Martin stared at the number on his phone, his finger hovering over the 'Send Message To' button. It had seemed so much easier a couple of weeks ago, when he had still been filled with endorphins and whatever-else-ins from a night of truly excellent shagging and even better chatting about planes. Now, though, the idea that he could just text Tony Stark: superhero, international playboy and genius re-inventor of the aviation industry, and ask him if he wanted to have a quick round of nookie while MJN Air was laying over in New York seemed a little ridiculous.
His mind started to present him with alternate uses of the phrase 'laying over', using 3-D, full-colour, surround-sound videos of his previous experience with Tony Stark. He lost a few minutes in fond memory.
He'd just reached the part where Tony had pushed him down into the Captain's seat, run his hand down his chest and whispered the technical specifications for the Starkjet 5000's ailerons, when Douglas entered the flight deck, shattering the moment.
“Ah, it's our heroic Captain,” he said. “Ready to slip these surly bonds of earth once more?”
Martin tucked his phone away. “Nearly. Have the passengers arrived yet?”
“I believe Carolyn is helping them fall out of their minibus and into GERTI now. I hope you're ready for 8 hours of drunken women all vying for a chance at shagging the pilots.”
“What makes you think they're going to want to shag the pilots?” asked Martin.
Douglas sighed. “Martin, it's a hen party. A drunken hen party, if the singing I heard on my way over is anything to go by. They're about to be stuck on a small plane for 8 hours with Arthur and Carolyn pouring cheap booze down their throats. Not only will we be the only men on board – Arthur hardly counts – but we will be wearing uniforms. Trust me when I say that drunken women and men in uniforms are a match made in heaven.”
“You can't possibly be intending to have sex with one of them while we're flying?!” exclaimed Martin, wishing that didn't seem exactly like something Douglas would do. “We have a plane to fly. The CAA would go nuts!”
Douglas let out a long sigh, as if he couldn't believe he had to share a cockpit with someone so unworldly. Martin reminded himself which one of them had slept with an A-list celebrity in the last month. “Of course I don't intend to sample their delights during the flight, Martin. But if, say, they should invite us to join them for a drink once we arrive, who are we to refuse them?”
“Sleeping with a passenger just seems like an extremely bad idea,” said Martin, turning his attention back to the flight controls. “Remember, we do have to fly them back on Wednesday and you know what women are like; if you upset one of them, they all come after you.”
“I am not sure just exactly what you are implying about my seduction technique,” said Douglas, sounding fake-hurt, “but I would suggest you button it. No woman who sleeps with me is ever upset afterwards.”
Not even your ex-wives? thought Martin bitchily, but didn't voice the thought.
Carolyn swept in. “Martin, please, for the love of God, tell me that there's a tiny little subclause somewhere in the 4 billion aviation laws that you've memorised which forbids passengers from wearing fairy wings. Or bunny ears. Or any form of glitter.”
Martin had a quick mental check. “Sorry, Carolyn. If it's not a deadly device, the CAA doesn't care what they have.”
“I bet I could turn them into a deadly device,” muttered Carolyn in a dark voice.
“And there's today's game,” said Douglas. “How many different ways can you kill someone with a pair of fairy wings?”
“Oooh,” said Carolyn, her eyes going distant as she pictured that. “I've already got three.”
Martin wondered if you could suffocate someone with the material on a pair of fairy wings. How thick was it? For the first time in his life, he wished he'd had more experience with the things.
“Of course, if you're intending to shag a superhero when we get to New York, I can understand why you'd have no interest in drunken party girls.”
Martin, to his great annoyance, felt himself go pink. “Who said I was going to be shagging a superhero?” he asked, trying to sound casual but actually just sounding stuttery and defensive.
“Ah,” said Douglas entirely too knowingly.
“What?” asked Martin. “What's 'Ah’? There's no 'Ah' here.”
“'Ah' as in 'Ah, you've been too scared to contact him, even though you clearly want to'.”
Damn Douglas and his perceptiveness. “Well, alright, maybe I haven't let him know we're going to be in New York,” said Martin. “But it was really only a one time thing – you must have had enough of those to know that calling for a follow-up is usually unwelcome.”
