[23rd of Thargelion, Year 4 of the 696th Olympiad, late spring]
[Local Date: 平成二十一 , 早月, 十八日 (Year 21 of Heisei era, Satsuki - month of planting rice sprouts, 18th day)]
“Hades take our mistress and commander, or in view of our locale, may she meet Enma in hell.” Douglas slung his flight bag into the locker with unusual vehemence. “We scarcely touch down in Osaka and get some sleep before we are flung skyward again with a great sodding load of ‘mums. Why on earth would anyone want a jet-full of flowers from Japan anyway? It’s not like there aren’t plenty in the British Isles.”
“Gates of Hell,” Martin corrected as he ran through the pre-flight checklist again. “Enma is the lord of Hell. He stands at the gates and decides which path the soul takes. The chrysanthemums are for a Japanese exec’s imperial-themed party. Some nostalgic charity event, I understand.”
“Ha. Lady of Hell, more like. She’d challenge him to a duel, cut him to pieces with her tongue and take over the place,” Douglas said. “And be well-suited to the job, toe, deciding who is reborn as an animal.”
“Oh, that’d be brilliant, coming back as an animal!” Arthur said, appearing in the door with hands full of carrier bags. “I’d quite like to be a raven.”
“A raven?” Douglas said. “I’d have thought you’d want to come back as a dog, Arthur. Lying about all day, sniffing things, walks. Very relaxing.” Martin rolled his eyes, thankful Douglas had forgone the obvious comparison with Arthur’s cheerful inanities and dogs’ intelligence.
“Yeah, dogs are brilliant. But people say, ‘It’s a dog’s life!’ and they don’t mean it’s nice at all.” Arthur opened the galley fridge and began loading plastic boxes into it. “But ravens, they look like they are having a laugh all the time. They’re clever. I’d like to be clever. Best of all, you often see them just hanging out. Like me and you guys. And we’d go flying just like now!”
“That’s… very insightful, Arthur,” Martin said. It reminded him of himself as a boy, the winged god telling him that as a pilot he wouldn’t fly alone. “Sounds good, in fact.”
“Having wings is brilliant,” Arthur assured him.
“Is it? I suppose so,” Douglas said. “Were you able to get the unagi ?”
Arthur closed the fridge and pondered. “Er, well, I got oo-something with the bentos. It’s got some yellow squidgy stuff on top?”
Douglas pursed his mouth. “ Uni . Ah, well. Not perfect, but not a bad substitution. Especially as considering I’d been hoping to have a lovely dinner of hand-made sushi before Carolyn got this new contract.”
“What are those?” Martin had to ask. Douglas, with his years of international flying and gormandising under his belt, had an enviable knowledge of local delicacies.
“Unagi is grilled eel. Delicious and a well-known aphrodisiac.” He winked at Martin. “Uni are the raw gonads of sea urchin. and also an aphrodisiac.”
“Urgh!” exclaimed Arthur. “I’m not having any of that. You’d never eat… eat sea goolies, would you, Skip?”
Martin bit the side of his mouth. “Don’t think I need the help,” he murmured. Douglas overheard him and crossed his arms, tapping a finger until Martin looked up at him. Douglas smirked.
“My, my. Is that a smug reflection upon being married to a love-god, a shot at my aged decrepitude or an oblique reference to Sir’s stamina?”
“That’s for me to know, and you to to yearn for,” Martin said but couldn’t help the smile twitching up the corners of his mouth.
Arthur interrupted the banter, saying loudly, “I got you a Don Bowl for you and octopus balls for me, Skip.”
“Octopus what? Douglas, shut up,” Martin hissed as Douglas shouted with laughter.
Arthur held out the carton. “They’re breaded bits of octopus tentacles made into round balls, see? I don’t care for the tentacle lumps but I love the breading around them! Try one?”
Martin choked a negative. Douglas opened his mouth, presumably to make a joke about Japan, tentacles or balls but Martin cut him off.
“I just finished the checks. Walk around done?”
“Done, done and well done. Nothing left but to fly thousand of pounds worth of iced ‘mums across the mind-numbing stretches of central Asia.”
Martin groaned. It wasn’t the flying, never that, but their last trip through Siberia had been tedious in the extreme.
“Don’t worry, chaps!” Arthur said. “If you get bored up there alone in front, there’s always charades...”
“No!” said Martin and Douglas in unison.
“Oh,” Arthur whined.
“Omsk Tower to Gulf Tango India, continue on your current vector, stay on target and good luck.”
“Thank you, Tower, and pust' sila budet s vami, young Skywalker,” said Douglas. A snort was the reply to his sally, and he clicked off.
“Was that, ‘May the Force be with you’, Douglas?” said Martin. “I didn’t know you were a fan.” This leg of the trip was Douglas’ and he had nothing to do except keep him company and monitor.
