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"In Times of Need"

Chapter 1


Leo reloaded his shotgun. They had just been through a monster horde of Infected. He and Aeris were the last two remaining, Coach and Ellis having died long ago in another freak horde. As he loaded the last shell, he glanced over at Aeris. She had taken a hell of a pounding from a Hunter, and she wasn't acting like herself. She seemed weak and struggled to walk, quivering with every step. "Hey, you all right?"

Aeris looked up, blood slowly trickling down her furred white chin. "Mmh. Yeah, I'll be fine." Leo could see that she was having a hard time keeping up. He took a bottle of unbranded pain pills out of his pocket and handed them to her. She eagerly downed a couple, putting the bottle in her jacket pocket. "Thanks, Leo."

"No problem. You gonna be all right? 'Cause we gotta keep moving if we want to get to this gun shop." Aeris nodded, noticing she could move a little bit faster now. She reloaded her assault rifle, ensuring there was a fresh round in the chamber and that her laser sight was accurate.

"Looks like we're here." Leo pushed open the heavy glass door to reveal a plethora of every sort of gun imaginable, as well as explosive ammo, pipe bombs and laser sight attachments. "Better stock up, this will be the last ammo you'll see for a while." Aeris was scouting out the area when she came across a medicine chest full of pills and first-aid kits. Perfect, considering she didn't have enough pills to last, and she was already on her last leg, in desperate need of first-aid.

"Here, take this and heal up. You're gonna need it." She tossed a first-aid kit to Leo. He decided to heal up now, before they encountered another monster Horde. They walked down the hallway and came to a door that was locked. Leo tried to break it down, to no avail. The intercom system crackled and buzzed as a garbled voice with a thick bayou accent came through.

"Hey if y'all are tryin' to get outta here, you're gonna need to go past that old convenience store. As for me, I've got everything I need, except some cola. If you can go in there and get me some I'll clear a path for ya."

"Cola?!" Leo growled. "Look here, we didn't just risk our lives at the hands of thousands of zombies to get you some fucking pepsi." Aeris put her hand on his shoulder.

"Leo, calm down. All this guy wants is some coke, and in return for him getting us the fuck out of here, it seems like a fair trade to me."

Leo sighed. "Whatever. And you're sure you can get us out of here?"

"Positive. The only way out is behind that fuel tanker - I can blow it up and clear a path for ya's," the voice cracked. They both checked their guns were fully loaded and ready to shoot. They opened the back door and headed out toward the convenience store across the block. Aeris reached out to the door and pulled, only to be met by resistance. She pushed, to the same result.

"It's locked," she groaned with exasperation. Leo instinctively pulled and pushed as well, on the other door, to be met with the same situation.

"I'm gonna break it," Leo said, raising up his rifle. Aeris stepped back to avoid the shrapnel from the glass door. Leo smashed the butt stock of his shotgun into the glass, causing a resounding shatter to echo across the neighborhood. Accompanied by this was the shrill, sweeping scream of an alarm sounding from inside. Aeris's ears pinned back to the side of her head; she knew exactly what that meant - that they had to hurry, or risk getting slaughtered by the hordes of zombies that were closing in, fast.

Leo bolted inside, searching frantically for the sugary beverages that the gun shop owner requested. "Cover me!" he barked to Aeris. She nodded and cocked her assault rifle, raising it to her shoulder, following closely to Leo. After a small wave of zombies and what felt like half an hour, Leo picked up a six-pack of cola, pulling out one of his dual pistols in his free paw. He ran out to the front door, trying his best to keep the quickly moving zombies at bay.

"I got it! Let's go!" he shouted to Aeris. They began to sprint back to the gun store, Leo leading the way and Aeris providing covering fire behind him. The horde seemed to thin out as Aeris blew more zombie brains across the pavement. Within a couple of panicked minutes, they arrived back at the gun store, passing the owner his cola through a small drop-box on the door. The sound of a rifle bolt clicking behind the door was heard, followed by a shot. Suddenly, the overturned fuel tanker in the street behind the shop burst into flames. Leo found it just as appropriate a time as any to slow down and try to catch his breath.

"Hold up Leo. You hear something?" Aeris asked, her ear flicking gently. There was a sinister-sounding chuckling coming from behind a blue hatchback. "Wait here." Aeris drew her assault rifle to position and slowly walked to one side of the small car, when suddenly she felt a thud on the back of her head. "OH FUCK! LEO, IT'S A JOCKEY!"

