Chapter 2: Shopping

Aeris woke up the next morning feeling just as tired as she was before they had found the kitten on their doorstep. Taking her covers off, she sat over the side of the bed and rubbed at her eyes, trying to clear her blurry vision. After getting up and stretching, she made her way over to her door and opened it, leading out into the hall. Turning into the kitchen, she noticed that she was the first one up. Odd, considering that Leo was usually up by now wolfing down his breakfast. He almost always got up before her so that he could get to his daily gaming sessions as early as possible.

Looking over into the hall, Aeris spotted Leo walking out of his room with Scarlet cradled in his arms. Spotting Aeris in the middle of the kitchen, he gave her a tired smile and yawned, "Morning Aeris. What's up?"

"Nothing much." she said, raising an eyebrow at his apparently fatigued form. "Why're you up so late?"

He shrugged with a chuckle, "Scarlet kinda kept me up last night."

Aeris felt a small twinge of annoyance at the mention of the kitten, but she brushed it off, "What are you talking about? I didn't hear any crying."

"Oh well, she wasn't really crying. More like waking up in the middle of the night and clawing at me." he explained.

Aeris snickered, amused that Leo's latest display of stupidity had caused him some harm. It was then that she realized something. "Wait a minute, you're telling me that you let her sleep in your bed?"

"Well yeah." Leo replied, incredulous as to what Aeris was getting at. "Where else was she supposed to sleep?"

Aeris groaned and face palmed, "Jesus Leo, anywhere but there. She could've suffocated under the sheets for God's sake."

Leo felt ice flow through his heart at the very idea and held Scarlet a little closer. "Since when did you care anyways?"

Aeris was a little taken aback with the retaliation, but paid it little attention. "I don't, but that doesn't mean that I shouldn't give you advice. I don't want the death of a I-don't-know-how-old kitten on my conscience."

Leo sighed and looked down at the still sleeping kitten, "Yeah, I guess you're right. You know, the only reason that she slept in my bed was because I couldn't figure out where to put her."

"You could've put her in a box with a blanket or something." Aeris pointed out.

Leo's ear twitched a little when she said that, but this went unnoticed by Aeris. "No. I don't want to put her in a box. For all I know, you could ship her away."

To say Aeris was shocked Leo would make such an accusation would be an understatement. She gave him a hard look and said, "Okay, two things. One: Seriously, you really think I would do that? I may not want the thing around, but I'm not heartless. Two: Why not use the blanket in a box? It's cheap, and money is a little hard to come by."

Leo answered Aeris' second question without skipping a beat. "Well, I just don't want her living in a box all her life." He said flatly.

Aeris rolled her eyes, seeing that the argument wasn't going anywhere. "It would only be until she can use a proper bed Leo. Besides, a kitten wouldn't care about where it's sleeping."

"Yeah, but I do, and I think she needs a crib."

Aeris scoffed, getting annoyed with Leo's persistence, "She doesn't need a crib. Just put the blanket in the box. Problem solved."

"Its not going to work forever." Leo pointed out with an air of smugness in his voice, rocking the still sleeping Scarlet in his arms.

"No, it won't. But right now its the best solution. We don't have a lot of money." Aeris retorted, irritated by what she interpreted as the condescending tone Leo was using with her.

Leo looked at Aeris oddly, "What are you talking about? We've got my big box of bucks. Its still on the counter."

With a feeling of dread, Aeris turned around and spotted the box, labeled "Leo's Munny Box", a chibi face drawn right beside the labeling. It looked as though it were just asking to be stolen. Nowshe remembered. Briefly, she wondered if she repressed the memory so that she wouldn't fly into a homicidal rage, but this was interrupted when she said, "Right. So, what are you going to do? Buy a crib and all the other stuff your going to need in order to take care of your latest mistake?"

He shook his head and gave her a sideways glance. "Nope. You are."

Aeris was, as can be expected, less than pleased by the idea. "Wait, you're asking me to go out and get things for yourkitten? She's your responsibility."

"That's why I'm having you get the stuff." he explained, "She's my kitten now, and to be honest, I don't quite trust her with you."