“Of course. I fancy I’d be a Jedi master.”
“Not Han Solo?” Martin could picture a younger Douglas as the devil-may-care pilot.
“Ah, Sir flatters me, but no. Jedi, definitely. Intelligent, charismatic, and blessed with uncanny ability? That doesn’t sound like any pilot in this aeroplane?”
Martin made a disgusted noise. “Think a lot of yourself, don’t you?”
“What can I say? The gods always go out of their way to make life easy for one Douglas Richardson.” Douglas smiled his lazy smile, sure of his place in the world.
“I suppose in your world-view that must make me the helpless princess.”
“As I recall, she only asked for rescue once, but if the shoe fits,” Douglas drawled. Martin yawned and stretched.
“Fine, have it your way. I’m going to use the loo. Want a drink?”
“Yes, I could use a good drink, Princess. Is there any of that sake left from the offering?”
“Ha hah. Green tea for you.” Martin unclipped his harness and made his way back through through the cabin. G-ERTI’s cargo hold had been filled with cartons of budding chrysanthemums that had overflowed into the cabin. Styrofoam boxes were under seats, in overhead bins and even belted into seats. Arthur was engrossed in a Nintendo game and waved at him as he passed.
He used the toilet, washed his hands and looked at himself in the tiny mirror. Pale, freckled across his nose, a bit tired. Nothing special, really, aside from having an immortal spouse. Odd, though. Ever since Qikiqtarjuaq, Douglas had been nicer to him. It was almost like - like flirting. Why? And why? And why him? Douglas was a handsome man, older to be sure, but still capable of attracting lovely beings of either sex with ease.
Martin sighed. Maybe once upon a time, he’d have been thrilled to have Douglas’ attentions, but now? Typical of his luck that once he was off the market, he was getting more attention than he’d ever had.
And then there was Arthur. Martin wasn’t quite sure what to make of the steward’s behaviour. Douglas’ flirting, well, that was Douglas . Arthur’ solicitude, the slightly nicer cheese trays - well, maybe Arthur was trying to be extra helpful. Only to Martin, mind. But the way Arthur cut in when people got too flirty with Martin, that was just… odd. It was almost as if… No. Stupid thought. Arthur was just looking out for Martin like any good friend would.
Martin raked his over-long hair back,. He ought to get a haircut, never mind how his husband enjoyed the tumble of curls. After a final squint in the mirror, he returned to the galley and got out a bottle of water and green tea. They were warm. Martin frowned. “Arthur?” he called. “There’s something wrong with the fridge.”
Arthur joined him. “You’re right, Skip. When did that happen? It was fine when we left.”
“Never mind. It’s G-ERTI being her inconvenient self,” Martin sighed.
“How well does sushi keep if it’s warm?”
“Not very well.” Martin considered the bento boxes. “We could eat now them now, I suppose.”
“I know, Skip!” Arthur said. “We can use some of the ice from the flowers! I opened one to have a peek - it had big chunks of ice in bags.”
“Good idea.” Martin unbelted a container. The white foam box was cumbersome and heavy on one end. G-ERTI dipped in a pocket of turbulence and he staggered. The box slipped from his grasp and caught on an armrest, cracking and spilling its frigid contents over the carpet. “Oh, hells. Arthur, can you get these flowers?” Several stems and buds were mangled. He’d have to note that on the cargo manifest.
Arthur busied himself tidying the ‘mums and Martin grabbed the two ice bags by their twisted tops. One slid neatly into the space between the shelves in the fridge but the other was much too bulky. Martin looked at it in irritation. He couldn’t leave it unsecured and it was going to leak everywhere. Fine. Down the toilet it went. He carried the bag back to the loo, untwisted the top and let the chunks of opaque ice clatter into the steel bowl. Martin hit the flush button and watched as the bright blue liquid swirled and the pieces were sucked down into the tank. Satisfied, he turned away.
That was when the noise began - a sort of bowel-deep rumble from the innards of G-ERTI. Martin froze. The noise rose to a liquid burbling moan. The hairs on Martin’s arms quivered and rose. He turned back. The bowl of the toilet was full of heaving, bubbling bright blue, which began to rise in in a turbid fountain, splashing over the sides and up the walls. A white mist was curling around his ankles, growing thicker as he watched with mouth open.
“Oh. Oh, sweet gods. Arthur. Arthur!” Martin shouted. Arthur appeared at his side, eyes wide and mouth agape.
“Skip. What did you do?”
“I flushed the ice. Why is it doing that? Was that ice?” Martin scrabbled at a nearby box, looking at the label. Japanese - he couldn’t read it. He tore it open, shredded the ice bag with his nails and yelped. It burned. “Oh ye gods, dry ice, it was dry ice! I just dumped two kilos of dry ice into a tank full of chemicals!”
