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The Root of All Fear

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Rick tapped the arm-rest with his free hand, but the little samba he was reproducing was not having the calming effect he was wishing for. So Milo leaned closer and whispered, "It's all fine."

Rick nodded, without agreeing, "Right. How long have we been in the air?"

"Just about... forty minutes."

Rick took in a lot of breath. Let it out slowly. "Okay."

"You are looking very pale."

"Yes."

"Your tan usually overcomes your fear of flying, but this time-"

"We're flying over the ocean," Rick said, trying to talk some sense into his partner's head.

Milo, however, kept the positive attitude, on the verge of being condescending, "Seven hours, at best. When you wake up, we'll be there."

"I can't fall asleep. You know I can't."

"Have I told you about the first time I took a plane?"

"Flying to 'Nam. Yes. Every time we get inside a freaking plane and you need to calm me down."

Milo frowned.

"When did it stop working?"

"Ten years ago."

"Right."

"Give me your hand to hold."

Milo chuckled. "You've been squeezing my hand since we sat our asses in this plane. I can't feel my fingers anymore and my whole arm is starting to go numb."

Rick looked down, realizing it for the first time. It didn't sooth him at all and he didn't let go. "If it falls off I'm going to need your other hand."

"Good to know. Just stop tapping. Here, hold the pillow. You're making that guy nervous."

Milo was referring to the man across the aisle, who was giving them a discreet, but calculating look.

"He's just trying to figure out if you're my best buddy or if we're gay."

"Oh." Milo leaned over Rick and said, "Yes, we're together."

"Milo!"

"Oh!" the man said, blushing.

His wife hissed, "I told you to stop looking! I'm so sorry."

"It's fine."

Rick gave him a sour look, but then went back to his silent panic.

Milo examined his face, considering his options.

"There is something you could do."

"No."

"I have them with me, in case you change your mind."

"I am not taking your sleeping pills."

"In a serious emergency like this-"

"This is not an emergency, this is me being silly and you should not encourage it."

"Alright."

"Don't let go of my hand!"

"But you said-"

"I said you shouldn't encourage it, I didn't say you should abandon me!"

"Alright!" Milo said, calming him down and allowing his partner to claw at his hand once again. "Want me to read to you?"

"No."

"Want to watch a movie?"

"No."

"Want your iPod?"

"No."

"Want to join the mile high club?"

Rick glared at him. No. He did not.

Milo shrugged, "I wouldn't fit in the loo anyway."

With that being said, Milo fished for his book with one hand and started reading to himself.

Rick closed his eyes and breathed as deeply as he could for a few minutes. He knew it was irrational, that there was nothing to worry about, that they were ultimately safe in the aircraft. And if it decided to explode in mid air, well, there wasn't much they could do about it, as Milo had once put it, many years before - needless to say Rick did not appreciate Milo's practical approach to the matter.

Just as he was trying to shove away images of exploding airplanes from his mind and wondering if maybe the iPod wasn't such a bad idea after all, there was a soft "bing-bong" and a sweet female voice asked for attention very politely.

"We regret to inform you that one of our crew has been taking ill. If there is a doctor on board, please, leave your service light on and your flight attendant will come and fetch you."

Milo's arm was half way through when Rick said, "Whoa, whoa, whoa! What do you think you're doing?"

"Turning your service light on."

"Why?"

"Because you are a doctor."

"I'm not getting up."

"What about your hypocritical oath?"

"I'm on vacation. You have medical training. Go be a hero."

"Don't be ridiculous."

The light went on with a very loud "ding". Rick raised his hand to try and turn it off, but Milo held it down, "Don't be a child, you're needed."

"Turn - it - off!"

"Excuse me, gentlemen."

"Damnit."

The woman looked down on them with a smile ready for tragedy.

"Which one of you is a a doctor?"

"He is. A surgeon. At Cedars Sinai."

Richard glared at him.

"Will you come with me, please, Doctor?"

"You see, I'm a little bit phobic about flying-"

"Don't worry, Doctor, is super safe in the galleys."

"Yeah, Rick. Super safe."

When Rick looked ready to divorce him, Milo said, "You said to stop encouraging. Well, here's your chance. Go face your fears."

"Here, you can hold my hand and I'll guide you through it," she offered, with the obligatory smile, but in a rushed whispered that said time was of the essence.

Milo pried his hands free and Rick got up with weak knees.

"Careful, lady, he's got a firm grasp."

"I'm sure I can handle it," she said, ever so pleasant.

They were gone quietly, leaving the passengers to peek over their seats. The guy from across the aisle and his wife looked at Milo, "Did they tell you what it was about?"

"Nah, probably nothing. Maybe someone in first class got peanut allergy or something."

The couple still stretched their necks, as if they could see through the business class curtain and into first class. Milo, however, picked up his book again, reassured that whatever was happening was probably nothing Rick couldn't handle. Who knows, maybe this little walk would be good for him?

In fact, when he returned, fifteen minutes later, Milo thought the whole experience had done him some good. He was walking alone, wide-eyed and a little paler than when he left, but without the safety of the flight attendant's hand. All in all, he was fine on his own.

The man across the aisle was fast to ask, "What happened?"

Rick answered even faster, "First class bastard vomiting. Spread the word."

"Geez. I bet you get tired of that kind of crap."

When Rick didn't reply and dropped himself back on his seat, Milo answered the man instead, "Told you, nothing to worry about."

Once the men's eyes were focused again on the screen in front of him, Rick ducked for their handbag.

Milo looked at him, frantically going through the pockets.

"What is it with you?"

"Where are they?"

"What?"

"The pills, the sleeping pills, where did you hide 'em?"

"Here."

Rick picked three and shoved them in his mouth. Milo offered water, but he had already swallowed.

"There's a change of heart."

Rick took a deep breath and blinked his eyes many times before some color returned to his face.

"What happened?"

"Whatever happens, don't wake me up before we get to Paris."

"As if I could. Why?"

Rick placed a hand on the back of Milo's neck and pulled him down for a conspiratory whisper.

"The captain's dead. They are still going through with this ridiculously long flight. And the first officer is practically a teenager."

And with no other word, he reclined on his seat and closed his eyes, leaving Milo alone with the sudden realization that maybe Rick's fears were not as unfounded as he first thought them to be.

He didn't feel like reading anymore.