Into The Paloridian
Deeper she sank into the darkness, the air in her lungs near spent. She struggled to reach the surface to no avail, the ballast was too heavy. Plunging down, Aeris tried again at the locks fastened to her ankles. No good.
Her lungs were screaming in agony, the urge to breathe in was unbearable. As the world began to fade into a blackness to match the depths Aeris wondered silently to herself. "How did it come to this? Why did it happen like this? It's all been such a blur."
The world went black… and Aeris woke up.
She shot up in her bed, drenched in sweat and breathing hard. Disgusted, she threw her sheets off and got out of bed. Unsteadily, she made her way to her bathroom and looked at herself in the mirror. She was visibly pale, even through her fur, and was shaking noticeably.
Aeris clutched at the sides of the sink to steady herself until she had regained enough control to stop the involuntary convulsions. She looked back up at the mirror. She could still feel her pulse pounding in her head, but she looked normal at least.
Aeris looked back at the bed and shuddered. She dreaded the thought of sleep, should the nightmare return. Her pajamas clung to her skin, damp with the sweat. Though now in control, Aeris still felt incredibly tense and a little sick. Taking of her clothing, she turned on the shower. She set the tap as hot as she could handle and stepped in.
The water poured in rivulets from the shower head. It struck her fur and sank down in to the skin. She felt muscles tense and relax wherever the water went. Turning, she attempted to make it go wherever she could. She felt as tense as whipcord all over her body.
After about half an hour, Aeris felt herself returning to normal, at least physically. Stepping out of the bathroom, she felt the cold late autumn air brush her skin through her fur. Still slightly damp even after drying herself, she became conscious of her attire or lack to her dresser, she selected a fresh pair of PJ's and sat down in one of the chairs in her room.
Abandoning all hope of any more sleep that night Aeris stood, walked over to the television, and turned it on. She grabbed her Xbox controller and repositioned the most comfortable chair in the room in front of the TV so that she could play without being distracted by any kind of discomfort. She chose to play something that she could use to envelop herself in completely to block out the world and the nights troubles.
As the menu theme for Skyrim played she navigated to her last saved game. She played as a Khajiit, of course. Playing as her own species was something of a treat. She'd made the character look as much like herself as possible, though this was made difficult by the lack of pink fur options the game presented. In the end she'd settled for what she imagined she would look like as a grey tiger version of herself.
She'd chosen grey at Leo's behest. Of course Leo had strolled in while she sat pondering her character design. Leo always appeared from somewhere to interrupt her, no matter what she was doing. Sometimes she didn't mind and that day had been a good example. She'd humored him and he'd left her alone after that, at least for a little. Of course she couldn't leave him alone for too long. Left to his own devices, Leo was a living natural disaster. If he wasn't breaking something, injuring himself, or otherwise causing mayhem and chaos, he was causing Aeris some other form of distress. Fiscally, he was a nightmare. He spent money that wasn't his on things he didn't need, as often as not on things that Aeris would have to dispose of immediately, leading to a huge amount of effort on her part. How had Leo gotten his hands on weapons grade plutonium anyway?
For someone as mentally disadvantaged as Leo, it was a wonder how often he managed to do the impossible. And boy was he durable, no matter what kind of injury he sustained, no matter how many viscous beatings Aeris administered, Leo always bounced back. It was like he was genetically engineered to be indestructible, at the cost of any semblance of normal brain activity.
Aeris had no idea why or how she tolerated his idiocy… why did she tolerate his idiocy, anyway? What motivation could she possibly have to endure his constant knuckle-headedness? There had to be a reason. Aeris pondered this question distractedly, losing focus on the task at hand more and more.
Her thoughts were cut short by the game. As Aeris emerged from a cave, she was promptly flattened by a Giant, which had been dropped from the sky by a passing dragon.
Aeris stood, her eyes widened and her fists clenched in impotent fury.
"What are the odds? In an entire game, in a massive world, what are the odds of a giant falling from the sky crushing me just as I conveniently exit a random cave in the middle of fucking nowhere? God Damn Radiant A.I.!"
Her rage was abated somewhat when she suddenly remembered that the game had auto-saved before she'd left the cave. The screen reloaded and she once again emerged from the cave, wary this time, of airborne mammoth shepherds.
And so it went for the rest of the night as she whiled away the hours. Only when the first tentative rays of sunlight emerging from the city skyline struck her eyes through the window did Aeris notice that the morning had come. The dream more or less forgotten Aeris saved her game and stood up from her chair, stretching muscles stiffened by long hours spent stationary.
