaped to mind. He bit the bird back, right on its exposed neck. With an angry 'Waark!', the feathered fiend released the Turk and retreated back a step. Given new breadth, Reno ducked down and retrieved his weapon. He looked at his arm, and saw that it was bleeding. Just lovely.

"I'm gonna kill you so dead, bird."

"No!" Raina called. "I'll tame it, like in my story book!"

Reno let out an annoyed groan, rolled his eyes, and stepped to the side, gesturing to the chocobo. "Then by all means, Princess, soothe the savage beast."

Raina stepped forward resolutely, humming a soft melody, which gradually turned into a pretty sound. A minute later, the girl was cursing like a sailor, with an accompanied yell of, "Ow! The fucker bit me!"

Ten seconds after that, the two, hungry from the day's events, were eating fried chocobo.

2:59 pm

Shortly after, Reno had a fire made the various refuse he could find from the sewers, and a little after that, they had the bird more or less plucked and pieces hacked off which were then cooked over a makeshift spit.

The meal wasn't the greatest. Reno wasn't a cook, and Raina didn't want to be involved in the process of actually killing, cutting, defeathering or roasting the bird, but she was more than happy to eat it. The two attacked the bird meat with frenzy, savaging the food with their nails and teeth, since neither had thought to bring cutlery with them on the expedition.

As they ate, Reno watched Raina, and bemused smile on his face. "And who taught you how to eat, Princess?"

The girl, her face smeared with juices from the meat, and her hands a positive mess, glared at him, then said with perfect dignity, "Uncle Heidegger did. You shouldn't talk, you're just as bad."

She pointed to his mouth and hands, and especially the spots on his pants where he'd been wiping his fingers off. He gave a chuckle, then shot back, "'Uncle' Heidegger taught you how to eat, eh? Anything else he taught you? I heard you back there. 'Ow, the fucker bit me.' I suppose Heidegger taught that to you, too, eh?"

"Oh no," she said quickly. "Uncle Heidegger would never teach me how to swear. He'd be too worried about getting caught. No, that was Uncle Cid."

Cid? he thought, confused. Who the fuck is… "Highwind? Captain Cid Highwind? Ha! Yeah, he would have the balls to teach Old Man Shinra's daughter how to swear. Any other habits you've picked up that you shouldn't have?"

"Well…" she said, obviously embarrassed. "Uncle Tseng taught me how to use a knife. And Uncle Reeve taught me how to change the oil on a car. And fix a carburetor. And other stuff. And Uncle Palmer taught me how to get free pop out of the pop machine by hitting it just right. And Auntie Scarlet hasn't taught me anything yet, but she said she'd teach me some stuff when I got older. Something about proper blowing. What do you think she meant by that?"

Reno choked on his mouthful of chocobo, and looked at the girl incredulously. She has to be fucking with me. She has to be. Or worse, she's not, and Scarlet really… Quick, change the subject.

"So, Rufus teach you anything?"

"Oh yes," she answered enthusiastically. She tore off a bit of chocobo, swallowed it, then properly belched, a sound that suspiciously sounded like an 'R.' A second later, another burp followed it, sounding like an 'A.' She continued on, 'I', 'N', and then another 'A,' all done without the slightest hint of table manners.

"Rufus… taught you how to belch. Rufus Shinra?"

"Mommy always said that there was only one kid unfortunate enough to have a father that was so cruel as to name his son 'Rufus.'"

Reno threw his head back and laughed, continuing even harder as he attempted to visualize Rufus sitting on a couch, one hand down his pants, a beer in the other, while belching out the alphabet. The idea of the Vice President of Shinra acting like… a normal, disgusting slob was just too hysterical for Reno to keep in. Soon, he was laughing so hard tears were streaking down his face. The whole while, Raina watched him and giggled.

He fell over, chocobo-juice smeared hands clutching his sides, heaving with exertion from having laughed so hard. Wheezing, he finally sat back up, mirth threatening to burst from his lips at any moment.

"So, all these aunties and uncles, but what did your father ever teach you?"

"Fear," she said simply, and tore a piece of meat with her teeth. She tried so hard to make it sound nonchalant, but she refused to meet his eyes after that, and he began to feel like a jerk for having asked the stupid question in the first place.

"Here, let your Uncle Reno teach you something."

"You're not my Uncle," she said, but not with any malice. "You're my friend."

"Alright. Friend then. Okay, Raina… this is how you pick a pocket."

3:43 pm

Full from chocobo meat, the two escaped the sewers and found themselves on the streets of the slums in what appeared to be Sector Seven. Reno didn't know the sector all that well. It was one of the obscure ones that he didn't bother with, mostly because he had family living in it. The other reason being that he usually one patrolled sectors one through three, as well as eight.

Even as he stepped out into the artificial light emanating from the sector plate above, his cell phone began to blare. Reno swore, and quickly answered it. Cell phones meant money, and people who had money in the slums were targets. And at the moment, down to just his 'mag-rod and a blue suit that was too stained from the sewers and his meal to resemble a Turk's, Reno had no intention of picking any fights he didn't need.

