"Reno! Get off my bar!"

Rude winced as he heard a crashing sound, but he didn't turn around. He didn't need to when he could guess what happened just from Tifa's angry yelling and Reno's slurred voice saying, "I'm okay! I meant to do that!"

Rude took another slow drink from his mug, leaning back in the chair with a sigh. Yet another normal night, where they start out just planning to have a couple drinks, and Reno ends up getting thrown out by his ponytail for his outrageous behavior. He was considering pulling Reno out of the bar before Tifa kicked them out when the redhead's blonde boyfriend sat down in the chair next to him.

"You don't look too happy," Cloud said softly, sober, as always. He'd seemed more chipper than usual for nearly a month now- coincidentally, ever since he and Reno had finally decided to try something a little more complicated than their passive-aggressive love-hate flings.

"Do I ever appear happy?" Rude asked, and Cloud laughed softly.

"That's a good point," he said, glancing over at the bar, probably to make sure Reno wasn't causing any more trouble. Not that Cloud would have stopped him; he usually left that to Rude. "I don't see how you've handled him this long."

"You learn fast, working with him."

"I figured as much."

Another loud thud, and Rude glanced over his shoulder to see Reno leaning across the bar, trying to convince Tifa to give him another drink. She was having none of that, which wasn't really a surprise. Reno had obviously had far too much already, only two hours into the night.

"Maybe we should…"

Cloud chuckled. "Tifa can handle him. Let him have his fun."

Rude decided Cloud was right, and turned back to nursing his drink. Cloud continued to stare at Reno, smiling, though it was barely noticeable.

"So I'm assuming those tattoos on his face were a result of a night like this?" he asked Rude, and Rude smirked.

"Only one is a tattoo."

"Only one?"


Cloud paused, tilting his head. "You're going to have to explain that one, I think."

"It's a rather long story."

"I've got the time. And you're off duty."

Rude hesitated. He wasn't really fond of storytelling, but he knew if Reno told Cloud how everything had happened instead of him, it would be embellished and polished beyond recognition.

"Well…I suppose it started soon after I met him…"

Of all the Turks…of all the Shinra soldiers, even…they had to partner me with this idiot.

Rude glanced at the redhead again, who was intently studying the mission plan they'd been given, quiet for what seemed like the first time since they'd been introduced. Everything about the new Turk disgusted him; the obnoxious comments, the messy uniform, the flamboyant hair, the smartass attitude…without even opening his mouth, Reno had managed to make Rude madder than he'd been in years.

"Tuck in your shirt," Rude growled.

"Cut off your hair."


Reno looked up with a smirk. "Partners, right? I do somethin' for you, you do somethin' for me. I tuck in my shirt, you cut off your hair."

"What's wrong with my hair?" Rude asked, running a hand through the thick, dark brown curls on his head.

"It's ugly, yo."

"Would you rather I make my head into a beacon?" Rude pointed out, glaring pointedly at Reno's hair.

"You're not gettin' us off on a good foot, partner."

"Don't call me that."

Reno quirked an eyebrow. "Why not? Aren't we-"

"You're not my partner. You're a temporary replacement. Don't get any ideas."

Reno looked as if he was about to reply, but then the car pulled to a stop in the middle of an alley. Rude left the car, adjusting his collar and checking their surroundings.

"Teach him some discipline," he remembered President Shinra saying. "Give him some…refinement."

Right now, that task seemed impossible.

Reno got out of the car and stretched, his smooth skin looking even more pale in the dim light, and his bright blue eyes standing out more than ever. The young man was lanky, hardly intimidating, which made Rude wonder what talents he had that made him worthy of earning the title 'Turk'. So far he'd proven nothing to his 'partner'.

"You ready?" Reno asked Rude, breaking him out of his thoughts. Rude nodded, hitting the car twice, signaling the driver to take position to pick them up when the job was done.

"Let's go."

For the next few minutes, as they made their way toward the target, Rude thought Reno might actually be taking this mission seriously. He was focused, intense, moving quietly through the alleyways, and appeared to be psyching himself up for the kill.

Of course, that was wishful thinking.

"Why don't we just break in through a window? Won't they be guarding the doors?"

Rude snorted. "The mission plan says we're to break in through the back door."

