Title: Where One's Responsibilities Lie
Rating: PG-13 for language
Warnings: FLUFF! Fluff, fluffy, McFluff Fluff Fluff.
Word count: 5,467
Summary: In which Vincent learns that you are responsible for the things you pick up, and in which Cloud tells someone to stop angsting. Kweh.
A/N: This was supposed to be a drabble, but it refused to be contained by that. This is after DoC, but it might not be fully compliant. I'm not sure, since I have no idea how DoC ends other than what wiki tells me. This is my first time writing Vincent, so. I tried? XD;
Prompt: Cid and-or Vincent --"baby chocobos"
Vincent had no idea why the allemagnes had seen fit to attack him as well as the chocobos they had obviously been hunting, but he did know it was a very bad idea.
Really. Had they just stuck with the chocobos, he wouldn't have had to waste his ammunition.
They had made short work of the chocobos, but the allemagnes had the sense enough to fly away when he had started shooting, one escaping with a fairly large piece of chocobo in its mouth. It was odd, though--normally, chocobos could pretty much outrun anything, even in the forest. Especially in the forest, come to think of it. And allemagnes weren't really that smart--while they would attack in groups as well as singly, they weren't exactly pack hunters, to plan a hunt.
It was quite odd, but not really his concern. He put his guns away and started to walk away, and heard a strange little "Peeeeeeeeeep!" sound behind him. He turned, and realized quickly why the two chocobos hadn't run away--they had been defending their nest. The allemagnes had lucked out, coming across two chocobos and a hatching egg. While the baby had been struggling out of its egg, its parents had been fighting off the allemagnes, unable to run away.
The chocobo--still wet from hatching so that its down was plastered to its body, making its coloring indistinct as anything other than "pale"--was struggling to its feet and trying to come after him. He stared at it, slightly perplexed, as the little bird stumbled and then struggled again to its feet, looking at him with wide, terrified eyes.
"You can not come with me, little one. There must be a herd of your kind close," he said, and turned.
"Peep! Peep! Kwee! Kweeeeeeeeee!" it let out plaintively. He could hear it struggling again. Baby chocobos got to their feet quickly, he knew, but it still took them awhile, and without a mother and father to protect it...
There were still allemagnes around. They were on the edges of the forest around him, close enough that he could smell them, and he knew they were waiting for him to leave so they could finish their meal.
...It would be no difficulty, to take it to Cloud. Cloud was good with chocobos; he would know what to do with it and see it had a good home. If he left it here, it was going to die, probably as soon as he was gone.
He had turned back before he really realized he had done it. The chick was still struggling, trying with all its might to get to him. As soon as he was close enough, it latched out, grabbing his cloak with its beak, making small, desperate chirping sounds.
It was very hard not to react to something like that, and Vincent found the corners of his lips quirking up. "Come on, then, little one," he said.
Baby chocobos were tiny, really--not much larger than good-sized puppies. So it was an easy thing, to pick it up. One of its claws tightened around his shirt when he cradled it, and the bird nestled in against his chest as his shroud swirled around them when he took to the air.
The bird nestled its head against his chest, making a little peeping sound and then going still.
Well. He'd take it to Cloud. It was late now, so perhaps in the morning. For now, he would take the chick with him to his camp, clean it off, and wait until the morrow.
Vincent didn't sleep very much--he had slept far more than enough--but he was surprised to find himself awakened.
And not simply awakened. Awakened by the baby chocobo--now that its down was completely dry very obviously a white--pecking at him.
"Waaaaarh!" the little chick let out, the sound high-pitched and warbling.
"Nn? What is it?" Vincent said, blinking and trying to wake up, rubbing his eyes tiredly.
"Waaaaaaarh!" the chick let out again, its eyes wide and pleading.
"What's wrong?" he said, frowning. The chick was making sounds like it was in pain, sounds far larger than he would have imagined such a tiny chick capable of. Had it been injured in the night? Had it hatched with some kind of ailment?
"Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarhhh!" it let out, sounding more plaintive and desperate, waving its wings.
After a good fifteen minutes of trying to figure out what was wrong and why the thing was crying like it was--he could see no injuries and there was no place where it seemed to be in pain, but it did keep making that cry and opening its mouth desperately whenever it saw the claw Hojo had grafted onto him.