The toilet made a horrific slurping sound and they both jumped, clutching at each other. “Skip, it’s… not going to blow up, is it?” Arthur whispered. A bubbling tidal wave began to spread, staining the carpet with alien blue. The mist was drifting along the aisle.
“Skip, what are we going to do? Won’t the smoke detectors go any second?” Arthur’s fingers were digging into Martin’s biceps. Martin was not ashamed to admit he was probably drawing blood in return.
“I don’t know!” Martin’s mind tried to hide gibbering in a corner of his head. “Um, um, um, just - oh gods, get some blankets and dam up -” Blue splattered the walls of the loo and their trouser legs with foam as the toilet gave forth a mighty belch. “Never mind, just run ! ”
They legged it to the flight deck and burst through the door, panting.
“Douglas!” “Douglas, help!”
“Did you bring my drink? Oh, you brought me an Arthur. I find this substitution unacceptable.”
“Douglas, the toilet is - I think - Douglas, I think the toilet… I, we, it’s everywhere . ..” Martin’s tongue refused to cooperate.
Douglas glanced over his shoulder and his brows shot up. “Why is there a wall of white creeping up behind you? Is there a fire?” He looked at the smoke detector light which remained unlit. He tapped it. “Not crying wolf, I see. What’s going on? Quickly.”
Arthur’s hands were flapping. “Douglas, the toilet is going to blow up and the tail will fall off -”
Martin tried to speak over him. “Uh, there was this ice, and um, um, it may have gotten flushed -”
“And I don’t think I had training for when toilets explode -”
“And now there’s fog in the cabin and a geyser of toxic chemicals leaking all over and we happen to be in this metal tube thousands of feet up -”
“And we’re going to die and Mum will kill me if I do that!”
“So as the captain I believe the best thing is to divert and ditch in the nearest airfield.”
Douglas cut across the panicked babble. “Ice? What do you mean?”
“Dry ice! I didn’t know the flowers were packed with dry ice, the fridge was broken and Arthur suggested -”
“So Skip dumped a bag in the toilet.”
“I didn’t know it was dry ice !” Martin’s voice hit its upper registers.
Douglas began unclipping his harness. “I’d better take a look. Martin, sit. Arthur, you too. Stay calm. Breathe, Martin. Don’t move, don’t do anything except fly this plane. Better yet, engage autopilot and don’t touch anything . ”
He left at a near-jog, disappearing into the thickening mist. Arthur plonked onto the jump-seat, hands gripping the seat as if manacled there. Martin jittered. If Douglas didn’t say anything within ten seconds, he was definitely radioing for help. And ditching. He didn’t care what Carolyn would say - diverting was less costly than crashing.
From the back of the cabin came a whoop of laughter that expanded into a belly laugh. “Double, double, toil and trouble! Oh, oh, you pair of clots . It’s positively...” The sentence trailed off as Douglas began laughing helplessly.
“Douglas!” Martin howled. “This is not funny! I don’t want to be known as the pilot flying the first plane - no, the first vehicle in the history of mankind to crash because a toilet exploded!”
Douglas re-emerged from the fog and shut the door, grinning. “Why worry? It would hide all the evidence. But we’re not going to crash.”
Arthur blew a breath of relief. “Oh, I knew it would be all right.”
“Not yet it isn’t. Arthur, go find something long and thin that will reach into the tank. We need to stir that witch’s brew up, to dissipate the CO2. It’ll stop the reaction that’s causing the overflow. Scoot.”
Arthur, evidently much happier with something to do, ran off. Martin’s neck muscles were in knots. “Shall I radio that we’ve an emergency? I’ll radio.”
“Not yet. Martin . ” Douglas’ voice was commanding. “Think! Knowing you, you’ve read the specs on G-ERTI backwards and forwards. Is there anything beneath the cabin in the rear that can be damaged by the overflow?”
Martin dug his nails into his sweating palms. “Um. Um.” He closed his eyes and visualised. “No. There’s wiring for the floor lights, of course. Nothing major to short out. Just the cargo area, for the most part. And that’s full of boxes.”
“Which are plastic and unlikely to suffer harm. Good. I think we’ll be good to press on”
Martin released a shaky breath, his heart rate beginning to slow. Oh, thank the gods, thank you Tyche, I didn’t kill us all with a weaponised toilet . “Okay. Fine. Great!”
Arthur flung open the door brandishing a long metal tube while mist drifted around him, a beaming conqueror in a red cravat. “I found this! It’s an extension thingy for the fire extinguisher. Will this work?”
“Perfect!” congratulated Douglas. “Stick that magic wand into the tank and start swirling. We need to get the bubble out of the broth. Our intrepid captain will join you shortly.” Arthur saluted with his tube and left.
“Oh, Douglas, I don’t think -” Martin began. There had been a lot of liquid on the floor. Sterile, to be sure, but full of dye and chemicals and… other stuff. He’d rather step back and let Arthur handle it.
