"No, no, no, no, NO!"
Andy's rising voice was added to the chorus of loud outcries and grumbled protestations as the United ticket agent confirmed the cancellation of their flight.
"You can't...I have to get home for dinner!" Andy groaned, and turned to his companion, smacking him full-force on the arm.
Neal jerked upright, opening his eyes as he yanked out his earbuds, whirling around on his best friend. "What the fuck was that for?" He shot Andy a wounded look as he rubbed away the pain, the tinny screeching of Every Time I Die from his iPhone's headset accompanying his actions.
"You! It's all your fault!" Andy growled, throwing himself back into his seat, head falling back as he rubbed his eyes with his fists. "Should'a fuckin' known better than to travel with you..."
"Hey! What did I do?" Neal protested. He looked around in bewilderment at the milling passengers at their gate, some with phones to their ears, others mobbing the desk agent, and all with scowling faces that matched Andy's - the antithesis of the vaunted holiday spirit.
"They cancelled the flight, asshole - what else would it be if you're involved?" Andy let out a gusty breath, staring at his suddenly-worthless boarding pass with a creased brow and an only-slightly-trembling lower lip.
"Wait, how is that my fault?" Neal pouted. "I didn't make it start snowing like a motherfucker in Tulsa, man... Just because I have shitty travel luck...oh." Neal's face fell. "...You got a point. Never mind."
"What are we gonna do..." Andy moaned, slumping down into the worn vinyl seat.
"Ladies and gentlemen, United Airlines deeply regrets the inconvenience," the desk agent's voice crackled from the loudspeaker above their heads. "We regret that we are unable to assist you with re-booking at this time. And nor are we able," the voice continued, growing louder to be heard over the renewed rumble of the mob, "to provide lodging or meal vouchers due to the force majeure nature of the cancellation..." The agent was nearly shouting now, to be heard over the disgruntled rabble in the gate area. "...But we will do our best to accommodate you on the next United flight to Tulsa....yes, sir...WHEN Tulsa International re-opens to incoming traffic! We know you have a choice in air carriers, and we thank you for choosing United! Have a very pleasant evening!"
With that, the desk crew fled the scene en masse, pursued by a pack of the loudest malcontents. The remaining former passengers of United Flight 514 milled about the gate area as the air of defeat settled around them.
"...Stupid fuckin' pigs!"
Neal's too-loud voice cut through the din of the crowd, gaining the pair a handful of dirty looks and more whispers.
"Fuck!" Andy whimpered, and reached over to sock Neal again, adding a shin-kick for good measure. "Will you stop playing that fucking game for just one single minute?" Andy fumed, ignoring the black look Neal shot him as he yanked out his earphones yet again.
"The fuck is your problem, Skib? How is beatin' on me gonna help?" Neal groused, shaking his phone uselessly as the green cartoon pigs grinned back at him. "Now I gotta start over..."
Andy reached over and pushed the sleep button on Neal's phone, earning him a sentence constructed mainly of curse words.
"You fucker, that was the God-damned king pig! I almost fucking had it!"
"Makes me feel better," Andy grumped, crossing his arms and glowering at the floor.
Neal's upper lip curled up slightly, and he drew back and slugged Andy's arm with a solid *thwack*.
"Hey, whattaya know? It does make me feel better!"
"Neal, knock it off!" Andy snapped. "'No, Andy, don't book the early flight!', you said. 'We'll have plenty of time to get there,' you said. What you meant was, 'Andy, I'm a lazy asshole who can't be fuckin' arsed to drag my ass out of fuckin' bed before nine so that my friend can make it home on time for holiday dinner,' am I right? God-fuckin'-damn it..."
His voice was close to breaking, and Neal's increasingly irritated expression softened.
"Hey...Andy, I'm sorry, man..." he murmured. "I know how much it means t'you...and you're right..."
"'Bout which part? You bein' a lazy asshole?" Andy bit back.
