Hour – 0:00 – The hour of equilibrium

Projected Time Until Death: 23:12:39

"I can says the Red Man says I can the Red Man can he says can the Red Man?"

First he met his match following his eventual defeat at the hands of the ruthless flask

Projected…

Rejected… Injected…

Infected… Neglected…

Ejected…

Corrupted from the authority. This light's shining down but fades to black over me.

I've got a tendency to think outside the cube they say; a real critical analyst. The gearbox up top never stops working. Something of a perplexed but juxtaposed nature.

Who's to blame?

She is.

So popular.

The Queen.

Sitting alone all high and mighty, perched like a ravenous eagle.

An eagle? What's an eagle? Excuse me for that random stir of instability. The notion's upsetting.

"Reno? Play it."

Guess that's my cue. Like he said, I'm

Name: Reno.
Occupation: Professional facilitator/asshole, body entrepreneur and illusionist of making them disappear
Age: Old enough to consider you my illegitimate son. Sorry… I should also add 'daughter' in the spirit of avoiding the prospect of coming off as sexist.
Personality: In similar fashion to the other fine men and women in the justice department, I venture black and exercise authority with a depraved disposition. Mostly, I enjoy taking advantage of fresh ladies and violating their white confidence. It's something of a… power trip, knowing that the fear in those formerly innocent eyes was raped from them at my expense. Delicious.
Sad Fact: I can't remember the last time I went to bed with a woman sober.
Hate-O-Meter: 0/10. I can't hate myself. Are you kidding? I love being me.

I looked up from the board to glance at

Name: Tseng.
Occupation: Giving me orders I often don't like.
Age: Probably a lot younger than his features would indicate. That's what happens when you stress out too much… or take orders from someone named Shinra… or get impaled by genetically engineered nutcase in a soon to be shrinking temple.
Personality: Not the pestilence he's made out to be. Well… somewhat… Rumors have circulated that he likes having his way with cadet Turks as a sort of 'initiation' into the group. I can't say he's tried the same thing with me since he'd be missing a set of balls right now if he had.
Sad Fact: Continues to deny that he doesn't wish to penetrate Elena. Give it up already boss.
Hate-O-Meter: 3/10. Drives me crazy at times but I do love him… in that strictly professional business partner way.

"Paying attention? It's your move." He weaved a silver coin in and out of his fingers nonchalantly.

Right. My move.

Set pieces. Sink it. Go with the flow. Take him along like the trick daddy and one up him to show who the real player is. But he's got it all covered. Or does he? Not this time Tseng.

Not this time.

"You got it Boss man." After careful deliberation and mentally going through all the angles of the plane, I decided that moving my queen was the best course of action.

"That it?"

Let me think. Yes, I do actually exercise some degree of mental fortitude from time to time. "Solid."

He moved a bishop diagonally, right up next to my queen. "Yours again."

My eyes brushed past all the pieces, quietly digesting the chaotic mess on the checkered board. He was baiting me. I knew that he knew that I knew that he was baiting me. Does that make sense? Well it should.

An economic struggle of power. You have to shoot for spades.

One minute.

Two minutes.

"Okay." I calmly brought my knight out in front of his bishop, positioning myself for a kill.

"Sure?"

Wait. Why, was there something wrong? No. He was just playing with me. It was flawless, like the crystalline nature of the many fissures in a concrete block. A painted contradiction. "Yeeessss…"

He took a pawn with his rook. "Have a stint for you today."

Fear the worst. Fear the worst.

I glanced up expectantly. "Rude in?"

"No. Doing this alone."

I reiterate: Fear the worst.

Rook beats out pawn but loses to knight. It was foolproof. Couldn't lose. There were no drawbacks to this move. No consequences. I took it. "What's the job?"

Wait for it.

"You're going to be looking after Marlene and Denzel for Cloud and Tifa today."

I immediately reached for the flask of alcohol in my side pocket and opened it up…

…only to find it empty…

"Put that away Reno."

"Of all the times to be empty… Remind me to fill her up later." I gazed at it dejectedly before tucking it away.

"I want you sober for this one. Remember what happened the last time you had to watch someone and went on the bottle?"

I smirked, leaning back in my chair. "He was the one who said he wanted to feel the wind through his fingers and hair. How was I supposed to know he meant it literally."

Not an approving frown I spot on Tseng's face right now. Then again… since when is a frown approving?

Well… I suppose it could be approving if you were trying some order of reverse Turk psychology where we pretend to be your friends by smiling at you during an interrogation before mercilessly punching you in the face over and over till you bleed to death.

