I have once more returned with a one-shot. S'fairly long one this time, not that any of them have really been short, heh. This one took me a little bit longer though, if only because I had shorter time increments to work on it being as busy as I have been. The fic kinda lent itself to it, however, which was nice. Normally when I write, I like... end up staying awake all night finishing it if I get to that point where I just can't stop. It's probably not that great of a habit.

But anyways, this was another of those ideas that came to me randomly while driving back to school last weekend. Why do I get all my ideas while driving?

Disclaimer: Star Fox and all its character belong to Nintendo.

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Occasional Fluctuations in Character

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Dinner with Fox, 6:30, Harborside

Wolf was staring down at the words. They'd been scrawled across the box marked Friday the 18th, almost illegible. His eyes narrowed slightly as he chewed on his bottom lip. Moving his eye down to the next week, he saw a similar scrawl on Saturday the 26th.

Fox's Stupid Military Dinner, 7:00

The corners of his mouth turned up ever so slightly before he was cringing again. He'd written that one while Fox was in the room. The vulpine's expression had been priceless once he'd seen it. He could almost hear him, with that slightly whiny voice he got whenever he was pretending to be offended.

Giving a small sigh, Wolf picked up a nearby pencil that had been haphazardly left on his desk and began erasing the words. He began slowly, watching the lettering start to fade, but sped up as he went, not finishing until only the faintest remnants of the marks were left. His teeth were clenched.

Flipping the calendar to its next page, he saw more of the penciled-in events.

Movie Night at Fox's, Time?

Dinner with Fox, 6:00, Jake's Place

Weekend Trip to Zoness (book hotel, you idiot)

Meet Fox for Lunch, 11:30, Stucco Deli

He didn't do anything for a few minutes, just staring down at the words. The grip on his pencil had gotten rather tight.

Finally, his hand jumped up from its rest and began furiously erasing the words, this time not even trying to be neat about it. To make matters worse, his eye had started to tear up, so he could barely even see where the eraser was going. Long streaks of eraser fuzz were forming across the white page.

He continued getting more and more frenzied, but it wasn't until a tear had finally worked its way out of his one good eye that the pencil simply snapped in two, its newly sharpened edge poking his hand rather painfully.

"Shit!"

He dropped it onto the calendar, tears now falling much more freely. He bit down hard on his bottom lip, squeezing his eye shut, no longer caring about the pain.

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He emerged from the bathroom to find Fox sitting at the kitchen counter, coffee cup in his hand, while he was skimming over the newspaper. Pulling his towel up a bit tighter around his waist, he slowly made his way over to where the vulpine was sitting.

Fox hadn't noticed him at all, still interested in whatever he was reading. Every so often, he'd bring the mug to his muzzle to take a sip.

Wolf was practically standing right next to him now, just staring down at him. When Fox still didn't acknowledge his presence, he raised the hand that had been behind him the whole time, letting the object he held in it fall down with a soft whump on the newspaper.

Fox jumped.

He looked about to say something, but then looked closer at the object now in front of him. "What's this?"

Wolf narrowed his eyes. "That's what I wanna know."

Fox picked up the object in question, holding his hands out in front of him. It was a pair of boxers.

"They were in the bathroom."

Fox's eyes were narrowed, and he appeared to be concentrating. Finally, he opened his mouth, a jolt of recognition echoing in his eyes. "Ohhh, these are Bill's. He stayed over a few nights ago."

Wolf's expression didn't change. "Bill stayed over?"

"Yeah, yeah." Fox was waving his hand in front of his face. "He took that break-up with Kendra rather hard... needed a place to crash for the night."

"Bill spent the night?"

Fox's face sank into a frown. "Wolf... it's not what you think."

"Not what I think?!" Wolf's shoulders came up sharply. "Not what I think?! I find another guy's underwear in your bathroom and it's not what I think?!"

Fox was on his feet now. "Bill and I have been friends for years, but there's totally nothing between us. I was just helping him out!"

"Yeah, helping him out of his clothes."

The vulpine was really starting to get angry now. "Wolf, you're not even listening to me! Nothing happened – what's your fucking problem?"

But Wolf didn't answer. "What, was it too long to wait until the next time I came?"

"Wolf!"

"Or did you just want somebody to fuck you in the ass for a change?"

That was it. Wolf saw it coming but he couldn't do anything about it. The force from the slap sent him reeling to the left, his eye stinging with tears. It took him a few moments to recover, simply staring at the ground, slowly bringing his hand up to rub his cheek.

Fox was staring at him, shoulders moving up and down as he continued to breathe heavily. His hand was still raised from his earlier movement.

"Get out, Wolf."

Wolf's eye narrowed as he brought his head up to look at the vulpine. "I'll get out whenever I wa-"

"Get out!!"

And he was pushing him towards the door. Wolf brought his hands up to push back, but he was already backed into the wall. Fox practically ripped the handle off the door as he thrust it open, giving Wolf one final shove to get him outside.

The door slammed in his face.

Wolf simply stood there, staring at the grooves on the door. His teeth were still clenched in a grimace.

"Hey moron, I need my clothes!"

He could hear shuffling coming from the other side of the door, followed by footsteps padding back towards the bathroom. After a few moments, the footsteps grew louder until the door was yanked open once more, his clothes dumped unceremoniously on the floor in front of him.

Wolf glared at the vulpine, who was now looking back at him with equal hatred.

"Go to hell, Fox."

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"Wolf, you've been sitting there all day."

