Hunger was a ceaseless, gnawing ache, one that invaded every part of you; slithered into your dreams, sleeping fantasies of glorious, lovely food, food that had never existed outside of a gourmand's wettest dreams.
It was rare that Martin was ever that hungry, there was always something to be scrounged; the students he shared his flat with were surprisingly picky eaters for people who were scraping by as much as he was, and Martin was more than willing to take possession of any leftover scraps that they turned up their noses at. And even if he wasn't paid to fly, at least Carolyn fed them along the way and Martin ate those meals reverently, a rare moment went ample food was given free of charge.
No, it wasn't often that he was truly hungry, unable to sleep for the gnawing ache in his gut melding into queasiness, dreaming faintly of gorgeous, perfect food. Thick sandwiches, of course, and roasted chicken, the skin brown and crackling, surrounded by mealy potatoes cooked in their jackets. Plump brown sausages, their skins straining taut waiting for a fork to prick them and spill their juices out, surrounded by buttery veg. Savoury foods, sweet puddings, all of them danced in Martin's fondest dreams.
A week without any flights and therefore, without any inflight meals, and tonight found Martin trudging down the street to his flat, unable to get enough petrol to take him to the shops even if he had any money to spend. He had a wrinkled fiver in his pocket, enough for some fish and chips, maybe, not enough for a real meal, certainly not enough to pay the rent bill that was looming up. Icarus Removals was in a bit of a lull at the moment and Martin was grateful that at least his mobile bill was paid up. Without it, he wasn't likely to see any money soon at all. No calls, no cash, and Martin fingered the smooth plastic case tucked into his pocket as though rubbing a lucky charm. No surprise that it didn't ring, luck and Martin were not often on speaking terms.
Just down from the cheap row of student flats was a pub and Martin was about to walk past it when he hesitated, his eye catching on a small, hand-lettered sign. Happy hour, it declared, get a pint and a tray of nibbles for a fiver!
It felt like providence, sent down to him by a God who wasn't benevolent but perhaps didn't want Martin passing out in the gutters. He hesitated outside, listened to the laughter and chatter and clinking glasses that spilled out the door as another bloke brushed past him and stepped inside.
And just like that Martin was sick of it, sick of it all, of counting pence, stretching every coin out to cover what he could. Tired of the nagging ache in his belly, tired of it all, and he straightened his spine and walked into the pub for a pint. Maybe he'd regret it later, probably he would, but for right now, Martin wanted a moment of normal.
Martin wouldn't exactly say it was worth it, really, a pint of beer and a bit of chicken in a basket smothered with a pile of heavily salted chips. Not worth it, except to his watering mouth the chicken was crispy and hot, the chips golden perfection and topping it off with a cool draught of beer was like heaven, as close as Martin ever came to it out of an aeroplane.
So focused on his food as he was, it took Martin a moment to notice the way the bloke at the bar kept looking at him. Little flickers of his eyes, skating over him and then away, back to the telly where a game was blaring on, too far away for Martin to give it a proper look. Not that he cared about footy just now, his attention was on licking his greasy fingers, picking every shred of chicken off the bones, and on one man who kept giving him sideways glances, something in his eyes, considering, and--
Oh, Christ, no, he wasn't considering that. He wasn't. It'd been years since he'd been that desperate, desperate enough to consider just what he would do to get a bit of money.
He'd been desperate back then, scraping up enough money to try, again, and again, for his CPL. Desperate then and desperate now, his pockets empty but for the basest of coin and something in this bloke's eyes when he looked at Martin made him think he'd be willing to give out a twenty for a bit of something. It'd been years since he'd done it, years and the sort of hungry desperation he'd thought gone since he got his pilot license. More fool, he, as though some magical piece of paper that allowed him to fly was going to grant him any other wishes.
He hadn't expected it to, though, it'd never been about that, not about money, only flying and that was him all over, never thinking ahead.
No, that was his dad talking.
