Chapter 22


Familiar Eyes


"Are you sure about this Cloud?" Flame asked almost timidly. "I heard Blake got even more skilled in thievery since we last saw him. And he's got a gang now."

"I know. Do you think I would plan this if I didn't do any research?" Cloud retorted.

"Is that what you've been doing when you sneak out at night?" Rose raised a black eyebrow. "Trek all the way to Varrock, spy, and come back?"

"I wouldn't necessary call it spying. I've just gotten close enough to their hideout to hear them talk. There's about six of them, but the one blonde, I know she's a blonde cause I got a glimpse of her once, is clumsy and spoiled. Not fit to be a thief, basically. So technically we only have to worry about five of them."

Flame pointed to each one of them in turn and frowned. "But there's four of us."

"So? We're not going to fight them." Rose shrugged.

"No. Not if we don't have to." Cloud agreed. "We'll just steal from right under their noses. They won't even know we're there."

"I am not sure if I like this." Melody muttered quietly from the back. "What if we DO need to fight?"

Flame moved over to where she was and placed a reassuring hand on her shoulder. "Don't worry; I'll be by your side the whole time. They won't touch you as long as I'm there." Melody smiled in acknowledgement.

Cloud nodded at him. "Right, are we ready?"

"Wait." Rose stopped him. "Where are they right now?"

"They have one guy in a guard uniform at the main door. The rest are hiding in a bush nearby. Let's get inside before they do."

The others nodded and as one they closed their helmets. They each wore the suit of a Varrock Palace guard's armor. They would each station around different sections in the Palace and wait for the thieves in the 'Varrock gang' to show up where they would then warn other guards of their presence and while everyone's busy, they would steal the treasure the gang had acquired for their own use. It benefited them and, if everything went as planned; it would also get rid of the rival gang. Or at least most of them.

The guards did nothing as they approached in their disguises. Only the rival gang member in his own fake costume opened the door for them and saluted. Cloud couldn't help but smirk behind his helmet. They had no idea what was about to happen. And in their own territory as well.

Once they were inside, he felt a tug on his armor and looked over to see the hazel eyes of Melody staring out from under her headgear. She looked worried even after Flame's promise to her.

"Cloud? I am still not sure about this. When you told me the story of how you met Blake, did you not warn him to stay out of our…territory, is it?"

"Yeah. This is just our way of enforcing that rule. And we get stuff out of it too."

"But…will we not make him…angry?"

Cloud knew that she had a point, but he wished she wouldn't ask about it now. They were already in the heart of Varrock. There was no turning back now. She would just have to get over her jitters.

"They won't even know we were ever here." Cloud told her as optimistically as he could. "They can't get mad at us if they don't know it's our fault. Everything's going to be fine."

He hoped.

She smiled and he inwardly let out a breath. He didn't completely believe his own words, but he couldn't let his gang know that. They had to believe this plan was full proof. They didn't have to know that everything could crumble with one slip up.

Once they got to a fork in the first floor of the palace, Cloud announced. "Alright. This is where we part ways. Remember where you're supposed to be and keep hidden. If there looks like any trouble, any troubles at all, get the hell out of there. Understood?"

At everyone's nod, Cloud made a sharp turn and headed up the stairs. The armor felt loose and clumsy and he knew it wouldn't hold any sort of protection if they DID have to fight. He just needed to keep it on for the time being until all hell broke loose and he could grab the items he desired and get out of there.

He turned corners and walked down many hallways. He only had the memory of the Varrock gang describing the palace to go on. He thought he knew where he was going, however. But the place seemed like such a maze he couldn't know for certain.

Nevertheless, he managed to find his way to a huge sealed up door with an iron lock. Cloud crouched down to examine it. He wasn't an expert in lock picking, but he could tell this was a very complicated seal. Thankfully, he wouldn't have to try to unlock it. He got back up and went around the nearest corner. There he leaned back and waited for one of the newest 'servants' to show up.

