"...and then he didn't even give me his phone number," Martin said, flopping ungracefully into the armchair. "Said he'll call me. As if I haven't heard that one before." He sunk even deeper into the cushions. "Usually after job interviews though."
"Hmm. I'm sorry, Martin. Not to change the subject, but this is news to me. I thought you favoured the fairer sex."
"Ah, but I never esplici... explici... I never said that, have I?" Martin said, raising his eyebrows and smiling like a Cheshire cat - it was, presumably, an attempt to look enigmatic; in Douglas' opinion, it only succeeded in making him look even drunker than he was.
"Yes, very clever misdirection on your part. So, is it only blokes that float your boat, or fly your plane, as it were?"
"Nope, nope. I don't dis-cri-mi-nate on such petty criteria," Martin said, enunciating with great care. "Equal opportunity to find a partner."
"Or equal opportunity to get rejected, in your case, I should think..."
Martin's face fell and he flinched away from Douglas. Douglas sighed and grabbed Martin's arm to keep him in place.
"I'm sorry, Martin, that was very mean of me. What are your criteria then?"
"Well, if they like me, mostly," Martin admitted. "God, that is pathetic, isn't it? Don't- don't answer that. I find your lies are preferable to your honesty."
"I wasn't going to answer it. It's not necessarily pathetic, but it's not very wise. Once they stop thinking you're the best thing since sliced bread, things tend to fall apart."
He showed Martin his left hand, where a faint circular imprint could still be seen on his ring finger. Martin tilted his head in puzzlement, before connecting the dots.
"Oh. You've stopped wearing your wedding band."
"I don't tend to wear jewelry for its own sake."
"Oh. I'm so sorry. I wonder what's worse, never having had a proper relationship, like me, or having had one and then losing it."
"Well, you know what they say, 'tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all."
A sullen, reproachful silence followed.
"Oh, I'm sorry. Not the answer you were hoping for, then?"
"Doesn't matter. I wouldn't have believed you anyway if you said it was the other way around."
"Sorry, Martin, usually I would have found something comforting to say, but I'm feeling all out of sorts today."
"Hm, I didn't think the air controllers' strike would upset you that much. We're in Malaga, Carolyn is in London, we're even staying at a decent hotel..."
"No, Martin, it's not the strike. Not directly, anyway." He sighed. "We were supposed to have a meeting with the solicitors tomorrow, but since, as you astutely pointed out, we're stuck in Malaga indefinitely, and the meeting is in London, I won't be able to make it. I was just on the phone with Helena before you came in."
"Oh. Is she giving you grief about it?"
"No, actually. She's being terribly amiable and understanding. It's very unnerving."
Douglas could see Martin's confusion, but the captain didn't press the matter further. It would have required too much focus, Douglas supposed.
"How about you then?"
"What about me?"
"Do you favour women exclusively?"
"Hm. I have experimented, certainly - aviation was not the only thing Milo and I exchanged experience about - but on the whole, yes, I guess you could say I prefer women. There were always so many of them, I haven't needed to look further to fulfill my carnal desires."
"Fair enough," Martin muttered. He seemed dissatisfied with Douglas' answer, but then again, he'd been doing that all evening. "What about... you know, the other stuff? The companionship, the trust and mutual respect, and, you know."
"Ah, you're talking about rare and ephemeral bird of love. I'm never falling in love again, Martin. It's my New Year's Resolution."
"There's almost a month till New Year's. There's still time."
Douglas quirked an eyebrow, and searched Martin's face carefully for any signs of faked inebriation.
"Is that a threat, Captain?"
"What? I'm just saying. There's almost a month. Anything could happen in a month."
Martin looked at him through his eyelashes - long and delicate, damn him - in a fairly accurate attempt at a seductive look. His voice, made lower by alcohol, held interesting degrees of emphasis and insinuation.
"You know, Captain, if you're capable" - and willing, he didn't say out loud - "of reprising this conversational thread when you're sober, I might be willing to listen."
"Promise?" Martin asked, grabbing Douglas' hand as if to shake on a deal, except it was the left hand.
"Promise," Douglas said, sighing for what felt like the hundredth time that evening.
Douglas had been operating under the assumption that Martin was not only too drunk to know what he was saying, but also too drunk to remember he'd said it, the next day. If Martin did remember though, and if he didn't immediately panic about what he was remembering, things might just become interesting enough again. It wouldn't even be the first New Year's resolution he'd break before making. Like Carolyn always said, life was too short.