[Shattered] Ice 22

Chapter Twenty-Two: Seeing Stars

The Highwind landed without incident on the southern tip of Wutai, the barest glimpse of tiny islands just visible off shore. Yuffie’s cave certainly didn’t appear to be more than a hole in the ground from above, and the airship’s occupants had spilled out one by one until they all stood before the entrance.

Staring at the dark, yawning mouth that was the opening to Deep Man’s Cave, Cloud wondered why they had even bothered to listen to the girl. He stood with his hand on the hilt of his sword with it slung over his shoulder. A frown decorated his face alongside a slightly perplexed expression. Beside him, both Yuffie and Nanaki stood, gazing into the darkness. They were the only two willing to go with him, though the demi-human was only going because the ninja was.

Barret had taken one look at the darkened cave with its eerie and disgusting smell and had backed out, claiming that “Spike” and the rest could handle it without his aid. He had returned to the airship before Cloud could say anything else.

Looking at the size of the cave, their leader didn’t think a large group would fit anyway. It even seemed to be a tight squeeze for someone of Yuffie’s size, much less a person with Barret’s girth.

So instead, he chose the strong and agile Nanaki… and of course Yuffie as a guide. The others were sent back to the Highwind, not that there was any argument. No one seemed too enthused to enter the cave, especially since it was the ninja’s plan to begin with.

“It smells like the only thing we’ll find are piles of rotting fish,” Cloud remarked with a wrinkle of his nose.

He began to wonder if claustrophobia was something a person could just suddenly develop or if he had had it all along. Perhaps it was just his imagination running away with him. Regardless, he was still none too keen about following the ninja into “Deep Man’s Cave.”

Nanaki nodded, holding a somewhat clawed hand over his own nostrils. There was no airflow, but the smell seemed to waft out of its own accord.

“The air is positively foul,” the demi-human remarked, turning his head away.

Yuffie was, however, grinning from ear to ear. “Aw, come on! You guys aren’t afraid of a little smell, are you? I’m sure the key’s down there… somewhere,” she responded with a vague wave of her hand.

Cloud resisted the urge to sigh, and he gestured towards the darkened entrance to the tunnel with one hand, twisting his wrist around as he did so.

“Lead on then,” the blond acquiesced with a frown.

It was Yuffie’s idea to come here, so let it be her pleasure to be the first to enter the black and disgustingly foul hole.

She shrugged nonchalantly, twirling one of her throwing stars around a finger before strolling jauntily inside the dark depths. She obviously expected the two males to follow her as she didn’t even look backwards. There was a bounce to her step that was higher than usual and an odd gleam in her eye. Then again, there always seemed to be strange sparkles in Yuffie’s eye.

Nevertheless, Cloud and Nanaki exchanged ominous glances.

“She is acting strangely,” the demi-human commented. He made it a point to check for his materia, counting and agreeing that it all was there. He also tightened the claw on his wrist as well.

It never hurt to be too careful.

“So you noticed it, too, eh? We should keep a close eye on her,” Cloud responded before following the girl inside.

Golden eyes traced the other male’s movements before Nanaki readied his claw and also entered.

Almost immediately, they were surrounded by darkness and silence. The deeper they trod, the more the sounds from the world outside were dimmed. Finally, they were completely quieted. The steady drip of water from something along with the noise of their footsteps against the rocky ground were the only things that accompanied their movements.

Yuffie was humming some merry tune, the same “Materia, Materia” from before, if Cloud remembered correctly. Incidentally, they weren’t sure exactly how Yuffie knew where she was going and thought it best not to ask.

Both males were unusually jumpy, almost expecting a monster to pop out of nowhere. Luckily for the ex-SOLDIER, the mako helped him to see in the dark, and Nanaki was having no trouble with his superior vision. The light from the demi-human’s tail wasn’t really helping much, but it was still better than nothing.

The rotten smell had not faded and seemed to only increase the further they went in. Further, quarters were becoming increasingly cramped, the three of them walking in a line as opposed to side by side.

The trio walked for the better part of twenty minutes in relative silence, not having much to say and reluctant to open their mouths to the revolting stench. Cloud was glad for the silence as he found his mind rather full and confused. There was a lot that had been plaguing his thoughts lately, and it seemed Vincent and he were becoming more and more alike as the blond had taken to brooding.

