Author's Note: For those who asked for another Takeru/Mako story that was unrelated to the Veneer storyline. I hope that it meets your expectations. :) Constructive Criticism is always welcomed. Enjoy!
Disclaimer: I do not own Shinkenger or any of her characters, I simply borrow them for my own amusement.
Mako flew down the airplane's ramp, her long dark hair flung back over her shoulder, as she ignored the stitch growing in her side from her run through the airport. Her cheeks were flushed both from exertion and from embarrassment.
Due to the heavy fog this morning there had been a major car pile-up on the road, making her incredibly late for her flight. By the time she had arrived at the airport and checked in her baggage they were calling her name over the intercom system, informing her that she needed to be at her gate immediately as the plane was boarding. Her trip through security had been stressful, not because she had halted the process for carrying anything in her pockets or carry-on baggage but because the line just couldn't seem to move fast enough! She had run flat out to her gate and had made it in the nick of time – they were giving her a last warning call as they waited for her as the last passenger to board.
Trying to calm her breathing as she stepped onto the awaiting plane, Mako ducked her head when she boarded, doing her utmost best not to meet anyone's accusing stare as she had held up the plane. She kept her eyes down except to look for an empty seat.
Finally she spotted the last seat available – a window seat above the wing halfway down the plane. No one had wanted it – it was the only seat that didn't recline on the entire aircraft as it sat right in front of the Emergency Exit Row's escape door. Mako usually preferred the aisle seat for easy access in and out of her seat without disturbing anyone else, but stifled the thought under the gratitude that they had at least held a seat for her.
With a quiet sigh, Mako stored her bag in the overhead compartment and caught the eye of the rather large man in front of her.
"Excuse me," she began timidly, her voice quiet. "Can I…?" She trailed off, indicating that she needed him to move so that she could slide into her seat, her face flushing brilliantly as he turned to glare at her for disturbing him. She felt her guilt increase as he mumbled and grumbled while he unfastened his seatbelt and moved to the aisle.
Mako kept her face hidden behind her hair to hide her flush as the man sidled into the aisle, the younger gentleman beside him doing the same but without a single word or noise of complaint.
"I'm sorry," she apologized, sliding across the row of chairs to her own seat, settling her handbag on the ground in front of her while her seatmates slid back into their chairs.
As she made a move to buckle her seatbelt securely across her hips her elbow knocked into her neighbor as he moved to buckle his own.
"I'm sorry," both Mako and her neighbor responded at the same time. Behind her curtain of hair, Mako missed his small smile of amusement as she flushed in embarrassment once more.
With a click of her belt fastening she leaned back into her seat with a quiet sigh, glancing out the window to note that her plane was already moving. She sent a small prayer of thanks to the heavens, as the maid of honor at her friend's wedding, it would not due to add more stress to the bride by missing her flight.
She breathed in deeply to calm herself before daring to look at her seatmates once more and felt her breath hitch as she caught sight of the young man sitting next to her. She felt her heart skip a beat and the flush in her cheeks rise once more as her eyes traced his features – dark, soft hair, deep eyes and a posture that radiated quiet confidence.
Sensing her stare the young man turned to look at her, but Mako quickly averted her gaze, pretending instead to be thoroughly interested in the events happening outside her tiny window as the plane steered toward the take-off point. She knew she should be paying attention to the cabin attendant as the woman went over the safety features on their airplane, but Mako knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that she'd end up staring at her seat companion instead.
She let the directions for how to properly inflate her water vest in the case of an emergency water landing wash over her head, trying desperately to direct her thoughts away from the man sitting next to her and instead think of all the things she had to do to help Kotoha finish setting up the fast approaching nuptials.
Mako let her thoughts wander over the list she had created in her head as the plane lifted off, passengers pressed into their seat backs from the force of the jet.
It wasn't until she felt a small tap at her elbow that Mako realized how far she had drifted in her own thoughts. She turned to find that the incredibly good-looking man next to her was now staring at her.
"Huh?" she asked intelligently, startled.
"She wants to know what you'd like to drink," the man replied, pointing to the cabin attendant standing next to their row with a pen and pad of paper poised at the ready.
Mako felt the heat crawling back into her face as she apologized once again and ordered her drink. After the attendant nodded and moved to the next row, Mako turned to the young man her cheeks pink. "Sorry," she whispered.
He had a smile on his face that he was trying to hide. "Don't worry about it."
Mako nodded in response, her hands fidgeting in her lap, silence settling around them once more until he spoke up, taking her by surprise.
"Sorry?" Mako asked in confusion.
"Why you were late," he clarified.
