Hey, I've had to reupload this as, unbenounced to me, I've been using some copyrighted OCs so far. I'm reuploading the whole story with different names, and the characters had different mentalities and backstory to begin with, so that's the only thing I'm changing.

MAJOR fail from my part, but thankfully, the original creator was kind enough not to press on the subject.

God she hated Mondays.

Actually, to say that she hated them would be an understatement. The truth was that she felt like the proper way to start a Monday would be by mass murder in the children section of the local mall; she believed that the screams of the young, innocent kids would make a fitting soundtrack for the mood she found herself in at the start of the week.

However, this Monday in particular was even worse than the average one. Going through an exam period in her college, she was forced to spend the weekend studying for the final exam of the semester. And although she found some peace in the fact that she could finally rest, it did little to keep her from thinking of all the time she didn't have for herself this past weekend. Getting together with some friends who were living nearby, eating out, a movie perhaps… and a modest amount of gaming, of course. She was not the type to spend all day studying for her classes, however she did pay more attention to them than most of her classmates or her friends did. That is why she decided to work on acing her exams.

And it seemed like such a good idea, she thought to herself. Whatever the case, the exams were over, and the long awaited and... well, long period of slacking off could finally begin. She knew somebody else who would be equally excited and much, much more demonstrative in his excitement, that she was finally free of her obligations. And she would share in his happiness gladly, after a good, long nap she would refer to as "post-exam shut down"

The girl was of course none other than Aeris Cole, a certain cat with a certain special fur color and a certain tempestuous temperament. The color referred to was a light pink, one that covered her whole body save for her belly, chest area, neck and lower chin, who were instead a snowy white. She had ocean blue eyes that brought sapphires to mind and her hair was long enough to reach her shoulder blades, with some random hair falling on her face. She had that hairstyle for a couple of years now, and she felt it suit her just fine. Her body was slim and it's movements had the grace of an adult cat. Or at least most of the time; she was currently stomping instead of "gracefully walking" down the street. She liked the way she looked, in general, and was confident in that field. She wore a pink shirt with a purple jacket and violet jeans, all enhancing the pink atmosphere of her figure. She had almost exclusively pink and purple clothes, although she did have some Goth-like clothing in her closet, in case she ever yearned for a change in her outfit.

At the moment, Aeris was walking down the streets of TorontoCanada, heading for the apartment she shared with her childhood friend, who was also a college student, although in a different field than her own. Her murderous mood was still raging, although in more of a tired, "I just want to close my eyes and end this fucking day" kind of murderous. Still pretty dangerous; the word "tempestuous" was also an understatement. She made her way through the crowd of people that were probably going out for a cup of coffee or returning to their homes after a tiring day at work. She could relate perfectly.

She crossed the street a couple of times and finally headed for the corner past which her apartment was. Just then, she ran into a strange figure which was going on the opposite direction in full speed. She left a small exclamation on the impact, and almost immediately started cursing the figure in her mind. Before she could verbalize the cursing, though, she recognized the figure that caused her to fall down; it was a strange looking man with a dirty jacket and ripped pants, who gave off an intense smell of alcohol. He wore his trademark paper bag on his head.

"Oh hell no!" She shouted upon seeing him, and immediately got on her feet, fully intent on causing the man enough fear to keep him from showing up in the neighborhood ever again. For he was none other than Dr. Hobo, as her roommate would call him; and it took no genius to understand that he wasn't a PhD holder. Dr. Hobo had tricked her friend into many stupid situations, taking advantage of his naïveté. Perhaps the world "tricked" wasn't appropriate though, as it seemed like the homeless man fully believed everything he had said over the years; his own mental state was questionable. Aeris had come to believe that her roommate had become aware of Hobo's insanity, but that didn't stop the dumbass from hanging out with him every once in a while. He claimed that he "appreciated his vast imagination", and she would probably be willing to cope with that, as long as he no longer took the man's words seriously enough to, let's say, buy a box of rocks for a good amount of money. Her's, no less. He was young back then, but that incident was purely caused by lack of thought. Sounds like quite the guy, right? Well, we'll meet him soon enough.

"Hey, pink kitty!", said Dr. Hobo with a cheerful tone as he rose on his feet. "Wanna come with me to that spaceship I found? Your friend said he couldn't come because you wouldn't let him, but that won't be a problem if you tag along! It's dangerous to go alone…" he added in a whisper, eyes widened with awe. Aeris wasn't sure if her friend had done the smart thing and kept his distance from Hobo or if he really figured he'd get in trouble with her if he didn't, but she decided to give him the benefit of the doubt. "No, I don't think I'm coming. Rather, I think you're leaving... What do you say?" she said in a threatening tone.

"BY ZOD! You're one of them, ain't cha?" came the reply from the man, a terrified look on his face. She took in a sigh, realizing her fatigue wouldn't allow her to deal with him at the moment. She was about to try scaring him away again, but then an unexpected help showed up in the form of another friend of hers.

"Quickly, Hobo!" said the newcomer with a tone of urgency, " The spaceship is taking off! If you hurry, you might catch them". The homeless man's eyes shot wide open and he ran off shouting "Wait for me, high lords!" Aeris watched him run with a blank expression on her face. "I thought he was afraid of them…?"

