It starts out like this:
Two revolvers, eight bullets, two Turks, one room, one exit.
You can win, you can lose, you can tie.
Translate the rules: You can live, you can die, you can die.
Except across the room Elena's smiling at me, too busy aiming at my head to protest the sexism inherent in the name of the game.
The game is off to a start.
It didn't always work this way.
Her fist, bone hard, smacks into my jaw. I hear something crack; I feel something split or splinter.
No Elena. No. This isn't the goddamn best I can do, alright?
As I keel over backwards, I catch a whiff of something sweet in the air, emanating off of her. Ambrosia maybe.
Or, I dunno. Fuck. Maybe she's just knocked me batty.
And in Costa Del Sol awaits me a girl, soul as pure and naked as the day she was born. What a joke. I caught her in my arms walking out of a bar. "Elena," I said, into her fine blonde hair. "God-damn, girl, but do you smell good." She'd never been snatched up by a satyr like me before, was intrigued by my nocturnal world. And though she pulled her slim form away, I could feel her falling for me like a thunderclap.
Then she shrank into herself. "Don't."
Her soft blue gaze glanced quickly upwards towards my eyes, but unable to contain their stare, roved down to the safer grounds of my lips, too-red lips, stained with tequila. "What's your..." She took a breath. "What's your name again?"
The lips parted in a smile. "Reno, babe. Reno."
"And what do you do, Reno?" Polite little thing.
I put on my sunglasses, already started walking away. "I'm a Turk," I said over my shoulder.
I stayed silent, let myself slip down some dark alley; Let her follow me.
But when she couldn't have me, she wanted everything I had.
A bed in a room in some hotel. A beach in Costa. Her apartment. Never mine.
I blew eloquent plumes of smoke in her face and laughed openly, heartily. God. I'd never had a better kick in my life. She got offended.
"Aha. Ahaha. Elena, my sweet. You have a lot to learn."
She propped herself up on an elbow, unashamed of her nakedness, blue eyes more brilliant in the darkness than I could've thought them. "Explain."
I flopped backwards, shut my eyes to the world. "I'm a Turk." I didn't have to open my eyes to know she was leaning over me, eager to hear my words. The fucking education of Elena the bimbo.
"And." A smug, quiet smile. "Turks don't love."
"Why?" Her whisper was a tickle at a nonexistant conscience.
"Because my little one, my naive one, my pathetic and sadly stupid one. The very definition of a Turk rests on this."
I opened my eyes and laughed again at how shocked she was at the bleakness of my eyes. Graveyards and corpse-freezers of irises. She had on that same expression when she traced the million scars upon this wasteland of a body. Hah. I was Waste. I liked that.
Her mouth breathed warm, awoke alcohol within my veins as sickly sweet addictive as the sun in Costa.
I pulled her small blonde head down and kissed her tongue to feel alive.
Was it she, or me, or the wind that whispered?
"A Turk is a person who forgot how to love a long, long time ago."
Merciless beating of flesh, such vicious disrespect for the human temple. Turks pillage the temple of the body, they rape the priests, they steal the gold, they drink whiskey and piss on the gods.
Blood, I see blood, I see... Oopsy-Daisy, Reno's got red in his eyes, he cannot see he cannot walk he cannot... I take the gun in my fist and force it back into her own head. It connects against skull with a pleasant smack. "Ahh....now that's the sound..." I grin toothily at her. She responds with a *click* BLAM!
Pants. Heavy breaths and bodies locked stiff.
Death hanging impatient over the flourescent lights.
"Elena," I growl, biceps straining against her to keep the gun pointed away from me. "How many times do I have to tell you never to fire a gun unless you've got complete control of your weapon?"
"I had you," she insists, gritting her teeth. Her compact strength flows through the gun. "I had you, dammit."
She had me? She had me? Self-loathing as I may be, the suggestion brings an amusement from the deepest pits of my cocky self. "Oh yeah, Elena," I say, a sloshing bucketful of sarcasm. "You had me at hello."
Hello foot. Hello shoe. Hello face.
She heaves her leg high up into the air, beautifully arcs (perfect form, I observe distantly), and smashes my face in.
