"So, tell me, Ana-Lucia, what are you doing drinking tequila and tonics at ten to noon?"
He's flirting back, and it's good for him. She recognizes the desperate grab at normalcy. "I hate flying," she answers with a grimace. "And they stuck me all the way in the back of the plane where the wheels come down right under your damn feet. So, where are you sitting?"
He checks his boarding pass. "23B."
"42F. Wanna trade?" She smiles and lifts an eyebrow invitingly. He laughs, and she's just about succeeded in distracting both of them from their respective troubles when her phone rings. Her smile freezes.
"Don't you want to answer that?" he finally prompts after the third ring.
She stares into her empty glass. "You know, I thought I did. I think … I'm going to need a few more tequila and tonics before I can have that conversation."
He nods silently and turns back to his own drink.
"Sorry," she offers lamely. "Didn't mean to go all dramatic on you."
"Hey, it's not like you were shouting at a strange woman in the middle of an airport."
She smiles faintly. "Well, that would just be weird."
He looks over at her and they lock eyes. "How can I help?" he asks.
"Help?" she repeats. "You don't even know me."
He shrugs. "I'm a Good Samaritan."
She smiles wryly and says nothing.
He watches her for a moment. "Let's trade," he finally declares, sliding his ticket toward her.
"Seats. Let's trade. I want 42F," he insists.
"Look, you don't have to do this …" She trails off, realizing she doesn't even know his name.
"Jack," he supplies. "And that's not the point." He's looking at her so earnestly it's hard to turn down the offer. "Look, it would really cheer me up to help you out, Ana-Lucia," he says with a perfectly straight face.
She looks back at him suspiciously.
"And I could use some cheering up about now," he says soberly, but she can catch the glint in his eye.
She swallows a smile, playing along. "All right, all right. Since it means so much to you." She reaches over and plucks the boarding pass out of his hand. "Thanks."
"You're welcome." He's proud of himself for that one – she can see it in his shoulders.
"Well, Jack, armed with my new seating arrangement, I think I'm going to go face that conversation." She slides her bag over her shoulder and extends a hand.
"Good luck to you. Really." He shakes her hand, but can't hide a glance at the ticket now sticking out of her bag.
"You, too." She smiles widely and slips off of the barstool.
"Ah, Ana-Lucia – " he blurts awkwardly before she can get far.
"Hmm?" She is the picture of innocence.
"I, uh – I actually need that boarding pass back. It has my name on it." He lowers his head abashedly. "It was more of a symbolic kind of gesture. But we can still switch seats after we get on the plane," he assures her.
She grins and tosses the ticket back onto the counter. "Count on it. 23B is all mine."
She knows he's watching her as she leaves, and she puts a little extra in the sway of her hips. Another plane rumbles through a take-off behind them.