[ Since it’s Christmas, and Christmas is about the people you love, I decided to do something nice for Tanim and Daren. So here it is, a true rarity for me: a story with a happy ending. ]
Tanim tossed an uncounted wad of bills onto the taxi passenger seat as he bounded from the barely stopped vehicle, slinging a hastily packed duffel bag over his shoulder. While he wound his way through the crush of Christmas Eve travelers and into the airport proper his conversation with Jonathan ran circles through his head.
“Yes, you can. Just go. Otherwise you’ll mope around here all day and night, pining your heart away like some love-sick teenager who’s seen Romeo and Juliet too many times. You think I want to live with that?”
“But what if he says no?”
What if he says no? Tanim pushed that nagging uncertainty away; he had bigger problems to deal with first, such as buying a ticket for a plane boarding in twenty minutes. Waiting in the seemingly endless line to speak with an attendant nearly killed him. He must have checked his watch a hundred times as he waited, mumbling “come on, come on, come on” like a prayer to whatever gods might take pity. And perhaps one did overhear his desperate plea because the next time he glanced up an agent waved him over. The situation spilled out his lips in a rush of words as soon as he neared the counter and he nearly died a second time holding his breath while she searched the computer for any available seats. The gods continued to favor him: one left, and his for the mere price of $2,659. His stomach might have dropped at such a cost were it not already tied in knots, but he paid gratefully.
Ticket clenched in hand and luggage safely on its way to a plane he might not even catch, Tanim sped off toward his gate. He dodged an elderly couple and a mass of children dragged along by a harried mother to beat them to security and was already stripping off his jacket and shoes by the time an officer came to check his ticket. Once through the metal detector he yanked his shoes back on and was on his way again, jacket in hand and watch long forgotten on the security tray. He had no time now to replay his brother’s words or his own nervous prayers; the only thing running through his mind in time to his pounding feet was “gate N-6, gate N-6, gate N-6…”
A moment later the terminal rose out of the crowd ahead as if summoned by his fervent chanting. A few last stragglers lingered at its booth, arguing with the attendant or finishing farewells, but otherwise the doorways loomed empty. Tanim’s heart lodged somewhere in his throat. Too late, oh god, he was too late…
And then he spied the black clothed figure disappearing around the corner of the gangway.
A white-topped head reappeared, puzzled expression splitting into a delighted grin as he saw who called his name. He hurried back up to the gate and favored Tanim with an admonishing eyebrow quirk. “You sure cut it close,” Daren warned, though the relief in his eyes softened his words. “I was starting to think you wouldn’t come to say goodbye at all.”
“I’m not here to say goodbye,” Tanim panted as he struggled to catch his breath and explain at the same time. A weary grimace dragged the smile from Daren’s face and doused the light in his eyes. “Tanim, we’ve been over this before,” he sighed. “You know I can’t stay–”
Tanim silenced the younger man’s argument with an eager kiss. “No,” he agreed, pulling away so he could meet his companion’s gaze again, “but I can leave.” Daren’s mouth hung open. “You aren’t serious,” he managed to sputter after a moment, uncharacteristically flustered. Tanim felt his cheeks burn and attempted a careless laugh to hide his nervousness. “I am if you’ll have me. If not… consider this an elaborate and expensive joke.”
“Sir,” Before Daren could reply the boarding attendant leaned in between them, an impatient frown creasing her thick lips and one hand extended for Tanim’s ticket. “Are you boarding or not? The gate is closing. Now.”
Tanim glanced over to meet Daren’s eyes in silent question; this was not his decision to make, after all. He strove to keep his face neutral so as not to betray the fact that Daren turning him down might quite possibly break his heart beyond repair, but the other man was not even looking at him. Daren had followed the attendant’s narrowed gaze to the paper clutched in Tanim’s hand, realizing for the first time just what precious document the man held. To Tanim the moment seemed to drag on and he thought with sudden despair, “I knew he wouldn’t–”
And then Daren grabbed the ticket from his hand, shoved it into the attendant’s palm, and joyfully hurried Tanim down the gangway before the woman could skewer them with another glare.
“You sure cut it close,” Tanim chastised as they ducked through the plane’s hatch, but could not mask the mixture of surprise and elation in his voice. “I was starting to think you didn’t want me at all.”
“Well,” Daren flashed a mischievous smirk over his shoulder and laced his fingers between Tanim’s, “I’d hate for you to have wasted all that money just for a joke.”