"Sure, try to make sense out of him. That ought to go well for ya" said her friend with a merry tone. "Thanks, Scott. I really needed help with this one" she told him, a worn out smile on her face. "What are you doing here? Paying flea-brain a visit?" "Well, I was aiming for the both of you, actually. It's a good thing I found you first, because Krug is getting busy right now and I don't have much time in my hands. Tell Leo that I have the script for the next comic ready and I need you two on the set this Wednesday. And please don't call me Scott…" "Fine, sorry, mighty Pantsman" she said in a sarcastic tone. "Anyhow, it's a good thing you finally got the script done, it's been months. What's it about this time?" " Not now, I really got to go. We'll talk, ok?" "'Kay. Thanks again!"

Scott Ransoomair, or Pantsman as he liked to be called when he had his superhero costume on, waved at her and ran off in the direction Dr. Hobo had run to. He was the writer of an internet comic that had herself and Leo, her friend we mentioned above, as the main characters. Pantsman seemed to have an overabundance of funds at his disposal, as he paid them for their work in the comic whether there was a weekly filming or not. That income is what allowed for their somewhat comfortable lifestyle, along with the other occasional jobs she and Leo would find from time to time to help pay the rent, and it had led to a close friendship between the three of them. Not that Aeris wasn't annoyed by Pantsman committing to pulling pranks on the actual superheroes of the world on a regular basis, and Leo helping him pull them, also on a regular basis. They both claimed it to be a game played between superheroes, although again, Leo was most likely in it for being able to say that he once filled the batcave with toilet paper; even if it meant serving Pantsman as his sidekick.

She left out a small chuckle as she went up the stairs to her apartment door. In the end of the day, Leo was the one who always got out of situations such as being chased around by batman with underwear over his head in one piece and with a satisfied smile on his face. His complete lack of shame, which was dominant over him whenever a pretty cat of the female variety or a fail in the gaming department weren't involved, helped him enjoy the most out of each and every situation. Especially during their teenage years, just before his interest in the opposite sex grew, he would exhibit his insanity on a daily basis, and Aeris would discipline him in anger and embarassment. Aeris put the key in the keyhole and opened the door, lusting for the blessing of her bed... and perhaps a sandwich. Surely Leo wouldn't mind making her one if he saw how tired she was.

And there he was, in all his glory: Leo Leonardo the Third. He was sitting on the couch Indian style, headphones on, playing some classic fps with some other players he found online. Fps games where his forte, so whenever he played one he would always find some unconventional way of going about it to keep the excitement up; even if it meant a loss for his team. That didn't seem to be the case this time though, as the wide smile on his face implied; or he simply didn't care enough. That tended to happen. He was speaking with his teammates in an enthusiastic manner and mashing buttons on the controller of his Xbox. Apparently, this time he was only operating airplanes and was trying to kill his enemies by slicing them up with the wings. He was having a hell of a time.

Leo's appearance was actually rather common for a male cat. His fur pattern was similar to Aeris', with gray dominating over his whole body save for his stomach, chest, neck and lower half of the face, which were white. He was a bit taller than his pink friend, just a few inches, which made him normal in terms of height for a male his age. His eyes were an emerald-like green and were probably the most expressive pair of eyes Aeris had ever seen. Disappointment, excitement and joy were always crystal clear on them, which made him easily acceptable by new acquaintances. Granted, most would run away once they got to know him a little better, but those who did bear with his insanity eventually came to love it. His clothing choices were also standard and simple, blue being his main theme. At the moment, to Aeris' surprise, he was not in his pajamas as she would expect of him after the nigh he had had, but instead he was wearing a blue hoodie and a lighter blue pair of pants, and no socks. The previous night he had gone out with Krug, another friend of theirs, to leave Aeris with some peace to study for her exam, and he didn't return until after 4 p.m. It made sense to her that he would be asleep until noon and then occupy himself with some gaming, since his vacations had already started since Friday; him wearing his regular clothes proved otherwise, though. His looks were completed by his trademark blue bell that hung from his neck. Most cats would avoid such accessories after their 6th year of age, but Leo thought it fit him well. It was another thing that set him apart from what you'd call "common".

Aeris walked in the apartment and took her shoes off, then her socks and finally her jacket, trying to get comfortable. Then she took a cold Pepsi from the kitchen and after taking a sip, she moved towards Leo to make her presence known.

Leo, in the meantime, was speaking with Jet, as was his online nickname, a skilled player he had found online, who was trying his hardest to pretend to be mad at his teammate. "Goddamit man, get the hell off the fucking plane! They're pounding us!"

"Dare they do so?!" Leo exclamated, making a deep and formal voice. "Fear not, sir Jet, they shall be sweeped like the trash that they are! Behold my sexiness." And after that little speech he proceeded to knock two snipers off their tower with an accurate wing strike. "Holly shit, he did it" came the obvious statement from another teammate, him not trying to hide his amusement in the least. "You may refer to me as The Sweeper, commoner" Leo replied with a smug on his face. "Whatever, mr Sweepster," said Jet, "This might have given a chance for a breakthrough. Spread across the airport." "…ugh…" "…What is it, Leo?" " It's Sweeper. It's even a thing, you know…" "Not a native speaker, get off my back" "Okay okay… oh, Aeris!"

He had just noticed his roommate after she sat next to him. "Heya, Sweeper", she said to him with a tired smile. "Thank you! Proper English, finally…" "Shut up!" came the sound from his headphones.

Leo laughed and wished them good luck with all the good intend of a shameless leaver before leaving the game and closing the Xbox; he didn't take his headphones off though. His team's reaction was priceless. They would forgive him by summer break, he was sure. Aeris made a theatrical face of disappointment. "A leaver too, Leo? Is there no low you won't reach?" she teased him. "You're the reason I did it in the first place, so you should at least cut me some slack, no? Heh, anyhow… give me the good news?"

