In spite of his husband's touching confidence in him, Martin found his new job a lot more trying than he’d anticipated. Not the flying, he was never happier than when G-ERTI rose from the earth. But it didn't get easier, nor did it get better. Martin was beginning to doubt there was enough professionalism in the world to make up for MJN's deficits. Or the irritation of working with Douglas. But he did his best. Oh, how he tried .
Martin found he was losing his respect for Douglas’ experience, undeniable skill and, well, frankly, his age. In fact, he was fast coming to the conclusion that Douglas had much more in common with Arthur when it came to emotional maturity and good decision making. He certainly was not professional. Neither of them were.
Exhibit A: A Bored Arthur Is Akin to a Thunderbolt From Zeus. Otherwise known as the ‘Incident with the Drinks Trolley.’
[The 11th of Pyanepsion, year 4 of the 696th Olympiad, autumn]
After their film crew customers were deposited in Spain, Douglas was operating back. Martin could swear he’d been in the loo only a few minutes, but that was time enough for mischief to be managed. Martin opened the door and stepped out, brushing down his shirt. His balance wobbled as G-ERTI angled nose down, then up at a sharp angle. What in the heavens? He looked up at a rumbling noise that was growing louder.
“Look out, Skip!” Crouched on top of the drinks trolley, Arthur barrelled down the aisle straight for him. Martin screamed and flattened himself against the door. But just before painful impact (and after Martin’s short life had passed before his eyes), the trolley caught a corner on an armrest and bucked Arthur off in a flurry of arms, legs and drink straws.
“Arthur! What are you doing?” Martin exclaimed, hand engaged in shoving a heart trying to escape back between his ribs.
“Ow.” Arthur disentangled himself from seat he’d fallen into. “Sorry about that, Skip. You didn’t want to play Charades...”
“Neither did Douglas,” Martin excused himself.
“And so Douglas suggested some Trolley Surfing to cheer me up! It’s brilliant, you need to give it a go! You see, what you do is pull the plane down, someone gets on top of the trolley and gives the signal and…”
“Yes, fine, I worked it out. But… But…” Martin couldn’t bring himself to quash Arthur’s excitement. He cast about for the best phrase to convey all that was wrong with the situation. He settled for, “I can’t. A wheel’s broken off the trolley.”
It had. Arthur’s grin dimmed. “Oh. Mum won’t like that.”
“Never mind. Just, er. Pick up the straws. I need a word with Douglas about… flying.”
“Right-o! Should I put them back?”
Martin shuddered. “No.” Was Carolyn that tight-fisted? He hoped not.
“Oh, I know! I’ll use them to make a straw sculpture! Like… a unicorn! There’s some sellotape in one of the lockers.”
“Good idea. I’ll leave you to it.” Martin patted Arthur’s shoulder before making his way to the flight deck. “Douglas! What were you thinking?”
Douglas smiled at him before turning back, large hands steady on the throttle. “What was I thinking? Of you , my captain.”
“What?” Martin’s cheeks flamed. Douglas hadn’t meant it the way it sounded, had he?
“Of how my patience and your sanity would have been eroded by a bored Arthur. And before you can say it, no, locking him out of the flight deck doesn’t help. I tried once, and he has a peculiarly carrying voice and a fine repertoire of songs from The Muppets .”
Martin’s embarrassment disappeared under a flash of righteous fury. “No, not that! I meant, what do you mean by, by…” Clarity evaporated Douglas’ raised brow. “Arthur nearly ran me down! On a loaded drinks trolley!”
“That would have been an interesting one to explain to the insurance company, I’ll give you that,” Douglas mused. “Would Arthur be charged with driving with opened bottles of alcohol, or just vehicular homicide? Tell me he didn’t break any, Carolyn hates spillage.”
Martin’s mouth opened and closed a few times while he absorbed Douglas’ callous disregard for Martin’s near-demise. He squeezed his eyes shut and rubbed the spot between his brows where a headache was forming. “No, no broken bottles. Well, the trolley is.” Douglas groaned and Martin snapped. “But that’s not the point! You can’t just drop and gain altitude like that! G-ERTI’s not some kind of roller coaster to entertain Arthur! It’s irresponsible! And dangerous. What if there’d been another aircraft, or if Arthur had hurt himself?” Or crushed my ribs against a bulkhead . “The minute my back was turned -”
“Relax,” Douglas drawled. “No other aeroplanes about, I checked. It was just a bit of harmless fun. An old Air Britannia game.”
