Character/pairing: America/Ukraine, mentioned Japan/Taiwan
Word count: 3402
Author's note: aph_fluffathon: 13. Couple meets for the first time on a transatlantic flight to some fabulous vacation destination. Character A is afraid of flying, Character B notices and helps them through the long trip. Any pairing is fine!
She awoke to the sound of the captain's voice coming over the speaker. It took her a moment to figure out where she was, and remember the events of the day before. Kateryna realized that it wasn't the back of her seat she was resting on, but a very broad shoulder.
"You fell asleep during my fascinating lecture," he said.
She flushed. "I-I'm sorry, I haven't slept well and I was stressed and–"
He waved his hand. "It's fine! Same thing happened with my brother's boyfriend, actually. I must have a talent or something. Though Matt was pretty pissed at me for that. Anyways, it worked, obviously–you got calmed down enough to rest a bit."
She smiled sheepishly and tried to straighten her hair. It was about then she noticed a wet spot on his shoulder which could only have come from her drooling on him.
"I-I'm sorry, I'll get that cleaned up right away," she said, digging in her purse for napkins she always saved when they rarely ate out. Despite his protests, she wiped at his shoulder until it was mostly dry.
"There. I'm so–"
He held up one finger to silence her. "No apologies allowed. Unless like, you drop that giant purse on my feet or something. What do you carry in that thing, the kitchen sink?"
She laughed. It was true, the kitchen sink was about all she didn't carry in there.
"I like to be prepared. There's no telling when something might happen," she said.
"It's a good mentality to have," Alfred said. "Me, I'm always underpacking and going on adventures. It's more fun to get out of the scrapes, but the people who don't like to go be heroes should totally pack. Matt likes to call them 'sane people'."
She laughed. The plane had mostly emptied of people. Alfred got up, and stretched.
"Yeah, we should probably get going before they kick us off. I'll carry your stuff," he said.
"No, it's fine–" she began, but he had already swung her carry-on over his shoulder, along with his own duffle.
"Are you sure that isn't too heavy?" She asked nervously, as he started towards the door.
"Dude, I can barely feel it," Alfred said.
She followed him, blinking into the bright ambiance of the airport. It was bustling with people, with announcements going over speakers in an unfamiliar language. Alfred stopped by the conveyer belt with baggage, and somehow despite the horror stories she'd heard about people losing their baggage forever to whatever Bermuda Triangle type void existed between the dark place her luggage had been sent off to, it came back. If Alfred always underpacked, then Kateryna always overpacked. She had three big bags, to Alfred's one, and he slung all of them over his shoulders.
"Um," she said. But he didn't seem to be shrinking under the weight at all. In fact, he seemed completely unaffected.
"It's all right, I could carry more and still not even break a sweat. I got superhuman strength, didn't you hear?"
She shook her head, smiling despite herself. "No, I didn't hear that one."
"Oh, hang around with me a while and you'll hear plenty about it," he said with a grin.
She wasn't sure how much of this was simply him teasing, but even still, she watched his back as he walked ahead of her, looking for clues.
Or maybe just looking.
They made their way through the crowd, walking through the wide, white halls towards the stairs. Alfred took a quick look at a map he'd picked up, without even stopping, and then continued on their course, only slightly modifying their route.
"Welcome to Tokyo," Alfred said. "Kinda a shame you'll only be here a bit. I'm not sure we can even go on adventures and not get deported in the process. But at least we can check out the Narita airport a bit."
"I've only an hour and a half layover," she said.
"Me too. Have you eaten at all?" He asked, brushing his hand over her shoulder.
"Mmm...I can't remember. I don't think so..." His hand was very distracting, and muddled up her thoughts.
"Then you really should, unless you wanna be sick all over the Pacific flight," he said.
Her stomach lurched. Flying over land was one thing, but flying over the ocean was something else entirely. They could be stranded out in the waters for months, dehydrating away with the few surviving passengers while sharks circled below, waiting for them to die.
