A Second Chance

Prologue: Good-bye…

==Eight Years Ago==

Today, just like every other day, the Toronto airport was jammed-packed with people either arriving from their flights or preparing to depart on one. Nothing was out of the ordinary; there were delays, crying children because of the delays, headaches because of the crying children, tempers flaring because of the headaches, and verbal confrontations because of the tempers flaring, threats of death because of the verbal confrontations, and so on and so forth.

An average day, with average problems, and average solutions.

Of course there were a few exceptions to the normal flow of activity within the airport; there was a family of black and white cats who had just returned from their vacation to Hawaii an hour-and-a-half early, sending the moods of the group sky-high, while on the other end of the airport there was a short (almost stubby) dog clad in sharp business attire sitting down at a bench, simmering because his first class tickets got bumped down to coach, making his attitude not as good as the previously examined group of cats. Other than a few other cases of people accidentally experiencing either better or worse luck than the rest of the travel-goers, everything was fairly normal. People either got off or onto planes, grabbed or loaded their luggage, and either went home or to some new, far away land.

It was a fact that seriously depressed an 18 year old cat with gray fur and green eyes. He walked all through the airport with his head hung low and his paws jammed firmly into his pockets. He was hardly looking up at all, even before he and his family had arrived at the airport. As much as he tried to hide his negative emotions, it was painfully obvious to his parents as to why their son was so down today.

She was leaving.

He had known the day was coming, he just wished it hadn't come so soon. Even yesterday itself seemed so far away to him. They had spent the whole day together in his room, just sitting around on his bed, talking, hugging, doing absolutely nothing but keeping each other in their sight for hours and hours, not coming out for hours until her father had called and insisted she come back home and pack. Of course she obliged, but not without a few tears and words of conflict towards her father, but thankfully these didn't evolve into an argument… Reluctantly, she left the grey cat sitting on his bed, staring off at the spot she had been standing just a second ago, a sad, almost remorseful sigh escaping his mouth before he lay back on his bed and just stared at the ceiling for a great length of time, only moving off the bed when he was called down for supper.

Not a word was spoken all throughout the meal; the only sound being made was the clinking of cutlery and the barely audible sounds of eating. Once he was finished his plate, the gray cat trudged up to his room and closed his door quietly behind him, leaving his parents to look after him with worried looks on both their faces. He had barely slept that night, half afraid to and half angry, the reason for both being the knowledge that tomorrow was the day. Eventually, as the sun began to creep its way back into the sky, he was able to achieve a kind of stasis of sleep, but he felt no rejuvenation, just a knot in his stomach that was still there hours later.

When he dragged himself out of bed and out into the hall, he remained solemnly silent when he passed by his father, not giving him the slightest indication that he was there. He stepped into the bathroom just a silently, closing the door behind him without a sound. The sound of the shower running leaked through the door a few minutes later, and it continued well into the early hours of the morning. Forty minutes after he had seen his son walk into the washroom, the gray cat's father kicked down the door, terrified about what he might find on the other side of it. With a heavy sigh of relief - though it still worried him greatly -, the elder cat found his son, stark naked, sitting on the floor of the bathtub, the hot water running continuously down his head and body while he just sat in a ball with his gaze turned towards the floor. Even though you wouldn't have been able to tell, the fur on his face wasn't just matted down by the shower…

Eventually he was taken out of the shower by his father, and was forced to dress himself for the day. He said absolutely nothing all morning, not a word. His father had tried to start up a conversation during breakfast, but was quickly hushed by his wife. The meal progressed in absolute silence, and when everyone had finished what was on their plates, the cat's mother told him in a quiet voice that they would be leaving for the airport in "about twenty minutes."

He nodded his head in acknowledgment before standing up from the table and heading up to his bedroom, passing the time by once again staring up at his ceiling.

As promised, twenty minutes later his mother called him down so they could be on their way. He made his way out of the house with heavy footsteps, and when he saw the car sitting in the driveway he shot it a resentful glare, as if the automobile was one of his most hated enemies. His parents were close behind him and the trio quickly packed into the car and driving away towards the airport in a matter of some very few minutes. The lack of serious traffic made the drive only last forty minutes, but for the cat in the back seat, it felt as though an eternity was passing by. He occupied and entertained himself with the music of his iPod, but even though it held a great number of songs, he only listened to one all the way to the airport.

