#192 – Return of the Max

Rufus: “Max was my son. Well, my adopted son. But then his family came and took him back.” *shakes head* “I think about him every day.”

Originally Published: 10/6/06 . 84 pages

Synopsis
Koudelka opens a daycare center when her own son is back in her care. She hires to Cid to work there and everything is going fine, until she finds out one of the children is being abused. Meanwhile, Elena gets some big news.

Ramble Milestones
-Max returns.
-Halley and Edward’s first appearance.
-Rufus and Elena get married.
-Cid starts talking normally.
-Cid and Koudelka get together.

In my opinion this ramble is the perfect match of everything: comedy, drama and romance. I knew for a long time I wanted Rufus to get Max back, and I was forced to tackle the not at all funny topic of child abuse. This ramble is chock full of changes as well – especially Cid actually talking normally. The title is based off this pop song from the late 90’s called Return of the Mac.

 Close my eyes when I go to bed

And I dream of angels who make me smile

I feel better when I hear them say

Everything will be wonderful someday

Promises mean everything when you’re little

And the world is so big

I just don’t understand how

You can smile with all those tears in your eyes

When you tell me everything is wonderful now

–“Wonderful”, Everclear

(we open at the video game character therapy center. there koudelka stands, arms crossed tapping her foot. next to her stands a boy of about 10 who looks a lot like her. across from her is a blonde scruffy looking guy. this is edward. the child is halley, koudelka and edward’s son)

Edward: “…And that’s why you have to take care of Halley.”

Koudelka: *taps foot*

Edward: …What?”

Koudelka: “…You have to go to jail. Just say it.”

Edward: “No! I—“

Koudelka: “I’m *psychic*, you idiot.”

Edward: “…I have to turn myself in tomorrow.”

Koudelka: “Wonderful. What a fantastic example you’re setting for our son.”

Edward: “Hey! We’ve been having a lot of fun together! Right, champ?”

Koudelka: “You are such a reject. I don’t know why I ever slept with you. I really hope I was drunk.”

Edward: “You loved it.”

Koudelka: “It’s called pity sex. And I would never do it again.”

Halley: *looks traumatized*

Koudelka: *pats him on the head* “Mommy loves you, honey!”

Edward: *looking around* “So what are you doing here anyway?”

Koudelka: “Helping people.”

Edward: “How?”

Koudelka: “With their problems.”

Edward: “What?! Then how come you won’t help me reform?”

Koudelka: “Because you’re beyond help. In every possible way.”

Edward: *frowns* “All right. Well I guess I better get going.” *ruffles halley’s hair* “I’ll see ya when I get out of prison! Okay, champ?”

Halley: “…Bye, dad.”

(and so edward leaves. koudelka sighs in annoyance and turns to the boy just as yuri comes over)

Koudelka: “Don’t you have a suitcase or anything?”

Halley: “No… Dad sold most of our stuff to pay the bad men.”

Koudelka: *hand to her head* “Honey, I love you, but the man you came from is complete scum.”

Yuri: “Hey, Halley! Remember me?”

Halley: “Hi, Yuri.”

Koudelka: “Halley’s loser of a father has left him with no possessions! Isn’t that fun?”

Yuri: *snort* “You’re the one who slept with him.”

Koudelka: “Pity sex, I assure you. And I’ve promised myself to never feel pity again.”

Yuri: “You’ll sleep with a loser like him, but meanwhile you won’t have sex with me!”

Koudelka: “…Are you kidding me? With the stuff you’re into? I’m surprised I don’t throw up every time I look at you.”

Halley: “Um, mommy?”

Koudelka: “Oh god! And could we not talk about this in front of my kid?” *turns to halley* “Halley, why don’t you go into that room over there and watch TV for a few minutes?”

(she points in the proper direction and halley does as he is told)

Yuri: “At least he’s well behaved.”

Koudelka: “True. But I don’t know what I’m going to do. With all I have to do around here, how am I going to watch him?”

Yuri: *shrugs* “There’s probably lots of people with that problem. That’s why daycare is so popular.”

Koudelka: *snaps fingers* “That’s it! Daycare! We could open a daycare!”

Yuri: “I thought you just said we have enough going on.”

Koudelka: “We do. But people pay big money for daycare. It’s a great idea!”

Yuri: “But who’s gonna watch all these kids? You?”

Koudelka: *shrugs* “I’ll hire somebody else.”

Yuri: “Are you sure? Last time you tried to hire somebody else the only one who applied was that weirdo who’s always yelling and telling people to call him Vergil.”

Koudelka: “I’ll find a different way to advertise. In the meantime, let’s start to get the word out about our new daycare.”

Halley: *comes out of the room* “Mommy?”

Koudelka: “Yeah?”

Halley: “Um, there are people naked hugging on the TV.”

Yuri: *sweat drops*

Koudelka: *glares at him* “YURI!”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

(meanwhile, the next day in the ramble room, elena and tifa are in there talking quietly with their kids when barret and cid enter. and they’re anything but quiet. barret is holding a flyer)

Barret: “Yo! Look at dis here flyer I found stuck under the door! Know that girl who hates yo’ ass? She be openin’ up a daycare center!”

Cid: “@#$^&?”

Elena: “A daycare center? Really?”

Tifa: “Are you talking about Koudelka?”

Barret: “Damn right! I think I might take Marlene over there! These prices be way da hell cheaper than the one she’s at now!”

Elena: “Let me see that.” *glances at flyer* “Wow. This is way cheaper than the one at Shinra.”

Tifa: “They make you pay for daycare at Shinra? You’re dating the head of the company!”

Elena: “I never thought about it that way.”

Tifa: *looks at flyer* “This is pretty reasonable. Richter and I have been thinking about enrolling Duke in a program.”

Elena: “But he’s so young. And you’re both able to stay home with him.”

Tifa: “Yeah, but…Duke is different from most of the other babies.”

Barret: “Well I’m sure as hell takin’ Marlene over there tomorrow!” *points to the bottom of the flyer* “And look! They be lookin’ for someone to work there!”

Cid: “@#$@$%#^#$&*#*#%#@^!”

Barret: “Yo! You ain’t no good with kids!”

Cid: “@#$@%^#&!”

Barret: “You a crazy $%^#$@%$%^&*@!”

Elena: “I’m going to go tell Tseng about this.”

Tifa: “I’m going to tell Richter. I’ll talk to you later – feel better.”

Elena: “Thanks…talk to you later.”

(they leave)

Cid: “@#$@%#@^@&@#$%&&*#%@!%?”

Barret: “Yo, there ain’t no way in hell she’s hirin’ you to take care a’ no kids! You gotta better chance matin’ with the cat/rat/moo/whateva da hell that thing be. I’m outtie. Catch yo’ ass lata.”

(he hands the flyer to cid and leaves. cid stares at the flyer frowning.)

Cid: “$%^&@#$%^!”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

(a short time later at the therapy center, koudelka stands behind the desk with yuri while halley plays with some toys nearby. she looks rather frantic)

Koudelka: “The flyers just went out today and I’ve already got 8 kids coming in tomorrow!”

Yuri: “And no one decent came to apply for the job. I told you.”

Koudelka: “Shouldn’t you be in your therapy group?”

Yuri: “They’re not all here yet!”

(then jack comes walking in with rudy)

Rudy: “I don’t wanna come here anymore! I wanna go to the circus!”

Jack: “You have to keep coming here until you stop trying to have sex with the wind mouse!”

Koudelka: *looks at yuri* “*What*?!”

Yuri: “Yeah. It’s really great to have them talking again.”

(he grabs rudy and takes him in the back. jack leaves.)

Halley: “Mommy? What’s sex with a wind mouse?”

Koudelka: “Just play with your blocks, honey.”

(she busies herself in some paperwork. the doors open and cid comes in. he goes up to the desk smiling. she doesn’t look up)

Cid: “@#%^&%@&*.”

Koudelka: *still not looking up* “I can’t believe you wasted your time coming down here.”

Cid: “@#%^&*#%*(@#%&!”

Koudelka: *looks up* “You have *got* to be kidding me. You want to work in daycare? Is this a joke?”

Cid: “@#^&(@#$&*$#@!#$&*(#$%^&*@?”

Koudelka: *snort* “Are you kidding? First of all, everything you say is a string of curses.”

Cid: “@#%^–…Oh.” *blink blink*

Koudelka: “Secondly, you’re always smoking.”

Cid: *tosses cigarette aside and smiles*

Koudelka: “And third, I don’t like you.”

Cid: *frowns* “#$%^&*(!@#$%^&*(!@$^&$@&^*(@&($@!”

Koudelka: “Oh really? Fine then. I’ll give you a chance. But there’s no cursing around the damn kids. And no smoking. And if you annoy me, you’re fired.”

Cid: “……………………Fine.”

Koudelka: “Ah! So you can use real words! I have to say I’m shocked.”

Cid: “’Course I can use real $%^&*#$ words! Er…I mean, uh, real frigging words. Is that okay?”

Koudelka: “I know how to curb your cursing.”

(she goes under the desk and comes out with a large, clear jar)

Cid: “What the $%^#’s that for?”

Koudelka: “It’s a swear jar. To keep you from $%^&*@# cursing.”

Cid: “You just cursed!”

Koudelka: “I was making a point. Every time you swear you have to put a dollar in the swear jar.”

Cid: “A whole $#@%^&*^ dollar?! Er…uh, did we start yet?”

Koudelka: “Luckily for you, no. And yeah. A whole dollar.”

Cid: “Why the hell so much?!”

Koudelka: “Because I like money. And don’t try and swear when I’m not around. Because I’ll know.”

Cid: “Fine. I can take it! You will be totally amazed!”

Koudelka: “Right. Be here at eight o’clock tomorrow morning.” *turns and starts to walk away*

Cid: “Yes, ma’am!”

Koudelka: *stops and turns around* “Oh yeah. And every time you think about me like that, it’s another dollar in the jar.”

Cid: “Dammit!”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

(the next morning, cid arrives right on time. koudelka is at the desk as usual)

Cid: “Good mornin’ beautiful!”

Koudelka: “Some kids are already here, along with your swear jar.” *points to a room off to the side* “The older boy’s my son.”

Cid: “You’ve gotta kid?”

Koudelka: “Yeah. And his dad is a deadbeat loser who you kind of remind me of.”

Cid: “Hey! I’m not a $%^&*#$% deadbeat loser!” *pause* “Aw, $#%^. I mean crap.”

Koudelka: “That’s two dollars in the jar.” *points to the room again* “Have fun.”

(cid starts to get some money out of his wallet and goes into the room. then the front door opens and tifa and richter enter, with duke in his stroller)

Tifa: “Good morning!”

Koudelka: “Hey there. Duke all set?”

Tifa: “He is!” *picks him up and gives him a kiss before handing him to koudelka*

Koudelka: “I’m kind of surprised you wanted daycare for him. Don’t you both do nothing all day?”

Richter: “I do not do nothing! I am a Belmont! We are in constant training! You never know when Dracula will strike again!”

Tifa: “I think it would be good for Duke to socialize with other kids.”

Koudelka: “He’s only a few months old.”

Tifa: “Well, Duke’s not really like the other children…”

Richter: “He’s got strong Belmont blood in him!”

Koudelka: “What do you mean?”

Tifa: “You’ll see.” *waves* “Bye, honey! Your big brother will be back to pick you up later!”

(they leave)

Koudelka: “Cid!”

Cid: *comes over* “What?”

Koudelka: “New kid for you.” *hands duke over* “This is Duke Belmont.”

Cid: “You never told me the names of the other damn kids!” *pause* “Is damn a curse?”

Koudelka: “No. And I’ll get to that once everybody’s here. Get back in there.”

Cid: *going back in the room mutters* “…Bitch.” *goes inside*

Koudelka: *yells* “*That’s* a curse!”

(the door opens and in comes karsh and riddel from chrono cross. they are accompanied by a teenage boy with purple hair and glasses, and a young girl with blonde hair)

Girl: “I hate you, Karsh! You can go to hell!”

Boy: “I don’t need a babysitter! I’m 14!”

Karsh: “Both of you shut up! This is why you’re here to begin with!”

Riddel: “Hello, Koudelka. Here are the two we spoke on the phone about. This is Marcy and Van.”

Marcy: “How could you do this to me?! I’m a knight! A knight, dammit!”

Van: “And how come Mel and Leah don’t have to come here? They’re way younger than me!”

Karsh: “I said shut up!”

Koudelka: “No problem. They can just go in there.” *points to room*

Karsh: “Go.”

Marcy: “I hate you both! You’ll regret this!”

Van: “My life sucks!”

(both they do go in the room)

Koudelka: “How old are they?”

Riddel: “Van is 14 and Marcy is 9. They’re both…a bit of a handful.”

Karsh: “We need a break. That dragon keeps pooping all over the carpet!”

Riddel: “I don’t suppose you’re planning on doing any kind of pet daycare anytime soon.”

Koudelka: “Oh hell no.”

Riddel: “Well, if you change your mind, you know to let us know.”

Koudelka: “Uh huh. See you later.”

(they leave)

Koudelka: *mutters* “Weirdoes…”

(then barret enters with marlene, who’s about 9)

Barret: “Yo! I got my daughter here for dis here daycare program!”

Marlene: “Hi! I’m Marlene!”

Koudelka: “Hi, Marlene. Everybody’s right in there.” *points*

Barret: “I see you later! Go hang wit yo’ Uncle Cid!”

Marlene: “Bye, daddy!” *goes in the room*

Barret: “Cid tol’ me you set up a swear jar fo’ his ass!”

Koudelka: “There’s money in it already.”

Barret: “Yo, he gonna go broke puttin’ money in there.”

Koudelka: “I’m sure he will.”

Barret: “Marlene should give ya’ll no trouble. Be back later!”

(he leaves. moments later bowser enters with bowser jr. he’s about 12 and you can tell just by looking at him that he’s a brat. bowser is on the phone)

Bowser: “No, Brunhilda! I told you! I’ve got it covered! I found a new daycare for him! He’s not going to get kicked out of this one!” *sees koudelka staring at him* “Uh, I’ve gotta go! I’ll call you back.” *hangs up* “Hey, there! I have my little angel for you!” *pats him on the head*

Jr: “Don’t touch me, you craphole!”

Bowser: “Now Junior, you have fun at daycare. Don’t give the nice lady any trouble.”

Jr: “$#%^ you! I’m 12 years old! You can’t tell me what to do.”

Koudelka: “I’m going to have to charge you extra.”

Bowser: “Done. See you later!” *hurries out of there*

Koudelka: “Go in the other room and try not to give me a problem.”

Jr: “Why should I?”

Koudelka: “Because otherwise I’ll tell your dad it’s you who’s been stealing his porn.”

Jr: *eyes widen* “How did you know that?”

Koudelka: “Magic. Now get.” *points to the other room*

(without another word of protest, bowser jr. goes into the other room. and finally elena and tseng enter with lily)

Tseng: “Okay, Lily! Here we are! You ready to play with the other kids?”

