Professor Hojo vs. the ShinRa Accounting Department

Aerika S.

"Excuse me, Professor?"

The professor being addressed ignored the addresser as he had with the previous 'good morning' and 'hello, my name is something or other not worth remembering'. Judging from his clothes, the errand boy was new to the ShinRa ranks. The professor could only see pants and shoes (as looking up would imply he was actually interested in conversation) but that was all he needed to see. Hojo was a man trained to analyze the minutiae of complex organisms and draw even more complex conclusions. Distilling 'low-level flunky' from cheap twill and overly shiny fake leather took him about two seconds.

"Uh, Professor…?"

Clean creases in the pant legs. Coddled momma's boy or naïve, eager-to-please twit. Neither case warranted acknowledgement.

"Sir, if you have a moment?"

Hojo had several, but they were all his. The head of ShinRa's scientific division could hardly deign to give any away to a pitiful drone that couldn't muster the guts to blurt out a message. This did sort of amuse Hojo though, so he made himself a bet on long the man could go before he retreated to his home department to cry to his co-workers that the nasty scientist wouldn't pay any attention to him.

"Sir, cough. Sir?"

Sunk to coughing for attention already? He's not going to hold out long at all…

In a last ditch effort to complete his task, the man gradually eased a memo into Hojo's field of vision. The paper shook noticeably.

The department name below the ShinRa logo caught Hojo's eye and inwardly, he cursed. How could he have missed the obvious cue of the color of the pants? Every single one of those anal, number-crunching wonks in the company wore a variation of that bland non-color beige as a badge of their dullness. The memo and the man were from Accounting.

Hojo skimmed through the memo. As expected, it was not Good News. It was very much Bad News. Phrases like 'cost margins', 'projected revenue return' and the ever-odious 'over budget' popped out accusingly. Fat Man ShinRa was in one of his moods again. The man wanted miracles of science. He wanted nature to bend to his will. He just didn't want to have to pay retail for it.

On the bottom of the page was a date and time. At noon tomorrow, Hojo's lab was going to be invaded by accountants expecting him to justify the amount of gil flowing into the science division. Worst of all, President ShinRa himself was coming to examine the results on the project that drained over half of the department's budget. The memo crinkled in his fist.

Behind him, the errand boy tried to hide his pleasure. "It's really only an informal inquiry, Professor, and I'm sure my boss will be fair."

Hojo growled at him to go away. He was facing a day of rounding up receipts when he should have been studying the latest test results from his pet project. The boy was having some interesting responses to the latest, increased dosage of Mako but instead of getting blood samples, Hojo was going to have to price the syringes and test tubes he had used for the last sample. The next twenty-four hours were going to be very busy and very, very annoying.

First things first, though. Hojo decided to put in a request to have the errand boy transferred to the science department. After all, somebody needed to clean the used chemical tanks and the last guy assigned to the job hadn't gotten over that full-body rash yet.


Never in his life had Hojo examined something and declared he had no idea what it was. Oh, he had seen plenty of things that left him puzzled at first glance. That was part and parcel of his line of work. See new specimen. Speculate about new specimen. Cut up new specimen. Give complex, hard to pronounce names that would confuse stupid people to the bones and guts of new specimen. The unknown was an everyday thing for a man of (mad) science. It was admitting that something was unknown that was unheard of.

Therefore, it was a bit of a first when he hissed 'What is this nonsense?' loud enough for everyone else in the lab to hear. No one responded to the outburst. In fact, they all acted as if they hadn't heard it. The men and the women in the lab were scientists and, as such, were smart enough to know you do not go around poking hornet's nests with sticks. Unless, of course, you were actually studying hornets. Then it was poke, poke, poke and poke some more. But you made sure to wear protective equipment and real hornets couldn't sting you with a syringe full of some chemical cocktail that would take up every inch of two chalkboards to diagram properly.