“Not thinking is the reason there’s well over ten gallons of Smurf fizz ruining Carolyn’s carpeting,” Douglas pointed out. “You flushed it, my captain. It’s only fair you finish it.” His wide grin and sparkling eyes showed only too well how he was enjoying his temporary ascendancy over his superior. Martin snarled but gave in.
“Fine. You have control -”
“Ah, ah, ah.” Douglas held up a finger. “Where do you think you are going?”
“You just told me!”
Douglas shook his head, as if saddened by what the world had come to. “I cannot believe it. My captain, the soul of rule-stickling, the prince of procedure, is going to entrust the lives of two souls to his knowledge of G-ERTI’s mechanics?”
“You have to contact flight control. Get a patch through to the mechanics and tell them the problem. Just to be certain.” Douglas’ expression was prim. Martin’s mouth opened and shut several times.
“You… you … want me to call. A mechanic, one that just might know the schematics of an outdated jet like G-ERTI. And explain to them that our toilet exploded, never mind how.”
“It is the correct procedure. My captain,” Douglas said in a pious tone.
Martin’s eye twitched. Oh, my sweet gods of the air . So this - this seething mass of irritation and resentment - this was how Douglas felt whenever Martin clobbered him with proper procedure. He’d be damned before he told everyone on this frequency that he’d turned his plane into the flying equivalent of a mens’ toilet at a glam rock concert. Douglas could do it, gods damn it!
Douglas waited, a gleam in his eye.
Martin's mouth opened. To his surprise, a choked giggle came out. “Yes. Of course.” Another laugh escaped. “Sorry, sorry!” He just had to bow to the inexorable absurdity of his situation. “By all means, First Officer Richardson. I’ll make the call.”
Douglas looked surprised that for once Martin had decided not to throw his rank around. Martin clapped both hands over his mouth to smother the giggles as the awful tension found its release. Douglas’ deep chuckles joined his as tears of hilarity swam in Martin’s eyes.
Martin gasped for breath. “Right. Oh, ye gods, I wish I wasn’t about to do this.” He flicked the switch for the high-frequency radio. “Gulf Echo Romeo Tango India, calling Omsk Tower…”
The conversation was every bit as tricky as Martin had thought it would be.
"Well, uh, we have this issue, uh, it appears that... that some dry ice was flushed into the toilet tank..."
The mechanic sounded more curious than appalled. "What? How did dry ice get in there?"
Martin ground his teeth."Yes. Someone put dry ice in the toilet and flushed it."
Douglas, unabashedly listening in, lifted his brows. ‘Someone? ’ he mouthed.
"Who did that? And why?"
Martin floundered for a moment. Gods, he was pants at skirting the truth. "I... uh... I... I'm not sure the why and who are relevant -"
"Well, I have to put it in the report, because if there's a concern of safety or security, then procedures may have to be updated or corrected."
Douglas slumped in his seat, shoulders shaking with laughter.
Martin sent a silent prayer to the gods for patience, scowling at Douglas. Of course he’d get a mechanic who liked things by the book. The irony was choking. "Oh, well, um, we're carrying cargo that are in cartons, and the contents are being kept cool by dry ice. One of them broke open and a bag of the ice fell out. To dispose of the ice, the, uh, a member of the crew, thinking it was regular ice, decided to flush it down the toilet."
"Okay. So this was done by a crew member? Not a passenger?"
"Yes, that's right."
"Can I have the crew member's name and position, please?"
Martin’s brain stalled. "Uh... I... uh..."
Douglas stage-whispered, "It may have begun with a 'C'."
Martin muted the radio and turned on him. “Gods curse it, Douglas! You made me make the call, will you please just shut up already?”
Douglas’ broad grin was ear-to-ear. “Apologies, my captain. Carry on with your masterful dissembling.” Near the end of his tether, Martin made a strangled noise. Douglas shut his mouth and mimed zipping it.
Martin flicked the radio back on, hunching away from Douglas and lowering his voice. "Is the name really necessary? I mean, I don't want to embarrass the poor fellow - he already feels bad enough as it is -"
"All right, fine,” came the reply. “I'll just put 'crew member'. Well, moving on..."
The ordeal at last ended with the bemused mechanic corroborating Martin’s theory. “Nothing to worry about, mate. You’re handling the situation just fine. Keep agitating the stuff until there’s no more mist. Press on.” Martin switched off and pressed his head back into his seat.
“Heavens. You’ll never let me live this down, will you.”
“Not a chance,” Douglas agreed. “By the by, it’s not that I didn’t have faith in your knowledge, Martin. I was quite certain you were right about the wiring.”
Martin rolled his head to look at him, surprised at the compliment. “Thank you.”
Douglas smirked. “But who am I to pass up such a golden opportunity to take the piss?”