“Oh, I have,” said Douglas. “More than enough, and certainly enough to know that when someone gives you their number – their real number, and not that of a helpline for registered sex offenders – and invites you to take a ride on their 'Starkjet', that means a follow-up would be very welcome indeed. So, unless you actually don't want a follow-up – and I would say that the way you walked around in a glowing aura of blissful smugness for three days after the event in question points firmly to that not being the case – I would suggest you text him immediately.”
“Douglas, we're 40,000 feet up in a tiny metal tube crammed with extremely sensitive equipment.”
“Immediately when we land, then,” amended Douglas. “We have all of tomorrow off, remember. Plenty of time to experience many more aspects of the Invincible Iron Man.”
Martin sighed. It sounded so easy when Douglas said it. Of course he wanted to spend tomorrow having sex with Tony Stark and, if he was really lucky, talking about planes with him. It was just that it had clearly been a miracle meant for someone else or fate falling asleep on the job or something else along those lines that meant he'd even had that once. Trying for a second time just seemed like asking for his usual brand of luck to trip him up and stamp on his face. And then spit on him as well, for good measure.
“You may even get a bed for the night out of it,” added Douglas. “God knows that whatever Carolyn has sorted out for us is bound to be closer to the fifth circle of Hell than a hotel.”
“And if I do,” realised Martin, “you'll get a room to yourself. No wonder you want me to call him.”
Douglas shrugged, apparently shameless that his ulterior motive had been pointed out. “Well, of course. It's a win-win situation all around. Except for whichever drunken woman has bagsied the captain for the night.”
“You know, I'm not sure you've got the most accurate idea of a Hen Party,” said Martin.
Douglas held up his hand. “Don't shatter my illusions.”
There was silence for another few minutes, during which Martin hoped the conversation was over, but then Douglas huffed out a little sigh and said, “Martin, seriously. Why haven't you contacted him?”
Martin thought about refusing to reply, and then about spending the next six hours stuck in a cockpit with Douglas trying to get something out of him. That had to be one of the circles of Hell. He might as well give in now and save them both the pain.
“It's just- well. What could he possibly want with me? Look at me. It's insane he went for it once, but I think we can blame that on the severe lack of options to be had in Mafikeng. Why would he want anything to do with me in New York, where he's surrounded by the rich and the beautiful and the...superpowered?”
“Oh, Martin,” said Douglas. “You're asking the wrong question, as usual. Why not you? You have plenty of things in common with him – you two were chatting for hours like old friends before it ever got as far as sex. I can't imagine there's that many people prepared to wet themselves at the thought of winglets, even in his world. You're not entirely unattractive, as men go-”
Martin broke in with a mocking laugh. “Oh, come on, Douglas. I've seen a mirror. Short and red-faced is never attractive.”
“Neither is aging and overweight,” said Douglas, “but that's not what I let people see when they look at me. It's all about confidence, Martin. When you're talking about planes you have bags of the stuff, and it shows. It's just the rest of the time that you're a stuttering wreck. You need to work out how to get some of that to bleed over.”
Martin had no idea what to say to that.
Douglas took one look at his face and rolled his eyes. “At least contact Tony Stark and give him the chance to make his own decision about either rejecting you or taking you to heights of pleasure previously unknown by Crieff-kind. What do you have to lose?”
Martin took a deep breath and let himself acknowledge that Douglas had a point. “I'll text him when we land.”
“Martin!” Tony greeted him while Martin blinked and tried to work out some sort of coherent response. “Is it me, or has your gold braid been breeding?”
Martin ignored that with all the practice of someone who had spent far too long with Douglas in the last twelve hours. “What are you doing here?” he asked, then realised how rude that sounded. “I mean – how did you know we were flying in today?” He turned to glare at Douglas. “Did you call him?”
“Sir is mistaken if Sir thinks I am in the habit of arranging sexual liaisons for Sir,” said Douglas.
“Oh, hey David,” said Tony with a vague nod. Douglas looked mortally offended. “It was pretty simple, Martin – I've had Pepper monitoring MJN Air's flights. Unless that comes across as weird and creepy, in which case it was totally just chance that she knew you were coming here. Or that you were in Copenhagen last week.”
“Oh, uh, right,” said Martin. Apparently he was being stalked by the CEO of Stark Industries, on the instructions of Iron Man. He began to seriously wonder whether this was actually some sort of extremely realistic dream.
“Oh,” he heard from behind him, and he turned to see Arthur staring at Tony with eyes like dinner plates. “Oh, oh- Oh. WOW.”