"Not particularly much of a morning' person, no..." Neal replied. "But sure, I'll cop to being both lazy and an asshole..."
"Not just 'lazy and an asshole'," Andy sulked. "Only the laziest, asshole-iest lazy asshole I know..." He struggled to maintain his petulance, but the way Neal was cocking his head at him, with those damned wide blue eyes and his earnestness...
"Fuck you, Neal."
"...That's m'boy." Neal thumped Andy on the knee with his fist. "C'mon, let's go find some food. I'm starvin'."
"...Andy, where you goin'? The Smokin' Bear Lodge is this way..."
"There's a map of food places here I wanna look at, Neal...just hang on a minute, will you?"
Neal shook his head and leaned against the wall, tipping his head back to glare at the departure screens all reading "CANCELLED" for every fucking flight into Tulsa, no matter what airline. God, he needed a smoke... This is so not how he wanted to spend his day.
"Oooh, Panda Express! Two -- two Panda Expresses, Neal! Two!"
Neal stared at his companion silently.
"What? You like Chinese..."
"Andy. We went there for your birthday."
"...A year ago, Neal!"
"Andy, where did you take me for my birthday?"
"...This year? Or last year?"
Neal narrowed his eyes. "Any year."
Andy hung his head. "...Which way to the Smokin' Bear?"
"Atta boy," Neal replied smugly. "I'll even let you buy us steaks from Timberland. It's right next door."
"God, fuck you, Neal..."
Neal gripped the back of Andy's neck, shaking him affectionately. "...Sore loser."
Andy glanced at his watch and let out another sigh, drawing abstract patterns in the water pooling on the table from the completely unnecessary glasses of ice water they'd been given. Yep, right about now, his mom would be laying the table for an intimate pre-holiday dinner... His tight, happy family, adding a few of their closest friends, sitting around the dinner table, loud and raucous and hungry... And at one end of the table, to his mother's right, an empty chair where Andy should have been...
Neal glanced up from his menu, studying Andy's face a moment before nudging him gently under the table with his foot. "Tell me about what your mom is makin' t'night."
Andy shot Neal a dark look, slumping down in his seat. "Yeah, great, rub it in, why don't you..."
"I'm serious," Neal insisted. "What's she makin'? Turkey? A roast? Goose? What?"
"Turkey," Andy ground out. "Turkey. Stuffing. Baked potatoes. Green bean casserole. Cranberries. Corn. And a fuckin' pecan pie. Anything else y'wanna know?"
Neal watched Andy a moment longer, and set his menu down. "Hey, y'wanna go get me another beer? Get yourself one too..." He dug into his pocket and slapped a twenty dollar bill on the table between them.
Andy glared at Neal. "What, too thirsty to wait for th'fuckin' waitress, and too lazy t'get your own?"
"Andy. Free beer. Don't look a fuckin' gift horse in the mouth, okay?" Neal shot back.
Andy snatched the bill and stomped away, muttering darkly to himself. Neal waited a few beats, and then raised a hand to the waitress, calling her over.
Andy placed his order with the bartender and turned back to the table, letting out a loud curse as he saw Neal speaking with the waitress. "Motherfucker!"
"Merry Christmas to you, too!" the bartender replied with a smile, setting the Pilsner glasses on the bar beside Andy.
Andy shot him an apologetic look, and pushed the twenty across the bar. "Keep it," he said with a grim smirk, and brought the beers over to the table just as the waitress scurried away, menus in hand.
"Nice, Neal. Real fuckin' nice," Andy growled, glancing a blow off the back of his companion's head before slouching into his chair. "She coming back to get my fucking order?"
Neal's lips thinned slightly, but he remained silent, pulling his beer glass to him for a long swallow.
Andy glared at him a moment longer before turning away, locking his scowl on the big-screen television on the wall, showing "A Christmas Story." But not even the saga of Red Ryder air rifles and the fishnet-stockinged lamp could bring a smile to his lips, and his companion's continued silence was more irritating than when the bottle-blond was running his yap... Crossing his arms, Andy set his jaw and did his best to ignore him.