"Pass, surely. And a good grade, I assume. Remember what that is, don't you?" It was a tease with a backstory; she had always been a top notch student since their school years, her mother being a teacher, and rather strict with her regarding her studies. Leo was… a different case. "Heheheh, you're the devil!" he said in exaggerated happiness without losing his wide smile. "Heh, sorry. Not in the best mood right now, you see" "…Still waiting for the good news." She made a face of question; his eyes were sparkling with enthusiasm ever since he noticed her presence. "Exams are over now! For both of us! What else would it be, Aeris?" She rolled her eyes, but not without giving him a smile. Quite demonstrative indeed.

"Listen Leo, about that mass effect marathon, I don't think I'm up for it today…" "Well, me neither. Duh. We got other plans now", he said without concerning himself with the puzzled look his friend gave him. "Oh? Such as?" "Mia called today. She's bringing together the whole gang from high school at her workplace, at nine. Max is back in town for a few days, so it's a good idea, right?" He smiled as he got up and headed for the kitchen. "What, today?" Aeris asked, worry in her voice. "Yeah, why?" came his response. "Leo, I'm SO not in the mood for get-togethers now… I just wanna turn in early today." "Oh, come on! Everyone will be there, you can't be the only one missing! Where's that crazy party animal I knew?" "Party animal, huh?" she said with one eyebrow lifted. "Hm, I see your point. Still, it's not like you can't rest later!" he was now standing in front of her, blocking her view from the TV screen before she could start a game as she planned to. "C'mon Aeris…"

"Forget it Leo. I'm sure everyone will understand. Now move." He obliged, but instead sat next to her and brought his mouth close to her ear. "Aeris…" he said in a weird voice. "What?" her bad mood, which she had forgotten through dealing with Hobo and chatting with Leo, was slowly resurfacing. "Aeris…" "What?" "…Aeriiiiish…" "WHAT?!" "Pwease?" she had finally turned to face him, only to see a perfectly formed kitty face and a pair of mischievous looking eyes facing her.

She preserved her annoyed look for about two more seconds before giggling it away.

"Fuck you. No, not again… Leo, I'm serious!" "So am I! I know that look Aeris, the second you step out of the door your mood will pick up. You know it, I know it, so why would you have me do the kitty face to convince you?" "Because I don't feel like going out tonight! And you didn't convince me. Period." He gave her a vacant look, as if disappointed in her. "Period? Really, Aeris? Do you not know me?"

She cursed herself, realizing he was right. Still, he didn't actually make the joke, so she could give him that. He wasn't done with her though; he frowned a little bit and used a voice he thought would fit a villain playing his trump card. "Well, you leave me no choice, I'm afraid…" "What's that supposed to mean?" she asked wearily. "You see, if you don't go, I just might decide to stay aswell…" "What? Leo, I don't…" "And if I do happen to stay here with you… would you say the night would be…relaxing?" He tried to make his smile a little sadistic, but it didn't quite work on his face. "I think you'd know better than to get on my bad side on a day like this, Leo" she responded in kind, a much more successful smile on her face. Leo took a look of deep thought and rubbed his chin. "Hm, I did not expect that… yes, indeed, that tactic has stopped me numerous times in the past, right? Oh, wait…"

Aeris' smile died off as she admitted defeat. The corners of her mouth still slightly alift in the shadow of a smile, she averted her eyes from her friend. "You can be a real pain in the ass, you know that?" "Quite well, thank you" He looked as satisfied as they get. "So, I take it you're coming?" "I am, flea-brain… but you're making breakfast tomorrow. And you better have it ready before I'm awake, got it?" she added aggressively, seeing his cocky expression. "Yesh, mistress." He responded, faking a hunchback.

She finally let out a laugh and started her game while he went in the bathroom to take a shower. They still had three hours before nine, so she figured she'd calm her nerves a little bit before going out. She was a fool to think she could keep her foul mood with Leo in the house, especially around those days. He too took some time to study for his exams the past month, and with a little help from Krug, who was an expert in electronics, he got passing grades with relative ease. He was in the programming department of his college, following his dream of working as a game designer. The topic of his lessons appealed to him, so he occasionally took some time to attend the classes so as not to be left completely out, and that allowed him to at least pass his most important subjects. Still, he didn't like studying one bit, so he had been in a ridiculously good mood since Friday, when he had given his last exam. And when Leo was in a good mood, you just had to be in one too.

She bursted out laughing when she heard him singing an opera-like tone from the shower, forcing her to pause her game. Leo came out of the bathroom with a tower wrapped around his waist. "No appreciation for talent around here…" he said with a diva expression as he made his way to his room. "You should try Skrillex too, you might have better luck!" she shouted at him through her laughs. "Meanie!"

He came out a few minutes later, with an outfit identical to the one he had on before, only cleaner. "Wanna switch to multiplayer?" "After this fight. So, when you say "the gang"?" "Well there's Max, Neil, Sarah and Mia. And of course, the stars of the show!" "Good. I think it's good to stay in touch with the more normal friends we have." "Normal is a way to put it, I guess…" he replied with skepticism"Well they're not demons or superheroes, are they? Seriously, name a single friend of ours outside college that's normal!" Leo paused for a moment, then gave her a weary smile. "Well… there's Trenaldo…" "...Aeris one, Leo nothing." she concluded as she threw her back on the couch, resting her case. "At least you didn't name Hobo… Yes, I saw him on my way here." She added seeing the look he gave her. "Would you mind not letting him in the house, at least?" "Don't get mad over the small stuff, Aeris", he answered. "He just came here because he thought I'd be interested to see the spaceship. And honestly, I would have gone with him had Mia not called." "Seriously, Leo?" she looked at him with disbelief. "I'm not saying it'd really be one… but who knows what gave him the impression? Sounds interesting!" "Sounds lame… He probably saw a plane or something." "Life's just so exciting from your point of view…" "Shut up!"

