#189 – Tseng Works Hard for the Money

Reeve: “He’s turned into Rufus!”

Originally Published: 9/16/09 . 68 pages

Synopsis
Tseng buys the strip club but no one’s happy about how he’s doing it. Can the other strippers convince him to change his ways, or is this the end of it all?

Ramble Milestones
Nothing this time.

This Tseng drama was brewing for a long, long time and it finally gets wrapped up here. I like the whole ramble, but the part where Tseng comes to his senses didn’t turn out quite the way I wanted it to. The title of this one comes from the song “She Works Hard for the Money”.

(we open at the strip club where dante, gippal, maxi, delita, zidane, irvine, rude and franswa are all sitting around, and they don’t look happy)

Delita: “Can someone explain to me what happened?”

Gippal: “Basically the General’s daughter came to the club and saw her dad here. Apparently he never told her that he owned a male strip club. Anyway, she threw a fit, and he sold the club.”

Maxi: “Now we’re waiting for the new owner to show his face.”

Zidane: “Great. It figures. I finally found a job I like and they’ll probably close it and turn it into a Starbucks.”

Delita: “Starbucks! I already work at one of those! I can’t work at another one!”

Franswa: “That Hojo guy might still come in for coffee…” *shudders*

Gippal: “I won’t work for some stupid coffee place. I’ll have to go find another stripping job. What a drag.”

Maxi: “Tell me about it.”

Dante: “Relax. You don’t know what the new owner’s planning to do with the joint yet.”

Rude: “…Where’s Tseng?”

Zidane: “Who cares.”

(speaking of tseng, he then walks through the door dressed in what appears to be a very expensive suit. he has a cell phone to his ear, chatting away)

Tseng: “No. I don’t think so. You do what I told you, or you can forget about it all together. ……………Fine. I have to go. Do it, then call me back.” *hangs up*

Irvine: “There you are, Tseng.”

Delita: “We’re waiting to meet the new asshole who bought this place.”

Tseng: “Yeah, that asshole would be me.”

Everybody: *blink blink*

Zidane: “You bought the club??”

Rude: “How?”

Tseng: “Are you kidding me? Who do you think I am Rude, you? I have lots of money. And I’ll have even more now that I own this club.”

Maxi: “So you’re keeping the club?”

Tseng: “Of course. This place is a gold mine. I bought it as soon as I heard it was for sale. And I got it at a bargain too. Man, old man Caraway was desperate to unload it. But anyway, enough about that. I don’t want to mess with success, but I am making some minor changes around here. First of all, 2 a.m. is too early to close. There are plenty of people still around then. So we’re going to start staying open till 3 a.m.”

Franswa: “Oh boy.”

Delita: “3 a.m.!? But I work another job at 8 a.m.!”

Tseng: “That’s not my problem. And also I’m hiking up the cover charge 5 bucks.”

Gippal: “5 bucks? That’s a pretty big hike.”

Tseng: “So? You don’t think you’re worth 5 more bucks?”

Dante: “I know I am.”

Tseng: “Thank you, Dante. Glad one of you has some sense.”

Irvine: “So…uh…I guess you won’t be stripping anymore.”

Tseng: “Why wouldn’t I?”

Irvine: “…Because you own the place?”

Tseng: “So? I can make even more money stripping. I’m not gonna stop that.”

Zidane: *snort*

Tseng: “Comment, Zidane?”

Zidane: “………No.”

Tseng: “Good answer. Any other questions?”

Everyone: “………………………”

Tseng: “Perfect. Well, I have phone calls to make. I’ll see you back here tonight.”

(and with that he leaves. zidane jumps to his feet looking annoyed)

Zidane: “Great! Now he owns the place? This is gonna suck.”

Franswa: “I don’t know how I’m going to be able to get up and go to the Disco-Center in the morning…”

Gippal: “I’m just happy the club is gonna stay open.”

Maxi: “Word.”

Dante: “See – everything’s fine. I told you to relax.”

Zidane: *mutters* “Everything is *not* fine.”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

(next we go to the video game therapy center. haven’t been there in awhile. koudelka is at the front at the reception desk. she’s reading a piece of paper. then yuri comes over)

Yuri: “Koudelka, I don’t want to keep those old men here anymore.”

Koudelka: “Too bad. We need those old men.”

Yuri: “They cause more trouble than they’re worth! One of them has broken the remote control for the TV seven times! And the other one is totally hopped up on drugs and he keeps ruining things! The other day he thought the toilet was a whirlpool – that didn’t end well!”

Koudelka: “Oh you’re such a whiner.”

Yuri: “You don’t care because you didn’t have to clean it up!”

Koudelka: *puts the paper down* “Look. We need those old guys. They bring in a lot of money! We need every penny we can get. Aside from the other therapy groups, we really don’t have a lot going on now.”

Yuri: “What about the singles mixers?”

Koudelka: “Those have been going down hill ever since you got drunk and felt up that dude.”

Yuri: “I really thought that was a woman.”

Koudelka: “We all did. But it doesn’t put money in our pockets. And if there isn’t some kind of progress with your group soon, I’m afraid that their friends will pull them out! *Then* where will we be?”

Yuri: “What do you expect from me? I’ve been trying everything! I’d have better luck pulling a bird out of my ass!”

Koudelka: “With the sick stuff you’re into you’re probably right. But I want to see some progress. Or you’re in trouble.”

Yuri: “What does that mean?”

Koudelka: “Do you *want* to know what that means?”

Yuri: “……Not really.”

Koudelka: “Then I would just try and think of a way so you don’t find out.”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

(meanwhile, back at the ramble room, tseng is on the phone again, pacing back and forth when elena enters with lily)

Tseng: “Okay, good. ………Good! Now we’re finally getting somewhere! Fax that to me and I’ll call you back. ……………Okay, bye.” *hangs up*

Elena: “Hi, Tseng.”

Tseng: “Hi, Elena. Hi, sweetie!” *gives lily a kiss*

Elena: “Are you ready to watch her?”

Tseng: “Huh?”

Elena: “…You said you’d watch her today, remember? I have some errands to run.”

Tseng: “Errands? That’s not important. I’m busy. Get Reeve to do it.”

Elena: “Reeve’s in a meeting.”

Tseng: *rolls eyes* “Oh god. Well I can’t do it. I have a million things to do!”

Elena: “Like what?”

Tseng: “Like what?! Like earning money, Elena! Don’t you want Lily to have a good future?”

(rufus walks in. elena is frowning)

Rufus: “Good morning!” *notices elena* “What’s wrong?”

Tseng: “He can watch her. I’ll be back later.” *leaves*

Rufus: “I can what?”

Elena: “Watch Lily. But you can’t! You have to go to the office!”

Rufus: “That’s okay. I can take her with me. Is there a problem?”

Elena: “……………No.” *shakes head* “Thank you, Rufus. You sure it’s okay?”

Rufus: “No problem! Mr. Jingles loves the company!” *takes lily* “I’ll take good care of her!”

Elena: “I know you will.”

(she gives rufus a kiss and leaves. rufus looks at lily)

Rufus: “Well now! Looks like you’re with Uncle Rufus for the day! We’re gonna have a great time together!”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

(later that day, reeve walks into rufus’ office. rufus is sitting at his desk and lily is sitting on the desk. he’s playing peek-a-boo with her)

Rufus: *eyes covered* “Where’s Lily? Where’s Lily?” *uncovers eyes* “There she is!”

Lily: *giggles*

Reeve: “Hi, Rufus.”

Rufus: “Oh, hi, Reeve.”

(reeve walks over and lily smiles when she sees him)

Lily: “Dada!”

Reeve: “Hi, sweetie!” *picks her up* “I thought Tseng was supposed to watch her today.”

Rufus: “Apparently he was busy. But I don’t remember giving him anything to do. When I saw Reno and Rude earlier they were trying to steal stuff out of the vending machine on the 40th floor. I fired them both for twenty minutes.”

Reeve: *frowns* “Said he was too busy to watch Lily? …This is worse than I thought.”

Rufus: “Still think he’s cheating?”

Reeve: “…………”

Rufus: “You need to confront him about it.”

Reeve: “He won’t admit it.”

Rufus: “Still. Or at least try to get some more information. Who else is he friends with?”

Reeve: “I think I’ve talked to pretty much everyone… Reno, Sephiroth, Kuja – they know nothing.”

Rufus: “What about Zidane?”

Reeve: “Zidane, huh?”

Rufus: “Yeah. Algus is always complaining that he always sees them together. He doesn’t like when slaves start to congregate together. Thinks they’ll start a revolt or something.”

Reeve: *blink blink*

Rufus: “His words!”

Reeve: *thoughtfully* “Zidane… Come to think about it, I haven’t seen him around much lately.”

Rufus: “That’s Algus’ other complaint. Two nights ago he wanted tea but he couldn’t find Zidane so he couldn’t have any. He wasn’t happy.”

Reeve: “Why didn’t he just make it himself?”

Rufus: “He has no idea how to use the stove.” *happy sigh* “I wish my life was more like that.”