Hojo continued to grumble - though now, much to the relief of those around him, to himself - over the offending nonsense. It was an expense report for a business trip one of his underlings had taken a few months ago to Junon to start up a research project to see if the large amount of construction the military was doing there was having an effect on the native wildlife. The only reason the study was being done in the first place was to humor the President's current trophy wife, who liked to pretend she cared about such causes because her favorite magazines always made sure to put pictures of her vapid, plastic face next to the articles describing what an altruist she was. Hojo had considered it a massive waste of his time to travel all the way to Junon to reach the foregone conclusion of 'duh' and he had no desire to study the wildlife until it mutated into something truly interesting. So he had looked at his list of semi-competent employees, picked out the name Westing and sent the man packing without another thought of it.

That was proving to be a slight miscalculation. From the jumble of receipts and half-legible notes scrawled across the official ShinRa Financial Voucher (Form 126R), Hojo discerned Mr. Westing's idea of a natural habitat seemed to be a bar called 'The Thirsty Sailor'. His choice of hiring agencies for temporary help was 'Madame Rose's Den'. Hojo didn't even want to touch the movie titles that appeared on the hotel bill under the category 'special services'. Good god, how he prayed Candi's Wild Chocobo Ride was a euphemism. Then he read another title describing Candi's exploits and reaffirmed his atheism.

It wasn't that Westing was wasting company money on wine, women and, from the looks of it, chocobo porn. Hojo thought Westing was giving the idiotic project the exact amount of respect it deserved. It was that the man was being so careless about it. How hard was it to forge receipts? Or slip a concierge some gil to ensure discretion? Every now and then (or to be more honest, often), the science division took on tasks that required a very delicate and subtle touch. That left no room for a man who buried bodies with their arms sticking out of the ground. Figuratively, that is. You used an incinerator or a coffin in a secluded store room for bodies.

Yes, it was the sloppiness of it all that bothered Hojo. Well, that and the chocobos. That was sick. But mainly it was the sloppiness. Because now, Hojo had to clean it up and he had a little more than an hour to do it.

Fortunately, it wasn't that hard of a fix. The receipts were filed in the trashcan, a new Form 126R was inserted and cutting off the bottom of the hotel bill took care of the movies. It wasn't precise work, but it was all the effort Hojo was willing to make. This venture had already sucked up too much of his time. If the accountants got huffy about it, then the little morons would just have to get huffy about it. It was ridiculous to expect genius to work within the boundaries of a ledger sheet and the advancements Hojo had made for this company far outweighed what ShinRa had invested.

The President understood that – most of the time. At the times like this when he'd get whiny and cheap about it, it was up to Hojo to jump through hoops to jog the fat bastard's memory. Having problems with the war abroad? Try a vial of my new and improved toxin! Through the magic of science, the labs of ShinRa have developed a fast acting bio-weapon that will kill Wutaiese soldiers dead! Invest now and watch as it pays for itself! Some users might experience mild side effects, but, hey, you can't make an omelet… It was demeaning, ultimately pointless and sorely tempting to give product demonstrations on the President himself, but until the Research Grant Faeries showed up and dropped several billion gil into Hojo's lap, he had to put up with it.

And it wasn't the only irritation he experienced working at ShinRa. The accountants were bad, but there was a department Hojo hated even more. At present, a representative from that very department was heading for his office with a young boy in tow. The man moved down the hall in a self-confident saunter as if it was his lab and he was going into his office. So typical of his ilk to think everything belonged to him despite it being perfectly obvious such was not the case. The navy blue hue of the man's tailored suit made him stick out like a sore, festering thumb amongst the sterile whites of the lab and against the silver hair of his seven-year-old charge.

"Here he is, as promised," the Turk said.

