Zayn leaned his head back, closing his eyes. His hand was clamped tightly around his iPod wishing they could just be up in the air already so he could turn it on. He hated this part. It wasn’t that he was scared of flying; he just hadn’t done it much. He didn’t even have a passport till he started university. And really, he didn’t think it was that weird that he’d rather be on the ground than “flying” in some metal box in the air. Common sense, really.
At least the seat next to him was empty. He hated having to share his space with a stranger, they were always selfish with elbow rest and it always got awkward if he started breathing a bit quicker when they hit turbulence. One time a lady made him hold that stupid sick bag in front of his face for the whole flight. People never really get it, and it makes the whole freaking out thing worse. Not that he freaks out but whatever. He listened, eyes still closed, to the other passengers taking their seats and he hoped that no one would sit next to him. Someone, a flight attendant he guessed, was closing an overheard compartment nearby.
“Uh, sorry,” a voice broke the soft buzz of sounds, making Zayn scowl a little, eyes still closed. The guy, whoever he was, was close enough for Zayn to hear him clearly, an Irish accent curling off the guy’s tongue. “D’ya have any spare seats?” He asked. Zayn squeezed his eyes tight and prayed that there was another free seat on the plane.
“Is anything wrong, Sir?” The flight attendant asked, and Zayn could practically hear the polite smile tight on her lips.
The guy cleared his throat, “I just have to, uh, move. I can’t sit in my seat anymore.” His voice actually cracked a little and Zayn opened his eyes, suddenly curious to see the guy that was speaking. He let his eyes wonder over a few other passengers as well, so that it wasn’t obvious but eventually his gaze landed on the guy standing in the aisle. His hair was blonde, peeking out from under a snapback; he was dressed in a plain white T-shirt, with a backpack slung carelessly on one shoulder. He looked like he was way over the verge of upset, but trying hard to hide it. His hand, the one not holding onto his bag strap was clenched into a fist by his side.
The flight attendant looked over his shoulder up the plane to where the guy had probably come from. “I’m truly sorry Sir, all of business class is full today. Is there something wrong with your seat?”
Zayn stared for longer than he should have; the guy just didn’t look like someone who would be flying in business class, is all. Zayn really didn’t get business class anyway. Having a few more inches leg room wasn’t going to make the experience of flying any better.
But the blonde just shook his head violently, “Don’t care. Please!” He looked desperate and Zayn frowned to himself: something was definitely wrong.
The flight attendant hummed for a moment, “Let me check the seating list, just a moment.” As she turned around to go to the back of the plane, she eyed the seat next to Zayn and he swallowed a groan. The blonde guy stayed stood awkwardly in the aisle, biting his lip and obviously trying not to make eye contact with anyone.
Sure enough, a minute later the attendant returned to Zayn’s seat and smiled apologetically. “Sir... sorry, we have a passenger that needs to move, would you mind if he sits next to you?” She asked as though Zayn hadn’t been two feet away from the whole exchange.
Zayn was tempted to say he needed the seat – he’d done that once, told an attendant that flying made him a bit sick and that space helped him feel better and she’d managed to keep the seat next to him free. It’s not like he actually gets sick, but whatever. But he glanced over at the blonde once more; his cheeks were red for whatever reason and Zayn found he really couldn’t say no.
So he nodded and in no time the blonde boy was sat next to him, having shoved his bag under the seat. The attendant smiled, satisfied she had done her job and moved on down the plane. The Blonde - as Zayn had taken to calling him, though it wasn’t like he was really paying attention or anything- couldn’t stop shaking his leg, his hands gripping the seat rest so tight his knuckles were white. The whole thing looked kind of familiar and Zayn guessed that maybe he wasn’t great with flying either. Maybe his other seat was like on emergency exit or something and he freaked out. Zayn hated the idea of the emergency exit row, and was grateful that he’d never gotten it.
“It’s alright mate, I’m not a great flyer either.” Zayn has no idea what made him say it. He’s not one to talk to strangers and he’s definitely not one to do it on a plane and he’s really definitely not one to admit he’s not great at flying.
At first it was as if the guy hadn’t even heard him. But after a few moments he finally turned his head to Zayn, his eyes wide but not out of fear. It looked like he was trying to stop himself from crying or something.
“Huh,” he started, before shaking his head, “Oh no, it’s not... it’s... I think I just broke up with my boyfriend.”
