"Why are you still hanging around here like a bad smell? Shoo! I have quite enough of pilots in the hours you are actually flying for me. I don't need you haunting the rest of my life," says Carolyn tartly.
Martin's shoulders slump subtly and he tucks his head down as he grabs his flightbag and heads for the door of the portacabin. Douglas, who has for once stayed around to watch Martin hover anxiously in the MJN headquarters after all the post-flight paperwork had been completed, follows after him. He watches Martin walk slowly towards his van, parked as always in the furthest and most inconspicuous corner of the airfield. The man is clearly dejected.
"Martin," calls Douglas. "Catch."
As Martin turns back to look at him Douglas throws him a small box, which Martin manages to catch in a awkward fumble but only by dropping his flightbag in the mud.
"Happy birthday," says Douglas.
"You remembered!" Martin looks down at the neatly wrapped box with its gaudy birthday colours and the small giftbow with a mixture of pleasure and suspicion.
"So what are your plans?" asks Douglas as he strolls over to Martin. "Out to paint the town red with a phalanx of friends, or a maybe a hot and intimate date with a special someone?"
Martin shrugs awkwardly. "Nothing special. I'm not really one to celebrate birthdays." He pauses, as if unsure whether to share a thought with Douglas. "I have been saving up a bit, though. I managed to increase the memory on my computer and got an upgraded copy of Microsoft Flight Simulator off Ebay. So I'm going to stay in and enjoy my present to myself." He says this with a forced cheerfulness that puts paid to Douglas's plan to head off home.
"Open it," he says, nodding towards the present Martin is still clutching. He wants there to be someone present to share Martin's expected pleasure in the gift.
Martin looks at it dubiously, as if believing it to be yet another joke that he will be the butt of.
"Just open it," Douglas orders, exasperated. "You are meant to like it."
Martin unwraps it with great care, picking off the strips of sellotape, smoothing and folding the wrapping paper. When he sees that inside is a sunglasses' case, marked Ray-Ban Aviator, his eyes narrow with suspicion.
"Oh come on," says Douglas. "It's the best kind of present. You get to genuinely enjoy wearing them and I get to genuinely enjoy teasing you about them. Win-win all round." He pulls the case out of Martin's hands and opens it, taking out the glasses and sliding the case into the pocket of Martin's jacket. He unfolds the glasses and steps up close to the other man, gently sliding them onto Martin's face.
Douglas looks critically at the result. "I knew they'd look good on you. I know you bought the black ones but I think these blue ones suit your colouring better."
"Really?" Martin's voice is soft and slightly choked. They are standing so close that Douglas can feel the puff of breath on his cheek. He can see his fingers still resting on the arms of the glasses, his thumbs pressed lightly against Martin's high cheekbones. He can see the blush spreading across Martin's face, a rising wave engulfing his ears and spreading up into his hairline.
It suddenly occurs to Douglas that they are standing far too close for two hetrosexual men and they've been doing so for some time. Martin has made no effort to move away, either to easily step backwards or to awkwardly demand to know what Douglas is playing at.
Curious now, Douglas gently strokes his thumbs along Martin's cheekbones. A nervous tongue flickers out for a moment to lick dry lips and Martin swallows audibly. But he still doesn't step away.
Douglas has long suspected that Martin has something of a crush on him and has frankly considered it nothing more than his due given his sky-god status. But he'd thought of it as a man crush based on his abilities as a pilot and his generally lucky life, rather than a crush founded in physical desire. Based on the blushing evidence in front of him, he is rapidly re-evaluating his analysis.
It is not something he admits to general acquaintances but his thousand stewardesses had in fact included a fair number of willing stewards, Douglas being more than happy to reward admiration wherever it might come from.
He'd not thought of his captain in that light but for many months after that first unfortunate meeting he'd not been able to see anything under the captain's hat other than an incompetent interloper that he bitterly resented. However somewhere along the line Martin had gained both a little confidence and growing skill as a pilot and Douglas had gained a more charitable attitude and a friend. Looking closely at Martin's delicate features he realised he'd gained a really rather attractive friend. An attractive and apparently willing friend....
Douglas has always been one to make the most of an opportunity, ready to adapt the plan to take advantage of changed circumstances. "There is another birthday tradition we could indulge in, if you wish," he says softly, letting his voice drop in pitch. He feels Martin shiver under his hands.
"What?" Martin asks, his voice a breathless whisper.
Douglas lets his one hand slide round to gently cradle the back of Martin's head, fingers pushing into soft hair. With his other he trails his fingertips down Martin's cheek and lets his thumb rub slowly across that plush lower lip.
"The birthday kiss." Martin slowly pulls his thumb back, letting it drag Martin's lip down, letting it rub against the moist interior, making his intentions as clear as possible to give Martin time to step away if he wishes to. Instead Martin sways closer, tilting his head up, lips parting a fraction as he does so.
"We'll want these out of the way, then." Douglas carefully removes the sunglasses and tucks them into the breast pocket of Martin's shirt. He watches as Martin stares down at their feet, unable to meet his gaze, eyelashes fluttering with nerves. Douglas carefully takes Martin's face under the chin, coaxing it back up again and then brushes his lips across Martin's mouth.
Martin's lips are soft and dry, the lower lip chapped from where Martin tends to gnaw it when nervous. Douglas runs the tip of his tongue across the damage. Martin sways forward into the contact and has to grab at Douglas's hips with his hands to keep his balance.
"Happy birthday Captain," whispers Douglas against Martin's lips, letting his breath gust into the other man's mouth and then letting his tongue follow. He can feel Martin shivering as he presses closer against Douglas, tentatively sucking at the tongue in his mouth.
"Ah, there you-- God God, what are you doing?"
"They're kissing, mum! It's Martin's birthday, remember. You always kiss me on my birthday."
"Not like that, I don't," snaps Carolyn. "Gentlemen, stop that at once. You are in uniform in the middle of Fitton airfield. Do try to behave with a level of dignity that befits your profession, lost cause though that may be. Martin, your birthday present. Of course Arthur forgot it in the car and didn't remember to remind me."
A flustered Martin takes the small neatly wrapped box and the vast exuberant card, the former the work of Carolyn and the latter of Arthur.
"Don't expect any kisses from me, though," says Carolyn sharply. "Not with Douglas's drool all over your face. If this means I only need to book you two one room on layovers, you have my heartiest congratulations. Otherwise I most definitely do not want to know. Come along Arthur." With that she stalks back to her car, her son in tow.
"Oh God," moans Martin. "How am I ever going to look her in the face again?"
"Well, at least we don't worry about her finding out," shrugs Douglas. "Come on Martin, I've revised your birthday plans. You're coming back to my flat for the evening, I'm going to order us Chinese takeaway and we're going to watch Top Gun on video while curled up on my sofa."
"This is just so you can tease me about the glasses, isn't it?" accuses Martin as he follows Douglas towards the Lexus.
"But of course," replies Douglas with a wicked smile. "I'm rather planning on teasing you in other ways too. I always though Maverick should have ended up with Iceman rather than with that silly bimbo."
"Oh so now you're Iceman," demands Martin, trying to sound tart but mostly just managing to look goofily happy.
"But of course," replies Douglas as he opened the car. "And you can be my wingman any time."
Martin laughs as he scrambles in with his flightbag and his presents. "Bullshit! You're mine, remember?"
- THE END -