Martin Crieff had a secret. Not a deep, dark secret by any means, but a rather embarrassing one, to say the least. After all, not a lot of people make it to twenty years old without ever having been kissed. He liked to tell himself he was waiting for someone special, although part of him suspected that he may be waiting some time yet. Then he met her.
Her name was Sophie Wood, and she was, without a doubt, lovely. She was short and slightly round with ample breasts and delicate hands. Her hair was pale brown and shone red in the sunlight. She wore green polish on her toes, and freckles on her face. She wanted to be a pilot, just like Martin. And she wasn’t afraid to make the first move.
At a pub one night, surrounded by people, Sophie leaned in and gently brushed her lips against his. Before Martin had even had a chance to register the kiss, it was over.
“What… was that?” Martin asked, a little flustered.
“That was me, kissing you. Should I not have?” Sophie looked a little concerned.
Martin sighed. “No, it was fine. It’s just… nobody’s ever… I mean… That was my first kiss.” He didn’t bother to mention that he wasn’t particularly sure he had enjoyed the experience.
There was silence for a little while, and then she smiled. “You’re so funny, Martin!”
The moment when Martin realised Sophie thought he was joking was the moment he realised that they wouldn’t be kissing again.
Joshua worked at the local coffee shop. He was pale like Martin, and well built, unlike Martin. He had one tattoo that Martin knew of, a Chinese character on the inside of his wrist. Cliché maybe, but Martin liked it nonetheless. He also liked Joshua’s dark mop of curly hair, and the way his t-shirt fit just a little too tight. He liked most things about Joshua, in fact. Which was why every morning when he went to buy his coffee, Martin waited until Joshua was far away from the counter before he ordered. The last thing Martin wanted was to talk to the man and wreck everything.
In the end, Joshua spoke first. He approached Martin’s table one morning, a giant blueberry muffin in his hands.
“Hi, he said.
“Uh, hello,” Martin replied, sure his cheeks were suddenly beet red.
“This is for you,” said Joshua, proffering the muffin, “if you agree to go out with me tonight.”
Martin almost choked on his mouthful of coffee. Sure, he had been strangely attracted to Joshua for several weeks by that point, but he had never thought of himself as liking the man in a romantic or sexual way. It was just a weird little crush that was part of his weird little life. Still, he thought, one date wouldn’t hurt. Oh God, it was supposed to be a date, wasn’t it? What was he going to wear? What was he going to say? Martin became aware after a time that in his internal panic, he had left Joshua standing there with a muffin and no answer for at least a full minute.
“Sorry,” Martin said, snapping out of it. “Yes. That sounds nice.” He smiled his most dashing and not-at-all awkward smile.
Joshua grinned back, passed him the muffin, and said, “I finish here at five. Come meet me. We’ll go somewhere nice for… anything but coffee.”
He was laughing again that evening as Joshua regaled him with tales of his family and friends. It wasn‘t until Joshua drained the last of his beer and said, “I‘d kinda like to kiss you Martin, if that‘s okay?”, that Martin realised they were in the same pub he had had his first kiss in only several months before.
This time when soft lips pressed against his, Martin wasn’t surprised. Not by the action, anyway. What did surprise him was his reaction. He almost melted into the kiss, one hand finding Joshua’s knee and the fingers of the other loosening from around his pint glass. And something went though him, a shiver almost.
The moment when Martin realised why he was enjoying this kiss so much was the moment he realised why he maybe hadn’t enjoyed the kiss with Sophie in quite the same way.
Martin Crieff had a secret. A deep, dark secret. He wasn’t sure whether it was embarrassing as well, but he was definitely sure nobody was going to find out that he was attracted to men any time soon.
Burying his feelings, he threw himself into his work and study. Being a pilot was all that mattered. Any acceptance of himself and possible future relationships could wait until he had his license. Possibly even longer.
On his twenty-seventh birthday, and after finally passing his tests, Martin treated himself to a night of drinks. Drinking alone at his flat seemed more pathetic than even he was used to, however, so he went out. The first bar he came across was a gay bar. He hovered outside for a few minutes, before steeling himself and pushing his way through the door. Inside, he was surprised to see, it was much the same as any other pub. Same sort of décor, albeit with a few more rainbows. And the crowd was generally similar too, if you didn’t count the odd man in drag.
Martin pushed past a lesbian couple who were kissing enthusiastically near the door, and wandered over to the bar, shrugging his shoulders up around his ears, trying not to draw attention to himself. At the bar he ordered a scotch on the rocks, and then sat hunched over it, throwing glances around him every now and then. With one such glance, Martin’s eyes came to rest on someone in particular. On the other side of the bar, almost directly opposite him, was a man of about thirty with dark, slightly curly hair and a handsomely square jaw. Martin watched the man sip his drink, only looking away when he was worried then man might make eye contact with him. He spent the next ten minutes or so flicking his gaze up at the stranger, then away again in turn.
