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The Game of Cat and Mouse

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The night was young for the three stooges. Their heads were held high, excitement rid through the air between the group, and constant laughing and adornment of their success overwhelmed them. It was finally the last night they were spending together as college students. Tomorrow, they'd be adults.

The tallest and lankiest man- Rhys- was shoveling pretzels into his mouth as Vaughn and Yvette were playing one of Vaughn's video games on his Helios Dreamcast. It was a first condition model, so Rhys had to keep his distance with his food around Vaughn's precious gaming system. Heaven forbid the man ever get a single speck of dust on that thing.
"Damnit!" The short man growled, setting his controller neatly beside him, though his face scowled in rage. Yvette's face, however, showed various hints of pride and victory. It was obvious she was a very cocky character.

"Well, Vaughn" She replied, "It's not my fault my hands are faster than yours! You wanna mess with this bull, you're gonna get her horns." Yvette laughed before turning her attention to the man eating pretzels behind her. "You want a turn? I'm getting bored... and I want your pretzels."

Rhys looked at the woman skeptically, squinting his brown eyes at her as he latched onto the bag of pretzels. "Are you going to save me some of them at least? Last time I let you have some of my food, you ate at least thirty dollars worth of my spicy chips. My spicy chips, Yvette. You know how much I love my--"

The man was cut off by an irritated sigh. "Yes, yes. We know how much you love your spicy chips. I'll save you some pretzels, just play the game, dude."

With a massive amount of hesitation from Rhys, he forked over his bag of pretzels and slid off of the couch, trading places with Yvette so that he could sit next to Vaughn.

Vaughn picked up his controller and his expression went from hurt and angry to confident. He'd always been better at video games than Rhys, which made Rhys not want to play. They had a video game totem pole, and Rhys was at the bottom.

Nonetheless, Rhys picked up his controller with his salt-covered hands. He earned a glare from Vaughn before putting it back down, wiping his hands on his pajama pants, and retrieving the controller again. The game then was set to their preferences with their characters.

Rhys had always played as the characters that looked similar to him. "It's not the skill, it's the looks that kill." He'd defend himself, whereas Vaughn thought the exact opposite. His mind was on what can earn him more. It made sense for a man that majored in Accounting.

As the two men played the game, Rhys shot a few looks over at Vaughn, trying to keep his concentration on the screen. He noticed that Vaughn's tongue was lodged in between his teeth and he was leaned forward, squinting at the screen. Vaughn's iron blue eyes refused to move anywhere but on his character, and his hands acted like they had a mind of their own. Rhys didn't know how he kept losing to Yvette, he was a beast at this game.

By the end of the round, Vaughn had predictably won the match. He sat up and smiled wide, giving the same looks of cockiness that Yvette gave when she won. The spectator eating Rhys' pretzels in the background gave a small snicker in Rhys' defeat.

"Good job, V!" Yvette spoke proudly, "Maybe one day, you'll be as good as me... one day." She continued to shove the sticks of bread and salt into her mouth. Terra Cotta colored lipstick smudged around the food lover's mouth. She didn't care, however.

Vaughn took his best friend's controller and his own and got to his feet. He walked over to the movie stand and turned off the Dreamcast, setting his controllers neatly on top of the machine before rejoining his friends.

Rhys watched his every move, but he didn't know why. As the shorter male sat back beside him, Rhys decided to look at the ground rather than at Vaughn. He twiddled with his hands, not knowing what to say or what to do. Nobody at this point really did.

Suddenly, Yvette slammed the bag of pretzels beside her, only leaving an eighth of what was originally given to her. "What are we doing? We just graduated! Most of our soon-to-be- colleagues are out getting hammered and partying! We're sitting here playing some pixelated cliff fighting game and eating off-brand pretzels." She got to her feet, tugging on both of the men's shirt with one hand each, "C'mon. We're going out."

Neither one of the men really wanted to go. Going out to do anything with Yvette was always a financial nightmare because they were always the ones obligated to pay for whatever she wanted. On a good night, they wouldn't spend more than three hundred dollars. They felt bad for the poor fellow's Yvette could persuade into a date. Though, despite their lack of wanting to go, they both got up. Declining what Yvette wanted to do was always a death sentence in itself.

Rhys sighed and looked down at the future Requisitionist, eyebrows furrowing in curiosity. "And where do you suppose we go? We're underage for any bars. We can't get into any clubs." When Rhys said they couldn't get into any clubs, he gave a small nod indicating Vaughn. Since he was a stereotypical nerdy man, nobody ever let him into any parties. Rhys didn't want to make him try to go to any since they tried getting into a frat party in their Junior year of College. Apparently, Hack-A-Thon T-Shirt's only fitted cool on Rhys.

Yvette nodded in agreement. Nothing Rhys was spewing wasn't true. "I never said we had to go somewhere public. We can just buy some alcohol and lounge around. No big deal!"

Vaughn decided to chime into their discussion. "We're not old enough to buy alcohol either, Yvette." There was a pause before he spoke again, "But, you have someone you can get it from, don't you."

Yvette nodded with a sneer. "Sure do! How do you think kids are able to host most of their parties in college? Mommy and Daddy know better than to buy anything for their babies, especially if they're working at Hyperion. I have a seller down on Elpis. She disguises the booze in these bouquets or several pizza boxes. Helios guards can never tell the difference."