Lily: “Baba dada.”

Tseng: “I guess that means yes.”

Elena: “Hi, Koudelka.”

Koudelka: “Hey there.”

Elena: “Lily’s used to daycare and she likes to play with other kids, so there shouldn’t be a problem.” *takes her from tseng gives her a kiss and then hands her to koudelka* “Mommy will miss you, Lily! I’ll be back for you later, okay?”

Lily: “Baba mada!”

(tseng and elena wave good-bye to her and leave. koudelka carries her to the next room where there is already ten dollars in the swear jar and cid is cursing more as he chases bowser jr. around the room)

Cid: “You little motherfu—“

Koudelka: “Cid!”

Cid: “$%^&!” *pause* “I mean crap!”

Koudelka: “Bowser Jr! What did I tell you!?”

Jr: “I’m being good!” *walks away*

Cid: “He stepped on my foot! The little bastard!”

Koudelka: “Well I see you’ve already met Bowser Jr. Let me introduce you to the other kids. Duke Belmont you know, and this is Lily, of course.” *puts her in the crib with duke* “And you know Marlene.”

Marlene: *giggles* “Uncle Cid is funny!”

Koudelka: “This is Marcy and Van.”

Van: “My life sucks!”

Marcy: “I can’t believe I’m stuck in here with a bunch of stupid little kids!”

Koudelka: “You know if you guys want to help with the other kids, I can pay you.”

Marcy: “Really?! With real money?”

Koudelka: “Of course.”

Van: “Um, I guess that sounds okay.”

Marcy: “I’ll keep these brats under control!”

Koudelka: “Good.”

(they walk away)

Cid: “You’re gonna pay those kids?”

Koudelka: “Sure. They’re kids. I don’t have to give them a lot.”

Cid: “Where you gonna get the money from?”

Koudelka: “There should be more than enough in the swear jar in a day or two.”

Cid: “Oh yeah? Well we’ll see about that, honey!”

(they go over to a girl with purple hair)

Koudelka: “This is Eiko.”

Eiko: “Amarant dumped me in here! I’ll get him good!”

Koudelka: “You do that, honey.”

(they next go over to halley)

Halley: “Hi, mom.”

Cid: “This your kid?”

Koudelka: “Obviously. This is Halley. Halley, this is Cid.”

Halley: “Hello. Mommy, that boy is crying.” *points*

(he points to the corner where there is a small boy of about 5 sitting there crying. his head is down, so all you can see is his blonde hair)

Koudelka: “That would be Max. Thanks, Halley.”

(she takes cid by the arm and they start walking over to max, talking quietly)

Koudelka: *softly* “It’s not too often I meet a child whose mind is hard to navigate, but this boy is like a lock box. The guy who brought him in definitely wasn’t a shining example of humanity, if you get my drift. So, well, I think you get the point.”

Cid: *nods*

(they go over to max and both kneel down next to him)

Cid: “Hey there, partner. Everything okay?”

Max: *looks up sniffling and nods*

Koudelka: “How old are you, Max?”

Max: *holds up five fingers*

Koudelka: “Five? Wow. Would you like to play with some of the other kids?”

Max: *pauses but then nods slowly*

Koudelka: ”Okay. Hey, Halley—can you come over here?”

Halley: *comes over* “Yes?”

Koudelka: “Halley, why don’t you and Max go play a game together?”

Halley: “Okay.”

Cid: “I bet Marlene’d like to play too.”

Marlene: *trots over* “Huh?”

Cid: “You wanna play a game with Halley and Max here?”

Marlene: “Sure!”

Koudelka: “Okay. Come on, Max.”

(max wipes his eyes and then gets up. he follows halley and marlene to go pick out a game. koudelka and cid are both frowning)

Koudelka: “Keep an eye on that kid.”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

(meanwhile, over at the condos, dante is sitting in front of his computer, listening to some rap music on the speakers. he types in something and sits back to wait a second)

Dante: “Let’s see what happens when I google myself…”

(he grabs a bottle of water and takes a swig. as he’s drinking he clicks on something. then his eyes get really wide and he spits out the water all over the computer screen)

Dante: “What the #$%^?! What the hell?! Oh my god! OH MY GOD! What the hell is this sh*t?!”

Alucard: *comes running in* “Something wrong?”

Dante: *backing away from the computer pointing at it* “Yes! Yes something’s wrong! Look at that! Just look at that!”

Alucard: *goes to look*

Dante: *grabs him by the shoulders* “Never mind. Don’t look! I don’t want you to look! No one should ever look at that!! Ever!”

Alucard: “I’ve never seen you this upset.”

Dante: “People should not be allowed to put sick sh*t like that on the internet!”

Alucard: “What is it?”

Dante: “I don’t even wanna say!”

Alucard: “You have to tell me.”

Dante: “Fine…but you’re asking for it… Somebody drew me and Vergil! Having sex!”

Alucard: *disgusted* “Ew!”

Dante: “I told you!”

Alucard: “Why? Why would somebody do that?”

Dante: “You’re asking me this? I don’t f***ing know!” *turns away* “Ah! It’s still on the screen!”

Alucard: “If you found one drawing, there’s probably more of it.”

Dante: “I just wanted to find some hot fan art of me! Not me plowing my disgusting loser of a twin brother!”

Alucard: *daring to look at the screen* “Uh, actually Dante…”

Dante: *dead stare* “…No.”

Alucard: “I can see how you thought it was the other way. You two do look kind of alike here…”

Dante: “We DO NOT look alike!” *storms over to look* “Oh. Oh my god. That’s me. I’m not on top.”

Alucard: “Most definitely not.”

Dante: “Make it go away!”

Alucard: *minimizes the browser window*

Dante: “Who would do that?! And why?! Why!? Who would put such disgusting inaccurate crap on the internet?”

Alucard: “Lots of people it seems.”

Dante: *backing away* “I…I’m in shock. Me! And Lloyd! Like that! And him! On me!” *shudders* “Oh my god. Oh my god. I need to take a shower. A really, really, really long shower.” *shudders* “Ugh! I can’t get the picture out of my head!” *runs upstairs*

Alucard: “Dante…” *follows him*

(so they’re both gone. several minutes later, lloyd comes into the room whistling. he sees the computer is unoccupied and no one is around and smiles)

Lloyd: “Haha! You can’t stop me from using your new computer if you’re not around, Dante!”

(he goes and sits down, noticing the minimized window at the bottom of the screen. curiously he pulls it up. there’s that picture again, of course. lloyd stares at it for a long moment)

Lloyd: *blink blink* “Hey, that’s me. And that’s…” *blink blink* “Dante.” *eyes widen* “Holy $#%^!”

Dante’s voice: *from upstairs* “Al! Bang my head against the wall!”

Alucard’s voice: “I’m not going to bang your head against the wall!”

Dante’s voice: “I can’t get that damn picture out of my head!!”

Lloyd: *grins and looks back at the picture* “Dante kryptonite.”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

(later, the day is nearly over at the daycare center, and there’s a lot of money in the swear jar. some of the kids have already gone home. koudelka walks in to see bowser jr. throwing stuff at cid. the only other kids left are lily, marlene, halley and max)

Cid: “You little piece of $#%^! I’ll wring your #$%^@$% neck!”

Koudelka: “Cid!”

Cid: “Dammit!” *reaches into his pocket*

Jr: “Ha ha! You’re broke!”

Koudelka: “Bowser Jr., your brother Larry is here to pick you up. And he won’t stop shaking.”

Jr: “He takes a lotta pills. Later, LOSER!” *kicks cid and leaves*

Cid: “You #$%^&*@#$%^&# brat!” *pause* “Dammit!” *takes out more money and drops it in the jar*

Koudelka *smiles* “Lovely.”

Cid: *mutters unhappily*

Elena: *sticks her head in* “Hi! I’m here to pick up Lily!”

Koudelka: “No problem. Be right there.”

(elena leaves. koudelka picks up lily.)

Cid: “You wanna take the kids outside?”

Koudelka: “Might as well. You’re taking Marlene home, right? So that just means we’re waiting on Max’s dad.”

Max: “…………”

(they go outside with the kids. max and halley go sit on a bench. marlene sits with them too, but she is busy weaving a bracelet. koudelka walks over to elena and reeve.)

Koudelka: “Here you go.” *hands lily to elena*

Elena: “Thanks. Hi, sweetie! Did you have fun?”

Lily: “Mama!”

Reeve: “She seems happy.” *looks over at the kids on the bench and furrows his brow*

(then the door to the place opens and a gruff looking man comes in. he looks right at max)

Man: “Hey – let’s go.”

(max quickly gets up off the bench and walks towards the man without another word.)

Koudelka: “Good night!”

(max and the man leave.)

Elena: *blink blink* “Boy. That was strange… Okay, thanks, Koudelka! See you tomorrow!”

Koudelka: “Have a good night.”

(elena and reeve head towards the door)

Reeve: “That kid looked familiar, but I don’t know why.”

Elena: “Maybe he just has one of those faces.”

(reeve, elena and lily leave. koudelka sighs and goes behind the desk)

Koudelka: “Well, I guess we had a successful first day.”

Cid: “Except for that stupid brat who kept beating me up!”

Koudelka: “His family has a lot of problems. A *lot* of problems.”

Cid: “Well, whatever the case tomorrow your swear jar won’t be nearly as full! You can be damn sure of that!”

Koudelka: “You’re lucky I’m not counting damn as a damn curse.”

Cid: “You’re even more beautiful when you’re sarcastic.”

Koudelka: “…I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Cid: “All right then. Come on, Marlene. Let’s go home to your dad.”

Marlene: “Coming! Night, Halley!”

Halley: “Good night.”

(cid and marlene leave. halley comes over to his mother.)

Halley: “Mommy?”

Koudelka: “What’s up?”

Halley: “That boy Max is strange… He never said a single word all day.”

Koudelka: *turns to halley* “I know. I think he’s shy. But if he says anything to you that doesn’t sound right, you tell me okay?”

Halley: *nods*

(yuri comes walking over)

Yuri: “So how was the first day of daycare?”

Koudelka: “Successful. Especially the swear jar.”

Yuri: “Swear jar?”

Halley: “That man uses a lot of the same words as daddy.”

Koudelka: “Yeah… By the end of the week I’m pretty sure there’ll be more money in the jar than I’m supposed to pay him.”

Yuri: “Nice. Can I have a ‘say something totally crazy’ jar for my group? Because then we’d really be cleaning up.”

Koudelka: “Yuri…”

Yuri: “What? Why can I never have the good ideas?!”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

(the next morning dante walks into the bathroom looking pretty relaxed. he turns on the light and immediately screams. why? because someone has taped the infamous picture from yesterday to his bathroom mirror. alucard comes running in)

Alucard: “What’s wrong?”

Dante: *rips down the picture* “Lloyd! You piece of sh*t!”

Lloyd: *sticks his head in* “Hahahahaha! Screw you, Dante! Revenge for every time you were an ass to me!”

Dante: “I’ve treated you too well! Now get the hell outta here!”

(lloyd runs away laughing. dante puts a hand to his head. alucard puts a comforting arm around him)

Alucard: “Don’t let it get to you. It’s just a picture. He’s just being immature.”

Dante: “Easy for you to say! There’s no picture on the internet of you getting it from your brother!” *storms out of the room*

Alucard: *shudders* “I hope not.”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

(meanwhile, back at the therapy center, koudelka is outside at the desk. the door to the daycare room is open and it sounds pretty chaotic in there.)

Jr’s voice: “Ahahahahahahaha! Try and get me now, old man!”

Cid’s voice: “You little #$%^&*@#$%^&* @#$^&*(#$^& ##@&&*#&*$@^&($@&*(!”

Koudelka: *calls* “Okay, that’s like 20 bucks in the swear jar, Cid.”

Cid’s voice: “Holy *%^&!”

Koudelka: “21!”

Cid’s voice: “Koudelka, get in here!”

(with a sigh koudelka goes into the room. when she gets in there her jaw drops, because duke belmont is on top of bowser jr’s head, making his life miserable)

Jr: “Get off! Get off me, you stupid baby!”

Koudelka: “What the hell happened?!”

Cid: “I don’t know! One second he’s asleep, the next he’s on this kid’s head!”

Jr: *running around screaming* “Get him off! Get him off!”

Koudelka: “Hold still!” *jr finally holds still and koudelka lifts a smiling duke off* “There. Now go sit down and be quiet for awhile.”

Jr: *does as he is told*

Koudelka: *looks at the baby* “You little terror.” *puts him back in the crib*

(koudelka stands next to cid a moment and they both survey the room. lily is playing with some blocks. marlene is still working on her bracelet. van is drawing something. marcy and eiko are playing a game. halley and max are looking at a book together.)

Cid: “He still hasn’t said anything yet.”

Koudelka: “How’d you know I was looking at Max?”

Cid: “I was looking at you.”

Koudelka: *rolls eyes*

Cid: “Any luck seeing into his head?”

Koudelka: “Nope. His guard’s still up and he won’t look at me at all. I’m hoping as he gets more comfortable here he’ll drop his guard a bit and I’ll be able to get a reading from him.”

Cid: “How does that work? How can you just read somebody’s mind?”

Koudelka: “I don’t know. I just do it. I have to be looking at somebody, and it helps a lot if I get a look at their eyes. Max has never looked me in the eyes ever. So that’s not helping.”

Cid: “He and Halley seem to get along.”

Koudelka: “Yeah. I don’t think Halley got to play with too many other kids when he was with his dad.”

Cid: “What kinda guy was your ex-husband?”

Koudelka: *snort* “Ex-husband? If I would have married that loser I would have had to have been committed. And not for the psychic thing this time.”

Cid: “What about that guy Yuri?”

Koudelka: “Yuri? Please. He’s like an annoying little brother I get to boss around.”

Cid: “So how come you don’t give me a chance?”

Koudelka: “Can you read minds?”

Cid: “No.”

Koudelka: “Then you’ll never know.”

(and with those words, she just walks away)

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

(meanwhile, in yuri’s group, yuri’s not there yet. serge sits there shivering. rudy is humming circus music. cloud and squall are talking)

Cloud: “And then we went white water rafting. We had a really fun time.”

Squall: “Sounds fun.”

Serge: “The evil straw guy is gonna burn everything!! Burn everything!!”

Rudy: “I wonder how deeply a wind mouse sleeps…”

Squall: “…I can’t take much more of this.”

(finally yuri comes in. with a big sigh he plops himself down in his chair)

Yuri: “Okay. Who wants to start?”

Cloud: “I’ll start. We haven’t been doing anything. Why do Squall and I still have to be here? We’re pretty much functional in society now.”

Squall: “I totally agree.”

Yuri: “Well you’re still part of this group. And until these other freaks are totally cured, you’re stuck. So I suggest you try and help them.”

