The skin on the back of Martin’s neck prickled as he entered the pub; it was not the sort of place he’d ever think of frequenting, filled with toughs, cigarette smoke and the scent of spilled beer. A telly blaring a football commentary garnered most patron’s attentions, however, and few spared him a glance as he spied Douglas at a table with a dreadlocked woman. With relief he made his way over to them.
“...but he just snapped at me that he was still the captain and stole my landing! Managed it in a mean crosswind as well, it was quite the thing. Not that I didn’t think he could. But you’d think he’d let a literal sky-god -”
“Love god,” Martin corrected, sliding into a seat. “Telling tales, darling?”
“Yes, dear. Were your ears burning?” Douglas gave him a quick peck on the cheek.
“Oh, thank the stars,” the woman said. “I was just thinking of arranging a diversion and escaping through the toilet window. He’s been complaining about you.” The flash of television glare on her glasses was like a wink. “In a fond way.”
Douglas grinned. “Martin, I’d like like you to meet someone special. This charming young lady is known around these parts as Lil’ Ty, sometimes rapper and street artist. Ty, you’ve heard plenty about my captain. Martin Crieff.”
Martin shook Ty’s hand, taking in the black sunglasses and tattoos around her forearms. “Street artist?”
“Some performance stuff, juggling, you know. Graffiti, mostly. You know what they say. ‘The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls and tenement halls.’” She tapped the side of her nose.
“She also does a good line in fortune telling,” Douglas added.
Martin stared. “Oh. Oh!” He looked from Douglas to her, his breathing coming faster. “Not… nothing bad?”
Tyche’s grin was toothy but not unfriendly. “Nothing to worry about, sweets. Nothing you can’t handle.”
“That’s not really reassuring,” Douglas muttered but straightened at Martin’s elbow jab.
Martin was still unsettled. “I… I don’t know what to do. Or say. Should I pray?”
“Not when we’re mostly incognito, dearest,” Douglas said. “You could stand her a round, though. Me too, I feel like you’ve been neglecting your devotions to me.”
Martin blushed but raised his chin. “N-not what you said last night.” Douglas chuckled at the retort, earning him a wry smile.
“Oh, skies, you lovebirds, enough already.” Tyche said. “Just come here, I want to congratulate the happy couple.” She leaned in for Martin’s hard hug.
“Thank you,” he said. She laughed and kissed him. Awed, he sat back with a thump, touching his fingertips to his mouth.
“For luck,” she said. Douglas leaned in, wanting his turn but she wagged a finger at him. “Nuh uh. Not you, peaches. You’re just plain trouble.” Martin giggled as Douglas subsided with a disgruntled look.
“I don’t see why I can’t get a kiss from Lady Luck.” Douglas said.
“Get them here.” Ty pointed at Martin. “You dole them out in small doses, Martin. Like medicine. Teach him not to get greedy.”
“Too late for that,” said another voice. Pothos took the last seat, setting his pint on the scarred table.
“Speaking of bad news,” Douglas said. “Why are you late?”
“Needed to make a dramatic entrance, of course, don’t be stupid. I was waiting back in The Symposium for ages for just this chance!” Pothos made a flamboyant gesture. “Ta da.”
“This must be…” Martin said, eyes flicking from the newcomer to Douglas.
“My cousin,” Douglas drawled. “You may remember him as the ‘dildo wielding catamite’ from that fateful luncheon over a year back.”
Pothos grinned, unfazed by the title. “That’s me. Just call me Porthos, no one's ever got my name right since that Three Musketeers movie.” He held out a hand.
Douglas stiffened, looking at the extended hand with suspicion. Pothos rolled his eyes. “Settle your feathers. There’s nothing up my sleeve tonight. Trust me.” Douglas snorted but Martin shook the proffered hand gingerly.
“Nice to meet you, ah… Porthos.”
“You too. Round for anyone? My treat, I’m in a sterling mood.”