Wolf didn't move from his position, staring straight forward towards the TV-set in front of him. It was some action movie he'd never seen before, but he wasn't really paying attention to it. He took another swig from the beer bottle he was holding.

"Wolf..."

He knew the other person was walking towards him, but he didn't care. Even after the panther appeared in his peripheral vision, he maintained his forward stare.

It was silent save the sounds of the TV for a few moments.

"...the guys have been asking about you."

Wolf's eye narrowed.

"I... I mean, they know what you went through... but..."

"But what?" Wolf finally turned to look at his fellow Star Wolf member.

Panther looked away, appearing to be uncomfortable. "Nothing... nothing..."

The lupine didn't say anything, just chewing on the inside of his cheek. Normally, he would probably have pressed further, but right now, he really just didn't care. He took another drink from his beer and turned back to the TV.

Panther was silent for a while longer before speaking again. "You know... if you need someone to talk to... it's just... I can only imagine what you must be going through..."

"I'm fine."

It was short, concise and to the point. His eye was still fixed on the screen.

He heard Panther give a small sigh. In the movie, planes were flying around a night sky, the sound of guns going off all around them. A number of the planes got shot down, flames erupting from their tails as they plummeted towards the earth. Wolf felt tears begin forming in his eye.

"You've gotta stop beating yourself up, Wolf..."

Wolf abruptly picked up the remote next to him on the couch, mashing the power button in. The TV clicked off with a small buzz, colors fading to black. He continued staring at the dark screen.

"It's not y-"

"I'm going back to my room."

He pushed himself up off the couch and turned away harshly, not even looking at his teammate before he left. He finished off his beer bottle with one last swig and dropped it in a trashcan before walking out the door.

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"Fox, this is the stupidest shit I've ever seen..."

"Oh psh, it's the news. I only wanna watch it for a few minutes. You know, some people actually like knowing what's going on in the world."

Wolf was sprawled across the couch, his head in the vulpine's lap. He tilted his chin up so he could see the other's face better, giving him a sly grin.

"Let everyone else watch this crap. I've got my favorite program on right here."

Fox simply shook his head in amusement. "You're really pathetic, you know that? Do you act like this around Panther and Leon?"

"Like what?"

"Like a whiny, little kid."

Wolf placed his hand beneath his chin in a thoughtful gesture. "Oh, come now, Fox. I'm the picture of maturity."

"What kind of picture? An abstract?"

Wolf scrunched up his nose, trying his best to glare at the vulpine. He couldn't keep it for long, however, and started chuckling. "You should simply feel lucky, Fox. You bring out the best in me."

Fox gazed towards the ceiling. "I'd hate to see what the worst looks like."

The older canine gave him a playful punch on the shoulder. "Now you're just shootin' 'em off, eh?" This brought out another laugh.

After a few moments, he began wriggling himself until he was situated on his stomach, bringing his arms up to rest under his head as he looked towards the TV. Fox instinctively brought his hand up and began scratching the fur behind the other's ears, watching the pictures running across the screen with interest.

They sat in silence for a few minutes. Wolf's eye had slowly started closing, though he kept trying to pop it back open. Fox was still idly running his fingers through the lupine's fur.

"General Pepper's sure sending people out on some dangerous missions...that last one in the asteroid belt was a close call for a lot of men."

Wolf didn't say anything at first, chewing on his bottom lip. "You still go on some of those... don't you?"

"Yeah, whenever Pepper needs me. Plus, it's kinda fun to get back into the cockpit again."

It was silent once more. Wolf's eye was a bit narrowed as he watched the TV screen.

"What kind of stuff do you have to do?"

Fox tilted his head back to look at the ceiling, wracking his brain. "Well... we've had to go quell a number of riots. Sometimes those can get pretty bad... like the one on Macbeth not too long ago. That is not something I wanna do again..."

Wolf was idly sticking his tongue in and out of his mouth, moving it up and down.

"Sometimes it's distress signals... we've had a few of those. Other times it's simpler stuff like checking out reports, escorting ships... stuff like that... They haven't really had anyone specific to turn to since Star Fox disbanded. I still... like to help out, you know?"

Wolf remained silent, apparently very interested in his tongue.

"Wolf, you asleep?"

With a small grin, he began making over-exaggerated snoring noises, letting his arms flop over the side of the couch lazily.

"You dork!" Fox rolled him over so he was looking down at the lupine's face, which was now grinning up at him. He smiled back, just looking at him for a second. Finally, he lowered his head to plant a soft kiss on the other's muzzle, closing his eyes.

Wolf kissed back, tilting his chin up to deepen it, though it was only a few moments before they both broke it off.

Fox reached a hand over and tapped his finger against the lupine's nose. "I'm hungry... let's get something to eat."

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There was a light blinking somewhere outside, and it was annoying the hell out of him. Every five seconds, it would light up the ceiling of his room, creating dark shadows across everything. He could see it even when he closed his eyes, that incessant glare.

He scowled to himself, turning his body away from the window and trying to bury his head into the pillow. However, due to the fact that he knew the light was still there, still turning on and off, on and off... it didn't seem to help.

He was half-tempted to sling up his entire bedspread over the window, since apparently the blinds were doing nothing.

He continued lying awake, his eye open and now staring towards the door to his room. There was a light coming from beneath it, and every so often, a dark shadow would pass across it, signaling that someone had walked by his room. It was still pretty early, so he assumed there were quite a number of people up and about.