Reeve: “…Yeah…”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

(later that day at the therapy center, yuri walks into the room where cloud, rudy, serge and squall are sitting. koudelka is behind the two way mirror)

Yuri: “Okay. I know most of you are brain dead morons.”

Squall: “I’m not.”

Yuri: “I said *most* of you. Anyway, I thought long and hard about it, and I thought that maybe if I scared you, I could get some kind of reaction!”

Squall: “Whatever… I’m not scared of you.”

Yuri: “We’ll see about that.”

(and with that he turns into a monster. as soon as he does, cloud, serge, and rudy all widen their eyes and stare at him)

Cloud: “………bad.”

Rude: “………doot doot doah doah doot doot doo doo…”

Serge: “……………”

Squall: “I’m not scared.”

Yuri: “You will be!” *growls*

(at that moment, cloud, rudy and serge all jump to their feet, drawing weapons out of nowhere)

Yuri: *eyes widen* “What the–?! A sword?! A gun?! And what the hell kinda weapon is that!? A two bladed death machine?!”

Cloud: “Bad guy!” *rushes at him*

Yuri: “Ahhhhhhhh!!!”

(cloud, rudy, and serge all start trying to attack yuri. he’s running around the room trying to get away from them)

Yuri: “AHHHHHHH! Help! Squall! Help me! I know you understand me!”

Squall: *taking out gunblade* “I’ve wanted to do this for a long time.”

Yuri: *runs and starts banging on the mirror as everyone attacks him* “Koudelka! Help me!! Koudelka!”

Koudelka: “Hm. Not the reaction we were hoping for. But an improvement nonetheless.”

Yuri: *pounding on the window* “Koudelka! They’re gonna get my organs! My *organs*, Koudelka!”

Koudelka: “I better think of something else.” *leaves the room*

Yuri: *still banging* “For the love of god, Koudelka! Ow! Koudelka, you bitch! YOU BITCH!!!!!”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

(that night at the strip club…zidane is getting ready alone when tseng walks in. zidane gives him a glance but continues what he’s doing and says nothing. tseng walks over to him)

Tseng: “Don’t worry. I’m not gonna fire you.”

Zidane: “…………”

Tseng: “I probably should, but you bring in money, so I won’t. But I did want to let you know you’re on pretty thin ice. And if you f#$% up again, you’re outta here.”

Zidane: “…………”

Tseng: “No comment?”

Zidane: “………….”

Tseng: “Smart boy.”

(he turns and leaves. zidane looks pissed. he kicks the wall in anger)

Zidane: “Don’t do me any favors, Tseng.”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

(that night it’s the first night at the new club. maxi is manning the door when alucard enters)

Alucard: “Hi, Maxi. How are you?”

Maxi: “Hey, Alucard. Can’t complain. How are you?”

Alucard: “The same.”

(he goes to walk in but maxi stops him)

Maxi: “…Sorry, man. But there’s a ten dollar cover charge now.”

Alucard: “Ten dollars? But I always—“

Maxi: “I know. But we have a new owner now. And he says no freebies.”

Alucard: “New owner? Who’s that?”

Maxi: “Him.” *points to the stage where tseng is dancing*

Alucard: *blink blink* “Tseng?”

Maxi: “Yeah. He upped the cover charge and now we’re open an hour more.”

Alucard: “Oh. I see.”

Maxi: “Sorry, man.”

Alucard: “It’s fine. It’s not like I can’t afford it.” *takes out the money* “Here you are.”

Maxi: “Thanks. Have a good one.”

Alucard: “You too.”

(alucard walks in and goes over to the bar.)

Bomberman: “Heh heh heh.”

Snake: “Otakon! The terrorist is laughing suspiciously! Otakon! He’s up to something evil!”

Alucard: “Can I get a jack and cola please?”

(bomberman goes to make the drink)

Snake: “Otakon! The terrorist is mixing chemicals! It must be a bomb! I’ll take care of it!”

(dante comes over)

Dante: “Hey, baby.”

Alucard: “Hey. You didn’t tell me about the club’s new owner.”

Dante: “Oh – must have slipped my mind. Not like it’s a big deal. It’s just Tseng.”

Alucard: “Maxi told me. So now you’re open later and everybody has to pay a $10 cover charge.”

Dante: “Well, not *everybody*! You never pay.”

Alucard: “I do now.”

Dante: “What?”

Alucard: “It’s not a big deal, but Maxi said Tseng told him everyone has to pay now.”

Dante: “Well I’ll just talk to Tseng about that. No problem. I’ll see you later.”

(he walks into the back where tseng looks like he was ready to head back out.)

Dante: “Nice timing.”

Tseng: “Hey, Dante. Need something?”

Dante: “About your new cover charge policy, I don’t really care except I don’t think Alucard should have to pay.”

Tseng: “Why not?”

Dante: “Because, he’s my boyfriend and he spends so much money at the bar that it doesn’t really matter.”

Tseng: “It matters. Besides, it’s not like he can’t spare it.”

Dante: “So? I’m sure you wouldn’t make your husband pay to get in.”

Tseng: “My husband doesn’t even know this place exists.”

Dante: “So I get penalized for not keeping secrets?”

Tseng: *eyes narrow* “The policy stands. That’s final.”

(he brushes past dante and leaves. dante looks pretty annoyed)

Dante: “So…that’s how it’s gonna be, huh.”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

(the next day, back at the therapy center, yuri is at the reception desk looking all bruised and cut up. koudelka comes over)

Koudelka: “Hey.”

Yuri: *glares*

Koudelka: “Still not talking to me?”

Yuri: “I was *bleeding on the floor*!”

Koudelka: “I thought you fought like that.”

Yuri: “It was four on one!”

Koudelka: “I knew you’d pull through. Anyway, I thought of an idea to get us more business. I already put ads in the paper about it.”

Yuri: “Without asking me?”

Koudelka: “First of all, it doesn’t really involve you, and second of all, you were still in the emergency room.”

Yuri: “Thanks to you!”

Koudelka: “I’m going to do personal counseling.”

Yuri: “But you don’t have any credentials to do that.”

Koudelka: “I’m a psychic.”

Yuri: “That’s not a credential.”

Koudelka: “It should be. I can see people’s problems without them even having to tell me. This should be a snap.”

Yuri: “Know what else would have been a snap? Coming to help me yesterday when I was under attack.”

Koudelka: “No…I don’t think so.”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

(meanwhile, back over at the ramble room. tseng is in his and reeve’s room on the phone pacing back and forth)

Tseng: “Perfect! Finally! So you can do something right! ………………Right. Bye.” *hangs up*

(reeve enters)

Reeve: “There you are.”

Tseng: “Here I am. See you later.” *goes to leave*

Reeve: “Hold on a minute. You want to stop and talk to me for a minute?”

Tseng: “About what?”

Reeve: “What’s going on with you lately? You never talk to me, you brush everybody else off, now you’re not even taking care of Lily when you’re supposed to.”

Tseng: “I had to work.”

Reeve: “I don’t know where that was, but you weren’t at the office.”

Tseng: “What are you trying to say?”

Reeve: “………….Is there someone else?”

Tseng: “What?”

Reeve: “Are you seeing someone else?”

Tseng: *laughs*

Reeve: *frowns* “What’s so funny?”

Tseng: “Reeve! I would never cheat on you!”

Reeve: “Oh really? Well I don’t believe you.”

Tseng: “Look. I’m just trying to earn some money so we can all be happier.”

Reeve: “By doing what?”

Tseng: “Just some investing.”

Reeve: “Like what?”

Tseng: “I don’t have to explain every little thing to you.”

Reeve: “And why the hell not?”

Tseng: “I’m already late. I have to go.”

(and with that he walks away)

Reeve: “…I don’t believe a word he says.”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

(meanwhile, lark is on the porch swing just hanging out. tseng walks by, chatting on his cell phone again)

Lark: “Hi, Tseng!” *he just walks on by* “…Bye, Tseng.” *sigh*

(sephiroth comes walking towards the ramble room, passing tseng)

Sephiroth: “Where the hell have you been lately?” *tseng just walks on by* “Hey! I’m talking to you!”

(tseng gets in his car and leaves. sephiroth scowls and comes on the porch)

Lark: “Sephy! Hi! Come sit!” *pats seat next to her*

Sephiroth: *sighs* “I don’t have time to whittle away the hours sitting on the porch swing, woman!” *sits*

Lark: “Yes you do. So how’s life?”

Sephiroth: *shrugs* “The same as always.”

Lark: “Everything sure isn’t the same as always around here.”

Sephiroth: “What does that mean?”

Lark: “Everything’s so different now. I mean once upon a time you couldn’t walk in the ramble room without it being full of people. Now it feels like a ghost town sometimes. No one really hangs out in there anymore. It’s weird.”

Sephiroth: “Maybe everyone’s less of a loser than I thought.”

Lark: “I guess it’s part of life. People grow apart. Things change. They move on.”

Sephiroth: “Not all the time.”

Lark: “Maybe not, but it sure feels like it around here.”

Sephiroth: “I thought change was supposed to be good.”

