Disclaimer: I do not own Gravitation
A/N: Not a comedy this time...please bear with the first chapter and try to slog through, its a bit boring because airports and air travel are boring...until something goes wrong.
Chapter One - Flight Risk
Why me, thought Shuichi sadly, swinging his legs in the black plastic and chrome chair. Uncomfortable and rigidly attached to a dozen more like it in a row, the seat faced the tarmac and the empty spot where the SkyDash World Air jet had just been boarded. Boarded by everyone else in their group but Shuichi. The pink-haired singer's lips puffed out in an unhappy gust of air.
It really wasn't his fault. He had packed his things properly, removed his shoes, done everything correctly. Who knew that his gel insoles would trigger the security screeners to jerk him out of line and go through every last item on his personal person? That they would take exception to the undeclared lotion in his pocket (for emergencies, and who wants to advertise they're packing lube anywhere outside of the Playboy mansion?) and detain him, in spite of his star status…Narita Airports' staff was so not impressed with his star status.
So now he was cleared, but on the "next available flight". Only slightly apologetic, they switched him to the next departure and now the long flight to America would be all alone, albeit in the slightly more comfortable first class section.
It was Yuki's stupid lube and stupid idea to take it anyway. Something about a mile high club. Even Shu, as naïve as he could be, knew that people couldn't get away with double occupancy in an airplane restroom anymore, not in the current atmosphere of heightened security. He only pocketed it because he knew it would be an issue if he disagreed with Yuki over taking it. He had really been hoping for some meaningful conversation on the flight, and if the stubborn blond was angry, there would be none of that.
At least he still had what Yuki sarcastically called his "short attention span pack", loaded with a DS and games and a classic old Jornada. He clutched it and stared out the wall of glass. It was virtually no comfort at all. He had really looked forward to spending the next hours leaning on Yuki's strong shoulder and enjoying some enforced peace between them. Really, they had been bickering less often but with more volume and venom. It made Shuichi feel nervous and insecure. It kind of felt like a downhill turn, and now this timely chance to talk everything over had slipped away.
Those thoughts left the doe-eyed singer even sadder and he mumbled Yuki's name to himself, biting the heel of his palm to keep from going all sniffly. His hand eventually moved to trace his own lips, remembering their kiss goodbye. It had been sweet and sexy in contrast to the situation, and fluttered his heart painfully with a reminder of just how deeply that man still stirred his emotions when he wanted to.
An African-American lady with glasses and an intricate hairdo settled herself two seats down from him, chatting on her cell. He welcomed the distraction and eavesdropped shamelessly on her bubbly, laughing end of the conversation.
"Don't tell me that! Don't tell! You'll ruin the surprise! Oh, I cannot wait to get home and see you. I am so sick of fish I could die. Fish and miso and white rice, it's like an infestation! Mercy!" Shuichi smiled, he was glad that his English was very good so he could listen in. Was the food really so awful here?
When the woman finished her conversation, she noticed he had been looking at her. She peered at him openly and raised an eyebrow.
"The food is bad, huh?" Shu asked.
His huge puppy eyes looked so sad and lonely that he seemed harmless enough to talk to, even though he was a strange looking stranger.
"Well it is not my customary fare, let me tell you," she asserted.
"And that would be…?"
"Tacos and pizza and fried chicken and cheese burgers and Philly Cheesesteaks, oh, heavens. Now see here, boy, you got me going and now I'll be hungry for the whole flight."
"Here." Shuichi pulled out a fresh unopened pack of chocolate pocky. "I was going to let my friend eat those on the flight but…he's no longer with me. You may have them; they are sealed so you know they are safe to eat."
"I was just kidding!" She smiled a very pretty smile. "I don't want to take your food!"
"Maah, I have my strawberry ones to eat, you might as well have these. My Yuki isn't here to eat them with me anymore."
"I'm so sorry to hear that - when did he pass?" she asked gently.
"Oh!" Shuichi was startled. Then it was her turn to be surprised as Shu let out a loud laugh. "He's not dead! He's on a different flight!"
She crinkled a smiling eye at him. "Then that's some kind of dramatic acting ability you got going there. A different flight's not exactly end-of-the-world stuff."She accepted the package. "Thanks. Hey, I'm Natalie. What's your name?"
"Shuichi Shindou!" he said proudly. Although, she was a little older than his band's target demographic, so she might not have heard of him. "My friends call me Shu."
She still smiled. Funny little guy. Name kind of sounded familiar.
"You goin' to California, too?"
"Hai!" He seemed a little more excited and cheery.
"It's a long flight, I'm saving these for later, if you don't mind," she said, holding up the package before slipping it into an open compartment of her carry-on.
Shuichi startled as someone plopped in the row of chairs that butted up behind them. The person had landed so hard in the chair that it clacked the two whole rows together with a jolt.
Natalie turned with a stern look for the oafish behavior, but the woman facing the opposite direction either didn't notice or didn't care. She was in an expensive black business suit and fidgeting with her carry-on laptop bag, making sharp irritable movements that screamed "don't mess with me!". Her hard, cold look echoed the same sentiment.
Shu leaned over casually and followed Natalie's glare to steal a look back at the business lady's smooth dark hair and squared narrow shoulders. He shrugged and shared a wry smile with Natalie. Some people!
Sadly, Natalie was not in first class. As a matter of fact, she was in the seat she very specifically picked, over the wing (smoothest ride) and on the aisle (no crawling in and out over knees for me, Shu!) and she was not about to give it up to join Shu, even if he begged.