Squall: “It’s not fair. He keeps saying freaky things about a mouse. And the other guy is scared of everything.”

Serge: “Omg!! Some guy is staring at me!” *points*

Yuri: “…That’s your shadow.”

Serge: *screams*

Cloud: “Can we *please* go?”

Yuri: “No! We all have to suffer together! Now who wants to talk first?”

Cloud and Squall: *raise their hands*

Yuri: “…About something *not* having to do with leaving the group.”

Cloud and Squall: *grumble and put their hands down*

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

(later, at the end of the day, koudelka is handing duke to tifa and richter)

Koudelka: “So we’re pretty sure he vaulted out of the crib, climbed across the bookcase, then swung around on the ceiling fan and landed on his head.”

Richter: “That’s my boy!”

Tifa: “I told you Duke was a little…advanced. I hope the other kid’s okay.”

Koudelka: “He’s fine. But it scared the crap outta him.”

Richter: “Belmont babies have been known to mature quickly! Franswa said his first word at 4 months!” *frowns* “It was cupcake.”

Tifa: “I hope he didn’t give you too much trouble.”

Koudelka: “Not at all. Guess I’m just not used to adventurous monster hunting babies. Have a good night.”

Tifa: “Good night!”

(they leave. koudelka goes and stands in the doorway of the other room. the only kids left are max, halley and marlene. cid is whistling and cleaning up the room.)

Koudelka: “Hey, Cid.”

Cid: “What’s up?”

(koudelka beckons for him to come over, which he does.)

Koudelka: *whispers* “When Max’s dad gets here, I’m going to try and see if I can get anything from him. So don’t bring Max out until I say so, okay?”

Cid: “No problem. Hey, who picked up that brat Bowser Jr?”

Koudelka: “His scary brother Morton. He had piercings coming out of everywhere.”

(just then the front doors open. koudelka leans back to get a quick glance and it’s max’s dad)

Koudelka: “It’s him. Here we go.”

(she walks back over to the desk. the man looks around but never looks at koudelka)

Koudelka: “Hello.”

Man: “The kid here?”

Koudelka: “He’ll be out in a minute. So…you and your wife both work during the day?”

Man: “No wife. Just me. He ain’t even my kid.”

Koudelka: “Oh.”

Man: “Parents died. So I got him.”

Koudelka: “I see.” *calls* “Cid? Max ready yet?”

(cid comes out with max, who walks solemnly over to the man. they start to walk away)

Man: *quietly* “Told you to be ready when I get here.”

(he gives max a small push and then they’re gone. koudelka and cid look at each other)

Koudelka: “I may not have any proof, but I know he’s abusing that kid.”

Cid: “Did you see anything?”

Koudelka: “He wouldn’t look at me, so I couldn’t get anything deep. Only what he was thinking about, and that’s worthless.” *sigh* “I’m gonna get proof. And then I’m calling child protective services. I can feel that kid is suffering. And I just can’t stand it.”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

(the next day, lark is sitting in the TV room by herself when sephiroth passes by. he notices her and then goes inside)

Sephiroth: “Hey.”

Lark: “Oh, hey, Sephy. Good morning!”

Sephiroth: *sits next to her* “What are you watching?”

Lark: “Nothing. I was just bored. What’s going on?”

Sephiroth: “I just thought I would grace you with the pleasure of my company.”

Lark: *laughs* “Thanks.”

Sephiroth: “Where’s the hairy animal you’re engaged to?”

Lark: “Why does it matter?”

Sephiroth: “Just making conversation.”

(rufus strolls in with tseng)

Rufus: “Good morning!”

Sephiroth: “It’s definitely not a good morning with you around.”

Lark: “What’s up, Rufus?”

Rufus: “My stock for one thing.”

Tseng: “We’re just heading to the office. To sit on my ass and do anything.”

Rufus: “If you want to keep busy, you can help me organize my Teddy Bear collector’s magazines. I have every issue for the past ten years!”

Tseng: “I’ll pass. Now let’s go so I can cut out early to pick up Lily.”

Rufus: “I didn’t authorize that!”

Tseng: “I don’t care.”

(they leave)

Sephiroth: “Well, now that my morning is ruined.”

Lark: “Oh please. Why don’t you go find Vincent or something?”

Sephiroth: “Why would I want to do that?”

Lark: “I thought you were talking again.”

Sephiroth: “Talking. Not hanging out. I don’t want him to get the wrong idea.”

Lark: “And what would that be?”

Sephiroth: “You know damn well.”

Lark: “He’d rather spend time with you than Auron.”

Sephiroth: “Who wouldn’t? I’d rather spend time with a rabid flatulent hippo.” *gets up* “I’m bored. Catch you later.”

(he leaves)

Lark: “Now you’re just being stubborn.”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

(meanwhile, at the daycare center, the kids are playing…)

Marlene: “Look, Marcy! I made you this friendship bracelet!” *holds out bracelet*

Marcy: *snatches it* “Blue! My favorite!”

Marlene: “I’m making one for you next, Eiko.”

Eiko: “Can you make one for the moogle in my pants?”

Cid: “That *what* in your pants?”

Jr: *jumps on cid’s back* “Haha! You’re a horse!” *kicks him* “Giddiup!”

Cid: *trying to pry him off* “Get offa me, you #$%^&*@ brat! #$%^@#!”

Koudelka’s voice: “I can hear you!”

Cid: “Damn bitch!”

Koudelka’s voice: “That too!”

Marcy: “Get off him, you stupid idiot!” *smacks bowser jr*

Jr: *finally getting off cid* “Hey! You hit me!”

Marcy: “And I’d do it again!”

Jr: “She hit me!”

Cid: “Good! That saves me from doin’ it!”

(marlene and eiko have gone over to van, who is drawing something.)

Marlene: “Whatcha drawin’?”

Van: *covering it up* “Nothing! Go away!”

Eiko: “It looks pretty! I wanna see!”

Van: “No! Leave me alone!”

Cid: “Leave the kid the #$%^ alone!”

Koudelka’s voice: “I hope that money’s going in the jar!”

Cid: *mutters* “@#$%^&*$ dammit.” *gets out money*

Koudelka’s voice: “I heard that too!”

(koudelka is at the desk outside, taking care of some business. the front doors open and franswa and zell enter. franswa is holding a plate of brownies)

Zell: “Still not sure what you’re gonna call your new restaurant?”

Franswa: “I’m not sure. It’s such a big decision, you know?”

Zell: “You should just name it after yourself!”

Franswa: “No… I’ve never been a big fan of my name.”

Zell: “Why not?”

Franswa: *blink blink* “Are you kidding?”

Koudelka: “Hey there, Belmont. You’re a little early to pick up your brother.”

Franswa: “I know. I baked some brownies for the kids.”

Koudelka: “That’s nice of you.” *calls* “Hey, Cid!”

Cid: *sticks head out* “I didn’t #$%^&*@ curse!” *pause* “Dammit!”

Koudelka: “Yeah. Put a dollar in the swear jar and get the kids out here. Franswa Belmont baked some brownies for them.”

Cid: “Really? Can I get one of those?”

Franswa: “There’s plenty for everybody.”

Cid: “Fu—er…great!” *goes back into the room*

Zell: *blink blink* “Cid’s talking normally.”

Koudelka: “All thanks to the swear jar.”

(cid comes out with the kids trailing behind him and carrying both babies)

Cid: “They can’t eat the brownies but I couldn’t leave them in there alone!”

Koudelka: *taking lily* “Wow. You exercised good judgment. I’m impressed.”

Cid: “Ahaha! How ‘bout a date then?”

Koudelka: “No.”

Zell: *already eating a brownie* “I’ll take Duke for you, Cid!”

(cid hands duke to zell and then gets all the kids lined up for their brownies)

Koudelka: “One each!”

Eiko: “Can I have one for my moogle?”

Cid: “What the hell are you talking about?!”

(so all the kids get their brownies and start to eat them)

Marlene: “This is delicious!”

Halley: “Thank you very much.”

Franswa: “You’re welcome.”

Jr: “I want another one!”

Cid: “No! Shut your hole!”

Van: “This is pretty good.”

Marcy: “Yeah!”

Halley: “Do you like it, Max?”

Max: “…It’s good.”

Koudelka and Cid: *blink blink*

Cid: “He spoke.”

Koudelka: *softly* “Now we’re getting somewhere.”

(the front doors open and a female koopa who is dressed like a hooker enters, smoking a cigarette. at the same time yuri comes over to the desk)

Jr: “Hey, Wendy!”

Wendy: “…You ready to go, or what?”

Jr: “Yup! Later losers!”

(the two koopas leave)

Yuri: “Wow. Now that’s a hottie I’d like to—“

Koudelka: “Do *not* finish that sentence. Ever.”

…………………………………………………………………………………………..

 

(meanwhile, back over at the condos, dante and alucard are walking down the steps together)

Alucard: “Are you feeling better about it now?”

Dante: “I guess. It’s just a picture. It can’t hurt me.”

Alucard: “Exactly.” *pause* “Unless it’s one of the possessed pictures we have locked away in our basement. Stay away from those.”

(they go into the kitchen to find lloyd has taped the picture to the oven. dante rips it off and tosses it in the garbage)

Dante: “Sorry, Lloyd! I’m over it!”

Alucard: *staring in the opposite direction* “Um…don’t turn around.”

Dante: “Huh?”

(he turns around to see a new picture. this one is in color and has been blown up so it takes up half the wall. the color immediately drains from dante’s face and you can hear him screaming with lloyd laughing in the background.)

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

(back at the daycare center, all the children are gone except for halley and marlene. they’re playing outside while koudelka and cid finish cleaning up. koudelka goes over to the swear jar, which is halfway full.)

Koudelka: “I think I’ll end up paying you with your own money.”

Cid: “I’m getting better!”

Koudelka: “Whatever you wanna tell yourself.”

(she and cid walk into the lobby where yuri is standing at the desk)

Cid: “So Max actually spoke. That must mean he’s getting comfortable.”

Koudelka: “Exactly. So hopefully I’ll be able to get something useful soon.”

Cid: “What do you expect to see?”

Koudelka: “I can’t expect to see anything. It’s different with each person.”

Cid: “What about me?”

Koudelka: “You?” *laugh* “You’re an open book. Not because you’re weak, but because you want me to see you. Weak people are usually the easiest to read.” *discreetly points to yuri*

Yuri: “Are you pointing at me again?!”

Cid: “So if you can read me like that, why won’t you give me a chance? You can see I’m not into #$%^&* ya and leaving.”

Koudelka: *puts her hand out* “Dollar, please.”

Cid: *digging out the money mutters* “#$%^.”

Koudelka: “Yeah. You’re really improving.”

Cid: “It’s a work in progress!”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

(the next day we’re back at the daycare center again. cid is chasing jr. around the room)

Cid: “Give me back my cigarettes, you little piece of sh—er…stuff!”

Jr: *dancing around* “Nah nah nah nah nah! You can’t catch me, old man!”

Marcy: *punches him and takes the cigarettes* “Act your age!”

Cid: *taking back the cigarettes* “Thanks.”

Jr: *crying* “She hit me again! Do something about it!”

Cid: “No! Now get lost!” *pause* “Hey. I didn’t #$%^&*@ curse.” *pause* “Dammit!”

(max and halley are playing candy land)

Halley: *picks a card* “Double purple.” *moves his piece*

Max: *picks a card* “Queen Frostine.” *moves his piece*

Halley: “I like ice cream.”

Max: “Me too.”

Halley: “My dad used to take me for ice cream a lot. Does your dad take you for ice cream?”

Max: *looks right at halley before shaking his head and looking away*

Halley: *eyes get wide and he looks confused for a moment*

Marlene: *plops down next to them* “Candy Land!? I wanna play!”

Eiko: *joining them* “Me too!”

Halley: *still looks confused*

Marlene: “Halley? You okay?”

Halley: *snaps out of it* “Huh? Oh. You can play in the next game.”

Marlene: “Okay! Van is drawing a picture but he won’t show it to us!”

Van: “It’s none of your business!”

Marcy: “Van’s a stupid sissy!”

Van: “You’re mean!”

Cid: “Leave the sissy alone!”

Van: *eyes fill with tears*

Cid: “Aw, #$%^. I mean crap.”

Jr: “Haha! You cursed! Put another dollar in the jar, jerkface!”

Cid: *mutters nasty things and puts a dollar in the jar*

Max: *moves his piece to the end* “I win.”

Marlene: “We get to play now!”

Halley: *gets up* “You girls play with him.”

Eiko: “Where ya going?”

Halley: “Uh, to ask my mom something.”

(he goes out into the lobby where koudelka is at the desk on the phone)

Koudelka: “…………Okay, when I said I wanted some more information on this wind mouse he keeps talking about, I didn’t mean I wanted his life story…………Okay, bye.” *hangs up*

Halley: “Mommy?”

Koudelka: *busy with papers* “Yes, Halley?”

Halley: “Um, somebody’s hurting Max.”

Koudelka: *turns around looking angry* “Is it that brat Bowser Jr.? I swear to god that kid—“

Halley: “No. It’s his dad.”

(koudelka’s expression suddenly goes from angry to confused. she looks at halley for a long moment and then kneels down in front of him)

Koudelka: “How do you know that, Halley? Did he tell you?”

Halley: *shakes his head* “No. I…don’t know what happened. I just looked at him and then there were pictures in my head. And I saw Max’s dad hurting him.”

Koudelka: *mutters* “Oh my god…”

Halley: “Is that what you do, mommy?”

Koudelka: *distracted* “…Yes, honey. That’s something like what mommy does.”

Halley: “Because I don’t want to see that anymore. It was scary.”

(koudelka hesitates for a long moment. then she hugs her son tightly.)

Koudelka: *still hugging him* “Halley, just go in the room and play with the other kids, okay?”

Halley: “Okay.”

(she releases him and he stands up. then he gives her a smile and goes back into the room. koudelka stands up looking like she’s about to cry. she turns to leave the desk and nearly bumps right into yuri)

Yuri: “Hey, what’s up?”

Koudelka: *doesn’t look at him* “I, uh, I’ll be right back.”

Yuri: *furrows brow* “You okay, Koudelka?”

Koudelka: *walking quickly down the hallway* “…I’ll…I’ll be right back!”

Yuri: “Koudelka?! Is everything okay??”

(but koudelka’s gone.)

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

(meanwhile at the ramble room, lark and tseng are talking)

Lark: “Shouldn’t you be at work?”

Tseng: “I was fired for a few hours.”

Lark: “Why?”

Tseng: “I wouldn’t bow to Mr. Jingles.”

Lark: “Are you serious?”

Tseng: “I wish I wasn’t.”

Lark: “And everyone else did this?”

Tseng: “Well, Reno was drunk so he thought it was hilarious, Rude only did it after Rufus dropped a quarter on the floor and Elena was out sick.”

Lark: “Is she okay?”

Tseng: “I guess so. She said if she didn’t feel better in a day or two she was going to the doctor.”