Martin sighed. “Tony, this is Arthur. Arthur, this is Tony Stark.”
“Hey,” drawled Tony with a vague hand gesture that was half a wave, half a salute and completely cool.
“Oh,” said Arthur, breathless again. “That's just...that's just...” Martin waited for the 'brilliant'. “That's...SUPER-BRILLIANT.”
Martin felt his eyebrows rise.
“Ah, a step up,” said Douglas.
“I like the enthusiasm,” said Tony to Arthur. “Always good to have some top-rate enthusiasm going on.” He looked back at Martin. “How do you feel about finding some enthusiasm back at my place? I've started on plans for the Starkjet 6000, if you wanted to take a look.”
Martin felt his heart flutter. “What are its winglets like?” he asked in a croak.
“You'll have to come by to find out,” said Tony, then he waggled his eyebrows. “Come on, baby. Let me show you my winglets.”
“I-” said Martin, then nodded fervently. “Yes, that would be-” For a horrible split-second he thought he was going to say 'super-brilliant', but he caught himself at the last minute. “Great.”
Tony beamed. “Excellent. Happy, take his bag.”
“Oh, I can-” said Martin, but the bodyguard pulled the bag out of his grip with barely any effort at all.
“Oh, don't be all British about it,” said Tony, sliding his arm around Martin's shoulders and leading him off. “It's what he's there for. I bought the Jag out here, by the way, in honour of your nation. We can take the long way home, get some speed up and make it a real ride, yeah?”
Behind him, Martin heard Carolyn remark, “Looks like you will get a room to yourself after all, Douglas. Unless, of course, we decided it would be better that the sole woman (and CEO of the company) got her own room, and you shared with Arthur instead.”
“Oh, that would be brilliant!” said Arthur. “Like a sleepover!”
Martin heard Douglas's groan, and found himself smiling at more than just Tony's endless stream of words.
When they finally stopped moving, Martin was too shell-shocked to really take in his surroundings, at least until Tony had pulled him out of the car, thrown the keys to a lackey and was shepherding him across the lobby of a skyscraper that was all glass and marble. Martin blinked around at the reception desk and the Stark Industries logo mounted on the wall, feeling the surrealness start to settle in and hoping he wasn't coming across as too wide-eyed.
“This is home,” said Tony as he guided Martin over to an elevator with one hand on his back. “Home and work, all rolled into one. Never really got why you should separate them – commuting is a massive pain in the ass, even when you have a flying metal suit.” The doors shut behind them and he put his hand on a palm-reader on the wall.
“Welcome home, Mr. Stark,” said a polite voice from the walls.
Martin jumped, and then felt like an idiot. God, he needed to get a grip. He knew Tony was incredibly rich, he should have expected something like this. He took a deep breath and resolved that, no matter what was on the other side of the door when it opened, he'd manage to act as if it wasn't a big deal.
When the doors opened, Captain America was on the other side. Martin gaped.
“Tony!” said Captain America, frowning. “I told you this morning that there was an Avengers briefing this evening. Where have you been?”
“Sorry, Cap,” said Tony, pulling Martin out of the lift. Martin's knees felt like they were going to buckle. Captain America! Actual Captain America! Right there, dressed in a red t-shirt and jeans, and frowning at Tony with intense disappointment. Jesus, his muscles alone were enough to make Martin's brain go into a spin. “Had to go and pick Martin up from the airport. All a bit last minute.”
Captain America focussed on Martin for the first time. The power of his gaze was almost enough to make Martin whimper. Jesus, how were his eyes so blue?
“You know, you're being awfully rude, Cap,” said Tony. “Martin's just had a long flight, the last thing he needs is to be welcomed with a scolding from a national icon, even if it's not his national icon.”
Captain America let out a long breath, and then held out a hand to Martin. “I'm terribly sorry,” he said, and he actually sounded as if he meant it. “This is just the third time in a row that Tony's missed a meeting. I'm Steve.”
“Martin,” said Martin in a squeak as he shook Captain America's hand, then he cleared his throat. “That is, Martin Crieff. Captain Martin Crieff. But not like you're a captain, I'm just a pilot. Not just a pilot, it's still something to be proud of, I just meant I'm a civilian captain.”