"Yeah?" he said.

"Reno," Tseng's voice said. "Why haven't you been answering?"

"Just got out of the sewers. Long story."

"I'm sure it is. Listen, I'm speaking with President Shinra right now, and he's just given me an unusual mission. He tells me you're to cease all operations at once. Apparently, his daughter's gone missing."

"Missing, huh?" Reno said, looking to Raina. "No shit."

"Your assignment is to hunt down and retrieve Raina at once. The President says she might be in danger from Rufus. Apparently, he believes that his son might attempt to harm her in order to secure his own inheritance. But the President doesn't want to hurt his son without proof, so we're to leave Rufus alone."

Reno snorted. Was that the best Old Man Shinra could come up with? Or was there some measure of truth to that? Was Raina caught in some sort of father/son war? Did they both want to hurt her? He dismissed the idea. Rufus was on his side. He had to be. Why else would he have hired a Turk to protect Raina?

Tseng continued, "The Turks have been ordered to find her out. I will be patrolling sectors one through four, heading up several contingents of Shinra guards and Soldiers. Rude will be looking through sectors five through eight. We've been told to only look through the slums. Apparently, someone named Corneo tipped Heidegger off that a little girl matching her description was in Wall Market. He also said a Turk was accompanying her. I've assured President Shinra that's a lie since you've been on special assignment all day."

Something was up. Reno didn't like the way Tseng was phrasing everything. Old Man Shinra might be in the room with Tseng, but the Turk Commander knew how to be discrete and keep a conversation away from prying ears. The only reason why Tseng would be...

Son of a bitch. He thinks our phones are tapped.

Reno replied, "Right. About that special assignment I got this morning. Is that still on?"

"Affirmative," Tseng responded. "But it's now second priority. Find Raina Shinra, then return her immediately to the President. I want you to look above the plate, without any troops. We need the extra manpower in the slums. Above the plate, it'd attract too much attention. Those are your orders."

And with that, the line went dead. Reno looked at his phone, a frown coming over his face. If the phones were bugged, that meant someone high up didn't trust the Turks. And when Shinra didn't trust something, it made sure it had every possible method it could come up with to control it. Phone taps in the cell phones undoubtedly meant tracking devices as well. And if Reno had a tracking device...

The Turk looked at Raina in horror. "Do you have anything on you that your father gave you?"

Raina nodded. "Daddy gave me my dress, and my shoes."

Reno swore. He wasn't sure what kind of range the tracking systems had, and they probably wouldn't get much reception in the sewers, but now that the two were out, he needed to lose any possible bugs she had on her. Or, at the very least, get rid of his so his signal wouldn't be seen right beside hers.

With a gleeful smile, Reno chucked his cell phone into the drainage pipe. A second later, his beeper followed it. The thought that Tseng would throw a hissy fit if he ever found out that one of his Turks ever abandoned the electronic leashes only heightened Reno's aim, making the phone and beeper splash into the sewer water, carrying it far away from his position.

Looking around, he took a step forward, determined to get away as quickly as possible. The two stepped into an open street that was filled with people, and quickly disappeared into the crowd.

4:01 pm

The two tried to get out of Sector Seven a few times, but each time they came across a train or a sector gate, they encountered guards. Not wanting to be noticed, they slipped away without drawing attention to themselves each time.

More, he continued to look for some sort of Laundromat or clothing store where he could get a replacement dress for Rain so he could ditch the old one. He'd buy or steal one if he had to, but if he didn't find either soon, he was going to pull out his 'mag-rod and feed several thousand volts of electricity into the first child he saw then take their clothes.

The Turk led the girl onto a side street that didn't seem to get much traffic. It appeared to be a seedy part of the slums, a part that was dirty even for beneath the plate. Rude's patrol would come soon, and when it did, this would probably be the last place it hit.

"Why are we stopping?" Raina asked.

Reno shrugged. "I need time to think. Come up with a plan. I'm normally like a plan guy, you know? But right now… damn it. I can't seem to come up with anything."

"Maybe we should go in there," Raina said, pointing at one of the buildings lining the street.

The Turk looked at it, and a grin lit up his face. 'Seventh Heaven' was what the sign said, but Reno knew whatever lay inside was not heaven, unless the cloudy kingdom above had begun trafficking in sin. The redhead knew a bar when he saw one. He entertained the idea for about a solid minute, then shook his head.

"Sorry, Princess. Can't take you into a bar. I have some limits."

"Oh come on," she protested. "You let me smoke one cigarette! And you took me into a brothel! The least you could do is take me into a bar!"

Rolling his eyes, the Turk said, "You're not supposed to start sounding like that til you're a teenager. I have my limits. I'm not liquoring you up."

Besides, he thought, I don't trust myself around that much booze.

He began to turn away from the bar when a shot rang out. He staggered back, clutching his left arm reflexively. He'd been hit. Some asshole had shot him. Pain flooded his left side, and his fingertips began to jerk a little bit. He fell to one knee, gasping for breath.

"Reno!" Raina called.