Lark: “I hope she feels better soon.”

Tseng: “Me too. I don’t want Lily to catch whatever she has so we’ve had her. But she misses her mom. So what’s new with you?”

Lark: “Me? Nothing. This place feels like a ghost town lately. It seems like everybody’s somewhere else these days.”

Tseng: “I’m surprised Sephiroth’s not here. He’s got nothing else to do.”

Lark: “I think he’s a little pissed at me because I suggested he go spend some time with Vincent.”

Tseng: “Oh yeah?”

Lark: “Am I crazy for wanting to see them back together? And it’s not just for the yaoi thing, I swear.”

Tseng: “I understand. I’m with you on that one. I don’t know why he just won’t—“ *his phone rings* “Hold on a sec.” *answers it* “Hello?” *annoyed sigh* “You fired me, Rufus…………No, you can’t just take it back! I’m all the way at the ramble room!” *sigh* “Fine! I’ll be right there.” *hangs up* “Sorry. I have to go. My eccentric boss has a short term memory it seems. Or a convenient for him memory is more like it.”

Lark: *chuckles* “Have fun.”

Tseng: “See you later.”

(he leaves. lark looks around the empty ramble room)

Lark: “…And here we go again.”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

(meanwhile, at the condos, dante sits down with the paper.)

Dante: “The newspaper. You can’t get more dull than this. Ah, here we go! Budget defeated again. That sounds boring.” *starts to read the article* “In a surprise move, the budget for the community center was defeated by a majority of voters. Oh, yeah, Dante said, unbuttoning his shirt. I can’t deny my hot lust for you anymore, Vergil. I need you to do me.” *pauses and stares in horror* “What the f**k is this?! Why am I wearing a shirt?!” *blink blink* “Wait a sec…” *jumps up* “Omg! It’s fanfic porn! Dammit, Vergil! I mean Lloyd! Where the f**k are you?!”

Lloyd: *running in* “Haha! Totally got you, Dante! You wanna have sex with me!”

Dante: *throws the paper to the floor* “You sick freak! Knock it off!”

Lloyd: “Wanna hear more of the story?” *picks it up* “You know it, Vergil said, reaching for the fly of his pants. I’m gonna give you a night to remember.”

Dante: *screams and runs off*

Lloyd: *laughing triumphantly* “Vergil has the power now, bitch!”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

(it’s only a short time later at the daycare center, but most of the kids have been picked up. yuri and cid watch a koopa with multi colored hair shuffle in. he’s got sunglasses on. bowser jr. runs over to him)

Jr: “Hey, Izzy!”

Izzy: *sounds totally stoned* “Hey, little dude. We gotta stop by Mickey D’s on the way home. Man, I am craving some fries. That’s good sh*t.”

Jr: “Whoo hoo!”

(they leave)

Yuri: “Wow. He was on drugs.”

Cid: “No sh*t. I mean, uh, hey. Where’s Koudelka?”

Koudelka: “Right behind you.”

Cid: *turning* “@#$%!”

Koudelka: “That’s two dollars in the jar.”

Cid: *goes into the other room grumbling*

Koudelka: “All the kids get picked up?”

Yuri: “Yeah. You okay?”

Koudelka: “I’m fine. I just had something in my eye.”

Yuri: *clearly skeptical*

Koudelka: “Don’t you have your group now?”

Yuri: *sigh* “Please don’t make me go in there.”

Koudelka: “Go.”

Yuri: “We had show and tell the other day… I don’t even wanna tell you what Rudy brought in. Let me just say that he got it off the internet and it’s something even I didn’t find hot.”

Koudelka: “Get out of my sight.”

(yuri unhappily goes off to his group. cid comes back out)

Cid: “So where’d you disappear to?”

Koudelka: “I have a center to run. I can’t always be at the desk.”

Cid: “Any progress on Max?”

Koudelka: “………Not from me.”

Cid: *blink blink* “What’s that mean?”

Koudelka: *softly* “It means *he* looked at Max and saw that Max’s guardian has been beating him.”

Cid: “You mean Halley?”

Koudelka: *nods*

Cid: “Whoa…so you mean your kid has the same power as you?”

Koudelka: *looks up at the ceiling* “I guess so.”

Cid: “You didn’t know about it?!”

Koudelka: *sniffs back tears and puts a hand to her face* “No. …Sh*t. Not again.” *tries to wipe away a tear*

Cid: *comes closer* “Hey, now. Better watch yourself. I’ll make you put a dollar in the swear jar.”

Koudelka: *smiles a little* “Sure.”

(koudelka sits down and cid takes a seat besides her)

Cid: “You okay?”

Koudelka: “………………”

Cid: “I know I can’t read minds, but I get the feeling you don’t love your powers too much.”

Koudelka: “Everyone always thinks it’s so cool. Ooh, you’re a psychic. How cool. Not. I can control it, but it took a long time. Even now I see stuff that I just don’t want to. …I was in a mental institution for goodness sake! Because I freaked people out! Don’t get me wrong. I know it’s a gift. And yes, most of the time I’m glad I have it. But hasn’t been easy. And it sure as hell isn’t something I would wish on my little boy.”

(they just look at each other for a long time)

Cid: “Halley’s a strong kid. Just like his mother. He’ll be okay.” *shakes head* “I can’t believe you just told me all that.”

Koudelka: “…Me neither.”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

(the next morning at the daycare center, cid is nice and early. he walks in the room to find halley sitting at a desk writing something)

Cid: “Hey there, partner.” *ruffles his hair* “Where’s your mom?”

Halley: “She’s yelling at somebody on the phone. She told me to stay in here.”

Cid: *sits down* “What’re you writing there?”

Halley: “Oh…just a letter to my dad. He’s in jail right now.”

Cid: *eyes widen slightly but he says nothing*

Halley: “He gets in trouble a lot. My mom says he’s no good scum because he doesn’t really have a job. Do you have a job?”

Cid: “Of course I have a job! I’m a fu—er…I’m a pilot!”

Halley: *brightens* “A pilot? Really? So you fly planes and stuff??”

Cid: “I sure do!”

Halley: “Do you think you could take me in one of your planes sometime?”

Cid: “’Course I can! Whenever you want!”

(halley is smiling when koudelka walks in. he runs over to her with his letter)

Halley: “Mommy! Did you know Cid’s a pilot?”

Koudelka: “Of course.”

Halley: “He said he can take me for a ride in one of his planes whenever I want!”

Koudelka: *looks at cid* “How nice of him.”

Halley: “I wrote daddy a letter. Can you mail it for me?”

Koudelka: *takes letter and glances it over* “Yeah. Why don’t you go wait in the lobby for the other kids?”

(halley nods and walks out of the room. koudelka tucks the letter into her pocket)

Cid: “Morning. You’re looking beautiful as always.”

Koudelka: “Save the flattery. I’ve been thinking…about Max.”

Cid: “What about him?”

Koudelka: “Well, now that Halley has accidentally been able to get something, I should be able to. But I don’t think the testimony of two psychics is going to be enough.”

Cid: “So what are you thinking?”

Koudelka: “I was thinking…maybe there’s some…physical evidence?”

Cid: “Oh. Like bruises and stuff?”

Koudelka: “Yeah. I was thinking of asking Dr. Zack about it. Maybe he could help. I have a camera lying around here somewhere…”

Cid: “I get ya. Sounds like a good idea. The faster we can get the kid away from that @#$%^&#$%^@#–er…does that count as a curse?”

Koudelka: “Not in this case.”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

(sometime later, the rpg main character syndrome group are in their usual room. serge is practically curled up in a ball on his chair. rudy is looking through some photos. cloud and squall are talking. yuri, who is sitting backwards in his chair, is facing cloud and squall.)

Cloud: “And I just didn’t think that was very fair.”

Squall: “Yeah.”

Yuri: “Yeah, but that other guy made out pretty good.”

Cloud: *stares at him* “Aren’t you supposed to be leading this group?”

Yuri: “…Supposed to be.”

Squall: “Whatever. Even you don’t wanna be here.”

Yuri: “Can you blame me? Look at those freaks!” *points to rudy and serge*

Rudy: *showing serge the picture* “They’re deep sleepers! The flash didn’t wake him up!”

Serge: “I have people following me all the time!”

Cloud: “I don’t know why we’re paying money to have you sit here and chat with us.”

Yuri: “I could talk dirty, if that would help.”

Cloud and Squall: *confused stare*

Yuri: *clears throat awkwardly and mumbles* “Not into that kind of thing I guess.”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

(meanwhile, koudelka walks into the daycare room. cid is trying to get bowser jr. off the bookcase)

Cid: “Get the hell down from there you #$%^@&$ brat!”

Jr: “You cursed! You cursed! Put money in the jar, idiot!”

Cid: “Grrr!!!”

Koudelka: “Bowser Jr! Get down from there!”

Jr: *drops to the floor and bows head* “Yes, ma’am.”

Cid: *putting money in the jar* “How do you *do* that?”

Koudelka: “I told you my gift had its uses.” *looks at the jar* “It’s getting full.”

Cid: “I’m gonna stop cursing! I #$%^&$% swear!” *pause* “#$%^!” *pause* “#$%^ again!” *pause* “Dammit!”

Koudelka: “You add that 3 dollars to the jar. I’m going to go talk to Max.”

Cid: “Oh. Good luck.”

(she walks over to where max and halley are playing chutes and ladders. she sits down with them.)

Koudelka: “Hi, Halley. Hi, Max. What are you playing?”

Halley: “Chutes and Ladders.”

Koudelka: “That looks fun. Are you having fun, Max?”

Max: “Yeah.”

(and then he looks up at koudelka with his blue eyes. koudelka looks hard at max for a moment or two. then she blinks and shakes her head, looking confused)

Halley: “You okay, mommy?”

Koudelka: *getting up* “I’m fine, sweetheart. Enjoy your game.”

(she walks back over to cid, still looking confused. cid is dropping change in the jar, muttering unhappily)

Cid: *mutters* “…Running out of freakin’ dollars…stupid jar…” *see koudelka* “Any luck.?”

Koudelka: “…That poor, poor child.”

Cid: “I’ll take that as a yes.”

Koudelka: “You don’t even want to know what that man puts him through.”

Cid: “I guess that’s why you look so shocked.”

Koudelka: “No. That’s not what shocked me.”

Cid: “Then what did?”

Koudelka: *looks back at max* “The fact that Rufus Shinra’s in his memory.”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

(back over at dante’s, he’s sitting at the kitchen table, his head in his hands. alucard is sitting besides him, patting him on the back. there’s a pile of mail lying on the table.)

Dante: “I don’t know where he keeps getting all these pictures from! I don’t even know how he can look at this stuff! He’s sick! He’s sicker than I thought!”

Alucard: “He has to run out eventually.”

Dante: “He better! Because I can’t take much more of this.” *sigh* “Pass the mail over here.”

Alucard: “Some of your favorite magazines came.”

Dante: “That’s good to know.” *takes the top letter off the pile* “What’s this?” *opens it and screams* “*Another* one! What the f**k, Lloyd?!” *drops it and backs away*

Lloyd: *runs in* “Haha! Feel the pain, Dante!”

Dante: “Do you keep waiting around for me to find these things?! Don’t you have a job?!”

Lloyd: “…At least I don’t want to have sex with my twin!”

Dante: “You’re the one who keeps looking this sh*t up on the internet!”

Lloyd: “You suck, Dante! Face it! Hahaha!” *runs out*

Dante: *twitch*

Alucard: “Uh oh. Now you’re starting to look like me after my dad kept playing that Barry Manilow song in his restaurant. I still twitch when I think about it.” *twitch* “See?”

Dante: “Murder. Lots and lots of murder.”

Alucard: “Maybe you better lie down for awhile.”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

(a short while later, koudelka is at the desk when zack enters the center.)

Zack: “Good afternoon, Koudelka!”

Koudelka: “Dr. Zack, you are just the man I wanted to see.” *gestures for him to come over*

Zack: *furrows brow as he comes over* “Is there a problem?”

Koudelka: “You could say that. As you know I’m now running a daycare.”

Zack: “It’s going well I hope.”

Koudelka: “For the most part. But I have a child who’s being abused by his guardian.”

Zack: *eyes widen* “And he told you this or…”

Koudelka: “Or.” *points to her head* “But all that did was confirm it.”

Zack: “I see. Are there any visible signs you noticed?”

Koudelka: “No. And I was hoping that was where you could help. Maybe there are some that are not totally visible. I have a camera, so hopefully we could get some evidence to stack against this loser in court.”

Zack: “Well of course I’ll help. I hate to say I’ve seen this kind of situation before.”

Koudelka: “It’s amazing how people can be such monsters. The camera’s in that room over there. I’ll go get him. Hopefully we can get this kid out of this situation as soon as possible.”

Zack: *nods*

Koudelka: “Cid? Can you bring Max here, please?”

Cid’s voice: “Just a sec! Dammit – stupid @#$%^&* lizard!”

Jr’s voice: “You cursed again!”

Cid’s voice: “You’re doing this on purpose you little fu—“

Koudelka: “Cid!”

Cid’s voice: “Coming!”

(cid then comes out with max.)

Koudelka: “Thanks.”

(cid goes back inside)

Zack: *crouches down in front of max* “Hi, Max. I’m Dr. Zack. Nice to meet you!”

Max: *softly* “Hi.”

Zack: “Max, I’m just going to give you a quick physical to make sure you’re healthy! Is that okay with you?”

Max: *meekly nods*

Zack: “Okay, great! We’re just gonna over to this room over here.”

(he takes max by the hand and they go into the room)

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

(meanwhile, elena is in rufus’s room on the phone, sitting on the bed)

Elena: “I tried to get an appointment for tomorrow, but they couldn’t fit me in. So I have to go the day after. …………………At this point I’m pretty sure that’s what it is. ……………I don’t even want to, I’m too nervous. ………………No, I would be happy.  I just, it’s kinda not………… Yeah, exactly. ………………………I know. I know. You’re probably right. But I’d just rather find out for sure, you know?”

Rufus: *entering* “I’m home!”

Elena: “Rufus is here. I’ll talk to you later. ………Okay, bye.” *hangs up* “Hi, hon.”

Rufus: “How are you feeling?”

Elena: “Still tired. How was work?”

Rufus: “Productive! Well, except for Reno. He’s never productive. Who were you talking to?”

Elena: “Just Tifa.”

Rufus: “You two have been hanging out quite a bit lately.”

Elena: “Well, we’re the only women around here with kids. It’s good to talk to another mom.”

Rufus: “You must miss Lily.”

Elena: “I really do.”

Rufus: “But it’s better that Reeve and Tseng take care of her until you’re feeling better.”

Elena: “I know.”

Rufus: “Are you hungry at all?”

Elena: “You know, I’m kinda craving french fries and chocolate cake really bad.”

Rufus: “French fries and chocolate cake?” *chuckles* “That’s a weird combination! But if that’s what you want, I’ll get it for you! You just relax!”

