Nick sat at the airport, his mind whirling with the events of the last 24 hours. He was trying to talk himself through everything that had to be done, in speaking with his mom, he knew it would up to him to handle a lot of the arrangements. She was in no condition to handle this herself, and Nick knew now more then ever she was going to need to lean on him. He wanted to be there for her.
But sitting alone at the airport among the interactions of countless strangers, Nick felt alone and scared. He tried to fight it, but Nick kept repeating the earlier conversation with Chelsea over and over. Not the last one in his apartment, but the one that had sparked his anger and frustration with her.
When Chelsea broke up with him, she told him she wanted to remain friends. Nick had shrugged it off, it’s something that everybody says after a breakup but upon hearing about his dad’s death, Nick wanted to desperately believe that Chelsea meant it. He wasn’t going to see her to rekindle any kind of passion, or use his personal tragedy to get sympathy from her. He just needed that promise of friendship, and who better to understand what he was feeling then a person who had been through a very similar experience. After the number of times Chelsea came to him to cry on his shoulder, whether they were together or not, he really thought she was someone he could count on.
Of course, he happened to pick an apparent tense moment between Chelsea and Daniel Jonas. Nick knew she had been chasing him around town, pretty much immediately after breaking it off with him. He presumed Chelsea had made some headway but Nick’s arrival broke the fantasy and typical Chelsea blamed Nick for the doctor’s cowardly exit.
Nick flinched as he remembered her words which were the most cruelest things he had ever heard from her. He knew there was a chance she didn’t want to see him, but he never ever thought Chelsea was that blind to Nick’s own feelings. Nick shook his head. How long has he defended Chelsea to everyone who proclaimed her self-centered and inconsiderate? What a rude awakening for him to find out how wrong he was.
Shaken from his thoughts, Nick glanced over to see Stephanie Johnson, who looked out of the ordinary for her: shy. “Stephanie?”
She nodded. She was holding a carry on bag and her purse. She walked over to him and sat down, clearing her throat. “How are you doing?”
“I’m…I’m fine…” Nick began, but he was too confused by her presence. “What are you doing here?”
“I’m so sorry about your dad’s death. I, um, well I hope it’s ok. Max and I felt you shouldn’t be alone like this and well, he couldn’t come. We talked it over and it seemed like the right thing if at least I came along. I mean, I know it’s weird, and I understand if you don’t want…”
Nick was overcome with emotion. He grabbed Stephanie and pulled her into a huge hug, which she instantly reacted by yelling “Ow”. Nick pulled away, realizing he had pulled her over the hard airport plastic chairs.
“I’m sorry, are you ok?”
“Yea, Nick, I take it you’re ok then with me coming?”
“Oh God, Stephanie,” Nick again felt dizzy. He thought of Max and Stephanie as friends but the fact they were doing this for him meant the world. “I can’t begin to tell you how much this means to me. I was just sitting here…well, I was thinking about everything and if I made this flight by myself I would go insane if I remained alone in my thoughts. Thank you so much!”
Stephanie nodded and smiled, to Nick her smile was the most beautiful thing he’d seen in a long time. “You think it would be ok with your family? They won’t get the wrong idea? I don’t want you having to explain our relationship…”
“No, no, they have heard of you. Well, Mom has. She knows you’re Max’s girlfriend.”
“Sure, I talk about you guys all the time.”
Nick noticed a quick flash of emotion across Stephanie’s face he couldn’t recognize, but he heard the boarding call and knew there wasn’t time to dwell on it. He was so relived to have a real friend going with him to Germany. He vowed to call Max after they landed to thank him.
On the plane
An hour into the fight, Stephanie tried to make any kind of images out of the dark window but the earth below wasn’t visible. She glanced over at Nick who was making more lists of things to do. She really was surprised, she had expected him to be yakking her ear off, as he usually did, but then he probably wasn’t in such a mood to do so.
She looked down at her own magazine, she had already finished it. She and Chelsea thrown through her stuff to pack and she hadn’t even talked to her parents about where she was going, just left them a message. That should go over well, she thought.
Stephanie was surprised at how easily Nick took her lie. Chelsea made her promise not to let him know it was her idea and concocted the bit that it was she and Max who decided this. Max had given his approval…well it was more like a shrug, over Stephanie leaving the country with another young guy.
Course, that guy looks like Nick, so need for him to be worried, Stephanie smiled. Glancing over at Nick, he wasn’t much to look at, but she was always surprised at how intense he could be at the current job at hand. Max was intense but usually over the wrong things. Lately he seemed to not care about anything unless you told him what to do. Upon thinking so much about Max, Stephanie flinched as she realized she was using this trip to simply take a break from her unstable boyfriend. Maybe on his own, Max could work things out.
“He certainly can’t seem to do that with me around,” she muttered.
“What was that?”
“Oh, I’m sorry, Nick,” Stephanie said blushing, “thinking about someone.”
This surprised Stephanie. “Um, yea. How’d you know?”
Nick looked up from his list and into her eyes, “Well you’re traveling across the ocean with another guy. Seems natural to think about the man you love right now.”
Hearing Max being described that way, Stephanie felt a twinge of something. She wasn’t sure what. She didn’t like it. Changing the subject, she looked at his list, “How are things coming?”
“Ok, I guess. It’s weird making a list of things to do like it’s any other day.”
Stephanie nodded, feeling sympathy. She didn’t grow up with her father but now that he was in her life, she had no idea what she would do if he was taken away again.
“It helps having you here.”
Stephanie felt the guilt rise up in her chest and asked to see his list. Looking it over, she asked him about the General listed.
“He’s my, he was my dad’s commanding officer.”
“Oh, he was in the military?”
“Yea, the army. He wound up joining the intelligence department.”
Stephanie smiled, “Well that sounds like something I’d expect Nick Fallon’s father to be naturally.” She was glad to see Nick smiled in return. He had a nice smile, Stephanie realized she didn’t get to see too much of it when he was around Chelsea.
“You know, code cracking, deciphering, that kind of thing.”
“Ohhhh, espionage stuff?”
“Um, sort of. “
She smiled, “I’m surprised you wouldn’t have wanted to go into that.”
Nick’s smile quickly dropped and he took back the list. “Yea, well, it’s not for everyone.”
“I’m sorry, Nick, did I say something…”
Just then a stewardess interrupted to ask if they wanted a drink. When she left, Stephanie glanced at Nick and decided to drop it. It was going to be a long flight, probably a long trip. No need to push things that were none of her business.