He didn't think, just dove over Raina as the second shot fired. The bullet impacted on the ground where he'd been kneeling. Rolling, he figured the shots had to be coming for a roof. Not surprising, but the weird thing was, whoever was doing the shooting was aiming for him. Not Raina. This was supposed to be Raina's "special day." No one was supposed to be shooting at him. Grabbing the girl with his good arm, he ran as quickly as he could towards the safety of the bar. Gunshots followed him as he did.

A black van with tinted windows rounded the corner of the street and squealed to a stop in front of them, cutting them off from their escape route. A voice called from the opposite side, the driver's side, saying, "Get in!"

He would have hesitated if not for over-training. Tseng had taught him how to immediately react to any and all situations, and instinct was beginning to take over his every action. Dropping the girl, but keeping his body between her and where he thought the mystery shooter was, he grabbed at the door handle and clicked it open. Raina dove in, and he followed her. The van lurched forward, and Reno smashed his head off the dashboard, letting out a few swear words.

When the vehicle was safely cruising, and the Turk was no longer in any danger of head injuries, Reno started to look up to identify his savior. Raina did it for him.

"Uncle Reeve!"

Scowling, the Turk peered at the Shinra executive, wondering what the man was up to. No one would get himself involved in this kind of thing for no reason. Even Reno himself was getting paid for protecting the girl. He had to be working some kind of angle.

Reeve just smiled at Raina, and gestured for her to get out of the front and go to the back of the van. "There's a change of clothes for you back there. Throw out your dress when you're done."

"Don't look!" the girl said, before climbing between the two front seats and plopping herself in the back.

Reno adjusted himself in his chair, then gingerly took off his jacket and threw it back to Raina. "Hey, Princess, do me a favor. When you're done changing, rip me off a sleeve or something."

Reeve gave Reno a questioning look, then glanced at the Turk's arm. "Shit! You're bleeding. What happened?"

Pulling out a cigarette, Reno shrugged. "Some jackass sniper shot me. Fuckin' campers. So, why'd you help us? What do you get out of it?"

"Reno!" Raina said indignantly. "Don't be rude!"

She was berating him on his manners? He seemed to recall her eating habits just a little while ago. He looked down at his wound, and noticed it was bleeding all over Reeve's leather seats. Too bad for him.

"You're welcome," Reeve said wryly. "I'm in this for the girl, so don't think I decided to go out of my way to save you. I've been tracking her for the past hour. Didn't you think that her dress might be bugged?"

One of the back windows rolled down, and Raina's dress went flying outside. A hand thrust out, holding a jacket sleeve, which the Turk took. The girl announced, "All done!"

"Yeah," Reno said, as he tried to tie the makeshift bandage on with one hand. "But I couldn't find a place to get her any new clothes, and dragging around a naked kid would've gotten me even more attention."

He tugged at the bandage with one hand and winced. As soon as he let it go, it fell out of place. He swore under his breath. How was he supposed to tie a damn bandage with only one hand? As if in answer to his question, Raina leaned forward and grabbed it, putting it back in place and tightening the knot. He let out a small scream, and the girl had the audacity to giggle. It was a good thing he liked her. Otherwise, he'd have killed her. To take his mind off the pain, he looked into the side view mirror, looking at various cars and license plates behind them.

Reeve motioned to the glove compartment. "I'm pretty sure President Shinra doesn't know you're in on this, but nearly everyone else does. Scarlet told me you were with Raina before she disappeared, and Heidegger said something about someone who looked familiar with her. Even so, I've arranged a disguise for you."

The Turk leaned forward and opened the glove box, and found a white toque. "This is it? This is the disguise? A fuckin' hat?"

Reeve sounded defensive as he said, "It was the best I could come up with on short notice."

Grumbling, Reno lowered the van's sun visor, flipped open the mirror on it, and put the toque on. He looked at himself, especially the way the hat stood up on his head, much of it a loose bundle of cloth on the top.

"My head looks like it has a condom on it," he complained as he began to rifle through the glove compartment, looking for anything else. A grin spread across his face as he pulled a Turk-issue glock out from it. "I didn't know Shinra execs packed heat."

Reeve coughed. "Uh… it's just in case, you know? With Avalanche out there these days…"

"Yeah, I get you. Can I borrow it?"

The executive seemed to think about it for a moment, and looked about to object when they came across the gate leading to the highway that would take them to the upper plate. As soon as Reeve was distracted, Reno slipped it inside his breast holster, hoping his companion would forget he'd ever asked.

The highway was awkward looking, and spiraled ever upward and appeared ready to topple with one good sneeze. A stone and steel shack served as a barracks for the guards watching over it. Raina was forced to try to hide herself under a blanket at the back of the van. Reno plugged a cigarette into his mouth, and did his best to appear at ease, while Reeve spoke amiably with the guards in charge of the station. The check went quickly, with guards almost visibly flinching as Reeve flaunted his Shinra identification, showing that he had all the way up to 70th floor clearance. Not wanting to incur the wrath of one of the board members of the power company, they were allowed past in little time at all.

"I could've done that," Reno said as soon as they were safely away, checking the side view mirror once more.

