Soobin didn’t know what possessed him to buy that ticket for America or what gave him the courage to even step foot onto that airplane, but it seemed that whatever had possessed him and whatever little courage he had abandoned him as soon as he sat down in his seat. The plane was still stationary but already Soobin could feel that familiar pit of anxiety bubble in his stomach. His palms began to sweat and the air in the plane seemed to be thinner than the outside air he was in before – it made him feel stuffy and trapped. He tried to breathe, to follow the little routine his mother had taught him when he was eight.
One. Two. Three.
One. Two. Three.
Soobin repeated the breathing exercise a few times and he could feel himself starting to calm down slowly - just in time as another passenger took the window seat next to him. He let out a little sigh of relief, knowing someone was going to be sitting next to him and he wasn’t going to be alone. It was a small comfort, but it was the small comforts that amounted to a lot.
Yeonjun wouldn’t say he enjoyed airplane rides, but he was used to them. He had taken a lot of trips back and forth from Korea to America and vice versa and he knew what a nervous flyer looked like almost immediately – they always had a sort of frazzled look in their eyes.
He immediately recognised that the passenger who he was going to be sitting next to on the plane was a nervous flyer, maybe even more than nervous. Typically, Yeonjun didn’t like to sit next to a nervous flyer and would prefer to switch seats but something about the way the guy was tapping his foot and chewing his lip nervously made him want to stay.
Soobin wished there was another way for him to travel to America. He would much rather take travelling by ship over travelling by plane.
Even with the breathing exercises and tapping his leg and biting his lip, Soobin couldn’t control the feeling of anxiety in his stomach. The closer it got to the plane taking off the worse the feeling got – it overwhelmed him to the point of tears, but he fought to blink them back. He couldn’t cry with a random stranger next to him.
Soobin closed his eyes and counted in his head, trying to focus on anything but the fact that he was on a plane.
Soobin vaguely heard the hostess say something about seatbelts but he wasn’t sure. He had tightened his seatbelt ages ago and tested it a number of times to make sure it was safe.
With a slight jolt, the plane started driving down the runway. Soobin had jumped a little in shock at the sudden movement and ended up squeezing his eyes shut tighter.
Soobin heard a whirring sound build up. He knew they were going to take off soon, the plane starting to speed up down the runway.
As the speed picked up so did his breathing until he was hyperventilating and felt like he couldn’t breathe. He kept his eyes closed, too scared to even attempt to open them. He thought he heard a voice from next to him, but he couldn’t be sure – he could only hear his loud heart beating in his chest, threatening to pop out.
Soobin felt the plane pick up, lifting off the ground, and tears somehow escaped his eyes even though he had them tightly screwed shut. The feeling in his stomach was just a tight bundle of nerves that tightened as the plane ascended.
If Soobin wasn’t already having an anxiety attack, he knew he would have a full blown one soon if he didn’t ground himself. He tried to count again but everything was a jumble in his head. He thought about pinching himself, but his hands wouldn’t let go of the armrests, at least not willingly.
Soobin whispered to himself a small, “Please.”
It was desperate and filled with fear – a small part of him trying to get his body to do what he wanted, but it just wouldn’t. More tears threatened to fall and Soobin was preparing himself for a full-blown anxiety attack when he felt a hand coax his hand off of the armrest.
Immediately his hand went for the next thing it could grab onto which just so happened to be the hand that had coaxed his hand off of the armrest. Soobin frantically laced the fingers together and squeezed tightly as the plane leveled out. Just the small presence of the hand holding his helped ground him. His breath hitched and he kept his eyes closed for a good five minutes, still too scared to open them even though the plane felt sort of stable.
“You can open your eyes now,” a voice whispered in his ear and carefully Soobin opened his one eye to look to see where the voice was coming from. Peaking with one eye, Soobin realised it was the person he was sat next to who had whispered in his ear.
Seeing that it was safe to open his eyes again, he opened the other eye and wiped away his tears with one hand. Soobin then realised that his hand was intertwined with the strangers - not only did he cry in front of this stranger, but he also had not let go of the hand. He panicked and tried to let go, loosening his shaking hand, but the stranger refused to let go. Soobin didn’t particularly mind – he felt like he needed that hand, so he stopped trying to remove his hand and returned to loosely keeping the hands intertwined.
“Are you okay?” the stranger looked at him worried. “Do you usually get this scared when travelling?”
Soobin wanted to shake his head and say no, avoid the weird embarrassment that came with saying he was afraid of flying, but he couldn’t exactly lie after the stranger had just witnessed him nearly breakdown.
“Yeah, I’ve been scared ever since I was little. The last time I was on a plane was when I was eight and back then I was just as scared, but my mum was right beside me to calm me down. She’s not here today as you can see so I just wasn’t ready to do it alone,” Soobin’s voice was a little shaky and quiet but he managed to talk.
“Well, I’m here. I know I’m not your mum but if you want I’ll hold your hand and calm you down?” The stranger gave him a warm smile. Soobin returned it with a small smile – he didn’t mind having a complete stranger hold his hand and calm him down, not when the hand felt so warm and soft and helped to keep him grounded. “I’m Yeonjun and you’re…?”
