[terminal]

Disclaimer: You know the drill.

A/N: Merry X-Mass, Sweetpea. :-)

**

"Shit. Shit, shit, SHIT!" Robby muttered in frustration as he stormed away from the gate desk, where a uniformed woman had just informed him that his flight has been cancelled until further notice. There's a blizzard on the loose and he's stuck in…

Robby thought for a moment in the middle of his storming. Atlanta. He was in Atlanta, and trying to get home to California in time for Christmas. Looks like another family holiday ruined because of his ridiculous schedule, ridiculous demands, ridiculous life.

Robby kicked a trashcan in his path and stormed over to the row of chairs facing the window. He sighed and sank down into an uncomfortable chair in the fairly deserted terminal and glared at his shoes. His bags dropped to the floor and he sat and sulked for a good minute before finally pulling himself together enough to sit up.

"Impressive tantrum." A woman's voice spoke from beside him. "I would have gone with 'fuck' myself, but 'shit' worked just as well, I think. High marks for artistic merit, though."

Robby jumped at the sound of a soft voice beside him and turned to see a slight woman sitting two seats away, her dark hair surrounding her pretty face, her body swaddled in a large coat, a knitted purple hat in her hands.

"I briefly considered punching that prick at the desk, but was afraid airport security wouldn't understand the way you do about artistic temperaments when giving a performance." Robby grinned.

"Good call, yo." She grinned.

Carrie's hands were shaking beneath the knitted cap she held in her tightly clasped hands. She knew exactly who he was - right down to the squint in his eyes and the brightly coloured shoelaces in his shoes - but what she didn't know was what Robby Gordon was doing in an Atlanta airport, talking to her.

And she wasn't about to drive him off by revealing herself as a fan, as someone who knew who he was.

So she did what she often does.

She decided to be a smartass.

Luckily, Robby seemed to teem with smartass-ness, so she knew she was safe.

Robby looked at her with an easy smile that made her stomach twist, and she barely missed his next question. "So, are you stranded too?" He asked.

Carrie shook her head. "No. My brother is supposed to be arriving tonight for Christmas, but apparently his plane is grounded too."

Robby cocked his head to one side. "Why don't you go home and wait there?" He asked seriously.

Carrie tried not to roll her eyes. "Let's just say it's more peaceful here. There's only so much of my family I can take at one time."

Besides, she thought to herself, I'm here with you. Only an act of God could get me to leave now.

Robby laughed. "Understandable. I have that problem myself sometimes. My family tends to follow me wherever I go. Can get tricky when I just want some down time."

Carrie nodded with a smile, picturing Robby hiding in his motorcoach from his sisters and mother. Instead, she decided to keep up her ruse. "So what do you do?" She asked neutrally.

Robby considered for a long moment before cocking an eyebrow at her. "I'm a garbageman. You?"

"Pole dancer." Carrie shot back.

"Excellent." Robby said with a leering grin. "Do you give impromptu shows?"

"Not for garbagemen." Carrie smirked.

"Damn." Robby muttered, making Carrie laugh.

The made small talk for a few minutes before Robby began glancing around anxiously. "Damn, I'm starving. I wish I could get something to eat, but they've already closed up everything for the night."

Carrie nodded and began digging around in her bag. "I might have something to snack on, and I have a Mountain Dew here, if you don't mind sharing."

Robby grinned. "You got cooties?"

"They're in remission at the moment." Carrie deadpanned. "Doctor says if I stay clean for a few more months, I'm cured."

"Good enough." Robby relented. "Mind if we eat picnic style?" He asked, sliding to the floor and leaning his back against the chair. "These seats are killing me."

Carrie got up from her chair and sank down beside him, barely breathing as she sat close enough to smell the faint smell of soap and aftershave on his skin. "I've got Cheese-Its and a not-too-smooshed granola bar. It's all I've got." She said apologetically as Robby ripped open the bag.

