A/N: Final chapter for you guys! I hope this is what you all wanted!
The world seemed to have stopped turning.
Everything around him, the arcade, the games, the midi music and sound effects were suddenly silenced and faded into black. All he could see was them. All he could see was her and what was happening right now.
Leo's eyes bulged in surprise and his tail went stiff as a board, the fur bristling. He couldn't believe it. This had to be a dream. He must have blacked out or something and this was all some cruel hallucination, a mocking gesture from some higher power. But the smell of her hair and feel of her hands in his own told him otherwise.
Aeris was really kissing him, him, Leo Leonardo the Third.
Despite the disbelief and utter shock, Leo felt his eyes starting to close and was about to return the affection when she suddenly pulled away, shock and embarrassment written all over her face.
Aeris broke free from their position and they stood at an awkward distance from each other. She covered her mouth with one hand, the other wrapped tightly around her waist, her eyes shining with fear and humiliation. Leo could only stare at her. He tried to speak but nothing came out. He was still in shock. The ashen cat shook his head to try and shake the surprise loose and attempted to speak again, only this time he was cut off by a gruff and elderly voice.
"Goddamnit, not again! How many times do I have to tell you damn kids? This is an arcade! Not some shack where you two can screw each other's brains out! Get the hell out!" The cashier screamed who had suddenly appeared out of nowhere.
Both Aeris and Leo, faces flushed with embarrassment, shuffled awkwardly out of the arcade, the cashier slamming the door behind them. They stood out in the rain, staring out into the darkness, neither one speaking. They turned to look at each other and Aeris immediately looked away.
"Come on…let's go home." She mumbled and quickly started to walk back to their car she saw in the lot. Leo hesitated for a moment, the event replaying in his brain. She kissed him. Why did she kiss him? He snapped out of his haze and shuffled his way back to the car. Aeris was waiting impatiently to get in and he unlocked the doors. They both stepped in but neither said a word or looked at each other. Aeris stared down at her lap, hands wringing uncomfortably. Leo stared at the wheel for a good while before sticking the key into the ignition and driving out of the lot.
It was like this all the way back home.
Both felines did everything they could do to avoid looking or speaking to each other, Aeris more so than Leo. Leo felt his head spinning. A million questions were firing off in his brain to the point where his head was actually starting to hurt. Aeris could feel herself trembling again and it had little to do with being damp and soggy.
"Stupid! Stupid! What the hell were you thinking? Everything was fine! It was going to go back to normal again but you had to go and screw it up! Oh my God, what am I going to do? He must be so freaked out!" She thought, her hands tightening into fists of dismay.
Complete silence hung in the air until they pulled into their drive way. Leo turned off the car and neither cat moved, the pitter patter of the rain crashing upon the windows. Leo tightened his grip on the steering wheel, a soft squeaking of protest from the leather cover as the event replayed over and over in his mind like a broken record. He turned to her, his eyes full of questions and confusion.
The woman in question however did not wait for him to continue as she practically bolted out of the car and up to the front door. She couldn't deal with this. Not now. Not ever. Leo hurried out of the car and jogged up to the door, already opened.
"Aeris!" He called after her as she ran up the stairs. He followed her and came up to the second floor in time to see her make an attempt for her bedroom door. Leo felt his ears pin back against his head. Why was she running away from him? What the hell is going on? Why did she kiss him?
Tired, wet, confused and frustrated, Leo marched up to her and grabbed her arm.
"Aeris!" He shouted right at her. Aeris let herself go limp and her head fell forwards, banging slightly on the door. She let out an exhausted and pain filled sigh.
"Aeris…talk to me." Leo said, his voice gentler and friendlier. "What's going on?"
"Not tonight, Leo…I can't…"
"Yes, you can." He urged. "Aeris, it's me. It's Leo. You can always talk to me. Just tell me…"
Aeris still did not meet his eyes, her face hotter than a thousand suns and wishing someone would burst into the room and shoot her in the head. Why? Why did she have to kiss him?
"I…just wanted to show you I was sorry…" She said, looking to the side. Leo snorted in response and said, "That was lame Aeris. We both know I'm no genius but it doesn't take one to see through a fib as bad as that."
Aeris pushed him away and headed back downstairs as if trying to escape his confronting gaze. Leo kept on her heels and still continued with his interrogation.
"Why can't you tell me Aeris?" He asked somewhat forcefully, shadowing her footsteps into the living room. "Just drop it Leo!" She screamed at him. Leo latched onto her wrist and pulled her right up to his chest, her face washing over in surprise by his forcefulness.
"I'm not dropping anything!" He shouted. "This night has been the weirdest of my life. I'm cold, I'm wet and I'm damn tired but I'm not going anywhere until you tell me."
Aeris remained silent which only furthered Leo's already limited patience. If he wasn't so engrossed with the seriousness of what was happening, he would have found the irony hilarious.
"What is it Aeris? Are you ashamed? Ashamed that you kissed a retard?"