Lark: “C’mon, Seph. You and I both know…that that’s a lie.”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

(but there are people in the ramble room right now! elena and rufus are in there with lily, and reno is in there as well. he’s sitting on the couch relaxing. rufus and elena are trying to get lily to walk again)

Reno: “So Irvine’s dating and stuff, and I guess that’s cool, but I really miss him at the bar. I mean his brothers are cool, but it’s just not the same.”

Rufus: “Really? They seem kind of interchangeable to me.”

Reno: “And Rude said he got a night job to earn some extra cash. But he won’t tell me what it is.”

Rufus: “Well I know it’s not modeling.” *laughs*

Elena: “Rufus!”

Rufus: “What?”

Lily: *giggles*

Reno: “She is so cute.”

Elena: “Isn’t she?”

Rufus: “She makes me wish I was a father again.”

Reno: “Again?”

Rufus: *long pause* “………………Max.”

Reno and Elena: “Oh…”

Rufus: “……I think about him a lot.”

Elena: “I’m sure he’s doing fine wherever he is, Rufus.”

Rufus: “I hope so.”

(then reeve comes in)

Reeve: “Tseng come in here?”

Elena: “No, why? Was he around?”

Reeve: “He *was*, but he probably left.”

Rufus: “Did you confront him?”

Reeve: “I tried.”

Reno: “Wait, what’s going on?”

Reeve: “You haven’t talked to Tseng recently, have you?”

Reno: “No.”

(reeve goes to speak but at that moment zidane passes by)

Zidane: “Hi, everybody!” *leaves*

Reeve: “Zidane!”

(he then runs out of the room after him. zidane stops in the middle of the hallway)

Zidane: “Oh. Hi, Reeve. What’s up?”

Reeve: “I’ve been meaning to talk to you. Have you talked to Tseng lately?”

Zidane: “………Yeah.”

Reeve: “You have! Do you know…if…he’s been…seeing somebody else?”

Zidane: “Not as far as I know.”

Reeve: *frowns* “Okay…well do you know anything about some investment he has?”

Zidane: *snort* “That’s what he’s calling it?”

Reeve: “So you do know!”

Zidane: “Yeah. Oh yeah.” *pause* “He never told you about the male strip club, did he.”

Reeve: “The what?!”

Zidane: “The male strip club. It’s been here since January. And that’s how long he’s been trying to get a job there.”

Reeve: “I had no idea!”

Zidane: “He didn’t want you to know.”

Reeve: “So he works at a strip club?”

Zidane: “…That’s not the least of it……”

Reeve: “What do you mean?”

Zidane: “He…*owns* the club.”

Reeve: “He *what*?!”

Zidane: “The owner sold it recently. And he bought it.”

Reeve: “No wonder I’ve been seeing money everywhere! How did you know all this?”

Zidane: “………I work there.”

Reeve: “You—“

Zidane: “Look, don’t tell anybody okay? I don’t want Algus to find out. I kinda need that money.”

Reeve: “That’s fine. But why did you tell me all this?”

Zidane: “Because he’s been acting like a total asshole.”

Reeve: “Well thanks for telling me.”

Zidane: “You deserve to know.”

Reeve: “Will he be there tonight?”

Zidane: “Oh, he’s there *every* night.”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

(that night at the club, zidane is in the back when dante walks in)

Zidane: “Hey.”

Dante: “Hey. Tseng around?”

Zidane: “Not yet.”

Dante: “He’s pissing me off. And I’m not the kind of person you want to piss off.”

Zidane: “Glad I’m not alone – what set you off?”

Dante: “The new cover charge sh*t he’s pulling – he made Alucard pay!”

Zidane: “Well I wouldn’t bother saying anything to him about it. Because Asshole Mcjackass isn’t going to listen to you.”

Dante: “I know. Already tried that. I asked if he’d charge his husband to get in and he told me he didn’t even know about the place. Nice, huh?”

Zidane: *smirks*

Dante: *smiling slowly* “What did you do, Z?”

Zidane: “Well, you didn’t hear it from me, but I have a feeling Tseng’s going to be getting a surprise visitor tonight.”

Dante: “You are a naughty, naughty, brilliant little thing.”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

(sure enough, zidane is right. later that night tseng is onstage when reeve walks into the club. unlike some other people who will remain nameless, reeve recognizes him right away. he stomps over to the stage looking angry and just stares at tseng. it takes a moment or two, but tseng notices him as well. he looks surprised at first, but then he just stares back, continuing to dance. hojo is there once again, happily shoving money at tseng. tseng finishes his whole set. afterwards he jumps off the stage and walks over to reeve)

Tseng: “Who told you?”

Reeve: “…How could you do this to me?”

Tseng: “Do what? Make money?”

Reeve: “…You have men shoving money in your underwear! And Hojo was one of them! Hojo, Tseng! Hojo! Doesn’t that phase you anymore?!”

Tseng: “…He has a lot of money.”

Reeve: “So what? I don’t believe this. So this is why you came home smelling like other men! Well, at least part of it!”

Tseng: “I never cheated!”

Reeve: “Oh no? You bought this whole place and didn’t even tell me! You’ve been hiding this place’s existence from me all year! Why should I trust you?”

Tseng: “Don’t be stupid – who cares?! Do you know how much money I’m making? I’m going to buy a yacht.”

Reeve: “I don’t want a damn yacht. And I don’t want you working in a place like this!”

Tseng: “Why? Because I’m good at it? Are you jealous?”

Reeve: “Jealous?! Jealous of what, Tseng?!” *shakes head* “This isn’t working. We need help. We need major help.”

Tseng: “I think you need help. Now can you get out of here? You’re scaring away my customers.”

(and with that he just walks away. reeve sighs and looks upset.)

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

(later that night, franswa looks exhausted. he and zidane are the last ones in there)

Franswa: “That guy…Hojo…five lap dances. Five. He smells like death and chemicals. It was hard not to gag.”

Zidane: “I hear ya.”

Franswa: “Now I have to get up in a few hours and go back to work again.”

Zidane: “Go home and get some sleep.”

(franswa leaves. zidane gets the rest of his stuff together and is about to go when tseng bursts in. he looks pissed)

Tseng: “I know what you did, Zidane.”

Zidane: “What?”

Tseng: “I know you told Reeve.”

Zidane: “No I didn’t.”

Tseng: “You’re lying. I know it was you.”

Zidane: “You can’t prove it. It could have been Irvine. Or Rude. Or even Dante. I don’t think anyone’s too happy with you lately.”

Tseng: “I don’t care what you all think of me. I’m your boss, and if you want to stay employed I suggest you respect that!”

Zidane: “You were once like us too, you know! I see you forgot that quick enough!”

(he storms out, leaving tseng alone.)

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

(the next morning reeve is awake and fully dressed but tseng is still asleep. reeve goes over and pokes him between the shoulder blades)

Reeve: “Tseng.”

Tseng: *mutters incoherently*

Reeve: “Tseng, get up.”

Tseng: *mumbles* “What the hell do you want, Reeve?”

Reeve: “Get up. We have to go to counseling in 45 minutes.”

(he walks away. tseng lifts his head up and furrows his brow)

Tseng: “Counseling? What?”

Reeve: “They’re doing personal counseling at the therapy center now. I made us an appointment.”

Tseng: “Are you kidding me? We don’t need counseling!”

Reeve: “Oh yes we do.”

Tseng: “How much is this going to cost me?”

Reeve: “Who cares? The cost is meaningless next to what else we stand to lose!”

Tseng: “And what’s that?”

Reeve: “Just get dressed.”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

(and so reeve and tseng go down to the therapy center and meet with koudelka)

Koudelka: “You must be my 10 o’clock.”

Reeve: “Yes, I’m Reeve Leander.” *shakes her hand*

Koudelka: “Nice to meet you.”

Reeve: “And this is my husband Tseng.”

Tseng: “Is this going to take long?”

Reeve: “You can’t spare an hour of your time for something important like this?”

Koudelka: “…Why don’t we go inside and have a seat.”

(she leads them into a small room. they sit down next to each other and she sits across from them. she stares at them for a long moment, then blinks several times)

Koudelka: “Oh. This is easy.”

Both: “Huh?”

Koudelka: “He’s never cheated on you.”

Tseng: “I told you!”

Koudelka: “And he doesn’t think you’re ugly. In fact…wow…he’s got a pretty dirty mind.”

Tseng: *blink blink* “Hey!”

Reeve: “But I—“

Koudelka: “And he doesn’t think you’re stupid. At all. He’s just upset you’ve been so obsessed with money lately and you’ve been hiding things from him.” *pause* “Oh! And he thinks you’ve been a real asshole. But he still loves you.”

Both: *blink in confusion*

Koudelka: “So are you good now?”

Reeve: “What the…what did you just do?”

Koudelka: “I’m a *psychic*. I just read your minds.”

Tseng: “A psychic?!” *gets up and turns to reeve* “You bring me to a psychic?!” *storms out*

Reeve: “Tseng! Come back here!”

(they leave. koudelka sits in the room for another minute before she shrugs and goes to join yuri at the reception desk)

Yuri: “What happened to your ten o’clock?”

Koudelka: “Guess they didn’t think a psychic was a qualified counselor.”

