It was almost evening when Chance and Jake reached Megakat City's lower downtown district.

Geez, so we're finally near Jake's place, huh?

Chance's feet were killing him, but he tried to save face. "So your place is around here?"

"Yeah, we're almost there..." Jake responded, clearly tired out. "It's a crummy area, I know. But it's...affordable."

"Oh yeah, sure." If Chance was completely honest, he'd never gone near this area of the city before. He always knew the downtown district was less than well off, but actually being there was something else.

Guess I had a pretty spoiled kittenhood, huh? Can't be helped, I guess.

"Well, here we are." Jake announced.

A cruddy-looking apartment complex stood in front of them. Chance could only hope it looked better on the inside.

Chance dropped his bags to sit down for a second. "Finally! Good thing we did all that training before that walk, huh?"

"You're telling me. I've never walked so much in my entire life!" Jake looked towards the admin office. "Alright, give me a second. Gotta pay the landlady all those months I've missed, and hope she doesn't bite my tail off."

"You skipped on rent!?" Chance disguised his surprise with a light laugh. "Didn't take you for a deadbeat criminal."

"I'm not- "Jake sighed. "Okay, I didn't think things through that much when I left for boot camp. But hey, in my defence, I didn't think I'd make it that long in boot camp! Maybe I should blame you for that."

"I think you're supposed to say thank you."

" Screw you!" Jake walked off to the office, but he didn't sound angry.

I could get used to riling him up. I mean, that's what friends do, right?

Fortunately, Jake survived his meeting with the landlady, although he appeared to be slightly rattled afterward. After a short flight of stairs, the two toms entered the apartment.

The place looked cleaner than Chance had expected, and the living room-although small-had a bit of personality. A large signed poster of a nighttime talk show host stood out the most.

"Oh thank kats, they didn't throw away any of my stuff." Jake dropped his bags in his room and made his way to the kitchen. "Do you want anything? Maybe some milk?"

Chance rolled his shoulders. "You don't have any beer, do you?"

"I do, but.." Jake opened the fridge and observed the insides. "Yeah, it expired. Sorry."

"A can of milk it is." Chance took a seat. "This ain't a bad place, all things considered."

"It does the job." Jake passed Chance a can and sat at the table. "Not much of an improvement from the camp, I'm afraid."

"I don't know…" Chance opened his can. "Beats the snoring toms, freezing night temperatures and Feral screaming in the morning. Compared to that, this is paradise!"

"Even better, you can have the bed." Jake motioned to his bedroom. "I'll have to clean it up a bit first but-"

Oh no you don't!

Chance waved a paw dismissively. "Nah, I'll take the couch. Don't worry about it."

Jake shook his head. "No, I insist! You're the guest, and you were kinda forced to come here so…"

"Dude, I don't mind. I've slept on heaps of couches before." Chance lied. "Besides, you're giving me a place to stay and a working phone! You don't owe me anything."

"But…" Jake sighed. "I know you're stubborn, but c'mon-"

"Nope. That couch is mine." Chance smirked. "I'm not letting you have this, just face it, buddy."

"Fine, it's your funeral…" Jake drank his can, conceding.

Chance looked around Jake's apartment and decided to change the subject. "So what's the deal with that poster, hanging over the couch?"

Not the most thrilling conversation starter, Chance.

"O-Oh, that?" Jake cleared his throat. "You haven't heard of David Litterbin?"

"...Can't say I have." Chance looked at the poster again. "I take it he's some kind of talk show host?"

"Yeah...he interviews all kinds of people, but he's also pretty funny. At least, I think so…" Jake looked away.

Is he...embarrassed by that? Wow, he totally is!

Chance grinned. "Heh, you must be a pretty big fan, huh?"

"Oh, w-well...I guess I just like his dry sarcasm, he's pretty smart." Jake looked back at Chance. "What about you? What do you like to watch?"

Uh...well….Ah screw it. He'll find out sooner or later, right?

"I...I guess I've always been into...cartoons, personally." Chance straighten his posture, trying to look dignified. "I think Scaredy Kat's pretty cool…"

Jake blinked, then broke into a grin of his own. "...Scaredy Kat? Really? You're talking about the kids show, right?"

