Loosely based upon the journey home of Ness and Paula at the end of “Eearthbound”
Their travels together had ended. The war against Giygas was over. After a long road of hardships, pain, but most of all friendship, it was time to go home. Poo had teleported home to Dalaam. Jeff gave Paula a small hug.
“If...by any chance you two, you know, ever get hitched, well, maybe I could be the guy that fixes your electronic appliances when they break down.”
Ness erupted in laughter, “Not so sure you’ll ever have to worry about that one, Jeff. I –--“
Paula poked Ness’, smiled out the side of her mouth, and furled her eyebrows. “Hey! What are you trying to say there, buddy?”
“Nothing, just that I know you have enough good taste to let Jeff build them for you, er…us, and, uh…, that way they won’t break down! Yeah…Come on now, I was just playing.” His countenance dropped. He knew that the best time of his life up to this point was going to come too an end all too quickly. He recalled the time when he lost his footing on the way up to fire spring…
…The four had just finished up railing a major psychic psycho along with a soul consuming flame. Ness had bailed the group out with Rockin’ y, But he did it at the expense of his own well being. He was fairly well banged up, and his clothes singed. The group approached the ledge leading up to the entrance to Fire Springs.
“Hang on a sec, guys, let’s slow down. I need to catch my breath,” huffed Ness. “I’m not quite sure what’s wrong with me.” What Ness hadn’t realized is that he had been possessed a few battles previously. His ability to concentrate had simply flown out the window. Walking towards the ledge, he wobbled like an annoying old reveler.
Paula and Poo had gone on before Ness as he prepared to climb up himself. The only part of the ledge that was even slightly climbable was at the corner of another ledge. A slight stumble at the foot of this climb could have spelled the end. There seemed to be no bottom to the potential fall, except for the stench of death that quaffed upward from the lava below.
“Ness, how about you go ahead of me? I’ll stay here at the foot to support you in case you need help,” Jeff offered.
“Sure thing, Jeffro. That’s pretty nice of you. You know, what with me being a bit loopy and all, heh heh,” Ness rambled. What in the name of Mother is going on with me? He knew that he couldn’t concentrate. He realized that he wasn’t one hundred percent in control. The only thing that kept him from being possessed entirely and possibly even taking a flight into the lava pit below was the urgency to save the world. And, not failing his friends. Oh yeah, and this brain stone contraption that Poo let me hang on to. “Jeffro, huh?”
“Yeah, sorry. Ya know,” Ness began his climb. The ledge itself wasn’t any more than 12 feet from where he stood, but in the state he was in, even his hands which gripped the heated rock face felt distant.
Ness started up the ledge, first left hand, then right hand. He got his footing on the face and began to climb. One step, two steps, next hand, another step---only that next step wasn’t there.
Ness fell four feet to the ground. He seemed to make the landing alright, but in recovering and raising back up, he began to stumble. He couldn’t get his footing quite right, and began to topple headfirst off the lower ledge towards a smoldering eternity.
“Ness! No!” Paula shrieked at the top of her lungs. She began bawling uncontrollably as the Chosen One, and her destiny, toppled towards his death. “Jeff do something! Help him!”
Jeff quickly sprayed a blast of slime on the rock behind him, anchored the slime generator in the new slime, sprayed himself knee high with the ooze, and catapulted himself towards where Ness was hanging on for dear life. Miraculously he had found a small enough ledge to hang on with one hand. But his shoulder was turned out, and he was losing his grip.
The slime between the generator and Jeff’s legs created a repelling effect, and the boy genius was able to safely retrieve Ness and bring him up to the ledge again. Paula and Poo climbed down to where the other two were recovering.
“Nice thinking, Jeff. Thanks.” Ness said, very sullen. His concentration was back, and he was able to heal himself. Apparently the fall had spooked even the tiny ghost that had control of Ness.
“What was that you called me earlier? I believe it was Jethro?” Jeff inquired, smiling that he might have a new nickname.
“Ahh, yeah. Haha. Jeffro. Jeff-row. What, you like it or something?”
“I do now.” Jeff grinned ear to ear as he slapped Ness on the shoulder. “You know, I’m 13 and nobody’s called me anything but Jeff my entire life. Being a boy genius certainly has its doldrums, you know that?”