Yuri: “I told you.”

Koudelka: “But the important thing is I got the money up front.”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

(meanwhile at the disco-center, franswa is asleep at his register. totally passed out. nemesis comes over)

Nemesis: “STARS!”

Franswa: *jumps a mile* “Wha?! Huh? I’m up! I’m up!”

Nemesis: “STARS!”

Franswa: “Yeah. Thanks.”

Nightmare: “Nightmare tired too… Tired of fighting! But Nightmare’s pleas fall on deaf ears!”

Lloyd: *walks over* “No talking! Get back to work!” *trips over his own two feet and nearly falls* “Dammit! Stupid feet! I’ll show you!” *kicks wall really hard* “Ow! My foot! Damn wall! I’ll show you!” *kicks it again* “Ow! My foot!”

Franswa: *sigh* “So tired…”

(then rufus walks in with algus and zell.)

Algus: “My stupid slave is even more useless than he used to be! He sleeps half the day away and then leaves in the evening without telling me where he’s going! And half the time he doesn’t even leave dinner for me! I think he’s on the dope.”

Rufus: “Then you should send him to rehab. At his own expense.”

Zell: “Franswa!” *runs over to him* “What’s goin’ on, buddy? I’ve hardly seen you lately!”

Franswa: “Oh. Hi, Zell.”

Zell: *frowns* “You look exhausted.”

Franswa: “Yeah… I’m kinda tired. I only got a few hours sleep.”

Zell: “Why?”

Franswa: “I was…busy.”

Zell: “Doing what?”

Franswa: “Look, Zell, I really can’t talk right now. I have to ring up customers.”

Zell: “Does anyone even shop here?”

Franswa: *walks away* “I’ll talk to you later.”

Zell: *frowns* “…Did I do something wrong…?”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

(later…it seems tseng has been able to avoid reeve since he stomped out of counseling. he’s in the ramble room flipping through a magazine when elena enters, carrying lily and another magazine)

Elena: “Hi…Tseng…”

Tseng: “Oh, hi, Elena.”

Elena: *looking at the magazine in confusion* “This came for you…but it must be some mistake…”

Tseng: *lights up* “Is it Rich and Pompous Weekly?!”

Elena: *blink blink*

(tseng happily comes over and snags the magazine from her. he then starts flipping through it excitedly)

Tseng: “I can’t believe it’s finally here! Now that I’ve qualified for membership things are really gonna pick up! Ooh, a solid gold shoehorn! I could really use one of those…”

Elena: “Um, Tseng? I think we need to talk…You haven’t really been around lately, and Lily’s really been missing you. I have to go to the store. Maybe you could watch her?”

Tseng: “Sorry, Elena, but I just don’t have time. Lily understands – don’t you, sweetie?” *takes a huge roll of money out of his pocket and puts it in elena’s hand* “This’ll take care of it. I’ll see you later.”

(he leaves. elena looks down at the money in disgust. two seconds later, reeve enters)

Reeve: “Have you seen Tseng? He’s been avoiding me.”

Elena: *looks at him in shock*

Reeve: “What? Is something wrong?”

Elena: *holds up money* “Look at this.”

Reeve: “…Tseng?”

Elena: “Yeah. I asked him to spend some time with his daughter, and he shoved money at me instead!” *eyes fill with tears* “Like that will buy her love!” *throws the money to the floor crying* “What is going on with him, Reeve?! I just wanna…I just wanna punch him in the face!!”

(she just breaks down crying on reeve’s shoulder. lily just looks lost. reeve pats elena on the back with a sigh)

Reeve: “…I know how you feel.”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

(later that day at the strip club…franswa, zidane, irvine and rude are getting ready.)

Franswa: *looks exhausted* “So tired…”

Irvine: “I’m tired too. Tired of all the dudes I have to give lap dances to!”

Rude: “I have no complaints. I’m getting money.”

Zidane: “I have many complaints! All involving Tseng!”

Franswa: “If I fall asleep while giving someone a lap dance, do you think they’ll be offended?”

Irvine: “Man, you need to have some coffee or somethin’.”

Franswa: “And that guy…Hojo…” *shudder* “He’s been coming in every day this week. He has to stop coming in eventually, right?” *tries to look hopeful* “Right??”

Everyone else: *exchange looks*

Franswa: *desperately* “Right?”

(then dante, gippal and maxi enter. delita is trailing behind)

Delita: “It’s awful! I almost fell asleep in someone’s grande mocha soy milk latte this morning! My boss said I screw up like that again and I’m fired!”

Dante: “We all have issues with these new policies. We’ll get them worked out.”

Gippal: “You should say something, Dante.”

Maxi: “Yeah. He can’t not listen to you. You’re the top earner!”

Dante: “I told you, I already made it clear I didn’t like how things were working around here. He brushed me off. We’ll show him who’s the real boss.”

Gippal: “How’s that?”

Dante: “I don’t want anyone to hand over their fair share tonight.”

Maxi: “You mean the lap dance money?”

Dante: “Yeah. Nobody hand it all over.”

Franswa: “You sure that’s a good idea?”

Dante: “It’s a great idea. And everybody has to do it, or it won’t work.”

Zidane: “I’ll do it for sure.”

Gippal: “Count me in.”

Maxi: “Okay.”

Delita: “I’ll do it.”

Irvine: “Me too.”

Franswa: “Me too…I guess.”

Rude: “…………………”

Dante: “Rude – you in?”

Irvine: “We’re a team, man!”

Rude: “…Okay.”

Dante: “Great.” *grins* “He should have known better than to f**k with me.”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

(at the end of the night, everyone files by and hands over their money. they then get their nightly payment and leave. rude sticks around)

Rude: “You leavin’?”

Tseng: *counting money with a frown* “This isn’t very much…”

Rude: “…………”

Tseng: “I thought there was a big crowd tonight. There’s only a thousand dollars here!”

Rude: “………Bad tippers I guess.”

Tseng: “This won’t do. This is crap!” *shakes head* “I’ll have to think of something else. Let’s go, Rude.”

Rude: *picks a quarter up off the floor happily*

Tseng: “What’s that?”

Rude: “Just a quarter.”

Tseng: *sticks his hand out*

Rude: *blink blink*

Tseng: “Give it to me.”

Rude: *blink blink* “…Are you serious?”

Tseng: “It’s my club, my floor. My quarter!”

(rude hands it over looking totally shocked. tseng takes it and quickly leaves. then rude looks pissed)

Rude: “I’m glad I went along with it now.”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

(the next morning, reeve and elena are in the ramble room with lily. there is a pile of mail on the table and reeve is going through it.)

Reeve: “Bills, bills, same old stuff for me. And the usual three copies of Rich and Pompous Weekly. I don’t know how Rufus, Algus and Edgar read that stupid magazine. Everything in it is completely impractical!”

Elena: “………There were four issues there yesterday.”

Reeve: “What?”

Elena: “I didn’t tell you? Someone else recently subscribed…”

Reeve: “…No.”

Elena: *nods slowly*

Reeve: “Oh. My. God.”

Elena: “I know.”

Reeve: “But he hates everything that magazine stands for!”

Elena: “Not any more apparently. He said he was so excited he qualified for membership.”

Reeve: “What does that mean?”

Elena: *shrugs*

(then setzer walks in and goes over to the mail pile*

Setzer: “Good morning.” *picks up rich and pompous weekly* “Oh, Edgar will be excited. He’s been waiting for them to rerun that gold lined jacket he wanted.”

(reeve and elena exchange a look. then reeve walks over to setzer)

Reeve: “That’s such a weird magazine.”

Setzer: “Tell me about it. Personally, I don’t get it. But Edgar likes it. I guess ‘cause Rufus and Algus get it.”

Reeve: “So can anybody just get this magazine?”

Setzer: “No. Oh god no. You think a company selling products like solid platinum Ferrari tires is going to let just anybody subscribe? You have to send them a copy of your bank account. And it has to be pretty substantial.”

Reeve: “I see.”

Setzer: “Anyway, I better get this to Edgar. See you around.” *he leaves*

Elena: “A copy of your bank statement?”

Reeve: “What kind of money is he hiding from me!?”

Elena: “I still can’t believe he subscribed.”

Reeve: “Me neither! It’s like he’s turning into—“

(and at that moment both tseng and rufus walk into the room. they both have their hair done the exact same way. rufus is wearing a very expensive looking outfit – shirt, sports coat, pants and shoes – all in white. tseng is wearing the exact same thing in black. reeve and elena stare at them and rufus and tseng stare at each other. they look stunned for a moment but then they both smile)

Rufus: “Hey, nice outfit!”

Tseng: “I was going to say the same!”

Both: *laugh*

Reeve: “Did you *plan* that?”

Both: “No!”

Rufus: “I guess great minds think alike!”

Tseng: “I guess so!”

Rufus: “Wanna get a cup of coffee?”

Tseng: “Sure!”

(they leave together. reeve turns to elena in total shock)

Reeve: “Oh my god…”

Elena: “I know…”

Reeve: “He’s turned into Rufus!”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

(meanwhile, lloyd is dragging dante into the therapy center)

Dante: “Lloyd, where the hell are you taking me?”