“I don’t care what you got up to at your old firm, but in my plane -”
“I think you’ll find it’s Carolyn’s.”
“Whatever! As the captain, I forbid any games of Trolley Surfing in the future. Understood?”
Douglas heaved a put-upon sigh. “Spoilsport.”
And that sorted that, aside from Carolyn’s refusing to buy another drink trolley, forcing Arthur to keep busy running drinks and food back and forth with a tray. Well, maybe that was for the best.
His husband had laughed at the tale, but smoothed Martin’s bristling by kissing him. “I am glad Arthur didn’t hurt you with the cart, dearest, he would have been most distraught. Brutal of Douglas not to care about your well-being, though.”
“Yes. Yes, it jolly well was.” Martin brooded. “It’s unbelievable he got away with that at Air Britannia. It’s… it’s just sloppy aviation!” He choked on a sudden giggle as light fingers tickled up his sides.
“Forget about that for now, sweet. Just keep an eye on him in the future. After all, you are the captain, are you not?” Martin twisted as his ribs were assaulted again. “Funny captain,” the rich voice purred. “You do make me laugh.”
“Oh, oh! Stop that!” Martin dug his own fingers against the chest beneath him and was rewarded with a convulsive twist of his husband’s body. “Ha. See who’s laughing now?”
“Still me,” puffed his husband. Martin couldn’t help grinning. The battle was joined, and if the gasps of laughter devolved into heavy exhalations another type of enjoyment later, well. Martin was getting used to that, he supposed.
Exhibit B: The Pain Of Diverting, only surpassed by The Horror Of Arthur’s Puppy Eyes and Being One-Upped by Douglas
[15th of Poseideon, year 4 of the 696th Olympiad, autumn]
Martin knew, knew he had been correct to divert to Bristol. With the fuel running low and the excessive delay at Fitton, it had been the correct choice. The safe choice. Quashing Douglas’ ridiculous and frankly criminal suggestion about faking the scent of smoke in the flight deck had been right as well.
It had felt good to insist on formal titles as well. Martin was the captain, why shouldn’t he be called Sir? Though Martin had found himself avoiding Douglas’ murderous glare every time the other man had curled his tongue around the title as if it were a tainted pill to be spat out. The smouldering fire in those dark eyes was unnerving.
Bristol had been the best choice. Carolyn didn’t agree - vehemently and with firm financial reasons she hammered into Martin. Brow-beaten into a cost-cutting trip to Abu Dhabi, horrified by Arthur’s Surprising Rice, Martin had begun to feel quite, well. Not homesick, per se, but it would be nice to have someone as sympathetic as his god-husband around during daylight hours.
But not even Arthur was on his side once it came out that Martin had doomed the client’s cat to icy death by forgetting to turn on the cargo hold heating.
“Oh, gods. Oh, gods, I can’t divert! Carolyn will kill me!”
“But it’s just a poor little kitty,” Arthur pleaded.
“It’s not! The damned thing savaged you! It’s a Hades-cat! But… oh, please, Zeus, Hera, anyone! I don’t want the cat to die! Carolyn will still murder me.” Martin’s teeth chafed at his lower lip.
“Well, Sir , ” Douglas stressed the title with sweet venom, clearly enjoying Martin’s predicament, “Sir will be flying over Egypt in another few hours. Perhaps Sir could proffer some heartfelt prayers to Osiris to revivify the moggy?”
“Would that work?” Martin asked. Arthur vibrated with hope.
“Nah,” Douglas said. Martin’s heart plummeted. “On second thought,” Douglas continued, “Best to go around Egypt if you can. The goddess Bast may not feel very happy about a cat-murderer venturing into her territory.”
“Oh, gods . ”
“If we’re lucky, word won’t get to Sekhmet. Lioness of War versus G-ERTI? I wouldn’t chance it. Sir . ”
“What would you do?” Martin was frozen with indecision, to Douglas’ evident pleasure.