He finally did the only thing he could think to do--pulled out his PHS and called the one person he knew who would have a clue what to do.
Vincent had once heard Tifa complain that trying to get a hold of Cloud on his PHS was about as easy as trying to outrun a cactuar on a needle-spewing rampage. Vincent himself had never really noticed this to be the case--if he called Cloud, the man tended to pick up fairly promptly.
Probably, Vincent thought, because he never willingly called anyone, and if he was going to the trouble, some part of the planet was probably about to explode.
Which was probably why the PHS hadn't even rung two full times before Cloud answered with a terse, "What's wrong?"
"A crying chocobo."
There was a long, long pause. "Um. What?"
"Pardon, I'm jumping ahead of myself," Vincent said, feeling slightly frayed as the chocobo continued to make loud, rending cries.
"Wait...wait, is that a chocobo chick I hear in the background?" Cloud said, managing to sound even more confused.
"Yes. I have somehow ended up with one."
"You...a...a chocobo chick?" Cloud said, sounding like he wasn't quite believing what his ears were telling him. Admittedly, Vincent could understand why. The chocobo made another harsh, warbling cry, poking desperately at his metallic, clawed hand and waving its wings.
"The mother was dead and it was trying to follow me. There were still monsters around," Vincent said, and had no idea why he could feel his face growing hot, as well as his voice growing mildly desperate. He had no idea what to do with the crying chick, or even the first idea why it was crying so desperately. "And it had just hatched."
"I see. Well, you couldn't just leave it there, no. The monsters would have eaten it."
"Everything was fine last night. But now it is making strange sounds and pecking me. And it keeps opening its mouth at me, when it's not pecking me, and flapping its wings. Is it sick? Hurt?"
"Opening its...Vincent, has it had anything to eat?" Cloud asked suddenly.
"Ah," Vincent said, eyes going wide and feeling very foolish.
"Vincent, you have to feed the baby chocobo," Cloud said, and Vincent had the oddest impression that Cloud had just buried his face in his free hand.
"Yes. Of course. Thank you," he said, and hung up before Cloud could saying anything else to make him feel stupider.
Right. That was it. It had to eat. The chocobo was looking up at him with wide eyes, opening its mouth desperately and making pathetic little noises. He got up and the chocobo got up as well and started to follow him. "Stay here," he said, gesturing downwards with his metallic hand, since it had seemed to respond to it for some reason. "I'll go get you some food," he finished and then felt foolish to be talking to a bird. He did another "stay here" gesture. The little chocobo stared at him, blinking, then toddled back over to where they had been sleeping and hunkered down, its eyes bright and pleading.
Right. It probably thought that was their nest.
This whole situation struck Vincent as supremely odd when he let himself think about it, and so he decided not to. Instead he just said, "Right," and patted the little bird on the head. The little chocobo let out a contented little trill, and its beak popped open hopefully, and he shook his head, feeling guilty. "I'll get you food now. Stay here," he said again, pointing at where the bird was sitting.
It was probably safe enough. After all, whatever monsters might be attracted by the scent of baby chocobo could probably smell him, him and the things inside of him, and that would be enough to keep them away.
...Best to be quick, though, he thought, and with a final pat, left in a swirl of red.
"It won't eat," Vincent said by way of greeting as soon as Cloud answered the phone.
"What do you mean...what did you get to feed it?" Cloud said, and there was the faint sound of him putting something down.
There was a long silence.
"You didn't buy baby chocobo feed?"
Baby chocobo feed? "There are no stores around here. So I got some greens from the forest. And I have put the greens in front of it. And it won't eat."
He had the impression once again that Cloud had just buried his face in his palm. "Vincent," Cloud finally said. "It's a newly-hatched baby. It can't eat the greens just yet. They can't eat greens for another month or so. Until it can, usually the mother...well...eats the greens and then vomits them up."
There was a long silence before Vincent was able to speak.
"...I am not throwing up greens for a bird, Cloud."
Cloud let out a strange noise that sounded suspiciously like a laugh. "You don't have to. If you can't get chick feed, just mash the greens up into a paste, then add water to make it a little thinner than porridge. Heat it to help break down for about ten minutes, then let it cool to chocobo body temperature. Feed the chick by dribbling it into the chick's mouth."
"Ah," Vincent said, frowning slightly. He didn't have the tools for mashing anything, and the chocobo was looking rather desperate. Still. A rock or something would do for now. "Thank you."