A regular chit-chat between the two of them. Leo enjoyed hammering her with his ideas and views on many things and absolutely loved arguing with her about them; it would either aggravate her or amuse her, and he liked doing both. At some point Aeris mentioned her meeting with Pantsman, which, as usual, got Leo excited. He seemed to enjoy the shootings, even the ones when he wasn't part of the scene. Aeris did so too, and she usually went off script in an attempt to improvise; Pantsman kept some of the changes she would make, which made her feel rather proud of herself. "Did he mention what we'd be shooting?" "No, he was busy, he said Krug was up to no good again." "Ooooh…" The exclamation from Leo's part was very suspicious. Aeris threw both her ears to one side and looked at him in question. "Do you know something about that, flea-brain?" "Just that it involves a rather complex machine, if it's what I think it is. Krug showed me yesterday." "Where were you two anyways?" "Just hanging out at his place. He showed me some pictures from his home." "His home? You mean…" "Yeap. You know, we're no saints… we might need to take advantage of our friendship with him at some point…" "Hahah! What, did he promise you special care in the afterlife?" "I'm just keeping my options open… Provided I get to keep my soul, of course." She focused her eyes back on the screen.

After a short pause, she spoke again. "Are you worried you might go to Hell, Leo?" "Actually, I'm worried I might not go!" "She threw her ears at the side of her head again. "Huh?" "Well, Aeris, we've been together for a long time... I'd feel bad leaving you alone down there" Before he had completed the sentence, his right ear got hit by a well-aimed smack that caused it to fold outwards and Leo to lose the goofy smile he had put on. Aeris had found this way of physical assault to be very efficient, as Leo hated that feel but it didn't hurt him, while she thought he looked very funny with his ear like that. It became even funnier by his attempts to unfold it without the use of his hands. "Was that really necessary?" He asked in a hurt tone he had perfected over the years. "It would be much worse, but… that was pretty witty. Good job!" "Oh, thanks!" "You're welcome." she responded as she got off the couch and closed the console and the tv. "Come on, it's time to get going." Leo had a look of deep thought and surprise on his face as he walked to get the keys to the apartment. "Did you just… get me to thank you for smacking me?" "Kinda, yeah", she replied with a smirk. "… I gotta step up my game" She laughed as she followed him out in the corridor and closed the door behind her.

. . .

Three felines were sitting in a booth in a bar not far from Leo and Aeris' apartment; two females on one side of it and a male on the other. The one female was a beautiful raccoon with a long tail and yellow eyes and the other one was a short cat with an ashen fur, much like Leo's, only a shade darker, and dark blue eyes. The male was a tall cat with similar fur color as the one the short cat had, them being siblings, and black stripes spreading over his body in a tiger-like fashion. The raccoon was Mia, who was working at the bar they were in at the moment, and had just ended her shift. The cat sitting next to her was Sarah and the male was her twin brother, Neil. The siblings had been catching up with Mia for the last few minutes while they waited for their friends to arrive.

"GUESS WHO'S BACK, BABY!" came a shout that drew the eyes of everyone in the bar. Mia would have probably scolded her friend, who she saw coming towards their booth at high speed, had she not been so happy to see him at last. He was a blond cat with very light blue eyes that went by the name of Max. He had been studying overseas for the past 3 years and was back in Canada to visit his parents; that was what gave them the opportunity to get back together. The group exchanged hugs and high fives with him and proceeded to ask him various questions about the country he was now living in. He sat next to Neil and was about to start talking, when he noticed that the group was still incomplete, even though he made sure to be at least fifteen minutes late.

"Where are those two?" He asked his friends. "On their way, I suppose", came the response from Neil. "Aeris might be tired though, she was still having exams until today, right?" "Don't worry, Leo told me he'd convince her… one way or another" replied Mia with a smirk. "So those two really found an apartment together, then?" "Yeah. I'm curious to see how they manage to survive each other all day" said Neil. "Looks like you'll be able to ask them yourself" said Sarah as she looked outside the bar, where a pink cat was walking next to a grey one, heading for the entrance.

"I'm just saying, he's not as great an actor as most make him to be! He just gets all the good roles", Aeris said as she and Leo walked down the road towards the bar the friends were at. "And I'm telling you the roles are good because of him! Who didn't love Jack Sparrow? Or that guy from The Tourist?" Leo counterargued with passion. "Meh. I've seen better. And if you weren't fanboying all over his ass, you'd admit that too!" "Whatever. We are still going to the new movie, right?" "I suppose. We'll have lots of free time on our hands now, right?" she replied, a smile on her face. "Ah, think of all the studying we could be doing in that time… instead spent on productive gaming!" he added with exaggerated fascination on his face. She chuckled as she entered the bar, followed by Leo.

His smile, already on his face from his little talk with her in the street, was widened to a shocking length once he saw his friends in the booth. The hugging and high fiving commenced again and soon the six friends were all talking at the same time and to everybody, hardly making sense out of anything said. After a few minutes, and after being forced to keep silent to order something, they resumed the talking in a more civilized manner. One that admittedly didn't fit the group quite as well.

