Rude was shocked. He had not expected that kind of reaction out of Reno. As he stared him down on the rooftop, Rude could not find any words to even begin to deny anything. Standing to the side was Alexander who also appeared to be somewhat in shock, though he got over the initial surprise quickly.

"Reno, not now! We need Nernst."

Out of the corner of his eye, Rude could see Nernst looking increasingly smugger and more relaxed while Reno remained scowling. He should have been concerned about convincing his partner that he was innocent. However, all he could currently think about was how much he did not want to be on Reno's bad side in a fight. Tensing, waiting for Reno to make good on his threat and pounce him, Rude felt his stomach twist into uncomfortable knots as he held his breath. Before he could fully exhale, he faintly registered that Reno lunged forward. It was only due to years of trained reflexes that he instinctively darted sideways, out of the way of Reno. He heard an odd screeching noise then.


As he regained his balance, he saw Reno collide with Nernst and they both tumbled towards the edge of the roof. Even though he was not sure why Reno went right past him, he would deal with it later. Right now, it was as if the light bulb finally turned on and he suddenly turned his attention towards Steve who was distracted by the sudden change in atmosphere and the wrestling match occurring between former partners at the edge of the roof.

Taking the opportunity of distraction, Rude grabbed Steve's arm and twisted with as much force as he could muster. Of course, it was only natural for Steve to yell and attempt to move his body with the direction his arm was heading. As he did, Rude used his free arm to wrap around Steve's neck in a headlock and kicked at the joint behind the kneecap. Steve was quickly brought to his knees while remaining in Rude's death grip around his neck. He was about to ask Alexander to call for back up or something when he suddenly felt a sharp pain in his upper arm. The sudden sensation caused him to loosen his headlock on Steve, which was more than enough for him to kick behind him and roll away.

Rude staggered as he felt his arm where the pain was coming from. He felt the handle of a small throwing knife. Grunting in pain, he yanked the blade from his arm. Fortunately, it was not that deep, but it still stung more than Rude would ever admit to anybody. However, it still caused him to curse to himself when he registered who the blade belonged to.

"Back away Rude!"

Sure enough, Scott was standing at the rooftop entrance holding a fistful of knives at ready. Steve backed away from Rude who was now very confused as to what side everybody was on. Was Scott helping Steve because he was a traitor as well, or was it because he thought Rude was the bad guy attacking his partner? As these questions churned in his head, Rude slowly stood up so as to not give Scott a reason to throw more sharp objects at him.

"Scott! Rude is with Nernst! Take him down!"

Why was everybody accusing him of being aligned with Nernst? Rude opened his mouth to say something but before he could, he saw the edge of Alexander's blade against Scott's throat. By now, Steve sufficiently recovered and had his gun drawn and aimed at Rude. Scott stared at Steve, then Rude. Next, he looked out of the corner of his eye at Alexander.

"You're with him?"

Scott still held firm to his blades though he was being cautious with Alexander's blade pressed against his throat. Meanwhile, Alexander seemed slightly perplexed.

"Wait, which 'him?'"

For a few tense moments, all of them just stared at each other. Rude was faintly aware of Reno and Nernst still fighting in the background, but right now, his attention was focused on determining who was who. In the midst of going over the turn of events in his head, Rude suddenly felt the air knocked out of him. As he attempted to remove the object that had obstructed his airway, he felt it squirm. He forced his eyes to focus and he saw Reno sprawled on top of him looking a little dazed. However, that did not stop him from being loud.

"Scott, ya senile dumbass! Steve's with Nernst!"

"I am not senile, you little punk and I…wait, he is?"

Reno managed to get off of Rude and attempted to regain his balance. While doing so, he growled in frustration.

"What are ya doin' here? I thought I said stay put!"

Even though Alexander still had his katana held to Scott's throat, he still waved his arms in a frustrated manner as he yelled back at Reno.

"I came because Steve's my partner and why are you here?!"

"Commander told me to!"

They began yelling back and forth at each other, which made Rude idly wonder about Scott's true age if he was in the midst of such a childish yelling match. While they were focused on the argument, Nernst managed to drag himself to his feet after having been kicked in the head none to gently by Reno. He shook his head a couple of times before turning his attention to all the noise. Rude saw Nernst stand up and made a move to attack him when he heard the cocking of a gun. During the confusion, he had forgotten about Steve still pointing a gun in his direction.