He just didn't have the energy to do anything else.

He'd tried going down to the rec room where a number of his men were entertaining themselves with a game of darts. They'd all cheerfully greeted him, though a few had given each other sideways glances, not entirely sure how they should act.

He hadn't stayed down there long. The kitchen wasn't much better, however, as he found he really didn't have the appetite to eat anything. So after mindlessly staring inside one of the pantries for around five minutes, he'd left there as well.

His room had been cold and uninviting, but for some reason it seemed perfectly fit for him.

...and now he was lying here, having tried to get to sleep for the last hour and a half.

It was probably due to the fact that he couldn't stop just thinking. He'd try to clear his head, but it only took a few moments before something would pop back in and disrupt his rest once more.

And that wasn't even taking into account the fact that his heart had been as heavy as a rock for the last two weeks.

He sighed, sinking his head further into the pillow. His eye was beginning to sting again.

Why was he such a fucking baby? He couldn't seem to stop crying. This was not the way Wolf O'Donnell should act. This was not the way anyone in his position should act. He could lick this. He had to lick this.

But he just couldn't.

A tear fell down his cheek.

He angrily turned his body so he was staring up at the ceiling once more, jaw tense. The blinking light appeared now as an illuminated blur. On and off. On and off.

He clenched his fist tight and pounded it into the bed at his side, grimacing. The mattress gave a small bounce before settling back down, and now he was back on his side, biting down on his hand while the tears came out freely.

The only sounds for a few minutes were the slight hiccups in his breath as he cried silently. His shoulders were shaking, legs and feet curled up towards him in the foetel position.

After a short while, he uncurled himself enough that he could reach up to grab the pillow from under his head, pulling it in towards his chest. He buried his cheek into the side, hugging it close. It didn't take long for it to become quite wet as it pressed against his already matted fur.

The light continued to blink. On and off. On and off.

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There was a small click followed by a flash of light, and then a wispy stream of smoke drifted up into the air. Wolf took a deep breath before leaning back against the headboard with a sigh.

"When did you start smoking?"

Wolf opened his eye, staring straight ahead. "Oh, I've smoked ever since I was five."

Fox's eyebrows rose. "Wolf, I've never seen you smoke before."

With a little smirk, Wolf turned his gaze towards the vulpine. "Obviously someone doesn't know me very well."

It was silent for a few moments, Fox's eyes not leaving his companion.

"You're friggin' lying."

Wolf couldn't hold back the chuckle, and soon he was laughing quite heartily.

"You are lying!" Fox picked up the pillow near him and slugged it towards the other's shoulder. "You dirty little sneak."

Wolf was still laughing, attempting to fight back against the pillow onslaught. "But your face was just too funny, I couldn't help it."

Fox was chuckling too now, and after a short while, he settled down, returning to leaning back against his pillows. He was chewing on his lip, his eyebrows furrowed. He clasped his hands over his chest and began idly patting his thumbs together.

"...those things will kill you, you know..."

Wolf gave him a sideways glance from the other side of the bed. "Fox, we're all gonna die at some point, anyway."

Fox's eyebrows rose. "Well, now, that's a pleasant way to look at life."

Wolf was idly waving the cigarette in a little circle motion as he talked. "Come on, Fox, you've gotta admit that everyday it seems something new is discovered that's 'going to kill us'. At some point, we're just gonna have to stop worrying so much about everything."

The vulpine didn't say anything at first, now focused on his hands. "But... I don't want you to die any sooner than you have to..." He was practically pouting.

Wolf cocked an eyebrow. "You know how many people smoke? Like... multiple packs a day?"

Fox continued pouting. "But..." He twiddled his thumbs some more. Finally, he raised his eyes back towards the lupine. "But..."

With a sudden movement, he was on top of Wolf, reaching for the cigarette in his hand. Wolf let out a little yelp and held his hand up higher, out of reach.

"Gah, Fox! What the hell are you doing?"

Fox's hand was extended, reaching. "Give it to me!"

Wolf simply held his arm above him over the end of the bed. The vulpine wouldn't be able to reach unless he actually got off the bed or crawled completely over him, which he was pretty sure wouldn't be happening.

"Give it to meeeee!" He was sprawled across him now, legs straddled across his hips.

"Geez, Fox. You wanna go at it again, already?" Wolf smirked.

This stopped Fox, who was now lying full on top of him, face almost even with the lupine's. He narrowed his eyes, glaring at the older canine. "Haha, funny, Wolf. Now would you give me the damn cigarette already?"

Wolf didn't move, continuing to grin evilly. Finally, he leaned his head forward and planted a kiss on the other's muzzle. "What do you want it for?"

Fox couldn't help but smile as he leaned into the kiss. "To stop you from using it."

"Well now, that's a bit selfish, wouldn't you say?"

Fox brought his head back up. "Selfish? I want you to stop doing something that's killing you."

Tilting his head back against the pillow so he could look above him towards his hand, Wolf began twirling the cigarette in his fingers. "Ok, well how about this? I stop smoking if you stop going on General Pepper's missions."

Fox cocked his head to the side in confusion, his hands resting on Wolf's chest. "What does that have to do with anything?"

The lupine continued twirling the cigarette for a few moments before turning his head to look towards the window, his face flushing a bit. "You're not the only one worried the one they love is slowly killing themselves..."

It was silent for a few moments. Fox's eyes had opened rather wide as he realized what Wolf's words meant.