He wondered what the purpose of this key was. Bugenhagen had said that it might be the clue in solving the mystery behind Holy, the special materia that would bring the planet’s salvation and destroy Meteor. The key was to a music box, or so they had assumed. Would this box perhaps hold another materia like Holy? But then, who would pray for its activation? Was Aeris’ sacrifice even necessary?

And then, Sephiroth… the General had been the one to slay her, slicing her through like she meant nothing to him. A faint smile, a rather rare thing for the silver-haired man, had quirked at the corner of his mouth even as he did so. The blade had cut so smoothly through Aeris, and Cloud had been helpless, useless… as he had always been in the General’s presence. Sephiroth had been his idol, the man who he both admired and perhaps even desired at one point. But now, seeing what he had become and in spite of what Cloud remembered of the man, he wondered if there was anything he could actually do to stop Sephiroth.

It was his same failure, same weakness. He hadn’t been able to stop Sephiroth five years prior, and he hadn’t even managed to save the woman he loved either. His own mother had been slain as a result of his inabilities, and now, his love was lost also. He had to stop Sephiroth; it was the only choice left to him now.

She had come to him in the Lifestream, helping him put the fractured pieces of his fragile mind together. Aeris had said that he had nothing to feel guilt for, that she had known her fate all along, and she had not faulted him for it. The flower-girl had wanted him to forgive himself, but he just couldn’t do it. There had just been so many deaths, too many.

“How did you know of this place, Yuffie?” Nanaki questioned, his voice breaking through the silence and interrupting Cloud’s thoughts.

Her humming ceased as she considered the query. “I used to play here all the time with my friend Liana. She was such a scaredy though. She wouldn’t hardly come any further than where she could see the light.”

The blond could practically see the girl’s smirk of remembrance. “I can imagine why,” Cloud murmured in response. “I’m surprised a monster hadn’t attacked us.”

Yuffie’s humming continued then, the girl sporadically ceasing to respond. “It’s really too small in this part, but it gets larger once we exit the tunnel.”

“Grandfather never mentioned a tunnel beneath the ocean on Wutai; I wonder how old it is?” Nanaki thought aloud.

However, he was not answered, and they fell into another companionable silence, which was occasionally filled with the ninja’s persistent song.

Nothing out of the ordinary occurred until the commonplace sound of Yuffie humming abruptly disappeared. Instantly, both males stopped in their tracks, ears straining, but they only heard the steady drip of water.

“Yuffie?” Cloud called tentatively.

It wasn’t that he feared her loss, but rather, that he wasn’t sure if he actually cared that she was missing. He was even silently weighing the options in his head as he tried again.

“Hello?”

The remaining two glanced about them. The darkness was nearly impenetrable, though they could make out the outlines of the rock walls around them and boulders that lay in their path. The ninja, however, was nowhere to be seen.

Cloud reached out for Nanaki, the pair finding each other in the dark and managing to stand back to back. They were now prepared to fight a foe they could neither see nor hear.

Suddenly, a rock cracked to the right, falling off the wall and crashing to the floor with a sharp rap. Their attention was immediately stolen in that direction, but they weren’t prepared for what happened next. The sound of something hard striking something of equal hardness resounded throughout the silence as Cloud felt his companion slump against him.

He turned in surprise, only to see stars as something slammed into the back of his head, a gasp escaping from his mouth before he, too, slumped to the ground. As the world faded into oblivion and he slipped into blessed unconsciousness, the last thing he heard was the faint sounds of the song “Materia, Materia” once more.

Cloud would now forever hate that song.

It was silent in the common room, nearly empty save for one person. And that was exactly how Vincent preferred it.

He sat at the table, parts and pieces of the gun he had recently acquired spread around him. He was both cleaning it and rearranging his materia. Of course, it was more busy work than anything, something to keep him occupied rather than sitting in the dark in his room and brooding… as Cid would call it.

The ex-Turk had only recently started spending time with the pilot again, and he wasn’t exactly sure why he had been avoiding Cid in the first place. He needed time to think and time alone at that, not that his seclusion had helped him understand anything. He just knew that his heart was starting to react in familiar ways, and Vincent wasn’t sure he was ready to admit that to anyone else.

First, there was the uncharacteristic urge to comfort Cid and concern for his well being. He had worried for the blond with the man’s stress of being leader and his concern for finding Cloud. That was the only reason why the Vincent had gone to him at all. Something within him would not allow him to walk away when he knew that Cid was in need of… something.