“Then Jeffro it is, my friend,” Ness answered, smiling. Paula gave Ness a quick embrace as Poo cast Freeze to shatter the slime from Jeff’s legs. “Nice use for that gizmo by the way, Jeff.”
“Well, I figured it would come in handy SOMEtime.” The four enjoyed a small chuckle amongst them, and decided to let Ness go first this time up the mountain…
…If Jeff hadn’t been paying attention and caught his hand, there would have been no fight against Giygas. Jeff had become the brother Ness never had, and now –
“Hey you, snap out of it! Did you even hear what Jeff just said?”
“Oh, no,” Ness answered droopily. “Sorry, man. What was that?”
“No worries. I’m going to stay here with my dad in Saturn Valley, before I go back to Winters. It’ll be great to finally get to do research with him, and learn more about the Mr. Saturn.”
“Well man,” Ness started, “just make sure to keep in touch. You’ll have to keep me up to speed on all those sweet inventions you come up with, and –-“
“And you’ll have to keep me updated on the PSI skills you learn, and the ones you expound upon. Science knows why you were able to channel your power with the earth’s, and I’ll beat science over the head until he tells me!” With that, Jeff raised his index finger in the air enthusiastically, clumsily hitting his glasses, sending them over his head, then clunking to the ground. “Uh, hey. Little help?”
“Maybe you’ll get lasik done too,” Paula giggled as she handed Jeff his glasses.
Jeff put his glasses back on, and extended his hand towards Ness. Ness held back tears shook Jeff’s hand with his right, and embraced him with his left. Paula couldn’t help shedding a few tears either. She patted Ness on his back and then rubbed his back as Jeff turned and walked away to the hut his father was staying in.
Jeff turned one shoulder around and waved as he walked away. “Take care, you two. If you need anything, call!”
“Will do, Jeffro!” Ness grinned and flashed his signature peace sign towards Jeff. He turned to Paula, and raised his eyebrows. What’s next? Paula sighed. Well, not much to do around here anymore. “Ness, will you escort me home?”
Ness chuckled nervously, “Hmmm. Nah. Not happenin’.”
“Well fine! I’ll escort YOU home!” Paula replied, as she grabbed one of Ness’ wrists with each hand.
“That Jeff and his science, huh?” joked Paula, “he’s really got a mind for it! He never really seemed to understand PSI. Always trying to come up with a scientific answer to it.”
“So what you’re saying is, some things just can’t be explained, and it’s best left that way?”
“Can YOU explain that time in Summers you learned Healing strong enough to keep me from giving up the ghost after that incident with the Mad Taxi?” Paula asked quizzically, herself shuddering at that thought. Ness stopped dead in his tracks as a tear gathered in his eye at that thought. His mouth stopped at about half open and he looked at Paula as though he were in shock...
... The Four had just arrived back in Summers from a day long trip to Toto. On this day the Prince of Dalaam, Poo, had arrived after receiving a vision and completing his Mu training. He had seemed to click instantly with the group, especially Ness. Ness was ecstatic to meet another psionic with the ability to heal.
“See, Ness, I’ve found that effective healing comes only from visions of peace before attempting to create the psionic force on the creature to be healed. In fact, I could never heal before I first had a vision of true peace in the world.”
“That’s interesting,” replied Ness, “I hadn’t ever thought of that before. Generally I just focus my own physical energy into my own psychic energy. Imagine flexing your muscles for half an hour straight. That’s how I feel after I’ve tried beta Healing”
“Goodness,” Poo chuckled somewhat, “Perhaps channeling your physical strength may be a good substitute, but at least peacefulness never made my muscles sore.” With that, Poo smiled and reached into his pocket, pulling out an object that closely resembled a glass sphere. “Here, friend, carry this. It is called the brain stone. Only healing psionics have found use for it among my people. Perhaps this will aid you.”
“A STONE, really? Looks like blown glass.”
“Feel free to give this to Jeff for scientific analysis. I assure you, this is a rock, and not even a ‘diamond’? is it? What your people call precious stones?”
“Yeah, one of them.”
“This rock would have only novelty value among your people. Its precise clarity was not formed of this earth, but from the refining of psionic skills through generations among my people.” With that, he handed the Brain Stone to Ness.
Ness took the brain stone, and surprisingly, it was as rough as any number 57 gravel one could pick up in a parking lot. “That’s amazing. It’s rough enough to give blisters, but it’s as clear as water.”
“Things are not always as they seem, are they, friend?” Poo smiled.