“Oh, no, I couldn’t possibly advise you. This paradoxical Catch-22 is a command problem, Captain Yossarian.”
“Is this more of your so-elite Air Britannia slang, Douglas?” Martin yelped. “Captain who ?”
“Wish we had a Captain Who,” Arthur said. “He could go back in time and save the cat.”
“No, he couldn’t, Arthur,” Douglas said, “and for two good reasons. One, it’s Doctor Who, and two, he’s doesn’t really exist.”
Douglas twisted the knife more. “Time for a decision, sir . Thumbs up for the cat and down for you? Or thumbs down all round?”
“You all right, Skip?” Arthur looked concerned. “Only you’re a bit grey-ish and… moist. Save the kitty? Please, you’re the captain, and don’t pay attention to Douglas! What you say goes, and I’m sure the gods won’t argue if you save a cat.”
There was no easy way out. Carolyn, dead cat, diverting, death. Martin slumped. No, Carolyn wouldn't kill him. She’d want him to leave, free pilot or not. Who could afford a captain who made two expensive mistakes in a single week? Martin ground the heel of his hand into his eye. Could he get another job flying? Will your husband let you? No, no, he couldn’t let himself think that way. Carolyn. Dead cat. Diverting. Death or... impending unemployment. He swallowed thick resignation. “Well, nothing for it. Fine. We’ll divert.”
“Oh, thank you, Skip! I’ll get some warm milk ready!”
“A fine command decision... Sir?” Douglas eyed Martin. Martin turned his face away, hiding his no-doubt woebegone expression. Douglas was quiet, then exhaled heavily. There was a crackle as a match was struck. “Captain Crieff,” Douglas said in a formal, respectful tone. “I do believe I smell smoke in the flight deck. We’d better request an immediate emergency diversion.”
“But wasn’t that very kind of… what was your clever coworker’s name again? Richard?” The deep voice rumbled against Martin’s back as he leaned against his husband.
“Douglas. Douglas Richardson.”
“Yes, Douglas. Douglas saved you getting murdered by Carolyn, Bast, Sekhmet or becoming a felisocide. Aren’t you grateful?” Martin’s hand was lifted, fingers toying with his own.
“No!” Martin clenched his hand. “Yes.” He turned his face against the column of throat by his head. “Maybe.”
His husband hummed in an enquiring tone. Martin groaned, pressing his nose harder against him. Gods, Douglas’ smirk when Martin radioed in for the diversion! After the commotion Martin had made previously about reporting non-existent fires! Douglas had simultaneously offered Martin an escape from his predicament as well as getting his own back.
Martin had sweated with nerves as the mechanic looked G-ERTI over, praying to Tyche that the man wouldn’t turn on him with accusations of false reports. Carolyn would hate the fines more than the expense of the diversion. Douglas managed to make me as deceitful as himself . No, his husband would get annoyed with Douglas if he said that, it wasn’t fair. Martin was responsible for landing himself in that position in the first place. He said instead, “He made me feel like an idiot. I mean, I know I’m sometimes an idiot…”
“Don’t talk that way about my consort, please. And don’t worry about your decision - as a god, I wouldn’t have argued with you over saving a cat’s life. It was kind, Martin.” Martin’s fist was eased open, his hand clasped. Laughter trembled in his husband’s voice as he continued, “At least you made Douglas address you properly. ‘Sir’! That must have galled him.”
“He’s always calling me ‘my captain’, even though I’ve told him not to. It’s weird. ‘Sir’ sounded better. And it’s more respectful. I’m not his .”
“But dearest, what is it about this mortal that causes you such unrest?”
“It’s just…” He trailed off. Douglas, with his off-hand kindnesses and overt superiority caused such a confluence of conflicting emotions in Martin that he couldn’t stand it. Him. All of it . “He gets on my nerves,” Martin summarised. “He’s so… so unprofessional . Distracts me. Makes me less professional by association.”
“We can’t have that,” his husband murmured. “Distracting you is my job, after all.”