Lloyd: “That’s for me to know and you to find out, Dante!”

Dante: *looks at the building* “Video Game Character Therapy Center?”

Lloyd: “Yeah! That’s right!”

Dante: “I’m glad you’re finally getting yourself the help you need, Lloyd.”

Lloyd: “F$%^ you! It’s Vergil!”

(they go inside to where koudelka is at the reception desk)

Koudelka: “You two must be my 11 o’clock. Brothers?”

Both: “Twins.” *they turn and glare at each other*

Dante: “Don’t ever say anything at the exact same time as me again.”

Lloyd: “Like I’d want to!”

Koudelka: “Who’s older?”

Dante: “Him.” *points to lloyd* “I shoved him out first because I couldn’t stand him anymore.”

Lloyd: “Shut up, you jackass! I was trying to get away from *you*!”

Koudelka: “Why don’t we go somewhere where everyone won’t hear you yelling.”

(they go into the room. dante sits down. lloyd pulls the chair away and then sits. koudelka sits across from them)

Dante: “I don’t even know why I’m here.”

Koudelka: “It seems your brother signed you up for counseling.”

Dante: “He’s a douche.”

Lloyd: “I can hear you!”

Dante: “I know!”

Koudelka: “I’m just here to see if I can help.” *pause* “Okay, I can’t.”

Lloyd: “What?”

Koudelka: “Sorry, Lloyd. You’re beyond help. There’s nothing I can do for you.”

Lloyd: “But—uh, what the f**K?! Hey! Why’d you call me Lloyd?! I told you Vergil over the phone! How’d you even know about that?!”

Koudelka: “I’m a psychic.”

Lloyd: “Oh yeah? Well, well, read my mind right now then!”

Koudelka: “You’re hating me, but you’re also hating Dante. You’re also wondering if your hair looks as good as Dante’s – which it doesn’t, and if Dante would mind that you’re wearing his underwear because you thought it might make you as cool as him.”

Dante: “I’ll have to burn that now.”

Lloyd: *red in the face* “You’re a liar!” *runs out*

Dante: *laughs* “That was great. I don’t think I got your name.”

Koudelka: “I’m Koudelka. You must be Dante.”

Dante: “The one and only.” *gets up* “Thanks for the laugh.”

(he leaves. koudelka stands up as yuri comes in)

Yuri: “There goes your 11 o’clock.”

Koudelka: “I can’t seem to really help anyone. Maybe you were right.”

Yuri: “No one’s asking for their money back.”

Koudelka: “Good point. We’ll keep it up.”

(they walk outside just as dr. zack is walking in)

Zack: “Hi, Koudelka. Hi, Yuri. Cloud here yet?”

Koudelka: “Not yet. But we’re expecting them in a few minutes.”

Zack: “Any progress?”

Yuri: *glaring at koudelka* “No.”

Koudelka: “I still believe in my trigger theory. If it worked for you it can work for them.”

Zack: “No luck so far. But I’m not giving up.”

(he goes and takes a seat in the waiting room. yuri turns to koudelka)

Yuri: *softly* “He’s here almost every day! Doesn’t he have a life? He’s a doctor!”

Koudelka: “Of course he has a life. Cloud’s just a big part of it.”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

(that evening, back at the strip club, it’s rather early. franswa is in there alone, asleep in a chair. zidane walks in. he walks over to franswa.)

Zidane: “Hey.”

Franswa: *blissfully asleep*

Zidane: “Hey, Franswa!” *kicks the chair*

Franswa: *jumps* “Huh – no! Hojo! No more! Wait, what – Zidane?”

Zidane: *blink blink* “Bad dream?”

Franswa: *looks dazed*

Zidane: “Then I guess I did you a favor.” *sits down*

Franswa: “I fell asleep at the Disco-Center today and Lloyd hit me!”

Zidane: “Isn’t that illegal?”

Franswa: “I don’t know, but it didn’t really hurt. It was more annoying than anything else.”

Zidane: “He’s more annoying than anything else.”

(dante and gippal enter)

Dante: “Hey.”

Zidane: “Hey.”

Dante: “Any news from Tseng?”

Zidane: *shrugs* “Haven’t seen him.”

Gippal: “I pocketed a lot of extra cash last night…”

Dante: “We all did.”

(irvine and rude enter)

Irvine: “I’m at the end of my rope, man! Reno’s questioning me non-stop – I’m runnin’ outta lies! Today I told him I took my date to Mercury! I’m pretty sure that’s a planet! Thank god he was so drunk he probably thought it was a club.”

Rude: “Uh huh.”

Irvine: “And there were no chicks who wanted dances last night, man. And dudes are *sweaty*! It’s gross!”

Rude: “But they have money.”

Zidane: “Hey you two – anyone talked to Tseng?”

Irvine: “No.”

Rude: “Not today. But he wasn’t happy with the money last night.”

Dante: “Was he onto us?”

Rude: “I don’t think so. But he said he’d have to do something about it.”

(maxi and delita enter)

Maxi: “Tseng’s here.”

Delita: “He’s coming this way and he does not look happy…”

(sure enough tseng enters and he does not look happy)

Tseng: “Okay, I don’t know what the hell happened with the money last night, but it was pitiful. I didn’t have a problem, but I guess the rest of you sucked it up out there.”

Dante: *eyes narrow* “Ex*cuse* me?”

Tseng: “You heard me. You wanna do lousy dancing you’ll get lousy pay. If I’m not happy with the money I get at the end of the night, you’re not getting your 150 bucks. Got it?”

Delita: “You can’t do that! I need that money to pay my collection agency! They’re gonna break my legs!”

Tseng: “I own this place. I can do whatever I want.”

(with that he storms out of the room. the guys all look furious.)

Maxi: “What. The. F**k.”

Delita: *crying* “They’re gonna take my legs!!”

Gippal: “Great! Now we’re f*cked even worse, Dante! It all backfired!”

Dante: “Shut up. We’re gonna do the same thing tonight.”

Rude: “But—“

Dante: “We’re doing the same thing! He’s gonna know we don’t like the new policies and we’re not gonna stand for them. And he can’t f**k with us.”

Delita: *whimpers*

Dante: *big sigh* “I’ll give you the $150 bucks.”

Delita: “Oh thank god!”

(meanwhile, outside…bomberman and snake are setting things up for that night. snake is watching bomberman very cautiously)

Bomberman: “Heh heh heh…”

Snake: *softly* “Otakon! He’s still laughing! Laughing like a mad man!”

Bomberman: “…Gonna set up C4 all over the place…heh heh heh.”

Snake: *softly* “Otakon…the terrorist is planning to blow up the building!” *eyes narrow* “I’ll take care of him.”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

(much later, the club has closed and the money has been handed over. tseng is counting it. everyone else is standing there waiting. tseng finishes counting and frowns)

Tseng: “No. This is awful. Pathetic. I expect better of you. Forget the extra money.” *snaps fingers* “Rude!”

(he and rude leave. the second they’re gone)

Gippal: “I don’t see how this is gonna work, Dante.”

Dante: “Trust me. It’ll work out fine. Let’s go.”

(all the strippers leave. that leaves snake and bomberman. bomberman is polishing some glasses and snake is sneaking up behind him)

Snake: “Otakon! Commence operation ‘Silent Snake’!”

(with that he leaps on bomberman, tackling him to the floor.)

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

(the next day, elena, rufus and reeve are in the ramble room. reeve has the video camera out and is filming lily. she’s not doing anything exciting, just holding onto the couch and smiling)

Rufus: “So Tseng has a subscription to Rich and Pompous Weekly now?”

Elena: “Yeah. Can you believe it?”

Rufus: *thoughtfully* “Maybe I should ask him to join the MAFIA…”

Elena: “Rufus!”

Reeve: “Rufus…”

Rufus: “What?”

Reeve: “I don’t want to talk about Tseng anymore.” *waves to lily* “Hi, sweetie! Let’s have lots of smiles for daddy’s camera!”

(lily is still smiling at reeve and suddenly she takes her hands off the couch so she’s standing on her own)

Elena: *gasp* “Omg! She’s—“

(and sure enough lily takes a step. and then another)

Elena: “Her first steps! Reeve – you getting this?”

Reeve: “Of course! Of course I’m getting it! Come on, sweetie!”

(lily takes another step, but then it’s obvious she’s lost her balance)

Elena: “Rufus – don’t let her fall!”

Rufus: “I’ve got her.” *swoops down and picks lily up* “Good job, Lily! You’re getting to be such a big girl!”

Lily: *smiles at him* “Dada!” *giggles*

Reeve and Elena: *blink blink*

Elena: “Did she just…”

Reeve: “Yeah.”

Elena: “…Turn the camera off, Reeve.”

(reeve turns the camera off. rufus is frowning as elena comes and takes lily from him)

Rufus: “…I’m sorry.”

Elena: “It’s not your fault, Rufus. She’s used to having two men called daddy around. Now that Tseng’s not here…she thinks you’re daddy instead.”

Rufus: “I hope she doesn’t think I’m doing Reeve.”