"It doesn't matter! Whose side are ya on?"

At some point, Reno had managed to position himself between Rude and Steve even though his attention was still on Scott. Rude was curious as to what Reno was planning on and whether or not he still thought Rude was with Nernst. Even though logic was telling him not to trust what Reno was doing or going to do, Rude decided to pull a Reno and throw logic out the window. When he came to that decision, Scott also came to his.


With that, Reno sprinted and dove for Steve. When he heard the gunshot and felt no impact, Rude darted straight for Nernst. Too tired and confused to care about form, Rude just relied on momentum and his size to take down Nernst. Sure enough, physics came through for him and Nernst was sent flying across the roof and onto the floor. Rude was happy that Nernst had not rocketed off the edge of the building since he realized he was already close to the edge when Rude slammed into him. It would be an even worse way to end the already bad day if their main culprit accidentally died because he went splat on the ground.

Seeing as Nernst was not getting up too fast, Rude walked over to him and was about to reach down and grab him when he felt something whiz by his head. He turned his attention to where it came from and it was a good thing he did. Another object flew towards Rude and forced him to back away from Nernst.

"Make up your freakin' mind!!"

Reno was currently grappling with Steve on the ground, and yelling at Scott who was preparing to throw more of his knives. Steve maneuvered around and pinned Reno resulting his head to crack against the ground. A short distance away, Alexander was just beginning to stand up. He had lowered his katana once Scott claimed to be on their side, then, out of nowhere, Scott whipped around and punched him as hard as he could. Rude could see the cracks in Alexander's glasses.

"Excellent! I knew you would see it our way!"

By now, Nernst had picked himself off the ground, though he was holding his nose. A small trickle of blood dribbled though his fingers and Rude was happy to know he had broken his nose. Nernst spit out some blood as he slowly backed away. Again, Rude began to move forward, but once again had to back up to avoid the small blade whizzing by his face. Alexander was about to take down Scott when he suddenly whipped around and sent a set of knives at him. Bringing his sword up, Alexander deflected the blades, but it was too late. When he threw knives at Alexander, he threw some more at Reno who most likely did not feel like becoming a pincushion. He rolled away, managing to avoid the blades while Steve bounced up and ran towards Nernst followed closely by Scott. With a triumphant smirk, Nernst pointed at Reno who was glaring pointedly at him.

"Scott, ya know this means we get to kill ya on sight now, right?"

He looked like he wanted to say something, but instead he turned his head away dejectedly. Nernst seemed to not care as he pointed at Reno.

"Things are falling apart all around you, Reno. You even believed your partner betrayed you!"

"Yer a real dumbshit, ya know that, right?"

This caused Nernst to change his expression to one of suspicion. Now, it was Reno's turn to smirk.

"I wasn't talkin' about Rude. The guy's too straight-laced. You just happened to be standing behind him and I'll be honest, I can't see worth a damn around the guy."

Rude felt neither relief nor anger. He just wanted this farce of a showdown to end. But, before any of the remaining Turks could do anything, Steve tossed a small object at them and then there was a blinding flash.

When Rude was able to see properly again, Nernst, Scott, and Steve were already gone. He cursed under his breath as he closed his eyes and plopped on the ground. He heard Alexander making a frustrated growl and Reno being oddly silent. Opening one eye, Rude looked around to see Reno standing at the edge of the building rooftop staring across the slums and frowning.

"Sorry 'bout that…"

Reno walked over to where Rude was sitting and sat down across from him. Rude watched him carefully as he attempted to process what had just occurred. While he was thinking, Alexander joined them in sitting. They remained silent and just heaved a giant sigh. Finally, Alexander looked questioningly at Reno.

"So what was that all about?"

"Eh?...Oh, that. It's just like I said. Not my fault I can't see around ya."

He pointed at Rude, who felt like nothing more than an object at the moment, before continuing.

"I never really got the chance to say that to Nernst, so I figured I might as well say it now and OW!"

Quick enough to surprise even Reno, Rude whapped him on the head with his fist. Reno grabbed his head and rocked back and forth. A small smile crept onto Alexander's face.

"Serves you right…but you never doubted Rude?"

"Pfft. No. Why would I fall for that retarded kind of trick? Might have worked had Rude not looked like an iced chocobo caught in the headlights. Besides, I OW!"

Once again Reno was clutching his head and growling profanities at Rude who looked far too satisfied with himself. Alexander could not help but chuckle some more. Reno glowered at Rude.

