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up in the air

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Delayed 2hrs

Travis stares at the screen, certain that if he glares hard enough it’ll change, and his flight will be back to leaving on time.

It doesn’t.

He trudges back to the seat he’d vacated to try to get an update, collapsing in a heap. His flight would put him in Toronto at an hour where he’d be dreading the two-hour drive to Clachan that would still be ahead of him. He’d just wanted to spend Christmas with his family, after missing the last two years and having to spend his favorite holiday alone in his Philly apartment.

He can only sit in one place for so long, and he ends up wandering around the gate area. He buys an overpriced bag of chips and a Gatorade from one of the shops and makes his way back to the seats. There’s a new face on the other side of where he’d been sitting, and he’s cute. Well…the back of his head is cute, but Travis likes to think that he has a good eye for these kinds of things and it’s a Very Nice Head. The guy seems tall and broad, spread out across a seat and a half, long legs spread out in front of him. He’s exactly Travis’ type, and he thanks the universe for at least giving him some eye candy while he has to wait for his flight.

He twists in the chair so he can subtly watch the dude, stuffing a handful of chips in his mouth as he tries to covertly read the guy’s phone over his shoulder. He’s on Tinder, and he’s swiping through guys, which, sweet. Travis watches, trying not to chuckle as Hot Guy swipes left on a dozen frat bro looking douchebags. He swipes right on a couple of hipsters dressed in colorful vintage button ups and skintight skinny jeans, and Travis frowns down at his camo hoodie and cargo shorts.

He looks up in time to have his heart leap into his throat as he sees his own profile pop up on Hot Guy’s phone. He watches as Hot Guy’s thumb hovers over his phone, the guy staring down at the photo Travis has as his default – standing in his boat last summer, fish in hand, because – yeah, he’s that guy but whatever it was a bomb fucking catch and so is Travis.

Hot Guy hesitates for a moment longer before he swipes left and Travis feels something like disappointment.

“Wow, what was wrong with that guy?” The words leave his mouth before Travis even realizes he’s speaking, which…well, it’s actually pretty standard for Travis. He expects Hot Guy to whip his head around, but instead he just grunts and ignores him. Travis seriously considers dropping it, but he doesn’t have anything to do for the next two hours and maybe he can get some feedback on his profile or some shit. “He looked like a badass.”

The guy grunts again, but he does turn around this time, and his face…his face holy shit, Travis is in love. He looks grumpy and pissed off as fuck, but his eyes grow just a bit wider when he takes in Travis’ face. Travis smiles as wide as he can and waggles his eyebrows, which earns him an eye roll and yeah Travis is already fucking obsessed with this dude.

“You were holding a fucking fish.” Hot Guy tells him, his voice devoid of any emotion, but it’s deep and Travis can only imagine how it would sound in….other situations.

“That was, like, an elite catch my dude. Of course I took a picture, that was the best catch of the season.”

“If you say so.”

“Okay, so not a fisher then?” Hot Guy shrugs.

“I prefer spear fishing.”

“Oh, that’s so fucking badass. I’ve always wanted to try that, like, real wilderness survival shit.” Hot Guy grunts, and Travis takes that as permission to continue the conversation. “So, why no fish pics on the Tinder profile?”

“It’s so stereotypical, like, every dude posts a fishing pic like they think it shows they can provide or what-the-fuck-ever. It’s, like, caveman shit.”

“No caveman shit, got it. Any other tips?”

“I’m not coaching you on your Tinder profile.” Hot Guys tells him. “I don’t even know you.”

“No, but that’s why you’re perfect!” Travis clambers out of his chair and climbs over, collapsing next to Hot Guy – who looks slightly alarmed but doesn’t push him away. “You’re an impartial party. You can, like, tell me what I’m doing wrong.”

“Are you that hard up?” Hot Guy eyes him up and down. “You’re not completely unfortunate.”

“Thanks.” Travis smirks and fishes his phone out of his pocket. “I mean, I do alright, but there’s always room to improve. Here.” He shoves his phone into Hot Guy’s hand after unlocking it, and Hot Guy stares at it for a long moment as if it’s going to burn him. “C’mon, we’re going to be here for hours. What else are you going to do?”