Martin shook his head. Douglas said with some wryness, “I’ve decided to forgo traditional godly insobriety, for various reasons.” He squeezed Martin’s knee under the table.
“Skies, you’re getting boring again!” Pothos drummed his hands on the table. “Okay. So let’s settle this thing.” He pointed between Martin and Douglas. “You love him?”
“Yes,” Martin said.
“And vice-versa, I know.” Porthos sipped his bitter. “When did the ball drop? The words,” he clarified at Martin’s confused look. “When did you tell him?”
“Uh, five days ago? The seventh,” Martin said.
“On the anniversary of our joining,” Douglas said. Tyche made a cooing noise. “I’m ready at any time to fulfill my side of the wager. I promised that if you found a mortal you wanted, I’d use an arrow on them.”
In his peripheral vision he saw Martin straighten up. There had been some words between them already about forced feelings versus free will and choice. No matter that Douglas had argued that the arrow conferred true emotion and the person was happy. Martin had been fiercer than was his wont on the matter, having come so close to the same fate himself. He was only placated when Eros pointed out that for the most part, mortals just found their own paths to love themselves without any help. Influence here and there wouldn’t hurt, and if Martin couldn’t give up his flying, neither was Eros able to deny his own nature.
Anyway, a bet was a bet. Douglas lifted a long cardboard tube from beneath his seat. “I am willing to be generous, in fact, since the whole business has given me my greatest gift, the brightest of the bright, captain of my heart, my darling Martin.” Martin buried his red face in his hands and even Pothos choked at his bright effusiveness. Douglas placed the tube on the table. “Here. One arrow. Make your choice and use it yourself. I realise I am placing a great deal of trust in you to use it wisely.”
Pothos lifted a brow. “Generous? One arrow isn’t generous. You owe me a quiver-full and more. I’ve been dying to get my groove on as the new god of lurve.” He drawled the last like a teenage girl.
“I beg your pardon?” Douglas said. “I owe you nothing more than this. I won, after all.”
Pothos sighed in mock disappointment. “Is that what you think? Come now, don’t think you can pull one on a trickster like myself.”
“But, but, he did win!” Martin protested. “I, I said I love him! It was a year to the day!”
Pothos wagged his finger, tsk’ing. “The wager was made on the second day of Boedromion. Your declaration was five days too late.” He flapped a hand at Douglas. “Come on, old man. Hand it over!”
Red-faced, Martin leaned forward but Douglas held up a hand. “It was a year, as the wager stated.”
“The wager began the day it was made,” Pothos insisted. He drank deeply and set his pint down with a clatter. “Well, as much fun as this has been, I think I’d like my prize now. I’ve mischief to get up to, you know. Busy, busy. Just longing for some fun.”
Douglas felt his guise flicker. If his irresponsible cousin thought he was going to get hold of his powers… A hand on his sleeve pulled his attention to Martin who shook his head at him. Don’t give him the satisfaction, Martin said with the crease of his brow.
Douglas blew a breath out. As much satisfaction as it would give him to plant Pothos a facer, it wouldn’t do for immortals to brawl in public, particularly two gods of the aspects of love. Martin wouldn’t appreciate a mass orgy the way Eros did… Or would he? He’d have to ask later. The thought of Martin’s possible reaction made him smile slightly. Martin’s brow creased further in puzzlement but Douglas only lifted a shoulder. Go on, then.
Their exchange wasn’t lost on Pothos, who’d caught Douglas’ loss of control. “He really has seen you, hasn’t he? And he’s not affected?”
“I’m immune,” Martin said shortly. “Anyway. The, the terms weren’t clear. I was to fall in love with him within a year, but, but I hadn’t even met him at that point! S-so, the bet clearly was meant to begin on the day of our meeting, which was our wedding night! The seventh!”
“The boy has a good point,” Tyche said.