"Oh shut up! It's funny and entertaining…."

Jake chuckled. "For kittens, yeah."

"Hey, it still holds up!" Chance folded his arms, as Jake still laughed. "Oh yeah yeah, laugh it up, Litterbin fanboy."

"Sorry, sorry!" Jake held his paws up. "It's just...I never would have guessed. What, with you looking all rough and tough. I think it's kinda neat, actually."

Huh? Neat?!

Chance gave him a look. "Really?"

"Yeah. Like, you don't care if it's childish, as long as you enjoy it, right?" Jake laid back in his chair. "Means you're not just some boring adult, you know?"

Yeah...yeah! You're totally right!

"Well, I can't complain about that, can I?" Chance crushed his can of milk. "Hey listen, is it okay if I use your phone to call my Mom? I really gotta get that out of the way."

Jake nodded. "Sure, it's over by the kitchen."

"Thanks."

Chance found the receiver and, taking a deep breath, dialed the number he had memorised over ten years. Holding the phone up to his ear, he heard his mother's voice come on.


Well, this is a first. Don't think I've had anyone over here before...much less an actual friend.

Jake sat on the couch, drumming his paws on his lap. He found the remote for the TV and turned it on. Litterbin wouldn't be on for another hour, but at least he could find something to watch. Switching to the comedy channel, he settled on a corny sitcom and turned his brain off.

For the last three months, I've done nothing but exercise. I think I deserve a bit of television.

About ten minutes in, Jake's ears perked at the sound of the telephone hanging up.

"Hey, is it okay if I use your shower?" Chance asked from the living room. "I'm still sweating from all the walking we did."

"Sure, go ahead." Jake glanced over his shoulder. "Just go through my room, end of the hall. The shower's kind of an ensuite."

"Okay." Chance followed the instruction, leaving Jake by himself, alone with his thoughts.

Okay Jake, whatever you do; don't freak out at the fact that another guy's using your shower. Don't think about it, there's nothing weird about that….right?

Jake could hear the shower turn on in the distance. He grabbed the remote and turned up the volume, trying to keep his mind out of the gutter.

Of course that all went out the window ten minutes later when Chance emerged from the bathroom. Casually, he walked into the living room and sat down next to Jake, wearing nothing but a towel around his waist. The sight caught Jake's eye immediately.

Holy kats! He's...totally ripped...Crap, snap out of it!

"That's a fancy TV." Chance remarked, unfazed by how close he was. "Did ya buy it?"

"N-Nah, I found it in some garage sale." Jake kept his eyes intensely focussed on the TV. "It was pretty broken, but I managed to fix it up a little."

"It looks brand new to me." "You didn't tell me you were some kind of mechanic."

Urgh, compliments aren't helping!

"I'm not, really." Jake smiled passively. "I just...sorta read a manual, and used a bit of intuition, you know?"

"Well, I sure ain't good at that sort of stuff. Guess I don't have the patience to figure it out." Chance laughed. "Maybe you're just a genius mechanic, waiting to happen."

"M-maybe..." Jake desperately changed the subject. "So what did your Mom say?"

"Nothing I haven't heard over a thousand times…" Chance groaned. "I worried the hell outta her, that's for sure. I hadn't phoned her the past three months, and now I'm just at some strangers apartment..."

"Oh, I'm a stranger, now?" Jake smiled, pretending to feel offended.

Chance grinned. "As far as she's concerned, yeah. But she's coming over tomorrow, around lunch. Somehow, I think she'll like you."

"You think?"

"Oh yeah, she'll be over the moon. She tries to befriend anyone that comes in contact with me-that's how she is..."

Jake laughed a little. "She must care a lot about you…"

"Moms are weird like that." Chance chuckled. "I'm sure yours ain't any different!"

…Oh...

Jake didn't know what to say to that. He paused for an uncomfortable amount of time, unsure if he should tell the truth, or just play along with his friend's happy conversation.

I've lied all my life, why stop now? I should make something up...

...But….