Wait… thinking back on that last thought, that actually made… no sense and had practically no connection to the point I was trying to make earlier about his frown either I suppose.

"Reno, focus!" Two wiry fingers snapped in front of my face.

The little brat and her just as bratty little friend? I didn't have an obligation to do any of this.

"I don't have an obligation to do any of this."

His steely eyes didn't leave mine for a good minute, piercing them acutely. "Don't think of it as an obligation, think of it as a favor. Besides, Rufus promised them he would send someone at such short notice." His eyes traveled back down to the board. "Knight Reno?"

"Knight." A favor? Me?

"They've done a lot for us and this planet Reno. We wouldn't be here right now if it wasn't for them."

Maybe Tseng was right. Maybe. Although I questioned his intelligence at times (no scratch that: all the time), I had to hand it to the pointy headed idiot and his friends for stopping that silver haired lunatic. I think it the whole mess all started when Sephiroth ran out of platinum colored hair dye. Absence of hair dye could do that to a man.

"Why me?" What was his next move? Come on Tseng, lay it out.

"Why not you?" He moved his rook past my queen, setting himself up for a kill. "Check." He glanced up.

Suffocated. Trapped. Distressed. Confused. Locked and caged within. My king was being threatened. My kinghood. Was that him or me? I, myself.

Hold on, wait. Let's just all make sure we're not talking about my penis here.

Follow? Good. Carrying on.

"Why can't the two love birds do it?" Yes it was that obvious. Everyone knew the story behind those two except the dense idiots themselves. Bunch of kids. I am of course, referring to the ladies Tiffany Lockhart and Cloud Strife.

King moves away from the pack. From the swarm. To safety. Isolated sanctuary. Underground haven.

"They're taking the day off. Even heroes need breaks Reno." Oh I see it Tseng. I see what you're playing but you don't have me this time. Not this time Tseng.

Rook takes bishop.

"Wow, Strife is actually taking the lady out for a day of fun for once? Or am I mistaken? Maybe they're visiting a cemetery, knowing him. Or going to a mortuary convention… What got him to get up off his depressed, sorry rear and start noticing what he's got staring right at him? Not to mention those amazing fun bags she's got locked and loaded and ready to aim." I looked up slyly to be met with his grim, fatal stare. "The guy's just the biggest loner I've ever met. I don't know what the hell she sees in him."

"It's none of our business Reno."

"But you do wonder," I pointed a finger questioningly, smile still lingering.

"None of our business," he voiced more coldly. It was that professional tone of his that brought irritation to me. Always so business-like. I guess that's why Rufus and his fat father had him in charge of the Turks all these years and not me. Color me unimpressed. I think it had more to do with them being racist against red haired men. "Check." Knight takes rook and sets up for the kill. Damn it.

Cold and calculating.

What's the next move? Think Reno. He's got you cornered into this like a wolf with no escape. "But why me though?"

"Because you're the only one who can." An eyebrow rose with mild humor attached to it.

Cue the cliché. Cue the cliché. Uh oh, I haven't heard this one before. Here we go. Time to set myself up for yet another predictable role with mass carnage and mayhem ensuing, starring everyone's favorite anti-hero.

"Why can't their little AVALANCHE buddies do it?"

"I'm sure we're the last resort if we're being called up for the service."

He's playing me. "Why can't Rude do it?" Time for the king to take the backseat for once. Other knight makes the move. He's on the prowl. Safe haven for the king now?

"Rude's actually leaving Edge for the day. He's running some errands for Rufus."

Does he have an answer for everything? I glanced up half interestedly. "What errands?"

"Why don't you ask him yourself?" He shot an eyebrow.

"I could… but that would require me putting in more verbal effort. And that's excess energy I'm just not willing to waste here." Tseng shook his head. "What about you?" I glanced up cockily.

His eyes flared up. The sign of a killer. A soft spot being hit. Even the cold had its warmth. His hands traveled to his queen, coming adjacent to my knight. "You know I'm not known to pursue these kinds of things. Rufus has other tasks assigned for me."

I smirked. Yeah right buddy. Keep trying harder. "Are you sure that's the reason Boss man?"

He frowned. "Make a move Reno."

Dancing around the subject. Tseng, I can read you like a book. I can see your moves. Picture perfect and pristine.

Knight was vulnerable to the queen. He was baiting me towards something. I could take it or grow up and see the bigger picture.

Knight flees the scene of the crime, moving to sanctum.

"Come on sir, you don't have to hide it from me."

Tseng bared his teeth just barely in the form inquisitive stare. "You really are the nosiest, most annoying Turk agent I've ever had the displeasure of employing."

