"No!"

"Cloud, be reasonable," Nanaki said, looking at the blond warrior. Ordinarily, Cloud would have found the creature's deep voice soothing. Now wasn't one of those moments. "I refuse," Cloud said stubbornly, crossing his arms. There were times when a man had to draw the line, and he felt that this was it for him.

Nanaki sighed. "Cloud, we don't have any potions left, and we've run out of MP. We don't have a choice."

"Well, why don't you do it?" The former laboratory specimen gave Cloud a look that made the warrior shift guiltily. "Sorry, wasn't thinking. Still, we don't need to…"

"We don't have a choice," came Nanaki's voice again, and this time, there was a hint of sharpness in his voice. "We don't know how far Aerith, Tifa, and Yuffie are away from us, and I don't think we can afford to leave him like this."

"But it's not a matter of life or death!"

"It's as good as!" This time, there was no mistaking the bite in Nanaki's voice, and involuntarily, Cloud stepped back. "Cloud, your honor as leader of the team demands that you do this job! Besides," and his lips twisted in a feral grin, "I seem to remember a story told by Tifa and Aerith about a certain incident in Midgar and…"

"Alright, alright!" Cloud quickly interrupted the one formerly known as Red XIII, the tips of his ears reddening. "But this is the only time, you hear?" He bent down, and placed his lips lightly on the frog mournfully looking up at them…

Which immediately turned into a spitting, sputtering Barret Wallace, his face as red as Nanaki's fur. "What the hell, Spiky?"

Cloud was also wiping his mouth violently. "Think I enjoyed that?" He answered testily. "Next time, don't wander off alone! You know the forest is full of Touch Mes!"

"Well, why didn't you just use magic or one of those potion things?"

"We ran out!"

"Never figured you to be a maiden, Spiky," Barret muttered. "Then again, you look like one…"

"Shut up or I'll turn you back into a toad!"

The two of them quit their arguing when they heard a wheezing sound a few feet below them. As one, they turned to look at Nanaki, who had his tongue lolling and had his four paws up in the air.

"Are you laughing at us?"

Aerith burst in just then, followed right behind by Tifa and Yuffie. "Hey guys! What did we miss?"

"Nothing, nothing!" The two AVALANCHE members quickly replied, causing Nanaki to laugh even harder, rolling on the forest floor in glee.

Tifa raised an eyebrow. "Nothing?"

"Yes, nothing! Now let's get a move on, before it gets dark!" Cloud looked at the rolling red bundle on the ground. "That is, if you want to reach Cosmo Canyon anytime soon." At this, Nanaki immediately rolled back on all fours, although his tongue was still hanging out and his lips were still set in a feral grin. As they all trooped out of the forest, Cloud and Barret looked at each other and spoke at the same time.

"We never speak of this incident again."