Doubt

Stop right there, criminal scum! – Ha, made you look. This story has been rewritten. I felt like updating it, so I reread it… it was bad and I felt bad. Now it is slightly less bad. It's still not a musical though. Hopefully you won't get brain damage from reading it… oops, was that a spoiler?

Disclaimer – I own nothing except the hospital staff and Albie.

xxx

Chapter 1 – Interrogation

"And you say you found this man where?" the doctor repeated, staring over his thick-rimmed glasses at the bedraggled-looking man he had dragged into his office. The stout man stared right back at his interrogator, twisting his greasy beard around his fingers.

"I told you twice already," he groused, and leaned forwards over the desk. "I hauled him out from that building what collapsed. The one what used to be a department store 'fore it closed down." His voice sounded rather like gravel being poured from the back of a truck. It irritated the doctor immensely.

"I see." The doctor picked up his pen from its holder and wrote something down on an apricot-coloured slip in the kind of precise blue handwriting that only comes to those with years of experience filling out forms. The strange man watched him closely. "And there have been no other reports of people injured by this collapse because?"

"'Ave I gotta repeat everything I say twice, doctor…" there was a pause as the man squinted at the name-card clipped to the pocket of the doctor's pristine white lab-coat. "…Glyde?"

"It's Clyde," Doctor Cornelius Clyde, whose name badge was a constant source of frustration for him and the other hospital staff, sighed impatiently. "I'm merely trying to make sense of this story of yours." He stared down his nose at the shorter man, his eyes glinting dangerously behind his glasses.

"Whatever you say, doc. There's hardly anyone living 'round there, see? An' there sure as hell ain't nobody crazy enough to go digging up strangers out of a bunch of rubble and dragging them all the way here." The stout man sneered a little as he glanced around the office, with its stark white walls and spotless furniture. In fact, it had crossed Doctor Clyde's mind whether or not to offer a seat to the man, who was quite possibly the filthiest creature he had ever had the displeasure of meeting. As it turned out, he needn't have worried – the man had helped himself to the comfiest chair in the room and stuck his smelly feet right on the edge of his desk.

"Except for you." This wasn't really a question, as the mysterious, dirty stranger had actually brought an unconscious man (who he adamantly claimed to be a total stranger) into Central Edge Emergency Department, and then proceeded to spin this unlikely story to anyone who would listen. Until Doctor Clyde had intervened, that is.

"Actually, I might not be as crazy as you think, doc. My instincts tell me there might be some kind of reward for rescuing him, see?" Clyde narrowed his eyes and was about to demand an explanation, but a shrill cry filled the air before he could speak.

"Doctor Clyde!" a young woman burst through the door, lab coat flapping wildly and her pony-tail bobbing up and down as she spoke. "Doctor Clyde, it's true! The team you sent out has returned, and the building has been demolished! Civilians in the area said they heard a loud rumbling noise and felt the ground shake." There was an expectant pause.

"Thank you, Doctor Stoke." Clyde waved his hand to dismiss the younger woman, and turned back to the man sitting at his desk.

"It looks like you were telling the truth, er… what did you say your name was?"

"Albie." A wide, yellow-toothed leer spread across the man's face, and the doctor had to force himself not to shudder.

"Indeed."

"Doctor Clyde?" The woman had returned, knocking politely on the door this time.

"What is it now, Leila?" Clyde sniped, glancing past 'Albie' at the source of his distraction.

"We've identified the patient as an employee of Shinra Electric Power Company… a member of the TURKs, actually," came the meek reply. Albie smirked knowingly at the man on the other side of the desk, who currently appeared to having a miniature aneurism of some kind. "We… er… also retrieved his cell phone from the building…" Doctor Stoke added hesitantly, and then took a hasty step back as her superior jumped to his feet, nearly knocking his chair over backwards in the process.

"Well? Don't just stand there, fool!" he bawled at the poor woman, who flinched and began to back away through the office door. "Call the first contact stored on that phone and let them know what's happened!" he made a shooing motion with her hand and slammed the door as soon as she disappeared. When she was gone, he groaned tiredly and ran a hand through his greying hair, but pointed a lean finger at Albie when he tried to get up. "Siddown," he snarled. "I'm not finished with you yet."