"Hey, you okay?" Jake felt a prod coming from his friend. "You're kind of spacing out there…"

Jake shook himself a little. "Huh? Oh, right. Sorry…"

"Seriously…" Chance looked concerned now. "I...said something wrong, didn't I?"

"No, it's…" Jake kept his head down. "It's nothing, don't worry about it."

"Doesn't sound like it's nothing…" Chance sighed. "Did she...pass away or something?"

Damn it. I gotta tell him, huh? It was bound to happen...

"No, no. It's not like that…" Jake made himself breathe slowly. "I...she and I...haven't talked in a while, maybe over a year."

Chance paused. "Oh...that's, uh…Sorry, dude."

Just forget I said that. Please…

"Really, it's no big deal!" Jake found himself gripping the couch tightly. "She and I just...don't get along anymore."

Understatement of the century. Why am I still talking about this? I need to stop talking about this!

Chance clearly tried to process the sensitive information. "Did...something bad happen?"

"N-No! It's fine-"

"Really? You're totally dodging the issue!"

Shut up! You wouldn't understand!

Jake couldn't take much more. "I...I don't want to talk about it, okay?"

He half expected Chance to suddenly back off, but the golden tom persisted. "Jake, it's clearly bothering you. I'm not gonna judge you, so whatevers wrong, you can tell me, alright?"

All of a sudden, Jake felt a warm, slightly damp, paw grasp his shoulder. He looked, and following that hand he saw a muscled arm, and a nervous, but kind expression. It was a simple act of friendly compassion, but it was maddening to the auburn's emotions.

For a second Jake closed his eyes and enjoyed it, but he didn't let it last.

Jake curtly stood up from the couch, placing distance from his friend. "I-I'm sorry. I just…I'll tell you later, but I can't..."

Chance stood up, still holding eye contact. "Hey, that's fine! Everything's chill, okay?"

Oh kats, I just ruined the evening. Things were going so well!

"Okay." Jake felt his stomach tighten. "A-Anyway, I think I'm gonna use the shower now. See ya."

He was out of the room before he could hear Chance respond.

Once Jake closed the bathroom door behind him, he looked at himself in the mirror. He was a second away from being a sobbing mess.

I...why did I say anything at all?

Jake closed his eyes and tried to calm down.

Why did I say I'd tell him later? I could've made something up, maybe...If he'd believe that...

Shaking his head, he turned on the shower and tried to forget everything. After a minute of silence, and some hot water to relax him, Jake knew what he had to do.

I gotta be honest. I need to tell him sooner or later, might as well be tonight.

After drying off and getting changed, Jake walked back into the living room.

Fortunately, Chance was dressed decently now. He appeared to be watching Litterbin, not particularly amused, but strangely relaxed.

Well...he's definitely not mad. Of course he isn't, nothing gets to this guy!

Nevermind that! I have to tell him, right now! I'll tell him everything...

"Hey…" Jake tentatively sat back down on the couch. "Listen, about-"

"Dude, it's fine, I understand." Chance had his eyes on the TV. All of a sudden he motioned to David Litterbin. "Okay, I get why you like this guy, but why does he always sound so...unexciting?"

Or I could tell him another time. He did just change the subject, so I should just go with the flow. Yeah, that doesn't sound so bad….What did he just say?

"Uh…" Jake took a second to recompose himself. "Well, with Litterbin I think people find his relaxed demeanor calming. Easier for late-night audiences, probably."

Chance considered that, leaning in closer to the TV. "Yeah...that makes sense, I guess. You want me to grab some more milk?"

Jake leaned back into the couch and let out a deep breath. "I can't say no to that, can I?"

The rest of the night went by as the two small-talked and watched TV. It was one of few moments Jake truly felt at home.

When they both got tired, Jake reluctantly gave Chance a pillow for the couch and headed back to his room.

"Hey, Jake." Chance called out.

Jake turned his head. "Yeah?"

Chance beamed a grin at him. "Thanks for letting me stay over, you're a lifesaver!"

"No problem." Jake smiled. "And uh, thanks for...uh, helping me get through boot camp! I really owe you one."

Nice save, Jake. Hope that didn't sound weird…

"Heh. Careful, I might hold you to it!" Chance answered with a tired smile.