Her mind now unclouded by any immediate thought, Aeris noticed that she was hungry, famished in fact. That fact having been duly noted, Aeris made her way to the kitchen to prepare herself some breakfast. If Leo were to find Aeris on an empty stomach and he acted anything like he normally did, Leo would find himself in a very uncomfortable position.
Aeris made her way to the kitchen and as she started breakfast she felt herself relax as the pleasant smells wafted up from the oven.
Perhaps today would be a nice day after all, she thought absentmindedly.
Leo slept peacefully in his bed, ignorant of Aeris's suffering. During the night he'd begun muttering to himself absently in his sleep. Had Aeris been in the room at the time, she would have undoubtedly overturned the bed and its contents and hung Leo out the window by his feet until morning. Fortunately for Leo, Aeris was busy battling her own demons, which meant that he did not have to haplessly endure his personal pink demon.
Leo's sleep went uninterrupted the entire night save once, when he shot up into a sitting position, having thought that he'd heard Aeris saying something. His eyes still shut, he decided it had been his imagination and fell back onto his pillows and back into sleep.
It was roughly 7:15 and the smells of breakfast found their way into Leo's room. As Leo caught wind of the scents wafting freely about his room Leo's body began to move involuntarily from bed in an awkward attempt to reach breakfast. The end result was that Leo face planted on his blue carpeted floor.
"Ouch", proclaimed Leo's muffled voice from the carpet.
Wondering aloud, Leo asked himself, "Why is my face in the floor?"
As the rest of Leo toppled from bed with a sound Oomph from Leo, he began to consciously notice the smells. Picking himself up from off the ground Leo yawned and smacked his lips a few times while scratching his backside. He must investigate the source of these newfound smells, he decided to himself. As the James bond theme played in his head, Leo emerged from his room and snuck quietly down the hall.
Aha! There lay his victim, preparing breakfast, ignorant as she was to her impending doom. Leo chuckled evilly in his mind. She'd never see it coming. He imagined her terrified reaction.
Oh boy, this was going be such fun!
Careful not to make a sound, Leo crept up slowly behind Aeris, raising his arms dramatically, the horn section blared, taking in a deep breath, Leo prepared to shout and… CLANG!
The hot skillet resonated as it made contact with Leo's face. Aeris shrieked in surprise and dropped the skillet which landed, of course, on Leo's foot. Slipping on the grease from the pan Leo fell to the floor as he jumped up and down in an attempt to clutch at both his face and his foot simultaneously.
Aeris snatched up the skillet and stepped out of the kitchen and onto the living room carpet to avoid falling herself.
As Leo rose he grasped the oven to support himself. What he failed to notice was that his hand was directly were the skillet had been a moment ago, on a still heated stove head. Looking down at his hand Leo wondered why it was beginning to feel strange, as it began to hiss the thought clarified in Leo's mind and he snatched his hand away. As he recoiled from the stove he once again slipped in the grease and face planted, this time in front of Aeris. Who, as it turned out, was not very happy about having been snuck up on and then made to drop a hot, albeit empty, skillet.
"Hi Aeris", Leo exclaimed cheerfully.
"Leo-", Aeris sighed as she crouched down closer to his head, "-why were you behind me just now?"
"Oh, no reason." Leo smiled innocently. "I was just going to say hello is all."
Aeris adjusted her stance and rolled her eyes.
"Is that so?"
"Yep", Leo nodded enthusiastically from the floor.
"Mmm hmm", Aeris stood and dropped the skillet on Leo's head absently.
The pan hit Leo's head with a resounding clunk.
"Well, you're lucky that there was nothing in that pan or you would have been in serious trouble. Now go clean yourself up." Aeris helped lift Leo off the ground and pushed him towards the bathroom. "Breakfast will be waiting when you come back."
"Yes mommy." Leo laughed at his little joke.
He found himself being propelled rapidly forward as Aeris's foot made contact with his rear. He reeled his way toward the bathroom with a thump as he ran into the door.
Aeris sighed to herself, now to clean the mess Leo had made. Luckily, she had already placed the food on the table. When she was finished in the kitchen, Aeris set herself down at the table and ate the breakfast she'd made. It was the generic eggs, bacon, and waffles.
Aeris had no idea why she had a waffle iron. It was just another random thing they'd found when they unpacked after Leo and Aeris had moved into their Toronto apartment together.