"I saw the blueprints. If we use the office window on the east side, we'll only have to go through two rooms and upstairs instead of five."

"We have to stick to the plan."

"Could get done ten minutes early. You may be a suit, yo, but I know you don't wanna be here any longer than you have to."

Rude scowled. He remembered the blueprints; he knew Reno was right. Using the window seemed to be much faster, and less noticeable as well. It seemed odd that the plan didn't take that into consideration.

But Rude had never deviated from the mission plan in his year and a half of holding the title 'Turk'. The mission plan had never failed him. Why change now?

"C'mon," Reno said, stopping on the corner across the street from their target. "This whole thing is easy anyway. Shaving off a little time can't hurt."

Rude looked over at the building. All the lights were out, but he could see two shadowy shapes by the front door- guards. If there were guards at the front door, he was fairly certain there would be guards at the back door as well.

Maybe Reno was right. Maybe he should give the rookie the benefit of the doubt.


Reno grinned and slapped Rude on the back. "Knew you weren't that much of a tight ass," he said, starting across the street. Rude rolled his eyes and followed.

By the time he caught up Reno was at the window, studying the lock on it. Rude looked at it as well; a standard flip-lock, no alarms rigged on the window.

"Leave this to me," Reno said with a wink, pulling a knife out of his belt and setting the tip of it against the window. He used the inside of his wrist to lightly tap it till the glass cracked, a spider web design forming in the pane. He moved the knife to where two cracks intersected, tapped twice, and the small section fell out, clattering on the window ledge inside.

Both Turks froze. No sound came from inside.

Reno reached in and flipped the lock, then put his knife away and slid the window open, peering inside.

"There's a desk we can land on," he whispered, backing up. Before Rude could ask what the hell he was doing, the redhead took a running leap through the window, doing a rolling landing across the desk and landing on his feet on the floor. Rude gaped; the entire act had been nearly silent.

"Come on!" Reno hissed, and Rude moved toward the window, still a bit shocked. He clambered up and inside, with far less grace than the lithe Turk who went before him.

"Took you long enough," Reno said as Rude climbed off the desk. "You ready?"

Rude grunted and stepped forward- and immediately a shrill alarm began to ring.

Lasers. There were laser alarms rigged in this room, and he'd obviously stepped right into one.

Within moments Rude heard footsteps in the hallway, and he growled, sending Reno a lead-melting glare. Reno gave him a sheepish smile.

"Okay. So I can see why they wanted us to use the door. My mistake."

All hell broke loose. The door burst open and the gunfire started, and Rude ducked out of the way, dropping down behind the nearest desk. Reno did no such thing; Rude heard a metallic series of snaps, and then he looked up in time to see Reno aim a metal rod at their attackers and press a red button on the handle. Bolts of electricity left the end of it, there were some screams, then three distinct thuds.

He slowly stood up, looking first at the three bodies on the floor, then at Reno. The redhead was already moving, stepping over the still-twitching guards to the door.

"What the hell is that thing?" Rude hissed, following Reno.

"New experimental weapon. It's electromagnetic," Reno said, checking the hallway. "They wanted me to test it out."

"They gave you that? Willingly?"

"The stairs are down here, right?"

Rude sighed, then nodded. They found the stairwell and took it to the second floor.

Something isn't right, Rude thought. All that gunfire, and no one comes to check things out?

"We should withdraw. I have a bad feeling about this," he said softly, and Reno scoffed at him.

"This is a piece of cake. Kill the guy and leave. We can still do this," he said, walking up to the door where they'd been told their mark would be. Rude didn't even have a chance to object before Reno kicked the door open.

No one was in the room. Reno stepped inside without the slightest bit of caution, checking behind the door.

"What the hell-"

Suddenly, there was a bright flash of light, and everything went black.

"I hate you."

"Aw, come on, partner. It isn't that bad."

"Isn't that bad? Thanks to your bright ideas, I'm tied to a chair."

"I am too, if it's any consolation."

"It would be consolation if they'd just shot you."

The door opened and a man walked in- the man they'd been assigned to kill, accompanied by two guards. Terrence Fawke, that was his name, according to the mission plan. Fawke walked over to stand in front of Rude, a smirk on his face.

