Ch. 1 - Daily Routine

"Geez, another day in my boring life, in this boring town. Does it ever end? It's like some kind of record and my life is just constantly looping through the same daily routines over and over and over again!" The dark haired young man sighed and let his head come to rest on the table. It was lunch, one month away from the end of his junior year. Cato was tired of it; the same day-to-day lifestyle was really starting to get to him.

"Lighten up will ya man? You don't always have to make things out to be so depressing. There's plenty to do around town, you're just too busy locking yourself away in your room away from everything and everybody to notice." Cato turned his head to look at Gale. His friend gave him a stupid grin and ran a hand through his medium length blonde hair. That was Gale alright, the complete opposite of everything Cato was. Where Cato was always calm, level-headed, anti-social, and completely pessimistic; Gale was easily irritated, quick to conclusions, could never shut up, and always looked to the brighter points in life.

"Man, give it a rest. I don't have any reason to go and 'hang out' with the people around here. What? Expect me to meet some nice girl or something? Yeah right, I have yet to see anybody around here that would interest me in the slightest. And I've been up here for quite some time, so don't say I haven't had time to look. Besides, the teenage population around here is too preoccupied with thinking about how 'cool' what they're doing is to actually have any kind of fun. I swear, if it was decided that it was 'uncool' to breathe, over half the school would be dead in twelve hours." Gale nodded in agreement. There was truth in what Cato said, there always was. It was that crazy logic of Cato's. Anything could sound logical if there was a guy like Cato behind it to back it up.

"I guess you have a good point Cato, but I still think it wouldn't hurt you to get out every once in a while. Come on, what exactly is there in your room that keeps your attention there all the time?" Cato raised himself back up. There was some food sitting on his tray in front of him, he poked at it before answering. School food was so disgusting.

"Let's see. First of all, there's my anime. You see, most of the good stuff hasn't aired here in America yet, so I watch it on my computer. Then there's my videogames, I never pass up a chance to play a good game. And then finally there's my guitar. Come on man, we still plan on starting a band right? Can't do that if we don't practice. Speaking of which, how's that bass coming along for you?" Gale looked around nervously and scratched his cheek.

"Oh yeah, well ya know, it's coming along alright. Could be better, but it's not horrible." Cato sighed and leaned back in his seat.

"How troublesome; you haven't been practicing have you?"

"No, not really, no." He crossed his arms as he looked at Gale.

"Maybe, instead of me spending more time out of my room, you should spend some more time in your room practicing. That is, of course, unless you aren't serious about starting a band. If that's the case, I can always go and find somebody else to play bass for me. Bass players aren't hard to come by." Gale sighed in exasperation. He always got this from Cato when he found out Gale hadn't been practicing. There were very few things Cato was actually seriously motivated to do, but his aspiring dream to start a rock band was always there. And he was dead serious about it.

"Look man, don't worry. We wanted to start it up this fall; I've still got plenty of time." This was about the only point at which both friends shared a likeness. Both of them were major slackers. Cato knew if he didn't stay on Gale about practicing it wasn't going to happen. And he wanted Gale to be there as part of the band when they finally got some sort of record deal.

"Fine, but don't think just because you're my best friend that I won't kick you out of the band if you can't play. I'm not gonna be dragged down by anybody where this is concerned, so I suggest you get to practicing if you want to insure your place in the band." Gale rolled his eyes. Always the third degree when he admitted he hadn't practiced. Cato was about to say something else when the bell rang. The whole cafeteria was suddenly alive with hundreds of students moving away from their tables and migrating into the hallways. Cato and Gale kept their seats for a few minutes to let the crowd dissipate. There was nothing more annoying then getting caught in the crowd and spending five minutes trying to get out of it.

"Alright, let's go." Cato said as he picked up his black side bag and slung it over his shoulder. Gale picked up his backpack and put it on his back before following. Time for that oh so fun final period of the day, English. The two shared the same class, neither of them liked it. Cato was a natural writer, but he hated to write in class, he found it too troublesome to write everything out with a pencil and paper. It was the new millennium, everything was done with computers. Besides, his typing speed was easily three times faster than his handwriting. Gale just plain didn't like anything about the reading or writing of the English language. He did the work, but he despised every minute of it.

