It was Douglas's fault to begin with. Most things were. To be fair, it was technically Martin himself who had unintentionally insulted the Australian sumo wrestlers--and it was Carolyn who had booked the ill-fated flight in the first place. It was definitely Douglas who had shoved Martin into the flight deck locker, though.
The locker already containing one standard-sized Arthur, who'd ducked in there at the first signs of a row.
"Oh, hush, you're small, you'll fit," Douglas said over Martin's protests. "Give me your hat and try not to breathe too loudly in there. Better yet, don't breathe. Leave this to me." He slammed the door.
The locker was a cramped fit for one man. Ridiculous for two. Breathing was barely an option. "Sorry, Skip," Arthur said, after two and a half minutes had passed. "But I think my left elbow's gone to sleep. Could I just-- Is there any--"
"Shhh," Martin told him, absorbed in listening to the muffled sounds of Douglas placating half a dozen angry twenty-five-stone men. He grabbed Arthur's twitching left arm and wrapped it around his waist.
"That's better," Arthur sighed. "Thanks. You don't really think they'll damage the plane, do you? Or...damage Douglas, for that matter?"
"He'll handle it," Martin said. "Douglas? Are you kidding? He could talk his way out of a...out of a..."
"A paper bag?" Arthur suggested. "Talk his way out of a paper bag. That's an odd expression, isn't it? It would have to be an awfully large paper bag, for starters. And why would--"
"Arthur, for god's sake, be quiet!"
"Right. Sorry, Skipper."
They were basically standing there hugging, Martin realised, when the first waves of terror and adrenalin had worn off. He'd touched Arthur before, certainly--it was a small plane; there wasn't room to get shirty over personal space. They stood close, got in each other's way, brushed past in the aisle all the time.
They'd never stood pressed together for minutes at a time before, though. And it felt--oh god--really nice.
"I've been meaning to tell you I like that new soap you've been using lately, Skip," said Arthur, whose nose was more or less jammed into Martin's neck. "Sort of orangey-lavendery-honey-y. What is it?"
"Washing-up liquid," Martin said flatly. "I'm all out of bath soap. Haven't had a chance to shop this week."
Arthur, in fact--Martin couldn't believe he'd never noticed it before--smelt amazing: clean and warm and slightly masculine, but not in a loads-of-aftershave kind of way. He just smelled good. And the gentle stirring of his breath against Martin's ear and neck was proving very...stirring. Martin shifted uncomfortably, glad suddenly that it was his back that was pressed up against Arthur's front, and not--
Douglas yanked open the locker door very suddenly, sending Martin sprawling out onto the flight deck at his feet. "All clear! Oh. Terribly sorry, Sir," said Douglas, sounding not at all sorry. "I fear I forgot to review the proper procedures for 'securely stowing members of one's crew into hiding from a vengeful mob' during our last safety drill. How negligent of me."
"Douglas!" Arthur said reproachfully, climbing out and leaning down to offer Martin a hand up. "You all right, Skipper?"
"Fine, fine." Martin shook him off, picked himself up gingerly, glanced down at his trousers, and staggered quickly in the direction of the loo. "Just...need to use the facilities."
"Don't be long," Douglas called after him. "I've coaxed them off the plane with free drinks vouchers for the airport bar."
"Brilliant!" said Arthur. "How did you happen to have six free drinks vouchers for the airport bar in Brussels, Douglas?"
"I didn't," said Douglas. "Hence, we'll be wanting to take off again as quickly as possible. Martin, I repeat: Don't be too long in there."
Reasons to Avoid Developing a Crush on A.
2. Probably unreciprocated
3. Endless potential for mockery from D.
4. A bit dim
5. Lives with his mum
6. Mum = my employer
7. Mum = CAROLYN
Martin read over the list again. He went back to item 2 and crossed out "probably," went down to 4. and changed "a bit" to "quite" (then felt guilty and changed it back), and underlined item 7 twice. He considered pocketing the list so that he could take it out and look at it during times of need, but then realised how horribly unsafe this would be. Instead, he committed it to memory before tearing it into small scraps and putting them into the bin.
On his way out the door, he stopped, went back, and poured brown sauce all over the scraps in the bin as an added safety measure.