Elena: “Thanks! Love you!”

Rufus: “Love you too!”

(he leaves. elena sighs and leans back on the bed)

Elena: “Here we go again.”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

(back to the therapy center, zack and max come out of the room just as it’s nearly time for the kids to go home. max has a sticker on his shirt)

Zack: “Great job, Max! You really earned that sticker!”

(smiling, max runs back into the room with the other kids)

Koudelka: “You carry around stickers?”

Zack: *shrugs* “Cloud used to like them.” *holds out camera* “Here’s your evidence.”

Koudelka: *taking it* “Really?”

Zack: “Most definitely. He had bruises and cuts all over his legs and torso. I asked him about it, casually, and he said he fell. Of course. Kids skin their knees when they fall. They don’t get cuts like that.”

Koudelka: “Thank you.”

Zack: “No need to thank me. Let me know if there’s anything else I can do to help.”

(the doors open and in walks in a tough looking koopa with tattoos all over and carrying a motorcycle helmet)

Tough Koopa: “Yo! Where’s my shrimp brother?”

Koudelka: “And you would be?”

Tough Koopa: “The one and only Roy Koopa!”

Jr: *running over* “Roy! We gonna ride on your motorcycle?”

Roy: “Yeah. But we ain’t gonna take the shortcut so I don’t get shot.”

(they leave. zack gives koudelka a confused look)

Koudelka: “There are so many problems there…I really don’t wanna get into it.”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

(the next day, koudelka walks into the daycare room to find cid and halley playing a game together.)

Cid: “Aw, man! You beat me again!”

Halley: “It’s just luck.”

Cid: “Well you seem to be a pretty damn lucky kid.”

Koudelka: “Hey.”

Cid: *looks up* “Hey yourself. Mornin’ sunshine.”

Koudelka: “Can I talk to you?”

Cid: “’Course.”

(cid follows koudelka out into the lobby.)

Koudelka: “You don’t have to spend time with him just for my benefit.”

Cid: “What the hell are you talkin’ about?”

Koudelka: “I mean it’s not going to make me like you more.”

Cid: “That’s not why I’m doin’ it! He’s a cool kid! They’re all cool kids! Well except that Bowser Jr. I just wanna slap that kid.”

Koudelka: *looks at him a moment and shakes her head* “Fine. Anyway, I’m going to talk to Rufus today about Max.”

Cid: “I don’t remember him having anything to do with a kid, but then that wasn’t really my gang of people. It can get pretty cliquey over there.”

Koudelka: “I bet.”

(yuri comes over)

Yuri: “They’re onto to me, just so you know.”

Koudelka: “Who? The cops?”

Yuri: “No! The two smart guys in my group! They know I don’t wanna be there!”

Koudelka: *annoyed sigh* “I am going to fire you. Is that what you want? To be fired?”

Yuri: “You can’t fire me!”

Koudelka: “Yuri, you better suck it up and act like you want to be there.”

Yuri: “That’s going to take a talent I just don’t have.”

Koudelka: “Well you better get it. Because otherwise I’m gonna tell everyone about your fantasy with the Gordon’s fisherman, the oar and—“

Yuri: “I’ll find a way!” *walks away*

Cid: *blink blink* “What the hell was that about?”

Koudelka: “Be glad you don’t know.”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

(later, all the kids are playing in the daycare center. Lily is in the crib playing with one of those toys you can attach to it. Duke is asleep. Van is drawing again. Max and halley are playing with toy cars. Jr. is annoying cid. And the girls are just running around.)

Marlene: “Van! Let us see what you’re doing!”

Van: “No! Stop it!”

Eiko: *snatches the drawing* “I got it! I got it!”

Van: “Hey! Give that back!”

Marlene: “It’s a kitty!”

Eiko: “A kitty?”

Marlene: “This is really good!”

Van: “Really? You think so?”

Eiko: “I wish I could draw this good.”

Van: *snatches it back* “No, it sucks! Now I have to start all over!”

Jr: “You’re not cursing today, Cid! What’s wrong? Fall on your big fat head?”

Cid: “Maybe I’ve just stopped cursing.”

Jr: “Nah!” *throws something at his head*

Cid: “You little sh*t!” *pause* “Argh!!!”

Jr: “Haha! I knew it!”

Marcy: *throws something at jr* “Take that!”

Jr: *holds his head* “Ow! That hurt! Say something to her!”

Cid: “Sure. Nice aim!”

Halley: “It set up?”

Max: “Uh-huh.”

(halley lets the car go and it zooms through the loops and to the other end)

Max: “Cool! Can we do it again?”

Halley: “Sure. Get the car.”

(koudelka comes in just as cid is putting money in the jar)

Koudelka: “How’s everything in here?”

Cid: “Fine.”

Koudelka: *points to the jar* “Still at it, huh?”

Cid: “I’m getting better!”

Koudelka: “Well Rufus’ group will be letting out soon. Then I’m gonna talk to him.”

Cid: “Rufus Shinra is in a group here?”

Koudelka: “Uh…”

Cid: “What kind of group? A group for pompous rich jerks who don’t know what to do with all their money?”

Koudelka: “I’ve already said too much.”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

(it’s an overcast day as sephiroth goes out to get the mail. Across the street, alucard is doing the same thing at dante’s condo. Sephiroth notices him and goes over)

Sephiroth: “Hey.”

Alucard: *big sigh* “Hello.”

Sephiroth: “You look even more tired than usual. Your dad start trying to summon the god of cheese again?”

Alucard: “No. It’s…actually Dante this time.”

Sephiroth: “Is he up all night itching from his diseases?”

Alucard: “No. Lloyd has been tormenting him with some pornography he found on the internet.”

Sephiroth: “He works at a strip club and he doesn’t like porn? He’s basically living it!”

Alucard: “It’s not regular porn. It’s porn…between the two of them.”

Sephiroth: “Oh.” *pause* “Ew.”

Alucard: “I know. Dante can’t go anywhere in the house without finding some of it.”

Sephiroth: *laughs* “That is awesome.”

Alucard: *sigh* “I thought you might say something stupid like that. Good-bye.”

(he leaves. Sephiroth stands there, a smile spreading across his face)

Sephiroth: “This gives me a great idea…”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

(true to what koudelka said, the villains let out a short time afterwards. Nemesis is trying to catch up to nightmare)

Nemesis: “STARS!!!”

Nightmare: “No! Nightmare is still mad at you!”

Nemesis: “STARS!!!”

Nightmare: “And stop calling Nightmare’s house!”

Nemesis: *hangs head* “STARS…”

(they, along with liquid snake and berserk leave. Dedede is walking with bowser)

Bowser: “She didn’t come home till four in the morning! Then she wonders why I yell at her! And my other son, I don’t know what he’s up to, but a lot of my expired pain medication is suddenly missing!”

Dedede: *quacks and nods*

Jr: “Hi, dad!”

Bowser: “Hi, son! See you at home!” *quickly leaves with dedede*

Jr: *waving* “I love you, dad!”

Koudelka: “Go back in the room.”

Jr: “That girl keeps being mean to me and Cid won’t do anything about it!”

Koudelka: “Then stop being mean to Cid.”

Jr: “…Shut up!”

(he runs back in the room. Then rufus comes strolling down the hallway)

Koudelka: “Mr. Shinra, can I talk to you a moment?”

Rufus: “What? I’m paid up! Maybe you got me confused with that deadbeat Bowser. He had to borrow money from the duck guy.”

Koudelka: “It’s not about money.”

Rufus: *blink blink* “But everyone always wants to talk to me about money.”

Koudelka: “I have a question for you, but it may seem odd.”

Rufus: “It’s probably not as odd as you think. A lot of people think it’s odd that I walk around with a teddy bear at my age, but they’re just prejudiced.”

Koudelka: “About five years ago, did you know a baby who went by the name of Max?”

(rufus stares at koudelka for a moment, his face gone totally blank)

Rufus: “…*What*?”

Koudelka: *has been staring at him* “Oh my god. Do you ever.”

Rufus: “Max was my son. Well, my adopted son. But then his family came and took him back.” *shakes head* “I think about him every day.”

Koudelka: “Well you’re not going to really like what I have to say.”

Rufus: “Do you have some information about him??”

Koudelka: “Yes… Max is actually in my daycare.”

Rufus: “He is? Can I see him?”

Koudelka: “I don’t see why not, but he won’t remember you. He was only a baby.”

Rufus: “How did you even know to talk to me about him?”

Koudelka: “I’m psychic, remember? I saw you in his memories. His dormant memories, that is. Memories he may get a feeling about, but he won’t recognize why.”

Rufus: “That’s fine. I’d just like to see him. He was only an infant when I—“

Koudelka: “Mr. Shinra, there’s a reason why I looked into Max’s head in the first place. He’s being abused.”

Rufus: *hisses* “………What?”

Koudelka: “The man who took him in is…well, beating him. I won’t get into the details. But—“

Rufus: “Let me see him!” *runs over to the daycare*

Koudelka: “Mr. Shinra, wait!”

(but rufus doesn’t wait. Instead he just runs right in. and immediately he sees the little blonde haired blue eyed boy playing with halley. Max is having a good time playing, but it’s hard to tell because he is not as hyper or as upbeat as the other kids, and he hardly smiles. Rufus just stops and stares)

Cid: “What the #$%^ is going on here? #$%^. I mean crap. I was doing so #$%^#$% well. Crap! It’s like openin’ a floodgate!”

(koudelka has come in after rufus. She stands next to rufus and looks at max as well)

Koudelka: “I see I don’t have to tell you which child it is.”

Rufus: “…………”

Koudelka: “Max? Can you come here, please?”

(max puts down the toy and comes over meekly, hanging his head.)

Koudelka: “This is Mr. Shinra.”

Rufus: *crouches down* “Hi, Max.”

Max: *head down* “…………Hi.”

Rufus: *tears in his eyes* “……It’s nice to meet you.”

Max: “…………”

Koudelka: “You can go back and play with Halley, Max.”

(max quickly runs back over to play. Rufus stands up and it’s clear he’s trying very, very hard not to cry.)

Koudelka: “We’ve been gathering evidence—“

Rufus: “Get me that asshole’s address.”

Koudelka: “…I’m sorry?”

(and rufus looks at her, a fire burning in his jenova infused eyes)

Rufus: “I’ll take care of it.”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

(back at dante’s house, dante comes home looking very tired. He drags himself up the stairs and goes into his room. He doesn’t really look around. Instead he just goes over and plops himself down on his bed with a sigh, eyes closed.)

Dante: “…Why does it feel like I’m lying on paper?”

(he opens his eyes and the pictures are all over the ceiling. Then he looks around him, and the pictures are everywhere. On the walls, on the bed, everywhere. Screaming, dante flees the room and nearly bumps right into lloyd)

Lloyd: “Like your new room, Dante? I decorated it myself!”

Dante: “You waste of space, Lloyd! I’ll #$%^&%^ murder you!”

Lloyd: *laughs* “You mean have sex with me!”

(he goes off laughing. Alucard comes running over)

Alucard: “What’s the matter?”

Dante: “The bastard plastered my room with that sh*t.”

Alucard: “Oh no.”

Dante: *eyes narrow* “But this is his last laugh. I’ll show him who’s in top in this relationship.”

Alucard: *sweat drops* “…That’s an odd choice of words.”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

(back at the daycare center, bowser jr. is leaving with his obviously drunk brother, who’s stumbling all over the place)

Jr: “Um, Lemmy? How come we always have to walk home? It’s far!”

Lemmy: “’Cause the government!”

(they’re gone. Koudelka looks at cid and shrugs)

Cid: “So what happened with Rufus before?”

Koudelka: “I gave him the address.”

Cid: “You did?”

Koudelka: “He said he was going to get some papers from his lawyer and have the guy sign his rights away.”

Cid: “Yeah. Right. You know Rufus pays people to kill people, right?”

Koudelka: “Cid…after what I saw in this poor kid’s mind, I wouldn’t say that guy didn’t deserve it.”

(she goes behind the desk and starts sorting some papers)

Cid: “Can I ask what you saw?”

Koudelka: “You don’t want to know. Trust me.” *sighs and puts a hand to her head* “I’m having a hard enough time thinking about my son seeing it.”

Cid: *coming over to her* “Did he tell you?”

Koudelka: *shakes head* “No. Not exactly. And it’s probably better that way.” *drops some papers* “Sh*t.”

(she and cid both bend down to pick them up. They meet eyes and he smiles)

Cid: “I think you should put a dollar in the jar.”

Koudelka: “I think you’re full of it.”

(cid goes to hand her what he’s picked up, but instead he drops the papers, grabs her wrist, and yanks her forward, kissing her. Koudelka leans into it and seems to enjoy it. But then a few seconds later she backs off and looks angry. She slaps cid across the face, grabs the papers and stands up)

Koudelka: “Bastard.”

Cid: *stands up rubbing his face* “It was #$%^&$% worth it.”

Koudelka: *holds hand out* “Dollar.”

Cid: *hands over the dollar* “It was worth that too.”

(halley comes over.)

Halley: “Mom, are we going home now?”

Koudelka: “Soon, Halley.”

Cid: “Well I’ll be headin’ out. See you tomorrow, Koudelka.” *ruffles halley’s hair* “Night, partner.” *calls* “Let’s go, Marlene!”

(marlene comes out from the daycare room, waves good-bye and then the two of them leave. Koudelka watches them go)

Halley: “I like him, mommy. He kinda reminds me of daddy.”

(koudelka just puts an arm around halley with a sigh)

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

(meanwhile, back at the ramble room, reeve and tseng are playing with lily in the ramble room.)

Tseng: “Elena still not feeling well?”

Reeve: “So she said. She said she’s going to the doctor tomorrow.”

Tseng: “What do you think’s wrong with her?”

Reeve: “Well, it could be—“

(but before he can finish rufus comes in. and he looks pissed.)

Rufus: “Tseng.”

Tseng: *sigh* “Rufus. I’m busy.”

Rufus: “I found Max.”

Tseng: *freezes and whispers* “What?”

Rufus: “I found Max. He’s at the same daycare as Lily.”

Tseng: “Are you serious?”

Rufus: “Yes, I’m serious! Why would I joke about something like this?!”

Reeve: *eyes get wide* “Now I know why that kid looked familiar…”

Tseng: “You saw him, Reeve?”

Reeve: “There was a little blonde boy I saw with who I guessed was his dad. He looked so familiar, but I couldn’t place him.”

Rufus: “So you saw him with the bastard?”

Tseng: “I am totally confused. Rufus, what are you talking about?”

Rufus: “I talked to Koudelka today. She said whoever that asshole is that’s taking care of Max is abusing him.”

(reeve and tseng look totally shocked)

Tseng: “What?!”

Reeve: “Abusing him *how*?”