Neal glanced up as the waitress signaled him from the other side of the room, and he set his glass down, looking at his pouting friend. "Hey, lemme see your phone a sec."
"Of course you wanna see my phone, fucking Christ..." Andy grumbled, pulling it out of his pocket and shoving it across the table. "Why the fuck not... Here. Enjoy."
Neal bit back a retort, chewing on one of his lip rings instead as he punched in Andy's unlock code. He ignored Andy's outraged "hey!!" and swiped through quickly to Andy's contact list, suppressing a residual shudder as he hit Lexi's number, and then pressed the Face Time button.
"Hello?" Lexi's voice came through the phone's speakers as Neal propped it up against his empty beer glass, facing Andy. "Andy...what's up? You still stuck at the airport?" Lexi's face came up on the screen. "We're just about to sit down and eat..."
Neal sat back in his chair, shifting things out of the way for the waitress, returning to their table with a heavily-laden tray.
"Hey, Lex... Yeah, we're still at th'airport... Looks like Neal's dinner's coming, at least, since the waitress never came back for my order...?" Andy's voice trailed off softly as the waitress set her tray on the stand beside their table, sliding a loaded platter of turkey breast and vegetables in front of Andy.
"I'll be right back with your pie, gentlemen..." the waitress murmured, setting Neal's plate down in front of him. "Happy holidays."
Andy stared stupidly at her retreating back, then down at his plate, and then up at his dining companion, who was keeping his gaze down, silently dissecting his steak.
On Andy's phone screen, Lexi had a hand pressed to her mouth, suppressing a giggle. "He pulled a fast one on you, didn't he," she teased.
"...Yeah, I guess he did..." Andy murmured, looking up at Neal's faint smile from under his lashes. "Looks like I'm having dinner with you guys after all."
"I can't believe you did that..."
"I can't believe you didn't give me any turkey skin."
"...You had a steak!"
"You're welcome." Neal gave Andy a cheeky grin, steering him towards the nearby newsstand. "C'mon, we gotta get us some provisions."
"Neal, we just ate!"
"It's gonna be a long night, Skibby... You'll thank me at three in the morning, when the munchies take over..."
"Yeah, sure, okay then..." Andy murmured, dropping his shoulder to nudge the older man. "What are we going to get?"
Ten minutes later, they left the newsstand as the final customers of the night, each weighed down with a bag full of water bottles and snacks.
"Can't believe you bought a fucking blanket, Neal. You're getting soft in your old age."
Neal squinted at the monitors one final time, and headed for the gate labeled for the first flight out in the morning. "Trust me, Andy - airports can get cold at night. You'll see."
They settled onto the floor at the gate, nodding to some of the other hard-luck travelers from their cancelled flight. Neal leaned against the wall, immediately fishing his phone charger from the pocket of his carry-on.
"You and that phone..." Andy teased. "You gonna tweet the fangirls, update 'em on our misfortune?"
Neal looked up with a slow grin as the Eastern-tinged arcade-type music started pulsing from his phone. "Oooooooooh-AH!" he crowed, striking a seated Crane Stance, ignoring the sideways glances from their fellow travelers. "Fruit. Sasuke!"
"...Fruit Ninja. Of course..." Andy muttered, shaking his head. "Fine, I'll update the fangirls, then..."
He typed out a tweet, grinning at Neal's sigh when the text update came to the blond's phone, pausing his game. "Wow, Neal - really?"
Neal shot him a dirty look, shifting slightly. "...Yeah. I like knowin' what's goin' on in your life."
"Ri-i-i-i-ight..." Andy shook his head with a smile, and went back to his Twitter timeline.
He glanced up a few minutes later, watching Neal's frown of concentration as he bent over his phone, slashing furiously at the fruit tumbling across the screen. With a small smile, Andy backed out to his texting program, tapping quickly at the virtual keyboard.