She shivered at the thought of what must lay ahead. Even amidst the attempted logic that many people managed to fly and reach their destinations without a hitch, all she could remember was that documentary about the Rugby players who were stranded in the mountains of Chile after their plane crashed.
"No, it's—" But he was already shrugging out of his coat and slipping it over her shoulders. It was surprisingly heavy and sturdy, smelling of leather, a faint whiff of whatever aftershave he'd been wearing, with just a hint of food.
"We're on the same flight, right? You'll be able to give it back to me sooner or later," he said.
"I suppose," she said. "I'm just...anxious about the flight."
"What, afraid of some little ocean? Well, there's no worries! If we crash, I can swim you to shore. Like a dolphin or something."
"And the sharks?" She said, not even touching the other logic in that argument.
"I'll totally punch them away. My nickname was Sharkpuncher in high school. No lie," he said. He winked, and gave her a thumbs up sign.
It was hard to make any argument to that, logical or otherwise, so she just shook her head, not quite able to hide her smile.
"I'm just full of nerves, is all," she said.
"Yeah, but it's cool. Oh, and have you ever tried Sushi?"
He was hard to keep up with, flitting around from one topic to another. She shook her head. "No, I haven't the chance."
"Then you should totally have some. I'm of the mind that you should do as much new stuff as possible."
He took her by the wrist and soon they were off. And in fact, Alfred did find a sushi restaurant. She hadn't really expected there to be one. It was carved out in a dark corner, with dim lighting and mostly traditional decoration in the small space, though some of it had been modernized. It was manned by a middle-aged man who looked quite weary already, though the day was a long ways from being over.
There was quite a few already prepared dishes packaged with tea and chopsticks spread out on one side of the room with unfamiliar ingredients. They were bright and exotic, drawing the eye. Behind the counter was a cabinet with glass doors that housed many large bowls and cups in muted shades of white and blue and green, all with the thick traditional style she was unused to seeing, yet fascinated by the simple beauty.
"Irasshaimase," he said.
Alfred waved to him. "Sup."
The man didn't reply.
"Me, I'm more of a burger man," he explained. "But you need to have some sushi, stat."
"Isn't sushi raw fish?" she asked. She took a wary look over the counter that held the sushi plates, not quite knowing what to expect.
"Well, some of it, at least. Sushi actually refers to the rice, sashimi is the raw stuff. There's cooked stuff too. I think I asked the exact same question when Kiku and I went out. Anyways, whatcha want?"
"I honestly can't tell one thing from another," she said. "I always specialized in Ukrainian cuisine...I can cook many different kinds of Borscht, but I know nothing of this kind of cooking."
"I'll pick something out for you, my treat. I think I know exactly what you want," he said.
He focused with great intensity, looking over the confections filled with ingredients she couldn't name, but assumed must be tasty if Alfred liked it so. They had to be popular for a reason, after all.
Finally he made his order, speaking some of what could only be Japanese as he paid.
"I didn't realize you spoke Japanese," she said, when he had finished.
"Hahaha, oh that. I only know about enough to order some food, ask where the bathroom is, and tell someone to show me their tits. Oh, and curse words. That was my first lesson," Alfred said.
She flushed a bit at the show me their tits mention, but if he noticed her embarrassment, he didn't mention it. Instead, he continued on, as bright and cheerful as ever.
"I've got a friend from here, he's the one who taught me. I could ask him to ensure your brother and sister get where they need to go."
"Would you? I mean, I wouldn't want to impose or be too much trouble—"
"Nah, it's no biggie. He totally owes me one for that epic wingman maneuver I pulled for him a while back. I bet his girlfriend would see it like some sort of adventure and love it, since she's like that. I think Kiku calls it being 'genki' or whatever. I just generally call it being awesome."
They went to the back of the enclave and sat in one of the empty booths. Hers was a little roll of rice with assorted ingredients inside, wrapped in green. She mentally tried to identify them, a habit from being the cook in the house. The wrapping was a sort of vegetable which she couldn't quite identify, and a filling she thought must be meat, but she also didn't recognize. Well, he'd promised it hadn't been raw, so she trusted his judgement.