While he waited, he couldn't help but think how far he'd come. This was a big job, and on enemy territory no less. He was completely calm, except for the nagging worry for the rest of his gang. But he had to ignore that and trust them. Flame and Rose were completely capable and Melody…well Flame would keep an eye on her.

It took a little while for Cloud to hear walking and he glanced around the corner. He was expecting a guy, but instead there was a blonde in a maid's outfit. Cloud frowned and his calmness was slowly starting to deteriorate.

He made himself sit still while the girl took out a lock pick and wiggled around with it. She didn't even bother to look up for danger. She just had a pissed off look on her face and Cloud figured she was acting out of spite. He debated abandoning the plan and confronting her before she screwed something up, but just then the door suddenly clicked and she pushed it open.

Before he could move a muscle, a real guard appeared around a corner and called out. "Hey! What do you think you're doing?"

Cloud waited for the girl to act innocent or come up with a clever lie, but instead she dropped the lock pick and took off running straight past him. He resisted the urge to hit himself on the forehead with his palm. Everything about this situation was wrong and idiotic.

"Get back here!" the guard just about ran into the spiky haired blonde, but stopped him just in time. "What the hell are you doing?" he demanded. "You let that thief run right past you!"

Cloud put on a fake face and looked back as if confused. "That maid? You mean she was a thief?"

The guard narrowed his eyes from under his open helmet. "I don't recognize you. What's your name?"

Cloud cursed his heart as it pumped harder. If this guard removed his helmet, would he even know who he was? How close were the Falador and Varrock guards? Close enough to warn one another of their thieves?

"Doesn't matter." Cloud spoke without thinking. "There're thieves in the palace! We need to warn the king." He tried to move as if to do just that, but the guard wrapped a firm, gloved hand around his wrist.

"Not so fast." He growled. "You're not going anywhere."

Cloud knew he didn't have any choice. He whipped around and threw out his fist squarely at the guard's vulnerable spot on his helmet. The guard yelled in surprise and let go of his arm in response, giving Cloud the chance to kick out his leg. It connected with the man's stomach and knocked him onto his back.

He didn't waste any more time and took off running back the way he had come. He slowed down to take one last, longing look at the open vault but made himself keep going as the fallen guard called out warnings to any other close by guards. He couldn't stay there to face about five guards that would answer the call.

It didn't take long for chaos to ignite. The news spread quickly and all around him men and women rushed around. He tried to remember the way out, but between the flurry of activity and the ache of the heavy armor, he tripped.

He heaved himself against a wall and started to take off the uncomfortable armor, revealing his regular, far more manageable clothes underneath. He gritted his teeth at a sting and looked down at the wrist the guard had grabbed. He had apparently twisted it when Cloud punched him and a bruise was beginning to show. He would have to worry about it later.

He left the guard uniform lying on the floor and zipped off. He was now much faster and his head was clearer. He easily found his way back to the staircase. He stomped down without even considering the dangerous position he would be in if a guard caught him on there.

Halfway down he heard footsteps and automatically froze. He looked back up to see if he was crazy or if he was being followed. He barely had enough time to turn before something collided with him and he lost his balance, tumbling down the spiral stairs. He finally stopped rolling and he groaned at the pain that was no longer just in his wrist.

"Watch where you're going!" a feminine voice snapped at him. He twitched in annoyance while rubbing his sore…everything. It was probably that dumb blonde that messed everything up.

"ME watch where I'm going? You're the one that flew down the freaking stairs!" he shot back, ignoring the fact that he had stopped in the middle of them.

"Just who the hell do you think you are?"

Right now, he was angry. And he was growing angrier every time this blonde chick talked. He examined the rest of his body to make sure nothing was broken while he answered with, "You and your stupid gang always ruin everything!"

Truthfully, it was really just their leader that had ruined their plans once before. But it seemed every time there was something with Blake involved, something went wrong. And it was never his gang's fault.