"I try," I remarked, taking a curt bow in my seat.

"It's mind boggling at times, truly, how someone of your capacity has managed to stay in the organization for so long." He continued shaking his head in dismay. "I must genuinely be insane at moments to keep employing you."

"You know me Boss man," I leaned forward, grinning. "I'm needed to relieve tension in order to prevent all of you from killing yourselves. The price of my service exceeds all value. I'm indispensable to Shinra Company."

He scoffed and peered down at the board, the frown never leaving his face. The field was now open and the situation out in the clearing. There was nothing standing in the way. Queen moves in line with king. King is locked in.

Shit.

I looked up curiously. "Wait, you mean you're finally experiencing the pains and tortures of a relationship with Elena?"

The frown disappeared instantly but he had a certain, rare eager look that seemed alien to me.

"We're taking the weekend off. Your move."

The grin couldn't help but surface. I knew it. The man finally had balls to take the chance. "Going anywhere nice?"

"I've told you more than is enough. The rest is up to you."

It was a dead end to the entire matter. I instinctively glanced down at the board. There was nowhere left to move around. I was caged and he had me beat.

Rook interchanges places with king.

His eyes rose to meet mine with slight mirth, his fingers resting on top of his queen. A sly smile emerged. "Checkmate."

I nodded. "Tseng… in the spirit of us being honest, I feel this might be the perfect time to tell you that that flask I took out earlier was actually yours. Lost mine ages ago."

----------------------------------------

It was then that he hit a brick wall, being pit against the will of the unwavering child from hell

The cold, hard stare from someone who's supposed to trust you but just can't.

"I mean it Reno," his low, soft voice emerged.

"I got it Strife. No horseplay." At least, none that you should know about. Oh, where are my manners? Let me introduce

Name: Cloud.
Occupation: Author of "How Best to Slit Your Wrists" by day and spokesperson of the show "What It Truly Means to be A Woman" by night.
Age: Twenty three in body, fourteen in the head and five where it counts... and that's being generous I bet.
Personality: Mope, whine, mourn, and stare ahead blankly. I might also like to add the additional following verbs: gripe, gripe, and gripe.
Sad Fact: Had two girls and never experienced the wonders of a ménage a trois. This fact alone should warrant one of his friends beating him to a pulp with his own set of oversized swords.
Hate-O-Meter: 5/10. Can't really stand him, but he saved the world. Still can't stand him even though he did save the world.

"We're only gonna be gone a day Reno. Even in one day though, it's easily possible for you to screw things up, surprising as that may sound for some."

"Not surprising to me."

"Reno…" he growled.

"Seriously, it's up to a day now?" I touched my chest with mock shock. "Come on… you really gotta give me more credit than that. I used to have a reputation for instilling chaos in several hours back during my prime."

His icy blue stare disappeared when he heaved a disheveled sigh and turned away from me at the call of his name from

Name: Tifa.
Occupation: Part-time badass bartender that can mix a mean drink and full-time walking advertisement for Edge's new breast enhancement clinic.
Age: One year younger than the idiot listed above… not in the brains department however obviously.
Personality: Not nearly outgoing enough. You know what I'm implying. Don't give me those looks.
Sad Fact: Has been waiting to lose her virginity to Cloud since he uncovered the actual use of his previously baffling eleventh finger. You might as well wait for Jenova to start "caring" about the planet however. Better odds of the latter happening.
Hate-O-Meter: 1/10. She did try to rip my balls out back when it was AVALANCHE vs. Turks but I easily forgive and forget when it comes to a lady loaded with assets.

She descended down the steps of the bar, the bar I hadn't been to in ages, ever since that day those three silver haired hermaphrodites showed up looking for a little fist action.

Pausing momentarily and actually reflecting back on what I just described, it doesn't sound all that proper anymore. Excuse me. Actually no, don't excuse me because I couldn't care less since I'm not some pathetic, nervous, horny young virgin male narrating something out of a terribly crafted school story who's overly concerned about his self image.

"Reno, hi," Tifa greeted beautifully like she always does. I sound like such a sap right now don't I? Sue me. Credit to her. You gotta hand it to this chick: even when the rain comes pouring, she manages to diffuse those somber looking gray sheets of depression by blasting you with her charm.

I repeat: Cloud you are taking the title of moron to an unprecedented level.

"Hello there sweetheart," I grinned back, throwing a wink as she made her way down and came up to me and the idiot.

The idiot didn't seem to take too well to my subtle flirting as evidenced by the gradual deepening of his scowl. But that wasn't the real matter in this case. No. The real matter was actually something far more simple.