And then, there was the damn jealousy, and he truly recognized the emotion for what it was now. When he saw Shera and Cid laughing and getting along, it had burned through his chest. Perhaps he had thought, even for the briefest moment, that it meant the two would finally see what they had in each other. Some hidden part of him had raged within him, wondering what it would be like to laugh openly like that himself.

The brash pilot had somehow found a way to draw him out, to make him see beyond the guilt he had wrapped himself in. Vincent was slowly changing bit by bit, piece by piece, and he wasn’t sure if that scared or encouraged him. However, it was enough for him to avoid the pilot for a short time, if only to try and think things through.

He couldn’t afford to allow himself such feelings again, not considering what had happened the last time. Lucrecia had suffered a cruel fate because he had not kept to his Turk rules. If he had just done his job and left well enough alone, none of his own suffering would have occurred.

None of it would have happened.

He would have been able to stop Hojo; he would have shot the deranged man before he could bring destruction onto the world.

Instead, he had been a fool, captured by brilliant, brown eyes and a loving smile. And Vincent would be damned if he wasn’t still partially in love with her, too. He supposed that was why he somewhat empathized with Cloud, despite their differences.

The ex-SOLDIER blamed himself for a death he could not have prevented. Vincent himself was guilty for being too weak to do anything to save the woman he loved. He could fully understand Cloud’s pain, though he wouldn’t allow himself to say anything aloud. The swordsman and he were still at odds far too often to allow for that kind of comfort.

[Ha, ha, ha, You run the same words through your mind over and over, as if by picking through them you might find the answers you seek, the demon teased in his head, the one whose presence was getting stronger.

It was yet another source of his self-hatred. If it hadn’t been for his own weakness, Vincent might have never found himself with four fearsome demons occupying his mind. He didn’t know for sure what had occurred thirty years ago, his fractured memory not revealing much. Nevertheless, the ex-Turk did know that most of his ills, his scarred body and the blood-lusty demons, were caused by Hojo.

“Shut up,” he murmured under his breath, more of an unconscious response than anything else.

Vincent was increasingly having more than a little trouble blocking out the demons lately. Their protestations and taunting grew louder and stronger with each passing day.

(Haven’t you even wondered what it is you have forgotten?) Galian Beast questioned, his rasping voice a dry echo within the gunman’s mind.

Of course, Vincent had wondered, but having no means of restoring his memory, he hadn’t wasted much of his brooding time on that particular problem. He had decided that the answers would come when they were ready. Just as the issue with Cid would either resolve itself or he would be able to drive the pilot away, just to save him from Lucrecia’s fate.

So Vincent continued to pointedly ignore the demons, swiping an oiled cloth over the parts of the Winchester scattered around him and gauging how much ammunition he had. It was getting near to the time that he would have to purchase some more. The last gun had served him well, but with the stronger monsters that they were encountering as of late, a more powerful weapon was needed. Still, the Winchester suited his purposes just fine, though it had necessitated some fine tuning.

[My, aren’t we sullen today? Chaos snickered. [What you need is a good killing. The smell of blood will certainly dissolve that apathy you seem to enjoy so much.

(I agree, Chaos), Galian Beast cackled. (He needs to get over this ridiculous belief that he is human and finally listen to us.)

“I never claimed to be human,” Vincent muttered under his breath.

(I think we should slay the foul-mouthed one,) Galian commented murderously, his tone filled with enchanting malice. (Now, that would be far more amusing than being pinned in this body all day.)

The ex-Turk narrowed his now blazing eyes, prepared to make a sharp retort when the door to the common room banged open. Cid stepped through, grinning like the idiot Yuffie was, and Vincent surreptitiously shook his head as a physical effort to ignore the demons. He eyed the pilot curiously, wondering what the smiling man was up to as the Captain pulled up a chair. Cid turned it around backwards so that he could lean against the back of it, laying his arms across it.

“Whatcha doin’, Vin?” the pilot questioned, eyes sparkling with mischievousness.

The gunman raised a darkened eyebrow as he gestured towards the many parts of his weapons and materia scattered around the table. “You are in a fine mood,” he commented without answering Cid’s question. He could still hear the demons muttering in the back of his mind but chose to stoically ignore them.