They'd moved in when Leo had been evicted from his old apartment or something, and Aeris suggested they split the rent on a higher end apartment for the sake of convenience. Regardless, she enjoyed waffles and it served its purpose. She enjoyed her breakfast too, despite Leo's little mishap.
Aeris finished and left the table happily. Leo could do the dishes. She walked into the living room just a Leo left the bathroom, grinning. His hand bandaged and the grease washed out of his grey fur, he was more or less the picture of health.
"Breakfast!" he shouted, speeding his way to the table.
Sitting down, Leo inhaled his food, concerned less with the flavor and more with filling his stomach. When he was finished, Leo belched loudly in deep satisfaction. Standing, he thanked Aeris and headed for the door until he found himself stopped, suddenly, by Aeris.
"Hold it right there, Leo-", Aeris said menacingly. She turned Leo back towards the table and pointed at the clutter that marred its surface, "-you're not going anywhere until you've done the dishes. I already cleaned up one mess for you and I'm not doing it twice."
Good humored as always and eager to avoid more pans to his face, Leo responded, "Right, of course." and set himself to the dishes.
For the next few minutes Aeris occupied herself in the living room with Some Battlefield Bad Company Two, she was feeling nostalgic.
When Leo stuck his head out of the kitchen and announced that he was leaving Aeris blinked. "Leo didn't break anything? Hmm, he must be on good behavior. A smart move, considering. "
Aeris paused her game, "See you after work then", and began to prepare to leave herself.
Neither of them was formally employed, as such. They just went looking for odd jobs around the city, mercenary work a lot of the time. They'd been to some really strange places inside and outside of their time period. To that effect they had acquired a time travelling car which Aeris had "borrowed" from Pantsman, who had taken it from "Doctor Van Kruglor". Where Krug got a time travelling car, she had no idea. But the car had led to a large part of Aeris and Leo's now considerable income. Leo always found the strangest people to do business with, though, which was one of the reasons that they always seemed to be stuck working in these trans-dimensional planes of insanity.
Of course, they were sometimes given missions that bordered on normality. They'd broken into a mall one time, decked out in full stealth gear. Aeris had no idea why they'd needed it. They'd been in stranger and more dangerous places with less gear than that. Leo had even tried street dancing one time. It… hadn't worked out.
Even more rarely they got jobs that were entirely normal, though those didn't usually last long. It was only a matter of time before Leo broke something, or a number of somethings, in some kind of massive disaster. Like now for example, Leo was currently employed at PAPER CLIPS. Sooner or later though, he'd somehow level the building or something.
Aeris was usually fired for mouthing off, generally in a very public fashion. She'd been fired from several news stations and commercial contracts. Actually, Aeris had been working on an allegory peace up until recently for a Mr. Potatamoto and Kutarchini. But she'd been fired… again, which was why she wasn't in too much of a hurry to get ready now. Today she would be out job hunting.
After changing out of her pajamas Aeris changed into normal cloths. In this case, a pair of deep purple pants, a pink business jacket, and a light purple T-shirt underneath. Over all that she wore a second jacket. It was a thicker red-purple one with pink trim on the zipper, collar, and sleeve ends.
Putting the jacket on and relishing its warmth brought back a memory of which Aeris was quite fond.
It had been just a few days before Christmas and Aeris had worn that same jacket the night she and Leo had decided to stop at one of the game stores on their way home from having had coffee together. Leo had suggested that they go inside.
He'd wanted to play some guitar game that Aeris didn't care about. Those types of games were too one dimensional for her.
Instead she'd wandered into the RPG section and had noticed something that astounded her, "Dungeon Guy 3: Fullfillith Thine Fight". She took it off the shelf for a better look. It was the most amazing looking game Aeris had ever knew she had to have it, but… it had been a lean year. Aeris took out her wallet and found it empty.
She and Leo hadn't been given a job for months and with the economy as it was there weren't many regular jobs available either. Their cash was running low. It had gotten to the point where Aeris had to keep almost all the money securely in the bank, since they couldn't afford for Leo to anything stupid anymore. Aeris had been forced to limit their spending money on anything other than food and bills.
She put the game back on the shelf. Dejected, Aeris turned around and took one last longing look at a game she knew she couldn't even hope to have.
Early Christmas morning after a long night of job hunting, Aeris walked into the apartment with her jacket draped over her shoulder to find Leo collapsed on the couch in the living room with the television Leo was snoring on the couch wasn't that unusual, but he had been largely absent for several days and he looked more tired than Aeris had ever seen him, exhausted in fact.