"What the hell are you talking about? I didn't do anything!" The angry girl continued expressing her rage which only ticked him off more. First she ruined everything, and now she was denying it? He looked up to tell her just what he thought of her.

"You-"his words dropped at the tip of his tongue.

This wasn't the blonde. This girl had black as night hair and amazing green eyes that were blazing cold hatred at the moment. She was also wearing a maid outfit, except this was far smaller and she had no shoes on. He didn't stop to question that.

His eyes were stuck on her own. The twin green fires were so familiar, but he just couldn't place them. It gnawed at his mind. He felt that he HAD to know who she was. But neither a name, nor a clear face showed up in his mind.

He could say one thing for sure, though he didn't really want to.

This girl was gorgeous.

He shook his head to stop the rapid mass of thoughts. She was from the rival gang. How could he even think of something like that? And how could he let himself gawk at her like a lovesick little boy?

He attempted to cover it up with a smirk. "Sorry sweetie," he decided to act like exactly what she probably thought of him as of this moment; a jerk, "I guess I was mistaken. I thought you were that blonde haired bimbo that almost got caught."

The hatred in her eyes dimmed slightly, but her tone remained sharp as she demanded, "Who are you anyway?"

He stood up and leaned against the wall. His mind was still in such a flurry that he didn't consider the consequences when he replied to her. "Honey, I have many names. But you can call me Cloud." He winked at her and resisted the urge to laugh like an idiot when she rolled her eyes.

"I meant where did you come from and how do you know about my gang?"

Cloud wondered how someone like her got mixed up with Blake. She was feisty, but she was far too cute to be in the Varrock gang. He was enjoying talking to her. The more annoyed she got, the more adorable she became. "Geez sweetheart if you wanted to know all that why didn't you be more specific? I'm the leader of the Falador gang. I'm sure your precious leader has told you all about me."

She opened her mouth, but to Cloud's utter disappointment a figure appeared beside them before she could talk. To make matters worse, it was the last person he wanted to see. Blake jumped in front of the girl, away from his view.

"Cloud, get the hell away from her!" he warned. He turned to her and said in a quieter voice, "We need to go. Now." He grabbed her arm and pulled her away from Cloud, farther down the hallway.

He couldn't move. It was like his feet were nailed to the floor as he watched the girl be dragged away by Blake's grimy claws. He couldn't ignore the weird feeling he felt, like he had just lost a close friend. But he didn't even know the girl.

His heart skipped a beat when she suddenly looked back, but the feeling couldn't last. He heard rapid footsteps and sounds of clanking from heavy armor, so for about the hundredth time that day he ran. He desperately hoped that his gang had remembered the backup plan and had gotten out safely. If not, he knew he would have to go back in and retrieve them.

He was able to find his way out and was delighted to see Flame, Rose, and Melody waiting for him beside some hedges. He motioned them to get up and follow him and they didn't stop moving until they were out of the Varrock Palace's vicinity.

He allowed them to stop and catch their breath, but only for a short time. They couldn't stay in Varrock for too long. They had already been caught and overstayed their welcome.

"What…happened in there?" Rose asked between breaths.

"…what?" Cloud said absent mindedly. He was still having trouble focusing. What was wrong with him?

"She asked what happened." Flame repeated. "…you ok, dude?"

"I'm fine." Cloud shrugged away the weird looks he was getting. "The Varrock gang messed up as usual, that's all."

Melody walked in front of him and stared at him intently. Cloud felt uncomfortable when she did that. It's like her hazel eyes could read his soul like a book just by looking at his face.

"Cloud, why is your face the color of pink?" she asked innocently.

He felt his face burning up and moved away from her as fast as he could. "I'm just out of breath." He told her. Changing the subject he said, "Let's get back to the hideout."


"Cloud! Wake up. Please!"

Cloud jumped upright out of his bedroll. "What? What's wrong?" he asked in a half asleep tone. He rubbed his fists over his eyes to try to clear away his blurry vision.