Jake finally got into his room and collapsed on his bed. As he slowly let himself breathe, the auburn could feel the weight of the past three months weigh down his eyes.


When Chance woke up he felt his backache. He regretted his decision to sleep on the couch.

Looking at the time, Chance saw that he had less than an hour to prepare for his mom's arrival.

Can't wait…

Jake was already awake. In fact, he appeared to be in the middle of making breakfast. He looked at the time.

Nevermind, it's almost 12. Wow...That's the first sleep-in I've had in months!

"Woah…" Chance shot up at the smell. "Since when did you get bacon?"

"This morning." Jake answered. "While you were snoring, I went out and picked up a few things."

"When did you wake up?"

Jake paused. "Can't remember. Maybe 7:30, 8?"

Chance was astonished. "You didn't sleep in?"

"Nah, I ain't used to late mornings, not that I'd call 8am late ..." Jake opened the fridge. "How do you like your eggs? Scrambled?"

Heh, looks like I chose the right tom to befriend!

After a late breakfast, Chance took a shower and changed into the best-looking clothes he had on him (which wasn't saying much). Packing his stuff didn't take long, so within the hour Chance ended up waiting outside the apartment with Jake.

It was exactly half-past twelve when he recognised his Mom's car driving into the parking lot.

"Here we go…" Chance breathed calmly.

Jake laughed a little. "What are you so worried about? She seems nice!"

"Yeah, that's the problem!" Chance gulped. "It's freaking embarrassing..."

His mother practically ran up to him from the parked car and squeezed him tightly. "Chance, honey! It's been so long!"

Chance felt suffocated. "I was gone for three months Mom. Jeez…"

"Three whole months!" Mom finally let go. "And look at you, you're even more muscular and handsome than when you left…How was the camp thing, dear?"

Holy crap, this is humiliating.

He could hear Jake smirking behind him. Chance crossed his arms. "It went fine, Mom. You don't need to make a big deal out of it…"

"I'll make as big a deal as I like." His mom made an equally cross face at her son. Then she noticed Jake and smiled. "Oh forgive my manners, you must be Chance's friend!"

"That I am, Ma'am." Jake held out his paw. "Jake Clawson, it's a pleasure."

Mom gave an impressed sigh. "My my, a young tom with manners! I hope my son learns a thing or two from you…"

" Mom. " Chance groaned.

"That aside, thank you for giving Chance a roof over his head." She appeared to be reaching for her purse. "Since I don't forget a kind deed like that…"

Jake held up his paws. "No-no, you really don't have to, Mrs. Furlong! It didn't cost me anything, really!"

"But, even so…" Mom looked at the crummy apartment building with concern, then looked at Jake. "You live here all by yourself, dear?"

"Well yeah," Jake answered. "It's all I could afford, really."

"Hmm…" Chance didn't like the look on his mother's face.

Uh oh.

Mom had the same look she had whenever she had her mind set on something. "Then you'll have to stay with us until you find something better!"

What?!

"Mom, what are you…?" Chance stared at her.

"W-What?!" Jake also stared in surprise.

Mom shook her head. "You heard me! This area clearly isn't safe to be living alone, and I'll be darned if I let a good friend of my son live in the slums!"

Jake smiled at the gesture but held his paws up. "You don't need to worry about me, Mrs. Furlong. I've been here for a few months, and it really isn't that bad-"

Mom gave an unimpressed look. "Honey, I can tell when someone says a white lie. You ain't convincing me."

She's not lying. She really is that stubborn.

"Mom, you can't just ask my friend to move in with us!" Chance looked at Jake. "That's like, a huge decision to force on someone!"

"Sure I can!" Mom began walking to the apartment. "I'm sure we can pack your belongings in less than an hour. Now which apartment was yours, dear?"

Chance looked at Jake. "I'm sorry, she ain't gonna give up."

"I can tell." Jake replied. "She really is your Mom, huh?"

"What is that supposed to mean?"

"Heh," Jake motioned back to the apartment. "Well, might as well accept fate and let it happen…If that's okay with you?"

"Okay with me?"