No, not as promised, you idiot, Hojo thought. He had arranged for Sephiroth to be brought from his quarters on the floor below to the lab proper at one-thirty, figuring an hour and half would be sufficient time for the accountants to prattle and the President to fret before Hojo shut them all up by showing off the results of his grand project. (Strictly speaking, it was Gast's grand project, but when the good professor had skipped out on ShinRa with zero second's notice, Hojo had called dibs.) He did not need the boy hanging about the lab while he had to deal with the accountants, nor did he trust anyone else with his most valuable specimen. He doubted any of his employees would be so stupid as to do anything Hojo hadn't expressly told them to do; his concern was keeping them from getting too close to the boy. He feared Sephiroth forming another attachment similar to the one he had formed with Gast. Listening to the sermons about His Holiness, Saint Professor Gast, Lord God of Science and He Who Is a Million Times Smarter than Hojo Could Ever Hope to Be was beyond tiresome as it was. Adding in an apostle or two would make Hojo seriously consider keeping the boy sedated around the clock.

"You're early," Hojo snarled. "I specified one-thirty."

"My orders said eleven."

"Your orders were wrong."

"I wouldn't know about that," the Turk said dismissively. It was apparent he didn't care about it either.

But Hojo had a gift. He could make people care. It would be in angry or fearful ways, but they started caring. "That's not surprising. You Turks do seem ignorant of things in general."

The Turk let out a slow, deliberate breath, but otherwise gave no sign he was bothered by the insult. The boy beside him had even less of a visible reaction, though internally he was fervently wishing the Turk would give up and do whatever Hojo said. It didn't matter to Sephiroth who was right or wrong (his not-so-unbiased guess was Hojo), only that in the end, he was the one who was going to be left in a lab with the snarly scientist. The last time he had been here, Hojo had been going on about Mako dosages with a gleam in his eyes best associated with a kid in a candy store, assuming the kid in question was a mentally unstable bulimic who had just received a blow to his self-esteem and it was free sample day at the candy store.

The boy, as usual, did not get his wish.

"I wouldn't say that. We can figure out how to write down the right time on a work request form, at least." The Turk shrugged casually and added, "But what's done is done, right?"

"What a convenient philosophy for those who are too lazy and stupid to fix their mistakes. Is it your department's motto?" Hojo smirked pleasantly as the Turk gritted his teeth.

He caught himself before he gave Hojo the satisfaction of acting any more provoked than that though. The Turk was a highly trained professional in a profession that involved threats, murder, kidnapping and the delivery of an eerily quiet child to a crazy professor. Somehow, the last task managed to be more disturbing than the first three put together. But a Turk would never let on to something like that. Nor would a Turk show anger. Turks did not show anything.

They did, however, know when to bail on an unwinnable bitch fest. "I'm sorry for the confusion," the Turk said with pink polyester sincerity. "You can take the matter up with Veld. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have other orders to carry out."

Hojo didn't excuse him, but that hardly made a difference. Turks also knew how to haul ass out of offices.

This did not please Hojo. The boy wasn't too hot about it either. Most people would consider the transfer from the 'care' of a professional killer to a learned professor to be an upgrade. These people would be the wrongiest people to have ever been wrong – and that was when Hojo was in a good mood. After being disrespected by a Turk and being left in a lurch by said Turk, guess who was Mr. Cranky Pants?

Hojo's going to use the big needles today, the boy thought. He silently added a curse he should be far too young to know, but Sephiroth was awfully precocious.

Hojo was more vocal with his cursing. He had reports he still needed to review and the finishing touches to put on his presentation to the President. Now he was stuck babysitting. Although technically, it's not babysitting if the child you're watching is your own. Then it's called parenting or, as in Hojo's case, Royally Screwing Up Your Child. But even more technically, ShinRa's substantial financial investment in the Jenova Project and its tendency to send packs of well-armed men with anger management issues to the door of anyone who disagreed with company policies pretty much gave them possession of the boy. So really, with possession being nine-tenths of the law (the other tenth being whatever the hell ShinRa said it was), Hojo was only Royally Screwing Up A Child. Big difference there.