"I was going to say it was a good chance to get Nernst off guard. Always was a weak point."

Alexander smiled.

"Yes, partnered with you…Heh, you two made quite the ADD pair."

Before Reno could lunge over to hit Alexander for his comment, he brought his sheathed katana down on Reno's head eliciting an angry yelp.

"…So, how do we explain this little faux pas to the Commander?"

Both Reno and Rude dropped their heads as they thought about it. Rude sighed and was truly concerned about it. Veld did not seem to want too much out of them except professional work and positive outcomes. With the whole fiasco with Nernst and the still unknown terrorists, the Turks, and Rude felt himself, were letting the commander down in every sense of the term.

"Who knows? I'm sure he ain't gonna be happy, but he's reasonable."

Reno rubbed the back of his neck almost nervously as if he was not quite sure about that comment. Whatever the case, they could not sit there forever so finally, Alexander stood up with a grunt and dusted off his suit.

"I agree with you, Reno. Now, we best return. I also have to explain why my PHS was lost in the first place."

Without any more words to Rude or Reno, Alexander strolled to the door and began descending the stairs. Rude listened to the echoing steps gradually fade away and sighed again as he looked over at his partner.

Reno was staring at the floor intently though Rude could not make out too much since Reno's red hair hung over his face like a curtain. He had not realized it earlier, but at some point, Reno's goggles were lost and now his already unkempt hair hung every which way. Rude did not know how he did not find having half his hair in his face. Before he shaved his head, Rude had already determined hair to be an unnecessary nuisance, not to mention the fact he hated how it felt when it got in his face.

"Bastard broke my goggles…"

He shook his head wildly, flipping his hair in all directions only to have it settle back in front of his face when he remained still. Rude watched him continue to blow at the stray hair that sometimes clung to his mouth. Growling in frustration, Reno raked his hands through his hair furiously and tugged on the ends a bit before letting go. It did not fix much except force some of it to lay down flat and part the hair in the front.

"Sometimes I think you got the bald thing right."

Satisfied as much as he could be, Reno grudgingly stood up and stretched.

"Wanna head back now?"

Better now than never. Nodding his head once, Rude also stood up and dusted off his suit. After making sure it was in order, he followed behind Reno who did not seem all that eager to leave considering he was taking the steps down awfully slow. While they were walking down the stairs, Rude grabbed his upper arm. During all the fighting, the adrenaline in his body made it easy to forget the dull, aching pain in his upper arm. But now that the fighting was over and the adrenaline was replaced with a heavy tiredness, Rude was uncomfortably aware that he was lucky Steve did not use one of his larger throwing knives. When he pulled his hand away, it felt vaguely sticky and guessed the blood had already coagulated. So now all he was left with was a sticky pain.

"Sorry. Didn't bring any cure materia with me."

Rude was startled since Reno had never turned around once to look. He was sure he had not made any noise when he grabbed his arm. When they were on the second floor landing, Reno paused and smirked over his shoulder.

"I didn't fail to notice your pincushion status and my body aches like a bitch right now. Figured you had to be feelin' it too?"

Even though he remained silent he had the feeling Reno already picked up on that. He said nothing else as he continued down the stairs. Once again, they walked in silence, leaving Rude to his own thoughts. As always seemed to be the case, he was left studying his partner's back. Reno, despite admitting being in pain, did not really give any indication he was in any except for the slightly more sluggish way he walked. Of course, to anybody else it looked like a normal, not twitchy pace, but for Rude, he could tell he was tired. When Reno pushed open the stairwell door, Rude was greeted by the buzz of neon lights and pedestrians littering the dirty streets.

"Damn…even in this junky neighborhood it's busy. Guess they didn't hear the commotion…or didn't care…or were too scared…That's good though. No crowd control work."

After his eyes adjusted to the new lighting, Rude looked around. Sure enough, people were walking around like nothing out of the ordinary had happened despite the gunshots and screaming. Then again, gunshots and screaming were probably nothing new to most of the people living below the plates. Rude scoffed at the idea of creating the plate system as a way for everybody to get equal benefits while maximizing the carrying capacity. He was no engineer, but even he could see it was not going to help anybody except those with enough money to make their living on the top.

"Ya comin'?"