He almost fled when, for a minute, it looked like the very crabby business lady in the black suit was going to sit next to him. She stepped out of the aisle and hovered, as if ready to sit in the aisle seat next to Shu.
He held his breath. No nasty seatmates, please! Ai!
But after the stewardess had a word with her she smiled, unexpectedly charming, and left for her seat near the back. It seemed as if she had been peeking in the cockpit at the crew, and Shu wondered briefly if she knew one of the pilots or something. He didn't contemplate it very long, relieved she wasn't going to be anywhere near.
He ended up with no one next to him (ahh, more room to spread his junk out). After a few rounds of Fullmetal Alchemist on the DS (darn, that Pride was hard to kill!) he dozed off, his hoody jacket over his chest and his crossed arms pulled up to his chin.
He had been sleeping for quite a while when he suddenly had the feeling he was being watched.
He peered up with bleary eyes and saw with a slight chill that the lady in the dark suit was staring straight at him from inches away, perched in the seat beside him.
"You're Shuichi Shindou! I overheard your name back there and I had to come see for myself." she smiled at him, but the scrutiny from her dark almond-shaped eyes felt cold and calculating.
Shuichi shivered involuntarily.
Her fingernails drummed on the lid of her closed laptop.
"You can't imagine how much I appreciate you being on this flight," she continued. "You're quite the international celebrity. It seems odd you weren't mobbed at the airport."
Shu looked at her and really wished he had the guts to tell her to leave him alone. He shrugged nervously.
"Well, I will talk to you later." She flipped open the overhead and tucked her laptop in it. She smiled and explained, as she snapped it back closed. "My overhead was full. Too many coats." She slipped back down the aisle.
I wonder how long she was sitting there before I woke up, Shu mulled uncomfortably, accounting for all of his games and devices. He wasn't able to go right back to sleep after that.
People wouldn't be bothering him if Yuki was here. Yuki could give them a look that made them go away and stay away, if he wanted. Or he'd charm them senseless and send them off starry-eyed and they mostly forgot Shu existed.
'Yuki,' Shuichi thought. 'I was so anxious to share this flight with you, if only because we would talk without shouting. This would have been so perfect…'
Or maybe awful. It had occurred to Shu that a long heart-to-heart might reveal something about the way the relationship was heading that he wouldn't like. But at least if it was the truth, whatever it was he could deal with it somehow. This constant fighting and not even knowing exactly what the problem was - well, it was wearing his perpetual optimism away.
He fingered the case with the Jornada…he should pull it out, work on those lyrics. But his state of mind was just not right for making words to share with the world. He felt very private, vulnerable and threatened. Those feelings he could only write about when he felt better and was looking back on them. If he tried now, it would overwhelm him. And the lyrics would wallow and suck; he knew that from experience.
The hours in the air had been crawling slowly by, and he had nothing to show for it.
He gently rattled the ice cubes in the plastic cup and sipped the lemon-lime soda. The DS had lost its appeal some time ago. He gave up on staring outside as well, sliding the plastic shade down over the window. The blue sky and sunshine were too incongruous with his darkening mood.
He had dozed off again and slept for quite a long while when a noise in the overhead rousted him.
What? He heard tones, getting louder, playing a stilted wave file version of "Three Blind Mice".
After a few minutes he was beginning to get annoyed. He hailed a stewardess, who peered in the compartment.
As the door flapped open, the tones assailed his ears even louder.
"It's your laptop." the stewardess said kindly, as if he were a very stupid first-grader.
"It's not mine!" Shuichi frowned. "It belongs to that woman in the suit that was up here before!"
As if on cue, alerted by the tones when the flapper was opened, that woman appeared. She plucked the laptop from the overhead with an apologetic look all around and sat in the empty aisle seat, flipping open the top.
Peace reinstated, the stewardess had already moved on.
"Sorry, sorry," she smiled thinly. "It seems that I left my alarm on."
Shu watched her fiddle with the computer and turned away, anxious for her to go back where she belonged.
Long-nailed fingers closed the computer and tapped slowly on the top with an annoying sound. The woman sat staring forward without moving,
The stewardess went by, advising Shu's visitor to return to her seat since they were nearing the mainland. The dark eyes widened and tracked the attendant as she opened the door to step in and collect something from the flight crew.
The woman suddenly turned her head and looked at Shu. "I hope they spelled your name right on the manifest."
"Huh?" Something in her voice made the singer's blood turn to ice. He desperately wanted her to go away now.
"Mr. Shindou, you have my gratitude." She nodded, almost a slight bow, and then picked up the closed laptop by one corner. It rested jauntily on edge on her shoulder as she stood and stepped forward in the aisle.
Without warning, she wound up and flung the computer overhand with unbelievable speed and accuracy, sending it straight into the cockpit through the open door. It spun into a blur and traveled with great force, and Shuichi heard it hit something solid and metal.
His brain struggled to absorb what he was seeing. When she threw it, he was afraid it might hit the captain or copilot, and his shock was filtered with a moment's relief at the sound that meant the throw had missed the humans piloting the plane.
The woman bared her teeth, coral lipstick framing a snarl. Oblivious to everything but her goal, she darted forward toward the faces turning to the open door - to slam it shut.
In the next split-second the explosion in the cockpit rocked the plane with a violent, tooth-rattling jolt and Shuichi couldn't find the breath to scream.
But he was among the minority.