Reeve snorted, but his next comment wasn't directed to the Turk. "Happy birthday, Raina. I know this isn't what you expected for your tenth birthday, but… well, I hope we can make the best of it."

"Me, too," she said.

"Uh… listen, there's a present for you back there. It's in a box underneath the seat. I was kind of in a hurry getting to you, so it's not wrapped, but… well…"

Reno looked in the rear view mirror and saw that Raina had already attacked the box and tore it open, a delighted smile on her face. Never mind that her father was trying to kill her in an effort to have her prove herself, or that the Turk had just been shot. Oh no. She had a present to open, and that thing alone could make her forget her troubles. Reno felt a twinge of jealousy, upset that Reeve could just sweep in, and with one little gesture make her feel normal for a few minutes, whereas Reno was her bodyguard and couldn't give her that same bit of security, if even only for a moment.

As soon as the box opened up, the girl gasped, pulling a toy cat, complete with crown, gloved hands, running shoes and a cape from the container. Reeve smiled, and looked back, saying, "His name's Cait Sith. He's a prototype. Unit zero. Do you like him?"

"Yes!" Raina said. "He goes with my other doll just nicely." She held up the present Rufus had given her, which was now beginning to look a little stained. With a little luck, a washing machine or something would fix it.

"Ten years old," Reno said, "and she still plays with dolls. When I was ten, I was running my first drug run in the slums for extra cash."

"Not all of us had broken childhoods," Reeve said.

The Turk snorted. What the hell was that supposed to mean? There was nothing wrong with Reno's childhood. It certainly hadn't been 'broken.' He'd had a lot of fun as a kid, even if he had been poor. What the hell did Reeve know anyway? He'd probably been brought up in a rich family above the plate.

He turned slightly, not wanting to face the man sitting next to him and looked out the window. He caught a glance at the side mirror and frowned. "Turn left."

"What? Here?"

"Yeah," Reno said, curious.

"It's a one way street. Going the wrong way."

"Even better."

Reeve gave him a look like he was nuts, but followed the direction anyway, turning left and directly into oncoming traffic. Horns blared at them and cars swerved out of the van's way. Reno looked back to the side mirror.

And sure enough, the car that had been tailing them was still behind them.

"Fuck. Okay, Reeve, get the hell off this street and find us an alley. Someone's following us."

Raina made a noise, and Reeve muttered a few swear words. The van lurched left again, wheels squealing from the sudden turn. A second later, the executive slammed on the gas, and the van sped forward, roaring down a side street. Reno kept his eye on the mirror, watching the person following them.

"Come on, you drive like my grandma," the Turk said.

"Well, you could stop criticizing and do something."

Reno rolled his eyes. It was always up to him. He got up from his seat and scooted over to the back beside Raina, then moved his hand to the door handle.

"What are you doing?" Reeve asked.

"Doing something," Reno retorted as he twisted the handle and slid back the door. Leaning out the open door, he called back to Raina, "Hold onto my belt. I need something to balance me."

The girl, obviously nervous, grabbed the Turk's belt and leaned back with all her weight. He, in turn, shifted his weight so he was half hanging out the door, then drew the gun he'd pilfered from Reeve's glove compartment. Aiming carefully at the pursuing car, he squeezed off a few rounds at the windshield. All of them impacted, but only caused the driver to swerve the car away.

"Find an alley! Now!" Reno commanded as he toppled back into the van.

The vehicle abruptly turned, and as it did, Reno grabbed Raina and called out, "Keep driving!"

The girl made a wail as the Turk leaped from the van and took her with him.

4:52 pm

Limping from landing on his leg wrong, Reno carried a trembling Raina across his shoulder down the back alleys of Midgar. There was no sign of their pursuer, but ever was the fear that whoever had been following them would reappear.

Raina made no noise, and that scared Reno more than anything else. She mere shook in fright, clutching her two dolls while burying her face in his shoulder. Sure, when he was ten, he'd seen worse things than her. But he'd been born in the slums, an area where kids learned to grow up quickly, or died. She'd been born as a pampered little Shinra princess. But at least in the slums, most parents didn't set out on a path to deliberately kill their own kids. And now, everything had finally caught up with her, and she might as well be a third doll for the moment.

His leg hurt like hell. His arm was worse. His ribs weren't doing much better. Today wasn't his day. Didn't seem to be anyone's day. Not even President Shinra was going to like this day. Well, maybe he might. That all depended on what he really wanted. Raina dead, or alive.

The gun he had only had thirteen bullets left in it. This time, he wouldn't screw around. No shooting elevators. No shooting guards in the kneecaps. Straight kills. Headshots. No wasted ammunition anymore. He had to keep his mind on the game, no more fooling around.

But first, he had to find a place to hide.

Normally, if you wanted to hide, you went to the slums. That was the smart place to go. Slip between the cracks. Hide in the sea of humanity. No one would ever find you. Unfortunately, Tseng and Rude were leading patrols of guards through the slums.

