Despite all the interruptions and lack of privacy during the previous part of the week, Justin and Mac had spent a wonderful few days together. Justin's disappointment when Lynn had to go out of town before his birthday was made infinitely better by Mac's little surprise. Having Mac there, in general, was making it easier for him. Justin had been in "the business" for over five years now, so he was quite familiar with the day to day disappointments which sometimes came with his chosen vocation, but that did not mean that he had to like it.
Lynn called to wish him happy birthday first thing Thursday morning. Justin could have slept a few hours more, but he knew it made her feel better to call him, so he tried not to complain too much. She was also dying to find out how his evening with Mac had gone. Justin thanked her for all she had done to help Mac in the endeavor.
Mac had excused himself while Justin was on the phone with Lynn, so after talking to his mother, Justin opened his door and stuck his head into the hallway. He heard muffled noises from the kitchen, indicating that Mac was downstairs seeing to breakfast, so he headed downstairs to join him.
"Good morning, lover-boy," Justin said, walking up behind Mac and wrapping his arms around him.
"Good morning yourself, good lookin'," Mac said. He turned in Justin's arms and kissed him.
"What smells so good?" Justin asked, peeking around Mac to the stove.
"Bacon and eggs," Mac said, giving Justin another peck on the cheek, "I hope you like."
"Oh man, good looks and he cooks," Justin said, grinning. He went over to the refrigerator, taking out the orange juice, then removed a glass from the cabinet and filled it. "Do you want some OJ, babe?" Justin asked, holding up the container.
"Yeah, that'd be great," Mac said, scooping the scrambled eggs onto the two plates sitting nearby, filling the space framed by the bacon and toast. After placing the pan in the sink and running some water in it, he carried the plates to the table.
Justin grabbed another glass, and, after filling it, took them both to the table to join Mac.
The two enjoyed breakfast together, sharing some light conversation. They briefly discussed plans for the day ahead and quickly decided on a quiet day at home. After putting away the dishes from their romantic evening, then cleaning up their breakfast things, the set about to do just that.
Retiring to the living room, Justin grabbed a video and placed it in the machine, then crossed the room to join Mac on the couch. Mac opened his arms to Justin, as the young blond sat beside him and snuggled into his shoulder. Justin snaked an arm behind Mac, tickling him slightly on the way.
"Hey, stop that," Mac giggled, swatting playfully at Justin with his opposite hand.
"Sorry, baby," Justin said, smiling unrepentantly, then took Mac's hand in his own. "Just wanted to hold on to you, too."
"No problem," Mac told him, lacing their fingers before bringing their hands to rest on their legs. "This is nice. What'd you pick anyway?"
"The Mummy," Justin said, smirking.
"How very ... romantic," Mac said, chuckling.
"Hey, it's a love story!" Justin said. "I mean, the whole premise was that he came back from the dead looking for his lost love."
"Oh, yeah," Mac said, exaggeratedly nodding his head. "Completely disregarding the fact that he sucked the life out of everyone else to get to her."
"Well, the actors are cute," Justin said, biting back a laugh. Mac turned to him, arching an eyebrow. "Not that I'm planning on watching any of them."
"Yeah, mm hmm," Mac said, nodding again.
"Well, why would I need to?" Justin asked, lightly tickling Mac's ribs with his buried fingers. "I have you right here in my arms."
"Good answer! Now quit that, or you're not getting another one of these," Mac said, smiling before kissing Justin.
Justin's fingers instantly ceased, then, taking the side of Mac's face in his cupped hand, he pulled him in for another kiss. Once the kiss was broken, Justin placed his head on Mac's shoulder, then said, "I could definitely get used to this."
Lowering his head to rest on the top of Justin's, Mac
absently said, "Me, too ... me, too, baby." Mac's free hand gently rubbed
Justin arm as the other glided over his palm.
Justin and Mac sat enjoying the movie. When it was over they went into the kitchen to make some popcorn before putting on another. They were just returning from their excursion when Justin's cell phone rang. With a groan, Justin went out to the hall. Retrieving his phone, he looked at the display. He didn't recognize the number, but it was the prefix of the city where his father lived. "Hello?" Justin asked, after pressing the talk button.
"Justin?" asked the voice on the other end of the line.
"Lisa?" Justin said, finally recognizing his step-mother's voice. "Sorry, I didn't recognize the number. What's up?"
"I'm calling from the hospital," came her quiet response.
"Hospital!" Justin said, a bit louder than he had intended. Mac quickly turned in his direction to see what the commotion was about.
"Justin, honey..." there was a pause on the other end of the line, a pause which was quickly making Justin uncomfortable for some reason, "your dad and the boys were in an accident."