Rufus: “Physically — at least. She had pictures of his bruises and everything.” *shakes head* “We thought he was going to a loving home. To relatives who loved him. We gave him away to that *monster*, Tseng. We loved him! And we gave him away to someone who…” *takes a deep breath and puts a hand to his head* “How…how could this HAPPEN?!” *he kicks the wall*

Reeve: “You didn’t know, Rufus. You can’t see the future.”

Tseng: *stands* “What are we gonna do about it? We have to get him out of there.”

Rufus: “Oh, we are. I have Sunshine drawing up papers right now. I’m going to make that asshole sign the rights back over to me. We have a stack of evidence a mile high that would convict him in any court. I’m not leaving without my kid.”

Reeve: “It might not be that easy, Rufus.”

Rufus: “I’m going to do whatever it takes.”

Tseng: “I’ll help.”

Rufus: “I knew I could count on you.”

Tseng: “You damn well know it.”

Rufus: “I have to go call Sunshine…”

Tseng: “I’ll come with you.” *turns* “Reeve?”

Reeve: “Go. I’ll see you later.”

(tseng and rufus leave. Lily looks at reeve)

Lily: “Dada?”

Reeve: “I don’t know what to say either, Lily.”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

(meanwhile, in the tv room. Lark and sephiroth are sitting on the couch next to each other watching a movie with a bowl of popcorn between them.)

Lark: “I love this movie.”

Sephiroth: “This guy is idiot. He’s trying to make a band out of a group of school children.”

Lark: “So?”

Sephiroth: “So, I could have come up with a much better premise than that.”

Lark: *snort* “Yeah, ‘cause Legal Case was such Shakespeare.”

Sephiroth: “That show was ahead of it’s time!”

(reeve enters with lily)

Reeve: “Lark?”

Lark: *turns around* “Hey, Reeve. Need something?”

Reeve: “I need to tell you something actually.”

Lark: “Well come grab a seat.”

(she pats the spot next to her and pauses the movie as reeve comes and takes a seat. Lily giggles and reaches for sephiroth)

Sephiroth: “What the hell?”

Reeve: “I think she likes your hair.”

Sephiroth: “Well who can blame her?”

Reeve: “No, Lily. Sit still. Lark, you remember Max?”

Lark: “Max…wasn’t that the kid Rufus adopted while I wasn’t around?”

Sephiroth: “I remember that.”

Reeve: *nods* “Well, he turned up at Lily’s daycare. And apparently whoever’s taking care of him is abusing him.”

Lark: *gasp*

Sephiroth: *eyes widen slightly*

Lark: “That’s horrible.”

Reeve: “Rufus said he’s going to make the guy sign his rights back over to him. I saw the guy when I went to pick up Lily. He was shoving the kid out the door.”

Lark: “Poor Max. I hope Rufus is able to get him back.”

Reeve: “Rufus said he wasn’t leaving without him. And he’ll do whatever it takes.” *pause* “So you know what that means.”

Sephiroth: “And I’m sure Tseng is right with him.”

Reeve: *nods* “This whole situation is just awful. And I know it’s just killing Rufus. He didn’t want to give up Max to begin with, but to find out he’s gone to a home where he’s been abused all these years… It’s the most disgusting feeling in the world.”

Lark: “You didn’t know.”

Reeve: “I know. But that doesn’t make it any better.”

Lark: “I know.”

Sephiroth: “I don’t think it helps any that Rufus was emotionally abused as a kid.”

Lark: “God… Who really knows *what* Rufus is thinking…”

Reeve: “I don’t know how poor Max is going to adjust… I mean, of course it’ll be good to get him out of a violent environment like that, but how do you act towards a kid who has been physically and emotionally abused?”

Sephiroth: “You just love him.” *stands up* “Take it from someone who was both.”

(they watch him go. Then lark and reeve look at each other)

Reeve: “You know what I mean when I say Rufus’ll do whatever it takes.”

Lark: “Yeah. I know.”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

(afterwards, sephiroth is knocking on vincent’s door, resting his head against the door as he does so.  After a minute vincent opens the door and is shocked to see sephiroth standing there)

Vincent: “Angel? Do you need something?”

(sephiroth doesn’t say anything. He just hugs vincent really tightly. Vincent looks confused for a moment, but quickly smiles and hugs back. They hug for a good minute or so. Then sephiroth just lets go and starts to walk away)

Sephiroth: *over his shoulder* “Thanks.” *leaves*

Vincent: *small smile* “You’re welcome.”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

(the next day at the daycare center, cid shows up while koudelka’s at the desk.)

Cid: “Morning!”

Koudelka: “I slapped you yesterday and you still greet me that way?”

Cid: “I like a woman who’s feisty.”

Koudelka: “Well I have good news and bad news for you. The good news is that it’s the end of the week, so most of the kids won’t be here today.”

Cid: “Yes!”

Koudelka: “The bad news is none of those kids are Bowser Jr.”

Cid: “Fu—er…sh—er…crap.”

Koudelka: “Nice.”

Cid; “I’ve been getting better! I bet you I can go the whole day without cursing!”

Koudelka: “Oh yeah? What are the stakes?”

Cid: “If I lose, I have to put fifty bucks in that jar.”

Koudelka: “And if you win?”

Cid: “You go on a date with me.”

Koudelka: *smirks* “Fine. You’re on. But only because I don’t think you can do it.”

Cid: “Watch and be amazed!”

(he goes into the room. Then bowser jr. comes running through the doors)

Koudelka: “Hey.”

Jr: “What?! I didn’t even do anything yet.”

Koudelka: “Come over here.”

Jr: *heaves a huge sigh and comes over* “What?”

Koudelka: “You know, Cid?”

Jr: “Yeah…”

Koudelka: *holds out ten bucks* “Make his life miserable.”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

(meanwhile, sephiroth is in the tv room where he has lark’s laptop, which is hooked up to a printer. He is laughing and printing something out. Lark enters. He quickly grabs the paper and closes the computer.)

Lark: “What are you doing?”

Sephiroth: “Nothing. Just printing something.”

Lark: “Why can’t you use your own computer?”

Sephiroth: “I don’t wanna waste paper.”

(he takes whatever he printed out and leaves. Lark shakes her head and sits down. She opens the computer and then her eyes widen)

Lark: “Is that… Omg. Ew.”

(then she looks outside to where sephiroth is at dante’s mailbox, laughing and shoving whatever he printed off inside. She looks from the computer to out the window and back again)

Lark: “This is gonna end badly.”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

(meanwhile, inside the condo, dante is sitting down at the computer while alucard stands watching)

Dante: “It’s been a long time, but I think I’m finally ready to turn on the monitor again.”

Alucard: “It’s the first step towards recovery.”

Dante: “I’ll check my e-mail. That’s safe enough.”

(he goes and signs on and checks his e-mail. But he frowns)

Alucard: “What’s wrong?”

Dante: “Why do I have multiple e-mails from Gippal and Maxi with subjects that say ‘What the F**k’ and ‘Is this a joke’?”

Alucard: “Um…”

Dante: *clicks on one and reads it aloud* “Dante. Why the hell are you sending me porn with you and Lloyd in it? That’s sick!”

Alucard: “He…must have figured out your password.”

Dante: *slowly turning very very red with anger*

Alucard: “Dante? You okay?”

(then lloyd comes running in)

Lloyd: “Hahaha, Dante! I sent it to all your friends! And I told them how much you loved it! I stayed up all night trying to guess your password, but it was *worth* it!”

Dante: *gets up*

Alucard: “Dante…?”

Lloyd: “You suck, Dante! And now all your friends think you like to take it from your twin!”

Dante: “That’s it, Lloyd! I’ll show you who’s the pusher in this relationship!”

(with that he chases after lloyd, who runs upstairs. He runs into his room. Dante runs in and slams the door behind him. Alucard stands outside looking confused)

Alucard: “Dante…?”

Dante’s voice: “I’ll show you who’s on top!”

Lloyd’s voice: *moaning*

Alucard: *sweat drops* “…Dante…?”

Lloyd’s voice: *more moaning*

Dante’s voice: “Yeah! Is that the way you like it?”

Alucard: *looks horrified*

(after about ten minutes of this, the door opens. Dante comes out, slipping his shirt back on. Alucard stands there looking traumatized. Dante flashes alucard a grin)

Dante: “Well that showed him.”

Alucard: “You didn’t.”

Dante: “I didn’t what?”

Alucard: “You…you…didn’t…”

Dante: *paling* “No! Oh god no! I beat the *shit* outta him!”

Alucard: *relieved sigh* “Oh thank god! I thought—“

Dante: “Oh come on, Alucard! I would never! He won’t be getting up for awhile. In fact, you know those things they use across the street to revive people?”

Alucard: “You mean phoenix downs?”

Dante: “Right. Those things. I think we’re gonna need a couple. Because when he finally gets up, I’m gonna beat him again.”

Alucard: “Glad you’re finally back to normal.”

Dante: “It’s a great feeling.”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

(meanwhile, back at the daycare center, the only kids there are bowser jr, halley, marlene, and van. And bowser jr. is certainly making cid’s life miserable.)

Marlene: “Van, where’s Marcy?”

Van: “Doing stuff. Of course I never have anything to do because my life sucks.”

Jr: “Hey, Cid! Look at this!” *knocks books off the shelves*

Cid: “You stupid kid! Come back here!”

Jr: “Hahaha!” *stomps on cid’s foot*

Cid: “Ow! Grrr…! Geez, that hurt!”

Jr: “Bet this will too!” *kicks him in the shin*

Cid: *grabbing shin* “Fiddle dee dee that smarts!”

Jr: *pushes him down* “You suck, old man!”

Cid: “Grrr! That’s it, you little punk!”

(he gets up and starts to chase bowser jr. around the room. Koudelka enters the room. Everyone is watching the two of them)

Jr: “Haha! You suck!”

Cid: “You little piece of… Get over here! I’m gonna… Gonna kill you in a minute!” *keeps stepping on and nearly tripping over toys* “Darnit! Dognabit! Drat! Crap! Crud! Uncle cracker! Flippin’ flapjacks! Dod dernit! Ahaha!” *grabs bowser jr.* “Gotcha, punk!”

Jr: “Lemme go!”

Cid: “Why the hell should I?”

Jr: “’Cause I’ve got your watch!” *holds up watch*

Cid: “How did you…?! You little piece of sh*t!”

Jr: “Haha you cursed!”

Cid: “Dammit!” *sees koudelka in the doorway* “How much of that did you see?”

Koudelka: “All of it.”

Cid: “Koudelka—“

(but she just turns and walks away. And as bowser jr. continues to dance around with his watch, cid just looks crushed.)

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

(meanwhile, rude is driving a car. Reno sits in the front. Rufus and tseng are in the back.)

Rufus: “Stay in the car unless I tell you otherwise.”

Reno and Rude: “Yes, boss.”

(they pull up to a small, crappy looking house in an equally crappy neighborhood. Rufus gathers up some papers and puts his hand on the door handle)

Rufus: “Stay in the car.”

(the turks nod, and then rufus gets out of the car with the papers. He goes up and knocks on the door to the house. The door opens and there’s max’s guardian standing there)

Man: “Who the hell are you and what’d you want?”

Rufus: “My name is Rufus Shinra. And I’m not leaving without Max. Thanks for inviting me in.”

(he walks into the house, which is just as crappy looking inside. The man follows rufus, leaving the door open. Max meekly comes out of the back room and peers at rufus)

Rufus: “Hi, Max! Remember me?”

Man: “What the hell you want with the kid?”

Rufus: “That kid has a name. A name I gave him. I was the one who adopted him before you came along and took him away from me. And clearly you don’t want him, so I’ll be happy to take him off your hands.” *holds out papers* “Sign here.”

Man: *snort* “I get alotta money for keeping him here. F**k off. I’m not signin’ nothin’.”

Rufus: “No? Then I’d be happy to take this to court, considering I have a pile of evidence documenting your abuse towards Max.”

Man: *frowns* “You’re lying.”

Rufus: “Am I? Just sign the papers and let me take the boy. And you’ll never see me again.”

Man: “F**k you. What kinda asshole comes to a guy’s house demanding a kid?”

Rufus: “What kinda asshole beats a child?”

Man: *moving towards max* “Get outta here!”

Rufus: “Don’t touch the kid.”

(but the guy goes to touch him anyway. All of the sudden a bullet comes flying from seemingly nowhere and hits the wall next to the man’s head. Rufus turns to see tseng standing there, a steady hand holding a gun aimed at the man)

Tseng: “My boss said not to touch the kid. Next time I won’t miss. It’s your call.”

Rufus: “Just sign the papers, and we’ll leave you alone.”

Man: “F** you!”

Rufus: “Max, do you wanna stay here anymore?”

Max: *shakes head no*

Man: “Don’t you f**king dare, kid!” *goes to grab max*

Tseng: *yells* “Don’t touch the kid!”

Rufus: “You want money? Fine. Here’s money.” *he drops a stack of bills on the table* “Now sign the damn papers.”

(the man looks cautious. He grabs the money and looks it over greedily)

Man: “This real?”

Rufus: “You bet. Now sign. And we’ll be out of your way.”

Man: “I sign, and you’ll leave?”

Rufus: “You have my word.”

(the man nods, so rufus hands him the papers. He signs them and hands them back to rufus)

Man: “There are your damn papers. Now get the hell out.”

Tseng: “Take Max outside, Rufus. I’m just gonna have a little chat with our friend here.”

(rufus quickly ushers max into the back of the house where he lets max grab some stuff, not like he has much anyway. Then they go outside and wait in the front. A minute or so later, tseng emerges from the house totally stone faced. He comes up next to rufus, and they walk back towards the car)

Rufus: “I told you to wait in the car.”

Tseng: “…I missed him too.”

Rufus: “…Our friend won’t be a problem to anyone anymore, will he.”

Tseng: “Only in hell.”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

(back at the condos, lloyd is dragging himself down the steps looking totally beat up. alucard sits on the couch, casually reading the paper.)

Lloyd: “Ugh…everything hurts…”

(then dante comes back in, a piece of paper in hand. and he looks pissed)

Dante: “LLOYD!”

Lloyd: *covers face* “Ahh!”

Dante: “What the f**k is *this* that I found in the mailbox?” *holds up another picture*

Lloyd: “I didn’t do that! I swear!”

Dante: “Don’t lie to me, you piece of sh*t!”

(lloyd takes off running up the stairs screaming. dante chases after him. alucard just turns to the next page in the paper)

Alucard: “Beat him good, honey.”

Dante: “Got it!”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

(and so they go back to the ramble room. tseng has max with him. max is looking very timid and is holding onto a very worn out stuffed bear. they come to his and reeve’s room. tseng stops and bends down in front of max.)

Tseng: “Hey, Max. I’m Tseng. You know Lily from your daycare?”

Max: *nods*

 Tseng: “Well I’m her dad. You don’t remember me, but when you were a baby, Rufus and I used to take care of you. But then the court said you had to go with this other man. We didn’t want you to go, but we didn’t have a choice. He wasn’t very nice to you, was he?”