Melody was leaning over him. Her hazel eyes looked wide and terrified. "Rose and Flame are outside. The Varrock gang are here and they're attacking!"

"WHAT?" Cloud was now fully awake and he jumped to his feet. "How did they find us?" he growled as he ran up the steps.

"They must have followed Flame and Rose." Cloud could hear the tremble in her voice as she followed him. "What do we do?"

"We fight them." Melody's footsteps stopped and he had to halt as well. He turned to see tears slowly building in her eyes.

He sighed and walked down until he was level with her. He rested a hand on her shoulder. "Hey, look at me." He gently gripped her chin and held it up to face him. "Would I let anything happen to you?"

"No," she squeaked.

"Didn't I give you basic combat training?"

"Yes, but-"

"And didn't I say that you're fully capable of handling yourself?"

"Yes-"

"Then there's no reason to be afraid."

He gave her a comforting smile and she nodded with a swallow. "Ok..."

He let go of her and pushed back the statue that covered their hideout. Once it was removed, he could hear yells, melee noises, and arrows whizzing about. He realized it was still nighttime and there were no guards coming to check on the sounds. Where were they? The ONE time guards would have actually been useful and they were nowhere to be found.

He jumped back as an arrow stuck into the ground mere inches from where his face was. He would have fallen back down the stairs if Melody wasn't there to steady him. He nodded quick thanks and tried to locate where the arrows were coming from. Finally he saw it. Two female archers were kneeling on the wall, firing arrows at him and targets he could not yet see.

His heart jumped as he recognized the one girl as the girl he bumped into at the Varrock Palace. She looked annoyed, but determined at the same time. He realized she wasn't even looking at him, let alone aiming at him. A dark blonde was instead nocking another arrow to shoot at him.

He didn't give her the chance. He grabbed Melody's arm and threw her next to him against a building. The arrow bounced harmlessly next to them.

"What do we do?" Melody asked. He was impressed how she was at least trying to keep her voice steady, even though she was shaking like a leaf.

"Stick to the shadows and see if you can Flame or Rose. I don't hear any fighting right now so they're probably hiding which means the Varrock gang is looking for us." He rapidly tried to think of the best plan for the situation that wouldn't get them all killed.

"I will find Flame." Melody lifted her head with determination and stood up.

"Wait!" Cloud lifted a hand to stop her. He took out a dagger he had stuffed in his shirt and held it out. "Take this just in case."

She shook her head. "You can do more damage with it. I do not believe that I could draw blood."

He stood up and placed it in her hand. "Take it," he repeated. "It'll make me feel better knowing you have a weapon. If they catch you without one, you'll be a sitting duck."

"But then you have no weapon." She protested.

"I'll be fine. Just find Rose and Flame and tell them to come back to the hideout."

"But then we will be trapped, will we not?"

"Just trust me. I have a plan." He pushed her toward another building. "Go!"

Once he was sure she was gone and safe for the time being, Cloud glanced out from behind the building. The archers were no longer at the same spot and he could run back to the hideout without being seen.

He ran down the stairs, only to stop dead as an arrow stuck into the dirt wall only half an inch away from his neck.

"Not another move." A feminine voice warned from the shadows. A fire had been lit and he could only just see the outlines of the speaker. She was pointing a pulled back bow straight at his head. For a moment he was afraid to look into her eyes. Why? Was he afraid they'd be bright green? Why should he care?

He finally looked up and relaxed. The eyes were green, but they also had shades of blue in them. It wasn't the same girl.

Before Cloud could even speak, another shadow loomed up behind the girl and lunged at her. She yelled out in surprise, but it was cut off as her head hit the floor and she became silent.

Cloud smiled at the healer. "Thought you didn't believe in fighting anymore, old man." He raised an eyebrow.

Irit scoffed and smoothed out his cloak. "I can't have these ruffians breaking anything in my lab. I stayed hiding and the simple minded fool never knew I was there."

Cloud's smile faded. Remembering his plan he ordered, "Grab as many sticks as you can find."