Martin groaned. “No. That’s awful.”
Douglas lifted a brow, the smile still curling his mouth. “In the meantime, best you battle your way through the mists to the terrible toilet and join the fray with Arthur. It’s the least you can do after the fright you gave him. Once more unto the breach, Princess.”
Martin screwed up his face but levered himself from his seat. “Smug git. Well, I suppose I needed new shoes anyway.”
He slammed the door on Douglas’ snicker.
Martin awoke as the sheets were slowly dragged down his body. He uttered a cranky noise. A low laugh was his response as the covers inched their way down past his hips and down his thighs.
“Sweet, it’s lovely to have you back, safe, sound and - what’s this?”
My bare arse? Martin thought as cool air touched his skin. He’d collapsed into bed after his shower when he’d got home, forgoing the trouble of pyjama bottoms. Not that he minded being woken up by his husband. Martin hummed sleepily. Love-making more than made up the inconvenience of taking naps at odd hours to keep up on his sleep. Besides, when he absolutely needed it because of an early morning flight, his husband seemed content to wrap himself around Martin and let him slumber in his arms. Martin shifted his hips, willing to be awoken in more than one way.
A stifled snort of laughter caught his attention.
Martin’s brows drew together. “Mm?” What was so funny - oh! His eyes sprang open as he scrabbled for the sheets. “No, no, don’t look!”
The covers were yanked away. “Oh, yes, yes, Martin! Don’t you dare hide these marvels from me!”
Martin sat up cross-legged, shoulders hunching in embarrassment as he tried to tuck his feet as far under his knees as he could manage. “I tried to wash it off.” Several times, until his skin was sore.
“But they’re so… blue ,” his husband marvelled, the laughter still lurking in his voice. A hand snaked around his ankle and tugged. Martin wriggled and slapped at the wrist to no avail. His shame was dragged out kicking wildly and he toppled back on the bed. “Oh, sweet skies, Martin, how? How can you fly off to Osaka one day and come home with these? Is this some bizarre Asian fashion? Tell me it’s not.”
“Let go - ah! ha ha! Stop that!” His husband was running his lips along the arch of his foot, and was now biting lightly at his big toe. “You might want to stop… no, oh, oh!” Martin put his free foot against his husband’s chest and pushed. “You don’t know where it’s been!”
“This foot has been to Japan, and now it’s a charming indigo. But I won’t know where’s it’s been more specifically until you tell me, sweet.” Martin screeched as lips were placed against the bottom to make a farting noise. “Speak, I won’t stop until I have the tale!”
“Oh, gods.” Martin squirmed. “Fine, fine.” His foot was lowered and fingers began kneading it. “Well, um. We were on the last leg, when… when someone put dry ice down the toilet.”
“I thought you had no passengers. Did Carolyn find a customer for the homeward flight?”
“No, no passengers. It was just the usual crew, excepting Carolyn.”
“Surely Douglas wouldn’t -”
“No, of course, our mighty mortal sky-god wouldn’t do anything like that,” Martin said, testiness escaping him.
“Ah. Must have been Arthur the Clot, yes?”
“I… er, well…” Driven to the last ditch, Martin debated whether he should let the blame fall on Arthur. Honesty made him say it. “Uh. No. No, it wasn’t Arthur.”
His husband was grinning, Martin knew it. “Oh, but who could it have been? There’s only one person left, and leaving out stowaway ninjas -”
Martin covered his face with his hands and groaned. “Okay, yes, it was me, it was me! I flushed dry ice down the toilet! I was the one who caused a reaction that flooded the cabin with blue fizz! Satisfied now? I’m the clot, the idiot, the dolt who did it! So I spent the rest of the flight helping Arthur clear it up. My shoes and socks were ruined, and before I could change them, the damage was done.”
His husband was shaking, with an occasional giggle escaping. “Oh, Martin.”
“Are you happy now you know what a blockhead you married?” Martin said, indignant. “I mean, who on earth could possibly laugh knowing that their spouse left a perfectly normal colour and came back a, a blue-footed booby ?”
At that his husband couldn’t contain a shout of laughter. “You are precious, if a tad prone to accidents. I wouldn’t exchange you for a thousand mortals. You’re my booby, blue-footed or otherwise. I’m happy to have you home and safe, regardless of the condition of your feet.”
“Well, I did have a few bad moments,” Martin said. Utter panic, until Douglas smacked me about the head and told me to think . “But once I realised the flood wasn’t going to short anything out -”
“Oh, good. I’m glad. I’d have hated for there to be new safety protocols written into the books concerning what to do if a toilet explodes. Poor Martin.” He snickered again at the thought. “But I do dread what might happen to you, you know.” The god pressed a thumb into the pad of his foot and Martin groaned in pleasure at the massage. “You are competent, if only you’d relax and realise it.”