"Wolf, did you hear what you just said?"

The blush on his face grew even more. "I said it, didn't I? Of course I heard it!"

Fox couldn't stop grinning. He let himself slide off Wolf and fall back onto the bed, now looking directly into the older canine's eyes. "That's gotta be the sweetest thing you've ever said to me!"

Wolf tried looking away, thoroughly embarrassed now. "Yeah, well don't get used to it."

Fox's expression didn't change, and if anything, he was smiling even wider now. He reached forward and took Wolf's face in his hands, pulling him closer until their noses were touching.

"If it means that much to you, I'll just say no from now on..."

The lupine let his eye come up to meet Fox's almost shyly, a hint of a smile playing on his face. Fox, in turn, reached his tongue out to lap gently across the bridge of Wolf's nose, then moving it down until his lips came in contact with the other's. A slight powerplay occurred until Fox finally won out, pushing Wolf's head back into the pillow as he pressed forward.

When the kiss was over, Fox gave a little yawn and turned onto his back, one arm stretched lazily above his head. He gazed at the ceiling, eyes half-lidded.

"I'm tired now..."

Wolf took this opportunity to lean into the other's chest, one arm draped across it. He gave a little grin, closing his eye. "Me too..."

They laid in companionable silence for a few minutes, the moonlight from the window playing across the sheets.

"Wolf, you should probably put out that cigarette."

"Damn!"

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Wolf flipped open his phone, staring down at the brightly lit screen. 2:30 pm. He pressed the top forward until it clicked back shut. After a few seconds, he opened it once more, the screen coming back to life. He and Fox were grinning at him from the picture on his background, each holding a beer mug in the air. He hadn't the heart to change it yet.

With a click, he shut the phone, watching the lights die. It looked so lifeless in his hand.

His tail was flicking a bit sporadically behind him from his place on the steps. He'd been heading down to the kitchen, but had suddenly decided he really didn't want to go anymore.

A second later, Fox's face was back in his vision. 2:31 pm. The contacts button loomed to the far right of the screen.

"Hey."

Wolf clicked the phone shut. There were footsteps from behind him, and soon he saw somebody slowly sit down next to him on the steps. He saw a flash of green and knew who it was without looking.

"How are you doing?"

He brought his elbows up to rest on his knees, looking the other way. "I'm fine."

He could feel the discomfort of his companion, silence lingering heavily on them.

"...Wolf. We've been on the same team longer than anyone else here. I think I can tell when you're not 'fine'."

The lupine finally turned his head, looking into his friend's eyes. "Leon..."

"You barely come out of your room anymore, and you almost never talk to anyone. I wonder if you're even eating anything."

Wolf lowered his head towards his chest, looking down at the stairs he was sitting on. "I don't deserve to eat."

Leon's eyes narrowed. "Wolf, you've gotta eat. You'll fucking die if you don't."

There was no response.

"If you don't start eating, I'll come force-feed you in bed if that's what it takes. And don't even start thinking any of that suicide shit." Leon's face was now only inches from Wolf's.

Said lupine merely flipped open his phone once more, looking down at it between his legs. His tail had slowed to a slow swishing motion.

"Who are you calling?"

Wolf chewed his lip softly. "No one."

"Wolf, you've been sitting here opening and closing your phone for almost fifteen minutes now."

He was actually pressing buttons this time, cycling through his contact list, his eye moving up and down as he followed the running jumble of names. It finally came to a stop, his thumb hovering over the far-left button. Beside him, Leon's eyes narrowed.

With the tiniest click, the button was depressed, and Wolf brought the phone to his ear. He heard it ring. Once. Twice. Three times. By the fourth ring, he was about to give it up for naught, but the ringing suddenly cut out and was replaced by a voice.

"Hey, Wolf."

He didn't say anything for a second, almost as if unsure.

"Hey, Falco."

The phone was silent, though he could hear the other breathing. "...how have you been?"

He felt a catch form in his throat. For some reason, just hearing the avian talk was making tears form in his eye.

"I've been... I've been fine." He brought a hand up to wipe under his nose.

"Everything going ok? You know... no troubles or anything?"

"Everything's going great." He was blatantly lying now, though he was sure Falco could see right through him. He gave a small sniff with his nose.

When the bird didn't answer right away, he wondered if he was trying to read into the sound of his voice.

"...you can always get away for a while and talk to me or something... you know that, right?"

"...yeah. I know." His voice was almost a whisper.

More silence. He wanted to know what Falco was thinking. He could kind of picture him, though, standing there with his eyebrows furrowed as he attempted to cogitate a response.

"...did you wanna go see him?"

The tear that had been building up in his eye finally fell as he nodded his head vigorously. It took him a second, though, to realize that Falco couldn't see his actions. "Y-yeah..."

This time he could tell that Falco was scrutinizing something. He was practically holding his breath as he waited for a response.

"...I should be able to work something out tomorrow or the day after." He paused for a second. "If you just come to Corneria, we can figure out a good-working time."

Wolf gave another sniff with his nose. "...ok." His throat was tight from holding back his tears. "Thanks, Falco..."

"Yeah, it's... no problem..."

It took a few moments for Wolf to say something again. "I'll see you later, then..."

"Yeah, later."

And then the line was dead with a click. Wolf took the phone away from his ear and looked at the blinking symbol on the screen indicating that the call was over. He finally snapped it shut once more, lowering his arm to let it rest on his leg.

