Our story today begins somewhere in the aerospace of North America, about 18 slutty, slutty years ago.
Robert Romano had been staring out the window from his seat for a the better part of half an hour now, watching the clouds drift by, taking occasional sips of his ginger ale. He glanced down with tired eyes at the various landmarks, towns, and highways that lie below. Everything looked as if it were built for ants from this high up.
Really puts things into perspective, he thought, taking one more sip from the sweet, spicy liquid before leaning back in his airline seat, shutting his eyes as they struggled to adjust from the brightness of the outdoors to the dim cabin of the airplane. He rest both arms on the armrests to either side of him, leaning back in the stiff recliner, hoping that maybe, just maybe, he'd be able to catch an hour or two of sleep before that big silver bird would make its landing.
As one of Cook County's best surgeons, the exhausted bald man had the displeasure of being shipped all the way out to Seattle, Washington, in the US of A.
For what, you may ask? Well your emotionally exhausted and morally bankrupt narrator shall explain to you now! Just imagine the next several lines being read aloud to you by Morgan Freeman himself in that rich, comforting voice of his.
Along with beginning in the grungy old cabin of a 00's American Airlines, today's story also happens to take place around a very special time in the lives of a large, yet carefully selected group of skilled, prestigious surgeons all across the country. No, smartass, the basis of this story is NOT Romano, nor any of the other fanatical physicians in this story getting their first period.
You would expect to see that kind of shit on your average fanfiction site, too.
No, no. The special time in question has absolutely nothing to do with Aunt Flo and everything to do with the long, sort of boring surgical conference that poor Rocket had been dragged away from his cushy little Chicago home and his dog in order to attend.
With nothing but the clothes on his back...and of course, the two wheeled suitcases he had stuffed with the perfect balance of casual-wear and fancy looking suits that were worth more than some people's cars—our snarky bald hero was thrust into a world of boring small talk with rando-physicians he might never see until the next annual conference, free pens, among other nearly useless complimentary trinkets, and even a brief panel appearance by the hot shot of Chicago himself. All of this, of course, was wrapped up in an all expense paid trip provided by Hell's Pass Hospital all the way back in the Windy City.
Of course, to cut what were already some pretty hefty costs, the all powerful and almighty Rocket Romano had been forced to participate in all of the above alongside another experienced physician much like himself. One of his employees, no less. A certain tall, dark, often times bitchy young surgeon who seemed unable to cope with him being in the same operating room, never mind part of the same travel plan.
"Dr. Romano..." a deep, petulant voice began, trying to get his attention. Speak of the devil. He was just about to doze off, too. Robert blew him off, though, shutting his eyes tighter in a vain attempt to ignore his lowly companion.
"Dr. Romano," the voice grew more annoyed at being ignored. The bald man felt a pair of eyes on him, gazing at him with the intent of waking him from some much-needed rest. Reluctantly, he opened his own, giving daggers to the offending force.
"You're taking up my armrest." his counterpart, Peter Benton told him quite matter-of-factly, eyes flicking to the now aggravated surgeon's offending arm before his gaze shifted Robert's own once more.
"You weren't using it." Robert deadpanned, moving his arm to cover more of the rest's surface area as an act of defiance. He glared at Peter with piercing dark eyes, hoping that he would retreat with enough intensity in them and leave him to doze back off, and hopefully dream about something sweet, like the nice warm bed he'd left behind that would've been a welcome replacement to what felt like a rock-hard airline seat beneath him.
The offending surgeon refrained from taking the easy way out and fucking off, though, just like Robert wanted. Instead, he pried further, still allowing his gaze to linger on the other man's tired, dark ringed eyes. They'd both been up since 3 that morning, and now that the time was finally beginning to venture into the double digits, their exhaustion was beginning to show.
Peter was over 6 feet tall, thus feeling like a sardine in a tin can sitting in the adjoining seat next to his boss, and all he wanted was his armrest, God damn it.
"That's because I was in the bathroom. I'm back now, so, may I?" He asked, feigning politeness despite his burning internal desire to shove the bald man's arm right off the coveted armrest and take it all for himself.
His courtesy was not admired, though. Not one bit.
"Well excuse my intrusion, Peter. But you were in there more than 15 minutes. You snooze, you lose." Robert grumbled, closing his eyes once more. Maybe if he couldn't see Peter, he'd just magically disappear, or something.
"For your information, I was shaving my face! I didn't have time last night because I had to get Reese squared away with my sister. And I don't like walking around with a 5 o'clock shadow, especially when almost half the people we'll see getting off this airplane will be attending the conference, and I've heard first impressions—"
"Jesus Christ, what part of this entire exchange tells you I give a rat's ass?!" Robert interrupted, getting about as annoyed as an old bitch named Susan when her little cherub is accused of punching out the class nerd as his school, and the principal just had the audacity to look into it. His eyes opened yet again, narrowed and fiery as he stared Peter down. As childish as it would be, all he wanted in that moment was to dump his half-finished ginger ale out on the taller man's lap, just to see the look on his face.