"Are you kidding?" He said, popping a Cheese-It in his mouth. "This is a feast!"

Carrie took a sip from the bottle of Mountain Dew before handing it to him silently and watching him take a long drink. "Backwash in that and I come out fighting." She teased, making him laugh again.

They ate in companionable silence for a few minutes, watching the few stranded passengers settle in for the night, watching the lights of the airport tarmac blink and disappear in the whirling snow outside.

Robby got up to throw away the remains of their picnic then sat back down beside Carrie, even closer than before.

"So." He said easily. "Tell me the story of your life. Start with the pole dancing techniques."

Carrie laughed and took a deep breath.

And for the next four hours, they talked. They talked of the Lord of the Rings, of God, of favorite Christmas memories. They talked of things that only people who had known each other their whole lives talked about. They talked without censoring their thoughts, without worrying about judgment of the other.

But they never talked about what Robby did for a living, or the fact that Carrie was his fan.

They just talked, and all her worries of being found out floated away. She was no longer a fan…she was just a woman, sitting beside a man in an deserted airport terminal in the middle of a snowstorm.

She knew it would be one of the most memorable nights of her life.

Robby looked at her with concern as Carrie hid a yawn behind one hand. "Tired?" He asked. "Do you live near here? You are going to have a heck of a drive tonight. If you ever get out of here."

Carrie waved away his concern. "I live a couple of hours away, but the drive is pretty easy. But yes, I'm tired." She said. "I worked all day today."

"Me too." Robby said heavily, before clearing his throat and continuing. "As a … garbageman."

Carrie smiled a little as she closed her eyes for a long moment. She could feel Robby shift beside her, then suddenly she was resting against his chest, his arm around her shoulders. She melted into his arms and closed her eyes again. "Rest a while, babe." He said softly.

"No." Carrie said petulantly.

"Why?" Robby asked, stretching out his legs in front of him and cradling her closer.

"Because then I'll fall asleep, and that will suck."

"Suck why?" Robby said and she could hear the grin in his voice.

"Because then I'll have wasted time sleeping instead of talking to you." She whispered. "I like talking to you." She said, her words slowing as her eyes remained shut, her body relaxing into sleep.

"I like talking to you too, babe." Robby said. "Sleep anyway."

Carrie awoke with a start at the sound of a disembodied voice on the intercom announcing that flights would be resuming shortly. She felt Robby stir beside her, and she carefully extricated herself from his arms and straightened. She looked over at him with an embarrassed blush.

"Hi." Robby said easily.

"Hi." She echoed.

"I guess it's time to wake up, huh?" Robby said sleepily. "And I guess that means I'm going to have to move and stuff."

Carrie giggled. "Did they call your flight?" She asked.

"They said soon." Robby said gently, stretching his arms above his head. "I was just getting used to this living-in-a-terminal lifestyle, too." He teased.

Carrie nodded but said nothing. In a few minutes, he would be gone. She tried not to pout at the unfairness of it all, but then again, she had nothing to be sorry about. He had been here for one night, anyway. More than most people knew of him in a lifetime…

"You know what?" Robby said suddenly. "I want to give you something."

Carrie's brows knitted together as she watched him dig around in his bags before pulling out a brightly, and clearly wrapped by a male, package. "Here!" He said triumphantly. "This is for you."

Carrie took the box in a daze.

"Ignore the tag that says 'To Beccy'." Robby grinned.

Carrie laughed but shook her head. "I can't take this. It's for your sister." She said softly. "And she sounds like she could kick your ass."

Robby laughed but pushed to the box to her. "Open it."

Carrie squealed when she ripped off the wrapping paper and found a beautiful cashmere sweater sitting inside, the black material dancing under her fingers. "I can't accept this. It's too beautiful."

"Take it." Robby said softly, his voice firm with no room for argument.

Carrie looked around frantically. "I…um…I don't have anything…"

Robby waved her away. "I don't want anything. This wasn't a ploy for gifts." He smiled.