Aeris gave him a wide-eyed, disbelieving look. "Leo, I know it 'breaks the illusion'", she retorted with heavy sarcasm, "But please, listen to yourself. I'm the one who has the experience here. If anything, you should be begging me to stay here and watch her."

"Well, I love her more." he replied.

Aeris's look became less disbelieving and more of an annoyed, having-to-deal-with-Leo's-shit look. "Leo you've only had her for not even a day. You can't love something that fast."

"I can and I do." he said, holding Scarlet across his chest now in an apparent display of defiance. "I love her a lot."

Aeris shook her head, "Look, I don't care about how much you think you love her. Right now, I want to know why it's me that has to go and get all the kitten stuff."

"You said you have all the experience, so you know what I'm gonna need to take care of her." he explained.

"You know what she needs too, Leo." Aeris replied in a snarky voice.

"Come on Aeris.", Leo begged, "I just want to spend some time with her. Please?"

"No.", Aeris' response was firm, and she crossed her arms across her chest to assert her statement.

It was at this moment that Scarlet woke up, releasing a cute little meow as she did so. In a extremely rare stroke of brilliance, Leo then said this, "Aeris, if you won't do it for me, then do it for Scarlet."

Again, Aeris replied with a hard "No."

Leo then adopted a baby talk tone, "Come on Aeris. Wook at the cute wittle face."

He then held Scarlet in front of his face, causing Aeris to look directly at Scarlet. Immediately, her heart melted at the sheer amount of adorable that was being given off. Scarlet's eyes were almost anime-ish in their size, and their deep blue color only added to the overall amount of cute.

You have to give Aeris credit, she tried to resist. She had nearly beaten the barrage of cuteness Scarlet had assaulted on her, but when the small gray and white kitten reached a paw out in an effort to touch the pink cat's nose, it proved too much for Aeris.

"Fine!" She screamed as she threw her paws up in the air. "I'll get your damn kitten the stuff she needs!"

Slinging Scarlet in his arms once more, Leo smiled in triumph. "There, was that so hard?"

"Yes." Aeris spat. "Painful actually. Damn kitten."

Leo ignored her fuming and went to his money-box. He took out a number of bills, counted them, tied them up in a rubber band, and handed the bundle over to Aeris, "Here. That's about five hundred dollars.", he told her, "That should be enough to get all the stuff she needs."

"Yeah, yeah.", Aeris said, still pissed she had to do this. "Can I at least make myself look presentable before I go?"

Nodding his head, Leo took Scarlet back into his room as Aeris prepared to do what really should've been Leo's errands.

Aeris made her way over to the bathroom. Once she had shut the door behind her, Aeris stared at herself for a long time in the mirror and rubbed her face. The day had only just begun, and she could already tell it was going to be an extremely long one.

After splashing some water in her face to help wake her up, Aeris ran the shower, changed out of her PJs, and stepped into the tub, allowing herself a small moment of bliss as she felt the warm water trickle down her body. She loved showers, despite the common belief that cats hated water, and since Leo hadn't specified when it was he wanted her to head out, Aeris stayed in the shower for the better part of the morning, standing and relishing in the warmth of the water until it abruptly became freezing, at which point she got out of the tub and dried off. She went about her daily routine of brushing, rinsing, flossing, then rinsing once more with mouthwash before stepping out of the bathroom and walking back down to her bedroom. She threw off the towel covering her and quickly changed into her everyday-wear; purple jeans, purple tee, pink jacket, before she straightened her hair and fixed it with her favorite black scrunchy. Finally deciding she looked good enough to tackle the day, Aeris stepped out of her room and headed for the door, making sure to grab the lump of cash Leo had left her on the counter before leaving.

Doing a quick recount of the bills since she wouldn't trust Leo's counting skills to save her life, Aeris realized with a surprised face that there was a perfect sum of five hundred dollars in the bundle of cash. Giving a hmph of indifference, Aeris stuck the money in her coat pocket and was about to head towards the door when she saw it. "Leo's Munny Box". It was just sitting there, still on the counter, Leo having not moved it when he gave her the five hundred dollars earlier. She thought about how when she had seen it earlier that it had looked as though it had just been begging to be stolen. Now it was as if the cardboard box was singing a siren's call, telling her to take what was inside for herself.