"I'm just saying, I had a genuine reason! Not all of us live comfortable, expensive little lives with nothing to worry about! Some of us actually have responsibilities to take care of at the cost of our rightfully earned spare time." Peter yapped in Robert's face, giving him an entire ill-fated, yet unnecessary Spiel on responsibility, or something. Robert paid it no mind, glaring at him as if he had two heads.
"Good lord, don't get your panties in a twist! And for your information, the quacks on this overpriced public transport service trying to make the conference couldn't care less about what any of the other attendees look like! After 13 years of being obligated to this damn thing, let me tell you, you could've boarded the plane in a pink night gown and six inch stilettos and no one would be the wiser!" It was, in fact, Peter's first one of these little conferences. Maybe this will be a warm coming of age story about awkward first-experiences, after all.
"And you can spare me the phony story of your little bathroom trip, you know." Robert continued after a brief pause, still refraining from just moving his damn arm an inch to give the taller surgeon some room. In addition to the armrest, the bald man now took up a bit of room on the back of Peter's seat, covering a good inch or two with one of his broad shoulders. Peter himself was scrunched up slightly in his spot, his shoulder flush against his boss's, who just didn't want to give up this particular pissing match.
"You don't need to feel ashamed about using some of our 4 and a half hours of flight time trying to rub one out in there! We're doctors, we both know that kind of thing is perfectly normal." The short man sneered, only flustering his poor employee even more. "Modern research even says it's healthy in some cases."
"I was not—...for Christ's sake, could you move already?!" Benton tried again, mortified slightly by the bald man's suggestion. But Romano still wouldn't budge.
"Not a chance. Now could you just shut up for a good couple of hours? I'm trying to be unconscious here!"
"With all due respect, Dr. Romano—"
They both paused in the midst of this little argument as they noticed a familiar old, relatively short lout approaching them, slowly trudging down the aisle. It was Donald Anspaugh, of course, coming around to our two heroes' seats to do what a lot of annoying ass people do when they fly with people they know and make conversation with them whilst standing right in the middle of the row so no one can get by.
Picking up on the fact that his social interactions were about to go from moderately annoying—and, if he had to be honest, kind of fun, considering he got to antagonize Peter—to utterly mundane, with another one of Anspaugh's boring rants about the excitement of a new conference, the opportunity to reflect on how they've changed as surgeons over the last year, and of course...oh, Jesus, it's all about as bland as a bowl of instant mashed potatoes anyway!
Robert slammed his eyes shut once more, leaning back towards that window again, praying to a God he didn't believe in that Anspaugh hadn't noticed.
"Ah! Dr. Benton! I knew I'd find you on this damn thing somewhere." He announced upon his arrival, leaning heavily on the back of the seat in front of Peter, once again falling under the stereotype of an Annoying, Talkative Flyer™️. In fact, he had to shift a bit as his arm hit the back of some poor fucker's head, who turned and looked at him with a look of pure hatred for having woken them up.
"Dr. Anspaugh." Peter addressed, turning his head slightly to his bald companion, hoping his boss would be the one suffering through most of this wretched conversation. His dreams were dashed as he was met with Romano's "sleeping" form, and what he swore was the very hint of another vindictive smirk on his lips.
"Oh, no, don't wake him on my account! He's certainly got a long trip ahead of him." Anspaugh chuckled, blissfully unaware of the mens' pathetic catfight over a literal armrest not 5 minutes prior. "So are you excited for your first Seattle conference? I know I am!"
"Uh, yeah...yeah, I am." The tall surgeon told him, beginning to wish he'd stayed in that bathroom just a little while longer. "A little overwhelmed, actually."
"Ah, well. I remember my first conference back in 1977. God, I was so excited I couldn't even sit still! The flight attendant thought I needed special assistance, I was jittering so much. I was probably around your age, too, when I was first able to go," Yup. This is a coming of age story about overcoming unseemly womanly problems. "Man, was I nervous on my first day there. It's such a big city, Seattle, it really is. I suppose I was also quite overwhelmed at the time, just like you, but looking back on it, I can see I've truly evolved as a surgeon. Let me tell you a story, you'll get a real kick out of this one!"
Robert had to strain to keep himself from smiling as Peter was sucked into another one of Donald's long, boring...downright cheesy stories about the old man finding himself somewhere he never thought possible, and the pure and utter magic of a surgeon's very first major conference. He even turned his head slightly more towards the window to make sure his boss wouldn't notice his slightly upturned lips and drag him right in alongside his poor, tired subordinate.
And until a flight attendant had to physically lead Anspaugh back to his seat because the plane was beginning to descend, our short bald hero sat there, faking sleep like a kid whose mother just barged into his room to check on him, not knowing that he was hiding his Nintendo DS underneath his sheets with the sound off. He just sat and tried to pretend he was back in his big house back in Chicago, intermittently pausing in his musings to listen to poor old Peter, who periodically gave two or three word responses between bits and pieces of Anspaugh's story, even though he desperately needed some sleep himself.
This was gonna be a long 5 days...
to be continued...