"You look beautiful!" Aeris smiled at the compliment from Sarah and returned it in kind. "You too, both of you. How is everyone doing?" They exchanged information about their work at their respective colleges. Everyone sitting on the table was twenty one years old at the time, with Max soon to turn twenty two. The three girls shared some complains about their workload, especially Mia who found it hard to keep up with both her shifts at the bar and her studies. Sarah on the other had, who was studying arts, was less overwhelmed by the amount of work. Aeris was in web design, Neil was in psychology, Max was in engineering and Mia was in fashion design.

Aeris had figured out their work was a good conversation starter and her female friends seemed to agree. Leo, however, was already talking to Max and Neil, who sat in the booth across his and the girls', in a familiar manner as if they were hanging out just yesterday, even though he hadn't seen them in almost two years now, since they all last got together; the two males were living far from Toronto. He had somehow managed, in the few lines they had exchanged, to make Max and Neil laugh loudly, probably with some sort of practical humor that the two of them loved so much. "So, what is everyone up to?" asked Neil after a few seconds. "I think we all know what he's really asking… right chief?" said Mia with smirk. "What do you mean?" "Come on, who're you with? We can't wait to hear!" came the tease from Leo. "It just wouldn't feel right without the love-talk, man, we all know that", added Aeris.

"…Well, if you insist!" said Neil after taking some time to add some drama to the conversation; he had always been the romantic of the group, and throughout high school he was the one to always have that important relationship full of worries to talk about. Leo remembered how truly sad he looked after their prom, having said his goodbyes to his school sweetheart. He was hoping to hear him having moved on.

He wasn't disappointed. Neil talked about that girl Amber with which he was with for almost a year now, and how they were doing great. Max volunteered to talk about his "relationships", but was quickly silenced by Aeris and Sarah; the relationship's importance was most likely measured by the hours he had spent in bed with her, as he was mostly physical when it came to girls. The exact opposite of Neil, in that matter.

"Don't let her get to you man! I'd like to hear your stories. Just wait for my stomach to be empty, please?" said Leo. "Oh, fuck off!" came Max's reply as the rest of the group laughed. "What, are you guys doing any better then?"

They all turned to Leo, waiting for his response. Save for a girlfriend he had for a couple of weeks in 10th grade, they didn't know about any more of his interactions with the opposite sex, and were rather curious. The Leo they remembered was incredibly bad with girls; the only real interactions he'd ever had with them was through his female friends, who he had in several ways made clear were in his "bro zone". They wondered if that innocent and inexperienced boy had matured in that field. He gave Aeris a look and saw his expression mirrored in hers; it was a subject they would prefer to avoid.

"Honestly no" he said eventually. "Ever since college started, I've had, like, two girlfriends… and the longest I've been with one of them was maybe three months." "Oh… um… sorry, man." Said Max sheepishly. "Don't be. It's not like I'm having trouble with girls, not at all. It's just that… well…" he looked at the girls sitting next to him. "Well… it's all great at the beginning, but then it gets kinda… forced." "Forced?" asked Sarah. "It just feels like we're not connecting, you know?" They were looking at him with indiscretion, which led him to add: "It's mostly about sex, after a point, and it feels like that's wrong" "That is wrong. Do you do the break ups then?" asked Neil. "One of them I did. It was pretty hard..." "Well, it just didn't work out if that's what happened. You were right to do so." "Thanks, guru Casanova" came Leo's response, in an attempt to lighten up the mood.

"Dude, it's college you're in now!", said Max with enthusiasm in his voice. "It's ok to want to keep it physical. Just hooking up with people every once in awhile is just fine. Right, Mia?" "I'm with him on this one. I haven't had anything serious either, but I've had some flares… you don't have to be too serious right now" "Oh, that's not it at all!" Leo was starting to feel more comfortable with the subject as others were joining in the conversation. "I've had a couple of those too… at Pantsman's parties; remember, Aeris?" "I sure do… I'm surprised you'd miss out on drunk Scott for these girls though" she added with a teasing intent. She was glad to see him pulling a comeback from the awkwardness. "Oh, come on… I thought they were pretty nice..." "And "nice" is what sold them to you, eh?" she teased him again. "Pantsman?" asked Sarah while looking at the two. "A friend of ours." Replied Aeris. "He throws some parties every now and then, and Leo seems to be operating well at them." Leo blushed a little bit, which was the most extraordinary thing of the evening. She enjoyed making him uncomfortable just as much as he did her. "Nice one, flea-brain!" said Max with a happy face, using Aeris' nickname for Leo. "I don't see why you don't stick to those, though. Didn't they get the job done?" "Gross…" said Sarah as she stuck out her tongue. "Oh, it was nice…" replied Leo, looking a bit embarrassed and looking at the glass he was holding in his paws. "But it kinda makes you feel… I dunno, dirty..." "…NICE!" came the response form Max as he lifted his hand to get a high five. He was simultaneously yelled at by the whole group, save for Mia who instead laughed at the scene.

"What about you then?" she asked Aeris after she had stopped laughing. "What about me?" "Well, you went to those parties too, right?" "Yeah, those girls we talked about are pretty low in my mind, Mia. I'd rather not imitate them, you know?" "Okay, well, is there anyone special…?" asked Neil. Aeris noticed Leo was looking at her, and he nodded at her to speak up. If my relationships were no big deal, then why would yours be? , he was saying. Guess he has a point, she decided, and started speaking.