Rhys shook his head and gave an impressed smile. "I didn't think you'd have the money for that. You never have money any other time."

Ignoring that comment, Yvette motioned them to follow her out of Vaughn's dingy apartment.

Rhys and Vaughn gave each other a concerned look. Out of nowhere, Vaughn got an idea in his head. Something to get out of this. "Don't you have to wait for orders on Elpis. I mean, it would take a week to get here." He paused for a sort of dramatic effect, "Oh no, it looks like we're not having fun tonight." Vaughn sounded sarcastic and relieved.

A laugh slipped from Yvette's lipstick covered mouth. "Don't be silly, Vaughn. I bought a stock a few months ago for emergencies. This is the biggest emergency excuse we can have right now." There was no getting out of Yvette's scheme.

Vaughn croaked and stopped in his tracks. He wasn't having it tonight. "Yvette. If we get drunk tonight, we're gonna be hungover in the morning. If we're hungover in the morning, we're going to get fired. You two can go... But I wanna go home." It was never like Vaughn to disagree, but he did have a point. The sharpest and the shiniest were the ones who were going to make it.

Rhys nodded, agreeing with what his best friend was saying. "I mean, seriously. Why don't we save the alcohol and partying for after we're working for Hyperion? That's a better emergency."

Yvette sighed and folded her arms, eyeballing the two men. "Our first off day together, we're getting wasted. I don't care what you two say..." Well, It wasn't anger. She knew that Vaughn was right too. Yvette was just an eager celebratory person. She tapped her foot and looked at her watch. "It's getting late anyway. Go home. I'll see you two in the morning for orientation." Her heels clacked against the floor as she waddled away to her apartment.

Vaughn looked at Rhys, biting his lip a little. "Do you think she's mad?" Vaughn asked in a hushed voice.

"Don't worry about it, bro... You know Yvette, she's pushy but she knows when to quit. Sometimes."

Vaughn looked down the hall where Yvette once walked. His gaze was locked there for a good minute or two in a mist of awkward silence.

"Hey, dude." Rhys snapped Vaughn out of his trance, "Do think I can stay the night? Rebecca won't stop coming to my house and pestering me. Says we never officially broke up and junk."

"I was there when you did it though?" Vaughn replied, "You clearly said it wasn't going to work... I told you she was a nut case when you told me you asked her out." Vaughn gave a sigh, which followed with a smile, "Sure. I don't see why not. You live in my apartment more than you do yours."

Rhys couldn't argue. Vaughn's home just had a comfier flow to it. That's all.

The two bro's wandered the empty halls back to Vaughn's apartment. When they got in, Vaughn locked and bolted the door shut. He was always paranoid about people just wondering in, though it never actually happened to anyone on Helios. Trespassing wasn't a very punishable crime in the law, but the law didn't matter. Handsome Jack was the law and had been for some time. If he saw fit, he'd throw you out of an airlock for accidentally stealing a pen at the bank.

Once Vaughn made sure the door was secure, he lounged on the couch and looked at the blank television screen. It was clear something was off as he stared into the nothingness of the plasma screen.

Rhys decided to sit next to him, putting his hands in his lap and brushing his hair out of his face. Part of him wanted to ask what was wrong, the other knew that Vaughn probably wouldn't budge. Instead, he decided to go with bantering. Distracting Vaughn would likely be more beneficial for both of them.

"So... I'm getting my hair cut tomorrow."

Without taking his eyes from the screen, he smiled. "But I thought you loved your precious locks. You got mad at the mention of trimming the dead ends."

"Yeah.. well. I want to be professional. I got the opportunity to be a middle manager, Vaughn. They don't want some newbie bossing them around. Figured if I tried to make myself look older, maybe then I'd be respected."

"And you think a haircut is going to make you look grown-up?" Vaughn joked, finally turning his attention to Rhys. "You're tall. People associate tallness with age."

Rhys raised a brow and folded his arms. "Oh? And how old do I look, Vaughn?"

"Well. You're what? Six foot, two inches? I figure you look about thirty-something. The bags under your eyes help that effect."

Rhys shook his head. "If that's the case, Mister Five Foot Nothing, then you're around fifteen."

They both chuckled and sunk into the cushions of the couch. Rhys looked over and stared at Vaughn for a moment, who stared back. Vaughn was the first to turn away, and Rhys felt his cheeks flushing with warmth. They both decided to stare up at the ceiling instead. Unfortunately, that just made things a little more awkward as quietness overwhelmed them.

"We should probably get to bed, don't you think?" Rhys asked, his eyes looming over to the analog clock hanging on Vaughn's all above the television, "We have to be up really early in the morning." Rhys closed his eyes and ran his fingers through his shoulder-length hair, "Especially me. I have my haircut at six in the morning."

Vaughn nodded in agreement. "I'll get your half of the bed ready for you. At this point, it's already got your body imprint." With that, Vaughn got up and went to his room to fulfill his statement to Rhys.

Rhys slapped himself across the face, looking at the clock again and sighing to himself. He didn't know what was going on. Maybe it was just him having first-day-jitters and finding his best friend as a comfort? Yeah. It had to be that. Nothing more than that. Once he heard Vaughn's voice rang from the other room stating that the bed was ready, Rhys shook his head and got to his feet, joining his friend in a night of restless slumber.