Regardless of what to call it, the boy needed supervision. Taking a page from his own lackluster parents, Hojo issued instructions. "Sit down on the chair in front of my desk. Do not move. Do not talk. I have work to finish."

Sephiroth did exactly as told. Exactly. He sat in the chair facing Hojo, completely motionless and silent. There wasn't even so much as the flutter of an eyelid as he held Hojo in a glare that, while not lethal as in the cliché, did look like it could rough you up and kick you in the jumblies before making off with your lunch money. Hojo was uncomfortably reminded of recesses at his old elementary school. Young children so seldom appreciate the genius of a prodigy among them. They do frequently like to point and laugh at it.

"Here, read this," Hojo ordered, grabbing a scientific journal off his desk and tossing it at the boy. Anything to stop Sephiroth from staring at him. Flashbacks to wedgies past were not good things to be having whilst talking your way through an audit, although Hojo had to admit they'd sort of be apropos.

In his haste, Hojo failed to notice the piece of paper clinging to the cover of the journal. Naturally, it was first thing the boy read. His reading abilities were already at a university level but they usually were squandered on reading university level textbooks. Stuff about chocobos sounded more interesting, though most of the words were slang terms he had never heard before and he had no clue who this Candi person was supposed to be.

Hojo skimmed through the remaining expense reports, oblivious. Sephiroth dutifully began to pretend to read the journal. He wasn't sure why Hojo was straying from the typical game of Strap the Helpless Child to the Exam Table and he wasn't about to press his luck. That could lead to a bonus round of Guess How Painful the Mystery Injection Will Be? when the game would eventually start. Still, something about the professor was off today – something more off than usual, that is.

An explanation arrived at noon, via two small men in beige-ish (tan and ecru to be precise) suits, one large man in ared suit and a man and a woman in navy blue suits. The Turks lingered by the lab entrance while the others headed towards Hojo's office, the large man waddling in a manner that was an ironic antithesis to the earlier Turk's entitled swagger. After all, the fat guy actually did own the place.

Hojo took advantage of President ShinRa's slow pace to mutter a stream of curses at his employer before affixing what he thought was an easy-going, friendly smile to his face. Sephiroth turned a shade paler (no mean feat for him) when he looked up from the journal and saw it.

"Nobody asked you," Hojo snarled. He did tone down the smile a notch to the point where Sephiroth looked like he might have been exposed to sunlight once in his life.

The first five minutes of the meeting were wasted on vacuous pleasantries. Hojo was always amazed, and somewhat depressed, by how fascinating the common man found discussions of the weather to be. He, being highly uncommon, was bored out his mind, but those two accountants could not get over the unusually high amount of rain Midgar had been receiving.

Go live under the plate, you troglodytes. It's where you belong and you won't see any kind of weather at all to perplex your miniscule minds.

One of them told what they considered to be a clever joke. Fat Man ShinRa rewarded him with a chuckle that managed to be good-natured and placating while simultaneously conveying the message, 'shut the hell up and get down to business'. It was a talent of his that made people remember why he was president.

Another talent was the ability to handle awkward situations. Accountant #1 finally noticed Sephiroth sitting in front of Hojo's desk and felt the need to point out how blind he had been by addressing him. "Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't see you there."

Because a seven-year-old child with silver hair down to his shoulders is so hard to spot in a well lit room.

"The boy is a guest here," President ShinRa said in a way that didn't explain a damn thing but nonetheless sated the accountants' curiosity about such things as why a lab would play host to a boy and what was up with the color of his hair, anyway? The accountants knew all too well the items that routinely appeared on expense reports filed by the Turks. Even the dullest of their number had sufficient imagination to gather what these items were used for and on whose behalf they were used.

The Turks never got audited.