“Look at him, going all Dike of the Old Bailey on me,” Pothos grinned. “Okay, point granted. But the thing is? Touching though it might be, telling dear Douglas you loved him on your anniversary was still too late. The second of Boedromion is the second, not the seventh. It’s not my fault old Dougie here dragged his feet - why, he could’ve started chatting you up on the very day!”
Tyche sighed. Douglas felt his knuckles begin to itch for Pothos’ face. Martin wrinkled his nose. “Simon and I left before you, if you recall. Was he supposed to chase down a car?”
Pothos rocked with delight. “That would have been fabulous! But, no, I’m sorry. I must insist that -”
“I’m bored,” Tyche said. A rubber ball appeared in her hand. Pothos stared, caught off-guard and a little wary as she began to roll it back and forth, passing it from one hand to the other. “All this talk of dates, ugh. Like that even matters. It was a year, Porthos.”
Martin watched in confusion as Pothos’ expression changed to dismay. “But Ty -”
She popped the ball up and caught it. “It’s been fun, hasn’t it? We’ve all had a great time watching these two dance around and make fools of themselves, right? No insult intended,” she added in an aside. Douglas shrugged.
“And you set that up for us, sweety,” she said to Pothos. “It was some pretty spectacular entertainment. Thanks.” Her smile was toothy. Pothos’ lips curved up. “But luck, ya know? It’s just so fickle. Martin here can tell you. He’s had some amazing luck, yeah? And I like him, so he’s got some pull with me. Though he’s too nice a guy to pull strings.” She gripped the ball, fingers tightening. “So don’t push yours, sweets.”
Pothos held up his hands in a warding gesture. “Okay, fine. It was a year. You win.”
“Agreed,” Douglas said quickly.
Tyche laughed. “It was fun, though. C’mon, loser, I’ll buy you a drink. See if you can get into any more mischief.” She stood and held out her elbow. Pothos snatched up the cardboard tube and took her arm. His old sly smile was back in place.
“My pleasure, Lil' Ty. Quite the lark, wasn’t it? My best trick yet.”
Douglas and Martin stood as well. “Thank you,” Douglas said with fervour to Tyche.
Tyche waved an airy hand. “Always good to have someone owe you a colossal favour, right?” Her earthy laugh trailed after as they went to dim hall that led to the toilets and The Symposium.
“Wow,” Martin said.
“Yes,” Douglas agreed. “Isn’t she just.”
“I think I have a new favourite deity,” Martin said, dreamy-eyed.
“The Hades you do,” Douglas said. “I’ll be pleased to earn your renewed devotions tonight, indifferent and cruel supplicant. As many times as it takes.” He grinned at Martin’s eye roll and held out his hand. “Let’s go home.”
It was agreed by both Martin and Eros that they’d rather just continue living as they were. Eros would maintain his guise in public and Martin would call him Douglas for the sake of appearances.
Or as Eros put it, “While I’m happy to live quietly out of the public eye for your sake, darling, I’ll be damned if I’m going to keep my hands off you during the daylight hours now.”
“Not at work!”
“Oh, come on, have a heart. I’ve plans for that hat of yours! Think of all those flat surfaces in G-ERTI. It would be a blessing! Of a sort.”
“Oh, ye gods, no!”
The sticky problem of explaining their marital situation to Carolyn resolved itself one day when Douglas and Martin were discussing the issue one morning in the Portakabin.
“She’s not going to like it! How would you feel, knowing that in spite of being the boss and CEO, your employee is always going to have the upper hand?” Martin asked.
“This is Carolyn, after all. First, she’d find some way to try and turn it to her advantage, not that I’d let her…”
“That’s exactly the kind of thing I’m talking about!” Martin threw up his hands.
“You don’t go around every day worrying I’m going to love-zap you, do you?” Douglas lifted a brow, a little concerned for the answer. Martin relieved his mind with a snort.
“Too late for that. Ugh, I’m not sure I want to think about Carolyn under the influence.”
