Counting Airplanes

by JIN

Disclaimers: I don’t own these characters or the title (as usual, it was stolen)

Comments: My daughter challenged me to write a fic (although this is more like drabble – fairly pointless) with this title from a song by Train. I couldn’t resist. It’s my first attempt at a modern day version of the boys – you’ve been warned.

Universe: ATF

Characters: Chris, Vin

"For crying out loud, Vin – sit still!" Chris said as he lowered the paperback book he’d been trying . . . unsuccessfully, to get into for the past hour. Every time he’d start to get interested, his restless partner would shift or groan or bump his arm, anything to make sure the blond was aware of how totally bored he was.

"I am . . . mostly."

A few more minutes passed – just enough time for Chris to involve himself a little more intently in the crime novel he’d been waiting months to find the time to enjoy.

"Aw hell, I’m gonna go get a cup of coffee," Vin muttered as he stood.

"Coffee? That’s all you need. You’ve had four cups already," Chris replied tersely.

"How do you know that? Since when is it up t’ you t’ keep tabs on what and how much I’m drinkin’?"

"Since I know that I’m gonna be spending two hours . . . two very long hours . . . in an airport lounge with you." He avoided mentioning the two hour flight that promised to be even longer with one restless Texan confined in crowded, close quarters.

"What’s that supposed t’ mean?" Vin asked as he sat back down, his brow furrowed as he puzzled over whether to be hurt or angry by the remark.

Chris sighed. "It means you’re like a little kid when you’re bored, Tanner. Hell, put you on a roof with a rifle and a scope, and you don’t move a muscle for hours. But if it’s a crowded building with nothing for you to concentrate on . . . you drive a person nuts," Chris dropped off guiltily.

Vin huffed, but didn’t reply. It was probably true. He was feeling pretty nuts himself.

"Why don’t you walk over to the newsstand – find something to read?"

Of course, the sharpshooter looked at him like he really had lost his mind. Reading was tantamount to torture for Vin.

And Chris knew it, which was why he quickly offered a second choice.

"Or take a walk."

"Walked the damn halls four times."

"Walk ‘em again."

Vin sighed. "I hate this."

"I know you do."

"I hate t’ fly."

"I know that, too."

"Don’t know what t’ do with myself."

"Count the airplanes." It used to work with Adam, and at this point, Chris figured Vin just about equaled that age level.


"Count the airplanes," Chris repeated, as he very pointedly buried his nose in his book.

"Think I’ll go fer another cup of coffee," Vin said . . . and was relieved when his friend didn’t comment this time.

As he stood and turned away, he glanced at the blond one more time, an almost child-like expression in his sky blue eyes. "You wanna come with me?" he asked his friend hopefully.

Chris threw a sideways glance at the younger man and answered shortly, "No."

Vin sighed and headed off towards the coffee shop. He made it part way down the long corridor when he noted a young woman in hot pursuit of a runaway four-year-old boy. Unfortunately, she was hampered by the stroller she pushed with one hand and the two year-old she held in her other arm.

"Tyler! Get back here!" she called, a note of desperation in her voice.

Vin didn’t know all that much about little kids, but he knew how to give chase and cut a culprit off at the pass. He caught the boy with a swift right hook, kneeling down beside him in one smooth motion.

"Hey now. Hold on here, little fella. Where you takin’ off to?" he asked with a broad grin.

The little boy was momentarily startled, but quickly grinned back at the long-haired man with the soft drawl.

"I’m gonna ride an airplane!" he answered excitedly.

"That so? Where to?" Vin asked, noting that the young mother flashed him a grateful smile as she struggled to catch up.

"Gonna go see Spiderman!" the boy exclaimed excitedly.

"In Florida?"

The child shrugged. "I dunno. Where ever he lives."

Vin kept a soft grip on the tiny arm as he spoke, "Well, now if yer not rightly sure where he lives, how you gonna know which plane t’ get on?"

With a puzzled frown, the boy shrugged again.

"I reckon you should stick with your ma, Cowboy," Vin informed the child warmly.

