A/N: Okay, this is a little experiment. I'll tell you what it's about when it's done.

Rhythmatique in Dust

Silver straddled his heels, and dust flowed into crevices he didn't like to think about. Drought scoured desert flats and brought the mighty to their knees. Keys to Sherrif's post were as common as snowflakes in embers, but so long as they existed, he had hope. Coping with the abrasive winds that could wear down a rough diamond drifter to a lead bullet bandit in a couple turns of the sun was hard enough; tough guys with guns were a little too much for the inhabitants of Dusty Hill. Will varnished and smooth, he strode casually around the sleeping town. Drowning in darkness was never a concern, after the run in with a morbid rancher who'd cost him his arm. Harmed in body and spirit, he'd sank below the cusp of society, wallowing in the depths of depravity; brevity was not watching over him, and years had passed with his head hung low.

Stowing his revolver, he whistled for his dog. Groggy but still formidable from the trek through the sands, the beast came. Named for its colouring and naught else, Red batted a watchful eye at his 'owner'. Over years, they'd come to an understanding, which few would understand. Grand and complacent gestures forgotten over years of solitude, the drifter loped to the saloon, looking for trouble or a drink, whichever comes first.

Worst of fates seek gentlest of hearts, or so he's heard; herds of fools and varmints crowd around her, with no care for his entrance. Chance failed her, the dancer, who once sold flowers for pleasure and grace. Faces full of booze and scum awaited her now, and probably always would; blood and sex were what they breathed, and she had both. Sloth lay in the drifter's heart, and he paid no heed to the plight of Aerith Gainsborough. Thoroughly sanctioned by the law, her troubles were her own to nurse.

Thirst for blood falters eventually, without another thirst to sustain it. Bit by bit, he filtered through the crowd of thugs (Red wishing he could take a bite, just a chunk), to the bar. Far from the baying crowd, the barmaid's eyes twinkle as she recognises him. Dim lights illuminate old faces well, and she poured the drink without thought, hand brushing through her hair. Their conversation is brief.

"Tifa Lockhart, I wonder when exactly you'll take my advice about hiring some goods for this bar." Far be it for him to judge, she thought, listening to his trademark rumble.

"Humble establishments like this don't need goons. Soon there'll be a new sherrif anyway, or so I hear." Searing accusation leads into taunting congratulations whenever he hears her speech.

"Preaching to me about goons isn't going to keep that girl above ground. Pounding some sense into your clientèle just might."

"Nights on the patrol have softened your sense of reality, I see. Being thrifty to buy back the deeds for my bar from that jackass Shinra up north means I can't afford much manpower, Sherrif."

Rifts opened between them, as they often do; to criticise her is to invite rebuke, and to rebuke him is invite coldness. Confessing to the fact that he isn't sherrif yet is too much to ask of him, after all this time.

Dimes scuttled across the counter for the drink, and he made to go. Slowly and deliberately, she bade him farewell with derision, but derision that was bottle-dye fake.

"Take care of yourself, Vincent Valentine."

A/N: Well, there's a little bit of the old 'Obligatory Final Fantasy Cowboy AU' for ya. I was actually considering making a cowboy AU fic once upon a time, but decided to put it off. If you find that this reads weirdly, congrats; you've reached the heart of the experiment. Look at the last words in the line, and the first word of the next sentence; they should match up pretty well phonetically. It created a weird effect, so I played with it.

Oh, by the way. If I were ploughing ahead with the whole cowboy AU thing, the cast would basically equate to this: Vincent as sherrif, Red as Vincent's dog, Cloud as a gun-for-hire, Barret as the local store manager, Tifa as the barkeep, Aerith as her employee, Cid as the sherrif from the next town over, Reeve as the Mayor, Rufus Shinra as the rich landowner, Reno, Rude and Elena as the hired muscle, Hojo as the sadistic rancher (keeping animals in captivity is pretty much his game), and Yuffie as (what else?) the bandit. Other characters would have occasional roles. What would your cast be?