Mercifully his babble dried up before he could embarrass himself further. The hot, prickling sensation that meant he was making an extremely bad first impression was already crawling across his skin. For a moment he wished, miserably, that he'd managed to hide from Tony at the airport and was now trying to find room in the tiniest hotel room in New York for himself, Douglas and both their bags.
“Wow,” said Tony, after a moment. “And I though I was good at jabbering. You know you don't get to take the Iron Man suit if you steal my shtick, right?”
“That would be too much to hope for,” said Captain America. “Good to meet you, Martin.”
“You won't be seeing much of him,” said Tony, slinging an arm around Martin's shoulders and pulling him away. “I intend to keep him in bed as much as possible.”
Martin choked and felt himself go red.
“And there's that blush I love so much!” said Tony. “And look, Cap's got one too - two for one!”
Captain America had gone faintly pink, but he still managed to level a look at Tony. “Just make sure you read the notes from the meeting. Bruce sent them to your, ah, e-box.”
“Email inbox,” corrected Tony over his shoulder as he pulled Martin towards a spiral staircase. “Not a problem. Get on it as soon as I've got off. A couple of times.”
Martin felt his blush darken, but let himself be dragged upstairs and down a corridor that was decorated with newspaper front pages featuring the Avengers. He wasn't the kind of idiot who objected to being dragged to Tony Stark's bedroom, even if he could have done without being shamed in front of an internationally-acclaimed super-powered Second World War veteran first.
“Here we are,” said Tony when he finally stopped at a door. He threw the door open with a flourish. “My bedroom,” he announced, and then waggled his eyebrows in a way that should have been ridiculous but just came across as completely cool. Martin wondered if he'd ended up with other people's quotas of cool as well as his own. If he had, that might explain why Martin never had any.
“Very nice.” He looked around the room, mainly noticing just how big the bed was.
“It'll be even nicer when you're naked in it,” said Tony.
Martin couldn't remember anyone ever being so enthusiastic about the idea of him naked, especially not after he'd had one of his attacks of idiot-speak like he had downstairs. It felt good. He took a breath and let that feeling wipe out some of his intense nervousness. He'd done this with Tony before, after all, and it had apparently been good enough for Tony to stalk MJN Air in the hope of a rematch.
Time to remind himself of what Douglas had said about confidence. Think about planes, think about planes, he thought. The Boeing 747-400 weighs close to 200 tons, but it can carry more than 235 tons of cargo, passengers and fuel on top of that. The longest publicly used runway in the world is at Qamdo Bamda Airport in China and is 5,500 m long. I successfully landed GERTI on only one engine, with a hideous crosswind, and I didn't panic at all while I was doing it.
He felt confidence begin to settle into place, smoothing over some of the spikes of panic. It was enough for him to give Tony a smile and say, “I suppose we should test that theory,” then walk into the room and start undoing his jacket buttons.
“Awesome,” said Tony, following him in and shutting the door behind them.
“That was awesome,” said Tony, sounding as sated as Martin felt. He shifted slightly so that he could run a hand through Martin's hair. “Redheads. Always awesome with redheads. JARVIS, remind me not to sleep with any more blondes or brunettes.”
“Noted, Sir,” said the polite voice that had spoken in the lift.
Martin felt himself twitch, although he was too relaxed for more of a reaction than that.
“Don't panic,” said Tony. “Just the A.I. He's not been perving on us or anything. Well, he might have been, but I haven't programmed him to, I swear. Sometimes he just does his own thing.”
“Right,” said Martin, trying to take that in. An A.I. Like something from science fiction. Christ, how had he ended up here? “Why's he English?” he asked, and it came out as a mumble. Exhaustion was really starting to drag at him.
Tony shrugged, flopping over onto his back. “He's technically the butler. Everyone knows the best butlers are English. Hey, you hungry? I'm starving. We could grab some food, then come back up here and do it all again?”
Martin was sorely tempted, but his body has other plans. “Sounds great,” he said. “But my body thinks it's nearly 1 in the morning, and I've been up since 7.” He'd had a job with his van before the flight, not that he had any intention of telling Tony that.
“Oh,” said Tony, looking at him as if seeing the way Martin had collapsed into his pillows for the first time. “That's cool.” He sounded a bit disappointed though, and Martin forced his eyes open to look at him.