"Sometimes chicks that young don't know when to stop eating. If you overfeed it, it'll throw up. So for now, use about a fourth of a green to make the feed. In about a week, change over to half. Add a quarter of a green each week, then it'll be about ready to start switching over to regular greens in a month or so."
"Ah," Vincent said, feeling a headache coming. He was about to ask if he could just bring it to Cloud that day when Cloud started talking again.
"Sorry, I can't really come out there now--I've got a big shipment to deliver this week," he said, and sounded honestly regretful. "Call me, though," Cloud said. "Right now, it's a little too young to travel, but when it's bigger, you can bring it out here and I'll figure out where to stable it. So good luck and don't kill it, OK?"
"Thank you," Vincent said, and hung up. All right. Mash the greens into chocobo baby food mush. He could do this. Provided the chick's crying didn't drive him insane.
Time to find a flat rock and improvise, it seemed.
Eventually, Vincent managed to shred and pound greens into a fine paste, and then heated them until it seemed about like what Cloud had said. A Blizzard cooled it off quickly, and he carefully fed it to the bird. It was rather odd, he thought, blinking slightly, but the bird did better eating from his metal claw than his fingers. Probably closer to its mother's beak, he thought, as he let the thin gruel dribble into the little chick's mouth. After what seemed a rather long time, the bird turned its head away from the offered food, and instead let out a sleepy cheep and burrowed itself under his arm, his shroud draping around it like a wing and its belly so full he could feel how round it had become.
"Ah," he began in surprise, and got no further before it made a contented little chirrup sound and started to fall asleep.
"--Ah," he began again. It made the small little chirrup sound and burrowed its head against him again, then with a little "whff" sound settled into contented-seeming sleep. Realizing he wasn't going to be able to go anywhere for a while, Vincent simply let his mind wander, and when the sun rose, several hours later, Vincent realized that at some point, he had rested his hand against the baby chocobo and had been stroking its downy feathers, and in its sleep, the little thing was making soft, contented cheeping sounds.
...Yes. As soon as possible, he needed to give the bird to Cloud. The gods only knew what might happen to it if it was around and the monsters inside him came out. Best to get the chick away before he got used to having it around anyway.
I'll take it to Cloud, he thought, scratching lightly at the back of its head, which made it make a trilling sound even in its sleep, and that caused a tiny smile to touch his lips. Once it's a little bigger.
He was a little surprised by his phone ringing the next afternoon. That morning, he had gotten a large bowl and other supplies to use to make the chocobo food. Which was good, because it seemed that it had to eat every few hours. And then sleep. Then run around and chirp. Then poop. And then eat and start the cycle all over again. "Yes?"
"Um. You know you need to groom it, right?"
"You need to brush its feathers. Especially because it's a baby. Their mothers preen them a lot."
"How am I supposed to preen a chocobo?"
He could almost hear Cloud's shrug. "Surely you at least have a hairbrush. That'll do for now."
There was a long silence.
"Just...just brush the thing. When it starts looking like a big puffball," Cloud finally said, and hung up.
The chocobo was in one of its few phases where it was not sleeping, eating, or excreting. In fact, the little chocobo was toddling around on its spindly little legs, chasing a butterfly and chirping.
Vincent watched the chick chasing after the butterfly, trying vainly to catch it. But the butterfly was darting in directions faster than a chocobo chick could move, especially a chocobo chick so young that its sense of balance was still on the unsteady side.
But he figured it was good for the chick; surely this was how they learned how to run and balance, after all.
Plus, and he would never want to admit this out loud, it was awfully cute to watch.
"Not so close to the edge, little one," Vincent said as the chick followed the butterfly dangerously close to the edge of the stream. The bird, of course, ignored him, and Vincent had just gotten to his feet to retrieve the bird when the butterfly changed direction and the chocobo tried to as well but couldn't quite manage it, and fell into the stream with a loud splash.
It took barely an instant to be at the stream bank, and less time to find the terrified, thrashing chick and pull it out, and as soon as he had it out and pulled against him, it wrapped a claw around his shirt and buried its face against his chest, kwaa-ing in shrill, belated terror.
"Shh, shh, it's all right," Vincent found himself saying, stroking it to try and get it to calm down. He also found that now, after he had the bird safe, his heart had started pounding far too quickly and he wanted to hug the little bird.