Not five steps later, an engine revved and tires squeeled as a taxi careened around a corner. It seemed set on the same path that Paula and a local occupied.
“...So you haven’t really noticed anything strange?” Paula inquired, “I swear just ten minutes ago I saw a road sign move. Almost like it was staring at me. I...” Paula stopped as the man’s countenance changed, “Sir are you alright? Are you choking?” The man’s face began to turn a hue of light blue as he seemed to become angry at Paula. “Are you alright? Is there something I ca—“
The angry local then shoved Paula into the street, meeting with the grille of the oncoming enraged taxi. Paula flipped over the car as it slammed its brakes, allowing the influenced man to jump in the taxi and drive away.
The car and its driver did not get far though, as Poo brainshocked the driver into stopping, while Ness busted the grille and radiator with his bat. Jeff, noticing the commotion as well, planted a bomb inside the car after dragging the driver out. Shortly after the car exploded, the man’s countenance turned back and color restored to his face. With matters under control of Poo and Jeff, Ness sprinted over to take care of the chosen girl.
“Paula! Can you hear me?” Ness shouted, hoping to wake Paula up. Paula merely coughed, with a small amount of blood trickling out of the side of her mouth. Both legs were broken, and one arm shattered. She opened her eyes, and closed them back. Ness felt for a pulse, and felt at first very faint, and then nothing.
Ness...I know you can help. Please help me. Remember when we met, I told you that you were to be my destiny? You have the power to save me again. But you must hurry. Please... Ness knew he couldn’t bring her back from death. He began to lose concentration, he began breaking down inside. If he couldn’t help her, if he couldn’t bring her back from death – there would be no hope in their battle. Her undying, unrelenting faith had kept him going through the darkness in Threed. She had helped him realize he had strength he never knew. Maybe... He reached into his pocket and pulled out the Brain stone. Time seemed to become a crawl as he was instantly calmed, being able to concentrate enough to move a mountain. He held the Brain stone in his palm, and placed the other half in the palm of Paula’s lifeless body. A shock went through Ness’ body as time stood still. The clock’s second hand on the street post above them stopped moving. Ness closed his eyes. For the first time in his life, he was at peace. He felt peace. He WAS peace. In his mind a cool river flowed over a bank and into a brook. The brook ended in a crystal clear pond, surrounded by evergreens. He saw himself wading in one end of the pond, Paula at the other. They waded to the center of the pond. He reached for her hand, and together they dipped under water...
Thank you. You are my destiny. ...Ness opened his eyes to find Jeff and Poo huddled over top of Paula and himself. He looked over Paula, who had not a broken bone, not so much as a scratch on her body. Even the blood which had trickled onto the pavement was gone. Paula opened her eyes, trained them on Ness, and smiled.
...”What about Healing sigma, Ness?”
“Oh, nothing. You’re right though. Some things you just can’t explain, I guess.” Ness placed his arm around Paula’s midsection and they departed Saturn Valley, together.
Ness stopped for a second, and turned his head. “So long, and thanks for all the peanut cheese bars!” Ness exclaimed before they got into the cave that lead to grapefruit falls. Ness turned around, and nearly got whiplash jumping back from what he saw. Paula let out a muffled chuckle.
“Oh, you thank!” proclaimed a Mister Saturn, sauntering out of the dark cave. At twilight, the cave entrance was completely dark.
After Ness regained his faculties, he simply winked at the small creature, and patted it on the head as he and Paula walked past.
I lov... “What?”
“Nothing, I didn’t say anything,” Paula responded quickly.
“Oh, okay. That was weird though,” said Ness, “I could have sworn I heard you say something.”
“Nope! Not me. Maybe the walls are talking”
“Haha, I doubt it, we’re not in Lumine Hall”
“No kidding,” Paula giggled as she pushed Ness, “you could READ your thoughts on the wall there.”
Wow. It is fairly dark in here. I bet Mister Saturns don’t walk through here very often. Haha, don’t even think about it. No, she’d never—“Ouch!” Ness cried, “what was that for?” He rubbed his rib cage where Paula gave him a rather pointy elbow.
“We’re fourteen. Like you said, don’t even think about it.” Paula smiled, and just then Ness had it figured out.