"What?" Justin yelled into the phone. Mac quickly moved to Justin's side, touching his arm to let him know that he was there.
"Honey, they were involved in a car accident earlier, but...." There was a grating noise and some static over the line, then silence.
"Lisa?" Justin tried again, but it was no use ... the line was dead. "Lisa!"
"Jus?" Mac said, as Justin frantically ended the call, then started trying to dial his dad's home. "Jus, what's wrong, baby?"
Justin was now trying another number. "That was my step-mom," Justin said, terror clearly evident in his voice. "She said my dad and brothers were in an accident, but then the phone went dead. Dammit! I can't get hold of anyone!"
"Calm down, baby," Mac said, putting his arms around him.
"How can I? She said they were in an accident and then the phone went dead!" Justin said, leaning his head on Mac's shoulder and hugging him.
"It's okay, Jus," Mac said, rocking Justin back and forth comfortingly. "You tried to call her back, right?"
Justin nodded against Mac's shoulder, "Yeah, at the number she called from, at home, dad's cell phone ... no answer anywhere."
"Okay, is there anyone else you can try?" Mac asked, pulling back to look into Justin's face.
"No," Justin said, almost on the brink of tears. "I gotta go ... I gotta get up there!"
"Okay, okay ... just calm down," Mac said, bringing him into another hug. "Come on, we'll go grab some clothes and I'll go with you."
Mac started walking them toward the stairs, but Justin stopped him. Turning Mac to face him, Justin asked, "Are you sure?"
"Of course. I know how I would feel if it were my dad or brother," Mac said, wiping at the tear which had managed to slip past Justin's defenses. With a half smile, Mac again pulled them toward the stairs, "Come on, let's get packed."
Once upstairs, the two of them hurriedly threw some clothes into a couple of duffle bags, then Justin called JC as Mac took the keys to go start the car. JC told them to be careful, and that he would tell everyone else. Justin assured him that they would, then went to join Mac in the car.
Mac drove them to the airport as quickly as he could. It was not nearly fast enough for Justin, however, which was Mac's main reason for taking the wheel. Once there, they left the car in the long term lot and rushed to the ticketing counter, barely noticing the uniformed men and women walking in front of the door carrying large picket signs.
"Good afternoon, gentlemen," the ticketing agent told them as they reached the counter. "How may I help you today?"
"We need two tickets on the next flight for Memphis," Justin told her, a bit breathless after running from the parking lot.
"I'm sorry gentlemen, but the next few flights are completely booked," she told them with a frown.
"What do you mean completely booked?" Justin said. "There has to be something!"
"I'm sorry, sirs," she said, a look of helplessness on her face, "with the strikes, we just don't have the flights."
"I have to get to Memphis!" Justin almost yelled. Mac placed his hand on Justin's arm to try and calm him. "Do you know who I am?"
Mac squeezed Justin's arm as the young lady behind the counter winced. "I'm sorry, he's a little upset," Mac told her, an apologetic expression on his face.
Justin hung his head, and deflated as he realized what he had just done. "God, I'm sorry," he told her. "It's a family emergency," he said, his eyes pleading with her. "I have to get there as soon as possible, is there anything that we can do?"
"I'm sorry, we've been trying to make alternate arrangements for people all day," she told them, frowning. "It's not just the flight crews, but the ground crews here as well, we just can't get what flights there are turned around."
"Can you make any suggestions?" Mac asked her.
"Not here," she said, shaking her head. "A train or bus would probably be your best bet ... none of the carriers have any flights out."
"Is there a private strip nearby?" Mac asked.
"Yes, there's even a shuttle that will take you there," she told him, "but I doubt even they have any charters left. We've been sending corporate customers over there all morning." Hearing her response, Justin leaned forward and placed his forehead on the counter, shaking his head.
"Thanks for all your help," Mac told the young lady.
"For all the good it did you," she told him. "I'm sorry I couldn't help more."
"It's not your fault," Mac assured her. "Where did you say that shuttle to the private strip was?"
"It's over on the arrivals side, where the taxis and busses are, island D, tier 12, she said. "I hope they can help you out."
"I'm sorry I was such a jerk before," Justin told her as Mac pulled him toward the other end of the terminal.
"I understand," she said, smiling. "I hope everything works out okay with your family."
"Thanks," Justin called back over his shoulder as he followed Mac.
"I don't know what good this will do," Justin said, as the two approached the arrivals area. "You heard what she said, they're probably all booked, too."
Mac briefly grabbed and squeezed Justin's hand. "We're getting you up there to see about your family."
"No 'but's," Mac said, looking him in the eye. "I'll
find a way."