“Don’t be ageist. There’s a sandal for every foot, after all. And my second point: don’t you think she’s going to notice that we’re, um…”
“Affectionate with each other?”
“I was going to say, obviously infatuated and shagging each other up against every surface, but yes, all right, my reticent captain.” Douglas stretched out a long arm and plucked up Martin’s hand, rubbing the knuckles with his thumb.
“Douglas, Carolyn’s going to be here any minute!” Martin tried to tug his hand away but Douglas refused to relinquish it. “Are all the gods like you? Lacking any sense of discretion?”
“There are no gods like me, darling.” Douglas reeled his prize closer. He caught Martin’s belt loop with a finger to hold forestall his escape and began planting kisses on the inside of Martin’s wrist, moving upwards. Martin’s breath caught as Douglas’ hair fell forward, tickling his skin at each press. “And I’ll wager that when Carolyn knows…”
“Knows what?” Carolyn’s tone was severe..
To his credit, Douglas did not jump. A god did not jump merely because one’s employer was snake-stealthy in opening the office door. And could be frankly terrifying at times as well, let’s not forget that, his more sensible hindbrain piped up. He kept hold of Martin’s hand. “Martin and I were discussing something important that we needed to tell you,” he said as smoothly as he could while Martin jerked and flailed like a hooked fish trying to free himself from Douglas’ grip.
Carolyn raised her brows at their linked hands. “Pray, do tell.”
Douglas cleared his throat and composed his face. “I am a love god. In fact, I am the love god.” Over Martin’s choking protest he went on, “And Martin is my husband.” He hooked an arm around Martin’s hips to anchor him, turning him to face Carolyn. Hidden from her gaze, his thumb began stroking the edge of the waist of Martin’s trousers, teasing shirt fabric up in a quest for skin.
Carolyn’s face was absolutely blank. “The god of love. Eros.”
“Yes,” Douglas said helpfully. “That’s my name.”
“Married to Martin. You.”
“You were at the wedding. Don’t you recall I left suddenly? I needed to prepare the wedding chamber.” Douglas winked as her gaze sharpened. She turned her gimlet eye upon Martin, who was tomato red.
“Martin? Is this true?”
Martin nodded frantically, not trusting his voice. Douglas now had untucked a tiny portion of Martin’s shirt and was taking advantage of the chink in his armor to rub tiny circles into a sacral dimple. Douglas drawled, “Really, Carolyn. It’s as if you don’t trust us. You know Martin can’t lie to save his life.” He smiled his best Douglas smile.
Carolyn sniffed. “I don’t know what you two are up to -”
“No, really, it’s true!” Martin burst out in spite of himself.
“Ha, ha, funny pilots. Don’t strain yourself. Douglas a god? Only in his own mind.”
“You’re just trying to get out of buying us an anniversary gift,” Douglas complained. “I was hoping for an alarm clock. Just thing thing to wake us up those mornings we’ve slept late.” He beamed fatuously up at Martin, who was either ready to burst with frustration or laughter.
Carolyn gave him a severe look. “Yes, and that’s another matter if you two actually are having an affair. Oh but wait - I don’t care. Do what you like in the privacy of your homes and don’t get myself or MJN involved. Yes? Fine.” She lifted her chin. “Are the flight plans filed? Good. I’m going to do the offering and when I get back, everyone’s uniforms are still to be in place and unrumpled.” She paused with the door open as Arthur bounced in. “Martin, I do hope you know what you are getting into.”
“Yes,” Martin managed in a strangled tone as Arthur asked, “Getting into what? Douglas, are you hugging Skip?”
Carolyn sent them a mocking smile and left them to explain to a confused Arthur.
“Yes, I am, Arthur,” Douglas said. Martin reached behind and levered Douglas’ hand from under his clothes, stepping away.
“But why? Skip, are you okay? You look really flushed.” Arthur’s normal ebullient expression was beginning to be coloured with upset.