It was "Beth", by KISS…

When they arrived at the airport, they quickly found a space to park and stepped out of the vehicle and walked on towards the airport. They quickly found a free bench to sit and wait for the girl and her parents to arrive, not waiting more than five minutes until they saw them enter the main doors of the airport and waved over to them. There was a tall, black furred blue eyed cat that was the husband and father to the group, a slightly shorter female cat with pink fur and violet eyes, the mother and wife, and finally behind them was their daughter, fur just as pink as her mother's and eyes the same rich blue that was her father's. Unlike her parents, who had expressions of pride and excitement on their faces, she wore a distant, far-off looking face. They noticed their friends at the bench and waved back to them in greeting, making their way over to them, the woman chitchatting with each other while the men exchanged a friendly handshake. Their children, however, simply sat down with each other on the bench and gave each other sad smiles, not one word being passed between them.

There was a bit of time until the pink furred girl's flight departed, so the group of friends decided to grab something quick to snack on and catch a quick glimpse of the plane and find a good place to wait until boarding calls were made. They spotted a small Tim Horton's and purchased a feast of coffee and an assortment of donuts. Afterwords they made their way to the terminals and found a free row of seats to occupy. They set upon their snacks with some more talk between bites and sips, while the younger cats sat a small distance away from their parents and occupied themselves by their own means. The pink girl was sipping modestly at her cappuccino, stealing some occasional quick glances at the grey tomcat beside her, while he just slouched and held his own beverage in his paws, looking ahead with a blank stare.

Sighing as she set her drink down beside her on the ground, the pink cat inched a bit closer to the gray boy and placed her paw on his shoulder.

"Leo, please, just say something…" She begged in a melancholy voice.

He sighed and turned his gaze towards her. Their eyes met, and both of them could see the sadness in each others eyes, but it wasn't just sadness Leo saw in the pink girl's eyes. There was a kind of pleading in her blue eyes, almost as if she needed to hear his voice, and not getting to would send her off the farthest end.

Sitting up from his lazy slouch, Leo closed what small distance remained between himself and the girl beside him and brought his arms around her in a tight hug. She responded in turn and rested her head upon the crook of his shoulder and squeezed herself against his form. He could make out a few sniffs of her nose and he couldn't stop a few of his own from becoming audible. He wanted to be strong, for his own sake as well as hers, but it was next to impossible right now.

"I'm going to miss you," He mumbled quietly, sinking his muzzle into her long bangs of hair. "A lot..."

She breathed out a breath she hadn't realized she'd been holding. "I know. I'll miss you too…"

At this Leo frowned and pulled himself away from her and looked her in the eyes once again. "Then why go? Why not just stay here?" He questioned.

She gave a downward cast and sighed deeply with sadness. "I wish I could Leo, but Vancouver has the best school in the country. You know how much I've always wanted to paint. This could be my only chance…"

Leo grumbled solemnly and pressed his forehead against hers. He could see that her eyes were clenched shut with the first signs of tears beginning to make themselves present. His heart sank at the sight. He hated it when she cried.

Taking in a deep breath, Leo brought the girl's face back to be level with his own and placed his paw on the side of her cheek, wiping away the tears with the side of his thumb. He gave he a weary smile.

"Please don't cry Aeris. You're too strong for that."

Aeris let out a shaky chuckle and looked away from Leo to the left. "I don't feel very strong right now…" she said quietly.

Leo grasped Aeris' paw tightly and brought it to rest upon his chest, right over-top of his heart. "But you are. I know it. I've seen you do so much Aeris. You've always come out without a scratch. This isn't any different."

Aeris smiled appreciatively at Leo, squeezing his paw tighter within her own. She began to purr quietly when she felt his tail brush up lightly against her own, and he returned the heart-warming sound. They locked eyes once more, and turned away hurriedly when they saw that both of them had bold blushes on their faces. Aeris tried to keep a giggle from escaping her lips, but ultimately failed, making a thin, goofy grin spread across Leo's face as a result. Slowly, the two young cats turned to face one another again. Both knew that this was the last time they were going to see each other for a long time. It saddened both of them, more than they thought it would, but for each others sake they kept the majority of their depressive moods to themselves.

In an act of in-the-momentness, Aeris folded her tail over Leo's and brought herself completely against him, not one inch of free space between the two. Leo's purring grew louder as a result, as did Aeris', and now they were leaning their heads against each others with their eyes closed in solemn content.

It seemed nothing could break the two friends apart now. They were so close they appeared as one to anyone who didn't get a close look at them. They squeezed each others paw with an intensity that if it weren't for the coming event, might have made one of them pull away from the other due to pain. But neither of them did.

Eventually the moment was broken for the two when the announcer's voice sounded off and called for the first wave of passengers boarding Aeris' flight.

The adults stood up instantly, whereas Leo and Aeris sat up from their seats with intentional slowness. The parents walked over to their children and all of them made their way over to the front desk of the terminal to have Aeris be on her way. They handed over the ticket, signed some papers, and Aeris was given a card reading "V.I.P", which would allow her a small number of extended luxuries on her flight. When everything was said and done, Aeris was told she could board the plane when she was ready.