Reno was already a good deal ahead of him waving him over. Rude increased his pace to catch up with his partner. As he walked towards him, he noticed a small trail of blood droplets. Just as he approached, Reno continued walking without a word though began wiping his hand on his pant leg. It was just enough for Rude to make out a small trail of blood leaking from under his jacket sleeve. However, before he could ask if he was alright, Reno began grumbling.

"Dammit…I'm gonna get yelled at for ruining another suit…blood stains aren't so bad, but these tears ain't gonna be fixed by needle and thread."

He looked over his shoulder and scrutinized Rude.

"Well, at least I ain't the only one in need of a new suit…though the grunge look looks pretty bad on ya. OW!"

For the fourth time that day, Reno clutched his head and glared indignantly. Rude just shrugged and kept walking. He heard grumbling from behind him and knew Reno was now following behind him. They walked to the railway station and Rude easily ignored the odd, furtive glances cast his way. It was odd enough to have a couple of Turks roaming about, let alone a couple of bleeding and beat up looking ones. Though Rude just pushed them out of sight and out of mind, Reno was not as willing to put up with it. Thankfully, he kept his mouth shut, but with a single moment of eye contact from him caused everybody even faintly nearby to find a reason to move just a little bit farther away and discover how interesting their shoes could be. Rude gave him an unenergetic reproving glare to which Reno answered with a casual shrug.

In no short amount of time, the train leading to the upper level arrived and everybody gave them wide berth when they passed by. Despite the amount of crowding in the other cars, the space around Rude and Reno was awkwardly empty. Seeing as nobody was even going to try and take a seat nearby, Rude plopped down in one of the seats across from Reno who was already lounging across a couple of seats. They rode in silence until their stop came and they both made soft moans of protest at having to move from their spot. Reno was the first one off the car followed closely by Rude. When they stepped off, they were greeted by an eager Cissnei who immediately spotted them and ran over.

"Wow, you really do look bad. I figured you might want a ride back?"

"You are a saint."

Rude could not agree any more. He followed behind Cissnei who led them to a nondescript black car. She waltzed to the driver's side and opened the door.

"Oh, try not to get blood on my upholstery."

Rude and Reno shared an amused look before getting in and immediately relaxing. Of course, they were also both careful not to get any blood on the upholstery. Rude looked over at Reno who kept rubbing his hand against his pants in an effort to keep the trickle of blood from getting all over. Finally, he growled in frustration and clamped a hand over his shoulder. Heaving a sigh, he reclined back in his seat and shot Rude a questioning glance. Rude shook his head. There was no reason for him to be concerned seeing as how Reno was just making a fuss of things as per usual.

"Okay, we're back!"

The car pulled to a stop in front of the service elevator in the parking garage, much to the relief of Rude. There were many things they could get away with, but walking through the front lobby looking a little worse for wear was most likely not one of them. Cissnei waited for them to reach it before pressing the button.

When they walked inside, Cissnei swiped her identification card through the reader and pressed the button for their floor. It hummed to life and soon they were stepping off and heading towards the commander's office. Reno sighed audibly, though there was no doubt Rude wanted to do so too, but of course, propriety forced him to keep it to himself. Cissnei knocked a couple of times and they were immediately given permission to enter.


Rude could tell Reno wanted to groan, but straightened up nonetheless and saluted, as did Rude. His voice came out in a rapid mumble, unenthusiastic and uncharacteristically detached.

"See, I followed Rude like you said and when I got there, Nernst was going on about whatever it is he talks about and I couldn't see around him. Now Steve, Alexander, and of course, Rude were already there doing whatever, and then, there was a bunch of yelling and Steve pulled my hair while Alexander was doing something or another then Scott was all going, like, one way then another, and then there was this bright flash and they went poof…and I think I lost brain cells."

All eyes turned towards Reno who stared back at each of them in turn with a blank stare. Under normal circumstances, he would have been severely berated. However, no matter how much of a protocol slacker he was, he would never be in the right state of mind to report to the commander of the Turks in such a manner. That only left him to not be in the right state of mind, or at least, not completely.

Even if the commander disproved or was surprised, he hid it well and simply turned to Rude.

"Care to clarify?"

Rude cleared his throat.

"I followed the distress signal and it led to Nernst on the roof. It appeared Alexander already engaged him. However, Steve turned on me and joined with Nernst. He had been the mole all along. Then Reno appeared and tackled Nernst while I attempted to deal with Steve, but Scott showed up as well and after clearing up confusion as to whom was on who's side, Scott chose to go with Nernst and Steve."