“I, er, I’m fine, Arthur,” Martin said. He drew a deep breath. He was well and truly caught. Well, best to try and get it over with. Douglas was being no help whatsoever, lounging back with the leer of an unrepentant satyr. “Arthur, Douglas and I, er. We’re married, I, I mean, he’s my husband. And I’m his.” Martin tried to ignore Douglas’ snicker and articulate. “We, I, he’s the one I married. But I didn’t know it was Douglas at the time. Do you understand?”
A series of expressions were flickering over Arthur’s face as Martin stammered his wholly inadequate explanation, before Arthur’s face cleared. “You mean - oh. Oh! All this time, you and Douglas? That’s brilliant! Two of my favourite people, in love? Wow! I wish I’d been the one to set you up. I’m so glad, Skip. For a while, I thought Douglas was trying to get you to cheat on your husband, but I guess it’s all right, since he is your husband after all.”
Martin breathed relief. Arthur understood. Would he understand that Douglas’ identity should be kept a secret? Well, on the other hand, who would believe it, Martin thought. He scarcely believed it himself some mornings.
Arthur grinned before realisation bloomed. “But Douglas, why did you have to marry Skip secretly? I remember how Skip thought he was marrying some horrible monster, and then he thought he was married to some god!” Arthur shivered. “Imagine if he’d been married to something like Thunderbird. I don’t want to meet another god if I can help it, though I don’t mind praying. That was scary. Thank goodness he’s got you instead.”
Martin’s mouth open and closed like a fish’s. Douglas murmured, “Yes, just imagine if that had been the case, darling. Marrying some terrible, ancient, dark god.”
Martin shot him a dirty look. After a moment’s thought, he mentally threw in the towel. As long as Arthur knew he and Douglas were together, the details didn’t really matter, did they? “Okay, yes, Arthur, it was a secret at the time, and I did think he, he was a… a scary, terrible god. And I didn’t realise for ages, and I was pretty angry with him when I found out.”
Arthur’s smile dimmed. “Yeah. Wow. I guess I would be, too.”
Douglas interrupted, “But Martin forgave me, and everything is sorted out now. Isn’t it, dear?” He held out a hand. Martin rolled his eyes but took it. Arthur beamed at the sight.
“Congratulations! Again, I guess. Hey, I got to give Skip a kiss after his wedding for luck. How about you, Douglas? It wouldn’t be fair otherwise.”
Douglas raised his brows but Martin smirked. “You’re right, Arthur, it’s only fair Douglas gets his share of congratulatory kisses.”
“Oh, why not,” Douglas sighed. “Share the love.” He stood and submitted to Arthur’s crushing hug, though Arthur only bussed his cheek. “Thank you, Arthur.”
Arthur bounced on his toes. “It’s just so brilliant! Though I still don’t get why you had to marry Skip in secret, Douglas. Why didn’t you just ask?”
Douglas opened his mouth for a patented Douglas-story, but Martin beat him to the punch, a dangerous gleam in his eye. “D- Douglas didn’t think he had a chance with me.”
Douglas’ mouth twitched. “That’s… quite true.”
“Thought he was too old,” Martin went on. “You’d never know to look at MJN’s own sky-god, but he’s very insecure about his age.”
Douglas’ voice was strangled as he admitted, “Yes, I am.”
Arthur was all sweet commiseration. “Aw, but Skip’s nice, Douglas! You should have courted him the normal way, I’m sure he would have given you a chance. I mean, you’re clever and fun and really handsome. For an older chap.”
“He’s right, Douglas.” Martin cast him a soulful from under his lashes. “I’d never hold your age against you.”
Douglas swallowed a bark of laughter. “I know better now. It was a shameful thing, tricking you into marriage. I’m deeply sorry for it. But you see, Arthur, I couldn’t let him get away.”