...And that he was, in fact, actually hugging the bird.
He really needed to take it to Cloud. Or set it free.
Once it was bigger.
He held the crying chick against him, making small, "Shh" noises until it calmed down and stopped trembling, and then he realized just how sopping wet the two of them were. "Come on, let's dry you off, little one," Vincent said, putting the bird down to gather materials for a small fire, and giving the chick the "stay here" gesture. The chick gave him a woebegone look at being put down, and he was unable to keep a small smile off his face now, because the poor chick looked hilariously pathetic; down plastered against its tiny body and the absolute picture of abject misery. The bird huddled down, dripping wet and looking as if life was horribly unfair, making pathetic "kweeeeeh"s as it told the world how badly life was going. He got a fire built quickly and had just began drying the bird off when he realized that he had no idea just what gender the thing was. And no idea how to tell.
Well. That could wait. The bird was more or less dried off now, but all of its downy white feathers were sticking up in different directions, making it look like a little chocobo puffball.
The idea of using his hairbrush to brush the chocobo seemed, like most things had when it came to the little chick, supremely odd. Besides. Chocobos didn't use brushes. They used their beaks...Ah, he thought suddenly. Well. He had something that could work. The gods all knew the chick seemed to think the thing was a beak anyway.
He sighed and sat down, pulling the chick onto his lap, then carefully raised his clawed hand and began lightly using his fingers to brush through the chocobo's down, so lightly the tips only barely grazed the chick at first. Almost immediately, the little chick hunkered itself down and began making contented little noises, leaning into his hand occasionally when he found a good spot.
It was very hard when the little bird looked so happy to not smile. He was a little surprised to find himself chuckling slightly under his breath when he stopped and the chick turned its big eyes on him, all but pouting, and the way it made the happy "kweh!" sound when he started scratching it again.
"Like that, do you?" he said, and got a "Kweh!" in response, and the chick turning to nuzzle at his hand before going back to contentedly chirping, now starting to tug at and play with one of his buckles with its beak. They stayed like that for a while, before the chick suddenly pecked at his claw and let out its "I'm hungry!" warble.
Vincent chuckled again. "All right, little one. All right."
...he really did need to find out if it was male or female. It kind of needed a name. At this rate, it was going to start answering to "little one," and considering how big chocobos got to be, that was going to seem rather strange sooner rather than later.
"What it is? What?" Cloud yelled over the sound of his motorcycle, sounding completely thrown.
"I can not simply keep calling it 'It'," Vincent said as he wiped the last bit of mushed greens off his claw, watching as the little chocobo was trying to figure out how to climb over a log. As soon as it had eaten, instead of falling asleep as it normally did, the chick had warbled and then taken off at a run, jumping and playing. "But I can't give it a name without knowing a gender."
"Oh. Yes. Um," Cloud sighed. "Well, there are two ways to sex a chocobo. One you're just not going to be able to do. Trust me. It involves sticking things into the chocobo and...anyway. The other way is to look at its claws. Does it have a little bump on the back of its ankle? That's where adult males grow spurs during mating season. If it's got a little bump, it's a male. No bump, and it's a female."
"I see. Hold on," Vincent said, and gestured with his metal hand. The little bird came over instantly, with a happy bounce.
"Kweh?" it said, nibbling at his metallic fingers. He tucked the phone against his shoulder and cheek, and used his newly-freed hand to lift one of the bird's feet. The bird let out a startled "Warrr!" and threw out its wings to keep its balance, giving Vincent a betrayed look.
"I don't think it does," he said, and let its foot go, then patted the chick in apology. The bird gave him another wounded look, so he scratched the back of the chocobo's head. That caused it to make a happy trill, settling down to be petted more.
"Then it's a girl."
"Thank you," he said, continuing to scratch the chick. It--She--turned her head and tugged on Vincent's sleeve before leaning more into his fingers.
"Don't name her Lucrecia," Cloud said.
Vincent hung up.
Vincent had quickly gotten used to the little chocobo sleeping next to him, a warm little puffball of white covered by his shroud and tucked under his arm. Since it was so close, it woke him at once when the chick sneezed.
At first, he wasn't sure what the sound was coming from. He opened his eyes tiredly, noting that it had to be the middle of the night. Luckily, there was a full moon so he could see, but it was still far too late to be awake.