The real matter was this: did I actually give a shit?

To sum it up:

…No.

Sorry for the obvious and pointless mislead there. You could just feel that last bit dripping with anticipation and suspense.

The brunette kept smiling and placed a hand seductively on her slender waist, cocking her head to the side. "Still causing trouble for everyone hmm?" This girl seems to have that part mixed up… at least by my account.

"You know me, I've become synonymous with the word." My grin widened to 'unbearably obnoxious to cloud' levels.

She chuckled in that free-spirited way we don't often get to hear anymore and placed her hand delicately on my shoulder. "Still got it huh Reno? You never give up your act no matter what, do you?"

"It's because he has no conception of what attitude is appropriate at a given time," blonde haired girl chimed in.

Don't play his game Reno. Bite your tongue. Bite it.

I bit. Literally.

Tifa gave me a look of minor but evident concern as she witnessed the sudden change in facial expression. "You okay?"

"Never been better." I smiled through clenched teeth, willing away the sting.

"You sure Reno?" came Cloud's voice. From out of the corner of my eye, I caught SOLDIER wannabe with the slightest of smirks frozen on his face.

Get your laughs now while you still can because when you're gone, I'm going to be recalling a certain story to your two little admirers of that time you decided to wear a dress for a night out on the town during one of your many identity crises.

"We better get heading Cloud," Tifa nodded to him. "Reno, the kids are upstairs in their room and they know to expect you. They've already had their breakfast and we wanted them to come down before we left."

"This is the welcome I get from them? Unacceptable."

Cloud rolled his eyes as she continued smiling. "We couldn't pry them away from their game."

"Oh, that's fine then, I would've done the same. It would've been unethical to separate them from it."

She gave me a blank stare, followed by the resurfacing of her curt smile. "Right… so anyways, if you need anything at all, just call us on Cloud's cell. You have his number of course right?"

Let's find out. I turned to him. "Cloud do I have your number?"

He shot me a disbelieving glare mixed with irritation. "Are you kidding?"

I smiled and turned back to Tifa. "Hey so just out of curiosity, where are you two heading?" She shot me a questioning look. Expected. "Not that you have to tell me or anything," I added innocently. And quickly.

She sighed and turned to Cloud, who frowned and picked up two small bags and made his way out the door towards his bike. With her focus back to me, she shrugged. "We're gonna go visit Kalm…"

"After…" I led her on, knowing full well that it was coming.

She gazed out the open door helplessly before glancing back. "…After visiting the church."

I knew it! I knew it. I grinned the grin of a thousand deranged Heideggers. Cloud you disturbingly predictable bastard. Poor girl.

"Well I gue-"

"Anyways…" she gave another exasperated sigh, "Like I said, if you need anything, just give us a call, it won't be any trouble."

"Speaking of trouble," I turned my sights towards the bar. "Would it be okay if-"

"No Reno." The way she had said it quashed all hopes of me possibly pleading with her to reconsider.

"Not even just a little?"

She gave me an astonished look. "Reno, you're looking after the kids. I don- we don't want you drinking."

Okay pause for a moment and let me process this strange explanation. Does it make sense? I suppose… in a strange, otherworldly, non-making sense kind of way that was quite alien to me.

So I was prompted to do the only thing I thought was best. And me being me, you know what that is by now:

Lie.

"Okay Tifa," I nodded, smiling understandingly. "These lips won't touch a sip of alcohol from this bar."

"Good…" She gave me a once over before turning and walking out. "We'll be seeing you tomorrow then."

"You have absolutely nothing to worry about," I motioned for her to continue walking away, leaving me seconds closer to complete control over the bar. Is it starting to finally make sense why I eventually decided to take the babysitting offer?

"Oh and Reno," she turned back one last time, stopping just short of the bike as Cloud fired it up. "I've already counted all the bottles and how much alcohol is in each so I really mean it when I say 'good luck'."

"That's cheating! That's cheating! You can't do that! You can't start counting them now!" I yelled furiously as she hopped on and they sped off, chocobo haired girl's smirk being the last thing frozen in the template of my mind before they both disappeared.

Tseng I hate you, you bastard.


A/N: Missed my initial target update of last week but now it's here, so don't fret. This entire story takes place over the span of one day but it's not 24-ish if that's what you're thinking, so don't start freaking out on me all of a sudden. I'll also mention that there are several allusions to certain things thrown in. Some of you will pick them up immediately. To conclude this statement: Comments will be appreciated, criticism will be appreciated, as will harsh judgement, but remarks about the Denver Broncos inconsistency this season however will NOT be appreciated.