It didn't really seem right. Aeris wasn't exactly the person you would picture when you thought of the kindest person in the world, but she still had a conscience. Leo had been her friend, her best friend, for as long as she could remember. Stealing his money from him would be outright wrong.

"But he's done it.", She thought to herself, "He's done tons of things before that could be considered worse than stealing…"

Aeris thought the situation over, and after going over the list she had of all the things Leo had put her through, she came to a decision.

"I'm the one that has to go out and get all the kitten crap, why not treat myself while I'm at it?"

Looking around to make sure the coast was clear, Aeris tip-toed over to the box as quietly as she could, not making a single sound along the way. She made it to the counter and flipped the box open, revealing more money in a single place than Aeris had ever seen. Checking again to make sure Leo might not have slipped into the kitchen without her knowing, Aeris quickly grabbed ten dollars from the horde of bills and stuck it into her pocket with the rest of the money, a satisfied smile on her lips and the thrill that only came with stealing in her chest.

"He wants me to waste my day for his kitten? Fine, but the idiot better be ready for compensation."

Heading away from the counter and out of the kitchen, Aeris grabbed the car keys off the hook bedside the outside door, making sure she had everything she was going to need for the day before she stepped out of the apartment. She opened the door and was met with the warm feeling of the pre-noon sun on the outside.

"See ya Aeris!" Leo called from his room. Aeris turned around to see him lying down on his bed, holding Scarlet up in the air just a few inches from his face, the tiny gray and white kitten smiling sweetly while giggling as she tried to reach down at touch Leo with her small paws. Aeris grumbled under her breath over the upbeat air in Leo's voice, but waved her paw nonchalantly to her roommate in response and said, "Yeah, see you, Leo."

And with that, Aeris left the apartment and closed the door behind her. As she did, she took a deep breath of the crisp air and exhaled, enjoying the fresh air. Feeling that it was a little nippy, she tightened her jacket around herself as she walked to the parking lot where her car waited. Of course, car was an overstatement. Replace the word "car" with "shit on wheels" and you would have a more accurate word. As she walked up to it, she could feel revulsion at the vehicle. It was a blue van, with more than problem that could be seen when you looked right at it. The windshield was cracked from the side to the center, there was more than one missing hubcap, and the color had become washed out with age and lack of care. But inside, that was even worse. The interior was dirty, the air conditioning was non-existent, not to mention that horrible smell of vanilla.

Although, as much as Aeris hated the car, she could do nothing to trash it: it was a gift from her parents when she got her Driver's License, and Aeris was a firm believer of not looking a gift horse in the mouth. Besides, her weekly paycheck was just enough to pay for gas, rent and other living expenses. A new car was simply out of the question.

Sighing, she unlocked the car and stepped inside, the sickeningly sweet smell invading her nostrils as she did so. It was her attempt to make the car smell better. It failed. Awfully. Although on the plus side, it was slightly better than the cigarette smoke that permeated the van before she put in the air freshener.

Sticking the key into the ignition, Aeris turned it and began the relatively short drive to Costco. As she did, her thoughts eventually rested on her idiot roommate and his latest fuck-up. Aeris leaned back in her seat a little so that she could relax slightly. She hadn't lied to Leo the night before: she didn't like kids much. Sure she could tolerate them in moderation, and when they behaved themselves she didn't mind them much, but the brats, the entitled little shits who were guaranteed lucrative acting careers and death by drug overdose, those were the ones that she hated with the fiery intensity of a million volcanoes on the sun. She had fond memories of locking the little bastards into closets while she was babysitting and they got out of hand.

Those were mostly the boys though. She was far more tolerant of girls, though this was probably more because of bias than anything else. She briefly wondered if that was the reason that she actually let Leo keep Scarlet. After all, for a while, she did think that it was a good idea to keep around that little bundle of cuteness and manipulation. She shook her head. No, that wasn't the case. She did it to see how all of this would blow up in Leo's face. Granted, she planned on stepping in if Scarlet was in danger, but it would still be fun to see just how much Leo would cock this whole thing up.