"Why?" he asked even as he moved to obey the order.

"Whatever weapons they may have, it won't be a match for a nasty burn mark."

"What about her?" Irit nodded at the girl lying knocked out on the ground.

"Tie her up and we'll worry about her later." He turned his back to pick up more sticks. He wished one of them knew how to use a bow. Flaming arrows would be a high advantage in this fight. He threw a few more sticks on the fire as Irit started to drag the girl into a corner and he looked up the stairs to make sure no one else was coming down.

He suddenly heard a grunt and ran back. To his shock, the girl was standing over the body of a knocked out Irit with a satisfied grin. She looked at him with a glare when he entered and her eyes flew downward.

He remembered her bow and lunged toward it before she could grab it, knocking it into the fire. The bow went up in flames and the fire sprang to life. Cloud tried to get away from the sudden threat, but the girl charged him from the side and knocked him off his feet.

He only just saw the dagger in her hand and she drew it back to sink it into his flesh. He grabbed her arm just as she brought it down to make the killing blow and twisted her, kicking her against the wall. He got back on his feet, which gave her just enough time to get away from the wall.

She took a swipe at him. He easily dodged it but he already guessed what she was doing. The flame was getting steadily worse and she was trying to knock him into it. When she swiped again, this time he dodged and grabbed her arm once again. She tried to kick him, but he was ready and jumped to one side, at the same time pulling her right into the fire.

She screamed and managed to avoid it just before she made contact, but she had lost grip of the dagger and he had caught it. She turned to face him again, but then stayed where she was. Her eyes darted around, drinking in the situation. She had no weapon, her back was against a spreading fire, and the exit was wide open. She took the sanest choice and charged up the stairs.

Cloud wanted to give chase, but he knew if he did their hideout would go up in flames. He did what he could to get it under control as fast as he could. Once it was mostly taken care of, he turned to go after her. His foot hit something soft and he froze.

He felt his heart thud. He looked down at his feet and lifted up his one foot.

His backpack he had brought with him was almost completely destroyed. And next to it laid Princess's teddy bear, nothing but a charred crisp.

He leaned down and picked it up. Suddenly the fight outside didn't matter anymore. Nothing mattered. He bit his quivering lip and felt a single tear run down his cheek. The last thing he had to remember his baby sister was gone.

And it was their fault.

He dropped the remains of the teddy bear and wielded his dagger. He could see nothing but red now. He only knew one thing. To find the Varrock gang and kill them for what they did.

He only just got out of the hideout when he practically tripped over the dark blonde haired girl he had fought. She was cornered by Rose, who had blood trickling down her forehead. The enemy girl didn't look much better. She was clasping her arm as blood gushed around it.

Cloud didn't hesitate. He grabbed the trapped girl and threw her unceremoniously on the ground. He pinned her down and allowed the tip of the dagger to just pierce her throat. She yelled in agony.

"STOP!"

He didn't want to stop. He wanted to feel the dagger slice through her throat and see the blood run down his fingers. He wanted her to die.

"AMPHETRO!" the voice came again. This time Cloud looked up in time to see a dark haired guy with dark blue eyes coming running toward him at a surprising speed. But before he could get close enough, Blake appeared seemingly of nowhere and blocked him.

"Wait." He growled. "Get any closer and he'll kill her."

"If you don't do something he'll kill her anyway." The Varrock gang member countered.

Before he knew it, all the gang members, including his own, were in the square. Flame and Melody had joined Rose in standing over Cloud, ready to defend him if need be.

Cloud was breathing hard. The sting of finding the obliterated stuffed animal still fresh on his mind. What he wanted more than anything was the ragged breathing girl underneath him to breathe her last breath. And he knew right now he could get away with it. But all hell could break loose if he did.

"Let her go!"

His ice blue eyes flicked toward the sound. Behind Blake he could just see the green-eyed girl. The sight of her, the sight of her looking at him with pure anger, for some reason made him feel sick.