“You think so? How do you know?” Martin sighed as the hands moved up his calf, soothing and caressing.
“I know you . And it’s rather attractive on those occasions when you forget your lack of self-confidence.”
“Oh. You - you think so?” Martin considered. The unseen hands continued their teasing strokes, sliding up to his hips. One part of Martin was feeling confident of his attractions and was insisting he do something about it.
“Again, I know so. How about it?”
“Fine. You’re on.” Martin sat up, the hands on his waist guiding him as his husband rolled them until he was straddling his thighs. Once atop, he felt unaccountably shy and lowered himself to lie on his husband, kissing him to cover his uncertainty. His husband hummed in appreciation as their erections were pressed between them. Emboldened, Martin nipped that full lower lips and sucked it into his mouth, hitching up a leg to rub their lower bodies together.
“Mm,” his husband whispered. “Oh, that’s lovely. Could this be the mating dance of the blue-footed booby I feel? I like it.”
Martin was betrayed into a snort of laughter. “Sorry! Oh, gods, must you say things like that when I am trying to seduce you?”
“Sweet, I was seduced the moment I laid eyes on you. Never fear laughter in the bedchamber - love-making is not life or death. I take pleasure in your laughter. But where were we? Ah, yes. Me, under you, at your mercy? Carry on.”
“Scoot up, then.” His husband obliged, sitting back against the headboard while Martin positioned himself between his legs. He hadn't been very good at this to start with, but under his husband’s skilled tutelage and demonstrations, he was growing better. He grasped the root of his husband’s erection and mouthed at the tip, letting his tongue slide over the slick groove before taking it in. A hand settled on his hair as his head moved, applying gentle suction and using his tongue. Gods, this was nice, he was enjoying having a cock in his mouth with heavy breathing and groans encouraging him. He did feel capable, more so than he had with other lovers. Confidence was sexy. He took himself in hand as the hand carded his curls, pumping himself slowly in time to the movement of his head.
“Skies, Martin.” The voice was hoarse and Martin felt a thrill of power. “Get up here, please, I can’t take much more of that.”
Martin firmed his grip on his husband’s cock. He rolled his eyes up to where he supposed his lover’s face would be and hummed low in negation.
A shaky sigh. The fingers tightened in his curls before falling away. “As you will, then.”
Martin pulled off with a gasp, smiling a tiny smile. He closed his eyes and let the wet tip trace the shape of his mouth, enjoying the small curse his action wrung from his husband. Letting his own aching erection go, he curved his hand along a hip until his fingers pressed into springy buttock. He took a deep breath and went back to his task with gusto, encouraging tiny thrusts with his hand and controlling how deep he swallowed with the other. There, just that rhythm, saliva making everything slick as he pumped, oh yes, those noises, I’m doing that to him, me -
“There, I’m there, Martin - ”
Beneath his tongue Martin felt the first pulse begin. He choked, swallowed, and swallowed again. Oh, smooth one there, Martin . With care he drew his mouth away and took a deep breath. But either his husband didn’t notice the bobbled finish or didn’t care, as hands found Martin’s shoulders. He was guided up to lie against his husband’s heaving chest. Before he could protest about the state of his mouth, Martin was being thoroughly snogged. Oh, well, then. He gave himself up to the kiss with enthusiasm.
“You’re marvellous,” his husband said. “Oh, I could watch you doing that for hours, but I don’t want to be greedy and wear out this perfect mouth.” Martin’s ears turned hot at the compliment.
“Oh, yes! On the other hand, the more godly nectar you consume, the closer you’ll be to being an immortal yourself.”
“What?” Martin yelped. Oh, ye gods, no one ever taught me that in religious studies! He felt the betraying quiver of laughter beneath him and dared to thump his husband’s chest. “You sod, you nearly gave me a heart attack!”
His husband wheezed. “Sorry, but your face! Trust me, if you ever taste nectar, you’ll know it.”
Martin sniffed, and tasted the corner of his mouth, tongue curling in what he hoped was a provocative manner. “Well… in the meantime...”
“Little tease,” his husband growled and kissed him again. “Turn around. It’s my turn to take care of you.”
In short order Martin was positioned on his husband’s lap, back against his broad chest and head resting against a shoulder. There was click and a lubricated hand settled around Martin’s neglected cock with assurance. Martin blinked. “Do we need, ah, lube for this?”
“Might do,” said his husband in a non-committal tone. “Tell me how to go on, though.”
“Um,” Martin said. Gods, his face must be beet-red now, he wasn’t much for talking in bed. “Um. Could you - just a bit tighter? Ah, yes.” He covered his burning face with a hand and spoke through his fingers. “Uh, a little faster, oh - oh, yes, that’s nice.”