The other man grinned. “Yuffie’s gone off in that tunnel with Cloud, and it’s finally quiet on my airship. Don’t have no damn ninja rolfing all over the Highwind. That’s a good enough reason for me.”

Cid watched as Vincent deftly reassembled the pieces of the gun, oiling those that needed it and snapping the bullets into their casings. The man definitely knew his way around his own weapon, his skill not just a boast but a fact.

The ex-Turk nodded in acknowledgement. “Her absence has been duly noted.” He wondered why it was that Cid had come to see him, knowing that there was a purpose behind the visit.

“So where you been?” came the pilot’s next question.

Vincent made a neutral sound, his internal inquiry being answered. “I have been here,” he replied enigmatically.

Cid watched him closely. The gunman was concentrating wholly on his weapon, and he hadn’t even looked up except for when he had first entered. The pilot was relieved that his own weapon was something mostly simple to handle rather than the intricate pieces involved in a gun.

He was glad that he had finally caught up to the elusive ex-Turk, who he hadn’t seen since their group meeting several hours ago. Cid had plans in mind, which involved them doing something together outside of the airship. He wasn’t sure what Vincent admitted to himself was between them, but he was willing to experiment a little, to try and prove it was more than great sex. His heart was certainly telling him that there was.

“Say, let’s go to Wutai, while they’re gone,” the Captain blurted out after a moment of silence. “I gotta get something for the Highwind.”

Vincent set down what appeared to be the barrel as his gaze flickered to Cid. “And you need me for this?”

The blond grinned again. “I hear they have some great hot springs in Wutai. Besides, I’m goin’ a bit stir crazy.”

The corner of the gunman’s lips quirked up into a half smile, recognizing the pilot’s words for what they were… an attempt at seduction. Cid had his own way of doing things, far from flowers and candy, which Vincent would rather not have. Perhaps it was time he stopped running away and stuck around, at least conversing with the man. Maybe then he could better understand what was going on inside him.

He gave a sidelong glance at Cid before he finally began to put the pieces of the Winchester back together in their proper order and popping the materia back into its rightful place. He narrowed his eyes, seemingly in concentration. However, Vincent was really thinking about the suggestion.

“Will they not leave without us?” the ex-Turk finally inquired.

Cid held up his right hand, the jangle of metal accompanying the movement. “They can’t. I’ve got the keys, and I left strict orders that the Highwind not move from this spot.”

“Very well then, let’s go,” Vincent replied, as though making a great concession. He rose, smoothly placing the Winchester in its holster, even as Cid stood also. He pushed his chair back under the table.

The Captain grinned and reached for his goggles as the two headed for the cargo bay, intent on exiting the airship and strolling to Wutai. Yet, one stern glance from the gunman had him shaking his head and sighing as he forewent his cigarette and put down his arm.

Soft, mako-blue eyes fluttered open with a groan as Cloud sat up, holding his head. His world spun with dizziness as he licked his lips, trying to clear the cotton feeling out of his mouth. The smell of dead fish still surrounded him, and his skin was cold and clammy from lying on the floor of the cave. For a moment, he entirely forgot where he was.

He looked around for his companions, finally spotting the dull flickering of Nanaki’s tail a short distance away.

And then, it hit him like a ton of bricks. He remembered everything and cursed aloud, trying to jump to his feet but failing as his legs shook like jelly.

Curse that $!#& thief!

The short sound of the demi-human’s moan alerted him, and the blond turned his gaze to the side, finding Nanaki slowly sitting up, also holding his head.

“You alright?” Cloud asked.

“Other than my aching head, I suppose,” the demi-human commented.

He did a quick systems check. All of his limbs were intact, and nothing was broken. Other than the sizeable lump on his head, he was uninjured. He still had his claw, and yet… he checked again. Yep, both his armlet and weapon were devoid of materia.

“Damn,” he muttered lowly, using a word that would have made his grandfather do a double-take.

Cloud raised his head, eyebrow furrowed in confusion. “What?” he asked, performing a body check of his own.

He still had his weapon, and he was uninjured. His head would hurt like a bitch for a while, but it was tolerable. His body was cold and clammy, and his clothes probably covered in muck.

It was then that he realized his situation as well.

“That $!#& thief!” he swore as he stood to his feet all in an anger. “My materia’s gone.”

The demi-human sighed softly. “As is mine.”