Martin’s mouth curled the tiniest amount, knowing his partner would feel the motion against his skin. “I’m a job?”
“Ah, a jest at last. Yes, indeed. You are my job, my task, my industry of Martin. Martinising? No, that doesn’t sound right, best not to mangle such a perfect name with unnecessary noun-ing and verb-ing. My five-to-nine, when it’s not blasted summer with its horrible short nights. Ah, laughing, even better, though you shouldn’t, you are a serious business . ”
“Hard work,” Martin chuckled and dared to reach his free hand up to stroke smooth hair. The chest behind heaved in a sigh of agreement.
“You’ve no idea.”
Martin was thankful he'd managed to quash Carolyn's idea about letting it be known that one of her pilots had otherworldly connections.
“If it gets out, I'll never have any privacy again. Reporters, tabloids...." he pleaded. They were all in the Portakabin working through paperwork under Carolyn’s sharp eye. Carolyn’s musing aloud as she worked over her ledgers had jerked Martin’s attention away from his calculations for a cargo haul.
"Free advertising. The cachet of having a god’s spouse at MJN would draw customers," Carolyn retorted. “Rich ones.”
“I don’t want notoriety!”
Douglas chimed in with a lifted brow. "Oh, my captain, you sound almost embarrassed to be married to a heavenly being. Not ashamed of him, are you?"
"Douglas, be quiet,” Martin retorted. “Carolyn, you can't.” The idea of the attention he’d draw if he was outed made his stomach churn.
“Why not?” Arthur said. “Isn’t it lucky to have a god’s husband on G-ERTI? I always thought we were lucky to have you, Skip.”
“Ah, the safety angle,” Douglas said. “Good one, Arthur. Though I have my doubts concerning Martin’s luck.”
Martin pressed a hand to his forehead. “Thanks so much Douglas. Arthur,marriage to an immortal isn't a guarantee of immortality for myself! Or passengers!"
Arthur giggled. “I bet the gods are really busy looking out for you! It must be brilliant! Though it’s kind of like a business, isn’t it? Morning to night Martin-watching. Do gods get tired?”
Martin stiffened at Arthur’s words.
Carolyn cocked her head. "Arthur has a point. We'd have the best reputation for safety of any charter in the world!""
"I - I just don't know. I can't take that responsibility. Please, Carolyn."
She sniffed. "Fine. I’ll put out of my mind the pots of money we could be getting from customers wanting to flying Immortal’s Beloved Charter. I’ll just remind myself that I have a free pilot. Pity about the insurance savings."
Douglas stirred. "That is rather a good name for the business, Carolyn. Would you consider -?"
Arthur’s eyes widened. “IBC. Wow.”
"No, I wouldn't, Douglas. MJN we are and shall remain. When you have an airline and an immortal spouse of your own, feel free to thieve my idea."
"Aw, Mum,” Arthur complained. His mobile chimed and he pulled it out, face bright. “Oh, brilliant! Bitsy! I wonder what she wants. I love helping.” He began tapping a reply.
Martin ducked his head. "Thanks, Carolyn."
Carolyn waved it away. "Yes, yes. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to make an offering. MJN needs all the help it can get." She breezed out before Martin felt guilty enough to apologise for shutting down her idea.
Douglas put his feet up as soon as the door closed behind her. “But seriously, Martin. You seem to be a magnet for misfortune. Have you ever considered prayers to Tyche? I’d share some of my own luck, but I enjoy it too much.”
“He doesn’t need it, Skip’s got us,” Arthur said. “I think Bitsy could use a little luck. Oh, I know!”
Martin watched Arthur as he texted, lips moving as he typed. Arthur at first sight was an unlikely matchmaker, but his excited babbling at the number of friends he’d set up indicated that he had good insight. Uncanny, even. The saga of Bitsy and Ned would shortly be enroute to a happily ever after, if Arthur’s track record held.
Martin felt a bubble of jealousy break in his throat. Too bad I hadn’t met Arthur before I married! A normal relationship, meeting at a restaurant for a date - Hades, even going for a walk in the sunlight! Normal as he’d known it was gone forever. Even his growing appreciation for his husband’s companionship was no match for this rush of resentment.