"Well yeah," Jake looked away. "I don't want to impose or anything, so if it bothers you…"

"...No, it's totally fine, man."

"You hesitated."

"B-Because I was thinking about it!" Chance sighed. "It's just...ah nevermind, you'll see."

Jake now looked skeptical. "Okay, sure…"

Packing up everything Jake owned (a few sets of clothe, the poster and other token collectables) didn't take long. That didn't surprise anyone. Within the hour, they were on the road in Mom's car.

Jake looked back through the rear window. "I don't think I'm gonna miss that place...Even if it was cheap."

Chance's mom gave a pleased glance behind her. "Well honey, I think you'll find our home to be a great place! Much more...spacious."

"I really do appreciate it…" Jake fiddled his thumbs a little nervously. "But as soon as I get things sorted I'll move to a better flat, I promise!"

"Hey if you do, let me know." Chance grinned. "I think I could get used to living away from the family."

His Mom bopped him. "Don't be rude! And what did I say? You need to get yourself a job first, don't you?"

"Yes, Mom…" The golden tom groaned.

About ten minutes of semi-awkward silence passed, before Mom spoke up again. "So Jake, dear, when did you start living by yourself?"

Chance could see Jake tense a little behind him. "W-well, I think about a year and a half ago. Ma'am."

"Please, call me Julia." Mom continued. "What do your parents think about that?"

A pause ensued.

Chance started. "Uh, Mom-"

"They're fine with it." Jake replied, his tone noticeably neutral. "I think they wanted the extra space in their home anyway."

Chance's Mom laughed at that. Chance just stared at the road ahead.

But seriously, what happened with his Mom? Are things really that bad between them?

Radio music kept the car lively for the two-hour drive, while Chance used the opportunity to catch up with his Mom. Dad was away on another business trip, and Mom talked about her book club, and whatever new cuisine she was attempting to make this month. It wasn't an exciting drive, but it felt strangely nostalgic.

After what felt like forever, the car pulled into an all too familiar driveway. Behind the automatic security gate stood, to be put bluntly, a humble mansion.

Here we are, home sweet home…

"Wow..." Jake remarked. "It's ginormous!"

Chance shrugged, trying to be modest. "I guess..."

It was difficult to hide how affluent the main living room looked. Jake looked around, practically wide-eyed and endlessly complimenting the decor.

Guess he's never been to a big house before, huh?

"Alright hon, this is the Furlong household." Chance's Mom announced. "As you'll be staying here now, I'll have Chance give you the tour. Be nice, okay dear?"

It's like she still thinks I'm five, or something!

"Yeah, yeah. I got it, Mom." Chance sighed. "Where's his room gonna be?"

"The guest room next to yours." Mom replied. "I hope it suits you well, Jake."

Jake bowed a little. "I'm sure it will. Thank you Mrs-I mean, Julia."

Chance beckoned the way, leading up a bunch of stairs. "C'mon, it's this way."

The guest room wasn't a lot of things, but Jake was more than impressed. "Okay, I definitely don't regret moving in now…Look at all this space and-there's a desk!"

"Heh, wait until you see-"

When Chance entered his room he practically gasped. Everything had been cleared and painfully organised in an unfamiliar manner.

"Hey, didn't think you kept your room so clean!" Jake remarked, walking out of the spare room next to his. "I figured you'd leave it in a mess."

"I do! Mom moved everything!" Chance paced around in frustration. "Why does she always clean my room?"

Jake laughed a little and leaned on the doorframe. "I think it looks great."

"That's not the point!" Chance sat on his bed. "I could clean my room if I felt like it. But she...she does assumes it needs cleaning and does it without my saying!"

"Probably because it looked like a mess, right?"

"Like I said that's not the point, shuddup!" Chance shook his head. "I know she doesn't mean anything bad, but she treats me like I'm some freaking kid. Even now!"

After a minute of pause, Jake quietly muttered. "I can think of worse things a parent can do."

What is he-oh…

Chance had the decency to look ashamed. "Guess I don't have the right to complain, huh? Sorry, I didn't mean to sound ungrateful, or whiny."

Jake expression quickly flicked back to a smirk. "You should be telling your Mom that, not me!"