I hit the ground and see the remnants of once dazzling wannabe-stars.
His name was Kade. He had brown hair, a scar on his forehead, and was the ugliest, biggest, toughest motherfucker I've ever met to this day, myself, perhaps, excluded. Words 'round the cafeteria went that he'd kill his own father for Shinra. I didn't doubt it.
I hated him, with a passion that could be rooted to either adolescence or the innate knowledge that I was superior to him. Kade was my first Turk mentor. He taught me how to hold a gun, how to reload the quickest, how to take out a target with minimal sound, with minimal blood. He was the master of hit and run. It wasn't my style.
Because beneath all that knife-sharp Shinra training, all that obnoxious discipline, Kade, I felt, was an idiot. Dull as sobriety. A rottweiler demeaned to be a Shinra lapdog.
He taught me pretty well, though, I have to hand it to him. But it wasn't too soon until I started to make a name for myself. See, I was different: I was the most merciless, cold-blooded cutthroat on the team. I did the dirty work and bragged about it. I didn't clean up the blood- I smeared it all over myself for effect.
She flips me around, hand on my neck, and shoves a fistful of blazing red hair in my face.
She opens her palm.
In the nest of fiery crimson is a single gray hair.
I caught her hesitating on the job one time, snorted at her inexperience. Kicking the victim aside, I smacked her across her sniveling mug and reveled in the sound of her stinging flesh. "What're you afraid of, huh?" I sneered into her face, our foreheads touching over the gagged and crying man. "Death? Pain? Your immortal fucking soul?" I laughed and shoved her roughly away from me. "You're a Turk now, Elena. Fear only old age and incompetence."
"Oh yeah," I say, staring at the blank white wall on the other side of the room. "I'm real funny. Such a joke. Haha."
I take her disgusting beautiful head and slam it into the hard wall behind my shoulder. She crumples to the ground. I knee her in the stomach. I kick her in the kidneys. I step on her throat and twist my boot heel into her esophagus.
This takes about 10 seconds.
"You can't shoot me," she says haughtily.
"I can't think of a reason why not."
She's about to argue, then looks at me. How could a dead man have a conscience? She looks away.
"You couldn't hit the broad side of Heidegger."
I grin. Every side's the broad side of Heidegger. "I have 4 special bullets just for you, hon." I raise an eyebrow. "How many you got?"
She's sulky. Tseng and Rude and I always ragged her about wasting ammo. I raised my index and middle fingers, a taunting derogatory peace sign.
"Two," I mouth.
Her hand closes on my ankle.
"You couldn't hit the broad side of Heidegger." I don't have to see her face to know the expression it holds. It's a little girl's expression, moping and resonating with an inner ache. It's that little voice that says, helplessly, "No. Nono. No!
... I lost."
Her attempt at a joke is a subconscious plea. Remind me that we have a relationship outside of this room. Remind me of laughing at Shinra authority together, of getting shitfaced together, of teasing Rude together, of burying Tseng together. "I have 4 special bullets just for you, hon. How many you got?"
I know, Elena. I know we got history. I remember.
I shoved my fingers in her face. But it doesn't matter here.
A telltale shake of her shoulders. I know her too well.
"Two," I mouth.
I move my foot a bit to my side, subtly nudge her wrist.
Sea bass will bite at anything.
Her hand closes on my ankle.
I try not to smile as the world falls with me.
Good afternoon, Reno, sir.
Insignificant, ludicrous, another lovestruck young girl who thought she could hold my attention more than a half hour at a time. Then (and I don't know who she blew or what she did), she started moving up. Passing me in the hallways looking smug with her sharp little dress suit. Then a briefcase. The next day I see her in the high security area. The next, the lockers.
Nice to see you, again, Reno.
Oh yeah. Just swell.
If this chick thought being a Turk was as easy as the pretty idea that bloomed in her mind, she had another thing coming. Tseng handed her over to me and Rude to train. Every time she shouted some peppy slogan or inspirational "deep thought", Rude and I had our own little private chortling party behind her back.
In a way, I was triumphant. I'd defeated her silly idealism, shattered her sunny view of the world. But this triumph was tainted by a doubt: Was I the one that conquered her or did she conquer me?