He took a deep breath when he finished and studied the commander for a reaction. The only readable expression Rude could determine was mild frustration. He had no way of knowing what or who Veld was frustrated with. Was it their failure to capture Nernst again or the loss of two more Turks to the terrorists? Or, was it something completely else?

After a pregnant pause, Veld leaned back in his chair and nodded his head slowly.

"Alright. It seems Scott's arrival was the added confusion?"

A nod from Rude let him know he was right.

"I see. Normally, I would tell both of you to get your act together if you want to keep your jobs…However, I'm not as unreasonable as to hold an uncontrollable circumstance against you. There was too much you didn't know going in and you did all you could…if judging from your appearances that is."

Rude could have collapsed from the relief he suddenly felt. It was a weight off his shoulders and one less thing for him to think about. He breathed much easier.

"Any questions, comments, or concerns?"

About to shake his head no, Rude was surprised when Reno suddenly spoke up. He only hoped he made a little more sense this time around.

"You wouldn't happen to have a cure materia on you by any chance, would you?"

As he spoke, he staggered a little bit before leaning forward and clutching the front of Veld's desk. Cissnei immediately moved forward to help, but Reno swatted her hand away causing her to huff a little bit.

"Never mind. I'm good. I'm good. All's good."

Staying calm, Veld casually leaned forward a bit and studied Reno's face a moment before resuming his reclined position.

"Cissnei, take care of Rude's injuries. Reno…Reno. Look, look at me. Focus."

With one hand Veld waved Cissnei away signaling she and Rude were allowed to leave. With his other hand, Veld kept his index finger extended and moved it back and forth in front of Reno's face slowly. Rude watched him a moment before Cissnei ushered him out of the office and down the hallway.

"I think Reno might have a concussion."

There was an inkling of regret at the back of Rude's mind for hitting Reno on the head multiple times when he might have had a concussion. But it was quickly erased when he thought about the entire day. For some reason he could not name, Rude was absolutely frustrated with how things had been progressing recently. He silently followed Cissnei down the hallway staring ahead of him but not actually looking at anything. He even ignored the few side glances he received from Cissnei who, for once, seemed at a loss for any meaningful words.

"Um, well, hold on a sec. I have some master level cure materia in my room."

Unaware to Rude, they had since arrived at Cissnei's apartment. He absentmindedly nodded to her as she unlocked the door and slipped inside. Rude leaned against the wall next to the doorway and crossed his arms. There was soft mumbling from within the apartment so Rude guessed Alexander was already back and had reported to Veld. After a little bit more hushed whispering, Cissnei reappeared with a small orb in her hands.

"I don't think it's that serious so I'll just use materia and that should be alright."

Rude nodded his head and tried to relax while she summoned the energy from the orb she held in her hands. A dull green light glowed from her hands and Rude immediately felt the skin around his injury healing. After the glow faded, Rude tentatively prodded his arm and only felt dry and sticky blood.


He was going to walk away after thanking her, but he stopped mid step when she called out to him again.

"It's never as bad as we think it is. Just keep looking forward."

Her words did not mean a whole lot to him at the moment, but he could not help, for a few moments at least, feel at ease with her encouraging smile and cheerful wave. Turning back around, Rude continued onwards to his own apartment. He fished around for his keys and unlocked the door with a little more force than was necessary, but he did manage to keep it under control when closing the door. Looking around, things were exactly like he left it and it felt like ages since he had seen it.

It may be his home from now on, Rude still could not quite get used to the feel of the place. Granted, he had not been working for ShinRa that long, but it still should not feel like walking into another person's, a stranger's, home.

Peeling off his jacket, Rude draped it over his arm as he made his way to his room. Shutting the door behind him, Rude tossed it to a corner of the room and continued onwards to the bathroom. He immediately started the water running in the shower and while it was heating up, he leaned forward against the counter and studied his reflection in the mirror.

With only a few places covered in dirt or grime, he actually looked in decent shape despite how he might have felt inside. He sighed rubbed his hand over his face roughly before running it over his head. Deciding that just standing around was doing nothing, he quickly undressed and took a long hot shower. Even after cleaning up, he just stood under the spray for a while letting it work out the stiffness in his muscles. After staying in long enough to create his own sauna, Rude reluctantly turned off the water and dried off.