There was one main reason why you never, ever tried to hide from Shinra above the plate. Once you saw sunlight, you were under Shinra's eye, were in the palm of their hand. Everything was owned by Shinra, and everything had video cameras. ID checks were around every corner, and you couldn't even use a phone booth or order a pizza without swiping some kind of identification.

So where to hide? Where to hide? Where does a rabbit run when stuck in the bear cave?

A grin spread on Reno's face even as he thought of the answer.

Right in fucking plain sight.

6:27 pm

It took some effort with the state Raina was in, but he managed to get her sufficiently disguised. He had been forced to leave her in an alley by herself while he bought hair dye for her at a local drug store, and even managed to get a small bag for her to toss her toys in. He took off his own sunglasses and gave them to her, placing them on her unresponsive face. They were enormous on her small head, but it looked unbearably cute in a way.

He'd had to improvise with the hair dye, using a bottle of water also purchased from the drug store to help him get the dye in. The job was terrible, part of her scalp had turned a brownish color, and anyone who even looked carefully could tell that it'd been dyed recently. Even so, it was the best he could manage.

And now, the two of them stood outside of Shinra Tower itself. He debated how to go about his entrance. He could just walk in the front doors, but that just seemed idiotic. No sane man would ever want to do that. The only way someone could get in that way was if the person had a mini-gun and just shot first and asked questions never. There was also the option of attempted subterfuge. The emergency stairway. But that was an endurance test of running up countless flights of stairs, with what was more than likely an encounter with guards at the end of it, and Reno didn't have the stamina to do that. Hell, he doubted anyone did, save some sort of exercise nut that probably spent all their free time training their body.

And then there was Plan C. The underground garage. But that required Shinra ID, which he had, but didn't want to use in fear of President Shinra monitoring for its use. A minute later, he found himself at a phone booth, swiping his ID through it and dialing up Tseng's number.

"This is Tseng," came the Wutaian's greeting.

"Hey, boss."

"Reno? You're alive? Rude's team found your cell phone in a pile of sewer trash. We thought you were dead."

The redhead almost swore. Tseng was really going to kill him if he ever found out the phone had been ditched on purpose, good excuse or no. "Yeah, I must have, uh… dropped it in the sewer by accident. Anyway, I'm still on my mission, and I'm going to drop into my office and hang out there for a bit. I'm, uh… going to look up some contacts, see if they've heard anything."

There was a pause. "Understood. Wait. How did you drop your phone into the sewers after you left them?"

"I'moffnowseeyalaterboss," Reno said as he slammed the phone down onto the receiver.

He turned around to look at Raina, who stood straight up, seemingly looking at nothing. It was hard to tell with the sunglasses on.

If that fat bastard of a President gets you killed… I swear, he won't live to see his 'Promised Land.'

Now, though, with having called Tseng, he was in the clear. The conversation had been most likely bugged. And he'd just announced to whoever was listening where he was going to be, and gave a valid excuse to be there. So now, any monitoring of his ID would only yield what they already knew. That Reno was looking into another way to locate Shinra's daughter.

Picking Raina up, Reno limped to the parking garage. This was it. He'd be home free if he could hide in his office for the entire night. Hide in plain sight. The plan was so brilliant, he wanted to pat himself on the back.

And so it was that he was caught completely by surprise when he was hit by a 'mag-rod from behind as he entered the parking garage.

9:19 pm

"Mother… fucker…" Reno muttered as he came to consciousness. He was really beginning to resent being knocked out. Third time in one day, and he was really not liking it at all. There was something about waking up in unknown locations from some sort of injury that really pissed him off.

His eyes opened slowly, and were unfocused at first. The room was white, and there were a few blurs that were probably shapes of some sort. He was gagged, his arms tied to a chair, as well as his legs. Suddenly, he got the distinct impression that karma was kicking in for his birthday gag on Tseng.

As everything came more into focus, he realized he was in a hotel room. The bed wasn't the best, but it was good enough to be something from above the plate. The other furniture was the same. Plain, inexpensive, but nothing shoddy. Wherever he was, it was probably the cheapest room to rent above the plate.

The door opened up, and a blond woman walked in, dragging Raina behind her, who still clutched fiercely to her two dolls. The girl only trembled slightly, but didn't react to anything around her.

But Reno's gaze focused on his captor. The woman was blond, busty, and had entirely too much make up on. Her face was a mixture of anger, fear, hope, and so many other things. Her feelings didn't matter much to the Turk right now. All he wanted on her face at that moment was some more coloring. Namely, red, black, and blue.

"Reno!" the woman said. Her voice was much the same as her face, wavering between some sort of love-addled tone to anger. He frowned, or tried to with the gag on. She seemed familiar, but he couldn't quite place her…

The woman pushed Raina out of the way, and the girl stumbled towards the bed. His captor rushed to him, landing in front of him and on her knees, and began to smother his face with kisses. He struggled, trying to pull away, but she kept on. Finally, she leaned forward, removed his gag, and said, "I finally have you all to myself!"

The Turk tried to make sense of it all, asking, "And that's why you kidnapped me?"

"Kidnapped?" she asked, bewildered. "Well, I suppose. But don't you see? Now we can be together. I figured it out. You only dumped me because of your job. That was it, wasn't it? Now we can be together."