The trouble was that a second list insisted upon forming itself in his head over the days that followed. A list with items on it like Always in a good mood, Smells v. nice, and Likes aeroplanes (nearly) as much as I do. Martin also added Thinks I'm brilliant, after some deliberation--it was true, no question there, but then Arthur thought everyone was brilliant, including Dirk, Katy Perry, and the bloke they'd had in to fix the microwave when Arthur accidentally zapped a cup of tea for forty minutes rather than forty seconds.
He did give Martin rather a lot of compliments, though. In fact he was the only one who gave him any compliments ever, which no doubt accounted for the fact that it gave Martin fizzy floaty feelings whenever he did it. And it seemed as though it had been happening a bit more frequently ever since the Locker Day. Hadn't it? Or perhaps not. Probably not.
He somehow managed not to get around to buying new soap.
He found himself making excuses to go into the galley, to see if Arthur still noticed the washing-up liquid scent. If he did, he didn't mention it. At one point Arthur turned round suddenly to face him in the tight quarters with a delighted look of astonishment, and Martin felt his heart slam to a stop and then begin to race so fast that it seemed it might be trying for an escape.
What he said, though, was "Skipper! Did you know that if you rip the lids off from things really fast, you can play different musical notes with them?" Martin looked down and saw that the the galley worktop was covered with dozens of opened food and drink containers. "I can nearly play 'Twinkle Twinkle Little Star' with two cups of apple juice, two mousses, and a bag of cashews," Arthur went on with great enthusiasm, "but I haven't quite figured out the second 'twinkle' yet. Are you by any chance very, very hungry?" he added hopefully.
Martin scooped up a juice cup and several opened bags on his way out. "Try the tinned pears with the pull-off tab," he advised. "Douglas likes those." He went back to the cockpit munching cashews moodily and cursing himself for twenty kinds of fool.
In the end, it was Arthur himself who forced the issue. Martin had given up in despair, and resolved to touch up his online dating profile once more. He was contemplating this grim prospect and going through the motions of cockpit shut-down and cleanup after a routine trip to Cannes, when Arthur suddenly appeared in the doorway and asked "Can I get your help with something, Skipper?" and, when Martin followed along after him obligingly, Arthur turned and shoved him into the locker and crammed himself in after him and shut the door.
There was a very squashed moment or two of silence.
"Arthur," Martin said. "Why have you stuffed me into the locker?"
"...Yeah, it was a terrible idea, wasn't it," Arthur said dejectedly. "Never mind. We'll go out again and pretend this didn't happen. Promise you won't tell Douglas or Mum?"
"But why did you do it in the first place?" Martin demanded.
"Because...oh, never mind, Skip, you'll think it's weird."
"Arthur, nearly everything you do is weird."
"I know," said Arthur. "But this is...all right. Well. You know that time you and I were hiding in here from the sudoku wrestlers?"
"The sumo wrestlers."
"Yeah, those. Well, the thing was...I sort of liked it. Being this close to you. Really weird, I know. We can go out now."
"No, I, I...I liked it too. Actually. A bit. Well. Rather a lot, really."
"Really?!" Arthur sounded amazed. "Oh, that's...that's way beyond brilliant, I'm going to have to make up a whole new word for what that is, that's--"
"Well, yes." Martin laughed, feeling entirely giddy. "I agree, quite, but could we maybe talk about this outside of the locker for a bit?"
"Oh! Yeah, course we can." There was a scuffling grunting noise in the dark. Then, "Actually...it seems we can't. The door's got a bit jammed. You know how it does sometimes, when you need to jiggle the handle three times quickly and one time slowly and then give it a good kick just above the dent--"
"Oh god," said Martin. "We're stuck? We are. We're stuck. We're stuck in the locker. Douglas! Carolyn!"
"No, they've gone--Douglas took off the minute we landed, went home, I imagine, and Mum left ten minutes ago for a date with Herc."
"Will she miss you when you don't come home?"
"I don't think so," Arthur admitted. "She said not to expect her back till late. And possibly not at all."
"Oh god. All right, let's see...er, the airfield manager might think to come check why we never filed the paperwork for today's flight? Or...the fire crew! You're friends with them; they'll notice you haven't said good night on your way out, won't they?"
"Oh, yeah! Definitely! Good thinking, Skip!"
"Did the fire crew know you were flying with us today?" Martin asked.
"...No. I don't think so. I didn't see any of them earlier."