Beside him, Leon moved to bring his arm around his shoulders. Wolf let himself lean against the lizard, feeling exhausted. Neither one said anything for a few minutes.

When Wolf finally felt that he could keep himself from tearing up again, he gave a little sigh, looking up. "Could you get a ship ready? We're going to Corneria."

Leon just nodded.

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"I'm making you dinner."

Wolf looked up from the strange-looking box of fruit snacks he'd been staring at. "You're... making me dinner?"

"Yup yup. A nice, old-fashioned, home-cooked meal. Bet it's been a while since you had one of those." Fox was perusing a shelf full of canned peas just a short ways further down the aisle.

Wolf leisurely walked up behind him, thumbs hooked in his belt loops. "I'll admit it's true, but... I didn't even know you could cook."

Fox turned his head, grinning at him while 'tsk'ing with his teeth. "Oh Wolf, there are just faaar too many things you don't know about me. My cooking expertise is just one of many." He grabbed a can of peas off the shelf and tossed it into the cart he was pushing in front of him.

"I'm not sure I want to know any of the other things. Let me guess, a thing for little boys?" The lupine smirked.

Fox, however, was barely fazed. "I wouldn't be talking if I were you. Though you may not act like it, you are the older one, aren't you?" He gave his companion a soft pat on his head.

"Touché, Fox. Touché."

The next aisle over was the bread aisle. Fox went to work looking for a bag of rolls, crouching down as his eyes skimmed the lower shelves.

"So what are we having, Mr. Expert Chef?" Wolf crossed his arms in front of him, tail coming up to lazily flick across the cart behind him.

"It's a sur-prise!" The vulpine stood back up triumphantly with the rolls in his hand, turning around to toss them into the cart on top of the peas.

Wolf raised one eyebrow. "Should I be worried by this?"

"Ye of little faith..." Fox shook his head as he began pushing the cart out of the aisle. "Trust me - it'll be simply amazing!"

This time Fox was heading towards the meat section. He was leaning forward on the cart as he pushed, hands grasped tightly around the handlebar as he balanced his upper-body over it.

"It's not too late to order pizza, you know. Maybe some Chinese?"

The vulpine seemed fairly fixated on the meat selections now staring at him from behind their glass cases. "Keep it up, and you'll be eatin' out of the doggie dish tonight, mister."

Wolf leaned in towards him, resting his elbow on the cart and scratching his neck a bit seductively. "Should I get my leash?"

Fox simply raised his eyebrows in exasperation. "Public place, Wolf. Public place."

The lupine chuckled, bringing his other elbow forward to rest on the cart as well. He watched with keen interest as one of the workers behind the counter gathered together Fox's order, wrapping it up in that special paper all meat shops tended to use.

"Shrimp, huh?"

Fox nodded. "Mmmmhm."

"I like shrimp."

"Yeah, I know." They were walking back towards the front of the store now. Having come a bit later than the normal grocery crowd, they'd just missed the rush, meaning that none of the lines had more than two or three other customers.

"We done already?"

Fox glanced down at the cart. "Yeah, I have everything else I need back at the apartment." They were in the lane marked with a giant, red '3'.

"You never have any food at your apartment."

That exasperated look returned to the vulpine's face. "You mean, I don't have any food you like at my apartment."

Wolf pondered this for a moment, bringing a hand up to idly trace under his chin. "Well... tuna. Who seriously likes tuna? That stuff's gross."

Fox's expression didn't change.

"And... and... all that fruit everywhere. Oh, and that fucking rat jerky you're constantly eating. Damn omnivore."

Fox smirked, pushing his cart forward as the lady in front of him finished checking out. He bent down to begin moving the food from his cart to the counter. "Wolf, just because you like to eat anything that's quick, easy and many times raw, doesn't mean the rest of the world has to as well."

Wolf pursed his lips together, pouting.

The cashier rang up their food items, placing them in a plastic bag on the other side of the register. Her long ears were flopping a bit tiredly.

"5.20's your change... have a nice day."

"Thanks, you too."

After picking up the bag, Fox pushed the cart out the rest of the way so they could get through, now heading towards the exit. The automated sliding-door opened with a swish, letting a small gust of wind make its way into the building.

Both canines had to shield their eyes from the sun as they stepped out, the glare radiating off some of the taller buildings surrounding them. They were downtown, only a few blocks from Fox's apartment. Wolf had made well-known that he thought they should drive, but Fox had insisted on walking the measly two-blocks to the nearest grocery store.

A bit lazily, Fox began making his way along the sidewalk. Wolf took two quick steps until he was in-stride with the vulpine, thumbs once again finding their way into his belt loops.

Neither one said anything as they continued walking. Fox was looking around him as cars drove by to their right. They passed a number of other people walking – some looked like they'd just come from work, while others were out for their late-afternoon jogs.

After a few minutes, Wolf let his eyes travel over towards his companion, biting his lip softly. He tentatively brought his hand up and slipped it into Fox's, turning his head the other way as if nothing had happened.

Fox abruptly stopped, Wolf's shoulder almost getting yanked out as he was forced to a stop as well. He was looking at the lupine with wide eyes.

Wolf, in turn, glared at Fox for a second, but quickly became nervous and twitchy, wondering if he'd done something wrong.

Fox gave him an amused grin. "That was certainly out-of-character for you."

Wolf blushed before furrowing his eyebrows in frustration. "Well, fine!" He snatched his hand away from Fox, holding it back as if protecting it. "See if I ever try to do anything nice again." He stomped away in a bit of a huff, shoulders hunched over.