So you can hear what I’m thinking, huh? Yeah, I can. But you want to know something? What’s that? You’re the only person whose mind I can read. I’ve tried to get inside people’s heads before, but honestly all that happened was it gave them headaches. Literally. I felt bad about it, so I never tried after I figured it out. I had never even tried before. That’s kinda weird though, don’t you think? You can read my mind, I can read yours, but no one else’s? Remember what I said the first time I spoke to you in your dream? ... That you were to be my destiny? I think I understand. Ness smiled as they exited the cave. He turned and embraced Paula, then held onto her hand as he found a straight shot to teleport. He began to take his first steps, picking up speed - -
“Ness wait,” Paula said, “Where are we going?”
“I thought I’d take you home?”
“No, don’t. Just take us to Threed, and we’ll walk from there.”
“But, it’s getting kind of dark, isn’t it?”
“We’ll stay the night there then. Please? I really want to spend a little more time with you before I go home.”
“Oh! Okay, sure. Threed it is!” Ness smiled, took hold of Paula’s hand a second time, and within seconds they were on the main street of Threed.
Their arrival in Threed was the first time they had visited when the darkness came from nighttime. The contrast between the city in the evening and the city enslaved was almost as great as night and day. The glowing streetlights, the gentle breeze blowing, and the slight incline of the cityscape was enchanting.
“Wow,” Paula said, “this place is beautiful at night. I would have never thought this place could look so wonderful.”
“Yeah,” Ness replied, “It’s kind of hard to think of this place when it’s dark and NOT think of something around the corner sneaking up on us.” Noticing the glow that the moon and streetlights put on Paula’s face, he decided not to think of the haunted Threed. Ness and Paula had spent the past four months together. Every long day, every sleepless night on that tiresome journey, they had each other. After tomorrow’s walk back to Twoson, he’d find himself missing the traveling companion he had grown so fond of.
The two had walked south, into a new park created where the old circus cages and the Boogey Tent were once found. Ness and Paula walked through the main entrance, where a sign was posted, “Threed Freedom Commemorative Park”, with a small picture of Ness, Paula, and Jeff underneath the writing. The park was even more beautiful at night than the rest of the town. Perfectly laid, uniformly colored dark red bricks, weaving and curving through the park, with gloss black wrought iron park benches every 200 feet, and a combination of deciduous and evergreen trees. The park was lit by lampposts that rivaled Fourside’s in elegance and luminescence.
Walking over the crest of a hill in the middle of the park, Paula and Ness could faintly see a small crowd gathered under a shelter.
“Hey, Ness, do you hear that?” Paula asked.
Ness strained his ears to hear a very quiet, but very subtle rhythm. Training his ears a little more, he could hear a soft, easy moving piece that resembled a polka tune. “Yeah,” he said, “I do hear it. Very peaceful really. Reminds me of –“
The first time we got back to Threed after helping save Saturn Valley? “Hey...”
Dance with me. Without hesitation, Ness brought Paula close to him, and they swayed back and forth together in the moonlight.
“Ness? Do you think...“
Do I think what, Paula? I like it this way better, by the way Paula smiled. I don’t know. Well, do you think...do you think we could ever be together? Well, we don’t live too far away. Just across the forest, you know? Ness grinned, and almost began to laugh.
Ness, I’m serious. I lo...well, I...I don’t know. Don’t worry, Paula. Ness leaned in and gently kissed her forehead.
The music in the park faded, and the lights throughout the parke dimmed to allow the moon’s glow to magnify. Ness gave Paula a long, firm hug, and she did the same. They locked hands as they exited the park. ”I’m starting to get sleepy,” Paula said, “how about we get something to drink and head for the hotel?”
“Yeah, we can do that, I’m kind of tired too. The hotel lobby has some good decaf, how’s that sound?”
The two were greeted cheerfully by the late night staff at the Threed Sunset Hotel. The shift manager stepped out from behind his counter and hastily greeted Ness and Paula.
“Ahh!! Mister Ness! Miss Paula! How are you two this fine evening?” He asked, smiling, as he firmly shook first Ness, and then gently, Paula’s hand. “To what do I owe the pleasure of this visit?”
“Well, Mr. Heicon, we’ve finished our travels and are heading home. We’re passing through Threed and just need a few rooms,” Ness said.
“Mister Ness, always such a good young man. Two rooms! And for you tonight, this one’s on us.” Heicon called for the bellhop to get two rooms ready. “Give us about fifteen minutes and we’ll have everything set to go, ok?”