Although, she did have to admit, as much as she hated the thought of another mouth to feed and the fact that she would be sharing an apartment with a kitten, she kind of liked Scarlet. Something about the little kitten made her seem different to the others she babysat when she was in high school. Like some sort of connection. Aeris rolled her eyes at the idea. How could she connect with a kitten that probably didn't even have a personality yet? It made no sense.

She decided to stop thinking about the whole thing altogether when she got to the parking lot of the Costco. Sighing, she got out of the car with a scowl that said. "I really wish I wasn't here right now.", etched on her face. To add to her annoyance, she realized that she had parked a solid 50 meters away from the store. Her earlier hunch was somewhat off. This wasn't going to be an extremely long day. No, this was going to be the longest fucking day of her life.

Stomping over to the store's entrance, she was spotted by a foolish greeter who was just trying to do his job. Seeing that the disgruntled Aeris was within earshot, he was about to do the customary greeting, when out of nowhere, she held her paw out in front of him. She then said in a low voice, "Don't say anything. I just want to get in, get some crap for my idiot friend, and get out. I don't need you telling me that I'm welcome in a place that's trying to whore as much money out of me as possible. So, next time you see me, I don't want to hear anything. Okay?"

The greeter nodded vigorously as Aeris grabbed a trolly (as it would be needed to get some of the things that Leo wanted for Scarlet) and went inside. As she did, and when the greeter assumed she was out of earshot, he said under his breath, "What a bitch."

Aeris stopped, turned around, and asked harshly, "What was that?"

"Nothing!", was the greeter's hurried response.

Narrowing her eyes, Aeris turned around and decided to ignore the greeter altogether. Really, he was small fry compared to what Leo was, so she just decided that her time would be better spent trying to get this errand out of the way as fast as possible.

Heading off to the right side of the wholesale, Aeris quickly went over everything she was going to have to get today so Leo could do a half decent job of raising the kitten. First of all she was going to have to pick up a crib. Leo never specified how good a crib he had wanted, so Aeris made a mental note to grab the cheapest one she could find. Then of course there was the dispensable goods, such as food and diapers. She shuddered at the thought of Leo changing a diaper. It was one of those things you never wanted to think about too much, but when it got in your mind it had a habit of not leaving. Shaking her mind free of that unpleasant scenario (oh God, the walls!), Aeris continued towards the kitten section of the store, making sure to go over the mental checklist she had compiled a few times before arriving.

"Alright, so I'm grabbing a crib, food, diapers, clothes, pacifier, a bottle, formula, baby monitors, and a blanket."

"Leo, you so owe me for this."

With her teeth beginning to grind against each other, Aeris reached the kitten section of the Costco. The first thing she did was go over to the cribs. There was a pretty good selection, so she was able to spot a suitable choice fairly quickly. An employee came over to help Aeris load the large box onto the trolley, but was sent scampering away when she yelled at him that she could handle the task easily enough on her own.

"I don't need help!" She had screamed at the unfortunate fellow.

"I'm just trying to do my job!" The cat hollered back as he fled from the hostile pink feline. Aeris simply wrinkled her nose in a sneer in response. She didn't need help with anything. Never had, never will. And that was the way she liked it.

Managing to remove the large box from the shelf without much difficulty, Aeris dropped the package down onto the trolley, a dull thud resounding from the cart when she did. Secretly hoping she might have caused a bit of damage to the crib with her rough handling, Aeris pulled away from the cribs and went over to the clothes. In it she found pajamas, bibs, and blankets in absolute rainbows of colors. Some were simply composed of a single color, while others supported various themes with their coloring and pictures on them. As you could imagine, Aeris went right for the boring clothes, picking up a small pile of blue and green PJs, a plain white bib, and the first pink pacifier she saw. She briefly considered grabbing a small t-shirt with a cartoonish heart on it, but quickly discarded the thought. The less money she had to spend, the better.

"So I got the crib and some clothes, so that just leaves food, baby monitors, and a bottle."