Without thinking, Leo raised his shotgun and fired a couple of shells into the creature's back, sending him chittering to the ground. "Fuckin' eh, you all right?" He walked over to her and helped her up. She seemed unharmed, except for the emotional trauma of being head-humped by a mutated midget. At that moment, Leo suddenly found himself unable to breathe. His head began pounding as he tried valiantly to gasp for breath, to no avail. He felt himself being drawn backwards. Before Aeris could get a shot off, she was pounced on by a slender creature clad in black clothing, knocking her gun away, leaving them both helpless. Through all the horror, she heard Leo's last gurgling gasp of air, not long before she succumbed to her own Hunter-inflicted injuries, and everything went blank.


"Fuck!" Leo shouted into his headset. He and Aeris were playing on a private server, since it was a school night and neither could go to the other's house. "We can never fucking beat this part!"

"Well, maybe if we'd protected the AI players more, they could have helped us out."

Leo scoffed. "We were better off without them anyways. All they did was take all the melee weapons and health packs." He alt-tabbed out of the game, thinking maybe some chilled web-surfing would ease the frustration. "Hey, do you have anything going on Saturday?" Aeris, too, had quit her game, choosing instead to watch some Youtube videos to unwind.

"I don't think so, why?" she responded

"I was wondering if maybe you could come over," Leo suggested. "I just got Modern Warfare 2 and I'm stuck on the campaign." They got together often, and hung out with each other every day at school. They were best friends since they were kittens, and they were basically inseparable now.

"I don't know, I'll have to check my schedule," she answered. "I think we were supposed to go out of town, but I'm not sure."

"Cool. I've tried everything and can't get past that part." Leo glanced at the clock. "Fuck, it's late. I'm gonna log off and get some sleep." It was a little after 11 pm, and they both had school in the morning. "I'll catch you tomorrow."

"Yeah, I'm getting kind of tired too... I think I'll get some sleep too. Good night, Leo." Aeris signed out of Steam, and commenced her computer's shutdown. It was very cold in her house tonight, and she searched for a sweater. It was getting to be the middle of October, and the chilly Toronto autumn was quickly making itself at home. Her mother had turned the furnace on a couple of nights ago, but it was a very old unit, and didn't heat the house very well. Leo's parents, on the other hand, just upgraded to a new system, which was part of the reason Aeris loved to go to his house. It always seemed to be the perfect temperature. She stopped herself shortly when she detected a strange smell coming from her furnace's vent, but she shrugged it off as some dust that possibly collected inside the vents. She turned off her bedroom light and crawled into her comfortable bed.

Leo's computer shut itself down with a whirring noise as the fans on his high-end gaming computer case slowed themselves to a halt. He prided himself on his new machine; not just so he could show off to his friends, but mainly the fact that he bought the state-of-the-art hardware with his own money, built the computer himself, installed all the software, and didn't manage to mess anything up. Computers were always a passion for Leo; he always wanted to learn more about how they work, and always wanted to keep his system up-to-date. He stripped down to his boxers, turned his light off and crawled into bed to get whatever sleep he could.

Aeris would never admit it, but she looked forward to seeing Leo at school each day. Even if he was a bit slow, and never made much sense, he was actually manageable when he wasn't getting in trouble, or being a general nuisance. She might even go as far as to call him "cute". It's not surprising though, for cats of opposite genders, who've known each other since infancy, to have a special bond. As she drifted off to sleep, she couldn't help but notice the strange smell coming from her heating vent was becoming stronger and stronger. She tried to convince herself it was just from months of not using it, but it was getting unnerving. She shrugged it off again in favor of the sleep her body so desperately needed.


When their lips met, it felt like heaven. She never wanted this moment to end, as she revelled in his warmth and flavor. She had her own unique aura about her that couldn't be matched by any other person or thing in the world, and Leo loved every bit of it. They sat on the edge of his bed, liplocked for a good five minutes before they finally parted. He laid back on his pillows while Aeris snuggled up close to him, resting her paw on his chest, running her fingers through his silken mane. Leo let out a sigh.

"What's the matter?" she asked.

Leo looked down into her bright azure eyes. "Nothing."

Aeris could tell he was lying. "No, something's wrong."

"Nothing's wrong, I promise," he reassured.

"Leo, come on. I've known you for 14 years, I can tell when something's wrong. Now 'fess up." Admittedly, her demanding tone made him feel uneasy, but just hearing her voice so concerned for his well-being reassured him slightly.

"It's just... I've loved you for a long time, I've just always been so afraid to tell you. I just don't know why it had to wait this long."

"Well.. Leo... you know you could have told me," she said with a giggle. "I mean, what's the worst that could have happened?"