"No goddamnit! I kissed you because I like you!"
Leo made a face at her statement. "Well duh! I like you too Aeris. That's why we're friends isn't it?" Aeris narrowed her eyes at him and shook her head in disbelief.
"God, Leo are you that dense? Think about what I just said!"
Leo wrinkled his brow as he processed what she just said. His eyes then bulged and he let go of her, his arms falling limply to his side as the answer finally came to him. Aeris stood in front of him, face in her hands. There was that uncomfortable silence again. No words being exchanged or muscles moved. Leo stared at the other cat for almost a minute before speaking.
Aeris didn't say anything but she raised her head, meeting his wide eyed stare. She could have just made something else up but Leo would have called her out on that as well. There was no escaping this. There was no turning back.
"Yes." She whispered.
"But…" Leo stuttered, his mind having trouble grasping the concept of what she just said. "Why me?"
Aeris didn't answer him as she was still trying to recover from the severe humiliation of the whole thing. Leo continued to stare at her, waiting for an answer. She finally shrugged her shoulders and mumbled,
"It doesn't matter..."
"It matters to me."
"Why? Why do you care so much?" She asked him, her voice tired and broken. Leo put his foot forward to step but hesitated. It was all so strange. He should be thrilled to hear that the woman he had harbored feelings for, for all this time actually returned them. But all Leo could do was wonder why? The very reality of it seemed like nothing more than some campy eighties movie ending. That wasn't how it worked. He had to know why. A girl like her doesn't go for a guy like him. Ever.
Leo took that step and spoke just above a dying whisper, "Because I'm an idiot."
Aeris' face softened and stared at him in question. Leo had pride and dignity just as much as anyone else but he knew what he was...even if it hurt to admit it.
"I'm an idiot Aeris. I make stupid decisions, I rarely think things through all the way, I'm constantly putting my foot in my mouth and I'm always frustrating the people who I care about most. Christ, I let a hobo trick me into buying a cardboard box full of rocks." He finished with a sad laugh at his own pathetic failures.
"It matters to me because..." He paused and could only give her a fatigued and weary look before finishing, "Because how could you ever like a waste of time like me?"
Aeris was silent as she let his words sink in, her mouth slightly agape. After a few seconds, her eyes narrowed and she barred her fangs. The pink feline grabbed Leo by the shirt and screamed at him,
"Don't you ever say that! Do you hear me?"
Leo cowered back from her gaze, afraid and very confused at her sudden change. Aeris didn't let him speak as she continued.
"You are not a waste of time! You are the only person on this whole damn planet that understands me! Who knows me! You're the only guy who has stayed in my life for longer than a year! There's only one idiot here Leo and it isn't you!" She yelled.
Leo could only watch as her face sadly softened again and she relaxed her grip on him but didn't let go.
"It isn't you…" She muttered.
"You do stupid things Leo. We both know that. But you do things right too. Like when I need someone to talk to, you're always there. If I need to vent about some asshole ex-boyfriend, you listen. When I drink too much you drive me home. I've never had anyone in my life care about me like you do…how could I not like someone like you? But…I…I can't lose that." She ended with a dying sob.
Leo felt his hands rise up and grasp her arms. "What do you mean lose? Areis…don't dance around this anymore…tell me."
He could feel her shake in his hands and her eyes shined with fresh tears. Her own hands clutched at his hoodie so tightly as if she was afraid he would blow away if she let go.
"I couldn't stand not having you in my life. Being away in Japan was torture enough. I can't lose you because I was stupid enough to ruin what we had with a stupid fucking crush…"
Leo thought long and hard about what Aeris was telling him and his whole body tensed when his brain finally clued in.
"You…you think I'll just leave you because I'd be freaked out by some crush you have on me?"
Aeris said nothing and bowed her head in shame and indignity, not wanting him to look at her. Leo stood in place, dumbfounded and dazed. How could she think that? After everything he just told her at the arcade, she thought he would just walk away?
She felt her head rise at the sound of her name and her eyes looked up to him again. Something in his voice compelling her to face him. It was strong and firm with a reason behind it.
"That is the stupidest thing I've ever heard in my life." He said, a disapproving scowl on his face. Aeris' eyebrows softly rose in surprise at his words.
"You tell me how much I mean to you and how much it would hurt if you lost me but you don't even consider how I feel about you?"
"What do you mean?" She asked and feeling very stupid for it.
"You never asked yourself that maybe there was a reason I never left in the first place? You never wondered why I always kept coming back?"
"You…you said it was because we were friends…"
"We are. But it went beyond friendship Aeris." Leo told her, his face now molding back into his usual calm and friendly features. "You are my best friend but you're so much more. You are the most amazing woman I've ever known and I can't stand the thought of you not being in my life too. You never have to worry about losing me Aeris…because you already have me."
