Sonny thought he would be exhausted, as he often is after plane trips, but he finds a strange energy buzzing in his body as he drags his suitcase towards the lobby of San Diego International. Businessmen and messy vacationers spill around him while he searches for Nick in the crowd, his shirt already sticking to his back from the heat flooding through automatic doors and cracking through industrial air conditioning.
Zara finds him first, crashing into his legs followed by Nick’s voice calling her name. Sonny drops his luggage and scoops her up while she laughs and tells him about some new toy her mother bought for her a week ago. He switches her to one hip in time to see Nick nudging past an old woman and looking all too relieved to see Zara safe.
He looks different as he gently chastises her for running off. His hair is longer, slightly curly and wild like he’s been running his fingers through it all day. The wrinkles around his eyes are deeper but his smile is twice as wide. He’s different, but a good different. Sonny sets Zara down and realizes that he’s come all this way and doesn’t know what to say. Things ended on an abrupt note and no amount of late night phone calls compares to being here, face to face. Their greeting is awkward and stiff but the hug isn’t. Nick still holds him like he’s the world. He doesn’t wear the same cologne anymore, if any, he just smells warm and a little salty.
While they walk out of the airport and towards the parking garage, Zara babbling excitedly while swinging Sonny’s hand back and forth, Nick insisting on taking the suitcase despite his bad leg slowing him down. They’re not going straight to Nick’s, Zara tells him, but she won’t say where they’re going because it’s a surprise. Something beautiful, Nick adds. And Sonny almost tells him that he’s beautiful.
The music drowns his thoughts instead, some happy station that Zara hums along to and Nick quietly sings with. California looks good on him. He’s an angel rolling down the I-78 with wind from the cracked window rustling his hair. It feels like only seconds before they’re pulling into paid parking and climbing out of the car for wherever Nick’s taken them.
He sees the horizon first. The sun is just starting to sink low on the horizon, casting golden hour light over sparkling waves that lap at the poles supporting a pier that seems to stretch endlessly. Zara grabs one of Sonny’s hands while he’s still drinking in the view, occupies her other with Nick, and starts trying to urge them towards a gorgeous blue and white building in the distance. Ruby’s, she calls it. Nick doesn’t explain but he smiles and looks at Sonny like he’s the better view.
Slowly they make their way down the peer, past fishermen and tourists, the sun beginning to tint rosy. It’s breathtaking. He can’t look away from the view, even when he starts to shiver from the plummeting temperature. Suddenly there’s a warm jacket placed over his shoulders, and Nick is smiling at him again and his breath catches in his throat at the sparkle in Nick’s eyes that he’s really missed.
When he looks away, the sky is dark, and Zara is urging them into the diner for a good meal.