Elena: “Rufus!”

Rufus: “Sorry! I don’t know where that came from.”

(they both look over at reeve, who’s looking down at the floor like he’s about to cry)

Elena: *cautiously* “Reeve…are you okay?”

Reeve: “…That’s two. Two milestones he’s missed. He was *so* excited to be a father. Now where is he? With his money.” *shakes head* “This can’t go on.” *picks up camera* “I’m going to put a stop to this or…”

(but he doesn’t finish the sentence. he just leaves the room)

Rufus: “Or…what? He didn’t finish the sentence.”

Elena: *softly* “I don’t think he wanted to.”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

(a short time later in the tv room, lark, Ashley, shell and bryatt are sitting around watching TV…)

Shell: “Rude has been totally loaded lately.”

Ashley: “Did he rob a bank?”

Shell: “I don’t think so. But whatever he’s doing I hope he keeps it up.”

Bryatt: “What if he sold a kidney?”

Shell: “He can get by on one.”

Lark: “It’s been totally boring around here lately.”

Ashley: “Totally.”

Bryatt: “Maybe we should go out and do something then.”

Shell: “Like shopping?”

Ashley: “You go out shopping like every day. How are you possibly finding new stuff to buy?”

Shell: “There’s a lot of malls to choose from.”

Lark: “We could go to the male strip club.”

Ashley: “Didn’t crackwhore’s father own it?”

Lark: “He did. I think she made him sell it.”

Ashley: “She’s a crackwhore.”

Shell: “I guess we could do that.”

Bryatt: “I’m in.”

Lark: “That solves that problem then.”

(zell and algus enter)

Zell: “Sorry, Algus. But I haven’t seen Zidane lately.”

Algus: “Where is that brainless peasant then? He’s not smart enough to be out on his own so much!”

Lark: “Hey, Zell.”

Zell: “Hey, Lark.” *sad sigh*

Lark: “What’s wrong? Franswa still busy?”

Zell: “Yeah. I feel like he’s been…avoiding me.”

Lark: “I’m sure he’s not avoiding you.”

Ashley: “You need a night out on the town, Zell! You should come with us to the strip club!”

Zell: “Uh…I don’t know…that’s not really my kinda place…”

Lark: “We’re not taking no for an answer! You’re coming.”

Zell: “Oh boy.”

Algus: “The strip club! Yes! Zidane quite enjoyed spending his time in that disease ridden cesspool! Perhaps I can find him there!” *he leaves*

Bryatt: “Uh huh. That’s a problem waiting to happen.”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

(meanwhile, at the strip club, gippal comes to work and goes over to his locker.)

Gippal: *singing softly as he opens his locker* “And just when, it hit me, somebody turned around and shouted – play that funky music white boy! Play that funky music ri~ight! Play that funky music white boy! Lay down that boogie and play that funky music till you die—–AHHHH!!!!!”

(he has opened his locker and to his horror out falls the obviously dead body of bomberman. gippal is just standing there screaming as the body has fallen to the floor. dante and tseng rush into the room)

Dante: “Gip – what the – holy f**k!”

Tseng: “What happened?!”

Gippal: “I just opened my locker and the body fell out!”

Tseng: *looks at the body* “Looks like someone snapped his neck. Didn’t even try to crush the windpipe. Just grabbed him by the head and…” *makes the motion with his hands* “Clean work. Whoever it was knew what they were doing.”

Gippal and Dante: *blink blink*

Tseng: “What?”

Gippal: “How do you know all that?”

Tseng: “Uh…Discovery Channel.”

Dante: “And what’s that smell?”

Tseng: “Well, when that happens the victim tends to…lose bowel control.”

Gippal: “Oh, nasty! I need a new locker!”

Dante: *raises eyebrow* “Discovery Channel?”

Tseng: “They have a lot of informative programming!”

(then rude walks in. he notices the body and stops short)

Rude: “Whoa. Broken neck. Clean job too.”

Dante: “Discovery Channel?”

Rude: “What?”

Tseng: “Never mind – we have to get rid of this before the customers come in.”

Gippal: “Guess we should call the police.”

Tseng: “Good idea.” *he leaves*

Gippal: “Ugh, it really smells in here.”

Rude: “Probably because he sh*t himself.”

Dante: “You’ve never seen the Discovery Channel in your life, have you.”

Rude: *peers at him over his sunglasses* “Maybe I have and maybe I haven’t.”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

(back in the main room the guys get ready in, it’s an hour later and zidane, franswa and irvine are in there talking)

Franswa: “So he’s *dead*?”

Irvine: “Yup. Heard someone broke his neck.”

Franswa: *touches neck* “Who could have done that?”

Zidane: “There’s a cop in there now. He’ll figure it out.”

(dante, gippal and maxi enter)

Dante: “Hey. The cop still back there?”

Zidane: “Yup.”

Maxi: “Is he hot?”

Gippal: *glares at him*

Maxi: “What?”

Zidane: *shrugs* “I didn’t see him.”

Maxi: “Maybe we should say hello.”

(he goes to walk into the back as gippal and dante follow)

Gippal: “It smells like sh*t back there! Literally!”

(but maxi doesn’t listen. they walk over to the scene and everyone immediately grimaces)

Maxi: “Ugh. You’re right.”

Gippal: “I tried to warn you.”

Dante: “Holy sh*t.”

Maxi: “Yeah, it’s pretty damn rank back here.”

Dante: “No…hold on a minute…Chris?”

(they all look across the room where it is indeed chris who is investigating the crime scene. they all walk over.)

Gippal: “Chris! Dude! What are you doing here? I thought you went to Europe!”

Chris: “…I never made it.”

Maxi: “Never made it? What happened?”

Chris: “Well first they wouldn’t let my guns on the plane…”

Dante: “I knew it.”

Chris: “But then it turns out that those herbs I’ve been selling to everybody were illegal!”

All: *sweat drops*

Gippal: “It is?”

Maxi: “Heh…I had no idea…”

Dante: “Yup. No clue. Totally didn’t think it was pot.”

Chris: “They confiscated all of it and I had to go to court! I had to use all my money to pay my lawyers. I only got probation, but at what price? All my years of saving down the tube! I’ll never get to Europe!” *starts crying*

Maxi: “So…you won’t be selling the weed anymore?”

Dante: “If you didn’t go to Europe, why didn’t you come back here and get your old job back?”

Chris: “…I was too ashamed to show my face.”

Gippal: “You probably made the right decision. Our new boss is an ass anyway.”

Maxi: “So now that you’re done trying to get to Europe, what are you doing now?”

Chris: “Oh, I’ve started saving all over again. Because one day I will get there! And one day I will bring them down!”

All: *blink blink*

Gippal: “….We’ll leave you to your investigation.”

Maxi: “Yeah, we have to get ready.”

Dante: “See ya.”

(they leave. chris sighs sadly)

Chris: “So close…and yet so far…”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

(later that night, lark, shell, Ashley, bryatt and zell arrive at the strip club. dante is on stage. they go over to the bar)

Ashley: “For some reason I didn’t think there’d be a pole…”

Lark: “Hi, Snake!”

Snake: *mutters* “Otakon! I have taken care of it. The world is safe for now, Otakon!”

Lark: “Uh, can we get some drinks over here?”

Shell: “It’s so dark in here! If I would have known that I would have worn a totally different outfit.”

Zell: *sigh*

Lark: “Cheer up, Zell! Have a drink!”

Ashley: “Let’s go get a booth.”

(so they go sit with their drinks. and they are talking more than they are watching the stage. meanwhile, in the back of the club, tseng and rude are in the locker room, which has been cleaned up. rude is spraying some air freshener)

Tseng: “That’s better. Now we better get out there so we can start earning some money. I don’t want another night of pathetic receipts – I bet you don’t either. I know you need that $150 bucks, Rude.”

Rude: “…You took away a quarter.”

Tseng: “What?”

Rude: “…That quarter I found. You took it away.”

Tseng: “I already forgot about that.”

Rude: “That’s Rufus. Rufus does that.”

Tseng: “Well Rufus is a very smart business man.”

Rude: “I hate Rufus.”

Tseng: “That’s because you’re jealous.”

(he starts to walk away)

Rude: “…I’m starting to hate you.”

(tseng stops. then he turns around)

Tseng: “What?”

Rude: “I said I’m starting to hate you. And so is everybody else.”

Tseng: “Oh yeah? Well I don’t care. You’re all just jealous. Jealous that I’m successful!”

(he steps out into the next room. but he is clearly fuming. he stomps around a bit but then stops and thinks a moment)

Tseng: “…Starting to hate me, huh? So maybe they’re not lazy after all. Just dumb. Well, if they’re still holding money from me at the end of the night they’re gonna regret it. They’re *really* gonna regret it.”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

(meanwhile, back at the tv room, vincent and auron are sitting watching tv together. vincent could not look more bored)

Auron: “I love nature shows. It’s fascinating to see how the world around us works.”

Vincent: “Do you mind if I go take a walk?”

Auron: “Oh…no. Go ahead. Do what you wish.”

