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Missing Scene From The Cloud Roads

Moon was crouched, his back against the wall of the crevice, before he knew it was a clap of thunder that woke him. The sound was still rolling across the night sky, the scent of rain and lightning in the cold wind. It was too late to get away; he was stuck up in a tiny slot on top of a mountain in a thunderstorm. Except this time he wasn't alone.

Stone, sleeping on the floor of the crevice, had woken with a combination of a sputter and a highly annoyed growl. Moon had been sleeping closer to the edge and had bolted right across him to get to the back wall. Moon said, "Sorry."

Stone twitched around, grumbled, and pulled at his tattered blanket. "What's wrong with you now?"

Moon sank down against the wall, folding his arms. "Nothing." Wind tore at the trees in the gorge below them, rushing through the branches like surf roaring up a beach, and answering thunder boomed from the south. Moon could feel a tightening in the air, the next strike gathering above them. Lightning couldn't reach them in here, but it wasn't a rational fear; thunder always made him edgy, even when he could ride it out on the ground. It came from turns and turns ago, when he was a boy, right after his family had been killed. He had been caught in a storm, huddled high in the branches of a too-small tree. The Tath had still been hunting him so he couldn't chance climbing any lower, and the storm had gone on all day, building in intensity.

He thought he had steeled himself for the next strike, but the clap of thunder hit with the lightning, as loud as if it had taken off the top of the mountain peak. Moon flinched all over.

Stone was sitting up now, though it was too dark to see his expression. He yawned, as if the night wasn't exploding around them. "You don't like storms?"

"How'd you guess?" Moon said through gritted teeth. His ears were still ringing. The next strike was already building, and it wasn't even raining yet. This could go on all night, and knowing Stone, he wasn't going to want to sleep in tomorrow morning.

"I always liked them," Stone was saying, infuriatingly calm. "Good flying weather, if you like a little excitement."

The strike hit, an eye-searing flash and a crack that could have split the mountain in two. Moon hunched over. "That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard."

"You should talk." Stone had let the sound wash over him without even twitching. The next crash came immediately after, and Moon felt the rock beneath him tremble. Still unperturbed, Stone said, "Lapis never liked storms. Wait, was that Lapis? Maybe that was Lotus. The kids all blend together after a while."

Moon didn't want to hear about Stone's numerous and possibly apocryphal offspring. "Because you're senile." He was hoping Stone would hit him and knock him unconscious. It was his only chance of getting any sleep tonight.

Instead, Stone moved over and sat next to Moon, shoulder to shoulder, a solid warmth. "We don't get senile, that's a groundling thing. We get a little forgetful, that's all."

Moon started to pull away, not wanting to show any more weakness in front of Stone than he already had. But the next strike crashed and he huddled in place, the reverberation shuddering through his bones. Stone put an arm around him and pulled him over against his chest. Moon hissed in reflex, and considered struggling, but the next strike shook the whole mountain and he buried his face in Stone's shoulder, giving in.

Moon wanted to say something cutting, or at least annoying, something to show that he wasn't nearly as grateful as it might seem at the moment. But more lightning crashed and all he wanted to do was stay right where he was.

"Go back to sleep," Stone said, and yawned again.

Thunder rolled over the mountains for what felt like a long time, before it finally started to rain.

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