Hojo contemplated this fact. Those who had gotten on the wrong side of his temper knew he could be as threatening as any simple Turk. More so. In man to man competition with a Turk, his score was one to a big, fat zero. Few people could claim similar success. Few people could also distract a Turk in a heated discussion on the ethics of human experimentation long enough to pull a gun on them, but that was beside the point. The score remained one to nothing.

He had been going about this in the wrong way. If the accountants feared him, they wouldn't dare bring anything to the president's attention. President ShinRa would still have the occasional fit, but without any accountants fanning the flames, they would be fewer and farer between. He could probably take care of most of them at the ShinRa board meetings.

Originally, Hojo hadn't wanted the accountants to set foot in his lab. Now, he planned on showing them everything. He so hoped nobody had cleaned up what was left of the specimen in tank five.

"It occurs to me gentlemen, that it has been quite some time since your last visit," Hojo said brightly. "Perhaps I should show you around the laboratory so you can gain first hand knowledge of the value of my work." He grinned again, his new enthusiasm coloring this one with a touch of macabre that Sephiroth didn't even have to see; he blanched on instinct.

The accountants thought it was a marvelous idea. The President regarded Hojo warily, as if he knew his top scientist was up to something but curious to see what it was. The man was capable of putting on quite a show.

Hojo escorted the group of men out of his office. "You will stay put and not put a finger on anything," he barked back to Sephiroth.

The boy didn't need to be told twice. His sense of well-being always increased in proportion to his distance from Hojo. He wasn't about to follow after the lunatic. The Turks escorting the President were still at the lab entrance too and weren't likely to respond to any mad dashes for freedom on his part with good humor. They never did. Besides, Hojo had left some substantial loopholes in his instructions.

Hojo turned out to be an excellent tour guide, very hands-on. Accountants #1 and #2 both got to hold vials of a poison that was odorless and tasteless yet so deadly, a drop of it in your morning coffee would cause your intestines to melt into black goo by lunch. Then it was off to the cages where the test animals were kept. There, Hojo demonstrated the dangers of having less than the best of equipment by popping the latch on a cage containing a zenene which had miraculously acquired an additional razor sharp claw laden paw during its stay here. As luck would have it, Accountant #1 was standing right by the cage and was able to slam it shut before the zenene shredded more than the lapel of his suit jacket.

This riled the Turks a bit, but President ShinRa waived them off. When Hojo was on, he was on. The President did feel some pity for the hapless accountants, but his amusement at their expense far outweighed it. In a crisis of conscious, the devil on his shoulder generally handed the angel on his shoulder its ass.

Tank five and the vivid sights and smells therein were next. The tour came to a shrieking halt at this stop. Accountant #2 suddenly developed a need to violently throw-up everything he had eaten in the past year.

"Oh, dear," Hojo said as the man sprinted for the bathrooms. "I hope what he has isn't contagious."

Accountant #1 did look queasy and even President ShinRa had his limits. Devil and angel both had vacated their perches, clutching their stomachs and only able to whisper 'skip lunch today' as advice.

"I believe we've seen enough for now," the President announced. Accountant #1 shook his head in assent as vigorously as his nausea would allow before chunkage would be blown.

"But there's so much to go over." Hojo managed to sound partially sincere, which was hard to do considering the devil on his shoulder was doing a victory jig. Hojo no longer had an angel. After staging multiple, but alas futile, protests, it had packed its bags and found an easier job on the shoulder of a corporate lawyer.

Accountant #1 gurgled that he had reconsidered his initial assessment. "Clearly, I didn't have an understanding of the…unique…work you do here. I will take that into account in the future."

Hojo graciously accepted the news. "I'm so glad we were able to reach an understanding."

The accountant was glad to be able to get the hell out of there. He didn't even wait for his co-worker to emerge from the bathroom before leaving. Granted, that was going to be a while as Accountant #2 still had his arms wrapped around his new porcelain friend and had no intentions of saying goodbye anytime soon.

"Very clever, Hojo," President ShinRa praised. "But don't think this means I'll be giving you free reign with your budget."