The two boarded the van and took the short ride over to the small private field adjacent to the airport. They found, as they had feared, no flights available there either. Justin's worry was slowly eating away at him, and he was nearing the brink of tears once again.
Mac lead them into a secluded area at the side of the office and hugged him. "I'll think of something, baby," Mac said, rubbing Justin's back reassuringly. A sign across the way caught Mac's attention. "Why don't you try calling them again and see if you can get hold of anyone now?" Mac suggested, pulling away to look him in the face. He gently caressed Justin's cheek as the blond nodded. "I'll be right back, I'm going to check on something." Justin nodded again as he pulled out his cell phone.
Justin tried every number he could think of, more than once, but there was still no answer anywhere. He was so frustrated that he nearly threw his phone against the side of the building, but thought better of it as he was about to release it. Instead, he placed it back in his pocket and leaned against the wall. Justin bent over, taking a deep breath to clear his head. It suddenly occurred to him that Mac had been gone for a great deal of time. He looked around for him, but found no sign. Justin felt the tremor, which started slowly in his hands then seemed to amplify as it filtered throughout the rest of his body.
He was reaching for his phone once again to call for help, when he spotted Mac walking out of the flight school across the parking lot. He was carrying a small notebook with several papers sticking out here and there. "Where were you?" Justin asked, once Mac reached him. The fear was evident in his voice, as he continued, "I was getting worried!"
"Sorry," Mac said, wrapping his arm around Justin's shoulder. "It took longer than I expected." He hugged Justin briefly, then reached down to hand Justin his duffel before retrieving his own. Starting for the tarmac, Mac said, "Come on, let go."
"But ... what? Where?"
"I got us a ride," Mac said, smiling back at him. "I told you I'd get you there."
"You did? But ... how?" Justin asked, as Mac led him down the rows of small planes lined up outside the hangers behind the flight school.
"I'll explain later, for now lets get in the air," Mac said, looking quickly from his notebook to the planes. "There she is," he said, double checking the numbers written on his piece of paper with the ones on the tail of the plane he was pointing at. Mac walked up and opened the door of the plane. "Here, hop in and put your stuff in the back," he said, tossing his bag in the back and placing his notebook on the seat.
"You got a plane from the flight school?" Justin said, shaking his head. "But, how did they, how did you...."
"A lot of talkin' ... a little beggin' ... and some plastic," Mac said, smiling at him over the nose of the plane as he checked the propeller.
"You didn't!" Justin said. "I can't let you...."
"Jus ... get in the plane!" Mac said, starting toward the back of the plane examining it's various control surfaces.
"But where are we gonna find a pilot?" Justin said, watching Mac as he rounded the tail.
Mac finished his check of the wing on Justin's side and came to stand directly in front of him. He cocked his head to the side and raised an eyebrow.
Justin looked as if he were about to fire off another volley of questions, when realization began to melt his expression into a broad smile. Mac countered it with one of his own. "I love you, you know that, right?" Justin said, grabbing hold of Mac's shirt and pulling him forward.
"I've had my suspicions," Mac said, nodding. "Now, get in the damn plane!"
Justin leaned forward, whispering 'thank you' into Mac's ear, then gave him a quick peck on the cheek before turning to climb into his seat.
Mac swatted Justin's hip and closed the door securely behind him, then moved around to get in himself. Once inside the cockpit, Mac fastened his seatbelt and asked Justin to do the same. After a careful check of the instruments, Mac started the engine. He placed the notebook he had brought from the office onto his thigh, then paused momentarily before looking around.
Justin gave him a confused look, asking, "What are you looking for?"
"Nothing," Mac said, a sheepish grin on his lips, "just forgot I wasn't at home." He then placed the notebook into a slot between the seats. "I got the biggest bird they'd loan me," Mac said, "but we're still gonna have to make a stop at a small strip in Georgia to refuel."
Justin nodded, then said, "It's okay, babe. We didn't have anything before, as far as I'm concerned, you pulled off a miracle already."
Mac smiled over at him, then went back to checking over his instruments. Grabbing the headset, Mac put it on, then adjusted the mic before setting the radio to the proper frequency. "Cessna seven-one-Charlie to Orlando Tower, requesting taxi clearance," Mac said.
"Copy, Cessna seven-one-Charlie, you are clear to taxi on taxiway alpha to runway one-niner south, hold at taxiway beta, you are third in queue," a voice said through the speakers.
Justin watched as Mac release the brakes and the plane lurched into motion. Looking outside, Justin observed the other planes on the runways. He had flown on many occasions, of course, but usually in much bigger planes. As they pulled to a stop at the edge of a runway behind two other medium sized planes, Justin reached into the back seat to get a piece of gum from his bag to combat the change in air pressure during their takeoff. Glancing up, he saw the nose gear and wings of a 747 pulling up behind them. "Uh, Mac?" Justin said, his eyes growing wide.