Max: *shakes head no*

Tseng: “Well don’t worry. He won’t hurt you anymore. Rufus is going to adopt you, so he’ll be your new dad. This is probably happening really fast, I know. And I’m sorry I had to use my gun in front of you like that. I just didn’t want that man to hurt you. So I’m sorry. Do you forgive me?”

Max: *nods*

Tseng: “Good. Well, you’re going to be staying with me and my friend Reeve for awhile. But then you’ll be living with your new dad, okay? So let’s come in and we’ll get you all set up.”

(he pats max reassuringly on the shoulder and opens the door. as soon as the door opens, reeve comes over, carrying lily)

Reeve: “Hey…you’re back.”

Tseng: “I’m back. And look who it is!”

Reeve: “Max! Hi. I’m Reeve. You probably don’t remember me.”

Max: *shakes head and hugs his teddy bear*

Tseng: “Max has had a long day. Why don’t you come over here and lay down for a bit, okay?”

(tseng helps max take off his shoes and lie on the bed. he then covers him in a blanket.)

Reeve: “We’ll be right over here if you need anything, okay?”

Max: *nods*

(reeve and tseng go into the adjoining room with lily and shut the door)

Reeve: “What happened?”

Tseng: “Got him to sign the papers.” *takes lily from reeve* “Hi, baby!”

Reeve: “Is he…still breathing?”

Tseng: “Who? Max? Obviously.”

Reeve: “No. Not Max. You know who I’m talking about.”

Tseng: “Why are you asking?”

Reeve: “Well—“

Tseng: “Because he’s our son too, Reeve. Almost as much as he is Rufus’.”

Reeve: “Maybe so, but…”

Tseng: “What if it was Lily, Reeve? Tell me you would have done things differently.”

(reeve looks into lily’s innocent blue eyes and then looks back at tseng’s not so innocent brown ones)

Reeve: “…You’re right. I wouldn’t have.”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

(back at the daycare center, the only kid left besides marlene and halley is bowser jr. the kids are all still in the room when a koopa with crazy blue hair comes in the room and comes up to the desk)

Koopa: “I’m here to pick up my little brother.”

Koudelka: “Sure.” *calls* “Bowser Jr! Your brother’s here!”

(bowser jr. comes running out of the room, cid following. cid joins koudelka at the desk and bowser jr. starts to follow his brother out the door)

Jr: “We going right home, Ludwig?”

Ludwig: “We sure are.”

(they leave.)

Cid: “At least one of them seems normal.”

Koudelka: “Yeah. *Seems* normal.”

Cid: “What’s wrong with that one then?”

Koudelka: “Homicidal maniac.”

Cid: “Yikes.”

Koudelka: “So…let’s have a look at that jar, shall we?”

(cid groans as she puts the jar on the desk.)

Cid: “We gotta do that now?”

Koudelka: “Don’t you wanna get paid? I’ve been counting.” *picks up a pile of money* “Two thousand six, two thousand seven, two thousand eight, two thousand nine, two thousand ten. And that doesn’t count the fifty bucks you still owe me.”

Cid: *grumbling hands over fifty bucks*

Koudelka: “Thanks.” *picks up half the money* “Here’s your pay.”

Cid: “Basically I just paid you to work here.”

Koudelka: “Thanks for your business.”

(she goes to put away the jar)

Cid: “It was worth it, though. I like working here with the kids. They’re cool. Except for that brat Bowser Jr. Somebody’s gotta teach that brat a lesson.”

Koudelka: “I’m surprised. I thought you would have quit by now.”

Cid: “I’m not quitting. Unless I’m fired.”

Koudelka: “You’re not fired. Actually, I thought you tried really hard today on the no cursing thing. Besides, it wasn’t really fair.”

Cid: *blink blink* “Why wasn’t it fair?”

Koudelka: “Well… I kind of paid Bowser Jr. to make your life miserable.”

Cid: “What the #$%^?! Why did you do that?!”

Koudelka: “To see how far you would go. But also to make sure you were serious.”

Cid: “To make sure I’m serious?! Of course I’m #$%^@#$ serious! You’re a psychic! Can’t you tell by just looking at me?”

Koudelka: “Even psychics sometimes need to double check.” *smiles*

Cid: “So…what does this mean?”

Koudelka: “It means if you kiss me again…I may not slap you.”

Cid: *comes over* “May not?”

Koudelka: “It’s up to you to find out.”

(cid grins and kisses her. halley and marlene come out of the room and see them)

Marlene: “Ooh! Uncle Cid’s kissing your mom!”

Halley: “I wonder if they’re gonna hug naked now.”

Koudelka: *breaks away* “I’m gonna kill Yuri.”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

(meanwhile, rufus happily returns to his and elena’s room. he finds her pacing)

Rufus: “Elena! Great news! I’m a father again!”

Elena: “What? But how—“

Rufus: “Max! I got Max back! Well, it’s a horrible story really. He was being abused. But the important thing is I got him back. And now we can all be a family!”

Elena: “He was being abused? Omg! That poor child! How did you get him back?”

Rufus: “I had his asshole of a guardian sign over his rights.”

Elena: “Well where is he now?”

Rufus: “He’s staying with Reeve and Tseng until you feel better. So how are you feeling?”

Elena: “Actually, Rufus, I went to the doctor today…”

Rufus: *concerned* “Are you okay?”

Elena: “Yes… I’m not sick. I, well, I kind of had a feeling I was, but I was too scared to find out for sure.”

Rufus: *blink blink*

Elena: “I’m pregnant.”

Rufus: “Again?! Whose sperm is it this time? Tseng’s again? Reno’s? You don’t want an ugly red headed kid do you? A drunk red headed kid?! Or Rude’s? Oh god, please don’t tell me it’s Rude’s! You want a bald kid, Elena? Is that what you want?”

Elena: “Actually, Rufus—“

Rufus: “You could have just had my sperm! We have sex all the time anyway! I’ve always wanted my own child!”

Elena: “Rufus. It is yours.”

Rufus: *blink blink*

Elena: “You’re the father. I thought it would be pretty obvious.”

Rufus: “But we used protection!”

Elena: “…A Rufus brand condom.”

Rufus: *takes one out* “But they’re 100% effective!”

Elena: “Nothing’s 100% effective. Especially not those things.”

Rufus: *looking at it* “Piece of crap! I should have known better than to use my own cheap crap!”

Elena: “Well…”

Rufus: “But who cares!” *throws it over his shoulder* “I’m gonna be a dad! Twice in one day! This is great news! The greatest news I’ve ever gotten in my life! Even better than when I heard my dad was dead!” *hugs and kisses elena* “This is the most welcome surprise.”

Elena: *smiles* “I thought you’d be happy about it. I’m happy about it too. Now Lily will have a little half sister or brother. And so will Max.”

Rufus: “It’s like…I finally have a family…” *looks at elena thoughtfully* “Well, almost.”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

(the next day, elena knocks on the door to reeve and tseng’s room. tseng opens it)

Tseng: “Hey! You feeling better?”

Elena: “I need to tell you something.”

Tseng: *frowns* “Something wrong?”

Elena: “I’m just gonna blurt it out before I lose my nerve. I’m pregnant. Again.”

Tseng: *paling* “It’s Rufus this time, right?”

Elena: “Yes! Why does everyone keep saying that?”

Tseng: “Just double checking! Well this is great news! Why were you scared to tell me?”

Elena: “I don’t know… I guess because how you reacted towards my relationship with Rufus.”

Tseng: “That’s in the past. I’m happy for you! Congratulations!” *hugs her* “I’m sure Rufus is thrilled. When are you due?”

Elena: “May. And he is. And so am I. I never wanted Lily to be an only child.”

Tseng: “Now she’ll have an older brother and a younger sibling.”

Elena: “Yeah… Speaking of the kids, are they here?”

Tseng: “No! Reeve took them out to the park for a bit. But they should be back soon if you wanna wait.”

Elena: “Oh, no. I have to go meet Rufus. But I’ll be by after. Lily’s been good?”

Tseng: “She’s an angel.”

Elena: “And how about Max?”

Tseng: “Well he hasn’t spoken much, but he seems okay. He seemed excited about going to the park. These kind of things don’t happen overnight.”

Elena: “I know. Well, I better get going. I’ll see you later.”

Tseng: “Take it easy.”

(he gives her a kiss on the cheek and she leaves. she goes outside to the ramble room where rufus is waiting by his limo.)

Rufus: “There you are! Let’s go! My chariot awaits!”

Elena: “I thought we were going grocery shopping!”

(rufus just smiles and opens the door for her. looking a bit skeptical, elena gets in. rufus then gets in and the limo pulls away)

Elena: “Where are we going?”

Rufus: “You’ll see.”

(the limo takes them to a nearby harbor, to where a boat named Jingle Jangle is parked. elena looks confused)

Elena: “…Rufus…why are we at your boat?”

Rufus: “I just wanted to take you on a little adventure. To celebrate!”

Elena: “Oh…okay!”

(so they get out of the limo and get onto the boat. they go and stand at the front of the boat. it starts to pull away from shore. rufus comes over to where elena is looking out over the sea)

Elena: “It’s so beautiful out here.”

Rufus: “The scenery’s even better with you in it.”

Elena: *blushes*

Rufus: “Elena… I know we haven’t been together for a long time. But we’ve known each other a long time.”

Elena: “You used to think I was annoying.” *thoughtfully* “In a way I guess I kinda was… No wonder Tseng was always scolding me…”

Rufus: “Well, people change as they get older. Hopefully for the better. I hope I’ve changed for the better.”

Elena: *smiles at him* “You’ll always have your faults, and you’ll always be Rufus. But you have changed. And for the better. And I love you just the way you are.”

Rufus: *smiles* “I’m glad to hear you say that. Because I love you too. I hope you don’t think what I’m about to ask you just has to do with what you told me yesterday. Because it doesn’t. I’ve been thinking about it, and now the time’s just right.” *gets down on one knee*

Elena: *eyes widen* “Rufus…?”

Rufus: “Elena…” *takes out a ring box* “Will you marry me?” *opens ring box*

(inside the ring box is a gorgeous ring with a huge ass diamond on top. elena’s eyes widen really, really wide)

Elena: “Holy crap!”

Rufus: “Well…?”

Elena: “Yes!! Yes! Of course I will!”

(rufus puts the ring on her finger and they hug and kiss for a few minutes)

Rufus: “This great! I’m so happy! We are going to have the best, biggest, most extravagant wedding anyone has ever seen!”

Elena: “Well, actually…”

Rufus: “What?”

Elena: “I never really wanted a huge wedding. I’d just like something with our close friends.”

Rufus: *blink blink* “Can I still spend a fortune on it?”

Elena: “Of course!”

Rufus: “Then that’s all I care about! And I want to be married as soon as possible!”

Elena: “Me too!”

Rufus: “You’ll be surprised what money like mine can get done in a few days time!”

Elena: “Who’s going to be in the bridal party?”

Rufus: “We have a lot to discuss before we get back to shore and start planning and spreading the good news!”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

(later…tseng, lark, shell and Ashley are in the ramble room playing cards)

Lark: “See, now this is nice.”

Shell: “It’s especially nice since we’re not playing strip poker.”

Ashley: *shrugs* “Eh.”

Shell: “Ashley! You a skank like Lark now? The only guy we’re playing with is gay!”

Ashley: “I’d still like to see him take his clothes off.”

Tseng: *sweat drops*

(then the door opens and elena bursts in)

Elena: “I’M GETTING MARRIED!”

Everyone: “What?!”

Elena: “Rufus just proposed!”

Lark: “Congratulations!”

Ashley: “That’s great!”

Shell: “Let’s see the ring!”

(the girls rush over. tseng goes over too, but stands behind them. elena holds her hand out and they all look at the ring)

Ashley: “Holy crap!”

Lark: “That’s huge!”

Ashley: “That’s like 3 carats!”

Shell: “4 actually. And it has excellent cut, clarity and color. Rufus knows his diamonds.”

Lark: “It’s gorgeous.”

Elena: “Thanks! And I want all you girls to be in the bridal party!”

Girls: “Aw…”

Lark: “I’d love to be in your wedding!”

Shell: “Me too!”

Ashley: “Me too! When are you getting married?”

Elena: “Well…we wanna be married as soon as possible, so…like in a few days?”

Girls: “A FEW DAYS?!”

Lark: “You have a *lot* of planning to do.”

Ashley: “Not like that’ll really be a problem with Rufus’ money.”

Shell: “We should start shopping for your dress right away. I know all of the most expensive shops in the area. Let’s go.”

Lark: “I’ll drive.”

(they leave. elena smiles at tseng and starts to follow them)

Tseng: “Elena!”

Elena: “Yes, Tseng?”

Tseng: “You were just going to leave without letting me tell you congratulations?”

Elena: “…I thought you might take this worse than the baby thing.”

(but he smiles and gives her a hug)

Tseng: “Congratulations. You two will be happy. Plus you can keep Rufus in check. Where is he anyway?”

Elena: “He was on the phone. But I’m so glad you’re happy, Tseng. You, me, Reeve, Rufus and the kids – we’re gonna be like one big family now, you know?”

Tseng: *smiles* “Yeah…”

Elena: *kisses him on the cheek* “I better catch up with the girls. I’ll see you later.”

(she rushes off. tseng goes to leave the room as well but he nearly runs right into rufus)

Rufus: “Tseng! There you are! You’re just the person I wanna see!”

Tseng: “I just heard the good news, Rufus. Congratulations! And congratulations on the new baby too.”

Rufus: “Thanks! I’m glad you’re not trying to punch me in the face.”

Tseng: “I’m never gonna live that down.”

Rufus: “I go from father of none to father of three practically overnight! Well, father of two and step-father to one. That doesn’t bother you, does it? That I’m her step-father?”

Tseng: “Not at all.”

Rufus: “I’m glad to hear that from you, Tseng. Because I have something very important I need to ask you.”

Tseng: “You want me to hold up Mr. Jingles at the altar?”

Rufus: “More important than that. …I want you to be my best man.”

Tseng: *blink blink* “Really?”

Rufus: *nods*

Tseng: “Rufus…wow. I have to admit I’m kind of shocked.”

Rufus: “Why?”

Tseng: “I don’t know. I guess I just kind of figured you’d pick Algus or something.”

Rufus: “Oh, Algus is in the bridal party of course. He’s one of my best friends. But as much as I love Algus you’re the only one I really trust.”

Tseng: “Me? But we disagree on practically everything.”

Rufus: “I know! You’ve never hesitated on calling me out on something I did wrong. And even though I may not say it or agree with you, I do appreciate it. Tseng…you’ve always been kind of like a brother to me. An older, annoying gay brother.”

Tseng: *grins* “Thanks, Rufus. I guess you’ve always been a younger, annoying spoiled brother to me.” *they shake hands* “I’d be honored to be your best man.”