"Of course not, Sir. I wouldn't presume to try." Because there were some sins against nature that even Hojo would not commit and trying to pry extra gil out of the President's hand was one of them.

"I don't mind paying for results, you know."

Yes, you do. Anyone who tells you they don't mind paying while handing over a check minds paying.

"However, I do expect those results to meet or exceed my expectations."

And with your limited vision, that's not terribly hard.

"And I do have such high hopes for my most expensive project." President ShinRa glanced meaningfully at Hojo's office.

Hojo bristled at the President's choice of possessives but covered for the motion by adjusting his glasses. "You won't be disappointed," he assured the other man. "Now that our friends have gone, you can make a thorough examination."

President ShinRa took up the offer. Really, it was for the best that Hojo had scared away the accountants. He hadn't yet decided what to tell them about the boy and what they doing with him. He had been leaning towards stating 'you never saw a boy' repeatedly while his Turk bodyguards stood behind him making slicing motions over their throats. The President had a weakness for the classics.

The men returned to an office that seemed to be precisely as they had left it. Sephiroth remained in his chair, affecting his trademark expression of apathy that would flare into antipathy whenever Hojo was the only person looking at him. It was a neat trick actually, going from passive to pissed and back again in an instant depending entirely on which set of eyes was on him. Hojo found it oddly impressive.

President ShinRa needed more than rapidly changing facial expressions to be impressed however. Hojo had his pick of things to use to accomplish that. He thought he'd dazzle the President first with displays of the boy's intellect. Aptitude test after aptitude test showed that Sephiroth was, in fact, the brightest bulb in the box. There had been some psychological profiles that indicated the bulb occasionally flickered but Hojo's shredder had argued quite successfully against those reports. He was gonna let that little light of his shine.

Hojo retrieved the relevant files from the cabinet beside his desk. He could have sworn some of the folders were out of their usual order but dismissed the idea. The cabinet had been locked. He owned the only key. Seven-year-olds do not know how to jury-rig a lock pick out of a letter opener and a paper clip.

President ShinRa read through the files, nodding appreciatively at the more amazing academic achievements. "I didn't start taking calculus until college."

"It's difficult finding tutors that can keep up with him," Hojo boasted, taking pride in his work. It didn't occur to him give accolades to the boy who was actually posting the high marks. You don't pat your prize rose bush on the head because you worked so hard to make it grow so well.

"He's only worked with tutors then? It would be interesting to see how he'd fare in a school setting, with children his own age."

Interesting? Hojo thought it would be repulsive. He did not want Sephiroth thrown into the school system for the same reason he didn't store test samples in a dumpster - contamination. Mediocrity could be insidiously contagious and he did not want the plebes of public education getting their germs all over his precious specimen. "I hadn't considered that," he said slowly. And I never will.

To keep the President's mind off the matter, Hojo gave him more files to peruse. These covered the boy's physical prowess. Again, the two men had no compunction against discussing everything as if he wasn't there. Sephiroth didn't mind. Hojo ignoring him was vastly preferable to Hojo paying attention to him.

"These test results are impressive," President ShinRa concluded, "But I'm not without my concerns. I mean, look at him. He's so pale."

Hojo couldn't argue with that. Short of stuffing the boy on a tanning bed and leaving him there for a week, he doubted whether there was anything he could do about it too. He could try letting him out of the ShinRa building once and while as well, but Hojo didn't see any need to take drastic measures. "It's just his natural skin tone. It hardly affects anything."

"Apparently, but he has such a sickly pallor."

"Yes, well – "


The President looked at Sephiroth in surprise. Hojo did the same in annoyance.

That is not funny, boy.

Sephiroth coughed again, adding a sniffle at the end. The lab techs around here came down with all kinds of unusual illnesses to imitate (something that probably, if they were ever allowed to form a union that could make such demands, should be looked into).

Cough one more time and I'll use the big needles for your next injection.