"You're supposed to eat it, not put it under a microscope," Alfred said.
She flushed. "I was just trying to figure out what the ingredients here. It's a natural cook's habit, I suppose. Whenever I eat Borscht, I try and wonder what the cook has added to it, to see if I can simply identify by taste, sight or smell the secret ingredients which make it good. I-I'm sure it's good."
"Really? That sounds awesome. You really have to cook for me sometime, I'm dying to try your Borscht," he said. He flashed her a bright smile.
"I'd be happy to, but I'm afraid I don't have any of the ingredients or tools with me," she said politely.
"Awww, that's right. Another time, though?" He said.
"Another time," she affirmed, though she doubted she'd ever see him past this flight.
"Anyways, don't worry, I didn't order anything like octopus, which is incidentally a delicacy. It's just inari maki."
She tentatively put the sushi to her mouth. The only way she could describe it was very clean tasting and free of the usual flavors she was used to. Intrigued, she tried another.
"Fff, you're supposed to put it in the sauce!" Alfred said. He dipped his in the soy sauce and Horseradish sauce and brought it to his mouth.
"Good, huh?" Alfred said. "Kiku can make some great sushi. Mei says she landed herself a great househusband. I gotta agree that he can cook and clean like it's nobody's business."
"What type did I get?" She asked.
"Inari maki. Fried tofu stuff. Me, I can't stand vegetarian stuff, but you didn't seem keen on fish," He shrugged.
"Ah, thank you," she said.
"No problem. So, tell me about yourself," Alfred asked. He had already eaten all the sushi he'd gotten. She was confused a moment, wondering if he'd put it in away in some container to eat later as there'd been a sizeable amount of large rolls on his side, but no. He really had eaten the entire thing while she'd barely finished two.
"Me? Ahah...I'm probably hardly interesting to someone like you who is a big pilot and flying all over the place." She shook her head. He'd seen so many beautiful sights, and probably met many other pretty girls, ones far more cultured and interesting than her. She wasn't sure why he was giving her the time of day, to be honest, when he could have the pick of them.
But of course, he was taken. He was going to visit his family. And simply a nice person, she reminded herself.
Lest she ever forget and let some fancy straight out of a romantic comedy take her over.
"Nah, you're cool. Totally interesting," he said.
She looked down to her plate, and toyed with her third sushi roll. "I work as a cook at a restaurant. I was a waitress for a while, but...plates kept getting knocked off, and my buttons kept coming undone."
"So you're saying the plates kept falling off because...."
She nodded, well aware that her breasts were bouncing as she nodded, as if punctuating the point. For a moment, Alfred's face was broken by a silly grin. Then he started laughing.
She had a sour expression on her face, like she'd sucked on a lemon. It hadn't been that funny back then, and it certainly hadn't been funny when she'd been groped or teased, or when men could never look her in the eye.
"It's nice to see you think me getting fired is so funny," she said, and it was the sharpest she'd been to him all day.
"No, no, just the mental image I have—" He choked back more laughter. "Kateryna Shevenko, saving the world one bounce at a time. I can just see it. Faster than a speeding bullet! And be careful, because she's got the kitchen sink in there!"
"In what? My cleavage?" She asked, confused.
This only made him double over with laughter. Even she had to admit this was funny, her portrayed as some superheroine in spandex and some ridiculous outfit. Probably even fighting in stilettos when she could barely walk in them without stripping, let alone run.
"Oh, you're killing me," he said, fighting for breath.
She fought the urge to apologize. He really deserved it after that, though his jokes seemed to be innocent. All this time he'd tried very hard to keep looking her in the eye, and had been for all purposes, a gentleman.
She finished off her last roll, and began to clean up, picking up pieces of rice which had fallen free, and then leaning over to clean where a smear of sauce and rice had stuck to his cheek.
It was such a habit to clean Ivan and Nataliya's faces that the thought didn't even register that it wouldn't be quite so appropriate with a stranger–well, an acquaintance at least. He didn't seem a stranger, even though she'd known him only for a few hours and would probably never see him after this.