(and so vincent gets up and goes outside. it’s a nice clear cool night. he quickly notices he’s not alone out there. sephiroth is lying down on the porch swing again. he smiles a little and walks over)

Vincent: “Good evening, my angel.”

Sephiroth: “Oh. Hi, Vincent.”

Vincent: “I thought you disliked the porch swing.”

Sephiroth: “It serves a purpose.” *sits up* “Sit if you want.”

Vincent: “Thank you.” *he does*

Both: “………………”

Sephiroth: “I had a weird conversation with Lark before.”

Vincent: “What was weird?”

Sephiroth: “She was just talking about how things around here have changed so much since the beginning.”

Vincent: “This is true.”

Sephiroth: “I said I thought change was supposed to be good. …And she said that we both know that that’s a lie.”

Vincent: “I see.” *pause* “Well do you agree or not?”

Sephiroth: *shrugs*

Vincent: “Some change is good. And some is bad. But that is the way of life. And thus we must accept whatever changes do come our way. Otherwise, we’re going to get left behind.”

Sephiroth: “You’ve been hanging out with Auron too much.”

Vincent: “Then again, some things never change. Would you agree with me on that, my angel?”

Sephiroth: *looks at him and smiles a tiny bit* “Yeah. I do.”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

(back at the club, there seems to have been a lot of drinking at lark’s table. everyone except zell seems to be somewhat drunk. delita is dancing onstage)

Ashley: “…And that’s all the things I hate about Seifer!”

Shell: “You went on for twenty minutes! Just break up with him!”

Lark: “Does he have any good qualities?”

Ashley: “Um……he’s hot.”

Bryatt: “I guess that’s a pretty important quality. If you’re shallow.”

Ashley: “With him I gotta be.”

Zell: *sad sigh*

Lark: “Zell! You gotta lighten up!”

Shell: “You still thinking about Franswa?”

Zell: “….No.”

Ashley: “Liar!”

Bryatt: “I think this boy needs a lap dance!”

Shell: “Yeah!”

Lark: “Great idea, Bryatt!”

Zell: *holds hands up defensively* “Uh, I don’t think so! I’m fine!”

Lark: “No! We’re totally getting you one!

Shell: “I’ll handle it!”

(she gets up and leaves the group. meanwhile, algus enters the club and stalks inside)

Algus: “Zidane! Zidane, are you in here?” *sees delita on stage* “Oh no! Peasant!!! PEASANT!!!!!” *points* “Peasant!! Peasant!! Peasant! Somebody do something! Where’s the fire extinguisher?!”

Delita: *sees algus his eyes narrowing* “Algus Sadalfas. You son of a bitch. I’ll kill you!”

Algus: *running away* “Peasant!! Peasant!!!”

Lark: “What the hell…?”

(they all watch as algus runs from delita. he’s not really watching where he’s going and he smacks right into…zidane)

Algus: “Oh god, I touched one!”

Zidane: *blink blink* “Algus?”

Delita: “I’ll make you pay for what you did!”

Algus: “Zidane?” *blink* “So you *were* here!”

Zidane: “Uh…gotta go!” *runs off*

Algus: “Get back here, you insolent slave!”

(but zidane just runs into the back)

Bryatt: *blink blink* “Zidane…is working here?”

Ashley: “That doesn’t really surprise me.”

Lark: “Um, maybe we should go help Algus.”

Bryatt: “We’re probably too drunk to really make a difference, but what the heck!”

(lark, Ashley and bryatt all go over to help. zell remains at the table pouting. then shell comes back over. algus is leaving and delita returns to go in the back. lark, Ashley and bryatt start to come back over)

Shell: “Okay, you’re all set! Just go in the back and wait for him!”

Zell: “I don’t know about this…”

Shell: “Go! I just spent Rude’s hard earned money on your lap dance! Don’t let it go to waste!”

Zell: “Okay…”

(he leaves. the others return)

Ashley: “You set it up?”

Shell: “Yup!”

Lark: “Who’d you pick?”

Shell: *shrugs* “It’s so dark in here. But he sounded cute…and kinda familiar…”

Bryatt: *blink blink blink* “Is that *Tseng*?”

(everyone turns to see tseng on stage)

Ashley: “Holy crap!”

Lark: “Oh my god. So he did do it.”

Bryatt: “If Zidane’s working here…and Tseng’s working here…”

Lark: “A lot of people have been missing from the ramble room lately…”

Ashley: “Shell, who did you pick for Zell?”

Shell: “I told you I don’t know! It was dark!”

Lark: “I guess we’ll find out soon enough…”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

(in the back, zell is sitting uneasily in the chair looking very fidgety. it’s pretty dark in there. he can hear someone come in but he’s too nervous to talk. the person sits on his lap and starts to do his thing without a word. zell sits there looking even more uncomfortable. then the person turns around so he’s straddling him. zell finally gets a look at his face and gasps)

Zell: “FRANSWA?!”

Franswa: *blink blink* “Zell?!”

Both: *freeze*

Zell: “You’re working at the strip club?”

Franswa: “It’s not what you think! I needed the money for cooking school!”

Zell: “Why didn’t you tell me?”

Franswa: “I was embarrassed!”

Zell: “I wouldn’t have cared! You’re my friend! I thought you didn’t like me anymore!”

Franswa: “Oh, no! Oh, I’m sorry, Zell. I didn’t mean to make you think that.”

Both: “…………”

Franswa: “Uh…I’ll get off your lap now.”

(he gets off zell and zell stands up)

Zell: “Is this why you were so tired the other day?”

Franswa: “Yeah…it’s exhausting… I don’t have time to sleep because of my other job. And then there’s this guy Hojo who keeps coming in…”

Zell: “Hojo! Ew!!!”

Franswa: “I know. But I really need the money for cooking school.”

Zell: “I’m not gonna tell you what to do, Franswa. But if you’re really not happy here… I mean, it’s just not worth it!”

Franswa: “…I have to get back to work.”

(he leaves. zell sighs sadly and heads back outside where the gang is still staring at the stage in shock)

Ashley: “That was Irvine!”

Lark: “He hasn’t been dating! He hasn’t been dating at all!”

Bryatt: “Wow. And you think you know a person.”

Shell: “How could we not know about this!? Who’s next?!”

Zell: “Hey.”

Lark: “Hey, Zell.” *pause* “Hey! How was your lap dance?”

Shell: “Was it by someone you know? Because it’s so dark in here I don’t think I’d know Rude if he was on stage.”

Bryatt: *looking at the stage* “Uh, Shell?”

Zell: “It was fine. I’m going to go home now.”

Lark: “Okay. I guess we’ll see you in the morning.”

Zell: “Yeah.” *he leaves*

Ashley: “That didn’t seem to help.”

Shell: “Well I didn’t hear any screaming, so how bad could it be?”

Bryatt: “Uh, Shell?”

Shell: “What?!”

Bryatt: *points wordlessly to the stage*

Shell: *jaw drops* “RUDE?!” *runs over to the stage* “Rude! What do you think you’re doing?”

Rude: “Oh crap.”

Shell: “You’re stripping?! This is how you’re making all that money?! By showing yourself off to other girls?!”

Rude: “If it helps it’s mostly men, Shell.”

Shell: “I don’t believe this!” *puts hand out* “Well just give me the money then.”

Rude: *hands it over* “Yes, Shell.”

(back over to the others, they all look shocked)

Ashley: “Well…we were looking for excitement…”

Lark: “…I’ve had enough excitement. Let’s go home.”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

(the end of the night. everyone is standing around looking bored as they’re waiting for tseng to count the money. he’s done counting, and he smiles a little bit, but it’s an evil smile. he puts the money down and looks at everyone quite calmly)

Tseng: “So. This is all you made tonight?”

Everyone: “…………………………”

Tseng: “No one’s hiding any money from me or anything?”

Dante: “We getting our money or not?”

Tseng: “Don’t interrupt me. Do you think I’m stupid? Because I’m not stupid! I know you’re taking money from me, so you better hand it over!”

Dante: “I don’t think so.”

Zidane: “Yeah. Start treating us fairly first!”

Tseng: “You want to be treated fairly? Fine then! Here’s fair for you – you’re fired! All of you! Now get out of my club before I call the cops!”

Delita: *eyes wide* “Fired?! But—“

Tseng: “Out!! Get out!”

(they all leave. tseng looks pissed. he grabs the money and stomps off towards the back door.)

Tseng: *mutters to himself* “They think I’m stupid? I’m not stupid!”

(meanwhile, outside, they’re all standing there. delita is crying.)

Delita: “My life is over!”

Gippal: “Great! This is just great! Now we have no job. Thanks, Dante!”

Dante: “Stop it. He can’t fire us. How’s he gonna make money off an empty club?”

Irvine: “I’m actually pretty relieved to be fired. No more giving lap dances to dudes.”

Franswa: “I’m happy too… I guess Zell was right.”

Maxi: “I’m not happy! I love my job!”

Dante: “Everybody just go home. He can’t be serious. We’ll meet back here at our usual time tomorrow.”