Upping the ante, he took both Martin’s hands and drew them to his chest as if he were a pantomime prince and Martin his princess. “It was love at first sight,” he declaimed in his most melting voice. “I had to use all my charm and wit to woo him and win his love. But I finally won, and Martin was good enough to grant me the precious jewel of his regard.”
He noted with pleasure the tell-tale flush creeping up Martin’s neck. It seemed he’d have to repeat the performance in bed some night. Or perhaps in the flight deck when he needed to distract Martin from some tantrum about flight regulations.
“What he means is, I took pity on him and put him out of his misery,” Martin summarised for Arthur.
Arthur looked as if all his best fairy tales had come true. “Gosh, that’s brilliant! Love at first sight? That explains our shopping trips together, right, Douglas? You were buying romantic things for Skip! But…” He wrinkled his brow. “Why did you tell Skip you were a god?”
“Again, my tragic lack of confidence.” Douglas heaved a sigh. “Martin’s standards are very high. he’s actually quite picky and very discerning. I really wanted to impress him. I mean, look at him, so, so very…”
“Yes?” Martin queried. “So, so very…?”
Douglas quelled him with a lofty look. “Martin-ish. I just didn’t think this old sky-god had a chance.”
Martin squeezed his hands. “Yes, that’s right, not a chance in Hades. No, really, Douglas, you should have just said something.” The teasing tone was underlain with seriousness.
“Oh, let’s not go into that again, my captain,” Douglas said.
Judging from Arthur’s grin, their bantering had put the cherry on the top of their tale. The door swung open again on Carolyn. “Oh, for the love of the gods, you two! Stop corrupting my boy.”
“As you wish, oh chiefest of CEOs. In just a moment,” Douglas said and bent over Martin's hand. He brushed a kiss over Martin’s knuckles, turned his hand over and touched lips to the sensitive skin of his wrist, noting the quickening pulse at his wrist before releasing him. “All right, captain?”
Martin coughed. “Yes. Um. Yes. Uh. I’ll, er, I’ll just go do the walk-around.” He left hurriedly, his shoulder colliding with the door frame in his haste. In spite of Carolyn’s withering stare, Douglas couldn’t help chuckling.
“...and thus I saw you, and Iove scorched my heart. Brighter than Helios in his orbit, your flaming hair, more painful than love’s arrow, your sad smile. You came to me, and cooled my mind that burned with my longing.”
Martin made a sound of appreciation that was almost a purr and curled closer to Eros’ side. “Did I look that miserable the day you first saw me?”
Eros trailed fingers up Martin’s forearm, enjoying how goosebumps followed his fingers as he traced them through the fine hairs. “As I recall, your brother Simon was giving you a brotherly bollocking about money. You looked more sulky than anything. But I’m employing poetic licence.”
Martin hummed and rubbed his head against Eros’ shoulder. His grey eyes were lightened to a gorgeous silver in the shafts of late afternoon light that streamed into their bedroom. The draperies were rarely closed now; Martin had had enough of darkness in their lovemaking. Eros was more than happy to indulge him. Seeing Martin’s face lit with the sun as he gasped out his pleasure, lips parted on Eros’ name, was a gift he would never not value.
“What exactly was so special about me anyway?” Martin asked.
“Still underrating your attractions, darling? Mm. This. What’s within.” Eros pressed fingers over Martin’s chest.
“Only in a figurative sense, though that’s beautiful too. Your essence. Your determination, your passion. Your spark. It was… It is...” Eros trailed off. “Special.”
Martin breathed out against his skin. “Hard to believe out of all the mortals, it had to be me, is all.”
Eros’ lips curved. “Well, I may have mentioned it before, but I think you’re terrific.”
“And fussy and pedantic and picky. And maybe on some days - terrific.”
“Grand. As long as you grasp that, our shared belief in the terrificness of you will get us by.”
Martin was quiet for a while. “Um. I, I’d like to try something.” He sat up and pulled a paper from the drawer of the bedside table. “Read something, I mean. Don’t laugh, I’m not very good at this sort of thing.”