Eventually, when Martin went to look up at him, the man was gone. Before he had a chance to feel disappointed, however, someone sat down on the stool beside him and ordered a gin and tonic. Martin chanced a look sideways to discover the object of his attentions over the past little while was now sitting next to him. Once the man had Martin’s eyes upon him again, he spoke.
“I’m Lucas,” he said, “and you have been staring at me for the past ten minutes.”
“I… have I?” Martin asked dumbly, trying desperately to fight the blush that was blossoming on his cheeks.
Lucas smiled winningly.
Several minutes later they were stood together on the smoking balcony. Martin denied a cigarette, but watched Lucas smoke one, and marvelled at how some people really could make the act sexy. The smoke curled up around Lucas’ face and tangled in his hair. When the cigarette was finished, they talked.
They talked of their jobs - Lucas was in real estate, Martin was unemployed - and their pets - Lucas had two cats, Martin’s own cat had recently passed away - and their families - Lucas had a sister and a brother, Martin’s father was dead. At which point Lucas decided that Martin’s life was far too miserable, and he needed some cheering up.
“Listen,” he said. Martin listened. “I don’t know if this is too forward of me, but I’m drunk, so if it is, we’ll blame it on that, yeah?” Martin nodded. “Good. So. Right.”
That said, Lucas slid his hand along the balcony railing to touch Martin’s. Martin flinched just slightly at the contact, and looked down at their hands. Lucas stepped closer to Martin and lifted their entwined hands off the railing, placing Martin’s hand on his hip, then his own hand on Martin’s. Martin’s breath hitched as Lucas leaned in close, and before he knew it, Martin was leaning in too.
Their lips met in a soft, heady kiss that tasted of cigarette smoke and too much alcohol. Lucas’ tongue brushed gently along Martin’s closed lips, prying until Martin opened his mouth and allowed him in. They explored each others’ mouths with all the clichéd excitement of a first kiss gone right. And as far as first kisses went (and despite the fact that it was only Martin’s third claim to that title) it was definitely amazing.
The moment when Martin realised this was the best kiss of his life was the moment he realised there would definitely be more to come with Lucas.
“Skip!” Arthur called. “Skip?”
“I’m here Arthur, stop shouting,” Martin replied.
“Right. Where is ‘here’ exactly?”
Martin sighed. “Cabin. Seat 2C.”
Arthur bounded into view moments later, positively beaming, as was his wont. “There you are!” he said brightly. Then, “But why are you here? Douglas has gone home already. Mum is… well, I don’t know where mum is. But she’s not here. So why are you?”
Martin sighed again, this time less out of exasperation and more out of misery.
“Skip? Are you okay?”
There passed a few quiet moments wherein Martin seemed to ponder this question. Then he said, “No Arthur, I’m not.”
“Oh. What’s wrong?” Arthur plonked himself down in the seat beside Martin and looked at him worriedly.
“I was just thinking about my last… my first… well, actually, my only…” he paused, about to say ‘boyfriend’ then changing his mind, “… partner,” he finished ambiguously.
“Right,” Arthur said slowly, “the thing is, I’m not good at this stuff. You want to talk to Douglas about this.”
“Believe me, I really don’t want to talk to Douglas about it.”
“See, the thing is… oh Hell. Arthur?”
“Wow!” Arthur’s eyes went wide and his face lit up. “That’s brilliant!”
“Decidedly not,” Martin countered. “I’ve not had a date in three years. Only ever had the one boyfriend. And I’m… just… I’m lonely, Arthur.”
“Now I see why you didn’t want to tell Douglas. He would have teased you about this for months,” Arthur said seriously.
“But I won’t. Do you know why, Skip?”
“Mm?” Martin hummed half heartedly, looking down at his hands folded in his lap.
Arthur went on, “Because I’m lonely too.” And it was so sincere, so heartbreaking to hear those words coming from Arthur, that Martin looked up at him, met the man’s gaze, and reached out a hand to touch his shoulder.
Somehow, though, the shoulder-touching lead to hand holding. Arthur’s eyes lit up a little as Martin clasped his hand tightly. They sat side by side, gazes locked, for what seemed an age. Finally Arthur choked out, “Skip?” But before he could say anything else, Martin had slipped out of his seat and was half standing, half kneeling in front of him. He hovered inches from Arthur’s face, then in an eternal millisecond, crushed his lips to Arthur’s in a sad and wanting kiss.
The moment when Martin realised he was kissing Arthur was the moment he realised just how terribly lonely his life had become.