"Quiet, Shadow." Blake snapped at the girl. "It's her own fault that she's in this mess. I told her to stay on the wall and attack with arrows and she disobeyed me."

"SO YOU'RE JUST GOING TO LET HER DIE?" the blue eyed man yelled in outrage. His eyes were filled with pain.

Blake ignored his fellow gang member and instead looked to them. "Release her." He said in a tone that didn't sound much like a request.

"You're in no position to be giving us orders." Rose spat.

"Why shouldn't we kill her?" Flame asked coldly. "YOU attacked US."

Instead of countering, Blake walked backward with his hands up. "Fine. Kill her. I don't really care either way."

The rest of his gang looked at him with shock in their eyes while the blue eyed gang member looked about ready to murder him in cold blood right then and there.

"Blake, let her die and I swear your own life follows." He said in a tone that made Cloud sure he wasn't bluffing.

"You care for her enough to take my life, Narmo?" Blake asked in undistinguished amusement.

"I care for her enough to take my own if need be." The man called Narmo said.

Cloud felt his hands shake. A drop of blood had plastered on his hand where he held the dagger up to Amphetro's neck. What was he doing? Was he really ready to take this girl's life over a stuffed animal? Was he that much of a monster?

He took the dagger away and backed away from the wounded body, urging his own gang to follow his lead. "Take her. Take her and never come back."

Narmo immediately fell next to her and took pieces from his own shirt to stop the bleeding, all the while kissing her face over and over. Cloud now felt sick to the pit of his stomach. This boy loved her and he was about to rip her away from him.

"Enough." Blake strolled over to him as if nothing had affected him in the slightest. "We'll leave." His eyes looked up to bore into Cloud's. "But this isn't over."

A shorter boy with light brown hair jumped at Blake's order. "Marcus! Help Narmo."

Cloud and his gang watched the rival gang pack up their wounded and leave with their heads held high, as if they were choosing to leave. Cloud's gaze didn't leave the girl that he now knew as Shadow. He watched her go up to speak to Blake, but he merely shrugged her away. It made his blood boil. He didn't know why, it just did.

"We…we won." Flame spoke for the first time as the last of the gang left the city.

Melody shook her head. "I do not believe anyone won in this battle." She whispered as the first traces of sun appeared over the horizon.


The last trace of the bleeding sky was gone and replaced with oncoming darkness. Cloud couldn't move. The conversation with Melody felt like he had taken a frozen arrow straight to the chest. At the same time it felt like a storm that was raging in his mind for so long finally showed the first rays of sunlight. It was…confusing to say the least.

Melody's question played over and over in his mind. "How can a human that was nearly killed by another human still be in love with that said human?"

Love.

Was that the emotion he had been feeling for so long toward Shadow? The feeling he couldn't quite understand, or wanted to for that matter? Had she cast a spell on his heart without him even realizing? He felt like an idiot if that was the case. How could he have been in love and not even known it?

He had tried to ignore his feelings for her when he and his gang found her outside of Varrock with a twisted leg. He knew it was an amazing opportunity and let his thief side poison any other rational thoughts. Now he was paying the price. She would probably never speak to him again and he didn't blame her. But the way he felt about Rose, it was completely lust. There was more to the story with Shadow.

And he wanted them to find out together.

He sprang to his feet and shuffled down the ladder as fast as he could. "Mel!" he called out to the half-fairy. He wanted to catch her before she got back to the hideout. He just about ran into her when he got to the bottom. She was waiting there with her eyes crossed and a devious smile on her face. At least as much as a fairy could manage.

"Yes?" she batted her eyelashes innocently.

"You've always been able to read my emotions better than I can. Am I really in…?" the word stuck in his throat.

She shrugged and turned with a fake baffled expression. "It is not up to me to say. Only you can answer that question. So," She turned back to stare intently into his eyes, "what are you feeling right this moment?"

"Like…like I want to find her."