"Wait!" Carrie said, diving into her bag. "I have…these." She said, pulling out a pair of men's gloves from her bag. "They are Rick's…he forgot them last time, and I wanted him to have them when he got here. I want you to have them."

"Your brother will kick my ass." Robby argued with a grin. "I can't take these."

"He'll learn to live with disappointment, trust me." Carrie smiled.

"Thank you." Robby said, squeezing her arm.

"Thank you." Carrie echoed as they both heard the boarding call for his flight. "Time to go, huh?" She said sadly.

"Yeah." Robby said, standing up and gathering his bags up from where they had remained sprawled all night. "I wish I could stay."

"Merry Christmas." Carrie said, standing up and facing him, not quite able to meet his eyes.

"Merry Christmas to you." He said, tilting her head up to meet his gaze. They stared at each other for an overly long, overly awkward moment before Robby dipped his head and pressed his lips to hers.

Carrie's knees went weak as he kissed her, his arms around her, her arms finding their way around him. They kissed as though they always had and before she knew it, it was over.

Robby took a step back and gave her a sad smile as they heard his final boarding call. "Nice meeting you." He said awkwardly.

"Nice meeting you too, Robby." She said as he walked towards the ramp.

She clapped a hand over her mouth at her own words.

Shit.

They had spent the whole night together. They had slept. They had eaten. They had shared secrets, had shared kisses.

But they had never told each other their names.

And now she'd blown it.

Shit.

Robby's eyes widened as he was pushed towards the gate. "You know my name! You know me!" He shouted and Carrie winced. "No fair!" He said and Carrie couldn't help but laugh. "You have to tell me your name!" He shouted over the din. "You have to!"

Carrie smiled as he passed through the door, giving him a wave. "Your name!" She heard him say one last time.

She shouted out her full name then turned away as Robby disappeared out of sight.

She knew he hadn't heard her, but she loved that he still wanted to know it.

She tried not to remember the image of Robby passing out of her line of vision.

And out of her life.

**

Carrie listlessly sorted through the mail as she took off her coat. Bill, bill, flyer, advertisement, bill…

Uh-oh.

A plain white envelope with her name and address typed in the center.

Shit, she thought. I know I paid the bills this month…

She ripped open the letter and was struck dumb when a plane ticket and a letter fell out.

She examined the ticket - from Atlanta to LA - and her hands began to shake.

She flipped open the letter and smiled at the simple typed words, not daring to believe this gift.

"Be there."

**

This, Carrie thought to herself, was the craziest things she had ever done.

Taking a strange plane ticket from an anonymous source.

Not knowing who would be on the other end.

Not even sure how long she'd be gone, and if she'd even come back alive.

This was nuts.

She considered bolting for the door as she walked down the hall towards her gate number, one hand clenched around the ticket she had received, the other pulling absently at the black cashmere sweater she wore.

Finally, she saw Gate 19, and she smiled at the memory of her night there. She sat down heavily in the same seat she and Robby had shared before, her eyes drawn to the plate glass windows to her left. She tried to calm her heart and wet her dry throat when she nearly died of fright at the sound of a voice in her ear.

"How did you know me?" She heard Robby's voice ask softly.

She jumped up and whirled around to see Robby leaning over the bank of chairs from the opposite side, a wide grin plastered on his face.

Carrie didn't know what to say, she was so stunned to see him again. Here. In the flesh. And smiling.

"I…I just did."

"You never said you did."

"I figured you would run like hell if you knew that I knew who you were." Carrie said sheepishly. "And I really wanted to talk to you."

Robby nodded. "You're right. I probably would have." He admitted softly. "Until I got hungry enough to come back."

Carrie smiled, her eyes cast downward. "I'm sorry."

"I'm not."

Carrie finally looked up at him. "What are you doing here? What are you really doing here?"

"Finding you, babe. Finding you."