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Comfort of Love

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“Oh, God. Why did I agree to do this again?”

Colin smiles, buckling his seatbelt, and glances over at Ryan sitting beside him. “Because you have a death wish?”

Ryan groans and closes his eyes, leaning his head back against the airplane seat. “Col, that’s not funny.”

“Sorry,” Colin says, trying to hide a grin. “Look, it’s not too late to back out, you know,” he adds seriously, when he catches a glance at Ryan’s uncharacteristically pale face.

“Of course it is. We’re taking off in less than ten minutes. All of my stuff is in a suitcase under the plane.”

“I know that, I just thought... well, I thought it might make you feel better to believe you had options.”

“Thanks,” Ryan says wryly, lips pressed into a fine line.

All around them, the last stragglers onto the plane are stowing luggage and taking their seats as the flight attendants prepare for take-off, but Colin doubts that Ryan’s noticed any of it, hands gripping the armrests with white-knuckled intensity. He’d been surprised – though pleasantly so – when Ryan had rearranged his schedule in order to come with Colin to London while he filmed the first few tapings of his new show, Trust Us With Your Life. Of course Colin had been touched, but now that he sees once again the amount of fear it causes Ryan to fly, he’s not so sure it was the best idea in the world.

“How many times have you flown before, Ryan?”

“More than I ever wanted to.”

Colin holds back a sigh, frowning at the anxiety evident in Ryan’s tone. “Did you know that you have a significantly higher risk of being randomly shot and killed than by dying on a plane?”

Ryan snorts softly, and the sound is oddly reassuring. Colin takes that as a cue to continue.

“The same is true of dying from a snake bite,” Colin says, just after he remembers that Ryan’s also afraid of snakes. Great job, genius, Colin thinks, struggling to cover his tracks. “Which, er, would never happen, of course. How many snakes do you run into on a regular basis? None. Flying,” Colin waves a hand around, “is a snap in comparison.”

He holds his breath for a moment, hoping he hasn’t just made things worse by bringing up another of Ryan’s fears. But when Ryan merely snorts again, this time louder, Colin decides he’s in the clear, obviously on the right track with this.

“And you know how you hate turbulence? Well, turbulence is basically like driving over potholes, but in the sky. It’s safer, even. Pilots don’t worry about it at all. It’s mostly just a pain in the ass, like driving in LA.”

That finally elicits something that looks suspiciously like a smile, and Colin feels some of his own tension slip away as Ryan’s death grip on the armrests eases up.

“Did you also know that—“

“Colin, how the hell do you know all of this shit?” Ryan finally interrupts, opening his eyes and leveling a curious stare at his companion.

Colin shrugs. “I figured that since you agreed to keep me company on this trip, I owed it to you to at least try and help ease some of your flying anxiety.” His only regret is that he’s never thought to do this until now. Maybe it would have helped.

That earns Colin a genuine smile, but before Ryan can say anything, the plane begins to move, as the flight attendants simultaneously start their diatribe about on-flight safety and what to do in the event of an emergency.

About halfway through their speech, Colin notices that Ryan’s gone white as a sheet once more. Drawing Ryan’s attention to him through a gentle hand to his arm, Colin leans over and whispers, “You’re going to be just fine. I promise you that I’ll make it up to you. We’ll have a great time in London.”

And then, without much thought about anything, save for helping Ryan through these two very long flights, Colin pries Ryan’s fingers from his armrest, substituting his own hand in its place.

This draws Ryan’s focus entirely, and his gaze immediately drops to their hands. For several long moments, Colin holds his breath, watching and waiting to see what Ryan will do in response. After a few seconds, Ryan shifts his hand, adjusting it so that their fingers are entwined, then closes his eyes once more, leaning back in his chair without a word. Colin permits himself to relax, squeezing Ryan’s hand gently.

As they glide into the air, Colin thinks that maybe this is what he should’ve tried all these years instead.