Written for Be Mine challenge on LJ-community m7land, the promt quote "You don't talk much. I like you!" - Ellie, Up.
Special thanks to jinks7985 for the beta-reading!
"Hell of a way to spend Valentine's Day," Vin Tanner said, giving a king-sized coffee to his friend and teammate, Ezra Standish, and sitting down next to him in the middle of the airport terminal.
"I agree, Mr. Tanner," Ezra answered, taking his coffee. "Days like this make a person glad he is single."
"Yeah." They were going home after testifying in New York, but had been stuck in JFK for more than 20 hours now, February snowstorms raging all over the country. And all those hours they had been listening to all kinds of whining, bitching and keening over the ruined holiday. From a teenage girl, who'd cried on Ezra's shoulder about what should have been her first Valentine's Day with a real boyfriend, to middle-aged businessman, who, rather seriously, had tried to convince Vin the snowstorm was his wife's fault, because she wanted to cheat on him right on the holiday. But fortunately the crowds were ceasing, JFK was already open, though weather in Colorado was still holding the two of them hostage.
"By the way," Ezra said, after taking a sip of his coffee and nodding gratefully, "Mr. Sanchez called while you were away."
"What did he say?"
"That there is some hope for us. Oh, and he called us traitors. Again, I must add."
Vin laughed. "Guess ol' Buck's been a little too much."
"I'm afraid so. I'm also afraid we'll be subjected to the most detailed retelling of all the events we managed to miss."
Vin groaned. Buck loved Valentine's Day almost as much as he loved Christmas; that meant he not only tried to juggle about a half dozen dates, but also felt determined to help his friends. Those who were in relationship got tons of advice about perfect presents, and those who were single – twice as more offers of organizing a date. With Chris off limits on this particular holiday and Vin and Ezra away in New York, the rest of their teammates received double dose of Wilmington enthusiasm and that could be really tiring. Vin turned to Ezra to discuss some ways of avoiding the said retelling, but stopped when he saw a warm smile on his friend's face.
"You can say so. I've just realized, Mr. Tanner, that of all my relationships, form casual the most serious ones, only once I've managed to spend Valentine's Day with a paramour."
"Oh?" That sounded as a question. Ezra rarely shared anything personal, and even if his tone now indicated something amusing rather than serious, Vin was still curious.
"Yes. I was 13 at the time; the party in question was 12. There was a big boring event in the school that day, we managed to sneak out and had about four hours all to ourselves. There were several rides on a carousel, followed by pizza and ice-cream, balloons and candy – financing provided by my classmates, who had a lot of pocket change but not a clue how to play poker. "
Vin laughed. "Sounds downright romantic, Ez. Bet the lady was impressed!"
"Oh yes, I got the real kiss before we had to come back to school quarters! What about you, Mr. Tanner, have you ever shared a Valentine's Day with someone? "
Ezra asking for personal information happened even rarer than Ezra sharing it, but the second the southerner realized what he'd asked, he backpedaled.
"Just for statistic purposes, of course," he added with an apologetic smile.
Vin smiled in return, showing he didn't mind the question, and, after several moments of recollecting, answered it. "Reckon we're even here, meaning I got one too, but I'm not sure we paid attention to the actual date. I was 21, and we were stuck on one of the home bases for the whole February. Wouldn't call that romantic, no candy of flowers, but…" Vin trailed off, blushing slightly, like he always did when he tried to talk about these things. That's why he usually didn't.
Ezra nodded, seemingly understanding, then finished his coffee and threw the empty cup into the trash can.
"Well, it's my turn for a run," he said, getting up. "Bring you anything?"
"A lollipop?" Vin asked with a childish grin. No need for Ezra to feel bad when Vin was actually grateful for the reason to remember his time with Mia.
"I shall try to find a good one," Ezra answered, deadly serious, and went in the direction of restrooms and shops, leaving Vin to his memories.
The powers that be decided that several Ranger units needed a month of additional training. Nobody in Vin's outfit was too happy about that, especially about martial arts class led by a short slender woman of Asian lineage. Some boys were quite vocal; and though Vin had learned not to underestimate women long before the Army, he kept his opinion to himself. And as soon as the individuals started, they showed he'd been right.
"You don't talk much," Mia, the instructor, said after she'd wiped the floor with him for the third time in a row. "I like you."
Mia had really taught him a lot. Some things that he'd learned from her had saved his life more than once; some things had earned him admiration and gratitude of the girls he'd shared his bed with. Hell, Vin thought with a grin, he'd bet Mia could teach even Buck a couple of moves down that alley. Vin knew he'd most likely been just a toy to her, one among the many, but he didn't mind. They'd been honest with each other, and once the training had ended, had parted on friendly terms, even if they hadn't exactly stayed in touch. And he'd always remembered her fondly.
"Your candy, Mr. Tanner," Ezra's voice interrupted Vin's musings.
Vin looked up and saw a large lollipop, made in the form of the Empire State Building. "Wow, Ez, it's a work of candy art!" Vin exclaimed, taking it. "Thanks, pard."
"My pleasure. But I recommend you postpone unwrapping it, since our flight has just been announced."
"Really? You're kidding!"
"You can see it with your own eyes."
And indeed, there was Denver bound flight on the board. "Must be some of Josiah's miracles," he mumbled, getting up and carefully putting the candy away in one of the pockets. He picked up his duffel bag while Ezra retrieved his wheeled one, and the twosome went in search of the gates.
"Hey, Ez, what are the chances we'll actually take off before midnight?"