“Oh? Are you about to indulge me with a limerick? I admit, the way you -”
Martin pinched him. “No! Just… just… I was thinking of that first poem you left for me on the fridge, the morning after our wedding and I… Well, I wrote this for you.” He took a breath, the paper trembling in his hands. “I - I’d crown you with ivy, and in your, your shining hair the goldenrod place. In darkness you crept into the chambers of my mind, and with fire pure lit the torch within my chest. Eros, come to me and take my hands, for you lift my heart and, and… with love’s wings I can fly.” He buried his face. “Oh, gods, it’s crap, never mind.”
“Never. What did I just say about being terrific?” Eros pulled his red-faced spouse up and peppered him with kisses until the ache in his heart at Martin’s stammered words had transformed to sweetness and Martin was laughing. “And that’s why I love you, darling.”
“Why is Laird Leverhulme going to Edinburgh, anyway?” Douglas said.
“He’s the MP for the Highlands and Islands. Some Parliamentary proceeding he needs to attend,” Carolyn replied.
“Yes, but why?” Douglas asked.
“Why is he, a Scottish lord going to Scotland? Why is he an MP for his area, why Parliament or why Scotland?” Carolyn asked. “Be clear, Douglas.”
“Why all of it?” Douglas said. “He hates Scotland, he told me so. Says it’s full of rain and dour Scots.”
“Anyone would be dour compared to the laird,” Martin said. “Wait, you understand him? I can never catch more than one word in five!”
“You’ve never heard an accent unless you’ve spoken to Greek goatherders,” Douglas said.
“Be that as it may,” Carolyn said. “He’s going to Scotland because he is a frequent -”
“Daft,” Martin and Douglas both chimed together.
“And respected client. Who is also Scottish. Enough of your silly questions, peons. Now, since he introduced them, Arthur’s off being best man for his friends Roddy and Nigel today. I’ll be your crew this jaunt. You know the drill.”
“Don’t touch the service button while you rest your eyes in the back,” Douglas droned. “We know.”
“Can she call us peons? Me, sure, but what about you Douglas? What with you being a god and all,” Martin said.
“Ha, ha. That joke is getting tedious,” Carolyn said with a sniff. “And I will not be resting my eyes, I will be busy doing vital and important paperwork.”
“Sleeping,” Martin mouthed at Douglas and flinched as Carolyn tweaked his ear. “Hey!”
Carolyn swirled out as Douglas bent over his yoke, holding in his laugh. “Oh, shut up,” Martin said in a sulk. “She’d never dare do that to you.”
“Yes, but that’s because she’s secretly in awe of my dignity and presence, not because she thinks I’m actually a god,” Douglas said. “So refreshing. I do enjoy the insults.”
“Perverse,” Martin flung at him. “Check list’s done. Offering’s been given, prayers prayed. Ready, First Officer Richardson?”
Douglas smiled. “Always, Captain Crieff. Golf Tango India to Tower, requesting permission to convey one Flying Scotsman up, owerby and awa.”
“Permission granted, Gulf Tango India. Fling up yer kilts and awa with ye, you’re clear ro go. Over.”
“Thanks, Karl, o’er and oot.”
“Douglas, you know there’s a protocol to use when speaking with ATC,” Martin said, but without much heat. “You’re a professional pilot, you should act like one.”
“And yet…” Douglas drawled. He slanted a smile at Martin, who couldn’t help responding in kind.
Altitude achieved, Martin sighed in contentment. Douglas watched the slender hands on the yoke and decided the time was right for a distraction.
Martin slanted a smile at him. “What’s the bet? This flight’s so short, there’s not even the cheese tray to wager.”
“A haggis lunch when we land?” Douglas suggested.
“Haggis!” Martin wrinkled his nose. “That’s not a bet, that’s a dare!”