+ + + + + + +

Chris was feeling guilty. He knew how much Vin hated flying. The younger man’s claustrophobia kicked into high gear when he was stuck in the cramped compartments of the plane. Chris tried to get them first class, but he hadn’t even managed to score a window seat.

Vin would be miserable.

On top of that, he’d dragged Vin along to a conference about a bunch of administrative garbage that Tanner didn’t even need to know about just so he could have some decent company.

The least he could do was . . . talk to him.

Larabee had just gotten to his feet and turned, when he observed his friend several yards down the corridor. Vin stood at a window, a young boy gripping his hand tightly, while a woman with a baby and another small child chatted with him amiably. As Chris watched, Tanner turned to leave, but not before the woman reached up and hugged him around the neck.

Well, that was unexpected. Even from the distance, he could see Vin blush.

Might be fun to follow along – see what else Tanner managed to do to entertain himself.

+ + + + + + +

Vin slowed his pace as he passed by the long windows that edged the northern end of the corridor, then turned left to head for Starbuck's. He was nearly there when he couldn’t help but overhear the distressed ramblings of an older woman just off to the right of him.

"Oh my . . . oh dear . . . oh my," she repeated, her soft voice laced with panic.

Vin moved slowly over to gray-haired woman’s side so as not to startle her, and asked gently, "Uh, excuse me, Ma’am, but d’ you need some help?"

The small woman peered through thick lenses at her ticket one more time, before lifting her gaze to the young man standing over her. "Oh dear. Oh yes . . . I just can’t remember where she said to go . . . and I’m late already . . . and I can’t miss this plane. You see, my grandson is getting married and he sent me this ticket so I could fly all the way to New York City . . . can you believe that? A little old lady like me flying to New York City of all places?"

"Yes, Ma’am . . . I mean, no Ma’am," he stammered, wondering now which was the correct response. "D’ you know which gate yer plane is leavin’ from?" he asked.

"Well, no . . . I mean – I did, but I’ve forgotten. I think she told me. I think it’s on this ticket, but there are so many numbers . . . oh dear."

"Now don’t you worry, Ma’am. Let me see yer ticket there, and we’ll git you t’ the right spot."

+ + + + + + +

Now who was he talking to? Chris leaned behind a post, knowing his friend would not appreciate being tailed. This was turning into a whole lot more fun than that boring novel.

This time, Vin escorted a tiny, old woman down the east hallway – pausing at the window along the way as he pointed something out to her. He saw the elderly lady giggle and grab a hold of his arm little tighter.

Vin apparently had Buck beat when it came to this animal magnetism bit.

Chris was sure of it when the pair stopped at gate 46, and the woman leaned up and planted a kiss on Tanner’s cheek. Once again, Vin blushed royally as he turned back towards the coffee shop.

+ + + + + + +

The teenage girl blew out her breath in frustration as she tried to find the right key to press on the computer screen.

Glancing up at the long haired man in front of her, she sighed, "I’m so sorry. I’m new. I keep messing up."

Vin smiled. "No problem, miss. Just take yer time."

The young girl’s big brown eyes welled up, but she smiled in return. "Thank you. Some people are just . . ."

"Impatient?" Vin supplied with a wink.

"Well, that wasn’t quite the word I had in mind, but we can say that if you want," she laughed.

Within a few minutes, she’d rung up his purchase and given him his change. Unfortunately, as she attempted to fit the plastic lid on the flimsy styrofoam cup, the beverage spilled all over the counter.

"Oh shit!" she cried, before correcting herself. "I mean, oh . . . no! I’m so sorry. I can’t believe what a klutz I am. I’m probably gonna get fired," she said despondently.

"Nah . . . that ain’t gonna happen," Vin said calmly as he helped her wipe up the mess with a handful of napkins.

"It is if she doesn’t hurry up," said an impatient voice in the line behind the sharpshooter.

Vin turned to face a rather large, imposing man in a fancy business suit.

"Let’s just cut her some slack here, mister – she’s new."

"And I’m late," the man snapped back.