"Yeah, yeah…" Chance relaxed. "Now you're starting to sound like my Dad."

"Really?" Jake asked. "What does he do?"

"Something business related, I dunno…He's always going on trips." Chance answered. "If you haven't guessed already, our family's kinda loaded."

Jake looked out of the room to the rest of the house. "You say that like it's a bad thing…"

"It's not, but..." Chance tried to find the right words. "Let's just say I never really got along with other kids at school."

Jake looked incredulous. "You weren't popular in high school?"

That's surprising to you?

"Heh, I know. Shocking." Chance played it off with a grin. "Still, I'd rather not be seen as some spoilt brat. That's kinda why I didn't want you to find out..."

Wow Chance, tell him all your insecurities why don't you?

"Uh huh…." Jake tilted his head, giving Chance a once over. "You're letting me stay in a mansion, and you think I'll be mad about your family being rich?"

"No, but it's more like…" Chance shrugged. "I dunno, I don't want you to think I'm great just because of my house..."

Jake folded his arms. "Last time I checked, I didn't make friends with your house in boot camp."

Chance huffed. "Okay whatever. If you don't care, I don't care! No need to make a big deal out of it.."

"But you were the one who-"

"Shuddup!"

Mom's voice interrupted the banter, echoing around the large house. "Chance, honey, Jake, dear! I've made dinner! Come on down!"

"Alright, just a second!" Chance called back, before looking to Jake. "You hungry?"

Jake felt his stomach. "Oh yeah, I'm famished."

Chance nodded. "Good, 'cause you'll need all the space in your stomach possible. Mom's...pretty hardcore with food."

"You won't hear any complaints from me." Jake grinned.

After the delicious (but slightly prolonged) miniature buffet, Chance took Jake back to his room to show him his gaming console. To Chance's frustration, Jake had an uncanny talent for fighting games, despite never touching a controller before.

Or at least that's what he claims...

"Argh!" Chance practically yelled as he was brutalised in virtual melee. "Okay, you've totally done this before! You're lying to me!"

"Nuh-uh." Jake retorted. "You're moves are way too easy to read! All you do is mash the buttons…"

"If it works, it works! Gimme one more round and I'll prove it!"

After a few more hopeless rounds, Chance turned off the console and (very calmly) suggested they read some comic books. Fortunately, Mom hadn't thrown away the pile he stashed in the closet, so they had plenty of choices.

Plenty choices for action comics, that is.

"You're...really into superheroes…" Jake commented in slight amazement.

Chance grinned. "Ya like? Spent half my time reading these...what about you? Do you read anything?"

Jake looked at him strangely. "What, like comic books?"

"Duh, what else?" Something shocking dawned on Chance. "You're….you've seriously never read any comic books!?"

"Not really…" Jake shrugged. "I don't think I've ever been to a comic book store-"

"Okay, that's it!" Chance reached into the mountain of comics, and after a second of thought strategically picked out a decent pile to place on the floor. "Sit down, on the floor, and read some of these !"

Jake slowly sat down, eying the pile. "There's like...at least twenty of these!"

"Twenty-five." Chance corrected. "They're the bare essentials for any newbie hoping to get into comics!"

"But what if I don't want to-"

"Just read them!" Chance beseeched. "I spent last night watching your David Letterman-"

"- Litterbin ."

"Whatever! So it's only fair you appreciate my hobbies, don't ya think?"

Jake sighed, conceding. "You have a point...Guess I better get started."

"That's the spirit!" Chance picked a few of his own favourites and got comfortable on his bed.

They read in silence together, which was a strange feeling for Chance. Comic books had always felt like a private pastime, not to be disrupted.

"Hey, listen…" Jake spoke quietly, after finishing his third comic. "What we talked about last night, it's not because I don't trust you, okay?"

Wha-that totally came out of nowhere!

Chance lifted his head with a questioning look. "Yeah of course, dude. You don't have to tell me if you're not ready, I get that."

Jake shook his head. "But...I don't know if I'll ever be able to tell you. It's...something that I gotta fix on my own."

Fix? What's he gotta fix? His relationship with his Mom?