Aeris made her way over to the kitten food, a bit of a bounce in her step as she did so. Only around an hour-and-a-half had passed so far, and while it still felt quite long to her, Aeris knew enough to know that she was getting the shopping done rather quickly. Keep in mind however she was still beyond annoyed with Leo right now. He had the nerve to ask her to go out and waste her time off for something that was his responsibility. It made Aeris grip the handle of the cart a bit tighter. It wasn't so much that he had asked her, but more the way he'd asked her, like it was her job. Actually, the more she thought about it, he didn't ask, he practically told her! That little shit! What the hell was he thinking, telling her what to do!

Now Aeris was practically bending the metal between her fingers as these thoughts went through her mind. The more she thought about it, the madder she got. Right now Leo was at home, probably playing Xbox to his heart's content with that damn kitten beside him, chugging one of many cokes. The thought alone made Aeris clench her paw tighter around the handle bar, the metal beginning to dent somewhat from the force being exerted on it. She imagined him lounging on the couch, carefree and munching on one of her bags of Doritos, smiling smugly in the knowledge that he didn't have to do one thing today. Aeris burned with anger at these thoughts. She remembered how she had second thought taking that extra bit of money for herself, how she had had a brief moment of guilt a while later. She didn't feel the guilt now. She was happy she'd taken the money from under Leo's nose, no matter how small the sum was. It was what he got for hog-tying her into this, and she was glad she did what she did.

Aeris quickly remembered where she was, and took in a few breaths to calm herself. The last thing she wanted to do right now was lose her temper in the middle of a store. That would just be embarrassing, and she didn't need this day to be any longer than it already was. Moving away from the clothes and towards the food, Aeris made a mental note to spend as much of the extra cash as possible.

As could be expected, Aeris loaded up on the absolute cheapest food she could find. The trolley was loaded near it's brim with 99 cent jars of carrot, pea, and peach flavored goop along with a canister or two of kitten formula that was on sale (useless information is the best information). Aeris was actually a little pleased with herself. She was getting all of this done so much faster than she thought it would have taken. With any luck she would be out of here before…

2:30!

Aeris had left the apartment at 11:30. That meant she had been at the Costco for three hours so far.

"Well, that's a buzz-kill.", She thought bitterly as she hauled the trolley away from the food and made off to get the last few things she needed. Pushing the trolley along rather quickly, Aeris grabbed the first bottle her eyes landed upon, snatching it off the shelf without even stopping. Next she moved to grab a pair of baby monitors, them being on the other end of the aisle and were about to be acquired but a rather chubby blonde cat. From where she was, Aeris could see that those were the last pair of monitors on the shelf. There wouldn't be any more until the store got a new shipment in next Sunday, meaning that if she didn't get those ones, Leo would probably sweet-talk his way into convincing her to come back here and get them, with the possibility of asking her to get even more kitten things while she was at it.

That wasn't going to happen. Aeris wouldn't allow it.

Placing her one foot on the end of the trolley, Aeris used her other one to push of against the ground and sped towards the chubby cat and the baby monitor she was now holding in her paw. Aeris pushed off the floor once more, sending her blazing past the other cat. Just as she rushed by her, Aeris reached out and grabbed the baby monitor from the chubby cat's paw, smiling triumphantly as she did so. It wasn't until Aeris had screeched to a halt and sharply turned around a corner that the woman realized that she had just gotten her monitor snatched. The realization made he yell out in anger, cursing the cat how just stolen the item from under her nose, while Aeris, now in the aisle beside the steaming cat, snickered to herself from how fun it was snatching the monitor from chubby.

"Better luck next time, saddlebags." she chuckled under her breath as she began pushing the trolley to what she believed to be the direction of the cheek-out tills, having finally finished the task Leo had coerced her into doing.

Pushing the loaded trolley towards the front of the store, Aeris realized that she was surrounded by rows upon rows of stuffed animals. In her hurry to get away from chubby in the other aisle, Aeris had turned down the stuffed toy section of the store. On either side of her were teddy bears, care bears, and cute frogs as far as the eye could see. If she was in a better mood, Aeris might have been happy to be surrounded by the fuzzy toys. She remembered back to when she was younger and had a small collection of plushies of her own. She used to hug and play with them when she was happy, but more times than not she would throw them across the room and sometimes even stomped on them when she was annoyed with Leo. Honestly, she missed her teddies. They were always there and did what they needed to do to make her day better. She wished she had kept them, but she sold them long ago, when she and Leo had graduated and moved in together. She thought she was too old to be keeping such things around, but it didn't take more than a few days for her to regret selling her stuffed friends.