"Say what?"

"Me and you. We can run away together. Get married. Live a happy life and make love under the stars. Remember that time you took me outside of Midgar with your pass key, and we did that?"

Reno tried to remember, but he'd done that with so many women… it was hard to keep track of them all. At least he had the who and why narrowed down, though. Crazy bitch ex-girlfriend. Wanted in his pants. Sometimes, it was hard being so beautiful.

He had to work this tactfully. He had to be diplomatic, and talk her into letting him – and Raina – go. He had to be nice, and convincing, and put on his best poker face for the mother of all seduction lines.

He braced himself and said the first thing that came to mind. "So, what's your name again?"

He winced even as he said it. Stupid. Stupidstupidstupidstupidstupid!

Why was it when he needed it the most, his skill with the ladies disappeared entirely?

Her face lost all trace of love sickness. Rage twisted over it as she pulled one arm back and brought it forward in a complete swing, taking Reno across the face in a hard slap. His cheek was numb. His jaw stood hanging open. She hit him. She hit him. Women didn't hit him! It just didn't happen. He was too suave. Too cool. Too gorgeous.

How dare she.

"My name's Candi!" she cried. "Candi, damn you! You couldn't even remember that, could you? I bet all you remember was a good lay! A romp in your bed a couple times, a roll in the grass another, a quick fuck in the bathroom! I thought you were the best thing that had ever happened to me, and… and… and…!"

He dimly recalled a woman named Candi that he'd bedded a week ago, and continued to play with for a few days. He also recalled breaking up with her rather publicly in First Plate, the Turks' favorite restaurant. Tact went out the window. Sure, she kidnapped him. Somehow had gotten her hands on one of his 'mag-rods. Even endangered Raina.

But the slap was just going a step too far. No woman ever hit the sex god known as Reno Melville.

"Right, I remember you," he said, trying to make his voice sound sympathetic. "I'm sorry for what I did. I'm sorry I didn't recall you at first. I should have realized… I had to put you completely out of my mind. It's Shinra, you see. They do things to your head. It's all their fault."

That brought Candi up short for a minute. "Really?"

"Really. Shinra… they do experiments to you. They have a guy named Hojo that likes to cut people all up, and it really affects our minds after a while. Does weird things to us. So you see… It's all Shinra's fault that I have such an awful taste in women."

The hopeful expression that had been on Candi's face for a moment slipped away, and anger replaced it. She brought her hand up as if she was going to hit him again, but Reno just smiled. "Oh yeah, baby. Hit me again. I love that shit. That's why I dumped you, you know. What's the point of sex if you're just going to lie there? Come on, hit me! I'll like it."

That brought her up short, her hand fluctuating between getting ready for the slap and sinking down. Even as she fought the conflict in her head, Reno grinned.

"Of course, it wasn't the only reason why I dumped you."

His other cheek tingled as the slap came across, but he kept talking. "The make up? Yeah. A tad much. You look like a slum whore."

Another slap.

"And… gotta tell you… the cheap boob job? Kind of obvious. You should have saved up more money and went to a doctor above the plate."


"And honestly. The personality? Ain't exactly sparkling."


"Ow. That one kind of stung. You know, if you exercised your arms more, you might be able to give a better hand—"


"You drag… your damn teeth."


"You ever consider a nose job?"


"And your coffee… sucks."

Some blood that dribbled down his lips accompanied the last word. He winced and closed his eyes, waiting for the next slap, which never came. He opened an eye, and saw that Candi was trembling visibly, her face streaming with tears.

"Awww…" he said mockingly, "And I was just getting worked up. Don't tell me I broke you already."

"Damn you!" she screeched. "We barely knew each other and I knew you were the one! The one! And here you are just making fun of me like our love means nothing at all! I was angry when you dumped me in front of all those people. I tried to poison your food, but my boss caught me and fired me. Fired me, after you dumped me in public! And then… then I tried to blow up your apartment! I took all my life savings and spent it all on a stupid bomb just to ease the humiliation! Your door wasn't even locked. I thought about not killing you, but when I walked into your apartment, you were having sex with another woman! Just days after you'd dumped me! So I left the bomb in your fridge. But then… after I left… when the bomb didn't go off, I realized how glad I was. So I came into the Turk offices disguised as a mail carrier and dropped off an apology note, and took your stick weapon thing… just so I had something to remember you by… but I realized… that wouldn't be enough. Maybe if I did kill you… and then killed myself… we could be together. So I tried shooting you back in Sector 7. But that didn't work. You got away. So I followed by car. But you saw me, and I had to pull away, but I eventually found you again, and managed to knock you out, and now we can be together! We have to be together, Reno! We have to be!"

"Listen," Reno said. "You're a crazy bitch. I don't like you. You were a one-night stand that got spread out over a couple of days. We aren't meant to be anything together. Grow up, get over it, and go fucking stalk someone who cares."