"Oh!" Mako exclaimed in understanding. "Yes, the fog caused an accident on the road; it took hours to get through."
He nodded in understanding. "I just missed it, I was lucky."
Mako smiled back. A sudden loud noise made the two of them start and they turned to their third companion to find that the grump had fallen asleep already and was now beginning to snore – loudly.
Mako stared at the older man with wide-eyes until the young man next to her turned back to her with the same astounded expression. She felt her lips quirk up and quickly she covered her mouth with her hands as she struggled to hold in a sudden onset of giggles. She shook in silent laughter, tears starting at the corner of her eyes and noticed too that her companion's shoulders were shaking in quiet laughter as he too tried to cover his amusement.
Their companion gave a sudden, alarming snort and Mako lost it. Her partner fell apart at the same time and the two all but collapsed against each other in laughter. The snort combined with their laughter woke up their aisle passenger and he looked around startled before turning slowly to glare at the two young people next to him. He wasn't sure what they were laughing at, but grumbled about young people and their disrespect all the same, irritated that they might have somehow caused him to wake-up.
Mako and her companion quickly tried to stifle their mirth, but failed to keep the large grins off their faces whenever their eyes met.
As the flight attendant returned with their drinks, Mako realized that all her previous tension had vanished and she smiled widely at her seatmate in gratitude. Her eyes widened slightly when she saw his cheeks color softly and he looked quickly at his plastic cup to avoid her gaze. She smiled, bemused, and struck up a conversation, feeling more confident now that her nerves were no longer frazzled.
She was taken aback at how incredibly easy it was to talk to him. She told him all about her job at the Kindergarten and he told her about all the people he trained in kendo, second only to the woman who owned the place. The woman's family had been running the place for generations.
Mako talked about her parents and the treatment her mother was currently undergoing for her illness, something that had taken her years to speak about in front of Kotoha, but was so natural to talk about with him. He told her about his parents' deaths and being raised by his doting grandfather.
Time flew as they spoke as if they had known each other their entire lives rather than only a few hours.
Mako realized with a start that she could listen to his deep, soothing voice for the rest of her life and never grow tired of hearing it. As she lost herself in the cadences of his voice during one particular story she felt herself begin to drift. All too soon she fell into a deep slumber.
Her companion didn't realize she had drifted until her head fell gently against his shoulder. He looked down at her in surprise at first, wondering if he had bored her to sleep, but upon noting the beautiful, small smile tucked into the corner of her lips he felt an answering smile of his own and relaxed into his seat, closed his eyes and enjoyed her warm, soft presence.
Eventually he too fell asleep. Gravity or something deeper and more closely connected than the two could realize, pulled his head down to rest on top of hers.
Neither awoke until the female cabin attendant was gently shaking his shoulder with an apologetic smile.
"I'm sorry," she began. "But we've begun our final descent and I need the two of you to secure your tray tables into their locked position."
It took him a moment to understand what was going on, he hadn't such a restful sleep in, well, to be perfectly honest, he couldn't last remember when. When comprehension finally dawned he nodded and sat up, looking down at the beautiful woman sleeping partially on him, taking in her delicate features with a deep sigh before gently shaking her shoulder.
"Mmm," Mako murmured in her sleep. "Five more minutes." She tried to snuggle further into her seatmate's warmth as her conscious lingered in the realm of dreams. Highly amused, he continued to gently shake her until her eyes fluttered open and her unfocused gaze looked up at his.
As reality leapt back, Mako bolted up in her seat, her face flushing darker than it had earlier.
The flight attendant smiled broadly at the pair of them. "You two make such a cute couple." Her grin widened as the two both blushed scarlet, too flustered to correct the woman before she moved on.
"Sorry I fell asleep on you," Mako managed to whisper out in mortification, his warmth still clinging to her and his scent making her heady.
He shook his head, struggling against the desire to have her leaning against him once more. "I did the same."
A sudden announcement over the plane's intercom broke the heavy, awkward silence between them.
"Attention passengers, as we make our final descent we may experience some sudden turbulence. Please make sure your tray tables are in their upright and locked position and that all seatbelts are secured snuggly around your waist. Thank you."
As soon as the message rang off, the plane gave a sudden lurch down and Mako's hand automatically shot out to clutch the nearest thing next to her. Of course, the nearest thing next to her happened to be her seatmate's hand on the arm rest.
She felt a tingle like electricity shoot up her arm at the skin-to-skin contact and with a quiet gasp, tried to move her hand away. He caught it deftly and squeezed her fingers gently, telling her without words that he didn't mind.