"I guess that's why they say life's a bitch." she mumbled sadly as she made her way down the aisle.

She was almost out when, out of the corner of her eye, she saw it. A single tan furred teddy bear was sitting on a shelf to her right. The shelf above and below it nearly overflowing with other stuffed animals, but it sat in the middle, all alone. Aeris stopped where she was and turned to get a better look at the bear. She saw that it was fairly plain; it had simple black beads for eyes, while its fur was a chocolaty brown with a few small patches of golden blonde. On it's left arm a small red ribbon was tied on it's wrist, giving it the aura of a sincere and thoughtful gift when it wasn't for anyone in particular. Aeris stared at the bear a moment before picking it up in her paws. She had had a bear just like this when she was younger. It was her favorite out of all her plushies. She only ever played with it, sparing it from the occasional abuse she would inflict on her other ones. She called it Reggie, and he was the last one she gave away. She remembered actually crying for a while after that. Reggie had been her best friend in the entire world, besides Leo of course. She owned him way before she had even met Leo. The memory brought a small tear to her eye before she hastily wiped it away. What was the point of crying over something she couldn't get back? She'd made her decision a long time ago, and she'd stuck with it, meaning she had to deal with the consequences afterword.

With a sigh Aeris placed the teddy bear back on the lonesome shelf. She turned back to the trolley to leave, but for some reason she found it impossible. Something seemed to be anchoring her in place, and she knew what it was. It was that teddy bear. Whether it was because the bear itself, or the memories it brought back to Aeris, she knew she wouldn't be leaving the store without at least getting to hold it in her paw a few more minutes.

Taking the bear off the shelf, Aeris once again looked at it, studying it's features intently. She had no intention of buying it for herself. It wasn't the same as Reggie, plus she would never hear the end of it from Leo once he found out, but looking at it now, Aeris felt as though she hadto buy it. She couldn't explain it, but she felt that the bear had some sort of...importance that was for now, unknown to her. Aeris didn't know what to make of it. She didn't want to buy it, but at the same time didn't want to put it back on the shelf. Her predicament was frustrating her.

Maybe if I buy it for the kid?

Aeris considered it. She didn't like the fact that Scarlet was going to be staying around, but she didn't exactly dislike Scarlet herself. Sure it was going to be hell putting up with her, but she'd been doing that for years Leo, so what difference was it going to make? And yet, Aeris was a little hesitant of the idea. It might give Leo the idea she was going to help raising the kitten, something which was notgoing to happen. With that, Aeris put the bear back on the the shelf, albeit rather hesitantly.

She stood there a moment, thinking, "It's just a bear. What's the worst it could do? She might even throw it at Leo a few times."

With a defeated sigh, Aeris went to retrieve the plushy from the shelf, when her paw collided with another. Immediately the foreign paw retreated.

"Oh! I'm sorry! I didn't know you wanted this one too." Came a voice that was all to familiar to Aeris. Turning to face the owner of the voice, Aeris came face to face with a female cat with a light brown coat and violet eyes, clothed in a pair of skinny jeans, a black t-shirt, and a purple vest, with her hair tied back in a long ponytail. This was an old friend of Aeris', one she had know since her high school days.

"I know that voice," She smiled at the cat in front of her. Her name was Ashley Moore, and it had been some time since she and Aeris had seen each other, a few weeks at least.

Ashley looked confused a moment before she recognized Aeris, her eyes lighting up with the realization.

"Aeris! Hey! Long time no see huh?" She came forward and caught Aeris off-guard with on of her trade-mark big hugs. She wasn't all that surprised actually. Ashley was always a big hugger. Always had been, always would be. Aeris chuckle to herself as she hugged Ashley back. She always enjoyed one of her hugs. They had a way of brightening your day like nothing else.