Rufus: “Great. Now I just have to find out if Reeve would be willing to marry us.”

Tseng: “Seriously??”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

(cut to loser land a few days later. hojo is at his computer. scarlet is sewing some pantyhose while kuja watches in disgust. seymour is flipping through vogue magazine. nida is ironing his seed uniform, and heidegger and stinky are watching tv)

Kuja: “Why are you sewing the holes in your pantyhose?”

Scarlet: “To save money.”

Kuja: “Those things are cheap to begin with! Especially the ones you buy!”

Scarlet: “It’ll look fine.”

Kuja: “Looking at you scares me.”

Seymour: “Here. What about this?” *points to picture*

Kuja: *looks* “Your taste is improving, but it would still look better on me.”

Heidegger: “Gya haa haa! There’s no food in this show!”

Stinky: *snort*

Nida: “I’m ironing my uniform so it looks even better when I put it on!”

Kuja: “You might want to teach Scarlet a thing or two about ironing while you’re at it.”

Scarlet: “I’m too busy to iron!”

Kuja: “Then stop sewing your pantyhose!”

Seymour: “That’s really bothering you, isn’t it.”

Kuja: “It breaks every rule in the bible. And by bible I mean my own personal fashion bible that I made up.”

Hojo: *looking at computer* “Well, I have good news and bad news.”

Heidegger: “There’s always bad news! Gya haa haa!”

Hojo: “The bad news is we’re not invited to Rufus and Elena’s wedding. And if we try and show up, we’ll be shot on sight.”

Heidegger: “Gya haa haa! I dream of crashing that buffet!”

Scarlet: “What?! Now Rufus is off the market too!? What is the world coming to?”

Kuja: “Honey, with those sewn up pantyhose you couldn’t get a penniless bum, never mind a hot gazillionaire.”

Scarlet: “Would you let it go?”

Kuja: “Never!”

Nida: “Who cares about that! What’s the good news?”

Hojo: “Apparently I also got an e-mail about ways to enlarge my penis…”

Kuja: *shudders* “Now I’m really going to be sick.”

(then all the sudden kefka appears in the room out of nowhere in full clown get-up. everyone screams and hides. he runs around the room wildly)

Kefka: “I smell it! I smell it! I know it’s here somewhere! I’ll get you!!! I’ll get you!!! Hehehehehehehe!!!”

(and then he disappears again. hojo is the first to cautiously stick his head out)

Hojo: “…Okay, who else peed their pants?”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

(and so we shall go straight to rufus and elena’s wedding day. the guests are all gathered around, standing on top of a grassy hill. the guests being: Brady, seifer, irvine, richter, zell, franswa, sephiroth, vincent, koudelka, cid, zidane, setzer and laguna. reeve stands in the middle. rufus, dressed in a very expensive looking tuxedo, is standing there, along with tseng, who is dressed in a tux as well. the guests turn and watch as the bridal party begins to come down the aisle. the following lyrics are from the peter frampton song, “Baby I Love Your Way”.)

Shadows grow so long before my eyes

And they’re moving across the page

(first to come down the aisle are edgar and sunshine. sunshine, like the other girls, is wearing a very pretty satin burgundy gown. they are carrying beautiful bouquets of various flowers in deep fall colors)

Suddenly the day turns into night

Far away from the city

(next is tifa, escorted by algus)

But don’t hesitate

‘Cause your love won’t wait hey…

(and then shell, escorted by rude)

Ooh baby I love your way…every day

Wanna tell you I love your way…every day

(and then Ashley with reno)

Wanna be with you night and day

(then lark, who as the maid of honor is walking by herself.)

Moon appears to shine and light the sky

With the help of some fireflies

(and then max comes down the aisle, pulling along lily, in a red dress, who is sitting in a wagon.)

I wonder how they have the power shine shine shine

I can see them under the pines

(and then we have the bride. elena walks by herself and is dressed simply in a very pretty a-line ivory gown that hugs her figure. at the top there is some sparkly beadwork, and at the bottom it’s kind of feathery. she wears no veil, but her hair is pulled back and she is wearing a pretty ivory flower in the side of her hair. she is also carrying a bouquet of dark red roses)

But don’t hesitate ’cause your love won’t wait…hey

Ooh baby I love your way…every day

(so she walks down the aisle next to rufus and they smile at each other excitedly. then reeve begins the service.)

Wanna tell you I love your way…every day

(everyone watches as reeve starts talking. rufus and elena face each other holding hands.)

Wanna be with you night and day

(rufus is the first to say his vows. he does so with a big smile)

But don’t hesitate ’cause your love won’t wait

(elena is next. she sheds a few tears as she says her vows.)

I can see the sunset in your eyes

(tseng hands over the rings and reeve holds them out. rufus takes the ring and says what he’s supposed to as he slips it on elena’s finger)

Brown and grey and blue besides

(then it’s elena’s turn. she smiles and cries a little as she puts the ring on rufus’ finger)

Clouds are stalking islands in the sun

(and then reeve makes some closing remarks and pronounces them husband and wife. they kiss happily and everyone claps)

Wish I could dry one out of season

(And then the happy couple goes back down the aisle as everyone throws rose petals at them.)

But don’t hesitate ’cause your love won’t wait…hey

Ooh baby I love your way…every day

(cut to the reception which is held under a huge tent. a floor has been set up underneath the tent with a dance floor in the middle. the whole tent is very elegantly decorated with everything in fall colors. there are huge candelabras in the middle of each table that are draped with flowers. it looks like something out of an enchanted forest. up on stage are supa ego2, well, without rufus. everyone is playing their instruments, and irvine and tseng are singing this song as elena and rufus have their first dance out on the floor)

Wanna tell you I love your way

Wanna be with you night and day

(elena and rufus are dancing, using up the whole floor. obviously they both know how to dance properly. they are both smiling at each other and look very happy.)

Ooh baby I love your way…every day

Wanna tell you I love your way

(everyone is gathered around the dance floor watching the happy couple dance.)

Wanna be with you night and day

(and with that the dance is over, everybody claps. on stage irvine and tseng finish playing and then they shake hands. then irvine, zell and sephiroth leave the stage and go back to their seats like everyone else. tseng takes the mic, a glass of champagne in his hands.)

Tseng: “Good evening everybody. It was at Rufus’ request that we play his and Elena’s first dance, a request we were happy to fulfill. We’re now going to be turning things over to a professional DJ, so if you have any requests, go bother him.”

(everyone kind of laughs)

Tseng: “But I would just like to take this moment to say a few words about Rufus and Elena. When Rufus asked me to be his best man I was as confused as the rest of you. Rufus and I have certainly had our share of problems over the years. And if I started to go over all of them, I would be keeping you here all night. But despite all our issues I have always considered Rufus a friend of mine, especially since he basically paid for my wedding, so I’m kind of in his debt. Which I know he loves to hear. But when Rufus asked me to be his best man he said I was like his brother. And the more I thought about that the more I realized that was true. Because brothers fight. And they don’t always get along. But they always love each other. And Rufus, I’m really happy to see you and Elena so happy. Elena, you’ve always been such a kind and enthusiastic person. You really put yourself completely into everything you put your mind to. And I know you’ll do the same for your marriage with Rufus. And you’re the perfect person to keep him in line. But in all seriousness I could not be more happy that you’ve finally found the perfect person for you. I wish you nothing but health and happiness for many years to come. I’d say wealth, but we know Rufus already has that. So a toast, to Rufus and Elena and their new family.” *holds up glass* “I feel lucky to know both of you and share in your joy.”

(everyone raises their glasses and drinks. tseng gets off the stage and the music starts to play. tseng goes over to his seat where reeve is sitting next to him. reeve gives him a kiss)

Reeve: “That was a great speech.”

Tseng: “Thanks.”

Elena: *comes over and hugs tseng* “Tseng… That was so sweet. Thank you.”

Tseng: “You don’t have to thank me. It was the truth, I swear. Even the stuff about Rufus.”

(meanwhile…)

Ashley: “What a beautiful wedding.”

Shell: “Even I’m pretty impressed.”

Lark: “Money can’t buy you love, but it sure can buy you a damn nice celebration!”

(meanwhile…)

Vincent: “I think I will request a song.”

Sephiroth: “No one wants to do the monster mash with you.”

Vincent: “If I request a song, will you dance with me?”

Sephiroth: *whispers* “Vincent…I really don’t want to hear *our song* right now.”

Vincent: “It’s not ours. Just a song I happen to like.”

Sephiroth: “What is it?”

Vincent: “You’ll see. If I request it, will you dance with me?”

Sephiroth: “……………Maybe.”

Vincent: *gets up* “I’ll take that chance.”

(meanwhile…)

Irvine: “I can’t believe Rufus is married. It’s weird.”

Rude: *nods*

Reno: “Rufus’ sister is *hot*.”

Irvine: “That she is. And she was *good* too.”

Reno: *nodding* “I think I’ll try out a little of the Reno charm on her. I mean if you can do it, I can too.”

Irvine: “Hey! We are not created equal!”

Reno: “C’mon! I taught you like everything!”

Irvine: “Not everything!”

Reno: “Did you get her drunk?”

Irvine: “…Some alcohol may have been involved.”

Reno: “Yeah. See, Sunshine’s a smart girl. She’s not some skank wearin’ too much make-up who you know is desperate for any male attention! You gotta woo her a bit.” *grins* “I’m gonna ask her to dance.”

Irvine: “Rufus isn’t gonna like you with his sister.”

Reno: “She could do worse.”

Rude: “She could do better.”

Reno: “Stay outta this, Rude.”

(then the song lullaby (goodnight my angel) by billy joel starts to play. reno lights up.)

Reno: “Here I go!” *goes over to sunshine*

Rude: “…I guess I’ll ask Shell.”

Irvine: “And I’ll find some random chick.”

(they go off. reno goes over to sunshine.)

Reno: “Hey, there.”

Sunshine: “Hi, Reno!”

Reno: “I was wondering if you’d like to dance.”

Sunshine: “Oh…okay! Why not?”

(couples start going to the dance floor. vincent goes over to where sephiroth is sitting.)

Vincent: “This is the song.”

Sephiroth: “I should have known.”

Vincent: “So…will you dance?”

Sephiroth *annoyed sigh* “…People will see me.”

Vincent: “Lie to them if you wish. Just do me a favor just this once.”

Sephiroth: *sigh* “Fine.”

(so he gets up. and everyone is dancing with their significant other, except for edgar and setzer, who are still sitting down. laguna, algus and zidane are also not dancing.)

Zidane: *sigh* “I wanna dance. Dance with me, Algus.”

Algus: *snort* “I’m afraid I don’t know the dance of the monkey, Zidane.”

Zidane: “That’s not funny!” *to edgar and setzer* “How come you two aren’t dancing?”

Edgar and Setzer: *blink blink*

Edgar: *uncomfortable laugh* “Because we didn’t bring dates with us! Of course! What are you implying?”

Setzer: “Yeah. Not like we’re a couple or anything. That’s crazy.”

Algus: “Zidane! Stop being ridiculous.”

Laguna: “I just love weddings! They’re so romantic! Plus the food is totally awesome!”

Algus: “It is quite nicely done. But then again I wouldn’t except any less from Rufus!”

(meanwhile, koudelka and cid are dancing)

Cid: “I still don’t know how you snagged an invite to this fancy affair.”

Koudelka: “I guess because I helped with Max.”

Cid: “And did I tell you how #$%^&*# gorgeous you look?”

Koudelka: “Yeah. Like five times.”

Cid: “Just making sure.”

Koudelka: “I’m impressed you know how to dance.”

Cid: “I’m just full of surprises.”

(lark is dancing with Brady)

Lark: “What a beautiful wedding. If ours is half as nice as this I’ll be happy.”

Brady: “The favor is an origami crane made from a hundred dollar bill!”

Lark: “That’s Rufus for you.”

(zell is dancing with franswa)

Zell: “I’m really glad to see Rufus get remarried.”

Franswa: “*Re*married?”

Zell: “We were married once.”

Franswa: *blink blink*

Zell: “We were both drunk and it was on a bet. We got it annulled. I kinda wanted to make it work. But he didn’t. I guess it all worked out for the best though!”

Franswa: “…And you think you know a person…”

(tifa is dancing with richter)

Richter: “This is quite a lovely affair they’ve thrown here.”

Tifa: “It is. And have you seen Elena’s ring? It’s gorgeous!”

Richter: “Well you will also get a gorgeous ring one of these days.”

Tifa: “Oh really? And how far off is this day?”

Richter: “It depends on how interested you are in becoming Mrs. Belmont.”

Tifa: “I’m very, very interested.”

Richter: “Well that’s very, very good to know.”

(shell is dancing with rude)

Shell: “I’m pretty impressed with this wedding, Rude. And it takes a lot to impress me.”

Rude: “I know, Shell.”

(Ashley is dancing with seifer)

Seifer: “Ashley, would you ever marry me?”

Ashley: “Um……no.”

Seifer: “No?! Why not?”

Ashley: “It should really be self explanatory by now, Seifer.”

(reeve and tseng are dancing)

Tseng: “Reeve, can I confess something to you?”

Reeve: “Of course.”

Tseng: “Promise not to laugh.”

Reeve: “I wouldn’t laugh at you! What is it?”

Tseng: “Ever since I lost my family…I don’t know. I always felt like there was something missing. But now with you, Lily, Elena, Rufus and Max…it’s like whatever was missing is back. Weird right?”

Reeve: *shakes head* “No…not weird at all.”

(and the newlyweds are dancing)

Rufus: “Enjoying yourself?”

Elena: “Are you kidding? This is more than everything I’ve ever dreamed of!”

Rufus: “I’m glad.”

Elena: “But you know, we could have spent twenty bucks on this wedding and it still would have been the best day of my life. Because the most important thing is all our friends are here and we’re married.”

Rufus: “Yeah…I guess you’re right.”

(and sephiroth and vincent are dancing. sephiroth doesn’t look too happy about it.)

Sephiroth: “So why?”

Vincent: “Why what?”

Sephiroth: “Why did you wanna dance with me so badly?”

Vincent: “Because I love you. Isn’t that reason enough?”

Sephiroth: “………………”

Vincent: “You know as long as there’s a breath in my body…”

Sephiroth: “I know.” *steps away* “You’re a broken record.”

(and he just leaves vincent in the middle of the dance floor and walks away.)

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

(the rest of the reception went wonderfully, and everyone had a great time. now it’s very late, and there is a crew cleaning up the remains of the party. elena, rufus, reeve, tseng, max and lily are all still there, sitting at a table and just taking it all in. tseng is holding a sleeping lily in his arms and rufus has max on his lap)

Rufus: “Did you have fun, Max?”

Max: *nods with a smile*

Rufus: “Good. Well you’re going to be having lots of fun with me and your mom and your new family now.”

Tseng: *looks at rufus* “We make an odd family.”

Rufus: “Maybe. But we make a great one.”

 

 

THE END

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