“I’m assuming that you, being the painfully shy person that you are, never told the lovely Tim how you felt, and left the bright lights of Slough behind you still wondering what could have been.”
“Of course not! Well, I mean, no. I never told him how I felt, but that’s not all.”
Before Martin could elaborate, Arthur burst in with the cheese tray.
“Ta-da! You’re in luck today, chaps, because Mum says she doesn’t feel like cheese. She left you the camembert.”
“How generous of her,” Douglas replied drily.
“Oh! And I thought of something I should have told you quite a long time ago!” Arthur added, beaming.
Douglas looked confused for a moment, before he remembered the fictional game he’d mentioned.
“Yes! Armadillos... can walk underwater!”
The two pilots were silent for a moment as they digested Arthur’s announcement.
“Armadillos,” Martin echoed. “You needed to tell Douglas about armadillos?”
“I needed to tell everyone,” Arthur corrected him. “Because it’s brilliant. I saw it on telly a few weeks ago and I meant to tell you then but I forgot.”
“Well now I know,” Douglas finally replied. “And I will be forever grateful, Arthur. Is that all?”
“I could tell you some more about armadillos.”
“I think we should save some for later, don’t you?”
“Good idea. I’ll come back,” Arthur said, smiling, and left the flight deck.
“Now, after that bombshell... what were you saying?”
“We went out again. Not just us, everyone from the office. To... what was it called? Henry VIII’s.”
“Ah, one of the many cultured nightspots of Slough.”
“I barely knew half of the people there, they just wanted an excuse to have a night out. I stayed with Tim...”
“Now there’s a surprise.”
“And the others!”
“And was there tequila involved?”
Martin went a little bit red. “Not tequila specifically. I was planning on being good, I really was, but it was my last night there and... well, it didn’t take much at that age.”
Douglas smiled. “Martin, it doesn’t take much now.”
“No, yes, I know, but- anyway! The point is, I’d had a bit to drink.”
The bouncer outside Henry VIII’s gave Martin a cursory glance that he assumed was meant to be intimidating, or to communicate that he was only letting him in out of the goodness of his heart, but Martin knew how desperate the place was for patrons. He smiled innocently as he took back his ID and headed inside to find his colleagues.
He spotted David and Chris Finch hanging by the bar, Finchy making an obscene gesture and David laughing far too much. Martin turned away, hoping to avoid them, and scanned the room for Tim. Eventually he saw him, huddled into a corner booth with Gareth on one side and Keith on the other, looking thoroughly thrilled to be there. As Martin approached Tim’s face broke into a smile.
“Hey, here he is!” he said. “I was worried you’d chickened out! Shove over, Gareth, let Martin sit down.”
Gareth stood up, picked up his drink and muttered something about going to talk to girls. Martin took the spare spot next to Tim.
“How are you going, then? You all ready to go?”
“Almost. I’m going to see about a flat when I arrive. It’s not much, just a little attic bedroom in a student house, but it’s not forever.”
“Word of advice, then,” Keith intoned, and Tim flinched ever so slightly in anticipation. “If you’re going to be hanging around with students, you want to make sure you always use a condom. Because they are... filthy.”
Tim blinked, looking perplexed but not entirely surprised.
Martin nodded, trying not to laugh. “I- I’ll remember that, Keith, but I don’t plan on- on- well, on sleeping with them.”
Keith shrugged slowly, taking a sip of his drink. “That seems like a missed opportunity.”
“Drinks!” Tim said, suddenly. “Martin, you need a drink. Let me get you one.”
He stood up quickly and began heading for the bar.
“Vodka tonic!” Martin called after him, smiling.
Martin’s head was feeling pleasantly fuzzy and his hands rather more uncoordinated than usual. He was laughing at Tim’s attempts to wind Gareth up, and watching David dancing out of the corner of his eye.
He glanced at his watch and frowned. He hadn’t realised how late it was getting.
“Tim,” he said, trying to drag Tim’s attention away from Gareth. “Tim. I should go soon, I’ve got lots to do tomorrow.”
“Noo, no, no, no,” Tim said, quickly. “Come on, it’s your last night. One more round.”
Martin smiled, knowing that he’d really been hoping Tim would say that.
“Ok, but just one more!”
Tim nodded, slightly too seriously to be believed, and went to get more drinks.
An hour later, as Martin made his way back from the toilets (finding the “Mind your head” sign far more amusing than he would have at any other time), he remembered that he had been planning on going home.
“Tim!” he yelled over the music. “I should go home!”
Tim yawned. “Yeah, I’m almost there too. I might head off. Martin’s going, guys!” he called, turning to the small group of co-workers gathered around him. “Martin’s leaving, say goodbye!”
A few shook Martin’s hand, while the others waved and smiled.
“Good luck, Martin!” David cried, flinging a drunken arm around Martin, who staggered backwards slightly.
“He’s not going to war, David,” Tim joked, attempting to detach Martin from David’s arm.
They made their way outside, pulling on their jackets. Martin laughed as he stumbled down the few stairs at the front door.
“Careful,” Tim said, holding out a steadying arm. “I hope we can get cabs.”
“We’ll be fine,” Martin slurred, grinning, still holding Tim’s arm. They moved to lean against a quiet section of brick wall around the corner, out of the sight of the glaring bouncer.
“That,” Martin said. “Was fun. I’ll miss you all.”
Tim smiled, patting Martin on the back. “Yeah, we’ll miss you too,” he said.
Martin looked up, and suddenly found himself thinking that Tim was the perfect height. He didn’t make Martin feel short, but he wasn’t too short, either. And in fact, his mouth was at the perfect height for-
“Mmff,” was approximately the noise Tim made as Martin kissed him, tensing in surprise for a fraction of a moment before he reciprocated, his hand moving down Martin’s back and pulling him closer.
Tim’s tongue in his mouth, Martin thought, may have been the most wonderful thing he had ever felt. It was enough to drown out the fact that he felt quite nauseous. Rather overjoyed at his apparent success and not entirely thinking clearly, it didn’t take long before Martin reached a fumbling hand out for Tim’s belt buckle, loosening it just enough to slide his hand down Tim’s trousers.
Tim made a strangled noise against Martin’s mouth, his hips bucking involuntarily. This happened to be the same moment a young man walking past called out, “Get a room!” and also, rather unfortunately, the same moment it occurred to Martin that he was about to throw up.
He pulled himself away from Tim, stumbled instinctively towards the nearest rubbish bin, and emptied his stomach contents into it.
Soon after that, Tim must have put him in a cab, because the next clear memory he had was of his mother tutting in disapproval and bringing him water and painkillers.
Tim Canterbury knew he shouldn’t be thinking about another man’s hand down his trousers.
But, he supposed, it was his own fault for mentioning said man to his fiancée and then allowing her to send him a wedding invitation.
He should probably stop thinking about it, though, since he was supposed to be washing the dishes.
“Hello, you,” Dawn said, slipping her arms around him from behind and resting her head on his shoulder. “You’re daydreaming. What were you thinking about?”
“Hmm? What? Nothing.”