Two days later, Martin approached Carolyn with his Serious Face set to stun. Thinking the conversation was about to turn to the matter of Martin’s pay, Carolyn prepared to shut Martin down before he had even begun. However, there was something in Martin’s voice as he meekly said, “Carolyn?” that made her change her mind.
And he opened up to her. He told her… everything. Sophie, Joshua. The two year relationship with Lucas. And Arthur. He wound up his story with tears in his eyes, prepared to be ridiculed or perhaps scolded for taking advantage of her son, but instead found Carolyn sporting a look of deep sympathy.
“Martin. I’m so sorry.”
“You… really? No sarcastic remarks? No ‘stay away from my son!’?”
In lieu of a response, Carolyn closed to gap between them and wrapped Martin in a warm hug. Then, still holding him tightly in her arms, she placed a firm kiss on his forehead. She had never shown him such compassion before. Never even hugged him, let alone kissed him.
The moment when Martin realised how much this kiss meant was the moment he realised things could change.
Martin Crieff had a secret. It was both deep and dark, and highly embarrassing. See, he had found himself over the past year seemingly developing romantic feelings towards one Douglas Richardson. And the one person who could never, ever find this secret out was currently sitting beside him in the flight deck, trying to tempt him with word games.
“Douglas, for the last time, no. I am not playing ‘famous movies with porn titles’”.
“Oh but Martin. You might win this one.”
“That’s very kind of you to say, but - hey! Stop being subtly sarcastic. It’s annoying.”
Douglas smirked. “You know something else annoying?” he began, then continued without waiting for an answer, “a six hour flight with the only available form of entertainment denied because the Captain is too proud to lose another game.”
“I’m sure that rates right up there,” Martin replied snidely. And he said nothing else for the rest of the flight.
By the time they touched down in Fitton, Martin had thrown exactly twenty eight sideways glances in Douglas’ direction, and only been caught four times. That was certainly a new record. He had performed the post landing safety checks, their passengers had disembarked, Carolyn and Arthur were cleaning cashew nuts off the floor of the cabin, and he was just getting ready to leave the flight deck when Douglas stepped in front of him, blocking his path.
“Douglas!” Martin whined.
“Martin,” Douglas replied, voice oozing with something that was most likely a mixture of snark and charm.
“You’re… in my… way,” Martin tried, lamely, faltering as he met Douglas’ eye.
“The thing is, Martin, I don’t think I am.” He said Martin’s name in a drawn out, almost sensual way. Martin found himself flustered and absolutely uncertain what he should say in response. Douglas saved him the trouble by continuing, “You were looking at me.”
At this, Martin scoffed. “I always look at you. I’m… looking at you right now.”
“You looked at me when we weren’t talking. You looked at me twenty five times.”
“Twenty eight!” Martin blurted out, and then realised he’d blown it.
“Ah,” Douglas said, smile curling across his face, “how wrong I was. So, Captain, can I ask why you were counting every glance in my direction? Or should I just assume I have something stuck on my face and walk away right now?”
Martin’s face flushed deep red, and he was surely more embarrassed than he’d ever been. “I… you… um…” Douglas swivelled on the spot and started to walk away. “Wait!” Martin cried. So Douglas did, turning back around.
And Martin proceeded to spend the next minute mumbling his way through some sort of revelation of love. Or maybe he just told Douglas he wanted the brie off of the cheese tray on the next trip. His mind felt so far distant from his body, he wasn’t sure which it was.
He decided it was probably the former when Douglas stepped toward him and cleared his throat loudly, then ducked his head so his face was just centimetres away from Martin’s. Douglas licked his lips, staring Martin straight in the eye, and Martin swallowed thickly.
“Twenty eight times,” Douglas murmured softly. “Only twenty eight. So you wouldn’t have seen me looking at you oh, say, thirty or forty times, then.”
Martin exhaled weakly and shook his head. His cheeks felt hot and tight. He blinked heavily. Douglas inched his face even closer.
The stale air was too warm around them, and it sat heavy on Martin’s shoulders. The tension between them wound up like a string on a guitar, tighter and tighter as they stood there in silence, Douglas’ face so close to Martin’s their noses occasionally brushed together. Then, eventually, the guitar string snapped, and they were flung together reflexively.
Martin’s lips found Douglas’ easily, positioned as they had been mere millimetres from his own. Considering all the practice Douglas had had with kissing in the past, and the fact that Martin, though inexperienced still, had had two years with Lucas to perfect his technique, the kiss was still sort of awkward, teeth clashing and tongues tangling. It wasn’t quite the picture perfect kiss Martin had imagined, but it still somehow blew all his other first kisses out of the water.
And the moment when Martin realised that every other kiss he had shared had lead up to this one, that the person he was because of those kisses was being smashed apart and completely reformed, was the happiest moment of his life.