“Thanks,” Ness said, “we’ll just be over at that table.” Ness pointed to a table over by the coffee pots.
When Ness and Paula approached the table, Ness hurriedly moved behind Paula to pull the chair out for her to sit. Paula grinned as she settled into the seat after Ness slid it back under the table. Ness couldn’t help smiling to himself either. As he turned his back to Paula to pour a couple cups of coffee, He let out an ear to ear grin that, if it could be heard, would scream at the top of his lungs.
I’ve got to be the luckiest guy...er, uh, hey be quiet! She’s right there, dummy. Ness chuckled slightly as he turned back around, handed Paula her decaf blend, and sat down himself.
“What’s so funny?” Paula inquired.
“Oh, nothing. Odd, though. I thought you’d ‘heard’ what I said anyway.”
“Nope,” Paula answered, in a very matter of fact voice. “Why, were you thinking in words?”
“Well, yeah, I was. But you didn’t hear them?”
“Well,” Paula started, “communicating telepathically, from what I’ve found, is really just like talking out loud. If you’re listening to someone when they’re ‘talking’ to you, you’ll hear them. But if you’re not paying attention, you don’t hear their thoughts at all, unless they’re ‘talking’ right to you. It’s not at all different from verbal communication I guess.”
Ness shrugged his shoulders. “Guess you’ve got a point. I had never thought of that.”
Paula laughed. “I hadn’t either, till now!”
Ness laughed with Paula for a few seconds, and then they settled down and enjoyed their coffee. Ness was enchanted by Paula’s company. He watched her lips form every word that she spoke, and the life in her eyes mystified him. Ness was the hero of the world, but right now, all he cared about was the girl sitting across the table from him sipping coffee.
“Mister Ness!” Heicon proclaimed as he approached the couple, “Rooms 105 and 107 are ready! Here are the keys, but take all the time you need to settle in.”
“Hey, thanks Mr. Heicon,” Ness answered. “We’ll be done here in a few minutes and then we’ll head back. Thank you.”
Mr. Heicon’s smile was wide enough to cause any dentist or plastic surgeon to cringe in pain. My oh my! Such a wonderful young man, and beautiful young woman, so traveled and famous, and staying at MY hotel! What a pleasure! Oh!!! My head! “Pardon me, Mr. Ness. I will now retire for the evening. Duncan! Where is my advil, I have a sssssplitting headache!” Heicon raised his index finger over his head as he rapidly walked towards his assistant.
Did you? Paula asked ness.
Noooooo, did you? Ness responded, trying to hold back a smile.
“Well that’s not very nice giving people headaches ya know,” Paula said very frankly, right before failing doing her best to hold back laughter.
“Ok, you got me. I did it. What are you going to do, torch me?” Ness asked with a chuckle as he raised the last bit of decaf to his lips.
Paula looked at Ness’ coffee cup and raised an eyebrow.
“Yeeeooowww! Now that’s one scalding cup of coffee! Not bad! But now this blister on my tongue, too bad I can –“ Ness stuck out his tongue and closed his eyes, making the blister on his tongue disappear in front of Paula.
Alright mister, Paula telepathed, enough of this, let’s not make a scene. As Paula finished the thought, she winked at Ness to let him know she wasn’t too terribly upset at him for the psychokinetic exchange.
“Yeah, good point. No scene.” Ness yawned. “With that, I’m about spent. You ready?”
“Sure. I could use a little sleep.”
Ness grabbed his and Paula’s empty cups off the table, and walked them over to the trash. He walked back over to Paula, took her hand, and they walked down the hall to her room.
“Hey! Old Heicon really has a sense of humor, doesn’t he?” Paula asked. “This is the same room we, well, YOU, followed that zombie cohort into!”
“Eh, well,” Ness answered, “he probably didn’t remember. He probably didn’t even see us walk in that night. Would you like me to follow YOU in to that room?” Ness leaned onto the door, raising his eyebrow at Paula.
Paula bit her lip thoughtfully, and smirked at Ness. “Good night!” She exclaimed as she gave Ness a quick nip on the cheek, rapidly unlocking and opening the door to her room, causing Ness to almost fall in. As quick as he could recover, Paula closed the door, millimeters from his nose.
“Yeah, good night.” Ness raised his eyebrows and peeled his ears back. He walked down a few steps to his door, began to insert the keycard, and paused...