After a second the two friends released each other and Ashley got a big smile on her face.

"So, how've ya been?" She asked with enthusiasm.

Aeris simply shrugged. "Eh, same old, same old I guess. What about you?"

"Oh nothing interesting. Shawn's still a doorknob, but what else is new." Ashley laughed, Aeris along with her.

"How's Ronny? I haven't heard from him in forever."

Ashley blew a raspberry in response to the question, making Aeris smirk, amused. "You're still mad about what he did at Shawn's birthday?"

"HELL YES I AM! THAT ASSHOLE NEARLY BRUISED MY ASS WITH HOW HARD HE HIT IT!" Ashley screamed, her cheeks becoming flush with the embarrassing memory. Aeris simply laughed at the brown cat's expense. That had been one hell of a party, one she wouldn't soon forget.

"So what're you doing here?" Ashley asked, suddenly devoid of the rage that had course through her mere seconds earlier, being replaced with her inquisitive curiosity.

Aeris grumbled indifferently, frowning. "Leo strung me into grabbing some shit for him."

"Heh, that sounds like Leo alright. What do you have in there anyways?" Ashley leaned over to the side to see what Aeris had loaded onto the trolley. It only took a second for Ashley to see all the kitten-related merchandise Aeris had acquired. Only a second was required for a small switch to go off in the back of her mind, telling her something which brought one the happiest smiles she'd ever worn onto her face. Aeris noticed all of this, cluing in to what Ashley was thinking, and immediately set herself to correcting her friend's thinking.

"It's not what you think Ash! See, last night-"

"YOU AND LEO HOOKED UP!" Ashley interrupted by jumping up and down in the air in a joyous manner before hopping over to Aeris and re-wrapped her arms around her, continuing to bounce with glee.

"What? NO! Ash, listen to me for a second-"

"I'm so happy for you guys! I always knew you liked each other! This is so awesome!"

"Ashley, listen to me for Christ sakes!"

"I just can't believe you and Leo are having a a kitten! Oh, I bet it's going to be so cute! Is it a boy or a girl? Can me and Shawn be the godparents? OH PLEASE LET US BE THE GODPARENTS AERIS! YOU'D BE THE GREATEST FRIEND EVER IF-"

"ASHLEY!" Aeris screamed, making Ashley stop her jumping and get a scared look on her face.

"Yes Aeris?" She asked in a small voice.

"Can I please talk now?" She replied sarcastically.

"Sure."

So Aeris told her the whole story of last night; she and Leo finding Scarlet on their doorstep, Leo convincing her to let him keep her, the events of this morning (with the exception of grabbing that extra bit of money), and everything that had happened so far up to this point, though she omitted telling her why she was getting the teddy bear. Occasionally Ashley would interrupt to ask a question, such as what the kitten looked like, what Aeris thought about the whole situation, and other such things, thought for the most part she was quiet, listening intently with a small smile. When Aeris told her about Leo's horde of cash, she was expressed even more surprised than Aeris had last night.

"Leo can save money?" She exclaimed.

"I know. Shocking, right?" Aeris replied, her voice dripping with sarcasm.

"Well, I mean...It's Leo! My God, I didn't think he could keep a dollar to himself for five minutes, much less for years, especially that kind of amount."

Aeris simply replied with a "hmph" of agreement.

A second or two passed between the two girls before Ashley got a pouty look on her and gave Aeris a disappointed look.

"Well that kinda sucks. I was hoping you guys had finally started something."

Aeris rolled her eyes. She had been seen that one coming a mile away.

"For the last time Ash, me and Leo are just friends. Plus, he's an idiot. Nothing will ever happen between us."

Ashley smirked mischievously and began pushing her shopping cart towards the end of the aisle. "Oh, okay Aeris. Whatever you say."

Aeris growled in annoyance. "I mean it Ashley."

"If you say so. I'll see you later Aeris. Call us sometime. Me and Shawn would love to hear from you and the rest of the family." She snickered as she sped up to avoid Aeris grabbing one of the other stuffed animals off the shelves and throwing it at the back of her head. Ashley turned out of the aisle quickly, laughing like a school girl at her friend's temper tantrum. Aeris simply stood there simmering over Ashley's smartass comment.