Aeris felt her whole body grow warm. His statement rolled around in her head like some wonderful drug, sending joyous surprise into her nerves. He let his eyes wander down her slender frame, Aeris suddenly feeling very small and they came back up to her own. He reached out with one hand and gently placed it around her waist, pulling on it slightly. Aeris felt herself move forward, pressing against his chest, eyes never leaving his.
While Leo looked as cool as a cucumber doing this, inside he was terrified. He knew he could be an idiot but this might take the cake. But there was too much riding on this to run away from. He reached up with his other hand and cupped her cheek, running a thumb over her lips ever so softly. Aeris sucked in a breath at the contact, her chest pressing harder against his own. Leo paused for a moment, his brain focusing on perhaps the most important thought he has ever had.
"You've screwed up so many times before. Don't do it now. Not now."
He slowly leaned in and pressed his lips against her own like he had seen been done thousands of times in the movies. He hadn't kissed a lot of girls in his life and that only added to his nerves. He soon found that it was a trivial thing as Aeris wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him back. He pulled her in closer and relished in the taste of her lips, like that of cherries. Aeris moaned softly as they moved their mouths together, a small wet pop made every time they parted only to come back together again.
Leo held her tighter and Aeris gripped a handful of fur on the back of his neck, the kissing becoming more passionate and heated. Tension and frustration that had been building up inside the both of them for so long was being unleashed and it was starting to maybe get a little heavy too fast.
Aeris mustered all the will power she could and pushed him away. They both stood there panting slightly for air, Aeris leaning her head against his chest. No words were spoken, the only sound being the rain outside.
"I think we should…take this slow." Aeris finally said. Leo only nodded. He wasn't expecting it to get that heated. Not that he was complaining.
Aeris stepped away from him, out of his arms and stood just slightly away from him. Her mind was still reeling from what he had just told her not to mention what he just did. Leo rubbed his arm in a nervous twitch. Maybe he shouldn't have done that.
Aeris saw his discomfort and as if reading his mind, she smiled at him.
"So…you like me too, huh?" She asked somewhat playfully. Leo smiled, breaking away from his uneasiness and replied, "Yeah…wasn't sure if I made that obvious enough."
Aeris laughed softly and she made her way back over to him, her arms gently resting on his chest. She leaned forward and kissed him softly, Leo wrapping his arms around her and giving a soft squeeze. They broke away and Leo stared into her eyes.
"If this is some sort of crazy dream…please don't wake me up."
"Only if you promise not to wake me up." She answered and gave him a quick peck on the lips. Leo smiled and leaned his head against hers. She felt herself starting to purr as that warmth returned. All her fears, all her misconceptions and doubts were swept away by his lips, all replaced with nothing but comfort, joy and eagerness to the events of the future. She smiled and gently poked at the bell that hung around his neck, the jingle it made being music to her ears.
"Aeris?" His voice broke her away from her thoughts as she looked up to him again.
"I want you to know that…I'm going to try real hard to be what you want." Leo told her with a nervous confidence. "I'm going to stop goofing around and try to be more sophisticated and-"
Leo didn't get to finish a she silenced him with her finger.
"Leo, if you ever change, then this will be over before it even begins." She told him. "I want you to stay exactly the way you are, goof and doofus all the way…because that is what I want."
Leo laughed and pulled her tight against him, relishing her warmth. She pushed him away and yawned.
"I think we deserve some rest. We can talk more about this in the morning." Aeris told him and made her way to the stairs. Leo felt disappointed in the absence of her body no longer against his but he nodded and made his up the stairs too. They both went to their rooms and Aeris smiled at him as she went into her own. Leo stood in the hall for a moment, staring at her door before going into his own room.
He shed his clothes and put his pajama's back on and crawled into his bed, the soft warm sheets a welcoming comfort for his weary body. Leo stared up at the darkened ceiling still wondering if he was dreaming. He felt himself smile and softly touched his lips, Aeris' taste still lingering on them.
His left ear suddenly swiveled at the sound of a door being shut and soft padding footsteps. He rose up on his elbows when he heard his own door open. He peered into the darkness and saw Aeris in her own pajamas walking towards him.
"Aeris? What's wrong?" He asked. She smiled at him and crawled underneath his covers, laying her warm body on top of his own.
"Whoa…I thought we were going to take this slow." He stammered nervously. Aeris laughed and gave his forehead a soft smack. "Easy perv. I'm freezing and want you to keep me warm tonight. You think you can handle that?"
Leo smiled as she nestled herself comfortably on top of him, head just resting under his chin. "I think I can do that." He mumbled, wrapping his arms around her. Aeris let out a sigh of content and let her eyes close, Leo's calming scent filling her nostrils and lulling her to sleep.
"Hey Aeris." She heard him say in the dark.
"You made out with a guy who used to drink pee in his coffee."
"…You really know how to ruin a fucking moment don't you?"
A/N: Well, there you have it. My most sincere thanks to everyone's kind reviews and encouragement. I hope that this story lived up to what people expected from it. It's been a blast. Until next time! Cya!