Klunk. Tchhhh. It's the most beautiful sound in the world to a Turk. Your opponent's gun hitting the ground and sliding away.
By the time I hit the floor, she's already rolling, moving to her knees to straddle my waist. She shifts them upwards to place all her weight painfully on the hollows between my shoulders and arms.
"Ahh- ah. ah. That hurts." C'mon Elena, what're you waiting for...
She squints at me for a long time. Come on! I gave you this, bitch. You better...
Suddenly, as if stabbed, her eyes widen to pale nebulas. "Why? Why didn't you try to avoid it?" she asks silently.
"The hell are you doing, 'Lena?" Will you just hurry it up...
"You!" she hisses at me, hatefully. She spits her words in my face.
"I can't believe-" Do it! "I can't believe you'd do something like this." Do it!
"You bastard..." She's shaking with rage. For the love of- " She smashes her knuckles several times brutally into the front of my face. Flesh tears. Cartilage crunches noisily.
"You think I can't take this?" she screams in my face. "You think I can't do this myself?" Her shrieks ring in my ears until my brain goes happily numb. "What is this? Pity? Condescending fucker...you'll see!"
Jesus. She's friggin' hyperventilating.
She stands up and kicks my gun to me. "Get up you sick fuck. Pick up your gun. Play the game."
I stand up, globules of blood dripping about my feet, sliding down my chest in silken streams.
I twist a smile, ignoring the pain. "Back to back?"
There's no answer.
"Just don't cheat."
There'll never be an answer any more.
Two revolvers, two bullets, two Turks, back to back.
I empty my gun in a meaningful shower. She sneers at my chin. Hah. Still can't look at my eyes.
Ah, well. A break for a break.
I press my sweatstained waist to her slim back. I'm a good head taller than her. I hold still a moment, and feel her tensed muscles twitching in anticipation behind me.
The difference between her and me has always been that she's always wanted it.
I was only doing it to kill two birds with one stone. The birds being time and people.
But this time...
I'll want it...
"If you could be anyone in the world, who would you be?"
I took a swig from my tequila bottle, dipped my feet under the cool water below the dock. "Nobody. That's who I'd want to be. A plain ol' nobody."
She smiled at her soft bare knees thoughtfully. "I think," she said. "I'd want to be you." She played with the hair on the nape of my neck. "Invincible," she whispered into my ear. "Nobody could hurt me."
I shrugged her off irritably, pinned her with a heavy look.
I nibbled on a lime, tried to rid myself of the bitter taste that washed through my mouth.
I knew she didn't believe me.
If I squint my eyes enough, everything blurs out to swinging limbs and white space and the buzzing of the lights and the sound of fists, like hitting a bag of wet gravel and cement. Halfway between a crunch and a thud.
The sock to the stomach crunches.
The roundhouse to the liver thuds.
We bite our teeth until they throb, spit out mouthfuls of blood like chewing tobacco.
The room buzzes.
I smack her head backwards and kick it back sideways, sock her in the stomach, and follow with an uppercut.
The room buzzes louder.
"Aha!" I say, as she propels herself forwards in a cloud of fists. She bruises my cheeks purple and black while I shake it off casually. I laugh hysterically, my ears flooding with the buzzing. "Ahahaha!"
My eyelids resonate with the buzzing- the whole world shakes, a charging nightstick, crackling for action.
WHY IS EVERYTHING SO GODDAMN BRIGHT/WHITE/COLD IN HERE?
She staggers backwards, ragged, and I bring my knee to my chin for the final kick.
At the last moment, my head whips back towards her, our eyes lock, something screams my name on the face of a white-hot Shinra brand. Stamped. Owned.
She catches my foot.
The buzzing stops.
Then her foot lands where my ribs and heart join, and the air is ripped out of me, a child torn from the womb, a girl stripped naked and shoved in the snow, a swiftly decomposing fish out of water.
I slip my tongue over to the other side of the muzzle of the gun. I taste the acidic feel of iron, like a frozen column of blood.
And I have 5 seconds to start a prayer before my teeth are blown into the back of my head and it all disappears in a flash of searing white.