Albie could only grimace and lower himself back into the chair he had been sitting in for the last half-hour, as the doctor twisted the lock on his office door closed with a faint 'click'.

"Now," Cornelius Clyde smiled the kind of smile a crocodile might give to its dinner. "Tell me about these... instincts of yours."

xxx

Back at Shinra Headquarters, a different kind of interrogation was underway.

"You were the last person to see him, Reno. What happened?" Reno shifted restlessly under his superior's gaze. He was a mess, and he knew it. His TURK uniform was covered in grime and even torn and spotted with blood in places, and his flame-red hair stuck up at even crazier angles than it usually did. Tseng, who had had the presence of mind to clean himself up a little upon their return from the unmitigated disaster that had been their latest mission, looked practically spotless in comparison, although his face was grazed and his uniform had not fared much better than Reno's.

"Nothing that you don't already know, yo. We were trapped by those bastards' gunfire until you broke that window, and then we just ran for it." Tseng scowled, clearly unimpressed by this.

"That doesn't explain how Rude managed to completely disappear between then and now," he replied tersely.

"Well, I was almost on the roof, and I looked back to check up on him, and he just… wasn't there." Reno's voice wavered slightly, but Tseng pretended not to notice. "So then I went back down to look for him, but the gunfire started up again… then the pillars started cracking…" He trailed off with a helpless shrug.

"A self destruct system." Tseng finished stonily. However, seeing the pained look in the younger man's eyes, his expression softened somewhat. "You were right to escape when you did. If you'd gone back–"

"I know, I know. I'd have ended up just like Rude," Reno interrupted. "That fucking idiot." He turned and aimed a bitter kick at the wall behind him, not hard enough to break anything – he wasn't that stupid, yo – but just hard enough to alleviate the knot forming in the pit of his stomach. And maybe hurt just a little. "What the hell was he doing, going back to hold 'em off like that? That's the sort of crazy shit I would do… are you going to get that?" The last comment was directed at Tseng, who had apparently been too deep in thought to realise that his cell phone was ringing. Reno fell quiet as the Wutaian man flipped the phone open, listening intently in case it was Rude calling. No such luck.

"Sir, I just got a call from Rude's cell phone," he heard a tinny version of Elena's voice cut through the night air.

"Where is he? Is he ok?" Reno practically yelled in Tseng's ear. The older man frowned and turned away from the antsy redhead in order to let Elena continue.

"He's in the hospital. The woman who called me said that he's in critical condition, with severe head injuries. A civilian brought him in about half an hour ago."

"This is bad," Tseng growled, but Reno butted in again.

"Which hospital?" He managed to say at a normal volume from around gritted teeth.

"Central Edge Emergency Department, but aren't you–" Elena's warning went unheeded – Reno had already taken off in direction of the helicopter, and Tseng was too busy shouting after him to hear her words.

"Reno, stop! You're in no condition to fly that on your own!" Reno gave no indication that he'd heard Tseng's words. "Get back here!" Tseng had no choice but to sprint after him. "That's an order!" he groaned a curse as Reno disappeared into the cockpit and pulled the door shut after him. A moment later, the sound of engines firing up filled the air, and Tseng was forced to a standstill as dust and grit was blown into his face. Shielding his eyes, he lifted his cell phone back to his ear. He had to shout over the noise of the chopper's engines to make himself heard. "Elena, go back to the other helicopter and wait for me there. Reno's already taken this one." Elena made an exasperated noise on the other end.

"Didn't I just tell him not to do anything rash?" she complained. "Ok, I'll see you in a minute. Over and out." The phone beeped to signal that she had hung up, and Tseng began to punch in a new number – Rufus Shinra's.

Rufus answered on the second ring. "Have you located Rude yet?" he demanded immediately. His tone suggested that he blamed Tseng for the disaster – Tseng bristled with indignation at this, but pushed the feeling aside.

"He's at Central Edge Hospital. A civilian brought him in." There came neither a sigh of relief or a groan of annoyance at this, but Tseng had expected as much. Only –

"What's his status?"

