She looked around the small, dimly lit room, eyes darting from side to side. Her leg jounced as she sat, waiting. She didn't have time for this.
Her heart pounded in her chest. Ever since her father had asked (read: ordered) her to fly home, she'd been in a mild state of panic. It was always like this where her father was involved; he didn't say jump, you anticipated the command and executed it before it even crossed his mind to say something. Being told to return home was enough to set her on edge, having been pulled out of the airport security line for a "private screening" was not making matters any better.
She squeezed her eyes shut and pressed her lips together, trying to stem the wave of nervous panic that was cresting inside of her. She knew she couldn't lose her cool, they'd never let her on the plane, and missing the plane? Causing her father the slightest inconvenience? The thought was enough to make her nauseous.
The door opened and the man who had pulled her out of the line entered and he softly closed the door behind him. She couldn't help but admit that he was attractive: tall, brown hair, piercing blue eyes. His TSA uniform was tailored perfectly to his body, and as a girl who was always attracted to a man in uniform, her brain instantly decided that, yes, this uniform counted. The handsome man before her did little to chase her nerves away, however. She raised an eyebrow. "Shouldn't there be a woman in here with you?" Her heart hammered. "I don't feel comfortable with just a man giving me a screening-"
He smiled at her, eyes crinkling. "This isn't a screening, Ma'am. We are duty bound to pull any passengers showing signs of distress aside and try to diffuse situations." His voice was soft and warm, no hint of hauteur or impatience she had expected to encounter.
She laughed a little too loudly. "I'm not in distress! I just want to get on my plane and get home!"
He walked over to a little fridge, a fancier cocktail fridge for an airport security screening area. It had little lights, was mirrored inside, had a full mini bar display, and more. He retrieved a bottle of water and poured some into two cups. She kept her mouth shut, not wanting to anger the man, not wanting to give him any reason to make her miss the flight her father had paid for.
Returning to her, he offered her one of the cups; she accepted it not knowing what else to do. He sat across from her, cradling his cup between his hands. "If you want a female Officer to join us at any time, you need only say so." She shook her head, saying nothing for now. "You're nervous," he began.
"Well, yeah!" She exclaimed. "I feel like a criminal right now!"
He tilted his head to one side. "You were nervous before you got here. Long before."
He couldn't possibly know that...
"I just want to-"
He nodded once, slowly. "Make your flight. Believe me, everyone here does. But you're not getting anywhere near the Gate until I clear you to fly."
Her eyes widened. "You can't do that."
"I think you'll find that I can."
She wanted to fly at him. Scream. Make him understand that she needed to make her flight.
But his eyes were gentle. He wasn't antagonizing her. She couldn't figure out where he was coming from or what his goal in all of this was.
"Ma'am, I'm going to drink my water. You're going to drink your water. Then we'll begin."
She pressed her lips together. "Begin what?" Why did that come out sounding so...husky?
He leaned towards her, elbows resting on his thighs. "Calming you down."
He held her gaze for a few seconds, then leaned back a bit in his chair and began to drink his water. She slowly raised her own glass to her lips and began to swallow. After he finished drinking he stood and took the empty cup from her, placing both on top of the little fridge. When he returned he pulled his chair closer to her, so close that when he sat again their knees were practically brushing.
"I am going to take my gloves off now, with your permission. I can assure you my hands are clean and free of contaminants, and I will disinfect my hands in front of you once my gloves are off. Again, you can stop me at any time should you feel uncomfortable."
"Whatever gets me on my flight. Just...no funny business."
"No funny business." He peeled his gloves off of his hands and tossed them into a nearby garbage can. He opened a small utility pocket on his belt, extracted a bottle of hand sanitizer, and poured some of the gel onto the palm of his right hand, put the bottle back in the pocket with his left hand, and began to rub his hands together.
Why did he take his gloves off? Why did he disinfect his hands? What is going to do to me with his hands?! Oh, crap...
Once the gel had soaked into his hands and they were dry, he began. "I would like for you to hold out your hands to me, please," he said kindly.
She pulled back a bit, shoulders tensing. "Why?"
"I'm not going to smack your knuckles," he joked lightly. "I'm going to hold your hands."
"Mainly to track your palm temperature and pulse," he explained. "But it's also a comforting gesture."
"Since when do airport security staff members care about comforting gestures?" She scoffed.
He chuckled. "You'd be surprised." He put his own hands out to her. "Please. May I hold your hands?"
After a few seconds of hesitation she held her hands out to him, and he grasped them. His hands were big. Warm. Strong. His index finger on his right hand drifted up to the inside of her wrist, to keep tabs on her pulse. She inhaled deeply.
"Now," he said, his voice dropping slightly in volume. "Do you want to tell me what is going on? Nothing goes any further, and so long as we can get you calmed down you will not miss your flight."
She dropped her gaze and bit her lower lip. She didn't see a way around this, and he did seem to be at least somewhat genuine in his concern. "My father. He's ordered me home. I don't know why. But he's..." She ferreted around for as polite a term as she could. "He has always been a very domineering presence in my life." She looked back up and into the blue eyes of the man sitting across from her.