But… Leo was never exhausted. In all the time Aeris had known Leo, she had never seen him too tired to make some inane comment or do something stupid. She'd walked into her room suspicious of what he'd been up to. It wasn't until Aeris flipped on the light switch that she noticed it, a present, wrapped in red paper and green ribbon on a shelf by her bedside.
Aeris picked up her gift and looked at it for a moment, smiling to herself. Leo did have his moments, and she thought of how nice it had been of him to get her a gift. But Aeris didn't waste much time on these thoughts as curiosity overcame her and she tore the wrapping to shreds.
She'd hadn't really known what to expect, knowing Leo it could still have been some poorly construed joke, or a well intentioned gift that would be completely useless, she really had no idea. What she had definitely not been expecting was what she saw resting in her paws. "Dungeon Guy 2: Son of Dungeon Guy". She stared at it for a moment, dumbstruck. Then she smiled, closed her eyes, and held Leo's beautiful present up to her chest.
"That stupid, stupid little idiot", she thought to herself. Tears welled up behind closed eyes. "Of course he would. Of course he would get the wrong one."
It was the best, most wonderful present she'd ever gotten.
How had he gotten it? Aeris knew for certain that Leo was entirely incapable of saving up money on his own. He must have made it in the last few days. That made sense! He'd been gone all those times, staggering into the house late at night, vanishing in the early hours of the morning. Aeris had assumed he'd been fooling around with Pantsman or Krug, crashing Christmas parties or something.
But why had he been working for so many days? Sure, the game was expensive, but it shouldn't have taken days. Knowing Leo, he'd probably chosen the least paying most unpleasant tasks available, or just lost the money several times. But he'd done it.
"Why on earth would he do this?" she asked herself. He'd looked entirely run down. "Why go through all this trouble? It was just a game after all. Why would it be so important?"
This question rapidly fled her thoughts when Aeris realized a very crucial fact.
"I didn't get Leo a gift!"
The thought ran through her head like a runaway train. With everything else going on, the bills, trying to get a job, making rent, thinking about the game she'd wanted, she'd completely forgotten to get Leo a gift.
Aeris clutched the game to her stomach now as she doubled over, mewling unhappily. She felt retched, until a wonderful idea came to her. She smiled to herself. It would be perfect, just the thing to show Leo that she appreciated him too.
It was one of her favorite memories and it gave her the warm fuzzies every time she thought of it. Sometimes, Leo could be the most wonderful person.
Aeris frowned, it never lasted long though, Leo always figured out a way to mess things up eventually.
Still, when he did do something right… she smiled again.
Aeris shook herself. None of that mattered now. Stepping out of their apartment complex, Aeris took in a deep full breath of the brisk November air and exhaled loudly.
Maybe today was going to be a good day. Yes, maybe.
It had been a horrible day.
Aeris staggered through the doorway, struggling with the locks as she shut the door. She walked into her room and collapsed halfway onto the bed. She fell asleep almost instantly.
It was 11:00 at night. Aeris had been all over the city. She'd applied for every job she could find or think of and, though she argued her case well, they'd all been a resounding no. There wasn't a single place she was willing to work that would hire her. Her formal education was limited to media arts and writing, she was actually relatively skilled at both, but her reputation preceded her wherever she went. She'd stuck to it though, and hadn't given up until about 10:30. She'd trudged home in the snow, exhausted, frustrated, and trying to think of what she could do next.
She'd tried working in stores before, she couldn't handle it. There was only so much idiocy Aeris could handle and Leo filled that limit completely, and then some. They had plenty of money saved and Leo was still working, but Aeris was wary of dipping too heavily into the savings. They'd tried that before and it hadn't exactly worked out. She was even more wary of depending on Leo as a source of income. Ugh, what to do?
By the time she got home she still didn't have any ideas. By the time she got to the door she was too tired to care. Only one thought occupied her mind and that was sleep. Leo hadn't been in the living room, not that she would have had the energy to notice if he had been.
There were no nightmares tonight, just blackness.
A/N: And so it begins. Bear with me, the exciting parts have yet to come, but they will. I hope you still enjoyed this, however, slow though it may be. If you feel inclined to leave a review, I would encourage you to do so. I appreciate both brutal criticism (to improve what needs it) and compliments (to keep what is good and to do it again).
With that in mind... Onward To The Next Chapter! CHARGE!