Neal glanced over at Andy from under his lashes, frowning slightly as he restarted the game.
Andy waited a few seconds, then hit "copy - paste - return" a few times in rapid succession.
Neal sat bolt upright, staring daggers at Andy, who was trying not to giggle as he typed. "What?" Neal barked.
Neal drew his lips into a snarl, typing out a reply of his own.
<fuck you skibby i hope your battery dies now LEAVE ME ALONE I'M PLAYING WITH FRUIT>
Muttering a soft curse, Neal hunched his shoulders and turned away from his friend, who'd fallen over beside him, struggling to keep his laughter silent.
Andy could feel his eyelids growing heavier by the second. "God, Neal, hurry up..." he muttered, shaking himself awake yet again. He couldn't fall asleep until Neal got back...
"Finally, Jesus," he muttered, seeing Neal exiting the bathroom, rubbing his mouth with the back of his hand. "What took you so long, dude? I'm sleepy!"
"Y'could've laid down," Neal replied reasonably, settling to the floor beside Andy, "fluffing" his backpack-slash-pillow up a bit before bringing out the recently-purchased blanket.
"I know," Andy whined softly, finally stretching out on their coats on the floor. "I just didn't want to fall asleep alone..."
Neal paused a moment, raising an eyebrow.
"Nothin', Andy... Nothin'." Neal laid back with a groan, draping the blanket over them both.
"...Damn, it's cold..." Andy whispered a few moments later, shifting a bit closer to Neal.
"Yeah, it kind of is," Neal murmured back, shifting as he tried to find a comfortable position.
"...We should huddle together, or something...for warmth! Yeah, for warmth..." Andy said softly.
Neal smiled to himself. "Right... C'mere then..." he replied, holding the blanket up a bit so Andy could move closer. "...There...is that better?"
"Uh huh..." Andy breathed out, closing his eyes.
"Good." Neal curled himself around Andy, letting his arm drape casually around Andy's waist. He let a few seconds pass, and then slowly slipped his hand under Andy's shirt, working his way down to the waistband of Andy's jeans.
"No, bad dog!" Andy mumbled, slapping Neal's hand hard. "Not the time or place, seriously..."
Neal grinned wickedly, pulling his hand back to a respectable position. "Night, Skibby..." he whispered softly, and finally closed his eyes.
What seemed only minutes later, Neal blinked his eyes open to an Andy curled up against his side, a sleepily-stirring lounge area, and his bleary-eyed traveling companions, murmuring softly to the ticket agent as she came personally to each group, scribbling notes on a small pad of paper.
He gave her a winning smile as she settled into the chair nearby.
"Are you from Flight 514 as well?" she asked softly, and smiled back at his quiet "yep."
"We have a few seats left on our 8:03 am departure, which gets into Tulsa at 5:00 pm... A 9:10 am that connects in Dallas, to Tulsa at 3:00pm on American Airlines... or a 10:06 am non-stop to Tulsa, landing at 12:36 pm...?"
Neal bit back the immediate impulse to claim the later, non-stop flight, and pursed his lips thoughtfully. "...Andy," he murmured, shaking Andy's shoulder gently.
"Mmmmph..." Andy replied, frowning slightly as he shrugged Neal off.
"Andy," Neal persisted, shaking him again, getting rewarded with a cracking open of two hazel eyes. "Eight o'clock, nine, or ten?"
"Nnnnrgph..." Andy groaned, closing his eyes and curling closer, pillowing his head on Neal's chest. "Wan'sleep..." he mumbled, promptly doing just that.
"Think we'll take two seats on the ten o'clock, thanks..." Neal murmured softly, and the agent smiled, taking their names down onto her little pad before moving on.
Neal gave Andy another little shake, but the younger man was sound asleep again. Neal pressed a soft kiss to Andy's forehead, wrapping his arms around the other man to hold him close. "...Lazy asshole..." he murmured affectionately, resting his chin on Andy's hair with a smile.