"Huh?" Mac asked, glancing back toward Justin. "Oh," he said, laughing. "Don't worry, we're first."
"I just hope he knows that," Justin said, sitting upright in his seat, stealing quick glances over his shoulder now and then.
"Orlando Tower, Cessna seven-one-Charlie, you are clear for takeoff runway one-niner south," the voice squawked from the speaker. "Seven-one-Charlie, be advised you have winds from the north at 5 knots with a slight crosswind from the west."
"Cessna seven-one-Charlie, copy, clear for takeoff runway one-niner south," Mac said. He then eased the small plane onto the runway.
Justin watched while Mac pressed in the brakes and set the flap levers. As Mac eased the throttle forward then released the brakes, Justin felt himself pushed back into his seat. It was not as powerful as the takeoffs Justin was used to, but the view of the runway streaking along out the front windscreen of the plane made the sensation all the more exciting. Part of the way down the runway, Justin felt a slight shudder then a momentary sensation of weightlessness as the plane jumped into the air.
"Orlando Tower, Cessna seven-one-Charlie, clear to climb to 4,000 feet and maintain," the tower told them.
"Cessna seven-one-Charlie to Orlando Tower, copy, climbing to angels four thousand," Mac said, confirming their instructions.
"Orlando Tower, Cessna seven-one-Charlie," the tower said, once the plane had reached the assigned altitude, "contact Southeast ATC on two-seven-seven point five. Handing you off ... good flight seven-one-Charlie."
"Cessna seven-one-Charlie, roger Orlando Tower," Mac answered, "contacting Southeast ATC on two-seven-seven point five. Thank you, Tower, see you when we get back." With that, their journey had begun, and they were officially away from Orlando and taking orders from the regional air traffic control center. "How ya doin' Jus?" Mac asked, glancing over at Justin with a smile.
"It was ... different," Justin said, smiling back at him, "but it was kinda cool."
"That was nothin', I'll have to get you into one of my sims," Mac said, laughing. "You'll probably like it better than the roller coaster the other day." Justin smiled back, but his expression was clouded. "Everything gonna be fine, hon'," Mac said, reaching over to squeeze Justin's hand. "We'll be there in no time. We're almost to Georgia already."
The two talked now and again, with Mac trying several
times to allay Justin's fears about his family. Soon they reached the strip
in Georgia, and Mac contacted the local tower and landed. Justin found
it interesting to watch. After Mac put the plane down, he taxied it to
the filling station. It looked much like an ordinary gas station, pump
and all. Mac finished up shortly and they were quickly back in the air.
"Southeast ATC to Cessna seven-one-Charlie, be advised weather service has indicated a squall approaching your flight path," the air traffic control center told them, when Mac contacted them after takeoff.
"Cessna seven-one-Charlie to Southeast ATC, copy that," Mac answered. "Southeast, if you read any change on that track, please advise."
"Roger Cessna seven-one-Charlie," the voice on the speaker said, "will advise."
Justin soon resigned himself to the fact that they were doing all that they possibly could to get to his family. He sat back and watched Mac in his element. His motions while controlling the plane were perfectly fluid, like Justin's own actions when on stage.
"Squall?" Justin asked, looking over at Mac. "We're not gonna have problems like in that White Squall movie are we?"
"Well," Mac said, grinning, "for one thing, they were on a sailing ship and we're in a plane." Justin sneered at him, then stuck his tongue out. "That's it over there ... the darker clouds in the distance," Mac said, pointing out his window. "We should be well clear of it by the time it gets here, though."
"Oh, okay," Justin said, "just didn't really wanna have to go down with the ship like the guys in the movie did."
"Hey," Mac said, "what is it with you and movies with cute guys, today?" Mac tried to look angry, but his smile was peeking through.
Justin grinned and shrugged, then said, "Well, I can't just stick with Top Gun all the time, can I?"
Mac allowed his smile to break through completely, and reached over to take Justin's hand. "You can watch any movie you want," Mac said, "just so long as I get to be there for the real life stuff."
A slight shudder ran through the plane, making the hairs on the back of Justin's neck stand on end. Mac's brow furrowed and his grip on Justin's hand loosened, then his hand left Justin's lap and grabbed the controls. Justin squinted his eyes, questioningly at Mac, then suddenly it felt as if the seat had been pulled from beneath him. "Mac!" Justin yelled, scrambling to grab hold of something.
"Just hold on, Jus!" Mac yelled over the engine noise. "Hold on!"
"Oh my God!" Justin yelled, as the plane entered a nose dive.