Chance looked at Jake, regarding his lonely expression. "You don't have to burden yourself like that. You're not the only kat that goes through this sorta thing, you know."

Jake took on an immensely surprised expression. "You know other kats like that?"

Chance paused. "Well, uh. No, but it was always something they taught us in school, you know? They have hotlines for depression, anxiety, domestic counseling, stuff like that. I think..."

"I guess.." Jake looked away. "But I don't even know if I can do that…It's not I was abused or anything..."

Are you sure?

"Even then you could always-"

"I can't." Jake reduced himself to a whisper. "Trust me, it's not gonna make anything better. Anything I try, it just doesn't work."

...How am I supposed to respond to that? What the hell happened to you, buddy?

Chance didn't like this at all. He'd never had anything close to such a sensitive conversation with anyone before he met Jake. Not even with his family, who made special efforts to shelter him throughout his kittenhood. Thinking back, none of his classmates ever confided in him about anything, during any of his school years. In fact, it didn't even feel like they wanted to talk with him at all.

But with Jake, this was all a new experience.

"You know what I think?" Chance put on the most confident face he could muster. "I think that, no matter what you do, things are gonna get better. You wanna know why?"

Jake didn't look at him. "...Why?"

Chance got off his bed, sat next to Jake and clapped him hard on the back. "Because you're Jake freaking Clawson! You went from 'barely-able-to-do-ten-pushups' to being strong enough to be allowed to train as an Elite Enforcer! You could've given up, but you didn't."

"But-"

"Shuddup, I ain't finished!" Chance went on, grinning like a madman. "You're also, obviously, stupidly smart. Like, you've got a razor sharp wit, you know that? I don't think I'll ever get that Litterbin stuff, but you're a better comedian than that guy, for sure."

The auburn now rolled his eyes. "Okay, now you're just being ridiculous.."

Chance ignored that. "And to top it all off...You're kinda my best friend, you know?"

Jake's eyes widened even further. "I...I am?"

"Well, duh ." Chance answered. "I don't think I've talked to anyone more than I have with you. Except Mom and Dad, but, you know…"

"Uh huh…" Jake began to smile slowly, as his gaze made his way towards Chance. "You too. Ah, I mean-you're my best friend too, you know?"

"Yeah, of course I know that, you dingus!" Chance playfully hit him again, before leaning a little closer to Jake. "So you feel better?"

Jake smiled genuinely this time. "Yeah, definitely.

Relieved, Chance huffed and turned his head away. "Good, 'cause I don't wanna have to have to stroke your ego over and over, got it?"

"Uh oh, you're sounding like Feral again."

"Ha ha, your charming sense of humour returns." Chance threw himself onto his bed. "Don't you have a room to be returning to?"

"Sure thing, your highness." Jake swiftly dodged the pillow being thrown at him.

Are best friends supposed to annoy the crap outta you, even if you enjoy every second of it? Heh, guess so…

Chance rolled his shoulders and breathed slowly, as he often did when his heart raced a thousand miles a second. He changed into his first set of pjamas in three months, and lied down in his bed, finally at home.

He's my best friend, I'm his best friend. We're really best friends! But why? I mean, obviously because we like each other. Crap-that's bad phrasing…

Jake brushed his teeth and got himself prepared for bed. But he couldn't stop thinking.

Without him, I wouldn't have made it this far. I wouldn't be living here, I wouldn't be training to become a freaking enforcer! Not only that, but he talks to me!

Jake lied down, on the surprisingly soft mattress, trying to stop his head from spinning.

I mean, who would've thought I'd be buds with someone like HIM?! That's crazy, he's not even anything like me…

...not even in my league.

Jake hit himself hard.

No no no no no! Don't even go there. I mean, it's true. But NO! What would he think? It'll ruin everything, just like before...I have to forget about it. But I'm gonna be living with him, and we're best friends now, and….

An hour, maybe two passed as Jake tossed and turned in his new bed. He wanted his mind to just sleep , but he couldn't escape the conclusion that he equally adored and dreaded. Jake Clawson had a thing for his only best friend.

Well, shit...I'm screwed.