“Misfortune? Right,” he said. “What do you know about needing luck, Douglas? Or praying? Prayers didn’t help me when I needed it most.”
Douglas’ expression was wiped clean. “What do you mean?”
Martin gripped his pencil and kept his head down, avoiding Douglas’ gaze. “I don’t want to talk about it.” Pray to Tyche. Ha.
Arthur wriggled in his chair, grinning at his phone. “Bitsy says she’s going to pop the question to Ned!” He lifted his arms in excitement. “Brilliant!”
Douglas only shook his head. Martin shrugged away his disquiet and kept his eyes on his paperwork.
Martin was beginning to wonder if perhaps he ought to have heeded Douglas’ advice about praying for luck. Strange mishaps, misunderstandings and madness at MJN followed him. There was that passenger who had an inexplicable hatred of red-headed men. Martin had to keep out of sight and managed to get stuck in a locker for an hour. He’d slipped on G-ERTI’s steps, ripped the entire length of his trousers, and flew wearing the only thing that could be found in a hurry. It had taken Martin three days to track down every copy of the photo that had mysteriously been posted around Fitton Airfield. Hades take it, no one would take him seriously! Especially not with that image of him looking a captain from the waist up and wearing Arthur’s red nylon gym shorts below! He knew Arthur had been trying to help, but still. He was sure Douglas was behind that prank.
Even G-ERTI conspired against him, warning lights going on and off at intermittent times when he was in control. Well, that could be down to G-ERTI’s age, but it didn’t change the fact that when Douglas flew, she behaved. Martin was tired of radioing of possible emergencies, only to cancel them. He was sure the ATCs all over Europe thought he was a paranoid idiot. He wasn’t, only safety-minded!
Brooding over these issues, Martin decided the best thing he could do to prepare for the day G-ERTI’s wings dropped off, was to practice. He bought the latest version of MS Flight Simulator, selected the plane closest to G-ERTI in type and played in his free time. And played. And played some more, using every kind of problem he could program into the sim. Douglas teased him about his expanding knowledge and groaned when Martin insisted on more safety briefings.
If it weren’t for his husband welcoming him home, Martin wasn’t sure what he’d do. Even if he still hadn’t managed to pin his husband’s identity and his attempts at teasing the information out made his husband chuckle, it was… okay. Good, and that wasn’t taking into account the bounty his sex life had become. Martin talked, and his spouse listened.
It was a refreshing change from work. As Martin made more mistakes and looked ever more foolish when flying, he found himself longing to escape Carolyn’s sardonic glances and Douglas’ smirks. Well, who wouldn’t look silly in contrast to Douglas? Perfect, lucky, irritating Douglas.
Exhibit C: Douglas Was Horrible to Martin in All Ways, Especially When it Came to Distracting Martin From His Duties in Unprofessional Ways. Again.
[14th of Anthesterion, year 4 of the 696th Olympiad, winter]
“Oh, come on, Martin. It’s the simplest of games we could play on the flight deck. Even Arthur might be able to manage it,” Douglas cajoled. “You even have a chance to win this one. The person who forces a Dare answer from the other takes the next cheese tray.”
“No, I’ve changed my mind. I don’t want to play.”
“I hesitate to bring this up, my captain…”
“I’m the captain, not your captain! At least, not the way you say it,” Martin protested.
“But you were very quick off the mark asking me, oh, how did you put it? ‘Have you really ever got off with an immortal, Douglas, or were you stretching the truth yet again?’ Tsk, Captain Crieff. You can’t start a game and quit midway.” Douglas shook his head.
Martin fiddled with his safety strap. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have asked that. It was unprofessional.”
“Nature of the game.” Douglas flicked a switch. “Gulf Tango India to Fitton ATC, requesting permission to begin our approach.”
The radio crackled. “Fitton to Golf Tango India. Hullo Douglas. Sorry, I’ll need you to take an extra lap around. Be advised there’s a delay due to ducks. Ducklings, actually. The fire crew is trying to herd them off now.”
“Right. Thanks, Karl.”
Martin grimaced at the informality of the exchange. Douglas banked G-ERTI.