“All right. Loser gets the haggis. Alliterative offerings to gods at airports.”
“Oh! Erm.” Martin frowned.
“I offered ragi rava dosa to Rama at Rajiv Ghandi Airport,” Douglas offered.
“Hang on, let me think! Er… Thor. Er, I offered toast to Thor at Tromsø Airport.”
“Toast, really, Martin?”
“It’s bread, isn’t it? It’s a proper offering!”
“Fine. I offered yams to Ymir at Yverdons-les-bain.”
“You’ve been prepping for this,” Martin accused. “This isn’t fair!”
“Consider my ancient self and the immortals I’ve known. Certainly I have an advantage, but I’m not cheating.” Douglas couldn’t contain his smile as Martin sputtered. Oh, how he loved his indignant darling.
“I offered, I offered….plums to Pothos at Paros Airport!” Martin snapped.
“Oh, nasty,” Douglas said with appreciation. “Why does he get a mention and not your dear husband?”
“Because I can’t think of a food that involves sex bits that starts with the letter ‘e’,” Martin retorted. “And because my dear husband wants me to choke down Scottish offal.”
“Be fair, there’s oatmeal involved in haggis. I offered ikura to Izanagi at Iceland.”
“Ha! There’s no airport by that name!” Martin crowed. “I offered ikura to Izanagi at, at… Izunami Airport!”
“Well done. Sir has an astonishing grasp of airports. I see all the hours on Flight Sim have paid dividends,” Douglas said.
Martin looked pleased with himself. “We’re probably about even, then. Did you do that on purpose?”
“Perish the thought.” He had.
Martin yawned and worked his jaw.
“How’s the inner ear?” Douglas asked. “Still troubling you?”
“It’s fine, perfectly air-worthy.”
“I do feel bad about yesterday.”
“No, no, I loved it!” Martin’s face lit up. “Finally, I got to fly with you! Well, we fly together a lot but…” His hands danced and wove through the air. “Flying flying! With wings!”
“Yes,” Douglas agreed. “With wings. Though I don’t need them to fly, understand. It’s just for the look of the thing. And because you expect them.” He drank in the contented glow of Martin’s spark. Eros was also part of that glow now. The blessings of Martin, that he could contain not one great passion in that slender frame, but two - love for flying and love for his husband. He’d been a fool to ever be jealous. Douglas smiled.
Martin sighed with happiness. “I want to do it again. As soon as we can. Just…”
“Fewer loops. Or larger ones?” Douglas suggested. “It’d be even better if we got your ear problem fixed. I wonder if Panacea could do it.”
Martin grimaced. “I can smell the peanut butter already. If she always does her work using paste, I don’t want her in my ear.”
“Just an idea.”
“Yes. Thank you for thinking of me.” Martin leaned over the panel for a kiss. Douglas hummed in appreciation.
“For you, darling? The sky’s the limit.”
Martin flashed him a grin. “Love you, too. Eggs for Eri at Erinagh Aerodrome.”
“Ah, but that’s the modern pronunciation. It should be, ‘eggs for Ériu at Erinagh.’ Or Enniskillen.”
“You can’t just steal mine by correcting my pronunciation, that wasn’t part of the rules!” Martin began to flush. “You always try something like this!”
“But, darling,” Douglas purred.
“Darling nothing! No additions to the rules!” Martin stated.
Douglas heaved a dramatic sigh. He was thoroughly enjoying this, and he knew that Martin secretly did as well. “All right, yes.”
“Yes, Sir.” Douglas saw the quiver in the corner of Martin’s mouth, though he steadfastly faced forward, back ramrod straight. He turned his own face to the view outside, noting that the forecasted clouds had dissipated. “My captain.”
And they flew into the clear, blue skies.
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Author's notes - My first Cabin Pressure fic. If you have any comments or questions or note a mistake, please let me know! I'd appreciate it. Thank you for taking the time to get to this point!