“Hand down, darling, I can’t hear you,” his evil husband said. Martin reluctantly took his hand away and fisted it. The slick hand smoothed up and down his erection, thumb brushing the tip with each stroke. Martin’s hips began to move up into the grasp, seeking more friction. The hand immediately loosened and Martin groaned his frustration.
“No, sweet, you’re in command here, all you have to do is - tell me,” the rich voice purred.
Martin felt a whine start in the back of his throat. “Gods, fine, please, just - tighten your grip, more, and, and do it harder. Oh, oh - no, no, no no!” Again his husband’s hand had slackened the moment Martin’s hips twitched. “All right, all right! Just - just like before, only faster!”
The small battle went on for some time until Martin was covered in sweat and frantic, babbling and no longer caring what came out his mouth. “Oh, damn you, please, please, I need to, your hand, oh sweet Eros, your gods-damned hand, faster -!”
“Yes,” his husband whispered against Martin’s damp cheek. “Yes, darling, as you command.” His hand twisted just so and Martin’s back arched as he came, blind and deaf to anything but his release.
He came round to the murmur of sweet nonsense into his hair. “Bright, bright, beautiful spark, so wonderful, my Martin…” Lips pressed his brow, his cheek. “Are you with me? Lovely love…”
“Ungh,” Martin managed. His brain was sluggish. “Oh, by Eros. How do you do that?”
“Is this where I make an age joke again?” His husband chuckled.
“No, but really. You’re like some kind of love god.”
There was a small pause before his husband replied, “Mmm. Thank you.”
Martin’s attention snagged. “Wait. Wait. You’re not really?” From rosy afterglow his brain kicked into high throttle so fast a spike of pain shot through his head. Wings. Feathered wings, and unbelievably good love play. No, not just skill and experience - a preternatural knowledge of what to do and when and… and ancient, and WINGS.
“You are . Oh gods, which one?” Martin’s heart was trying to beat itself out of his chest. “Please not Anteros, I don’t want to be punished! No, no… Let me think!” He jackknifed forward, grasping his hair. “Feathered wings, not butterfly wings. Pothos?”
There was a snort. “Don’t insult me.”
Was he Himeros? No, not that one, Martin wasn’t suffering unrequited love or uncontrollable desire. Well, yes, he did have the odd burst of lustful thoughts during boring flights but... “I mean, yes, gods, you’re amazing, no one’s been better at sex but - but -”
Oh, skies, did I say that aloud? I did.
“I did say if you guessed, I’d confirm it,” his husband said. “Martin, sweet, don’t yank like that, I prefer your hair on your head.”
“Okay. Okay.” Martin panted, open-mouthed. “Okay. So, since the others are not you and you can only be you, the only one left - however unlikely it is - must be you.”
“Unlikely how?” His husband seemed genuinely curious.
“That - that - that you are… You must be… that your name is…” Martin gulped for air. “I - I - I… excuse me, I need to use the toilet.” He catapulted from the bed and went in the direction of the door. He found it via a door handle in his sternum, knocking the breath from him.
“Martin!” The voice behind was both alarmed and annoyed.
“Sorry. Sorry!” Martin fled down the dark hall to the toilet and slammed the door. Lock - would a lock keep out a god? He locked it anyway and switched on the light for good measure. There. He couldn’t see Er... his husband in the light. Ergo, his husband also couldn’t see him with the lights on.
A flash of white had him whirling around. It was only his reflection in the mirror. He looked at himself - eyes huge and shocked, complexion white enough that his freckles stood out in stark contrast, his own come dripping down his chest. A snort of hysterical laughter escaped him.
This was what Ero - his husband - had married. Martin turned on the faucet and splashed water on his face. He grabbed a towel and wiped the mess from his skin, hands shaking. No, it couldn’t be true. It just couldn’t. What in Hades was his luck? The god he’d met as a child, the one he’d venerated above all others - now his spouse? It was frightening, even creepy, as if he’d been Fate’s stalking horse his entire life. He slumped, sitting on the edge of the bath, elbows on knees and head bowed. A tap at the door brought his head up. “You can’t come in! I - I’ve got the lights on!”
“Turn them out,” Ero - his spouse said in such a reasonable tone that Martin wanted to scream. “Martin, won’t you come and discuss this? I hate to do this through a door. I’d no idea you’d react in such a - no, scratch that, your reaction is entirely consistent.”
“What, you thought I’d just go, ‘Oh, right then, jolly good!’ simply because the god of… because I’m joined with…” Martin gritted his teeth and got it out. “Because I’m married to Eros?”
“Ah,” the voice on the other side of the door sighed. “Yes, that’s it. Say it again?”
“Eros! Eros is my husband. You are Eros, and I’m your consort! Happy now?” Martin shouted. “I’ve guessed it! God of love! Eros! Eros! Eros!”
“Mm. That didn’t have quite the same effect,” his husband said. Martin’s brain reeled with another realisation.