“Your burning curiousity about my love life intrigues me, Martin. Dare this this old sky god dream?”
Douglas was mocking him. As usual . “No, he may not!” Martin knew his ears were red.
Douglas smiled at Martin’s discomfiture. “I answered your question, captain mine.”
“‘Yes,’ isn’t much of an answer!”
“Well, if you’d wanted more details, you ought to have phrased it differently. For example, ‘Douglas, is the number of immortals you’ve shagged blind with pleasure more than the number of players on a football team?’” Douglas snorted. “Golf Tango India to Fitton. Karl, how’s it looking down there? Ducklings all in a row and duck-marched off?”
“All clear, Golf Tango India. You’re free to come in. Hope you enjoyed your brief scenic tour of lovely Fitton.”
“An inspiring sight as always, Karl. Out.” The plane tilted again as Douglas began to bring them round to line up with the runway. “As I’m in a good mood in spite of your insinuating that I lied about my conquests, I’ll give you hint about the number of them. A football team’s worth is a small number, captain. And I’m not even including three ex-wives.” The lascivious smile he threw at Martin prickled the skin on Martin’s back. “There. You have a generous answer. Now it’s my turn. Truth or Dare, Captain Crieff.”
“If your exes were formed into a sports team, complete with shirts that read ‘Crieff Companions’, would you have enough for… ah…” Douglas spared a glance at Martin. “A bobsled team?”
Martin saw red. Yes, his relationships had been few and far between compared to his sexual encounters. But that’s what Douglas thought of him? “I have control,” he snapped.
Douglas frowned. “No, I do, and you are trying to avoid the question as well as force a draw.”
“First Officer Richardson, I have control,” Martin said through clenched teeth.
Douglas lifted his hands away in exaggerated care. “You have control, Captain.” He began whistling under his breath. Martin hissed in annoyance.
“Gulf Tango India to Fitton ATC, we’re coming round and ready to approach. Over.”
“Martin? Isn’t Douglas operating?” Karl was confused.
“Fitton ATC, can you please be more professional? Over,” Martin said.
Douglas cut into Karl’s offended retort. “Mon Capitaine has control , Karl. But in reality, he’s trying to avoid the exes as sports team question.”
“I am not!” Martin knew he was.
“Oh, Truth or Dare? Mine’s a sumo stable’s worth,” Karl offered.
“Rubenesque and combative? That doesn’t surprise me. Just your type.”
“Love a good grapple.”
“ Fitton ATC, First Officer , will you stop the chatter?” Martin shouted. “Over.” He thumbed the cabin address system. “Cabin crew, prepare for final descent.”
Douglas had the nerve to chuckle. “I’ve never had a type, but I’ve been developing a taste recently...” His voice dropped into a deep, rich register. that licked at Martin’s nervous system.
Martin tensed, trying to control his reaction. Gods damn it, when Douglas used that tone, the timbre reminded him of… well, his husband. Just think of your husband , Martin told himself. Your funny, sexy husband and his, his sexy god-like voice, which is nothing like Douglas Richardson’s! Too much sex, that was the problem, his long-starved libido was alive and ready to leap into action over the least provocation. Damn Douglas and his stupid voice to Hades and back.
“Engage the landing gear, First Officer.” Martin spared a moment to swipe a hand over his sweating forehead.
“Landing gear fully extended and engaged, Captain,” Douglas purred. Martin didn’t dare look at him as the runway rose to meet G-ERTI. He fumbled for the flap lever. Douglas continued, “Rather the way my thoughts are often engaged these days by wiry, uptight types with a firm knowledge of when to take control .”
There was a whining noise that Martin was sure was coming from his tight throat. Oh, fuck, Douglas will never let me forget this! But the noise escalated to a full throated mechanical howl as G-ERTI touched and slewed with a jerk, nose tipping towards the ground. With the speed borne of adrenalin-fuelled panic and Flight Simulator-trained muscle memory, Martin’s hand went to the flap lever. Gods, it wasn’t engaged, he’d grabbed the wrong lever! He released it and pulled the correct one. G-ERTI righted and rolled to a halt.
