Neal stood in line, playing with his boarding pass, casting glances down the corridor while he waited to board his red-eye.  He counted heads again.  And again.

            “Where are they?” he said through gritted teeth.  He ran his fingers through his dishevelled blond hair.

            “Relax, Neal.  They’ll be here,” the redhead behind him in line said.  He never took his eyes off the magazine he was reading, having given this advice twelve times in the past fifteen minutes.

            “Trust it to be my cousins that hold us up.”  Neal smacked his boarding pass against his hand.  “This was Alexander’s idea in the first place.  He’s lucky my dad even agreed to let the rest of you come.”

            “I’ve been to your family’s chalet four times, Neal.  I don’t think Mr. Osborne has a problem with guests,”  Owen said.

            “Not you, Owen, I don’t mean you.”  Neal stood up on tiptoes to peer over the crowd.  “Dan, get out of the way!”

            The biggest person in line shuffled to one side while rolling his eyes.  “Neal, I don’t take up that much space.”

            “He’s just not very good with tardiness.”  Owen turned another page of the magazine.  “Don’t take it personal.”

            “Personally,” Neal said, moving side to side to look around Dan’s broad shoulders.

            “What are you doing, dancing?” Owen smacked his friend in the arm and forcibly pulled him to a stop by tugging on his coat.  “You look like an idiot.”

            Neal held still, and tried to take a deep breath.  “I don’t know what’s gotten into me.”

            The young man in front of him turned around, shuffling slowly so as not to hit anyone with the guitar strapped to his back in a cloth gig bag.  “I think you’re thinking Alex is late on purpose.  But he wouldn’t do that.”

            “Evan’s right,” Owen put in.  “I’m betting the traffic slowed them down.”

            “I’ll take that action.”  The dark haired girl behind Dan tried to peek over his shoulder, and settled for sticking her head out past his thick arm.  “I’ll bet you two to one that Jason fell asleep and put them behind.”

            “How much?  Twenty?” Dan said, joining in.  She nodded and they shook on it.

            “Genevieve’s going to win,” the man beside her said.  You could tell just by looking that they were siblings.  He was staring at the wall, but had obviously overheard the discussion. 

            “Ethan, when I do win, how much do I get?” 

            “You get twenty.  If Dan was going to win, you gave him two to one odds, which means he would have made forty,” he recited, still staring at the wall.

            “Nice.”  Genevieve grinned.  “Easiest twenty I ever made.”

            “They aren’t even here yet!” Dan protested.

            “Yeah, but you never went to class with Jay.  He won’t let me down.”

            “You don’t think the excitement of a ski vacation would keep him awake?”

            Genevieve laughed.  “He’s been there before, it’s his uncle’s chalet.  We’re taking the red-eye, and they’re driving here.  I’ve never been in a car with Jay where he didn’t fall asleep, and that includes five minutes to the store and back.”

            Dan turned green.

            “Dude, it’s twenty bucks, not your life savings.”  Owen looked up from his magazine for once.

            “Yeah, but I owe Evan forty.”  Everyone but Neal and Ethan burst out laughing.          

            A moment later, two young men came sprinting up the corridor.  The one in the lead had dark hair and eyes to match, and was obviously an athlete.  The slighter youth behind him had short blond hair and was struggling to keep up.  They came to a stop at the back of the line, waving amiably at the group from a short distance. 

            “About time!” Neal yelled across the line to them.

            “He’s glad to see you,” Owen translated, smacking Neal in the chest when he rolled his eyes. 

            “Jason fell asleep in the car, I had to wake him,” Alex shrugged.  Jason, the slight blond youth, blushed, grinning sheepishly.

            Genevieve held out her hand and Dan grimaced, reaching into his pocket and pulling out a few bills.  He shrugged at Evan.

            “You owe me, dude,” Evan chuckled.  The line finally started to move as the passengers began to board. 

            They found their seats quickly, having been grouped together.  The eight friends chatted, catching up on things.  Spread out among different universities, this was their first reunion in months.  They were doubly excited, as Neal’s father had graciously given them access to his skiing chalet in Whistler.

            Relieved to finally have the trip underway, Neal settled into his seat smiling.  He chatted briefly with his friends, and then slowly drifted off to sleep, looking forward to the adventures that were sure to begin the next day.

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Bonus Chapter – A Quick Question

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