“Literally anything else.” Hot Guy grumbles, but he thumbs open the Tinder app and makes his way to Travis’ profile. “Seriously, no fish dude.”

“Okay.” Travis shrugs. “What else?”

“You play hockey?” He asks as he looks at another of Travis’ pictures, this one of him on the ice. It’s inconspicuous, no Flyers logos anywhere, just him at a family skate helping Madison Braun get the puck around her dad.

“Yeah. You a fan?”

“I’m from Winnipeg.” He responds, as if that’s an answer.

“Ah, a Jets fan?”

“Sure.” Hot Guy nods. “But I’m more of a Hawks guy.”

“Jonathan Toews?” Travis asks with an elbow into Hot Guy’s side. Hot Guy blushes, and Travis wants to lick those rosy cheeks. Is that weird? It’s probably weird. Travis mentally shrugs. “Peg dudes gotta stick together, I guess.”

Hot Guy grunts again and moves a selfie from Travis’ photos to make it his default. He works quietly after that, rearranging things and editing his (admittedly brief) bio. When he’s done, he locks the screen and tosses the phone into Travis’ lap.

“Thanks, bud.” Travis tells him, grinning. “Can I buy you, like, seriously overpriced airport food. Y’know, to say thanks?”

“I swiped left on you.” Hot Guy responds.

“And?”

“So, that means I don’t want to go on a date with you?”

Travis rolls his eyes. “Yeah, I get it dude, I’m trying to be a decent human here.”

Hot Guy stares at him, but eventually sighs and grabs his bags. Travis leaps up and follows alongside Hot Guy until they’re standing in front of a chain restaurant.

“Hey,” He reaches out and elbows the guy in the side. “I should probably know your name if we’re going to eat together. So, I can stop calling you Hot Guy in my head.”

Hot Guy’s cheeks turn bright ride again and Travis really loves that, especially because Hot Guy looks completely grumpy at the same time.

“Nolan.” He finally says as the hostess grabs two menus. “My name is Nolan.”

“Everyone calls me TK, or Teeks. My friend Hayesey calls me Tikibar.”

“Patty.” Nolan supplies, and Travis beams.

“Patty, I like it. Nice to meet you, Patty.”

Patty doesn’t exactly open up over their shared meal, but it doesn’t make Travis any less obsessed with him. He’s knowledgeable about hockey, but doesn’t seem to recognize Travis. He’s into outdoorsy shit like Travis, is darkly funny, and a completely sarcastic little shit. He’s so Travis’ type it physically pains him.

Travis pays before Patty can pull out his wallet and gets a glare in return.

“This isn’t a date.” Patty grumbles.

“Yeah, bud, I know.” Travis signs the receipt just as the announcer comes over the PA and tells them that their flight is finally going to board. “You ready?”

They walk back to the gate together, and it feels like Travis has known Patty forever, which is strange even with his massive crush. They stand in line together, get their boarding passes scanned together, and Travis nearly folds over in laughter when Patty slides into the row where Travis’ seat is. When Patty looks up at him, watching him fall into the seat next to him, his face is unreadable.

“You’re kidding me.”

“Guess you can’t get rid of me that easily, Patso.”

Travis fiddles with his phone as the rest of the passengers board, texts his Mom to let him know that he’s on his way, opens up the Flyers group chat to read whatever nonsense Hayesey’s sent in the last few hours. He can feel Patty get increasingly tense next to him, and Travis ignores it until they start taxiing down the runway and Patty’s breathing gets short and fast. He looks over and finds Patty staring at his legs, his knees bouncing erratically.

“You okay, bud?”

“Don’t like taking off.” Patty mumbles, sounding like it’s forced out of him. Travis eyes his balled-up fists and decides to take a chance. He gently picks up the fist closest to him, and slowly pries Patty’s hand open. Patty doesn’t say anything, but he doesn’t stop him either, so Travis takes that as permission to thread his fingers through Patty’s and rest their joined hands on Travis’ thigh.