She closed her eyes when the plane dropped again, feeling her stomach travel somewhere akin to her throat as the plane continued to make its descent. She felt her companion give her hand another silent squeeze of reassurance and concentrated on his touch instead of her fear of the turbulence and sudden thoughts of plane malfunctions or a crash landing.
With a final bump, she felt her seatbelt restrain her as force propelled her forward in her seat for a few seconds until leveling out and rolling along smoothly.
"We're here," a quiet voice said next to her ear.
Mako peeked open her eyes and saw that indeed they had landed safely, their plane merrily bouncing gently as they made their way to park at the terminal. She breathed a sigh of relief, looking up at her seat companion with a smile of gratitude, noting his blush as she did so. Both forgot that their hands were still interlocked until they had come to a full and complete stop, the captain announcing their arrival and that they were now "free to roam about the cabin."
Reluctantly they untangled their hands, stealing long glances at each other when the other wasn't looking as they rummaged about their seats, making sure that they had all of their belongings. As the plane let passengers off, he reached into the overhead compartment and pulled out her bag, passing it along to her before retrieving his own.
They exited together, walking side by side inside the airport terminal as they made their way to baggage claim, chatting lightly the entire way.
"How are you…?" he trailed off as they watched the interlocked metal plates begin to shift around in a circle and baggage start to slide along the rim.
"Oh," Mako tucked a stray strand of her hair behind her ear. "My friend is picking me up. You?"
"Same," he answered. "My friends arrived here ahead of me, they landed yesterday. I had to change my flight at the last minute. I was frustrated at the time, but now…" He smiled at her.
She smiled back brightly. "Me too." Her eye caught on a familiar looking piece of luggage and she excused herself to haul it off the belt. Bag in hand, she pulled out her cellphone and dialed her friend as she watched her plane companion nod in apology as he headed to the belt himself to collect his own luggage.
"Hey Kotoha… Yes, I just retrieved my luggage." She paused as she watched him lift his suitcase off the slowly turning machine and make his way back toward her. "You're here already? Okay, I'll meet you out front."
He arrived in time to catch the last half of her conversation. "Your friend is here."
"Yes." Mako worked to keep the disappointment out of her tone.
They stood in front of each other, neither willing to be the first to say good-bye.
"Well," Mako started. "It was nice meeting you." She held out her hand and he grasped it warmly. "Thank you for keeping me company on the plane. Good luck with your friends, I hope you have a good time together."
"You as well," he answered. "Good luck."
They stood there for another moment, trying to read something in each other's eyes. He opened his mouth to say something when his phone began to trill.
Reluctantly he let go of her hand to pull out his cellphone and glance at the screen. "My friends," he told her.
She nodded. "Take care."
He opened his mouth to try again, but seemed to think better of it and smiled. "You too," he said softly before turning and heading off in the opposite direction, answering his phone almost as an afterthought.
Mako watched him go, feeling her heart tugging in his direction and wondering at the feeling. She couldn't be positive but it had felt like he was trying to say more than his words indicated, something in his eyes had drawn her in like a fish hooked on a line. Slowly, she turned her body away and with a final long glance back trudged out the door toward Kotoha's awaiting vehicle.
"Mako!" she heard a squeal of delight as she spotted Kotoha jumping up and down excitedly, waving.
Despite her sudden onset of confusing depression, Mako couldn't help but smile at her friend's enthusiasm, waving back.
Kotoha all but threw her arms around her friend and held her tight. "How was your flight?"
Mako sighed deeply as they placed her luggage in the car.
"That bad?" Kotoha frowned in sympathy.
Mako shook her head, glancing back at the airport as she slid into the passenger seat. "No…it was the best flight I ever had."
Kotoha's eyes widened in surprise as she watched her friend look forlornly out the window as she pulled away from the curb and merged into traffic. "What happened?"
Mako leaned her chin on her palm as she stared out the window. "I met a guy…"
Her friend's answering cry of surprise and demand for details drew Mako away from her inner thoughts as Mako recounted the entire adventure, from the crowded highways making her late to all the interactions she had with her plane companion to their final farewell. Kotoha was a wonderful story-listener, gasping in surprise, squealing in excitement, and laughing at all the right moments.
The conversation carried them all the way to Kotoha's apartment. As she parked neatly into her parking spot, Kotoha eagerly turned to her closest friend. "So what's his name?" Her eyes shone in excitement.
Mako halted abruptly. "I don't know."
Kotoha looked at her curiously. "You don't know?"
"I forgot to ask…" Mako trailed off in wonder.
"You talked about your entire lives and forgot to ask each other your names?" Kotoha asked, bewildered.