"Hey, watch it!" Gale growled as a large guy ran into him in the hall; pushing him to the side and bringing Cato back to the present. The walk to the classroom wasn't really that long; it was just made long by the fact that the hallways were far too congested. "Jerk-off," he grumbled to himself as he continued walking.

The two turned to head down another hallway, Cato went reeling to the side as somebody pushed him forcefully and intentionally out of the way. When he regained his balance, he looked after the guy who had pushed him before he continued walking without saying a word.

"I don't see how you do it." Cato looked at Gale curiously.

"Do what?"

"Put up with all the assholes around here without ever losing your cool. Especially over something like that, you know he pushed you on purpose right?" Cato nodded.

"Yeah, I know. But why bother with him? Let him think he's the bigger man for pushing people around. Doesn't bother me. I could honestly care less. Let him take his little ego trip." Gale looked at him blankly. It sounded to him like an intellectual way of saying he didn't want a fight.

"You know Cato, one of these days you won't be able to just walk away from it like that. You'll eventually have to stand up for something, or someone." Cato sighed and looked ahead again.

"Maybe, but I doubt it will be anytime soon. Now, can we get to class please?"

************

"Your turn Cato, tell us about your name." Cato sighed as he lifted his head up off the desk. This was such a pointless activity. What was the reason behind sharing the significance of birth names in class anyway?

"I honestly don't see the point of this activity." His English teacher gave him a stern look. Not surprising, she frowned upon it every time Cato was straightforward with how he felt.

"Oh really? Well, if you plan to get a participation grade today, you should probably do it. And with your grades, another zero wouldn't help you out in the least. Besides, that's a very unusual name; I was hoping you out of everybody would have the most interesting background behind your name." Cato rolled his eyes.

"It's nothing that amazing. My mother named me Cato because supposedly it means 'calm or peaceful.' She says the reason she did it was because as a child I was always calm, and because I barely ever cried or got irritated with things. I've always been calm, so I suppose the name kinda fits, huh?" Cato had zoned out before he got a response. The bell rang shortly thereafter. "Finally, I thought it would never end." Cato sighed with relief as he grabbed his side bag and met up with Gale at the doorway.

"Well its Friday night man, wanna go somewhere? Possibly run by the arcade?" Cato glanced at Gale before moving his eyes back ahead of himself.

"Why, so I can watch you make a fool of yourself at the DDR machine? No thanks, I'm gonna grab a burger and then head home. Wanna come over? We can go pick up your bass and play for a while." Gale toyed with the idea for a few minutes before answering.

"Not tonight. Maybe tomorrow though, give me a call alright?" Cato nodded.

"I'm outta here, if I don't call feel free to call me. Not like I'm gonna be doing anything." Gale nodded as he continued down the hall and Cato made his way out the exit to the left. His Camaro was parked at the other end of the parking lot. Just a few more minutes and he'd be home free. Cato sighed in exasperation when he stepped out of the building. The second the door closed behind him, it had started raining. Just his luck. The parking lot was rife with activity as he made his way through the bustle to his car. Everybody was in a hurry to get away from the school, not that he could blame him. School sucked. Once Cato reached his car, he fished his keys out of his pocket and pulled the door open. He let his head fall softly against the head rest for a second as he relaxed; he always felt relaxed behind the wheel of his car.

"The same boring routine, will it ever end?" He began to reverse and slammed on the brakes when somebody came running out behind his car.

"Hey, watch it!" Cato growled under his breath as he looked at the guy in his rear view. It took about five minutes to get out of the parking lot, and it was barely two minutes later when he was backed up at a red light. Cato sighed in exasperation and checked his gas gauge; next to nothing in the tank.

"Great, anything else that could possibly go wrong?" He pulled forward as the light turned green and growled in frustration when he heard and felt one of his tires blow out. It was barely ten minutes away from the gas station, he could make it.

***********

"Great, just great! Mom has my donut!" The car had a full tank of gas now, but he was stuck at the station until his mom got home from work. He slammed the trunk shut and sat on the back of the car. Why him? Why today? Why did he even bother? Sometimes life just seemed like such a big disappointment that he didn't understand why he kept putting up with it. It was still pouring, but Cato didn't care. So what if he was soaked? Not like anybody'd care if he just caught pneumonia and died. Well, maybe a few people would, but not enough to wish he was back he was sure.