"And he has you wound up this tight?"
She shrugged slightly, pain tinged her voice as she continued. "If you knew him..."
There was more to that sentence, she didn't mean to trail off, but he started rubbing soft, lazy circles on the back of her hands with his thumbs, and...
Some of the hardness dropped from her eyes. A small, strangled moan escaped her. She swallowed.
He looked down at her hands, then back up at her. "There are two things every one should be able to count on receiving in their lives." She felt like she was being drawn in by his bright blue eyes. "Strict order and discipline are neither." He said. "What you need is support." He pressed his lips together, lightly licking his bottom lip. "Support, and love."
A hitched breath escaped from her lungs.
"Stand up with me."
She did as he asked without question, never letting go of his hands.
"You can do this," he said, inclining his head towards her, a wide, friendly smile on his face. His voice was pleasantly modulated, as though they were old and dear friends talking. "You can go home, you can make nice, you can get through it however you need to. Attack pillows, go for walks, spike the punch," he waggled his eyebrows, she snickered. "And when you get to leave," he said, a smile tugging at the corners of his lips, "you can forget about him. Put it all behind you. At least, for the time being."
They both laughed softly, together.
"Come here, " he said, warm smile on his lips, his arms open wide. She threw caution to the wind and allowed herself to be enveloped and enfolded in his embrace. He wrapped his arms around her and held her, never showing signs of wanting to let her go. One of his hands was wrapped around her, the other rubbing circles on her back. She nestled into him, holding onto him as firmly as he was holding onto her. He nuzzled the top of her head, smelling her hair. She kept waiting for a sigh, a noise, a firm pat on the back, a word,something to tell her the hug was over, but after a full minute she realized that, as it was her hug, she would be the one who ended it.
It was over two full and blissful minutes before she finally felt satiated enough to pull away from the security officer. She looked up at him and she caught a glimpse of something in his eyes.
This triggered an action in her, something basic, primal, something she didn't really understand. The words were out of her mouth before she could stop them. "And the second thing?"
He looked at her questioningly. "I'm sorry?"
Oh god, what am I doing? "You...you said, two things. And I'm feeling pretty supported right now."
His smile, where it had been so kind before, now had something more to it. His eyes narrowed. The corner of his mouth tugged upwards. He tilted his head to one side. She saw...heat. Cunning.
"Ah," was all he said, but his voice was deep. He looked down, and then up again at her. He waited.
A flush crept over her cheeks. "Forget I said anything, that was stupid-"
He swiftly snaked his arms around her waist and pulled her roughly to him. "I didn't say 'no', did I?"
His gaze was steady, her eyes darted side to side a few times.
He held her in place and looked her over, his gaze sharpened, he was taking in every inch of her, examining all that he could see. He placed his hands over the small of her back and and began trailing a slow line across the back of her waist, over the tops of her hips, until they reached her arms. His breathing was heavier, louder, as was hers. He looked at her and his blue eyes were a sharp, crisp blue all of a sudden. His gaze was magnetic and held her captivated stare as his hands began trailing up her arms until they rested lightly on the tops of her shoulders. She was near panting, but not from nervous panic anymore.
He looked at her and smiled a wide, hot smile, his eyes scorching her with his penetrating stare, gathering the measure of her. His hands left her shoulders and found themselves placed on either side of her face, his fingers softly cupping the back of her head. He pulled her head forward, down, and placed a chaste kiss on her forehead.
Or rather, what should have felt chaste.
She closed her eyes, a shuddering breath escaped. "Ohhmigod," a hoarse gasp-whisper floated from her lips.
He removed his lips from her forehead and rested his cheek against hers.
"Does that count?" He whispered. "As a sort-of love? Does it count?"
She turned her head to answer, but he turned his head as well. Her eyes widened as the two opposite and coordinated movements saw their lips meeting in the middle. It was not a kiss, it was the simple act of two pairs of lips touching. That small fact did not stop her from closing her eyes and reveling in the momentary feeling of pressure, sighing at the slight contact. Her hands grasped gently at his sides, taking light hold of his ironed uniform shirt, more to steady herself than out of ribald lust. When she opened her eyes, his were open as well, no longer staring through her, but looking at her calmly, and warmly.
Reality slammed itself back into her after a few seconds. She pushed back reluctantly from the man, released his shirt and just...looked at him, her eyes bright and wide, shocked. There was no judgement in the lines of his face, nor amusement. He had given her what she needed, a distraction, something to take her thoughts far away from what was troubling her. Nothing more, nothing less.
A loud double 'thud' at the door broke the reverie, bright fluorescent lights washed the room in their unforgiving white light. She blinked, adjusting.
"You have clearance for your flight, Ma'am." He said in a clear, authoritative voice. He stood up straight, and smoothed out his shirt. "Unless you can think of any other reason you aren't currently fit to fly."
She shook her head, trying to process what had just happened but not making much headway. She stared off into the distance.
"One of our female officers will assist you to your Gate. Have a pleasant flight, Ma'am."
And he was gone.