Twenty quid would be enough to at least keep a roof over his head, maybe, and if not that much then at least Martin might be able to get a spot of an actual dinner out of him. Just the thought of real food made his mouth water despite the lingering taste of chicken, filling with soft fluid, enough that Martin had to swallow hard. The fellow at the bar was handsome enough, blond, with a sombre, weathered face. Perhaps only a few years older than Martin but he had a look of a man who'd seen plenty, a certain weariness lingering that Martin sometimes saw in the mirror. A man who might have a twenty to spare in his wallet and honestly, it wasn't as hard as a person would think, a quick way to get twenty quid and all he needed afterward was mouthwash and that was only 95p.
Martin didn't let himself think about it too much, only tipped back his glass and downed that last of his beer, not so much Dutch courage as not wanting it to go to waste, and then went to see how his luck was going to be tonight.
He went with a simple, "Hullo," leaned against the bar in a pose that only looked careless. Strange how you never forgot some things and tonight it was horribly easy to slide one arm behind his back, the other elbow on the bar. Displayed for your pleasure, he might as well call it and for a brief moment, he thought of what Douglas might think to see Martin like this, if disbelief would mute his sharp tongue for a moment or if he'd have a quip at the go, ready to strip Martin to the bones. He pushed that thought down viciously; now was not the time to be thinking of Douglas.
The other bloke looked up at him, his eyes, which had looked muddy from across the room, were actually an honest, deep blue. They swept over him, not letting his pose go to waste. Taking in his rumpled t-shirt, his jeans that were hanging loose on his hips, victim of a bad month of macaroni and ramen noodle meals. Martin knew he wasn't completely unattractive and his mouth had caught the attention of not a few blokes in the past. Deliberately, he wet his lips, let his tongue linger over the bottom one.
The blond turned away, lifting his beer glass and Martin's heart sank. Not interested then, and he didn't know what he was thinking, this wasn't that sort of pub, and—
"Not here," the man said and tossed a few crumpled bills on the bar top before hopping off his stool. Martin was startled to find the man was actually a couple inches shorter than him, not a common occurrence, but he was sturdy enough…enough to do Martin some real harm if this turned out badly.
He stifled that line of thought sharply, that had only happened a few times and he'd come out of it just fine in the end, thank you, and followed the man out the door. To Martin's relief, he didn't go far, only down the street and stopped near a streetlight. Far enough from the bar for privacy but not so far that screams couldn't be heard if it came to that.
"What's your name, then?" the man asked. He had his hands tucked into his pockets against the chilly night air. Martin was plenty cold himself but he resisted the urge to tuck his arms in, aware of his nipples peaking hard against his t-shirt. All part of the package, he was saying, silently. Whatever you need, whatever you want. For a price, of course.
"Michael," Martin lied.
The man gave him a thin smile, "It isn't but that's all right. Clears up a few things. Well, Mike, my name is John but that doesn't matter because you aren't going to call me that. You aren't going to say anything, that's the rule. Understand?"
Martin shifted uncomfortably. He was desperate, yes, but not stupid. "I'm not into anything rough—"
Two fingers on his lips stifled him, firmly. "Say you understand."
He started to, stopped, and nodded his head instead.
John's mouth tipped into a smirk. "Very good."
Those fingers were still pressed lightly to his mouth and Martin let his lips part, his tongue sliding out across the pads of them. He tasted mostly flavourless, perhaps a hint of salt, and yet, that mostly innocent touch made John suck in a sharp breath, his eyes, already shaded in darkness, closed briefly.
"All right," John said, his voice edged in harshness. "I hope you have someplace better to go than the alley over there."
Martin nodded slowly. He opened his mouth a bit more and when John didn't protest, he sucked one finger into his mouth, curling his tongue around that single digit, his tongue prying at the nail.
Abruptly, John withdrew from him, his hands curling into fists and Martin cringed a bit before he could help himself, had he gotten it wrong already, he should have just gone after the no talking bit, but—
The mouth against his own was more than a shock and Martin staggered back a step, automatically reaching up and hanging on. None of the others had ever kissed him, not once, and to have John wrapped around him, hands on his face holding him still for hot, deep kisses, his tongue slick and eager against Martin's, was stunning. Hesitantly, Martin leaned down into it, met each slide of tongue with one of his own. John's mouth was warm, bitter with beer and each kiss was wetter, very nearly sloppily eager and Martin found that his uncertainty was melting into eagerness of his own. He hadn't been simply kissed in such a long time and even if this wasn't about that, it was still perfectly nice and he wanted it to last just a bit longer.