"Hey," Cato looked up as he heard the voice and saw a red haired girl in a red sports car; he didn't know the type pull up beside him with her window rolled down. She smiled as she looked at him. He was drenched; everything from his hair to his shoes was absolutely soaked. "You need some help? A phone maybe?" She pulled out her cell phone, offering it out for him to use.

"Nah, I'll be fine. I just blew a tire is all. My mom'll be by with another one in a few hours." She tilted her head curiously at him.

"This rain doesn't bother you at all?" He shrugged.

"Not much does. I'll be fine." She looked him over for a moment. He was soaked, and if he just stayed there and he was going to catch a cold or something.

"How far from here do you live?" Cato looked back up at her, his gaze had wandered to the ground.

"What? Oh, I'm about two, three blocks away. Why do you ask?"

"Jump in; I'll give you a ride home." Cato shook his head.

"No thanks, I'll be fine. The rain should die down in thirty minutes or so."

"Dude, you're completely soaked. If you don't dry off and get warm, you're gonna be sick. You can come back and pick up your car later. Nothing's gonna happen to it. Now come on, get in." She unlocked the door and motioned for him to jump in the passenger seat. Cato sighed and reluctantly did so.

"Thanks." She nodded as she put the car into drive and rolled out of the gas station.

"My name's Liz by the way, I think I've seen you around school. Yeah, we have a few classes together. Yer the kid that usually sits in the back, one of those guys that's really quiet unless spoken to directly. Cato; right?" He nodded slightly as he ran a hand through his soaking wet hair.

"That'd be me." Liz smiled slightly and turned the radio up a little. A very familiar guitar riff came on; Cato couldn't help but comment on it.

"God of Thunder, I love this song!" Liz looked at him.

"Really!? Me too!" Cato began to air guitar along with the song and stopped, feeling a bit stupid for doing it.

"Sorry, it's kinda habit. This was one of the first songs I learned to play on my guitar." She looked at him again, a look of amazement swept across her features.

"No way! You play guitar!?" He nodded slightly. "That's so cool! I wanted to, but my dad didn't wanna pay for a guitar. So, I went into band instead. I can't complain though, I really like band. And I'm no that bad either." Cato smirked, looking back at the road.

"Oh, my house is down this next street to the left."

"Oh right, almost forgot I was taking you home. Sorry." She turned left and followed his directions from there. It was barely five minutes before they reached his house.

"Thanks for the ride, I really appreciate it."

"Sure, no problem. It was nice getting to know a little bit more about you. You're so quiet in class; it's hard to get to know a person like you inside of school. See you tomorrow at school Cato. I hope you get your tire fixed." He smiled.

"So do I, and thanks again for the ride. I owe you one." Liz nodded and he jumped out of the car and moved quickly into the house. He was still dripping wet. First order of business: change into something a bit warmer. Then, he could wait for his mother to get in so he could go get his car.

It took all of five minutes for Cato to get changed. Before he knew it, he found himself sitting in front of his computer and putting on some random music off his computer. He leaned back in his office chair and let out a yawn. It had been a long week.

"Just one more month, then I'll have some time off and to myself." After a few minutes, he found his mind wandering off the subject of school and started thinking about the girl who had helped him out. Liz, she seemed like a nice girl. Not many people would have offered him a ride home, why had she done it? Sure, it's only right to help somebody in need, but him? Over half the people he knew were paranoid of his presence alone. Besides, she barely knew him, why bother with helping out somebody she didn't know? Cato shook his head to clear the thoughts away. More than likely he was just reading too much into it. Just a friendly gesture to somebody in need of assistance. It had been the first time he ever talked to her, and would probably be the last too. Whatever, not like it bothered him. He looked back at the monitor. There wasn't anything he wanted to do right now that interested him except getting his car on the road again. It was still a good hour or so before his mom got in, so Cato decided he'd go catch up on some much needed sleep. He turned down his music to a more tolerable level, flipped off the light and collapsed on his futon. It wasn't even four minutes before he was sound asleep and forgetting all about everything he had been through over the past week. Another day in a boring town; he didn't know how much more he could take.