The vulpine continued to stand there grinning after him for a few moments, biting the side of his lip. Finally, he jogged forward until he was even with Wolf, reaching his hand out to snatch the other's.

Wolf didn't say anything, his head lowering a bit more into his shoulders as his face flushed.

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The trip to Corneria, as well as the landing, was fairly uneventful. Not that any of them had expected differently. The same monotone voice that had been there for years asked for their landing number, guiding them into an empty space in the garage. They'd taken one of their mid-size ships so they could all come in together – neither Leon nor Panther really wanted to leave Wolf alone in his own ship.

They'd rented a car at the spacedock to get them to the hotel they'd booked on the way over. Wolf couldn't help but find himself looking at it with slight contempt as it pulled up in front of them. Fox had always picked him up from the spacedock.

"How much you chargin' tonight, miss? I've only got a twenty in cash."

It was raining as they drove through the city. The sound of it hitting the top of their car was actually pretty soothing, though it made Wolf feel as though the city herself was trying to tell him something. It's like he wasn't welcome here anymore.

Neither of his teammates was really saying much from the front two seats. He knew they were uncomfortable. They kept giving each other sideways glances, every once in a while looking back towards him.

Their hotel wasn't very big – just a small, one-story on the outskirts of downtown Corneria City. It seemed nice enough though. At least it didn't have outside doors – none of them really wanted to haul their bags to their room in the rain.

Twenty minutes later, they were checked in, and Panther was unlocking the door to their room. When was the last time they'd all been together like this? Wolf couldn't remember. It didn't seem all that important. The door opened with a click.

There were two beds. Normally, they'd always fight about who would get to sleep by themselves, sometimes even holding irrational contests to determine a winner. The lupine noted, however, that this time, both his teammates dropped their bags on the same bed without a word. He made his way to the other bed and just stared at it for a second before following suit.

He could hear the sound of the rain on the ceiling above them. It was making tiny shadows across the window as well, reflecting across the carpet. Wolf's shoulders sank slightly, eyes still fixed on his bag.

"Wol-"

"I think I'm gonna go... for a walk."

Leon and Panther glanced at each other.

"You sure you'll be ok?" Panther was scratching the top of his head.

"Yeah, yeah... just need to get out for a bit is all..." He began walking back towards the door. His ears were drooping a bit, even his tail having slowed to an almost complete stop.

Leon darted forward before he had a chance to leave. "At least take a coat, you idiot. You'll catch fucking pneumonia if you don't." He held out the object in question.

Wolf looked at him for a moment, expressionless, before finally accepting it. "Thanks." He shrugged it onto his shoulders as he stepped out the door.

Once he'd gotten outside the hotel, he began making his way along the nearby sidewalk, head lowered as he watched the cement with seeming interest. He walked slowly, one foot stepping in front of the other, each step seeming to push into the ground below him.

His fur became soaked rather quickly, water running down the side of his face in rivulets. He barely noticed it, hands stuck in his pockets and eye blank, as if in his own little world. Aside from the cars in the street, the entire downtown area seemed rather lifeless.

Every so often, he'd just stop for a few minutes, letting his eye travel up to stare at something nearby. A parking meter. A small tree. A mailbox. The rain hit all of them a different way, water pooling around their bottoms.

"I hate the rain."

He wasn't even sure if he'd said it out loud or not.

"I think the rain's nice... I love the sound it makes on the sidewalk."

He'd come to an outdoor fountain, the rain churning the water inside as it came down. He was outside a rather large office building. Normally, the sun would be reflecting off of it in blinding glares, but now it seemed rather dull and lifeless.

"You would like the rain. Aren't you into a lot of that nature shit?"

The water had practically captivated him now. He couldn't take his eyes off it.

"Now what is that supposed to mean, Mr. O'Donnell? Because I like things like, I don't know, plants? Trees? Clouds?"

"You were the one who wanted to go fishing that one time."

"And what's wrong with that? I wanted to get away from the city... away from all this hectic work that I've had to do lately." Fox gazed at him from underneath his umbrella. "Don't you ever take the time to get away from things, Wolf?"

"What do you think my trips here are?" He smiled, despite himself. He reached forward to run his hand across the side of the fountain, watching it quickly become soaked.

Fox just stood there, looking at him. He seemed to be in deep thought.

"One of these days... one of these days we're gonna go somewhere, ok? We're gonna leave all of this and just forget about it for a while. A vacation."

"A vacation?"

"Mmmmmhm!" Fox nodded with a grin, closing his eyes for a moment. "We could go to a beach somewhere maybe...or go hiking..."

"Hiking?! What kind of vacation is that? It's like leaving work to go work some more!"

The vulpine bumped his shoulder playfully. "You're probably the only one I know who would consider that work – most people like being outside in nature."

"Well, then let them go on their hikes and camping trips. I would rather have all my normal conveniences available to me, thank you very much."

Fox laughed. "One of these days, Wolf. One of these days I'm gonna get you outside and we're going to do something fun and you're going to enjoy it. Trust me."

"Would that fun thing happen to be sex?"

This brought another chuckle from the vulpine, who grinned at him, eyes half-lidded. "Maybe if you're gooood..."

Wolf brought his hands up to his head in a paw-like manner and lolled his tongue out of his mouth. "I'm always good!"