She never had a boyfriend during her school years, so she was pretty excited about dating in college. She had gotten a boyfriend in the first few months of her first year and was pretty happy about it. They broke up after Christmas of that same year, though, as he was becoming a leech. The kind that wanted to sweet talk every second sentence and hold hands all day long. She was positive that wasn't her type, so she ended it. After that, she had had some other boyfriends, but it never seemed to work. She tried being more tolerant against the males she dated, looking away at the small things she didn't like; nobody was perfect, after all, and she should know that well. However, as time passed, she would always find some rather big issues with them, and eventually either she or her partner would end it. She was now single after having broken up with her fourth boyfriend not three months ago, shortly after Leo broke up with his last girlfriend. They were both single now, and they had a silent agreement not to let other people know how much they sucked at relationships; it bothered Leo more than he let it show. The same went for her, but it was at least comforting to know she could always talk about it with him, the less judgmental person she knew, and she believed she also helped Leo through talking and giving him advice when he asked her for it.

It turned out she and Leo were worried about nothing. Their friends didn't tease them or made them feel bad about it; rather, Sarah shared some of her own failed romance stories that made them feel better about themselves. And Neil's reaction to them was exactly the kind of thing the group needed to get back to the lighter mood they had in the beginning; he hadn't known anything about his sister's relationships, and hearing about them gave him a priceless look.

"Okay, enough about that" said Mia, "We have lots of things to talk about, but I'm more interested in hearing stories about you guys. I got my share too… sounds fun enough?" "Heh, I got some good ones!" said Max with a sly smirk. Leo's lips smiled and he met Aeris' eyes, which he looked at with meaning. Aeris kept a straight face and took a long, audible sip from her drink. She put the glass down while exhaling in a dramatic way and, face still serious but with eyes glimmering with amusement, she looked back at Leo, who was now smiling with his full set of teeth. "What do you say Leo… stories?" He narrowed his eyes, as if in deep thought, and rested his head on his paw. "Let's see…"

. . .

The group had been sitting in the booth for nearly three hours. They had spent that time talking about whatever each though was notable in their lives; and for them it mostly meant humorous. They were pretty close in their high school ears and that made it easier for them to open up. While everyone was enjoying both sharing and hearing all the crazy stuff that everyone had to say, it was mostly Leo and Aeris that preserved the conversation. Every little crazy adventure they'd been through in the last three years, every little thing that happened in the shootings for the comic or the stuff they went through living in the same apartment with each other… everything they had to say led to a small explosion of laughter and comments by their friends. This was made more intense by Leo's way of narrating. He was talking and switching between expressions in an energetic manner, and he used his whole body to play out the situations he was explaining. He had been thinking about the friends he hadn't seen in almost two years, save for Mia whom he and Aeris got to see in regular basis, and spending time with them had him in even higher spirits than usual; this mood helped draw out that laughter. As for Aeris, she was surprised to find out that all the stuff that made her furious in the past now seemed hilarious as she talked about them. Plus, the people gathered at the booth were all accustomed to Leo's stupidity, and they could relate to his and Aeris' stories with ease; they had experienced Leo, embarassed, annoyed and amused by him many times in the past. She also felt some pride in the fact that her's and Leo's stories seemed to take the lead in the conversation. Still, she listened eagerly when the rest of the group was speaking, enjoying the reunion Mia had organized.

"…and she walked up to me JUST as I was asking him if his stuff had pump action! She just went "Walking away. REALLY FAST!" and it took half an hour to catch up to her and explain! You should have seen the look she gave me…!" "You can't imagine the scene!" Aeris added amidst her laughs. "It was Leo stunned with awe at a random stranger's junk!" She cracked up, following Max's chocking with his own saliva. Their booth was collecting annoyed looks by everyone in the bar and the owner was giving them a look that spelled trouble. "Oh man… God you need to film those things guys…" Neil was struggling to catch his breath while Sarah was giggling uncontrollably. Leo had teared up but had stopped laughing, instead enjoying his friends' reactions with a cocky, satisfied smile. Aeris, just like Sarah, was giggling in the aftermath of her laughter.

"Guys, I'm starting to worry about keeping my job here…" said Mia, although without actual worry in her voice. "Ahhh… Hahah, hm" Sarah pulled herself together. "So, what do you guys feel like doing? It's still way to early." "Of course! We should go to this club some friends recommended, it shouldn't be too far from here…" "No way Max, I don't think clubbing is good for a reunion" "I'm with Neil in that one. Perhaps a movie then? There are still some cinemas playing", Aeris recommended. "What do you guys feel like watching?" asked Sarah. Before they could answer Leo spoke up, his ears so high that their ends were connecting. "I know! Why don't we all come to our apartment? We can get some beers on the way, and Aeris has downloaded tons of movies. We got a huuuuge screen too, gaming necessity… What do you say?" he concluded his suggestion, awaiting their reaction.

"I don't know, Leo… I haven't downloaded anything new since Taken 2… or the Hobbit? It's not really our style though…" Aeris said with skepticism as the group walked out in the snowy road. "Woah! Hold your horses!" shouted Max with surprise. "They made a Tekken 2?! I loved the first movie, so underrated!" The group lay in silence for some brief seconds, comprehending what he had just said. Then Neil folded in two while Leo hugged Max with a serious face, telling him "how he missed those gems". "Taken, Max. Liam Neelson?" corrected Sarah, hardly keeping a straight face as Mia and Aeris laughed audibly. "Ohhhhh…. Oh, quit it, Leo, like it's any worse than half the shit you've said over the years!" "I'll cut you all the slack you cut me, buddy!", he replied with a smile. "So, Taken it is?" The others agreed, save for Neil who was still trying to control his laughs; that earned him an attempted "wet Willy" from Max. Aeris separated the two and they all started walking to the apartment while chatting in a carefree manner.