That was when the chocobo sneezed again.
He looked over at the chick, completely perplexed, when she sneezed again. And her beak was open. Not the "I'm hungry" open, but open like she was breathing through it.
"Kweeeeeeeeeeeeeh," the little chick said, sounding pathetic. She laid her head on his leg like it was too much effort to hold it up, then sneezed again.
At first, he went to Cloud's voicemail. So he called again. And then once more. The fourth time, Cloud answered the phone.
"What. Now. Vincent?"
"The bird is sneezing. Sneezing and not moving very much. What's wrong with her? What am I supposed to do? Is this because she fell in a stream yesterday?"
Cloud groaned. "It's...four in the morning. This couldn't have waited?"
The chocobo let out another string of sneezes and then kwehed pitifully again, looking at Vincent to make it all stop.
"No. She seems very sick."
"And breathing with her beak open. And listless."
"It's a cold."
"Chocobos catch colds?" he said, the thought having never occurred to him.
"Yes," Cloud said shortly. "Just keep her warm and make sure she eats."
"Are you sure it's only a cold?"
"Is she puking?"
"Then it's a cold."
"But she seems..."
"I'm hanging up and going to sleep now, Vincent. Unless the bird starts throwing up and falls down when it tries to walk, it's a cold."
"What happens if it starts throwing up and falling?"
"Then it's...fuck this," Cloud said, groaning. "Good night, Vincent."
"Keep her comfortable, warm, and fed, and she'll be OK in a few days. Good night."
Cloud hung up and Vincent stared at the phone, wondering what Cloud had refused to tell him about chocobo illness. Well. It must be bad, whatever it was. For now, he'd just watch her and see if it turned into whatever illness Cloud had shied away from.
"Kweh," the little chick thickly, trying to curl closer against him.
Keep her warm, Cloud had said. Very well. She was still tiny, for all she was growing quickly, and as he had the day before grooming her, he pulled her onto his lap, wrapping his tattered cloak around her to help her stay warm.
The next few days Vincent watched the chick like a hawk, watching for any signs of her getting worse. She hadn't wanted to eat, but what she did eat she kept down, and while she didn't want to walk--she wanted to stay curled up in Vincent's cloak and sleep--she managed it without falling when she had to. Cloud, much more forgiving when it was daytime, assured him that listlessness was normal and she'd be fine in under a week. And true enough, a few days later the little bird woke up with a loud "Kweeeeeeh!" and was running around enough to make up for the three days of illness.
It was almost startlingly easy for Vincent to settle into a pattern. He would wake up in the mornings and make the greens-mush for the chick--and for the life of him, he could not come up with a name--to eat, then the chick would either sleep or run around (doing more of the latter than the former as she got bigger), then he would feed her again and she'd take another nap curled up under his shroud, ensuring he could do nothing at all save nap himself or scratch the chick, then she'd wake up and warble for food and he'd feed her again, then he'd watch the chocobo playing or tugging at his buckles, then feeding again, then groom the bird as twilight fell, and have the bird curl up under his arm again to settle down for the night.
It was oddly...relaxing. He was constantly amazed at how much trouble the little chick got into--she was, like most chocobos, very inquisitive, so she was always poking her head into things.
Vincent hadn't been able to help laughing when she stuck her head into hole in a tree stump and then couldn't get back out. He'd had to get her out and then calm her down, and she had given him the betrayed looks she was so good at for him having laughed in the first place.
She was more careful around the stream, something he was grateful for.
It was, however, something of a shock the day the chick decided that Vincent's hair was in need of a bit of grooming. The chick snuck up behind him when he was thinking about things that had been, and with a "Kweeeh!" grabbed a beakful of his hair and started tugging at it. He jumped slightly and was pecked for his trouble, then reached up and scratched the chick's head, going back to staring off into space and letting the chick do whatever she wanted to his hair. It's not like anyone was to see it save the bird, he figured.
Besides. It felt kind of...nice.
The whole situation, he thought once again, was extremely odd. The chick was almost ready for greens, though. Once she was, she would be Cloud's extremely odd little problem.
She just had to get a little bigger. On solid greens, maybe.
And he had no idea when he had started scratching her again.
It was something of a shock the day the bird came over when he was getting greens ready to mash and nibbled at them.