"Critical." Tseng eyed the helicopter Reno had just 'appropriated', now just a speck in the distance. "Reno took one of the choppers, and has gone to see him."

"That idiot." Rufus groaned. "He should be getting his wounds treated, not gallivanting off on his own."

"I agree. At least he'll be fairly safe at the hospital."

"Not if he passes out on the way there. Retrieve him immediately."

"Understood. I'll call you again once we've seen how Rude is doing." The phone beeped again as the president hung up.

xxx

No sooner had he landed the helicopter, Reno was sprinting as fast as his legs, wobbly with fatigue and still sore from the mission, could carry him towards the hospital entrance. Ignoring the burning in his chest and the groaning of his muscles as they protested against the renewed abuse, he half-pushed, half-fell through the glass doors and staggered over to the receptionist's desk, gasping for air and ignoring the looks of alarm the other patients were giving him.

"I'm here for Rude, yo," he managed, before he doubled over as a ripple of pain ran through him. The receptionist just stared at him for a moment, hr heavily made-up face looking more like plastic under the bright ceiling lights.

"Er… you'll have to give me a full name, sir." She replied, suspiciously eyeing the blood stains on his clothes. Reno just growled impatiently, incredulous as to how she could not know who he was talking about. This was the hospital… right?

"Rude!" he insisted at the top of his voice, still panting. Bald guy. With a goatee." The room span sickeningly around him, and his hands flew out to steady himself on the closest available surface – which just happened to be the receptionist's desk. He stumbled, dislodging a stack of folders and sending them to the tiled floor with a loud 'kafflunk'. A chorus of muffled gasps, and at least one whispered 'is he drunk?' filled the room as the nearby patients craned their necks to see what was going on.

"Hey! Are you alright sir?" the receptionist jumped to her feet, but Reno pushed her arm away.

"I'll be fine, dammit, I just want to see Rude!" Reno shook his head to get rid of the fuzziness that had crept in around the edge of his vision, but groaned and stumbled again as the room lurched violently.

"Are you his next of kin?" the woman was by his side now; he could smell her cheap perfume and stale tobacco over the smell of disinfectant that permeated the room. Again, he batted her hand away.

"I'm the closest thing he has, dammit, let me see him!" he growled again, not really caring anymore whether he was lucid enough for anyone to understand him.

"Absolutely not! You need medical attention," the receptionist decided. Reno tried to protest, but the words did not come quick enough, for she had already yelled out to the nearby uniformed men guarding the hospital tried to run, but a manicured hand shot out and gripped his pony-tail with surprising strength – or perhaps his body was just too tired to put up much of a fight; it was hard to tell. "Security! Get this man to a doctor and have him get those injuries checked. I don't have time for this."

A moment later, Reno found himself being bundled through a different pair of glass doors by a pair of men who were apparently used to kicking babbling strangers out of the emergency room. All he could do was protest incoherently as they half-dragged, half-carried him along until they finally dumped him unceremoniously on the floor in front of a young woman in a lab coat, and then left again.

The woman leaned over him, frowning as he groaned and tried to sit up, and placing a cool hand against his forehead to keep him still.

"Hey, don't try to move." She was saying. "Are you injured?" Reno vaguely felt his jacket being removed, but couldn't quite remember where he was anymore. The blonde woman came back into view, and he grinned lazily as his imagination filled in the sudden gap in his memory.

"Heh, Cloud, you look good as a girl, yo," he drawled, undeterred by the confused expression that worked its way onto her face as she turned away again.

Doctor Leila Stoke yelped as the redhead reached out to grope her backside, and spun around to deliver a stinging slap to the man's face that echoed around the room. She sighed as he just looked up at her in bewilderment, his cheek turning a rather nasty shade of pink.

"Why does this always happen to me?" she groaned to herself. "At least you don't seem to be in danger of dying anytime soon," she informed the stranger splayed out on the cold floor, and went over to the drug cabinet in search of a potion. "Maybe when you've come back to your senses we can check you up properly."

xxx

A/N – Christ, in hindsight, a musical would have been easier.

Hey, can you imagine how frustrating this story would be if telephones hadn't been invented?