"Oh, cool. Thanks," he said. "I'm always forgetting. Once, I went to the post office with chocolate all over my face. Matt only told me when I got home."
She neatly tucked the napkin, shyly looking away from all his effervescence and constant cheer. He must be the type of person who found adventures anywhere, simply because he was willing to go out and burst into life, making friends with strangers and dragging them out of their shells and fears, whether they wanted to or not.
"So that's all, former waitress, cook, crime fighter in disguise?" Alfred said. "No secret spy pasts I should know about?"
"Taking care of a whole family doesn't leave one much time for hobbies, though I do knit," she said.
"I bet you make a badass sweater," Alfred said. "With like, kittens and shit."
"I have from time to time," she said, with a smile. "I usually make simpler things, like scarves."
"Awesome," he said. "Okay, so, what's your ticket number, anyways?"
She rustled through her giant purse and pulled it out. He gave it a glance.
Alfred scrunched up his nose. "Yeah, we're on the same one. We should probably head out to our terminal. It'd suck to miss our flight."
Had it already been an hour? She checked her wristwatch, which was a plain, older wind-up one, but it was still set to her own time zone, and she wasn't sure how effective it would be here, at least until she reset it. Forty-five minutes had passed, and they still had to find which terminal to use.
Luckily, it wasn't across the whole airport, as their sushi run had taken them straight on the path to Terminal One.
"See, destiny. Totally destiny. We were meant to eat sushi and be right on the way," Alfred said, with a sage nod.
And before she could even comment on that, they were off again. He was ever active, flitting from one topic to another like a walking advertizement for Ritalin.
It still took them a while to reach, but only because they got distracted by the shops on the way. They were so colorful and tempting, she couldn't resist looking. One held several books, though most were in languages she didn't read. Others contained baubles like cell phone charms. In the end, they were too expensive for her liking, so she walked on.
She'd hadn't even touched the book she'd brought, anyways. If she was going to be in the same plane as Alfred, she probably wouldn't with his energetic and talkative ways. Soon they were at the terminal, seated around a small enclave where several other people were waiting.
She excused herself to the restroom. Her hair was a bit messy from sleep, and she brushed it back into place. She should've done that immediately, but Alfred had been so keen to drag her off, she really hadn't had the time. She also noticed that her middle button had come undone, showing a peek of way more cleavage than she would've liked. Oddly enough, Alfred hadn't alerted her to this at all. Maybe he hadn't noticed.
"All checked in!" he said. "Funny thing, we're seated by each other again. Who'd of thought?"
He laughed then, and it came to mind that when she had gone off to the restroom, he'd been talking with members of the group. Now an few of them were looking on them fondly, as if they knew a secret she didn't.
Alfred gave them a wave and a wink. He didn't elaborate, though she had a feeling this wasn't a coincidence.
Not that she minded. It was sweet of him to go through all that trouble to ensure that she didn't have a bad flight.. Besides, she'd certainly never had a guy offer to punch sharks for her before.
Irasshai translates to "welcome" or "come in". Irasshaimase is a honorable/polite form, generally used by storekeepers and the like.
-this was the model of the sushi restaurant I finally settled on. Which means they'd be near Terminal One.
-Inari maki contains fried tofu as a filling, and is named as such because the dog god Inari is said to have a fondness for fried tofu.
-Borscht was chosen specifically to be focused on because there's over 30 different varieties of it, and not simply because it's the general stereotype of Baltic food. Borscht is also written as borsch, bortsch, borstch, borsh, borshch. I just stuck with the first for clarity's sake.
Now doesn't that look yummy?
-I'm not even sure if it's possible to switch tickets with someone and not run into trouble, but I saw it in a RomCom once (and we all know those are just a paragon of authenticity, especially when it comes to air ports) so I'm going to go for RomCom logic and say at least in this universe, it's possible, though hardly encouraged.
Or Alfred was so cute, the ticket guy or gal was too smitten to notice.