"And?" Melody leaned forward. Her hazel eyes were glowing.

"And…apologize."

"And?"

"And…" he swallowed the nervousness that was making his throat close up, "tell her that I love her."

Melody smiled and nodded. "Yes, I believe that IS what you are feeling." She winked.

The excitement in Cloud's chest suddenly deflated. "But…what about the gang? I can't just leave, I'm the leader!"

"Flame and the rest of us will be able to manage."

Cloud felt proud. Melody wasn't the same girl with the tear-stained face he had found so long ago. She had grown confident and skillful. But she hadn't lost her caring disposition.

"You mean they'll understand why I left?" Cloud asked in disbelief. "For a girl?"

She giggled at this. "We knew long before you figured it out yourself." She said simply.

He ignored the blush on his cheeks. "Then…I got to get going!" he skipped over to the hideout and pushed the statue aside.

"Wait, Cloud!"

"Not now, Mel. I got to get packed. Gods, this is the happiest I've felt in a long time. It's like things finally make sense. I'm going to find Shadow and-"

"But you are forgetting one important detail." Melody called as she ran to catch up. "You still need to tell…"

They both froze at the bottom of the stairs.

In front of them the hideout was trashed. Drops of blood were scattered around and one looked like a trail. Cloud's eyes followed it until it led to a pool of crimson liquid. And in the center of it, drenched in the stuff, was…

"Rose," Cloud whispered.

"Rose!" Melody shrieked it more loudly and ran to her friend's side. She turned her over and Cloud could now see the straight, clean cut in her throat. The blood was still flowing which meant whoever did this had only just left.

He whipped around to find the murderer, but Melody called him back. "No! It's not worth it…she's gone."

Cloud turned back and stumbled over to the bloody body. He lightly gripped Rose's limp head and lifted an ear next to her open mouth. No breath. He drew back sharply. Her eyes were closed so she either sensed that she was dying or whoever did this had enough decency to close them. He highly doubted the second option.

"Where…where are Flame and Irit?" Melody asked. She was repeatedly swallowing as she held her friend against her. Cloud could tell she was trying not to cry. He didn't like it. He knew thieves weren't supposed to care about death, but he never agreed with that. Especially not with someone close to them.

"They left to steal more supplies for Irit." He said to answer her question. He reached out a hand and took hers, caressing it gently. "You can cry if you want to." He whispered.

She shook her head, her wavy golden locks bouncing around. "I will grieve for her later. There is work to be done right now." She looked up at him. "But not for you."

"What?"

"You must go to Varrock. Search for Shadow. The one thing, the one doubt that would stop her from forgiving you is gone. Go."

As much as he wanted to, he knew he couldn't go yet. As if it wasn't enough that he was leaving them leaderless, how could he leave them now when one of their own had been killed by an unknown assassin? What if they would come back?

"I want to stay here for a few days. Just until things calm down."

"You do not-"

"I want to. There will be plenty of time to find Shadow. I'll stay for two days. Three tops."

She started to stroke Rose's black hair and for a moment he wondered if she heard. Then she nodded and whispered, "Ok".

"Let's get rid of all this blood before the guys get back. We'll get through this. I won't abandon you, even when it's time to leave. All you have to do is look for me."

She blinked up at him. "Promise?"

"Promise."


Shadow had listened to every word in silence. She had almost started crying when Cloud recited the death of his sister. He probably wouldn't have noticed. He had gone in a trance of some sort while he remembered and retold the story he had most likely not told for a long time. She felt waves of sympathy for him, even if she didn't want to.

"I'm…I'm sorry." Was all she could seem to get out. Her voice sounded more like a croak from not using it for so long.

Cloud smiled tenderly at her. "Don't be sorry. Just say you'll forgive me. Please."

She looked down at the empty bowl beside her. She had become so hungry and it tasted so good…she didn't regret it. Maybe he was right. Accepting help every now and again wasn't a bad thing.