“I should’ve known she was up to something!” Cloud muttered furiously.

The demi-human rose to his feet as well, glad to find that his body was shaking no longer.

“We’ve no choice then. Back to the airship,” Cloud put in tersely. “We’ll pick up Cid. I’m sure he’ll be glad to hear of this, and then, get to Wutai.”

Nanaki nodded in agreement, and the two headed off in the direction they hoped was the exit. At least, it seemed that the air was less foul from that direction.

As they walked, they fell into a silence. Cloud’s ShinRa issued military boots clomped angrily across the rock strewn ground, and his furious mutterings were plainly audible. Nanaki thought it best if he didn’t say anything.

Besides, he felt Yuffie couldn’t have possibly been that bad. Perhaps there was a reason that they didn’t know. So she had led them on a goose chase, had knocked them out and had stolen their materia. At least, she hadn’t killed them.

Further, there was one tidbit of information that the demi-human had kept to himself.

Yuffie had stolen his materia; this much was true. Nevertheless, she had left behind one: his Earth materia. Whether or not she had done it on purpose, Nanaki couldn’t be sure. She knew that was one of his favorites, if not his most preferred. The two of them had become close lately, seemingly the best of friends. Cloud’s anger could not possibly compare to the betrayal he felt in his heart.

Yet, in her act of leaving him his favorite materia, it was almost like she was apologizing… or that she valued their friendship as much as he did. He hoped both were true since he didn’t want to end the companionship that had developed between them.

Regardless, he certainly wasn’t going to say anything aloud to Cloud. The man was angry enough as it was, not that Nanaki didn’t blame him.

His head ached nearly as much as his heart, and he wondered what on Gaia Yuffie had struck them with. He gently raised a hand, gingerly pressing it to the sore bump in the same moment that Cloud muttered a curse, catching his attention.

Golden eyes looked up and found that there was a small corona of light in front of them, obviously the exit. And thus, the reason for Cloud’s cursing.

They had only been walking for about five minutes. Earlier, Yuffie had led them in the cave for at least twenty. The sneaky devil had been leading them in circles, though Nanaki wasn’t sure how she had accomplished that. The fact of the matter was that she was even more conniving than they had suspected.

Nanaki had to suppress another sigh.

Finally, the two stepped out into the warm sunlight, the shine glinting off the still present airship. It was a most welcome sight for the pair, though the sudden brightness was something that caused them to wince. The foul smell of the cave at last cleared from their nostrils with a breath of wind, and their spirits lifted if only for a fraction.

That is until Cloud had the present of mind to look at his attire.

Then, another round of cursing began; obviously, the man had been around both Cid and Barret for too long. Every bit of his clothing, from boots to turtle-necked sweater was covered in a thin layer of greenish grime and grit. Even his blond spikes were tinted with the goop from brushing at the top of the cave as they walked. He grimaced with disgust, attempting with vain to brush some of the mildewy mold off before giving up.

If he didn’t have a ninja to track down, he would have gladly showered.

And Nanaki wasn’t faring any better. The reason for the gentle flicker of his fire tail was obvious. He was coated in the gunk as well, some of it even clogging up the gears of his claw. He picked at the slime with one of his taloned nails, trying to return movement to his weapon as Cloud began stalking towards the Highwind. The swordsman continued muttering to himself, sounding both quite insane and furious as he did so, and it wasn’t until they entered the airship and were surrounded by its utter quiet did the two even realize what they had not earlier.

The Highwind was shut down completely. It wasn’t even on standby. The hallways were completely silent and deserted, as if everyone aboard had just up and disappeared.

Completely confused, the pair headed for the bridge after exchanging perplexed glances.

Yet, in walking, Nanaki caught something out of the corner of his eye as they passed an open door. Frowning, he paused, grabbing the edge of Cloud’s sleeve and pulling the swordsman to a halt. He backed up a step to confirm what his eyes had told him.

Nothing had changed.

“What is it?” Cloud questioned, moving to his side.

Nanaki inclined his head towards doorway before the two entered, stopping just inside.

There was Barret, sitting in a chair with his head lying down on the table. He would have appeared to be simply asleep were it not for the fact that his head lay pillowed on a plate of cheesy mashed potatoes.

The sound of a snore could clearly be heard, and the situation would have been highly amusing had Cloud not been so angry to begin with.

