Nathan had almost missed the blinding winter California sun, and the daily smog alerts during his four-month shoot in Vancouver. He hadn’t missed the traffic or the general rude behavior of his fellow man, though. He was elbowed once in the head while getting off the plane. The culprit was a man his age, who should have at least apologized. Later, a woman and her three squealing babies had nearly run him over as they hurried to shove past him on the escalator.
“Hey!” he shouted at her. When she turned her vicious, cruel eyes on him, clearly looking for a challenge, he called, “Have a nice day!”
The look of surprise on her face was so stunned that she nearly tripped over one of her own kids as the escalator hit the ground floor. He adjusted the collar of his shirt and slipped past her, headed through security, and toward baggage claim.
LAX was a busy place, no matter the time of day it was. At three on a Friday, though, it was a veritable zoo. He shouldered through people waiting for beloved ones at the bottom of the escalator and checked his ticket stub for which carousel his luggage would be arriving at. He wasn’t ten feet away from it when he heard a cheerful voice call out, “Nathan!”
He turned to the sound, half expecting to see some exuberant, wide-eyed fan, and he already had his This-is-the-best-day-of-my-life fan-greeting smile pasted on his lips. Instead, he saw Alan stalking towards him. The smile turned real as they reached each other and hugged. “Al!” he breathed in surprised. “The hell’re you doing here?”
Alan was laughing and still hugging him. “Guess after four months, I sort of missed you,” he replied with a sigh.
The hug went on longer than it would have had Alan been anyone else, but no one paid them any mind. When Nathan pulled back, he just grinned at him. “You really must have, if you fought LA traffic and the parking vultures to see me.”
Alan grinned more. He looked good, wearing an olive green button down and black slacks, topped with his black leather jacket. His hair was neatly cut and styled and his eyes were bright blue and twinkling happily at Nathan. “Yeah,” he teased, turning to look at the carousel they were standing before, “guess you could say I like you.” He nudged his shoulder into Nathan’s playfully.
Nathan wanted to slip an arm around Alan and just stand side-by-side with him, but he resisted. He kept his hands at his sides and waited for his luggage to arrive. “You burn my house down while I was gone?” he asked casually.
“Is that what you think this is?” Alan replied. “You think I came out here to greet you in the middle of rush hour traffic, just to tell you that I burned your place down while I was house sitting it? Is that what you think?”
Nathan’s mouth curved into a smirk and he gave Alan a sidelong glance. “You didn’t burn my damn house down, did you, Alan?”
Alan nudged him again but kept his eyes trained forward. “The house is fine, trust me.” He grinned. “How was Vancouver?”
“Beautiful, like always,” he answered.
There was a bitter tone to the end of Nathan’s statement and Alan finally looked at him, judging reaction from his face. “You didn’t have a good time?”
Nathan shrugged, non-committal, and pushed away from him. He eased his way in between two other people and stared hard at the cold, metal conveyor belt. Alan slipped up behind him, pressing a flat palm against Nathan’s back. He ducked forward, inching in close. “You should have told me. I could have visited. I love Vancouver in the winter.”
Nathan shrugged him off as best he could in the close quarters. “It was just a crappy film. It was a stupid plot and a stupid role. I shouldn’t have taken it.”
Alan dropped his hand away from Nathan, although he wanted to rub the tension in his shoulders until it dissipated. “Well, hey. It’s over now. You’re back home, and I’m here. Also, your fridge is loaded with beer. So, we’re good.”
Nathan struggled to keep his smile down, but it wriggled onto his face anyway. He glanced around and then dropped his hand to give the tips of Alan’s fingers a squeeze. “Thanks, Al.”
Alan grinned. “Now, let’s get your luggage and get out of here. I parked your car in a handicap stall.”
“This isn’t my car,” Nathan said when they arrived at it.
The parking lot was relatively people-free, so Alan felt safe in leaning against Nathan, resting his head on his shoulder. “It is,” he plainly pointed out. “This is what happens when you wash it.”
“Yes, Nathan,” Alan put his hand on Nathan’s shoulder and steered him and his luggage towards the trunk. “Very observant.”
They loaded Nathan’s suitcases into the trunk and then got into the car themselves. Alan drove and Nathan just watched him, casually. “So, four months,” he mused.
Alan fished out his wallet as they approached the parking attendant. “Yes,” Alan agreed and glanced at him. “And I’m thinking that maybe those four months were harder on you than they were on me.”
He handed his ticket out the window and then forked over the cash when asked. The gate went up and soon they were coasting down Sepulveda Boulevard, heading back to Nathan’s house in Santa Monica.
“Why do you think that?” Nathan asked as he rolled the window down.
“Well, for one, don’t they have barbers in Vancouver?”
“What?” Nathan looked indignant when he turned to stare at Alan instead of at the passing cars. “What’s wrong with my hair?”
Alan laughed. “Well, it is a little long,” he teased and gave him a look out of the corner of his eye while he pulled onto the freeway.
Nathan immediately flipped down the mirror on the passenger side visor and stared at himself. He ran his fingers through his hair and then shook his head a little, watching his hair bounce. “I think it looks fine.”
Alan chuckled, but kept his eyes on the road. “Well, it was short when you left. What’d you do, just not bother cutting it the entire time you were gone?” The complete lack of a response from Nathan was all Alan needed to know that that was what had really happened. “You want me to stop somewhere on the way home?”
Nathan grunted. “You don’t like my hair long?”
Alan grinned at the petulant expression Nathan gave him. He took one hand off the stick shift and reached over, curling his fingers into the hair at Nathan’s neck, stroking up through it. “It’s not so bad,” he mused softly. “I like it shorter better, though.”
Nathan’s eyes fluttered closed at the feeling of Alan’s hand in his hair. He sighed and leaned into the touch. “I really did miss you.”
“So he says, now,” Alan crowed, laughing. “What about all those nights you were without me in Vancouver?”
Nathan opened his eyes. “Well, you were filming,” he mused in a sullen voice. “With Will.”
“With Will?” Alan taunted. “Nathan, are you still jealous about that?”
“I’m not jealous,” Nathan quickly defended.
Alan could only grin at that as he took his hand out of Nathan’s hair so he could downshift as he took the freeway off ramp. “If you’d come around, I would have invited you to the set, you know. You didn’t ask.”
Nathan crossed his arms and shrugged. “Didn’t really want to. Wouldn’t want to be in the way or anything.”
Alan sighed and put both his hands on the steering wheel. “You’re a brat, when you want to be, you know that?”
Nathan held his sad face for a moment longer before he gave into an easy grin. “I’ll cut my hair for you, if you want me to. But I always have to shower after, because the little hairs get down the collar of my shirt and drive me crazy.”
Alan grinned brightly. “So, you’re saying if I took you to a barber right now, we could go back to your place and shower afterward?”
Their eyes met across the car and Nathan broke into a huge, toothy smile. “Sounds like a plan to me.”
Alan cackled, shifted gears and floored it.
.. California Dreamin': chapter two