“Breathe with me.” Travis tells him as he runs his thumb across Patty’s skin. The plane starts picking up speed, but Patty seems to stay at the same level of panic as before as he forces himself to breathe in time with Travis.

Once they’re sufficiently airborne Patty seems to calm down, but he doesn’t let go of Travis’ hand no way is Travis going to be the one to pull away.

“Thanks.” Patty tells him, and Travis shrugs.

“It’s cool. I travel a lot for work and one of my co-workers hates flying, so I’m used to it.”

“Hmm.” Is all he gets in response, but Patty does squeeze his hand once before finally pulling it away.

Travis travels enough that falling asleep on a plane is as familiar as breathing, and even though it’s a short flight from Philly to Toronto, he still feels himself dozing off. He doesn’t mean to let his head droop onto Patty, but when he’s awoken by the pilot’s voice announcing their descent into Toronto, he realizes he’s practically nuzzling the dude’s shoulder.

“Sorry.” He mumbles, still half asleep, and moves back into his own space.

“S’okay.” Patty replies. He doesn’t look tense like before, but Travis still asks him if he freaks out over landings too. The grumpy frown on Patty’s face returns, his brow furrowing in a way that makes Travis have to tamp down the urge to press his thumb into Patty’s skin to smooth it out. He doesn’t say no, though, so Travis drops his arm onto the armrest palm up in invitation.

Patty looks away, to the closed window, and slips his hand into Travis’.

Travis might be in love with this wonderful asshole.

They land with no issue, and Patty lets go of his hand when they stand up to grab their overhead bags. He can feel Patty behind him as they shuffle off of the crowded plane, then down the walkway and out into the gate. He doesn’t say anything, and Travis desperately wants to, and he follows Patty toward the screens listing arrivals and departures.

“I guess I didn’t ask if Toronto was your last stop.” He says, staring at Patty as Patty stares at the screen.

“I’m going home.”

“To the Peg?”

“Hmm.” Patty hums. Travis only finds one flight to Winnipeg, at a gate in the opposite direction of baggage claim, and he feels a knot in his stomach at the realization that this is where they’ll part.

“You’re that way.” Travis points toward the gate, then throws a thumb over his shoulder. “I’m that way.”

“Right.” Patty replies, turning away from the screen. He looks unsure in a way that he hasn’t the entire four hours that Travis has known him. It’s oddly endearing, in a way that apparently everything Patty is to Travis. Fuck it, he thinks, he might as well shoot his shot if he’s never going to see the guy again.

“Can I get your number?” He asks. “I know you swiped left on me or whatever, but I’m hoping maybe you’ll look past the douchey fish pic? I mean, you held my hand and shit. You can act like it didn’t happen but it did.”

Patty studies him for a long moment, long enough that Travis wants to squirm under his gaze, but then his cheeks are red again and he’s staring down at the ground as he mumbles something at Travis.

“Huh?” He asks, and Patty rolls his eyes.

“I put my number in your phone.” He tells Travis. “When I was working on your profile.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah.”

“Well…” Travis scratches the back of his neck. “I’ll, uh…call you? I guess?”

“Yeah.” Patty nods.

“Okay, cool. Have a good flight to the Peg, Patso.” Travis says with a grin. “Say hi to Tazer for me.”

Travis just catches Patty rolling his eyes as he turns away. He doesn’t get far before he feels a big, familiar hand wrap around his wrist. He lets himself be tugged back and then he’s chest to chest with Patty, Patty’s hands cupping his jaw as he leans down and presses his lips to Travis’. Travis melts into the kiss, and if he whimpers a little, he’ll never admit to it. Patty kisses just like Travis imagined he would, firm and sure and serious. It makes Travis’ toes curl, and he chases it when Patty pulls away.

“Wow.” Travis whispers, and he would be embarrassed except it gets a low chuckle out of Patty.

“I’ll talk to you soon.” Patty tells him, then lets him go so he can walk away.

“Yeah.” Travis tells his retreating back, then yells “Hell yeah, Patso!” louder, and watches Patty’s shoulders bunch up with a smile.