He couldn't help but chuckle to himself. "With your temper? Lots." Aeris chuckled with him.

"Well, consider yourself lucky I feel the same way." She leaned in to kiss him again... once, then twice before they were locked in each other's embrace again. Aeris broke the kiss and sat back.

"What? Did I do something wrong?" Leo asked, puzzled. It was the first time he'd gotten this far with a girl, and he was trying his hardest to impress her.

"No, you're perfect," Aeris purred. "Something just... doesn't feel right." It was at that moment that Leo's alarm clock started buzzing loudly. She reached for the snooze button (confused, since his alarm clock wouldn't be going off at 2:45 on a Saturday afternoon). It did nothing. Leo's eyes widened, his breathing and heartrate growing rapidly.

"Aeris, you have to wake up," he said, a slight tinge of panic in his voice.

"..What are you talking about, Leo?" she responded, an eyebrow raised.

"Please, you have to wake up, and you have to do it now."

"What's going on, Leo?" she demanded.

"Just trust me. But you have to wake up, NOW!"


Aeris slowly came to her senses, realizing that the loud, shrill beep she was hearing wasn't just in her dream. Something was not right. She threw the covers off herself, and went to investigate. Upon standing, a wave of thick smoke hit her so fiercely it nearly knocked her over as she hacked and coughed, trying to expel the acrid air from her body.

She noticed a faint glow from underneath her door. Oh, no no no, she thought to herself, fearing the worst. She opened the door to notice that her aging furnace, the one that creaked and rattled in protest when it turned on, had caught on fire, catching the surrounding wall as well. She swore to herself, feeling panic set in.

"Fuck, fuck.. FIRE!" she swore, as she bolted out of the room, searching for the nearest water source or fire extinguisher she could get her paws on. Aeris's parents opened their bedroom door.

"Oh my God! Aeris, find some water!" screamed her mother in panic. Aeris returned with a fire extinguisher in her paws. She pulled the pin and squeezed the lever, only to release a dull cough of aged chemical. Despite her squeezing and mangling of the lever, no more chemical would be released. Frustrated, she threw the empty canister against the wall The flames grew taller, eventually spreading to the ceiling.

"Fuck! Get out of the house!" her father shouted as they all ran outside. Aeris ran down the street to Leo's house and started frantically banging on the door. She didn't know her other neighbors too well, being relatively new to the neighborhood, and Leo and his family was the only ones she really trusted.

Leo walked out of bed. It wasn't very common that someone would be knocking on the door at 1 in the morning. "I'm coming, I'm coming!" He opened the door, greeted by a nappy-furred Aeris, tears streaming down her cheeks, in a frenzied panic. "Leo, call 911! My fucking house just caught fire and it's not going out!" He looked past Aeris down the block to her house, seeing a dull orange flicker through the windows.

"Holy shit!" Leo ran back inside and dialed 911. Within 5 minutes, almost the entire Toronto FIre Department pulled up to the small cul-de-sac where they lived. A small crowd gathered on the sidewalks as the entire block gathered to see what all the calamity was about. Once the fire was under control, they turned the gas off via the main on the side of the house and extinguished the flames. It still stood, but was too dangerous to live in. Leo put some clothes on and walked down the block toward Aeris's house, taking in as much as possible. Aeris's parents and his parents were talking with the fire department. Aeris was sitting on the curb, shaking and scared. This was all so much to deal with. Her parents seemed calm, cool, and collect, but she was a shivering mess.

Leo went back inside his house to grab the comforter off his bed, then walked back outside next to Aeris. He draped the thick green blanket over her shoulders. This seemed to startle her, because she jumped like a shot. She seemed to calm down when she saw it was Leo.

"Fuck, Leo, you scared the shit out of me," she said with a shiver.

"Sorry, just thought you looked a little cold." He sat down next to her. "Are you okay?" Aeris looked at his face. This was the first time she'd seen him show honest concern for anything before.

"Yeah, I'll be fine... I just... I don't know... Where will we stay? Oh God, I'm so confused..." She wrapped her arms around Leo, burying her face in his shoulder. Leo was surprised, but fully understanding, holding her in return.

"Don't worry," he assured. "We'll make it work, I promise." Aeris sniffled quietly.

"Thank you.." she whispered.

"No problem," Leo said, laying his head against hers for a second. Once he was sure she was calmed down, he removed his arm from around her. "I'll be right back, I gotta go talk to my parents." She nodded as Leo stood up and walked toward his mother and father. His mother stopped talking to Aeris's, and looked at him.

"Leo, would you be all right if the Coles stayed with us for a while?" she asked. "Just until they get back on their feet." Leo nodded.