She thanked the woman at the desk and walked back over to her family and friends. She noticed that Leo was looking out the window at the plane connected to the terminal. His face looked more or less neutral, but Aeris could see the contempt in his green eyes. Taring her gaze from him, she turned to face her parents and gave them a look of complete seriousness.

"I want Leo to walk down to the plane with me." She said bluntly.

There was some objection to this, all of it from the fathers of the two, Leo the Second's not quite sure of the wisdom of letting his already depressive son see his closest friend off, and Aeris's flat-out dislike of Leo getting the better of him. After a quiet argument with the mothers, Leo was allowed to accompany Aeris to the plane, much to Leo's comfort, and sadness.

After going through a crap ton of security measures in order to get to the plane, Aeris, her parents, and Leo were all standing by the door that would lead to the plane. As Leo and Aeris stood in front of the door that would lead to their friendship's demise, Aeris's father hugged her and said, "Well, this is the last time we'll be seeing you for a while, sweety. I know you'll do great."

Aeris hugged her father back and muttered a quiet, "Thanks", before her mother also pulled her into a hug and said essentially the same thing to her as well. When her mother let go, Aeris asked, "Hey, is it okay if you guys leave me and Leo alone for a bit? I want to talk to him alone."

Aeris's mother nodded and smiled sadly, then before her husband could say no to Aeris's request, dragged him off back down to the lobby. The two friends turned to each other and breathed a mutual sigh. At this point, the tears had been replaced by a feeling of emptiness and hopelessness, yet the tears were following closely behind. Leo started, "So... I guess this is goodbye then..."

"Yeah...", Aeris replied. There were no more words to say. Everything was at a standstill, thoughts, people, the world around them. So, instead of using words, Aeris used action. She kissed him, full on the lips. It lasted no more then three seconds, yet conveyed their feelings so well that for once, ever since the news of her departure was first heard, they both felt contented. The contentment was soon replaced once more with dread when the five minute warning was announced.

Steeling herself, Aeris walked to the door of the plane, leaving Leo behind with a heavy heart and a purposefully neutral look, which she could clearly see sadness bleeding through. That wasn't to say that she was faring much better. Far from it. In fact, one could say that she was even worse. While she didn't show it as badly as Leo, her eyes were watering and she felt as though she were about to cry. Even though she openly disliked the way Leo acted on multiple occasions, she did have to admit, she was going to miss all of his insane antics. Likewise, Leo hated the way Aeris treated him most of the time, however, when she was nice and acted like a good friend, she really was a good friend.

As she walked into the hallway that lead to the plane, she looked back at him one more time. He caught her looking at him, and it seemed to say, "I'll be back. I promise.". It was then the door shut, and Aeris was gone from Leo's life. With her gone, he had no more reason to restrain his crying, and thus began to sob his heart out, walking back into the lobby and sitting on a bench. His parents were on the other side of the terminal, and he really didn't want to see them at this point. After a while, he had stopped sobbing and just sat there, looking down at the floor. He then heard someone walking toward him, someone waring heels. "Probably Mom.", he thought, "She found me and now we're going home."

Although, he was slightly shocked when he heard someone who wasn't his mother say, "Hey. You all right?"

Leo looked up hesitantly and then he saw her. It was an orange girl cat, and a rather beautiful looking one at that. She wasn't dressed like a skank, but her clothes showed off a slightly more than tasteful amount of fur to be exposed.

For a while, Leo just sat there, surprised that a girl as gorgeous as this one was talking to him, let alone while he was sitting at a bench looking so depressive. As she looked at his face, she said, "Oh, you look bad. What happened?"

Leo was silent for a moment. He knew this girl literally for ten seconds, and she was asking him what his problem was? Although, he did need someone to talk to, and his parents would only spout the same old bullshit about how he should be proud of Aeris and that he could probably make new friends now. So, he told the complete stranger everything while she sat next to him, touching him comfortingly. When he had finished she said, "You poor thing. Let me get you something to drink."

Leo said thanks as she walked away to get him some water, glad that she was around. She came back a few minutes later with a bottle of water in hand. Leo took it thankfully and gulped half of it down in one go, desperately trying to quench his thirst. As he did, he realized something, "I never caught your name."

The girl smiled, "My name's Taylor."

Aeris kept to herself on the flight, preferring to just sit around and be stared at by those who wondered why she was crying for the first third of their flight. She didn't know it, but as she flew to Vancouver, her best friend would do somethine that would help to change the course of both of their lives…

But that wouldn't become known to either of them for quite some time.