Though he felt better after cleaning up, he still felt uncomfortable. Growling in frustration as to what was making him so irritable, Rude grabbed another suit from the closet and quickly dressed in it. As he was beginning to knot his tie, Rude suddenly paused and looked down at the plain black tie in his hands. Not quite sure why he was staring so intently at the simple tie, Rude continued to do so without much of a thought in his head before slipping it off and tossing it on top of his bed along with his jacket. Feeling much more comfortable, Rude stepped out of his room and upon entering the living room, he looked around and studied it.

Everything was in its particular place, clean, and annoying. There was no logical reason for Rude to feel annoyed at the furniture, since they had no choice as to where they were placed, and Rude knew it too. This just added to his mounting frustration at something. Whenever he was ever feeling worked up, he used to just go to the gym or training room and work out the pent up energy, however, he was still too tired physically and mentally to do with it. On top of it all, he would most likely run into other people and right now he was feeling particularly reclusive.

Shaking his head in an illogical attempt to clear it, Rude strode to the refrigerator and pulled out a beer from the seemingly endless supply. With little ceremony, he tore off the cap to the bottle and dropped himself onto the couch. He knew he should be drinking water right now and definitely not drinking something like alcohol that only served to dehydrate him further than he knew he already was. Before taking another deep gulp, he contemplated the bottle a bit before shrugging. Hydration be damned. Taking another giant gulp from the bottle, Rude wished he had something stronger on hand.

It did not take much for him to polish off the rest of the alcohol. He wanted another one, but he did not want to put forth the effort of getting up, walking over, and grabbing another. So instead, he left himself to sulk. Again, Rude tried to figure out why he felt so exhausted yet still so agitated. His leg lightly and rapidly bounced up and down as he reviewed over the events of the day, trying to pinpoint exactly what was bother him so much. Too lost in his thoughts, he did not hear the door open and close with little care.

"Did ya know I still get freakin' carded when I buy this stuff?"

Trying not to put too much effort into it, Rude looked over his shoulder to see Reno holding a skinny paper sack. He tore away at it and pulled out a large bottle of what Rude determined to be vodka. It was about time somebody around here knew what real alcohol was. Reno slinked over to his usual armchair and unceremoniously dropped himself on to it. Waiting for no invitation, he twisted the cap and set it on the armrest. Then, he took a large shot of the clear liquid and grimaced a bit before taking another swig. The bottle was then passed over to Rude who grabbed it without a word and also took a large gulp from it. He too made a bit of face at the initial burning sensation at the back of his throat but was enjoying every moment of it. He passed the bottle back to Reno who rolled his head to the side in order to look at Rude. Somewhere in his tired mind, Rude noted that Reno appeared a bit more focused but did not really care.

"What's wrong with you?"

Rude grunted in response to the question not particularly interested in having a conversation right now, especially one about his new wave of irritability.


There was silence for a few minutes before Rude had to cringe again.

"What's wrong with you?"


He eyed Reno suspiciously, daring him to ask again. Either Reno did not notice or just simply chose to be ignorant of Rude's warning glare.

"What's wrong with you?"

His hands balled into fists and he clenched his teeth together. Rude could feel a vein throbbing in side of his head as he stared at his partner. The minute he saw Reno open his mouth to talk, Rude jumped in instead.

"You. You're my problem."

With that, he huffed and crossed his arms and looked forward. He heard something akin to a chuckle from Reno and immediately whipped his head around to face him. Sure enough, Reno had an amused smirk on his face as he continued to lazily meet Rude's glare.

"That so? Why? Ya still mad about me not helpin' earlier? Or are ya mad about the rooftop incident?"

Something snapped in Rude. Without warning, he lunged forward from his seat and grabbed Reno by the collar. He wanted to say something, but in his anger, he was having difficulty finding appropriate words and he did not need Reno laughing at him if he said something stupid.

"You…why do they…it's not fair."

He tried to take deep breaths to calm down but found he was unable. Every time he tried it became stuck in his throat. Instead he just kept a hold on Reno, completely disregarding the fact that his partner was hovering above the ground with the height differences.

"Ryoko, Todd…Scott and Steve…"

While he was trying to find the right words to say, Reno started chuckling again. Rude kept him in his hold to keep them eye to eye.

"Is that it? Don't take it personally, Big Guy."

To say the least, Rude was surprised by Reno's words. He slowly let go of Reno resulting in him dropping to the floor and trying to catch his balance. When he did, he held up the hand that was still holding the bottle of vodka as if making sure it was still in one piece.