"I lost someone I care about too." She said after a while. "Actually three people-"

"You don't need to tell me your own story if you don't want to." He said quickly.

She stared intently at him. Remembering Midnight's own words she said, "You unburdened yourself, now it's my turn. I lost my parents to the blade of someone who's now my best friend. The only friend I've ever had. My brother died only a short while ago to a Varrock guard."

He stared at her as if she grew another head. "Sheesh…and I thought I was messed up." He chuckled, then stopped and hung his head. "Sorry. I'm not very good at this."

"So…you were the boy I met years ago? When we were both little?" she leaned forward. "That was you?"

He nodded with a wide smile. "Surprised me too when I connected the dots. I have no idea how I couldn't see it before. I've never seen eyes like yours." He reached out to touch her face, but she flinched away. He looked disappointed.

"I know I haven't done much to make you trust me, but please. I'm running out of ways to say sorry."

"Do you really mean it?" she tried to look at anything but him. "Are you…in love with me?"

This time he grabbed her hand before she could take it away. "I'm still not entirely sure about these things I'm feeling, but I know when I'm around you nothing matters anymore…and I act like a complete idiot. But more so the other thing. Give me a chance and I'll spend the rest of my existence trying to win your trust if that's what it takes."

Shadow tried to keep a straight face, but the way he said this in complete seriousness made her burst out giggling like a little girl. She tried to cover her mouth, but didn't stop. She didn't think she had laughed like this in a long time.

Cloud laughed slightly as well, probably mostly out of relief. "What?"

"The rival ex-leader of my ex-gang is proclaiming his love to me in a hole." She said after her fit passed. "It's funny."

He took this moment to get closer, and she didn't try to back away. He took her other hand and squeezed them. "So…will you give me a chance?"

She was vaguely aware of her heart beating up into her throat. She wouldn't say it out loud, but this was something she wanted for a long time. She knew something was missing and now she knew for sure what it was. She wanted him as much as he wanted her. But could she risk putting her heart out to get hurt again? Could she trust him?

Looking into his ice blue eyes and being so close that she could feel his warm breath…it just felt so right.

"Shadow?" he prompted. She could tell his heart was pounding just as much as hers.

"Come to my guild with me."

His eyes lit up even bluer than they were, if that was even possible. "Really?"

"I'm not quite sure what I'm feeling either, but I'm willing to find out." She held out a finger before he could speak. "But at my own pace." Her thoughts went back to Blake. He had moved so fast with her and for his own selfish reasons. Oh sure he said he cared about her, but that was just a lie to get what he wanted. It's what it always was. She didn't want a repeat.

He moved away from her a little. "Ok. We'll move as slow as you want. No pressure." He smiled again. "I'm just so damn happy that you don't hate me."

She raised an eyebrow and suddenly lurched forward, wrapping her arms around him and resting her chin against his shoulder. "I never hated you. I wanted to, but I couldn't." she admitted.

He tensed, but a moment later he wrapped his own arms around her. They stayed in that position for what felt like an hour. They didn't want to let go. Somehow neither of them could put into words just how much they cared about the other. But maybe someday.

Shadow would ask Mazchna if yet another non-slayer could enter the guild. She expected that to not go too well, but what choice did she have? She wanted what Cloud was offering and if this was the only way to get it, then so be it. She could take getting her head chewed off, even losing her title if it meant being with him.

For the first time since her brother died, she didn't feel like a zombie. She didn't feel numb. She felt…

Happy.


~To be continued~


Memories are finally finished! Hope you enjoyed reading about Cloud's past and that it cleared up a few questions you might have. For those of you wondering, in the chapter where we see Shadow's POV in the Varrock Palace raid, Blake says a maid finds Mallory. In this version, Cloud sees a guard catch her. This is intentional so nobody panic, though I have made a lot of dumb mistakes before.

Cloud's joining the guild? What'll happen between him and Shadow now? Will she be able to trust him? Will they allow themselves to fall for each other like they really want to?

Review!