...”Ness, buddy, this place looks pretty crazy,” Lucky said, looking into the rearview mirror, finding Ness and Paula’s eyes the size of dinner plates in the back of the runaway five’s van, “You SURE you need to get off here? It’s only 5:30 and it’s dark outside! That’s just not normal!”
“Uh, yeah. I know,” Ness replied, “but...for some reason, I feel like there’s something for us to do here. Don’t ask me to explain it, but something’s not right. I think –“
“You darn right something ain’t right, man!” Gorgeous claimed. “Just look around, pal. It’s dark out. It was broad daylight half an hour ago before we hit the Two-Three tunnel. And those ghost looking things in the tunnel? Not to mention the fact that there’s NOBODY outside. Even the hotel doesn’t have any cars in the parking lot! The –“
“Gorgeous, they get it!” Lucky interrupted, “Don’t scare them more than I’m sure they already are. Ness, Paula, you need ANYTHING, just let us know, and if we can get here, we will. You guys take care. I’ve got this feeling we’ll meet again.”
“Hopefully,” Paula cited, “it’ll be in a more...brighter setting.”
Lucky chuckled. “Me too, kid.” Lucky helped Paula off the van, and Ness followed right behind her. “Alright, if you need us, holler!”
Lucky got in the van, started it back up and sped away, squealing tires and hopping a curb making a narrow right turn. “C’mon curb! Why you gotta bite my ride!” Ness and Paula could hear lucky yell over the music as the runaway five continued on their own journey.
Paula turned to the side and quickly grabbed Ness’ shoulder as she let out a small shriek, in reaction to seeing more than several undead congregating in the cemetery across the street.
Ho boy, what are we gonna do now... Some rescue. He keeps me away from a cult, but takes me to a town full of zombies?! Ness quickly turned around at the sound of footsteps. Three suburban zombies were sauntering towards him from the hotel. Just barely in his view behind them was a very much human looking woman, and a very much beautiful woman at that.
“Paula, I know there’s zombies all around us, but I bet we can find something out if we can make it to the hotel.”
“Well, anything to get us away from these zombies,” Paula said timidly. “Why the hotel?”
“I saw for just a second a woman walk in there. She definitely wasn’t a zombie. There she is, can you see her?” Ness asked, as the zombies continued to draw closer.
Paula peaked over towards the hotel, and shuddered upon seeing the woman. “Ness,” Paula said, “I have a gut wrenching feeling about this one, but we have to do it. I don’t know what’s going to happen.”
“Well, that makes two of us...”
The chosen one and his companion traveled up the hill towards the hotel, only three zombies standing between them and their goal. Paula kept each one at bay with her freeze attacks, while Ness bashed each one into the dust of the earth. Upon the last zombie disappearing, the woman standing outside the hotel walked inside.
“C’mon Paula, we have to hurry, we don’t want to lose her,” Ness said as he and Paula picked up the pace. With several zombies at their back, they hurried into the hotel. The zombies didn’t follow. Ness saw the blonde hair of the woman whip around a corner into a hallway, and quickly followed. As the two turned the same corner, a door at the end of the hall slammed shut.
Paula approached the door first, Ness at the ready immediately behind her. “You ready?” Paula asked.
“Not really,” Ness chuckled nervously, “but it has to be done. I can feel it.”
Paula gently pushed on the door handle and swung it open. A flash of light engulfed the room, and both Ness and Paula we pulled in.
Ness awoke first, groggily, in a dimly lit dungeon, with only a wrought iron door as their escape. Ness pulled at the handle, and as he had assumed, it was locked.
Paula awoke as Ness walked back. Ness began to open his mouth to speak, but Paula held her index finger up, as if to silence him. Paula closed her eyes and called into the darkness.
Jeff...you are a friend which we’ve never met...
...”Mr. Ness?” Duncan asked.
“Ah, oh, uh, sorry,” Ness replied. “What can I do for you, Duncan?”
“Oh, nothing sir. You were standing there for a few seconds just looking down at the door handle, I just wanted to make sure you were alright.”
“Yeah, I’m fine. Thanks, though.”
“Certainly, sir. Goodnight.”
As Duncan walked away, Ness simply smiled a half smile, inserted the keycard, and walked into his room. He breathed a sigh of relief upon entering, and fell into his bed.
Sweet dreams, Paula. Goodnight, my lo...friend.