For one perfect moment, this wasn't about money or dinner or even sex, it was just about a comfortable body against his own, holding him, and the way John's mouth moved over his with a strange contrast of desperation and tenderness. And then the door of the bar swung open, pouring out a person or two and a loud wash of noise. John stepped away from him with a care, not too quickly, nothing suspicious at all in it, and he tipped a tight smile up at Martin with damp lips.
"Somewhere else?" John prompted and Martin nodded, jerked his head for John to follow. His van was parked not too far away and as long as they were fairly quiet, that should be fine. No side windows for anyone to peek through and the back windows were tinted.
He led John up to it with some trepidation, expecting a scornful comment or two, perhaps he'd even storm off in disgust, taking Martin's trembling hopes with him. John only nodded, waiting as he unlocked the door, and he stepped up inside before Martin, settled himself in the sole passenger seat in the back. Martin kept it mostly empty, the better to shuffled boxes about but occasionally he had a passenger or two and they did need somewhere to sit. It was some sort of ironic luck that just such an occasion had risen recently; otherwise, they'd have been making do on the hard metal floor.
The door shut with resounding clang, terribly final. Whatever fears he'd had would be borne out here, if they were to be at all. The light creeping up through the front windows from the street lamps was meagre and John was only sitting very still, waiting, he supposed.
Well, there were only a few reasons a man could be sat in the back of a van like this, weren't there. Martin slid down to his knees, a bit awkwardly on the hard floor, and crawled up to him. John caught his shoulders, stopping him, and Martin looked up at him uncertainly, only able to catch the faint wet gleam of his eyes in the darkness.
"All right, since I'm the one allowed to talk, I'll do the negotiating," John said. His voice was low enough not to echo through the empty van and still it seemed loud in Martin's head. Authoritative, the way he tried to sound whenever he sat in the captain's chair. It made him want to sit up a bit straighter and listen to this man who seemed very used to people following orders.
"We've already gone over the not talking. You're doing very well, by the way," John said, softly, and his hand sliding over Martin's head was like praise. He was almost ashamed at the way he wanted to tip his head up into it, to bask in that gentle stroking. "There's two other things. One, I'm going to fuck your mouth, right here, and you're going to let me."
Oh. Martin swallowed hard, his mouth going soft and wet at the thought. So different than any other time he'd done this, trying to work spit into his dry mouth before men who smelled like sweat and bitter cologne could shove their cocks between his lips for two minutes and twenty quid.
"And two, when I'm done, I'm going to give you fifty quid and leave, and you're never going to say another word the whole time. All right?" John's hand slid from his hair to his chin, tipping his head up and Martin nodded against the pressure.
"Good," John whispered, dragging his thumb over Martin's lips, back and forth until Martin opened his mouth, let John press it inside. Stroking lightly, ticklishly, against his tongue and Martin had to bite back a moan, lifting his hands nervously and resting them on John's knees. Instantly, he leaned back in his seat, letting his legs sprawl apart enough for Martin to shuffle between them. It was a hint if he'd ever felt one and he let John's thumb slide from between his lips, dragging wetly down his chin briefly before it was gone.
Fumbling at John's belt had more to do with the lack of light than any nervousness and having his hands move down to help was more a relief than anything. He brushed them aside when he got to the zipper, drawing it down and Martin could already feel the heat beneath it, the hard bulge of his cock against his fingertips and again, Martin had to swallow away a mouthful of soft liquid, shocked at his own eagerness. He'd done this before, more times than he liked to think of, and this was the first time he'd ever wanted to do it. John, this stranger with a likely fake name was giving him an entire evening full of firsts.
When he tugged lightly at John's jeans, he lifted his hips helpfully, letting Martin tug them down to his hips and…oh. Martin closed his eyes against the musky scent that rose, pure sex pouring out into the air and he leaned in blindly to press his mouth against John's bare cock.
Soft, soft skin beneath his mouth, already slick at the tip and John jerked beneath him, groaning softly as Martin licked eagerly at the head, swirling his tongue against it. He knew a few tricks, it was true, that could speed this along and not a single one that would help draw it out, let him take his time and he found that he wanted to. For the first time, he wanted to do this leisurely, suck John for an hour and just feel the tremble in his thighs, listen to the low groans that were already spilling into the air for as long as he could.