Sephiroth did not cough again. Instead, he approximated a sneeze. It wasn't bad for his first attempt but it didn't come close to fooling Hojo.

President ShinRa, on the other hand… "Is he coming down with something?"

"I don't know," Hojo said menacingly. "I think I'll run extensive blood tests to find out."

Sephiroth's one-minute cold was promptly cured, keeping his score at zero while the evil bastard scientist added yet another point to his already incalculable total. It made him wish he had dumped more of that white powder he had found in the cabinet labeled 'biohazard' into Hojo's coffee pot.

It was a moot point anyway. Hojo was too busy to indulge in his caffeine addiction. He and the President reviewed file after file. Eventually, Hojo began working in his long term plans (and the budget required to execute them) for the boy, following the time honored tradition of employee tossing out leading suggestions and letting his boss arrive at their inevitable conclusions. A person wouldn't know how much it pained Hojo to say "Excellent idea, Sir" from how much the phrase got a workout. But it was getting the job done, and done well, which kept him from having to make the used car dealer style sales pitch.

"All this talking makes me want a drink," the President said after approving another million gil being shuffled over to the science department.

Hojo didn't have any of the kind of drinks the President had in mind but there was some coffee left in the pot he had brewed this morning. Feeling generous because of the progress he'd made, he even offered to warm it up. He poured out what was left into a clean mug and took it over to the small microwave he kept in his office. Hojo caught an acrid odor as he shut the microwave door, which he didn't really process until after he punched the start button.

Sephiroth's face betrayed no emotion as recalled what he had been taught of chemistry and thought, This could be interesting.

And it was. For you see, heat can catalyze the most fascinating chemical reactions.


The stench in Hojo's office lingered despite the efforts of the specialized crew brought in to sterilize the place. It had taken them two solid days of lathering every last surface with an absorbent foam, rinsing it off and repeating before it was deemed safe for humans to enter without wearing a fifty-pound containment suit.

President ShinRa was still laid up in the hospital. His doctors were keeping him under observation, possibly because they were in awe of the medical miracle of the man having lost his appetite. Hojo had been released after only a day, possibly because his doctors couldn't stand him being their patient for one moment longer. The boy escaped unscathed. He even seemed happy (or as close to happy as he got) about the incident. Hojo thought he had heard Sephiroth saying something under his breath about finally getting a point after the trio had fled the toxic cloud that had consumed the office.

On the bright side of things, the President didn't blame Hojo for what happened. The scientist had concocted an unlikely scenario involving the ventilation system, storage units and unpaid interns as the likely cause. He had made no mention of being suspicious of the boy. Hojo had tossed a great deal of jargon and pontifications on the adage 'you get what you pay for' about the interns into his mea culpa to President ShinRa, who had been too whacked out on medication to do much beyond nod along.

In his delirium, he also signed off on the science department receiving additional funds to remedy the invented problems. This consoled Hojo a bit as he huddled under a pile of blankets in the discomfort of his living room couch, snacking on the antibiotics that had become his diet as of late.

Really though, he should have no need of consolation. Hojo had achieved a stunning win in the battle against the accountants – if one put aside the migraine headache he had had since being kicked out of the hospital, the excruciating pain he had experienced when he last used the bathroom, the deep chill that had settled into all parts of his body and the idea that Sephiroth had tried to kill him. Yep, take away all those things and he was truly triumphant.

He'd take his victory laps later. Right now, opening his eyes was a chore. From a collection of bottles on his coffee table, he found a sedative that wasn't likely to fatally interact with the pills he was already on and downed it with a glass of water. Soon, he drifted into a slumber filled with pleasant dreams of a very repentant silver-haired boy, syringes and a big, honkin' vat of Mako.


Author's Notes: The author would like to point out she has nothing against either accountants or scientists. Her brother is an accountant and her best friend majored in biology. Alas, no hot, silver-haired lab specimens have entered the author's life. Pooh.