Fox twirled his umbrella in his hand, biting his lip in amusement. "Oh Wolf, you make me laugh." He reached forward to take the lupine's hand in his and they both returned to their previous walking pace. Wolf curled his fingers around the other's, smiling.

A rivulet of water ran down the crease in his hand as he held it out, dripping onto the ground once it had made its descent. His matted fur appeared rather disheveled from having just come out of his pocket.

With a little sigh, Wolf curled his fingers inward, moving them in and out. How long ago had that been? Two months? Three? It could have been earlier today for all he knew. The rain was mixing with the tears now falling down his face, blurring his vision even more. He could barely even see his hand now, only feel the slightest tinge of warmth that still remained from his memory.

He shoved his hand back into his pocket.

Walking forward again, he let his head hang down, as if carefully scrutinizing the cracks in the sidewalk below him. He let his eye glaze over, not really wanting to think about anything. One foot in front of the next. The puddles of water around his feet rippled with each step.

He continued on like that for a while, not even caring now where he was going. The sky was on the verge of darkening, night quickly beginning to approach. The heavy clouds only made it seem darker.

A chiming noise from his pocket made him snap out of his reverie, glancing around a bit confused. When he realized exactly what it was that he was hearing, he let his eye narrow a bit, but finally reached into his pocket to retrieve his phone. He stared at it for a second before snapping it open, bringing the now wet plastic to his ear.

"What is it?"

"Leon told me to call. We wanted to make sure you were ok."

"I can't go on a walk without you guys having to check in on me?" The frustration was clearly showing in his voice.

"Wolf, we just..." The other voice on the line sighed. "You've been gone a while, ok. And you're not exactly in the most stablest of states right now."

Wolf stared ahead of him, letting his eyes wander to a nearby door front.

"Where are you, anyway?"

He shrugged before realizing that his comrade couldn't see him. "Downtown... I'll probably be coming back soon anyway."

The voice paused for a moment, and Wolf wondered if he was having trouble choosing his words.

"Alright, well... it's starting to get dark. Don't be too long."

Wolf's eyebrow twitched. "Yes, mom." He took the phone away from his ear and abruptly clicked it shut, giving a little sigh. He positioned his hand over his open pocket and let the phone fall inside with a soft whump.

The rain was falling a bit heavier now.

Feeling slightly exasperated, he brought a hand up to wipe back some of the fur on his head, letting his eye close for a moment. When he finally opened it again, he looked up towards the clouds, watching the rain fall around him.

Where was he, anyway?

He glanced around. It didn't take him long to realize with a slight fall in his gut that the environment around him was all-too familiar. He let his eyes travel up the building to his right, rows of windows staring back at him.

It was Fox's apartment complex.

How many times had he walked this way? His feet must have taken him on instinct. His ears seemed to droop more heavily under the rain.

He knew exactly which one was Fox's, too. Up four floors and over two from the elevator. He scoured the wall of windows until he found the one he knew to be it. The light was off, rain pelting against the glass pane dismally.

Bringing a hand up to wipe away the wetness on his face, he wasn't sure if it was rain or tears that he was feeling.

With one last look, he turned slowly away and began walking back towards the hotel.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Leon and Panther had let him sleep in a bit the next morning, although a little more so than Wolf would have liked. He snapped at them when he realized he now only had forty-five minutes to get ready.

He had to take a quick shower and change into his clothes rather hastily. He hadn't worn this sports jacket since the last time he'd gone out with Fox. It wasn't exactly the greatest of feelings as he slipped it on, but he felt it was necessary.

"Do you want one of us to drive you?"

"No, I'll be fine." He was tucking his shirt into his pants now.

"It's no problem – we'd be happy to."

"I said I'll be fine."

Leon sighed, crossing his arms across his chest. Panther had given up long ago and was now sitting on the bed, leaning back against the headboard.

Once Wolf had finished adjusting his clothing, he walked over to the lizard, holding his hand out. "I do, however, need the keys."

Leon eyed him for a few moments, clearly not happy. A bit begrudgingly, he unfolded his arms to reveal the keys he'd been holding, dropping them unceremoniously into the lupine's hand.

Wolf's eye softened a bit, a depressing half-smile playing on his face. "...thanks."

A shrug of the shoulders was all Wolf got from the lizard, so he turned back towards the door, padding his way across the room. As he raised his arm to grip the door-handle, he paused. "I'm not sure when I'll be back."

It was silent at first, before Panther finally spoke up from the bed. "We'll leave the door unlocked."

Wolf gave a small frown, but then slowly pulled the door open and stepped out, making his way to the parking lot.

It wasn't long before he was on the road. The rain had stopped sometime late the night before, and the sun was actually shining, though small puddles of water on the streets and sidewalks made it clear that it had been raining. Quite a few more people were out and about, and while the traffic wasn't busy, per se, there were definitely a greater number of cars driving around.

It had only been two weeks since he'd been here last, but it already seemed like forever ago. He was surprised, however, that he remembered exactly which roads to take, especially since his mind wasn't exactly as clear as a bell at the moment.

The sound of his phone ringing next to him on the table almost made him jump out of his chair. He'd been deeply engrossed in some paperwork Leon had asked him to go over, so much that he'd had to put on his glasses to keep from getting a headache. He gave a small frown – the ringtone playing was not one he'd heard in quite some time.

He tapped the steering wheel with his fingers idly while waiting at a few stop lights. Chewing on his bottom lip, he kept glancing about at the cars around him. A mother squirrel was driving a blue mini-van to his left, two of her kids playing some sort of game in the backseat.