"I'm really sorry about all this, Skip."
"No, it's fine, just--can you move your knee at all? There, that's better...well. Let's not panic. We're scheduled to fly out to Berlin at ten tomorrow morning, so...if all else fails, we won't die in here. The locker's ventilated; we've got plenty of air; we've just got to wait it out."
"I'm excellent at waiting," said Arthur. "I am never bored. Ever. Oh! Do you want to play Guess Which Wild Animal I'm Trying To Sound Like?"
"No," said Martin. "Not just now. Could we talk a bit about that thing from before? When you said...what you said? About...you know. Me? And you? Me and you, in the sense of--"
"What, about me liking being this close to you? Good thing, as it turns out, isn't it? Yes, I kept trying to think up reasons we might have to hide in here again, but there weren't any more of the thingy-wrestlers booked--I don't think they'll be flying with MJN ever again, actually--and in the end I wasn't clever enough to think of anything clever. So I just tried this."
"Well," said Martin. "We could try and make the best of it? Since we're here?" He shifted around, with some difficulty, until their noses brushed in the dark.
"Oh," Arthur said breathlessly, right against Martin's mouth. "Yes, please."
"You know why I really like you, Skip?" Arthur gasped out, five hot and heavy minutes later when Martin had come up for air and was attempting to get his hands up between them to undo his tie.
"Because you like everyone?" Martin murmured. "Hold up--now suck in a bit--almost got it--"
"No. Well, yeah. I do. But I like you particularly because you really like things, even when you pretend not to. Most people just pretend to like things when they really don't, but you, Skip--can I still call you Skip now we're kissing?"
"God, yes," said Martin. "I mean...if you want to?"
"I definitely want to," said Arthur. "What was I saying? The reason I like you? No, it's gone now. Specially when you do...that, yes, that sort of nibbling thing, oh, wow, you are brilliant at this! Do that some more; I love that."
"I can tell," Martin said shyly, shifting his hips against Arthur's.
"Hmm? Oh, no, that's just my mobile. I'm a bit over to the left of that and not so square."
"Your-- Arthur! Are you seriously telling me you're not happy to see me, you've got a phone in your pocket? A mobile telephone?"
"Well. Don't feel badly, Skipper, I am enjoying this a lot--"
"A mobile telephone with which, for example, one might call for emergency assistance?" Martin prompted.
"With which--oh. Oh! Oh! Yes! I see! I'll just--can you budge at all so I can get it out? Excellent! Yes! You really are brilliant, Skip! Here we go, speed dial--"
"NOT DOUGLAS," Martin said, a second too late, and Arthur dropped the phone.
"And which of you, may I ask, came up with the idea of playing Seven Minutes in Heaven in an upright coffin?" Douglas asked them, his voice liquid with sarcasm, upon wrenching open the locker door.
"Oh, how could you tell?" Arthur cried, climbing out and cracking his neck. "That is--thanks, Douglas. I'm glad you could understand all the shouting. We--I, that is--I dropped the phone on the floor, you see, and--"
"So I gathered," said Douglas. "And were too tightly wedged to pick it up again. And are now both looking suspiciously well-snogged. I just wondered if it were a premeditated snogging, or simply an 'oh what the hell, why not' gambit for passing the time. I suspect the former, from the way the two of you have been making sheep's eyes at each other for the past few weeks. To be quite honest, I've considered shutting you in here again myself until you came to your senses."
"Yes, thank you, Douglas," Martin said stiffly. Very stiffly. He bent to retrieve Arthur's phone for him and winced as he unbent again. "How very sensitive of you to use our budding romance as material for your perpetual one-man comedy routine."
"Oh, bud away, by all means," Douglas told him. "I'm looking forward to much more material in future. And I'm curious to find out whether you're any less priggish when you're getting laid. Arthur, on the other hand, will probably just be intolerably cheery. Go forth, in any case, you lovebirds; I'm going home. Again. I'll need my rest for the epic mocking to come."
"C...ould have been worse?" Arthur suggested, when Douglas had left.
"Yes," Martin agreed. "You could have phoned your mother. So. Do you want to...give me a lift home?"
"My place," Arthur said, grinning at him. "Mum's going to find out eventually, after all. Also, I've got a walk-in wardrobe; we can pick up just where we left off."