TYLER WINCED as his body connected with the back of the plastic airport chair. These things were not meant for comfort. He pressed his phone closer to his ear, trying to make out his mom’s voice over the sounds of the other travelers milling around and the voice droning over the PA. At least for the moment, the instrumental versions of the greatest holiday hits had paused.

“It’s delayed, Mom. Not canceled. I’m gonna wait it out.” Maybe, just maybe, he’d make it home for Christmas Eve dinner after all. He tucked his feet in to avoid tripping a family scrambling past. The father figure had a literal sack over his shoulder, filled with what looked to be wrapped presents from what Tyler could see peeking over the top.

“Maybe it’s best if you don’t come.” His mother’s voice sounded tinny down the line. “It’s safer.”

He stilled at her words. Not come? Tyler wouldn’t even consider the possibility. He wasn’t missing the Feast of the Seven Fishes this time. He hadn’t appreciated it as a kid, but now as an adult, he needed that connection with his family and his heritage. “I’m already at the airport. Took my shoes off for TSA and everything.”

“There’s six inches of snow on the ground.”

And what were the odds of that? His first winter in Chicago and it was his parents who had gotten the Christmas blizzard. “I won’t get there till tomorrow anyway. They’ll clear it all away by then.” Tyler didn’t know who he was trying to convince. “I’ll call you when I find out what’s going on.”

They said their good-byes, and he tucked his phone back in his pocket. Tyler wiggled his ass and tried to make the seat a little more comfortable. Maybe if he took his coat and made himself a cushion? It was stupid hot in the airport, but Tyler couldn’t check his jacket, not when winter waited outside for whenever he’d make it off that airplane.

Tyler had just pulled his tablet out of his carry-on bag when he saw it. In one of the chairs directly across from him, a teddy bear sat. It looked well loved, with plaid ears and a pink ribbon tied around its neck. It even had a little felt suitcase attached to one hand. Sitting there alone, the teddy appeared to be waiting for a flight.

Chuckling, he snapped a picture and posted it to his Facebook with the caption: “My traveling companion.”