“Sorry,” he offered, then made an effort to start to sit up. “If you want your bed back, I can-”
“Oh no,” said Tony, pressing him back down into the sheets with a hand on his chest. It didn't take much effort at all to keep Martin on the mattress. “You stay here, sleep. We'll do it in a different order. Sleep now, I'll wake you in the morning for sex, then we'll eat. When are you heading back?”
“Not until Thursday morning.”
“Then we've got all tomorrow for sex. It'll be awesome. And I can show you my Starkjet plans as well. Plenty of time.” Tony patted Martin's shoulder, and then ruffled his hair. “Go to sleep. I'm gonna be in my workshop, but if you need anything, just ask JARVIS.”
“Right,” said Martin, letting his eyes fall shut again and falling asleep with Tony's hand still tangled in his hair.
Tony allowed him nearly three minutes of post-orgasmic afterglow before he was jumping up out of bed. “Come on, come on. Time for breakfast, then I'll show you my winglets.” He gave Martin a leer as he said that, as if Martin wasn't already naked in his bed and might actually need some chatting up.
“I'll need a shower first,” said Martin as he got up. “Your winglets deserve that kind of consideration, surely?”
Tony waved at a door. “Through there. Your bag should be around somewhere – Happy will have done something clever with it, like put it in the wardrobe. Come down when you're ready. The kitchen's easy enough to find.”
Martin showered and dressed, and then took a deep breath and ventured downstairs. The stairs came down into the open plan lounge area, complete with an enormous bar and an entire wall of glass looking out over the city. From there, Martin was stuck with a choice. Right, or left? Which was most likely to lead to a kitchen?
From the right, there came the sound of voices. Did that make it more or less likely to be the kitchen? Who else was here? Martin dimly remembered reading that some of the Avengers lived together, and certainly Captain America had looked as if he belonged here last night. If he followed the voices, was he likely to come across superheroes doing whatever it was superheroes did on their time off? Oh god. Two orgasms and a full night's sleep might have made him a bit more relaxed than he had been last night, but he wasn't sure he was quite up to meeting more than one Avenger at a time.
There was a careful clearing of a throat. “The kitchen is to your right, Captain Crieff,” said the voice of the A.I. Martin jumped, then wondered if he'd ever get used to it. “It is currently occupied by Mr. Stark, Captain Rogers and Mr. Barton.”
“Uh, right. Thanks,” said Martin. For a moment he considered going back upstairs to hide under the bed. Three Avengers was rather more than he thought he could cope with. Instead, he took a ragged breath and started to head that way. One of the Avengers was Tony, after all, and he'd already met Captain America and made a bad impression. That just left Hawkeye. He could handle meeting him. He could avoid embarrassing himself further. He could.
When he reached the doorway of the kitchen and saw three of the most famous superheroes on the planet sitting around a table and drinking coffee, he lost all the confidence he'd managed to scrape together. Before he could put into action his sudden, desperate plan to hide somewhere, Tony caught sight of him.
“Hey, Martin!” he said, waving him in. “Come in and have something to eat. There's coffee, if you want it – no tea, sorry, I know that's what all you Brits drink but you'll have to go without this morning. Is that unforgivable? That seems like the kind of thing a Brit would find unforgivable. I'll get whoever it is that does the shopping to get some in for next time, I'd hate to cause some sort of British-style meltdown.”
“Coffee's fine,” said Martin, once Tony had stopped long enough for him to get a word in edgeways. “I actually prefer it.”
Tony's eyes narrowed. “Are you sure you're British?” He didn't bother waiting for an answer – Martin was beginning to get the feeling that most of what he said was just white noise and didn't really require a response. Which was a relief, because he wasn't always good at responses that didn't end in a stuttering mess.
“You remember Steve, right?” added Tony. “And this is Clint. You should ignore almost everything he says.”
Hawkeye snorted. “Whereas you should ignore one hundred percent of what Tony says.” He gave Martin a very quick glance over that made Martin feel uncomfortably as if all his weaknesses had been pinpointed. “Hi,” he said. “You probably don't need to look so terrified. We only kill the evil guys.”
“Uh, right.” Martin tried to school his expression a bit.
Hawkeye shook his head. “Not an improvement,” he said, and turned back to his bowl of multi-coloured cereal.