"That's fine with me, as long as dad's ok with it."

"It was his idea," she replied. "Go get Aeris, her parents want to talk to her." He walked over to the curb, got Aeris and walked back.

"Aeris, we're gonna be staying with the Leonardos till we get this sorted out," said her dad as he put his arm around her shoulders. Aeris breathed a sigh of relief as she wrapped her arms around Mrs. Leonardo, who chuckled and put a hand on the back of Aeris's head.

About an hour later, they had gotten clearance from the fire department to enter the house long enough to pack up just what they needed, which included huge briefcases full of clothes and memorabilias for Aeris's parents, and a couple outfits, videogames and the Xbox for Aeris. They were discussing accomodations, when it became obvious that there was only one spare bedroom.

"Well," Leo suggested, "we could give Aeris's parents the guest-room and Aeris could roomie with me."

"I don't see a problem there," replied Aeris's dad.

"Indeed," chimed in her mom. "Mrs. Leonardo, what do you think?"

"Well..." His mom thought about it for a while. "As long as you keep the door open," she said with a sly grin. Leo quietly celebrated inside his head.

"Thank you so much, Mr. and Mrs. Leonardo," said Aeris's dad. "It means the world to us that you would do this... it's good to see there are still some good people left in this world." Leo's mom chuckled as she walked away.

"I'll let you all get unpacked. I'm going to make us all some soup." Leo led Aeris back into his room and helped her get some of her stuff unpacked. She couldn't help but think about the dream she had right before the fire... how good she felt, how wonderful Leo made her feel.

A few minutes later, the soup was finished and everyone was trying to relax. Aeris's parents were already looking up numbers for hotels to call in the morning. Meanwhile, Leo and Aeris were exhausted, about ready to fall asleep standing up. They decided to turn in.

"Where do you want me to sleep?" inquired the pink cat.

"You can have my bed, I'll sleep on the floor." Aeris rolled her eyes.

"Leo, I'm not going to take your bed. It's your house. I'll sleep on the floor."

"No you won't, Aeris," he retaliated. "If you're going to be like this then we'll both use the bed."

"Fine by me!" she said, crossing her arms. Leo felt himself blush slightly.

"Are...you serious?"

"Yes, Leo, I am. Just because I'm a guest here, don't treat me like I'm royalty." It was a little unnerving for Leo to share his bed at all, nonetheless with a girl. He'd never had to do so before. Either way, they both were shaken by the events that had just taken place. Aeris was in no position to argue, with the shape she was in. And Leo, he just wanted to sleep. He looked over at Aeris, who was sitting at the edge of his bed, her elbows on her knees. She looked as if she could fall asleep right then and there.

"Are you ready to go to sleep?" he asked. Aeris blinked once and raised her head a bit.

"Isn't your mom making soup?" she asked drowsily. He shrugged.

"Yeah, but I'm not really hungry," he said, stretching his back. "Are you?" She shook her head.

"I think food is the least of my concern right now," she groaned, laying back on the bed. Leo issued a concerned moan, walking over to the door and kicking it shut gently, flicking his light off. Aeris took off her sweater and draped it over Leo's computer chair, crawling in bed and under the covers. Without thinking, Leo began undressing again, removing his shirt and beginning to remove his jeans. He managed to get the button and fly undone before Aeris realized what he was doing.

"Leo! What the hell are you doing?" He nearly had a heart attack as he quickly re-buttoned his jeans.

"Shit! I'm sorry," he stammered. "Just.. I normally only sleep in my underwear." He could tell Aeris was blushing, as was he. "If it makes you feel more comfortable, I can put on some pajamas."

"No no, it's okay," Aeris said, covering her eyes. "It's your house, do whatever you do. I'm not even here."

"Aeris, I don't want to get stark naked in front of my best friend."

"I don't care," she said. "Pretend I'm not even here. Just please, do whatever makes you comfortable." Leo sighed, and once he was sure Aeris was in bed and comfortable, he turned his back to her and began stripping down. He crawled in bed next to her, getting warm beneath the sheets.

"Don't you sleep in your underwear too?" Leo inquired slyly.

"Nice try, perv," Aeris responded, giggling but slightly blushing still. "I don't like sleeping naked. I just feel too revealed."

"You made me."

"Because you always do, and I don't." Leo gave a fake, playful aww, making Aeris giggle. He rolled over and gave her a quick, spontaneous hug.

"Goodnight, Aeris. If you need anything, wake me up." Aeris gave a small mew of appreciation, and returned to her side of the bed.