“Oh! Oh - you… you! You mean every time I accidentally called his - your - the name during sex, I was praying to you?”
“Well, it was a sort of invocation, and entirely natural, given the circumstances,” the rich voice pointed out.
“You never said anything!”
“I assumed you weren’t actually guessing my name.” Eros sounded a shade cynical. “What a person shouts in the throes of passion isn’t the most reliable evidence, you know.”
Martin gurgled with fury. “It must have been hilarious for you!”
“No,” Eros said. “No, not at all. Rather a different feeling, to be honest. Martin, won’t you please open the door?”
“Nope, thanks, I think I’m good,” Martin said. “I’m quite comfortable. Could be here awhile.” He wasn’t, though. The porcelain of the bath was chilly against his skin, he was shivering and all the extra towels were in the linen cupboard in the hall. He wrinkled his nose at the damp twisted towel in his hands.
“Oh.” The syllable was a low exhalation. “If that’s how you feel, darling. I’ll let you be until you come to grips with it.” There was the sound of a palm placed against the door. “It hasn’t been all that bad, has it? Think about it.”
Martin listened to the retreating footsteps and felt a heel. A humiliated, cold heel. Yes, it had been an arranged marriage. Yes, his hopes for a normal, mortal marriage had been swept away. But - the god of love . And him!
Martin rubbed his temples. He’d prayed for love for so long and he’d got, well. The god of love. What kind of cosmic overbalance was that? He’d been chosen. Why, why and why? Was this all some kind of elaborate trick? The erotes were known for slinging arrows indiscriminately at unfortunate sods. What if this whole thing was a ruse to make Martin fall in love? Martin drew his shoulders in. What if he’d been shot by love’s arrow?
But had he? Was he? Martin wasn’t in love. Was he? Oh, gods, he couldn’t think. He… he was grateful for the house and the bequests for his family. There was affection, certainly. Eros teased him and made him laugh. The love-making, well. And he seemed to think the world of Martin. Hapless, hopeless, undistinguished mortal Martin Crieff. Unbelievable but true. Why? Insecurity, his constant companion, swooped around him.
Martin drew in a deep breath and let it out slowly. Never mind that now. He was married, god of love or not. It was working. He could do this. He firmed his resolve, stood and reached for the lock. But before his hand could reach it, the lights went out. He yipped. Nothing happened. “Uh. Hello?”
“Now before you get upset with me, I’d just like to say that it’s entirely up to you whether you come out of the bathroom before daybreak, darling,” Eros’ rich voice said.
Martin flicked the switch. Dead. “You’re not going to try and talk me out? What’s this, then?”
“I’m a being of darkness, sweet.”
“That’s not fair!”
Eros’ voice rose over Martin’s indignation. “I’m not saying you ought to come out, or that you must - but if you do decide to, I just wanted to make it easier on us both. I mean, what if you saw me?”
And went mad or… fell irretrievably in love against his will? Neither was a good option. “All right, fine. I was coming out anyway.”
“Oh, good,” Eros said, relieved. “Unless you’d rather I came in? We could take a shower. I’ll wash your back.”
“Er, not now.” Martin cut off that promising train of thought. “Maybe another time? I think…” A yawn cracked his jaw. “I think I’d like to go back to bed. I’m all right now.” He groped for the door, unlocked it and stepped out.
“Martin?” The deep voice was tentative. Martin reached and touched bare chest. On impulse he wrapped his arms around his lover. Strong arms came around him and squeezed Martin tight. He buried his face against the broad shoulder and breathed in the scent of warm skin, a little in awe of where he was and a bit frightened. But mostly, he felt… content. Happy, even.
Eros stroked his hair over and over, not showing any inclination to move from where they stood in the chilly hallway. It occurred to Martin that his husband was not being his usual teasing, warm self. “Sorry,” he said. “I didn’t mean to upset you.”
“No need to apologise. It was stupid of me to make you try and guess my identity. I should have told you sooner.”
“I don’t think my reaction would have been any different,” Martin had to say. He bit his lip. Should he tell Eros that’d they’d met when he was child? No. The coincidence was too strange and a little frightening.
Eros huffed a laugh. “Perhaps not. But please don’t run off like that, Martin, if you can help it. I didn’t like it.”
Martin read the too-tight clasp of the arms around him, the small tremble. Oh . “I’m sorry,” he said again. “Can I - How about we run off to bed? Together?” He knew it was a stupid joke.
Eros picked up the lighter tone with ease. “We’ll walk. With dignity and accord.”
“Nude and dignified? Is that even possible?” Martin asked.
“Of course. You’ve seen all those Greek vases. I’ll teach you,” Eros said magnanimously. They returned to bed, arms around each others’ waists. Martin fell asleep against his husband, wrapped in downy warmth as Eros’ wings settled over them.
Previous / Next