Leo and Max went to get some six packs and carried them to the apartment. Leo felt more and more excited as they approached, a feeling he was familiar with from the times invited friends over to his house as a kid, a trend that his parents were forced to stop when a fight between him and Aeris scared his little sister. Aaah… memories. Ever since then he hadn't had any friends at his home, save from the times when he had the house to himself. Even then though, it was mostly Aeris and Krug that he invited over. Since he had met with the rest of the group a couple of years later, he never got to be a host to them, and now he got to complete his little wish from back then in an unexpected time. He was really happy with how the evening had turned out so far and was looking forward to the rest of it. He and Max were teasing each other as they walked in the apartment, carrying beers on their shoulders.

Aeris had started the movie, having connected her external hard drive with the tv, and their friends had gotten comfortable on the couch. She received some compliments about her and Leo's living space from Sarah, the kind of polite compliment one would expect from the formal, well behaved cat; after that though the group just got as comfortable as possible in the big, luxurious couch she had bought not a year ago, the previous one being destroyed by Leo landing on it from a rather high jump as he entered the house; which of course earned him a first class globbering from herself. Having neglected telling that story in the bar, she did so while they waited for Leo and Max to arrive. After they did, she started the movie and had Leo grab some pop corn from the kitchen.

They weren't exactly watching the movie; they were paying more attention the mirthful comments each made about several parts, as well as the jokes they threw at each other. Leo didn't like the movie as much as the first one, anyways; he would much rather enjoy his friends' presence, as well as their own happy mood. His eyes eventually met with Aeris'. She was laughing at some witty remark from Mia regarding Liam Neelson's "doability", and her laugh changed into a weary smile as she caught Leo's stare. He smiled in turn and raised an eyebrow, along with the hand in which he held the beer can, extending it towards her. She got the meaning of his gesture and the weariness of her smile disappeared. Having a good time after all, miss Grumpy Cat? She gave him a look of admission, as well as gratitude, as she clinked her can against his. His smile got a bit wider for a second, and then an action scene came up that demanded his attention; he didn't want to miss out on any possible joking the scene might give birth to; Neil was the only one truly trying to pay attention, and despite the cursing he had thrown at Leo so far for being so noisy, the grey cat had no intention of allowing him to do so.

Nobody else had noticed their little interaction. Aeris allowed her gaze to stay on him for a bit longer, watching him smile as the joke he was looking for shined in his mind. She remembered her crappy mood from not 6 hours ago and thought about how he helped her cheer up to the extend she had. He had convinced her to go out, a decision that was clearly correct, as it turned out, and throughout the whole time they were out she wasn't allowed to do so much as frown, both by him and by their other friends. And then he led everyone to spending the rest of the night in their apartment, with the comfort of her bed two steps away… just what she needed after the night was over, still being pretty tired and all. It was almost as if he had done so in purpose… He couldn't have, of course, but it felt like he was the one to make sure everything went perfectly for her today. She smiled to herself at that thought. Teenage Aeris would never have admitted that, but she had some very good reasons to be best friends with him.

Naw, that idiot has his moments, doesn't he? She laughed at a joke she didn't really hear and jumped back to reality.

It was a happy-ringing sound, one that would give most people a flash from a happy, carefree childhood moment. That was the reason Leo had chosen it as his ringtone; the Mario theme, that is. Yet, for some reason, his gut twisted at the sound of his phone ringing. It was a worry he couldn't explain or base at all, just a simple premonition. He ignored it as he got up from the carpet in front of the couch where he was sitting and reached for his jacket, where the sound was coming from. He looked at the number that was calling him and his eyes momentarily opened wide with surprise and question. "I should take this. Be right back!" he said in a cheerful tone that felt kinda forced as he wore his jacket and made his way to the door; he was glad he had forgotten to take off his shoes. "Is it mommy?" came a tease from Neil. "Shut up!" replied Leo, more defensively than he would like. "Send miss Leonardo our regards!" shouted Aeris as he was closing the door behind him, causing some small laughs among the group. She was actually pretty curious as to who would call him at this hour, but didn't really think about it too much; surely Leo would tell them afterwards. As such, she turned her attention to the small argument between Max and Mia over whether the movie was realistic or not.

. . .

He just couldn't believe what he was hearing. …"What...? What do you mean...?" the voice that came from his cell phone was causing his guts to twist for real now, filling him with worry and, slowly, as he realized what he was hearing, disbelief. Pure, untainted disbelief. He started talking back, although it was mostly gibberish; he couldn't make sense in his own head, let alone his tongue. He was comforting the person on the other line, trying to calm them down so that they could explain better what the situation was. He wouldn't accept what he had just heard. He couldn't, it couldn't be real. So he was certain he had understood wrong; it wasn't a rare occurrence. Minutes passed by and he soon found himself with a blank expression on his face, comprehending the information his ears had just received. He blurted out some words of compassion before hanging up. And then… nothing.

…He couldn't go back. There was no way, not now. The warmth of his apartment and the company of his friends seemed incredibly distant now, out of synch with the rest of the world. It was cold and lonely out in the street, hardly any sounds other than the chilly wind and not much to look at other than the snow. He felt better there. Tears started swelling up in his eyes, without so much as a single sob. He felt those on their way though. No way, it can't be. The sobbing came slowly, easing itself out of his throat. It… it's not possible… He needed to walk. He took out his phone and started texting while he made his way down the street, not going anywhere at all, just walking as if lost in a foreign place. As he was texting, fear found it's way to his mind. It was deep and more intense than he had ever experienced before; it was hauntingly real. He stumbled in the snow, now having sent the text, and kept on walking in the darkness, lost in his own sorrowful feelings.