"It's not like I don't trust ya or somethin', 'cause I do. I mean, more so than any other partners. Just had to be sure…One left and ya can see how well that's gone over so far."

Reno swirled the liquid in the bottle a bit before taking a large swig from it and smacking his lips in satisfaction. However, his smirk seemed a bit too bitter to be the usual. Rude heaved a deep sigh as he collapsed backwards into the couch while Reno remained standing staring at the half empty bottle of liquor.

"…I shouldn't care, ya know...Ah well, that's how things are always goin'."

In a similar fashion, Reno dropped into the armchair and held the bottle out for Rude.

"If it helps any, I'm positive ya won't change."

Change what? Rude lost his motivation to pry further and the sudden irritability and anger were replaced by an even heavier tiredness. Then again, the booze was not probably helping matters. However, he still processed the words he did hear and did not know what he thought about it. He did know, though, that he felt much more at ease now. There were still unanswered questions and suspicions, but for now, he was satisfied with how things were. When he finished taking a swig of the vodka, Rude noticed that the bottle was considerably lighter now. Not caring how well his partner's coordination was, Rude tossed the bottle towards Reno who fumbled a bit, but still caught it nonetheless.

As he tiredly studied his partner, Rude noticed that Reno was still in his ratty suit. Through the buzz of alcohol, he was vaguely able to make out the reason Reno had been bleeding earlier. There was a tear in his suit jacket in a circular pattern. The gunshot Steve aimed at him ringed in Rude's head before he shook it and sighed.

"You were shot."

It came out more obvious and a little more slurred than he thought it would, but Reno understood still.

"Yeah…Did ya know I don't like getting' shot?"

"I don't either."

"No kiddin'?"

Once again, Reno tipped the bottle back and took another large gulp. There was now little left in the bottle, about one more shot worth. He swirled it around a bit before tossing it over to Rude.

"Be my guest."


Rude sloppily saluted with the bottle before downing the remaining alcohol in a single go. Now that the bottle was empty, it served no more purpose, so Rude tossed it to the end of the couch. He and Reno sat in amiable silence, the kind only achieved through mutual drunkenness. However the silence was broken by Reno who chuckled, or drunkenly giggled.

"See, we had one of those, uh, things…ya, things…whuzzit called?"


Reno now looked confused.


They both had perplexed expressions on their faces until Rude suddenly sat up straight.


Immediately after stating the word, Rude slouched into the couch again having wasted too much on that energy consuming feat. Now Reno was grinning.

"Yeah, that thing…Catharsisssss…But without all that emo, angst, cryin' thingy."

Somewhere in the back of Rude's rapidly failing mind, he wanted to mention that those three things more or less made up a cathartic event, but screw the voice of logic. It made reality suck. Rude just nodded his head like he was carrying a weight on top of it.

"Good…Cartharsis s'pposed to be good."

Reno also drunkenly nodded his head and adjusted his position so he was pressed even further into the recliner.

"Yup, also a funny word."

For some reason, of which Rude would later blame on the alcohol coursing through his veins, he found that word amusing as well. He let out a deep chuckle that quickly faded away as he gradually lost the ability to keep his eyes open. The last thing he heard was his partner mumbling as he too drifted off into a dark sleep.


A/N: So I originally planned for this to be up when New Years rolled around. However, due to much movie watching and spinach artichoke dip, it did not get posted until late New Year's Day. Whatever. Point is, I updated. Go me. I felt sort of stupid for leaving it at that cliff hanger, if it even was a decent one. Retrospect aside, this chapter is much better written than the last one since I actually was concious this time around. :P More plot twists and drama, so I hope, abound in this chapter. And stupidity. Stupidity apparently goes hand in hand with stability. Then again, downing a bottle of vodka while exhausted and with an empty stomach and no water is a sure way to get drunk and stupid fast. ;D As for a catharsis, emotions, crying, etc. tend to go with experiencing a cathartic event. However, our good 'ole boys come off as emotionally stunted individuals (not that little side characters ever get too many emotions). So think of the catharsis as being relative and for kidnapping killers, this is probably as close to one as you'll ever get...makes you wonder what Rufus' would do during catharsis...probably go "hmph." and that would be the extent of it. ;P Okay, rambling ending now and I will finish by saying what I always say. I hope you enjoyed the story and let me know if you have any questions, comments, concerns, etc. Happy reading and Happy New Years!