Gippal: “I hope you’re right…”

Dante: “Have I been wrong yet?”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

(meanwhile, tseng goes home. he walks into his and reeve’s room expecting to find reeve asleep. but reeve is sitting there on the bed. the video camera is also set up, attached to the tv)

Tseng: “What are you doing up?”

Reeve: “We need to talk.”

Tseng: “Oh god. Not this again.”

Reeve: “What happened to you, Tseng? What’s with the money? That seems to be all you care about anymore.”

Tseng: “That’s not true. And besides, money is important!”

Reeve: *stands up* “Your daughter took her first steps today. And you missed it.”

Tseng: “Oh. Well. I was busy. Did you get it on tape?”

Reeve: “Yeah. I did.” *goes over to the camera* “You know… I think it’s funny that just a few weeks ago you threw a huge fit about Rufus trying to take your place as Lily’s father. And now look at you.”

Tseng: “What does *that* mean?”

Reeve: “It means you haven’t been paying any attention to her, Tseng. You missed her first words and now her first steps! She’s almost a year old already! You planning on missing the first ten years of her life?”

Tseng: “Stop exaggerating, Reeve! It’s not like I have a choice!”

Reeve: “You do have a choice! It was *your choice* not to be here today when Lily took her first steps! It’s been *your choice* not to watch her so you can go dance at your stupid club! Lily doesn’t want your money, Tseng. She wants her father. And you haven’t been there for her.”

Tseng: “Yes I have been!”

Reeve: “No you haven’t! Tseng – she called Rufus dada today!”

Tseng: *stunned* “No she didn’t.”

Reeve: “Yes she did.”

Tseng: “If you’re lying to me, I swear to god—“

Reeve: “You think I’m lying to you?! No, Tseng. I’m not lying to you. And that makes it all the more worse, doesn’t it. You don’t believe me? It’s on this tape.”

(he turns on the tape and replays it. when tseng sees lily call rufus dada his eyes widen and he just stands there in shock for a long moment. reeve just stares at him. finally tseng shakes his head and walks away)

Tseng: “She’s just a baby. She doesn’t know better.”

Reeve: “You’re right. She is just a baby. That means her memory isn’t fully developed yet. And she’s on her way to forgetting you.”

Tseng: “That’s not true!”

Reeve: “Yes it is! You were so excited to be a father, Tseng! What the hell changed?”

Tseng: “Nothing! I’m just trying to provide for her!”

Reeve: “Children need more than money, Tseng. Look at Rufus. All the money in the world – look at him! He clings to a stuffed bear because he never had someone to love him. That’s what money does to a person! And it’s turned you into a total asshole! No one likes you right now! No one! Even I’m finding it hard! This is what money has done to you! Do you really need it that badly? Is it really worth sacrificing your friends and family for?! You’ve become everything you’ve ever *hated*!”

Tseng: “No I haven’t!” *turns to face reeve looking pissed* “I’m not going to give up my money just because you’re jealous, Reeve!”

Reeve: “No one is jealous of you, Tseng! You’ve got nothing to be jealous of!”

Tseng: “You don’t know what you’re talking about!”

Reeve: “No! You don’t!” *pauses and runs a hand through his hair* “You’re not the man I married.”

Tseng: “You’re right. I’m not the slut you married.”

(reeve looks up at him in total shock. then his face turns to anger. he reaches back and then slugs tseng in the face. tseng grabs his face in shock and looks at reeve)

Reeve: “Don’t you *dare* EVER speak about yourself that way again! If you think that I’d marry you because of that…” *shakes his head and turns away* “Go. Just go. I tried… Just… Just go…”

(tseng doesn’t say anything. he looks stunned a moment, but then he exits the room. he stomps into the ramble room and looks at himself in the mirror. he doesn’t even turn on the light. he just stares at himself for a long time. then he walks closer, still staring at himself. finally he gets up close and starts touching his hair like he doesn’t recognize it…)

Tseng: “What… What have I done to myself?” *puts a hand to his head* “Lily… I…I haven’t been helping her at all… I just… I just got so caught up in the money…” *rests his head against the mirror* “I finally felt smart. I just wanted Reeve to be proud of me. …But he hates me. Everybody hates me.” *looks at himself again* “And I think I finally see why.”

(he then straightens himself up and goes back to the room. reeve is sitting on the bed, his head in his hands. he looks up when tseng comes in, tears on his face.)

Reeve: “Tseng…?”

Tseng: “Reeve… I’m sorry.”

Reeve: *blink blink*

Tseng: “You were right. I…I got lost. I got so caught up in making money… I forgot about everything that really mattered, like Lily and…you.” *walks over to him* “I’ve been so awful to you. I just… I just didn’t want you to think I was stupid.”

Reeve: “I never thought you were stupid.”

Tseng: “Next to you…I always feel stupid.”

(reeve pulls him down so they’re sitting next to each other)

Reeve: “I guess…we kind of had the same problem then. …I always feel ugly next to you.”

Tseng: “I don’t think you’re ugly! I think you’re beautiful!”

Reeve: “And I think you’re smart!” *holds him* “Tseng – we’re different. We are. But we love each other. And that’s all that’s important.”

(they kiss. then tseng rests his head on reeve’s shoulder)

Reeve: “Sorry I hit you.”

Tseng: “ It’s okay. I deserved it.” *sigh* “I thought if I made a lot of money I’d show what a good provider I was for Lily…and I could show you I wasn’t an idiot.”

Reeve: “All you proved was that you could be totally nasty to everyone.”

Tseng: “…I have a lot of people to apologize to…”

Reeve: “They’ll forgive you. Everybody loves the real Tseng.”

Tseng: *smiles* “I guess I like the real Tseng too.” *touches his short hair* “Speaking of the real Tseng… I think I will have to buy one thing out of Rich and Pompous weekly…”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

(a few days later…sephiroth, elena, lily, rufus, algus, zidane, irvine, reno, zell, franswa, reeve, shell, rude, Ashley and lark are all in the ramble room)

Zidane: “I can’t believe I can’t work at the club anymore.”

Algus: “I can’t have any slave of mine cavorting around with awful peasants like that!”

Zidane: “I thought I was an awful peasant.”

Algus: “Some are worse than others.”

Zidane: “That’s good to know.”

Reno: “Dude, I still can’t believe you worked there.”

Irvine: “Me neither. But I did learn a lesson – chicks don’t like lap dances.”

Franswa: “I’ll have to find another way to save for cooking school… I just couldn’t go back there with that guy Hojo again.” *shudders*

Zell: “You’ll think of something!”

Rude: “And I’m back to only one job.”

Shell: “I don’t like other people ogling you, Rude!”

Rude: “Not even for money, Shell?”

Shell: “Not even for money!”

Elena: “It’s good to have Tseng back to normal.”

Reeve: “That it is.”

Zidane: “He apologized to me like five times.”

Lark: “Me too.”

Sephiroth: “And me. I told him I didn’t want to hear it. Real men don’t apologize!”

Lark: *rolls eyes* “Oh, Sephy. You never change.”

Sephiroth: *looks at her* “Right. ‘Cause that would be bad.”

Lark: *looks away*

Ashley: “I heard he sold the club.”

Reeve: “He did.”

Shell: “To who?”

Reeve: “I don’t know…”

(at that moment tseng enters. his hair is back at it’s normal long length. everybody but reeve looks shocked)

Elena: “Tseng!”

Reno: “Your hair, dude!”

Sephiroth: “It’s normal again!”

Tseng: “Oh, this?” *runs his hands through it* “Yeah. I kinda missed it.”

Irvine: “How’d you pull that off?”

Tseng: “Rich and Pompous weekly. They had some overnight hair growing stuff. I bought it before I cancelled my subscription. It cost more than I even wanna admit and it hurt like a bitch, but I think it’s worth it.”

Reeve: “I’m happy I have my old husband back. All of him.”

Lark: “I’m glad you two finally patched things up.”

Ashley: “So you sold the club?”

Tseng: “Yup! And you’ll never believe who bought it!”

Algus: “Was it you, Rufus?”

Rufus: “Oh come on! Give me *some* credit!”

Tseng: “No. It was Dante!”

Sephiroth: “Dante?! With what money?!”

Tseng: “He said he got most of it from Alucard. The rest was from some trust fund.”

Sephiroth: “Those jerks! Now I can never show my face there again!”

Tseng, Irvine and Zidane: “…Right.”

Sephiroth: “Oh shut up!”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

(meanwhile, across the street, alucard and dante are talking. lloyd is hanging out nearby)

Dante: “So I have to get some new dancers for the club. But that should be easy.”

Alucard: “It’s nice to own your own business.”

Dante: “That it is.”

Lloyd: “I can’t believe you bought that skeezy strip club, Dante! And your stupid boyfriend is dumb enough to give you money!”

Dante: “I didn’t get it all from him, Lloyd.”

Lloyd: “VERGIL! And where the hell did you get it from then?”

Dante: “Well…there may have been a trust fund for you I never told you about. Not anymore of course.” *grin*

Lloyd: *slowly turns bright red*

(and with that we pan to the outside of the condos and just pan off into the distance as we hear lloyd scream…)

Lloyd: “I HATE YOU, DANTE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

THE END

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