She was big enough, he realized, as she let out a happy little "Kweh!" and started eating the greens, that he could take her to Cloud.
The thought made him oddly...sad.
It was about time he figured out what to do with her. She was old enough to go to Cloud, or old enough to be set free. Both thoughts were strangely upsetting.
"Here, eat," he said, waving at the greens, then headed off to the "nest", to sit and figure out what to do with her. He couldn't keep her, obviously. He still had the demons literally inside him, and they would have no qualms attacking a half-grown chocobo chick. Letting her go...she was a white chocobo, meaning she stood out. And she was still so little, surely some monsters would go after her. He could try and find a herd of chocobo and let her go near them, perhaps...
A loud "Kweh!" startled him. The little chocobo was standing in front of him, all but bouncing from one foot to another, looking at him and then looking at the forest, then looking back at him.
Vincent gestured with his hand. "Go, if you've a mind to."
"Kweeeeh!" the chocobo said, bouncing more and staring at him.
"I am content as I am," he snapped, and felt unaccountably stupid as soon as he realized he was talking to a bird. Again. And had been for almost a month and a half straight.
Talking to a bird which came over and butted her head against his, trying to nudge Vincent up. Vincent ignored her--he had to figure out what to do, after all, not take her out to play.
He looked up in surprise to see the little chocobo had let out a full-fledged "wark" instead of her normal squeaks, chirps, warbles and kwehs...and not only that, she had a look on her chocobo face, and if she had had hands, there was no doubt she would have her hands on her hips.
He had the oddest feeling that, in this case, "wark" translated into "Come on already."
That was when the bird started pecking him.
"Kweh!" Peck. "Kweh kweh!" Peck. "WARK!" Peck peck peck.
"All right!" he finally said, narrowing his eyes. "Now what is it that..."
"Kweeeeh!" the little chocobo let out, bouncing again. Then she grabbed his shroud in her beak and pulled.
He pulled the cloak back, feeling put-upon. Really, the little beast was too much. He had given up over a month and a half of his life to care for it, and here she was, growing and eating solid greens and--
It was time to take her to Cloud.
He pulled out the PHS, and the chocobo made an annoyed sound, having learned the phone meant she had to be quiet and wait. So she sat down, glaring at him.
"Yeah?" Cloud said. "Is something wrong again?"
"I think it's time I bring her. She's on solid foods."
"OK..." Cloud said, his voice sounding strange. "You tired of her already?"
"...She's getting cranky," Vincent said, not able to think of another word. "Jumping around and tugging on my clothes trying to move me and--"
"Vincent," Cloud said, abruptly cutting him off. "She's a chocobo, not a rock. Chocobos want to run. You can't just sit there and expect her to be happy."
"Well, she's free to go at any time," Vincent said, feeling put out. She had used to have no problems just sitting there. "Maybe I'll just let her go free. I shouldn't keep her because with what I am, it's dangerous for her. And besides, she is hardly my res--"
"You have a responsibility for what you pick up," Cloud said, cutting him off again. "You picked her up; you can't just toss her away. In her mind, you're her mother. The gods know you act like you are. For the last month and a fucking half you have called me whenever that bird so much as warks funny, and--"
"She only just started warking today," Vincent said defensively.
There was a long, long silence.
"Oh, for the...that's it. Vincent. You have a pet chocobo. Just accept it, give her a name that is not Lucrecia already, stop angsting and brooding and fretting, and play with your damn chocobo chick," Cloud finished in clear irritation.
The next sounds were those of Cloud hanging up and the line going dead.
There was something, Vincent thought as the chocobo danced around him, nudging him trying to make him get up and warking insistently, very deeply wrong with Cloud of all people telling someone to stop angsting.
A pet chocobo. There was no reason he should keep her. None. But--
She nudged him with her head again, blue eyes bright. "Kweh!"
She was still a baby. He could figure out what to do with her later.
"All right, little one," he finally said, rising to his feet. "If it is a race that you want, a race you get," he said, and, with a tiny grin, vanished into red mist. He reappeared three feet away, behind the chocobo, and reached out to tug on her tail. She made a startled "Kwaaa!" sound, jumped and whirled, and then with a "Waaaark!" tried to grab him. He vanished again in a swirl of red shroud, reappearing just a few feet away.
And then, with a happy "Wark!", the chase was on.