Hands sank into his hair, gripping, and Martin braced himself automatically, drawing his mouth tight and sliding his tongue into position on the underside of John's cock. Should have known better, John had said he wanted to fuck his mouth and right, he could handle that. He could and if something warm inside him was shrivelling, curling back down, it was his own fault for allowing it to grow to begin with.
To feel John arch up, slowly, pressing into his mouth with unexpected care, made something hot prickle behind Martin's eyes. Each slow, careful press between Martin's lips, letting him take as much as he wanted, letting him suck, working his tongue in slow circles against the head. The hands in his hair didn't forced, didn't yank him down, gagging him on cock and brutality. John only held him, his hands gentle, a guide rather than domination.
To hear John gasp made Martin want to suckle hard, to feel him tremble made him work a hand between them, holding the base of his cock and stroking along with each push. An accidental scrape of teeth gave him a startled moan and a jerk of hips instead of a cuff on the back of the head and Martin only wanted more. He wanted to feel John against his throat, wanted to taste him coming. Martin dragged his tongue down the underside and John whispered to him, softly, in the dark, "Yes, like that. Deeper, can you take it deeper?" And when Martin found he could, swallowing against the way John's prick bumped at the back of his throat, "Ah, fuck, yes, just like that…don't stop…don't…"
He was already pushing up in quick, jerky little thrusts, his hands going hot and shaky against Martin's head, so quickly, too quickly, and Martin didn't know how to slow it down so he only sucked harder, moved faster, as John pushed up into his mouth a little too hard, stuttering out, "Oh, oh, I…I'm….Sherlock!"
Martin didn't freeze. He didn't stop sucking, didn't pause when a hot spurt shot against the back of his throat. Didn't gag, only waited until John sagged back against the seat, sweaty and trembling, and then he let John slide out of his mouth gingerly, wincing as his hands unclenched from his hair and let him withdraw. There were a few packing blankets scattered about and Martin snagged one, spitting discreetly into the folds. He could hear John moving, the raw hum of a zipper as he straightened his clothes.
It was instinct to lean back on his knees, drawing away. Now was the danger moment when a man softened by orgasm could turn ugly, round out the night with a sore mouth and a beating, and worse, an empty wallet for Martin. He didn't expect that from John but then, he hadn't expected a kiss, either, hadn't expected his gentleness. The last bit, though, another man's name on his lips, Martin should have been expecting, he really should. No one would have been giving that kind of tenderness to him.
A tap against his clenched hand made him open it automatically and Martin felt a fold of bills pressed into his palm. It took every ounce of self-respect he still possessed not to snatch it and even so, his hand close around the money with a touch too much eagerness. This was what it was about, he reminded himself.
"Thank you," Softly, and Martin blinked, looked up to find John crouched in front of him. "And I'm sorry. You deserve better than that."
I don't, he nearly said it aloud, words wrenched from him and his promise to be silent would have been ruined, if John hadn't leaned in just then, his mouth warm and gentle against Martin's, brushing softly over his tender lips.
Martin let out a watery little sigh and didn't bother feeling humiliated as John pulled back. He tapped the back of Martin's fist, where his money was hard-gripped, lightly.
"Gave you a little extra. Do me one last favour? Get something to eat, all right? Something better than a bit of pub food. You look about ready to faint."
Dumbly, Martin nodded and even in the dark he could see John smile. He didn't move when John pulled away, the sound of the door opening was like a gunshot from the telly. He didn't watch John step back out into the night, closing the door behind him, didn't move for a long moment and when he did, it was only to crawl into the front seat, unclenching his hand from around the folded bills and counted them with a numb sort of silence.
Two hundred quid. More than enough to pay his rent and plenty left over to do just as John had asked him and get a decent meal.
Something hot and tight eased in Martin's chest and he rested his head on the steering wheel, his hands shaking on his own thighs. Two hundred quid, more than he'd ever dreamed of getting for a single use of his mouth, and Martin sat there for a long, long time, until he'd convinced himself it was enough.