There was a long pause. A wisp of smoke from G-ERTI’s stressed tyres drifted up past the windshield. The clangour of the fire engine was approaching. Douglas finally spoke.
“Well, old sky-god that I am, I’ve been around and seen much. But that’s the first time I’ve seen anyone land with the parking brake on.”
Eros listened to his darling rant.
“...And Carolyn told me I wasn’t worth my salary. The fire crew were crying with laughter! I mean, there’s going to be an enquiry and it’s going to make me look incompetent and, and… I’m at the end of my tether, I really am.”
Eros loosened Martin’s grip on the sheet. “Sweet, you’re going to puncture the linens.”
Martin’s face was a picture. Eros’ heart gave an odd lurch at the sight. He hoped to have Martin’s love of flying lessened enough that love for himself could take seed and grow in its space. Time was passing and he needed Martin’s love in order to keep his own title as God of Love. But he disliked the misery and frustration Martin radiated.
“It was an accident?” he asked.
Martin bared his teeth in a spurt of frustration. “Whoever engineered the flap lever and parking brake to look similar and put them next to each other should be strapped to a rock for seagulls to peck.”
“Why not an eagle?”
“Because it will take longer,” Martin said. His blood thirst switched to indignation. “If bloody Douglas hadn’t distracted me by -” He snapped his mouth shut.
“It’s not important,” Martin mumbled. “But I’m sure he did it on purpose.”
“You landed the plane without anyone being hurt,” Eros pointed out. “Is that not enough good fortune?”
“Yes, landed and nearly shredded the tyres. A mechanic is going over G-ERTI to see if the gears were strained. I don’t think Tyche’s grace rained upon me, do you?”
Eros blew a breath out. “Then who will you give thanks to, little ingrate? Someone must have their due.”
Martin looked up. He really is getting good at gauging where my face is , Eros thought. “Athena. If I hadn’t spent all that time on the PC with the flight sim, I wouldn’t have been quick enough.”
Eros had to chuckle. “You’re right. Your self-education stood you in good stead today. But what with all your difficulties at work, I’m beginning to wonder if you are in the right profession.”
It was the wrong thing to say, Eros could see that in the way Martin’s shoulders tightened. Eros, you are a feather-head, he scolded himself. Don’t push at his love of flying, it’ll make him obstinate . He backpedalled. “I mean, is there something I can do about your coworkers? They don’t appear to hold you in much esteem. I can help, you know. I love helping.”
Martin blinked several times but his shoulders relaxed. “Carolyn’s my boss. And she terrifies me. Arthur’s not a problem… He does try to look out for me, as odd as that sounds. He’s nice.” His nose wrinkled. “Douglas - I don’t know. He’s good fun at times, but I get the feeling he’s just waiting for me to screw up so badly that he’d get to be a captain again. He never lets me forget he used to be one. I’m even wearing his old epaulettes! Did I tell you he gave them to me? That was nice. But he’s just so…”
“Superior? Patronising? Lucky?” Eros recited Martin’s usual refrain concerning his coworker.
Martin hunched a shoulder. “Sorry. I don’t mean to go on about him so much.” He took Eros’ wrist. “Thanks for listening to me whinge. Again. You’re… it’s nice.”
“Not at all. You and Arthur being friends I can deal with, though I’m slightly jealous.” Eros quipped. “Douglas, however…”
“Right. I don’t want to talk about him any more,” Martin said. “I think I’d prefer to, um…”
Eros grinned. One of the things he enjoyed about Martin was his intermittent bouts of shyness in the midst of his growing sexual skill. “Is the captain going to take control?”
Martin blushed but lifted his chin. “I am. If you’re up for it?”
“I am, as you say, up for it, and even down, if the captain wishes. Will the captain be handling the take-off or the landing this evening?
Martin gagged. “No aviation innuendos, I’m begging you.”
“Yes, sir. Pre-flight checks cancelled, then?” Eros extracted the lubricant from the bedside table and flung himself prone. His heart swelled with warmth as Martin clambered over to cage him with arms and legs. He caught Martin’s mouth in a kiss. Martin pulled away to brush his mouth over Eros’ ear.
“Besides, we’ll both be flying tonight.”