"I never expected Turks to be stupid enough to walk right into a trap," he said, and though Rude was tempted to blame Reno, he kept his mouth shut. The man circled around to Reno, where Rude could no longer see him since the chairs were back to back.

"We've been keeping an eye on you Turks for quite some time…haven't seen you around," the man said. "Must be a new hire. Guards, we'll take this one first."

The guards moved past Rude and untied Reno from the chair, and Rude heard the snaps and clicks of handcuffs and shackles being applied. The guards pulled a struggling Reno from the room, and Fawke started to follow, but hesitated next to Rude.

"I hope you weren't too fond of him," he said softly before continuing on out of the room. As soon as the door fell shut Rude began looking around, trying to pinpoint anything that could help him escape. He wasn't sure how long Reno could hold up to torture.

The room was small, dark, and sparse. There wasn't much of anything he could use to try and loosen or cut the ropes binding him, and nothing within reach, anyway. He scooted his chair a little, trying to get a look at the other side of the room.

A sudden scream of pain from down the hall broke his concentration. In some ways, it was a good thing; as long as Reno was screaming, it meant he wasn't giving in and telling them everything.

Rude thought he'd be ecstatic to know that the kid was getting what he deserved for messing up this mission so bad. Instead, he felt a bit panicked and rushed, desperate to get down there and help his fellow Turk. But these people knew what they were doing; there was no way to escape his current situation.

So all he could do was sit there and listen to the screams. He'd heard it before, in fact been the cause of such screams, but it was different when it was your partner making those sounds and you were helpless, unable to do anything about it.

He's not your partner.

It was nearly an hour before the screaming dropped off, then stopped completely. Minutes later the door opened and an unconscious, unshackled Reno was thrown to the floor of the room. He didn't even look alive.

"Him. Bring him," Fawke said, obviously furious as he gestured to Rude. Rude was untied, handcuffed, and shackled, and he took one last look at Reno before they dragged him from the room. There were no signs of life. Rude suddenly felt a pang of guilt at the last thing he'd said to Reno.

They led him into a different room and pushed him down into an odd looking chair- one that smelled vaguely of burning flesh. Fawke followed them in, his face red with anger.

"I'll give you one chance to make this easy for both of us, or you'll end up dead too," he snapped, standing in front of Rude. "He knew that Hojo is working for ShinRa now. We want to know what he's being paid to do."

Like I would know, Rude thought. I don't exactly converse with him over coffee.

"Answer the question!"

Rude lifted his chin, but said nothing.

"Fine. Maybe if I-"

Electricity hit Fawke hard, sending him flying backwards, through the window at the back of the room. The guards lifted their guns moments too late, and soon bolts of electricity took them down as well.

Reno walked through the door, weapon in hand, a smug smirk on his face. "Playing dead works far too well."

Rude's fist was practically leaving cracks in the glass as he took a swig of his beer. He'd been reprimanded, nearly demoted, and had his pay docked for his irresponsible behavior. And since Reno was a rookie, all he'd gotten was a stern talking-to.

It wasn't fair. Rude always followed the rules. If it weren't for that demon incarnate, the plan would've gone off without a hitch. Rude couldn't wait for the President to change his mind, to be given a new partner, one that was actually worth the time and effort to work with and wasn't so damn distracted by every shiny object on the side of the road.

"Someone told me you'd be here," a familiar voice said, but Rude didn't turn around to face the speaker.

"Go away."

"I just came to say sorry," Reno said, pulling up a chair. Rude looked skeptical.

"Sorry? You got me a strike on my record, a pay cut, and a lost chance at promotion, and you're sorry?"


Rude snorted, taking another long drink. He wasn't nearly drunk enough for this.

"Come on, let me make it up to you," Reno said, motioning for the bartender. "I'll buy you a drink. A few drinks. How's that?"

Rude scowled, but didn't object. Free alcohol was free alcohol.

And soon enough, he was completely plastered. It didn't take much for the charismatic redhead to get him drinking far too much, to the point of being unable to remember why he'd been mad in the first place. Also to the point of passing out.

The last thing Rude heard as the alcohol shut down his mind was the sound of a razor turning on, his ears ringing with that awful buzzing sound.