His eye narrowed as he listened to the voice on the phone. Something was clearly wrong – he could hear it in their voice. He could feel his heart begin to beat faster as a feeling of dread began to wash through him.

It didn't take him too long to drive out of the city. Traffic had gotten less and less as he'd traveled further from the main streets, and pretty soon it was mainly open fields flanking either side of the road in front of him. The rain from last night made everything seem brighter and more defined, the wind blowing the plants against the blue of the sky. Every so often, he would pass a house or two, roofs still wet. Once he'd passed a number of off-branching roads, he knew he was getting close. This was confirmed when he saw the sign labeling the road that he needed to take, and he began slowing down to turn.

He dropped the phone with a thud, eye open in shock. His hand was covering his open mouth with his breath caught in his throat. He stared at the phone. Stared. He was shaking, but he couldn't move. Couldn't even avert his eyes. His entire body felt cold. He couldn't breathe.

He didn't need to go too far down the road before he saw his destination appear. With a slight pit in his stomach, he turned into the gravel parking lot. There was only one other car there. He knew whose it was, too. Without a second thought, he pulled in next to it, pausing a moment to put his own car in park and turn off the gas. It seemed deathly silent without the whir of the engine. All he could hear was the wind blowing against the outside of the car.

It wasn't true. It couldn't be true. How could this be happening?

After a few minutes, he finally opened the door and stepped out, his feet making a crunching noise on the rocks below. The wind now whipped through his fur, pushing his ears down a ways on his head. Everything smelled clean and fresh, though slightly damp.

He began walking towards the gravel path that cut its way from the parking lot through the grassy expanse in front of him. He shoved his hands in his pockets, watching the ground as his feet kicked away at the tiny rocks.

He'd walked a short ways down the path when he finally looked up, catching sight of a figure not too far away, facing away from him. He paused once more, letting the wind blow the sides of his jacket. With a small sigh, he walked up to the figure, letting himself stand next to the other in silence.

"Hey."

He slumped his shoulders, balancing his weight on the outsides of his feet. "Hey."

Falco turned his head to glance at him. "How ya been?"

He let his head tilt a bit to the side, eyebrows furrowed. "...ok."

The bird looked up towards the sky, his hands resting on his hips. "I know what you mean..."

"...yeah."

Wolf was staring at the ground now, idly chewing on the inside of his cheek. He could feel the tightness in his chest that meant tears were coming, but he tried his best to keep them contained. "Everything... going ok for you?"

Falco shrugged. "I guess." He brought a hand up to run through the feathers on his head. "Slippy's been over a few times... I think he's having the most trouble."

The lupine nodded. He could feel his eye beginning to moisten.

"You been back to Corneria at all since... since then?"

Wolf shook his head weakly. When he spoke, his voice came out a bit strained. "No... this is the... the first..." Clenching his teeth, the tears finally began coming out. His shoulders shook a bit in response.

"Hey..." Falco's eyes softened, and he stepped over to the other to place an arm around his back, gently rubbing his shoulder.

They stood in silence for a while, Wolf's eye now closed as he cried more openly, the tears running down his neck to soak into his shirt. Falco continued idly running his hand along the back of his neck and shoulder.

"Falco... why was I so stupid?"

Falco's eyes narrowed a bit.

"It's all my fault... all my fucking fault."

"Wolf, stop it. It's not your fault."

"He did it to get back at me, I know it." He tried rubbing the tear streaks off of his cheek but with little success. "He... he told me that... he wasn't going to do those anymore... he was gonna stop. But then... then..." A strangled cry escaped his throat as he broke down once more, this time biting down on his hand to try and contain himself.

"Fox is a freaking stubborn bastard with way too much pride for his own good. It was his own damn fault." Falco had pulled the lupine in closer to him now, not wanting him to fall over. "It was just a cruel coincidence that he'd get a call from Pepper the same day you had your fight."

Mention of this simply made Wolf's crying intensify.

"And then who knew he'd have to be his cocky, over-confident self and try to block the rest of his team from those asteroid chunks?"

Wolf gave a sniff with his nose as if in affirmation, the wind blowing his ears back again.

"The last thing this was, was your fault." Falco gripped Wolf's upper arm a bit tighter in reassurance.

The silence returned, settling over them. The wind felt extra cold against Wolf's face from the tears that now soaked it. He continued to tremble a bit, but was able to compose himself enough that he wasn't crying anymore. Falco brought his free hand up to run a hand over the tip of his beak.

"Falco...?" His voice sounded tiny.

"Mm?"

"I miss him..."

"Yeah... I..." There was a small catch in his throat. "...I do too..."

The wind made a small whistling noise as Wolf sighed, his voice still wavering a bit. He couldn't help but feel practically exhausted already.

"Did you wanna maybe go somewhere? Get something to eat? Or did you wanna stay with him a while longer?"

Wolf was silent for a few moments, his eyes fixated in front of him. He chewed softly on his bottom lip. "No, it's alright... we can go."

Falco gave the lupine's shoulder one more reassuring squeeze and then let him go, taking a small step back. He began slowly making his way back towards the gravel path.

Wolf continued to stare in front of him a while longer, his hands back in his pockets. He shivered a bit. When he heard Falco call out his name from a short ways off, he finally looked away, nodding. Silently, he walked over to join Falco on his way back to their cars.

The grass was swaying quietly in front of the gravestone marked with the name Fox McCloud.