. . .

He sure is taking his time, isn't he?

Leo had been gone out for fifteen minutes now and it was causing Aeris, if not worry, then at least some discomfort. Leo would certainly just end the talk as soon as possible and hurry back in the apartment; he was having a great time just before he had left. Did he have some sort of obligation? She couldn't believe it; the whole point of the day was that they were both free as birds. So what was that idiot doing?

His absence didn't seem to affect the group at first, the jokes continuing in the same pace as before his leave, but in time the empty spot he had left on the carpet seemed to suck in everyone's good mood. They could almost hear his remarks every now and then, perfectly accustomed to them as they were, and it was getting saddening not to actually hear him make them; even for Neil. Max especially was stunned by the fact that Leo allowed himself to miss so many good scenes, as he himself had thought of some nice jokes he didn't mouth, simply because he felt they would be underappreciated without his grey friend around to hear them.

Aeris heard the sound she had set her mobile to whenever she got a text, a solo from a Japanese song she had heard in one of her favorite classic animes as battle music. She reached for it and saw it was from Leo; she was feeling worried now, as she got the feeling he wouldn't be coming back soon, which would certainly signal the end of the fun they were having. Still, the group would hang out, of course, but it was much more special with Leo among them. "Who's it from?" asked Mia after compressing a yawn, the first one of the night. "…Leo" "Oh! What's he saying, where is he?" the others were also surprised and were now all looking at her direction. She read the message twice to make sure she didn't misunderstand. Leo would only message her when he wanted to let her know something that wasn't worth the time to call; he didn't do well with texting, in general. This one was one of the same: he was informing her of something that didn't demand the time or energy a call would. Still, it looked eerie under the "Flea-Brain" contact name in her cell. It read:

Hey, sth came up and I gtg help a friend from collg. I'll prlly be late, tell the others I'm srry.

"Oh…" came the sound from everyone as she told them the context. "Does he… do that often?" "No, not at all… Dunno what to make out of this…" Aeris was dumbfounded; she truly thought it was his mother calling him when he got all defensive after they started teasing him. Obviously, that wasn't the case. "I… I'm sorry guys, I don't know what happened…" "Oh, don't be stupid! Why would you apologize?" said Sarah. "And I don't think Leo's to blame either. I bet he couldn't avoid whatever he had to do. Plus, he texted you instead of coming back in and letting us know, which means he had to hurry to wherever he's going" said Neil, his logic pulling everyone out of their surprise. "Yeah, I bet you're right. Well, sucks; let's just watch the movie" concluded Aeris with a small smile, and everyone took a seat and resumed watching.

The group separated at around 2:30. They had finished the movie and started playing some video games until that hour. It was fun time, although kinda quiet, and the calmness that followed Leo's leave eventually brought out everyone's tiredness. Aeris volunteered to escort her friends down the road, but to her relief they refused, seeing that she was the most tired of them all. They ended their reunion and promised to repeat it every now and then before they walked out of the apartment.

Now alone in the apartment, Aeris collapsed on the couch and let out a small sigh of satisfaction. She had had a perfectly fun night, and she was now tired in a blissful way. She focused her thoughts on the bed awaiting her for a few seconds before deciding to get up and wash herself before sleeping. Just when she was about to head for her room, she noticed the clock on the wall; it was almost 3 a.m. now. And still no word from Leo.

She felt her worry rise up again; it was ridiculous. Leo was the last person she should ever worry about, not because he was careful-it was the opposite, if anything- but because he was seemingly indestructible. He was once hit by car head on, back in high school, and he got a couple of broken bones. Well, when he got out of the hospital, not 24 hours after the incident, he was laughing about how scared his mother looked as he got in the car. Ever since then, she found it hard to worry about his well-being too much, and she appeared to be right so far. Still, she couldn't shake that grim feeling the whole situation was giving her at that time.

Might as well call him, make sure he's okay. She took her phone and dialed Leo's number as she lay on her bead, sleepiness taking over her. His phone rang, and it kept ringing for a long time. He's not picking up… Fuck, that didn't help ease her worry. That was when she decided to finally push the worry away. What would she do anyways, go out and look for him? She had no idea where that friend of his were, and besides he might have probably not heard it, or have taken his jacket off and left the phone in a pocket, or…

Yeah, he'll be fine. Nothing I can do for it now anyways. I'll ask him about it tomorrow. And with those thoughts, she drifted off to a wonderful, deep sleep.

. . .

The air was chilly and the there was a weak wind that was causing the leaves on the trees of the park to move lazily in the night. There were almost no people there at all, save for some occasional by-passer, probably going home after a night out. It was a nice, quiet night, without anything out of the ordinary to break the peaceful atmosphere. There was but one sound that seemed to go against the routine of the empty park; a happy sound that was made louder by the relative quiet that surrounded the grass around the bench in the park. It was the Mario game theme, and it was coming from a cell phone that was sitting abandoned on the bench, right beside a blue-clothed figure that was ignoring it. The figure had his face buried in his arms, which he rest upon his legs. If one would get closer, he would perhaps hear, along with the song of the phone, the small, discreet, yet incredibly violent weeping that came from the figure.

Leo Leonardo the Third was crying like a little kitten.

Okay, first chapter complete! Don't forget to review it and let me know what you thought.