Soobin opened his mouth to answer but a small bout of turbulence caused him to take in a sharp breath and close his eyes again. He leaned his head back against his chair and took a deep breath in and out trying to convince himself that nothing bad was going to happen. Soobin felt a short squeeze on his hand and then felt the tickle of breath near his ear.
“Hey hey hey, breathe. Remember I’m here, nothing bad will happen as long as I’m here.” When Yeonjun noticed that Soobin wasn’t calming down he took to whispering random stories in his ear. Soobin wasn’t exactly paying attention to the stories. He thought he heard a story relating to dance and he thought Yeonjun was telling him why he was flying to America but Soobin wasn’t sure because instead of focussing on the stories he was too focussed on the thumb that was stroking his hand.
It wasn’t until Yeonjun asked him if he was feeling better that Soobin even realised he had forgotten he had been scared earlier.
Yeonjun wasn’t entirely sure what possessed him to grab that guys hand, but he had looked so scared and Yeonjun was sure that if he didn’t the guy would have had an anxiety attack. The poor guy was definitely deathly afraid of flying and if Yeonjun could make it a little better by holding his hand and calming him down then that was what he was going to.
After calming him down from the turbulence, Yeonjun learned that his name was Soobin and they talked for a while about random things. He learned that Soobin had impulsively bought a ticket to America because his brother had convinced him he needed a break from “being the owner of a coffee shop”. He explained that he didn’t actually own the coffee shop, but he was set to inherit it and take over the business when he was ready, for now, he was just working there as a manager.
Yeonjun re-told his story of why he was going to America. He had figured that Soobin hadn’t been listening when he was trying to calm him down and so he explained about how he frequently took trips back and forth between Korea and America because he was a choreographer - this time he was going to America to attend a workshop.
“I know nothing about dance but my brother, Beomgyu, is super into dance. He wants to be a performer in the future. He would love to meet you!” Soobin’s face lit up while talking about his brother and Yeonjun couldn’t help but smile.
“We can set that up when we’re back in Seoul. Maybe we could go busking together or collaborate on a piece of choreography together.” Yeonjun had moved closer while they were speaking, closing the distance to make it more comfortable for their intertwined hands to rest between them, and they both comfortably leaned against each other.
“You’d want to meet up in Seoul? Like after all of this?” Soobin looked at him, shocked.
“Well sure, I mean, we’re friends now aren’t we?” Yeonjun tilted his head like a puppy, questioning. Soobin stuttered and just stared. “What? I held your hand and whispered in your ear and we aren’t even friends?” he teased, smirking slightly and stroking Soobin’s hand with his thumb again. Soobin blushed and looked away.
“Pfft, I swear I’m only holding your hand because I’m scared of flying.” Soobin teased back slightly, still unable to look at Yeonjun but trying to get rid of the heat in his cheeks. Yeonjun gasped and put a hand over his heart.
“And here I thought you actually liked me. I guess you don’t need me to hold your hand anymore.” Yeonjun acted hurt, let go of Soobin’s hand and turned his body to look out of the window.
“Noooo, Yeonjun hyung,” Soobin whined, leaning over to lay his chin on Yeonjun’s shoulder. “I like you. Please hold my hand again,” Soobin pouted while speaking. Yeonjun continued to feign hurt. “Please, I’ll do anything.”
“Anything?” Yeonjun turned, suddenly intrigued, and at that moment he reminded Soobin of a sly fox. “Even a kiss on the cheek?”
Soobin backed away, flustered. He stumbled over his words, unsure of what to say. He wasn’t averse to giving Yeonjun a kiss on the cheek.
“You don’t have to. I was just- “Soobin leaned over quickly and gave him a kiss on the cheek. It was short and Soobin barely touched his skin, but it had Yeonjun all flustered. “- a joke.” Yeonjun finished his sentence a beat late, barely managing to keep himself from looking too shocked about the kiss.
In that second, the dynamic between them had suddenly changed.
Yeonjun looked over at Soobin. He had returned to sitting back in his seat, no longer leaning over, and he wasn’t looking to see Yeonjun’s reaction. His hand rested on the armrest, an invitation for Yeonjun.
Soobin didn’t know what had possessed him to kiss Yeonjun on the cheek. Maybe it was the way Yeonjun’s face lit up when he laughed or the way his eyes crinkled when he smiled or maybe it was the feelings Soobin had felt blooming in his heart when he felt Yeonjun hold his hand. Soobin didn’t know what it was but the small kiss had been chaste and innocent and everything that Soobin felt when he looked at Yeonjun.
Yeonjun wouldn’t say he didn’t enjoy the kiss on the cheek. In fact, it was sweet and innocent and Yeonjun could still feel the small touch of Soobin’s lips on his cheek even though the kiss had been so short and quick. He didn’t know why but, staring at Soobin’s hand sitting on the armrest and just waiting for Yeonjun’s hand, he knew he had to hold Soobin’s hand – just as he’d first done when he’d first seen Soobin.
It was a silent moment, neither boy looking at each other but each boy welcoming and embracing the others hand. Their fingers intertwined, locking, and they wordlessly moved closer to each other. Soobin rested his head on Yeonjun’s shoulder and Yeonjun laid his head on Soobin’s. Unspoken words hung in the air, a private understanding and agreement taking place wordlessly among them.
Soobin had never felt safer in anyone else’s arms and Yeonjun had never felt warmer holding anyone else.