“Uh… Barret?” the demi-human questioned, stepping slowly into the room.

He received only a snore in response as the burly human snorted and shifted in his sleep.

Cloud furrowed his brow, following Nanaki inside. He gripped Barret by the shoulders and shook him violently.

“Get up, you lazy ass! This is no time for sleeping!” he ordered.

Silence.

“It is a magical sleep,” the demi-human commented, shaking his head. “And we haven’t a single Heal or Remedy.”

“Dammit,” the blond cursed as he silently checked both Barret’s armlet and his weapon. As he had originally suspected, both were devoid of their materia. “Yuffie strikes again.”

With a sigh, the two turned and headed for the bridge, leaving Barret to his sleep on his pillow of cheesy potatoes. It was, after all, far more amusing that way. Although they would have loved to see the look on his face when he woke up, they had far more pressing matters to attend to.

Again, they were struck by the abject silence of the airship. Still, no crewmembers had been seen in the halls, which was highly unusual, causing Cloud to furrow his brow in confusion. Nanaki merely “hmm’ed” and continued forward, wondering if they could blame Yuffie for that as well.

Would they be able to find their companions? And would they be in the same state as Barret? Asleep with materia gone? Even the stoic and ever-alert Vincent?

The door to the bridge slid open, and the pair walked inside, finding that no one was present save for one crewman. He was thin with a receding hairline and was reclined in a chair, feet propped up on a console as he read a celebrity magazine. He didn’t even look up when they entered.

“I want this airship off the ground and headed for Wutai,” Cloud ordered in a snapping voice as he stormed towards the balding man.

Yet, he was received with only a vague disinterest. The man didn’t even look up from his magazine to respond. He merely uncrossed, then recrossed his propped up legs.

“No can do, sir.”

Cloud spluttered angrily, more curses spilling from his mouth. However, the crewmember, used to Cid, didn’t even blanch or flinch.

It was up to Nanaki to salvage the situation.

“Why not?” the demi-human asked patiently, crossing his arms over his chest.

The crewmember sighed and looked at them once before returning his attention to the tabloid. “The Captain took the keys and grounded us when he went off to Wutai. We’re all on a twelve hour break.”

“He did what?” Cloud’s eyes bulged from his head as a vein throbbed in his forehead. It looked ready to pop.

The thin man sighed again and put down the magazine, laying the glossed pages in his lap and looking up at the angry blond. He did not seem frightened in the least.

“The Captain took the keys and that quiet fellow, and they went off to the main city,” he responded, speaking slowly, as if that would make the swordsman understand any better. “Everyone else is either sleeping or gone, save for myself.”

Mako eyes twitched as Cloud took a breath to calm himself. “Have you seen Reeve, then?” he questioned.

The crewmember raised an eyebrow as he appeared to contemplate. “Hmm… dark hair, always wearing an expensive suit,” he questioned, rubbing his chin in thought. “The one with a beard, right?”

Both Cloud and Nanaki nodded in response, a deceptively hopeful look on the demi-human’s face.

The man frowned before picking up his magazine. “Nope. Haven’t seen ‘im.” With that said, he pointedly returned his interest to the tabloid, ignoring both the other males

“Well,” the demi-human said with a sigh, “I guess that means we’re walking to Wutai.”

Cloud clenched his fists in anger. “I swear to Kami that when I catch that ninja…” he trailed off, his meaning clear.

It wasn’t even necessary that he finish the threat. After all, he was sufficiently pissed.

He had no materia and very little stock of potions and such. His clothes were covered in gunk from the cave as was his hair. One of his companions was lying asleep in a plate of cheesy potatoes. One was missing; no one knew where. Cid had taken off with Vincent and the Highwind’s keys to the capital. Today was not a good day to be the leader of AVALANCHE.

“Say,” the crew member said lazily, deigning to speak once again and interrupting the swordsman’s musings. “If you’re going to the capital, could be bring me back one of those expensive chocolate Dao-Chaos, you know the raspberry filled ones? They can only be found in the Wutai capital, and I have been craving one, if you know what I mean.”

Cloud twitched, and Nanaki hurriedly intercepted the swordsman, turning him away from the crewmember and directing him towards the door. He almost pushed the blond out as he looked over his shoulder.

“We’ll see what we can do,” he replied before shoving Cloud out into the hallway.

After all, they had a long trip ahead of them.

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