Candi stepped back, her face paling. "No… no… you have to love me… something's making you not love me… Is it Shinra? Or…." She stopped, turned around, and looked to where Raina was, clutching the doll Rufus had given her. "It's her, isn't it? It's the girl. Isn't she a little young, Reno? Do you like them young, is that it? You like little kids?"

He went dead cold. The crazy bitch was going to hurt Raina. Before, it had just been a funny game. Fuck with the ex. Try to make her snap. Get revenge for the little slap. But now… he railed against his bonds, jerking against them wildly. The rope cut into his wrists and ankles. He was pretty sure they'd be bleeding soon. His arm screamed in protest. He gritted his teeth and ignored it, barely containing a scream of agony.

Candi smiled.

She pulled out the electro-mag rod she had stolen from his desk, and pressed the ignition button. Blue electricity sparked out of the end. She turned and walked towards Raina with dangerous intent.

Reno slammed all his weight to the side, crashing into the floor, hoping to break the chair he was tied to. No such luck. He pushed his feet downward, trying to get the rope to come off the legs that way. Again, it didn't work. The knots were too tightly secure.

There was nothing he could do. Raina was going to die.

"Yar!" came a new voice, vaguely child-like. A black, white and red form leaped from the top of a dresser, landing full on in Candi's face. It took Reno a minute to realize that it was the stuffed animal that Reeve had given Raina, Cait Sith! The woman screamed, and even as she did, hope surged through Reno anew. The wooden arms snapped off the chair as he heaved, and his hands immediately went down, tugging the rope down the chair legs to free himself fully. He stood up quickly, ignoring the pain as he did, and charged right at Candi. She flailed at the stuffed animal attached to her face, little cat-like claws digging into her visage. Reno's attack was more brutal and direct. He simply came up behind her, and grabbed her head with both hands, one on either side, then twisted. Candi fell to the floor, like a puppet without its strings.

"Crazy bitch," he said.

He turned from the corpse, moving to Raina, and shook her slightly. "Raina! It's okay. The crazy lady's gone now. Are you okay?"

Raina didn't respond. Just stared blankly, the overly large sunglasses covering her eyes. He snatched them off, and tossed them aside.

"Helloooo?" came the strange voice again. Reno looked over to see it was the cat doll, waving a hand. "Hero of the day here! Can I get some recognition?"

"You're a talking doll. Watch me care. Right now, I'm worried about Raina."

Cait Sith threw his tiny little hands up into the air and gave a noise like a sigh. "You spend hundreds of thousands of Shinra's money making the perfect espionage tool, and what do you get? 'Watch me care.' … Wait. Is Raina all right?"

"You're just a doll. What do you care?"

"Because I'm not just a doll! I'm Reeve, you idiot! Or at least, Reeve's piloting me from a few miles away via a microchip in his brain. It's all very complicated. He's half paying attention to me, but the computer that runs me uses excess brain power to make me work. Humans do have around ninety percent of their brain they don't use, and—"

"Less talking, more helping. Any ideas on how to help Raina?"

"What's wrong with her?"

Reno rolled his eyes. He didn't feel like explaining it. An idea suddenly occurred to him. He cast his glance around the room, and spotted a purse on a nightstand. Grabbing it, he quickly rifled through it, then grinned as he pulled a hyper potion from its depths. It just figured. The only people who acted that godamn psycho were people who were hyper addicts.

"What are you doing?" Cait said with alarm in his voice.

"She's in shock. So I'm going to shock her the hell out of it."

"You… is that safe? Does it even work that way?"

"Hell if I know, but it's worth a shot," Reno said as he uncorked the vial and poured the contents down Raina's mouth. The girl made a sputtering noise, and inhaled deeply, gasping for breath. Her whole body jolted. He shook her gently again, calling her name.

She moved her head, looked at Reno, and then latched her arms around him and began crying.

"Don't worry, kiddo," he said consolingly. "It's gonna be all right."

9:43 pm

At first, as the Turk rearmed himself with his gear, Reno wanted to hole up in the hotel. It seemed like a safe connection untied to him, and a good place to hide. He had to decide against it when Cait Sith said that a report had been put in to the police complaining about strange noises coming from the room he occupied. Worse, the doll said that Candi used Reno's credit card to rent the room. Meaning, if Shinra were looking for him specifically, they'd know where to go.

The Turk didn't even stop to clean off the blood all over him. He just picked Raina up with one hand, the spare 'mag-rod with the other, and flew out the door, slamming it behind him and inconsequentially leaving Cait Sith locked in the hotel room.

He ran down the tackily decorated hallway, past the front desk, and out the front door, determined to get away before anyone could possibly find him. And still he was too late.

Lights flared to life as he pushed the door open, two spotlights pointed directly at him. High beams from car headlights poured on, and he was dimly aware as he winced of red beams of light focusing on him, laser sights from various automatic weapons. All of them focused on his torso. He squinted at the dark figures ahead of him, and could barely make out dark silhouettes of Shinra soldiers. Raina made another whimper.

"Don't worry, Princess. I'll protect you." He made the words sound as cocky and confident as possible. Deep down, he really wanted to run away. Part of him just wanted to drop the girl and run, and let Shinra have their godamn trophy.