Zayn’s eyes widened at the guy’s confession. “Oh, sorry.”
It was a bit surprising actually: he wouldn’t have picked the guy to have a boyfriend, or fly in business class. But then heaps of people were like that. Loads of people were surprised he himself was gay, except for the time he got that blonde highlight in his hair and his mate Louis joked that it was “a dead giveaway”. Louis himself confused loads of people that didn’t know him, jokingly groping all of his male friends before going to make out with his girlfriend. So, Zayn’s probably the last person to make assumptions about people he doesn’t know.
The blonde guy nodded slightly, then shrugged, then his eyes widened again and he bit his lip like he just remembered what had happened and he was about to freak out again. Zayn wasn’t sure what to do, but guessed that talking would be a good distraction. Sometimes, being stuck in your own head was the worst.
“What happened?” He asked, then wanted to kick himself. Good job, Malik, ask the heartbroken guy about his broken heart. “Sorry, it’s none of my-”
But the guy interrupted him, seeming almost relieved to be asked. “His, uh, this guy he works with called to wish him a good flight. But, like, he was trying to shove his bag up there,” he gestured to the compartments above, “so I answered his phone and the guy didn’t realise it was me so he said-” The guy paused to take a deep breath and then continued in a surprisingly convincing Essex accent “He said ‘Hey baby, I’m still sad that you’re taking Niall on holiday and not me. How are you gonna make it up to me?’”
Zayn stared at him, “Shit.”
“So I sorta dropped the phone, swore at him, grabbed my bag and yeah,” the guy said, balling his hand into a fist again.
Zayn stayed quiet for a moment, not sure what to say. He knew what it was like, and it sucked. He opened his mouth, hoping the right words would come out. He tried to remember what his mates had said when they had comforted him a while ago. Just as he was finally about to say something, the PA system in the plane, dinged and the attendants was asking them to fasten their seatbelts for take-off.
“So, your name’s Niall, yeah?” Zayn finally asked once the plane was up in the air. He’d tried to convey with wide eyes that he wasn’t great at talking when a huge metal box they were sitting in was leaving the ground and the guy – Niall – had seemed to understand. Zayn’s hand was still wrapped tightly around his ipod and if this was any other time, the headphones would’ve been in his ears by now, volume up as loud as it could go.
“S’what they call me,” he shrugs, a half-smile on his face. Zayn knows straight away that this guy doesn’t put on any feelings. He doesn’t pretend to feel good when he’s feeling shit and for some reason that urges Zayn to grin wide enough for both of them when he reaches out his hand.
“Sick name. Been to Marbella before?”
Zayn nodded, “My mates and I rent out this house in the last week before uni starts every year. But I couldn’t get last night off work so they went a day before.”
Niall smiled, wider this time, “That sounds sick! Brilliant idea, that!”
Zayn grinned, because it really was great. This last week of summer had been his favourite part of summer vacation for the past 3 years. He glanced at Niall, whose cheeks were still a little red, but his eyes looked less like they were going to start tearing up soon. Yeah, talking was definitely the right thing to do.
“Fuck,” Niall muttered as he sat back in his seat. He’d gone to bathroom after more than an hour of talking, and Zayn was still surprised at how easy it was to talk to the guy. They had, like, nothing in common. But the guy’s eyes lit up when he was telling a story, and his laugh was pretty great and hey, he needed a break. Besides, it was a nice change to not rely on the comfort of his ipod for the whole flight.
“What?” Zayn asked, looking concerned.
Niall ran his fingers through his hair, though Zayn can’t remember when he pulled off his snapback. His blonde hair is darker at the roots, suspiciously so and it kinda stayed standing in all directions after Niall pulled his hand away. Zayn couldn’t help thinking maybe he’d like to give it a go before he brought his focus back to what Niall was actually saying.
“I just remembered, all the hotel bookings are in Aidan’s name. All I have is my own ticket, the rest was his treat,” He spat out the word like its poison, “I’m on a plane to fucking Spain and I have nowhere to stay. And nothing to do for a week.”
Zayn guessed Aidan was the name of the guy that was sitting a dozen rows in front of them behind the curtain, and he was going to suggest that maybe Niall talk to the guy when they get off the plane. Like, maybe the whole thing was a misunderstanding or something. And, like, maybe leaving someone sitting in a plane isn't the best way to break up.
But instead, when Zayn opens his mouth the words that come out are: “Come stay with us.”