"Well now, that ain’t hardly her fault, is it?"

+ + + + + + +

Chris was grinning ear to ear as he watched the teenage girl bat her lashes at Vin. Of course, Tanner was all but oblivious to it. Larabee decided he just had to remember every detail of this so he could rub it in Buck’s face when they got back.

The man in black tensed, though, when he saw the angry expression on the man in line behind his friend. Damn. Things were getting heated. Maybe he’d better step in . . .

But just as he was about to do that, the man in the navy suit suddenly grinned broadly and shook Vin’s hand. The teenage girl leaned forward and rested her elbows on the counter, her head propped in her hands as she looked adoringly at her rescuer.

Every detail, Chris thought with a grin. He watched Vin take a quick glance out the windows that surrounded the small eating area, before turning to make his way back to their gate.

It would take a some effort, but with a little luck, Vin would never know he’d been watching.

+ + + + + + +

Vin casually strolled back to gate 27, and tried hard not to disturb Chris as he took the chair beside him.

Larabee looked up from his book, trying to hide his amusement, and asked, "So . . . you been gone awhile. Anything happen?"

Vin shrugged. "Nope."

Chris dug a little deeper. "It took you all this time to get a cup of coffee?"

With a slight frown, Vin answered. "Yep. Why?"

"No reason."

Several minutes passed, during which time Chris pondered on his friend. How different the world would be if everyone could lend a hand to a stranger so easily and so effortlessly that it truly was no big deal – nothing out of the ordinary. He knew Vin wasn’t keeping information from him – wasn’t trying to be humble. Helping others came as natural to him as . . . taking a walk down the hall.

"There’s thirty-eight, by the way."

Chris looked questioningly at his friend. "Thirty-eight what?"


"Thirty-eight airplanes?"

"You havin’ trouble with yer hearin’? There’s thirty-eight airplanes."

"You counted them?"

"You told me to."

"And you did it? When?"

"When I was gettin’ my coffee," Vin answered matter-of-factly. It didn’t take a genius to figure that out, he thought.

"You . . . how? You didn’t really count them, right?"

Vin looked offended. "You think I’d just make somethin’ up? There’s 12 of them little fellers . . . puddle jumpers, I think you call ‘em. They got six more in the hangar. You count those, too, right?"

Chris kept his brows furrowed and didn’t answer before Vin continued on. "Then there’s eight of the middle-sized guys. I ain’t never flying in one of those, by the way. It’s either the big boys, or a small one that I can see out of . . . but I’m not getting in those ones that cram a hundred folks in a space made fer fifty."

"O . . . kay," Chris responded slowly, still trying to figure out if Vin was pulling his leg, or if he’d actually had time to count in between his good Samaritan exploits.

"And there’s twelve of the jumbos. Course, that’s just what I can see from here. I don’t rightly know what’s on the other side. But I reckon that’s good enough."

Chris had to shake his head. Not only had he counted the planes, he’d broken them down by size. Vin’s attention to detail never ceased to amaze him.

"Is it?" Vin asked.

"Is it what?" Chris asked, wondering what they were talking about now.

"Is it good enough?"

"Vin . . . it’s just a . . ."

Game, he thought – but decided it might be better not to let Vin in on that.

He didn’t have a chance to respond before a voice came over the PA system. "Attention travelers, flight 1208 to Denver is running an hour late. We apologize for the inconvenience."

Chris met Vin’s eyes and both men sighed. "How about we get some more coffee, Pard," Chris offered.

"No thanks. You go on," Vin said. Holding Larabee’s gaze, he added, "I’ll follow you this time."

Chris laughed. "I’m afraid you’ll be disappointed. Damsels in distress just don’t throw themselves in my path like they do yours. Come on, I’ll even spring for a donut."

"Now that’s an offer I can’t refuse," Vin smiled as he joined his friend.

As they passed the windows that lined the long hallway, Chris couldn’t resist asking one more time. "Did you really count the planes, Vin?"

Tanner smirked at his friend, "Reckon there’s only one way t’ find out, Cowboy . . . count ‘em yerself."


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