"Sometimes that bitch can be as bad as Leo.", She thought irritably before tossing the teddy bear onto the trolley with the rest of the kitten stuff and started heading towards the check-out lanes. Her, sour mood was lifted however, when she realized a rather important fact: she was done. She could go home. She could finally relax! All she needed to do was check out and she could put all this behind her. It brought a barely noticeable smile to her face. Getting home, laying down in bed, just doing nothing. Maybe get some writing done.

All of those thoughts were cut off when she reached the checkout line. Now, the lines at Costco did tend to have a habit of being a little long, but this... this was just fucking torture. All of the lines were even longer than usual, and it also didn't help that all the other shoppers had their items stacked a mile high. It was as if the universe was conspiring against her to have the most unpleasant day humanly possible. She cradled her forehead in her paw, praying to whatever God that might be listening that the line she picked would go fast. Needless to say, God was having a break right now.

"Thirty minutes... thirty, fucking, minutes. Someone please kill me.", Aeris thought to herself as she waited in line. She was close to the till now, but that didn't stop the entire experience from being one the most mind-numbing in her entire life. If she were to sum up the entire thing in five words, they would be as follows: Bored, bored, bored, leg cramp.

When the cashier told Aeris that she was next, had she not been in a public place, she would've thrown her paws up in the air and shout "Thank God!". Of course, since she was in a public place, she didn't. Instead, she quietly pushed the trolley next to the till and put the less heavy objects onto the treadmill leaving the crib on the trolley. After a few moments, the woman at the till smiled and said, "Congratulations, when's it due?"

At first, Aeris was confused by what the woman meant. Then it hit her hard, "No, no, this isn't for me, this is for a friend of mine."

The woman apologized, "Oh, I'm sorry. You just had a certain look about you is all."

At first, Aeris gave an indifferent grunt to this. Then she thought about it. What did the cashier mean by having a "certain look". Temper heating a little, Aeris asked, "What did you just say?"

Having realized what she just said, and also realizing that Aeris was a little hot under the collar, the woman said quickly, "Now wait a minute! I didn't mean you looked big or anything, just disheveled."

Aeris raised an accusatory eyebrow, "And that's supposed to make me feel better how?"

"Um...", was all that the woman had to say for herself.

"Never mind.", Aeris dismissed, "I'm really not in the mood for anything right now."

The woman nodded and did her job quietly, averting her eyes from Aeris's gaze. Aeris smirked to herself a little. Now she could leave. The checking out wouldn't really take all that long now that she was there, and no matter how late it was, it was never too late to take a nice, hot bath to wash her troubles away. Honestly, she absolutely needed some relaxation after the Hell that was this day.

All of the items having been bought without a hassle, Aeris's smirk turned into a relieved smile. "Well, that's it.", she thought to herself, "It took me forever, but now that I have all the shit that Leo needs I can just go home."

And go home she did. Yeah, surprisingly, she didn't run into some problem on the way home. No lost keys, plenty of room in the van to spare, no traffic jams, and it seemed that every light she encountered turned green. Aeris herself couldn't believe how well her luck was becoming. At one point she even made the rather naïve assumption that her luck was getting better. Sadly, it was not to be the case.

After she pulled into the parking lot, Aeris stepped out of the car and went directly to her apartment, not once stopping to consider bringing along all the stuff in the car. Leo could do that himself. Finally reaching the apartment, she reached for the doorknob. As she put her paw onto the knob, she heard a loud crash inside.

Aeris looked blankly at the door. Resisting every urge to just walk away, she hesitantly turned the knob, not expecting what she would find. When the door was fully opened, her mouth dropped open. Broken plates, a knocked over shelf, and... stains. Her shocked expression turned to anger when she saw Leo walk out of the hallway, looking rather worse for wear. His eyes widened when he saw Aeris, absolute terror filling them at the sight of her horrifying angry face. For a while, silence. She then said in a dangerously low voice, "What did you do?"

He licked his lips and laughed awkwardly, "Um... would you believe... nothing?