Mako nodded distracted by that thought. "You'd think we would have remembered to ask that little detail…"
Kotoha gave her friend's hand a sympathetic squeeze. "You'll meet him again someday Mako, I'm sure of it."
Mako laughed in surprise. "What makes you say that?"
Kotoha shrugged as she unbuckled her seatbelt and opened her car door. "It sounds like you two are connected by fate. It'll happen."
Mako dragged her suitcase out of the vehicle and walked with Kotoha to her apartment. "Thanks, but I don't think it quite works that way."
Kotoha smiled in complete confidence. "Trust me Mako; I have a feeling about this mystery guy. Something tells me you'll see him again one day."
Mako gave her friend a smile but refrained from commenting, wishing she had the confidence her friend did.
"Why isn't he here yet?"
Mako watched her friend pace up and down the room. "I'm sure he'll be here Kotoha."
"But it's the rehearsal," Kotoha fretted. "Chiaki would never be late for this. Something must have happened."
Mako placed her hands on her friend's shoulder. "Breathe Kotoha," she demonstrated an exaggerated breathing exercise until Kotoha was copying the motion. "Your groom will be here soon. It's only been fifteen minutes. I'm sure he's fine."
As if on cue the doors to the room burst open and the pair turned to see a trio of young gentleman hurrying inside.
"I'm so sorry!" One voice rose above the rest. "It's all my fault."
"Ryunosuke?" Kotoha asked, bewildered. "What happened?"
The shorter man next to him cut him off with a scowl. "If he hadn't insisted we take the back road, we would have been here on time!"
"Chiaki, what –" Kotoha looked lost.
Her fiancé stopped next to her, his arm automatically wrapping itself around her waist without thought as he glared at his taller friend in reproach. "He said it was a short-cut that he had taken the last time he was here. Turns out it took twice as long as the normal route."
"To be fair," the third young man interrupted, "There was an accident on the main road, so we did have to take an alternate route."
Chiaki scowled again. "He can't get off that easily Genta, this is my wedding rehearsal. What if it had been the actual wedding?"
Genta held up his hands in front of him to fend off the argument.
Mako smiled at the bunch, recognizing some of Chiaki's friends and recalling all their past banter that Kotoha had loved to retell with abundant laughter and equal parts exasperation.
Kotoha shook her head at the group before sharing a bemused smile with Mako. She looked around the group, her brows furrowing. "Wait. But where's –"
"Take-chan?" Genta interrupted. "He left his phone in the car, he went back to get it. He should be here any second."
Kotoha and Genta turned as the last member of their little party burst in through the doors in a rush, his cheeks flushed.
"I'm sorry," he apologized as he made a beeline for the bride and groom.
Kotoha was already shaking her head. "It's okay, I'm just glad all of you are here." She looked back at Mako who was greeting Chiaki, Genta and Ryunosuke with hugs and warm smiles of her own. "Oh! I don't think you've met my maid of honor yet. She just flew in yesterday, let me introduce you." She grasped the last member of the wedding party's wrist and dragged him over to their circle of friends. Kotoha placed her free hand on Mako's arm to get her attention.
Mako over at Kotoha with a smile, her eyes trailing to the young gentleman trailing behind her friend and felt her eyes widen in surprise. Her heart jolted sharply in her chest.
She watched as an identical expression lit across his face.
Kotoha paused in her introductions, confused, looking between the two. "Is something wrong?"
"It's – you." Mako stumbled, unable to believe what her eyes could clearly see. She tried to tamp down the excitement and tingles that were spreading through her limbs, trying to tell herself that she must be dreaming.
She watched as a smile crept across his lips. "It's good to see you again."
Her reaction was immediate and automatic as her own face lit up in delight. She held her hand out to him. "Mako."
His smile widened and he grasped her warm fingers in his own. "Takeru."
Electricity zipped between the two at their touch, eyes shining with suppressed excitement and astonishment.
"Have you met before?" Kotoha looked between the two, puzzled.
"Almost," Takeru answered.
Mako turned to her friend. "Maybe you were right after all Kotoha." She turned back to Takeru, leaving her friend more confused than ever as Genta and Ryunosuke elbowed each other with excitement, not bothering to hide their grins, obviously having heard the story from Takeru already.
Chiaki just looked at his poor fiancée and shook his head in amused exasperation as he waited for her to connect the dots on her own. She always had the greatest reactions when she did, and he had a feeling today's would be one of her best.
"How was your flight?" Mako asked, teasing, her smile growing by the second.
Takeru matched her enthusiasm. "Excellent, the best flight I ever had."