He looked around, trying to find some way to escape. Somewhere to run. In front of him and to the right were the shadowed figures of Shinra soldiers. To the left was an endless black space. The edge of the plate. Just fucking lovely. No escape that way, just an endless drop. No convenient cables to grab onto and swing on while the world exploded in fire around him. Too bad. He always kind of pictured heroes getting away conveniently on those.

He set Raina down softly, and she looked at him helplessly. He winked at her, and in one motion, drew the two electro-mag rods he had tucked in his belt, and telescoped them both out. Pressing the buttons, he yelled, "Come on, fuckers!"

He charged forward. He felt multiple impacts against his chest. He fell to the ground.

11:46 pm

"I fucking hate tranquillizer guns," Reno groaned as he woke up.

He was sprawled out on a couch in what appeared to be the Turk offices. Tseng hovered nearby on a chair, and Rude stood to attention, looming like a giant shadow behind him. Reno winced at the light of the room, and yawned.

He looked carefully at Tseng's face, searching for something, and only saw a layer of melancholy. Reno frowned. His boss never showed emotion unless…

The redhead sat up abruptly as he realized that Raina wasn't there. He remembered the darts hitting him in the chest, falling down, bright lights… it took him a full minute to remember Raina, and how he was supposed to protect her, and …

"Where is she?"

"I'm sorry, Reno," Tseng said.

"Fuck you. Fuck 'you're sorry.' Where the fuck is she?"

Tseng shook his head. "The news is all over the place. Details aren't clear, but… they say she jumped off the plate. They were going to take her in with tranquillizer guns, but you jumped in the way, and went down. She started screaming, and ran off, and the hotel you were at… It was right next to the edge of the plate. And she killed herself. She didn't want to face her father, so she killed herself."

The redhead buried his face in his hands. Fuck. It's my fault. If they were going to take her alive… She would have been okay if I hadn't given her that damn hyper potion. It's my fault. I'm sorry, Raina. I think Elena would have made a better bodyguard.

He stood up numbly, feeling depressed. Maybe it was the tranquillizers. Or maybe it was because he was a failure. He wasn't sure. One or the other. Maybe both.

"Reno, sit down," Tseng said. "I pumped a hyper into you to wake you up, but you're in no condition to be walking around. I managed to keep the President in the dark about your invol…"

The rest of the words droned on. Reno wasn't even aware of them. But two words did sing out loud and clear. The President.

He was striding to the door, pushing past Rude as he did, before he was even aware of his own actions. Tseng made a word of protest, but Reno ignored it. Everything had a price. It was time for Tobias Shinra to pay his bill.

He opened the door, and there stood Rufus. The man had the same arrogant expression he always seemed to have, and his cold blue-eye stare peered anger directly at Reno. The Turk understood it well. After all, he had gotten the man's little sister killed.

"Leave us," Rufus said, not taking his eyes off Reno, but everyone in the room knowing who he was talking to.

Tseng stood up, and he and Rude quickly shuffled out of the room, moving around Reno and Rufus, who continued to stare at each other. Once they were both gone, Rufus stepped into the room and pulled the door out of Reno's hand and closed it.

The Vice-President of Shinra stared at Reno coldly. "What does Raina mean when she says, 'When I grow up, I'm going to marry Reno'?"

The Turk shook his head, confused. "Say what--? She said… wait. Hold on. She said…" He stopped, trying to sort it out in his head. Raina hadn't met him until today. So how could she have said… A grin spread across his face. "You son of a bitch. You're the one who led the Shinra soldiers at the hotel, weren't you? You spread the story that she killed herself. Raina's alive! And you wanted to hide it… You almost made me think…"

"Never mind that," Rufus said. "What did you do to my sister that she said she wants to—"

Rufus was caught off mid-sentence as Reno's fist took him full in the mouth. The blond-haired Vice President hit the floor, hard. Somehow, that made Reno feel better. He hated being lied to. Worse, he hated being kept in the dark.

"Just give me my money and leave," the Turk said.

Rufus stood up, rubbed his jaw, and glared angrily at Reno. He reached into a pocket, and pulled a wad of bills out. He threw them carelessly to the ground. "Your payment, in full. You won't be allowed to see Raina again. As far as the world is concerned, she's dead. Don't tell anyone, or you'll find yourself suddenly falling off the side of a sector plate."

The words, spoken so callously, just made Reno bring his fist back again. Even as he did, Rufus drew a gun from under his coat, and smirked. "The first hit was free, Reno. Another will cost you."

The Turk nodded respectfully, and lowered his fist. Rufus turned to leave, but suddenly, Reno just found that he couldn't resist. "So… Eight years, she's legal for me to marry. Can I start calling you 'bro' now?"

Rufus turned and shot the Turk a disgusted look, opened the door, and slammed it behind him. A minute later, Tseng and Rude returned. The Turk Commander said, "I'm sorry about Raina. What are you going to do now?"

Reno just grinned. "I figured I'd go out, grab a couple beers, go to the strippers, and then maybe find a nice girl, get laid, and then break her heart. Want to come?"