“I'll get you coffee,” said Captain America. Martin spent a split-second trying to think of him as Steve and then gave up. Even out of costume, he was still larger-than-life in a way that made first name terms impossible. Well, maybe he could start with Hawkeye – Clint – and move up. It seemed easier to think of someone eating a bowl of cereal aimed at children by his first name, after all.
Captain America gave Martin a cup of coffee, and Martin pulled himself together enough to actually sit down at the table. Tony handed him a basket of pastries, and he took a pain au chocolat, wondering if superhero breakfasts were always this unhealthy.
“You know, you should feel honoured,” said Clint. “Tony's conquests usually get chucked out before dawn. Can't remember any of them actually being allowed to have breakfast.”
“Clint,” said Captain America in a disapproving voice.
Clint shrugged. “You know it's true.”
“I thought that might be a bit of a dick move, given that he's got nowhere else to stay in New York,” said Tony. “Besides, he's gonna let me show him my plans for the new Starkjet.”
“Oh, man,” said Clint, giving Martin a sympathetic look. “I think I'd probably prefer a night on a bench in Central Park to one of Tony's endless monologues about one of his projects.”
Martin cleared his throat and attempted a sentence. “I like hearing about planes,” he said, then forced himself to stop before it became a babble. If he just kept it to one sentence at a time, he'd be fine. One sentence without sub-clauses.
“Martin's a pilot,” said Tony. “He's gonna check out my aerofoils.” Somehow, he managed to make that sound incredibly dirty and Martin felt himself begin to blush.
“Oh, I love how easy that is,” said Tony, giving him a grin.
“Tony,” said Captain America in a disapproving voice. “You shouldn't embarrass him like that.”
And now they were talking about him as if he wasn't there, or as if he was a child that needed protecting. Fantastic. “I don't mind,” said Martin. He cleared his throat when it came out a little high-pitched. “Besides, aerofoils are fascinating.”
Clint let out a groan. “Oh Christ, you two are actually going to spend the day talking about airplanes, aren't you?”
“Hell yes,” said Tony. “In between having sex, of course.”
Martin felt his ears start to burn as Captain America let out a long-suffering sigh. “Is that kind of detail really necessary?” he asked.
Tony shrugged as if the question was irrelevant. “Come on, Spitfire,” he said, smacking Martin's shoulder and standing up. “Let's get a start on that.”
Martin got up and followed him out of the room, with a weak smile at Captain America and Clint. Well, that could have gone worse.
“What are my chances of getting you to not call me Captain Spitfire?” he asked as they got into the lift.
“Slim to none,” said Tony. “Besides, you like it.”
Martin did like it, although he didn't think he should admit that. He'd never really had a nickname before – not one that wasn't more of an insult, anyway. 'Captain Spitfire' made him feel a bit like the kind of pilot he had always wanted to be as a boy; part of a crowd of other pilots who liked him enough to joke around with him, rather than at him.
Fascinating, and a massive turn-on. Luckily, Tony had a couch in the corner of his workshop. Martin tried not to think about how many other wide-eyed fanboys and girls he'd shagged on it, which was ridiculously easy with the full power of Tony's attention turned on him. It was only afterwards, as they relaxed on it while Tony absent-mindedly traced his fingers down the knobs of Martin's spine, that Martin found himself wondering where he ranked compared to Tony's other conquests. He couldn't imagine that he measured up that well when it came to appearance or intelligence or, he had to face it, charm and wit. He twitched under Tony's hand, fighting the sudden urge to cover himself up.
Tony sat up, his hand falling from Martin's skin. “I have this other project you might be interested in,” he said in an off-hand voice. “Just a little thing I've been playing with, it might not even go anywhere, but as a pilot you might be able to give me an opinion.”
Martin turned to look at him. Tony was looking down at him as if he was completely unconcerned with Martin's response, but the mask wasn't particularly effective. “What is it?”
Tony leapt up from the couch. “Okay, so, at the moment the Avengers are pretty geographically limited – I mean, I'm not, obviously, my suit is amazing, and Thor can usually get around pretty quickly, even if it is a bit over-dramatic, but the others all rely on SHIELD giving them a ride if we need to leave the city, which is just irritating, frankly.” He strode across the room to his computerised worktable, sweeping aside the plans for the Starkjet 6000 as he spoke. He was only wearing his boxers and Martin took a long moment to admire the view, and then another one just to really appreciate that he was getting to see it.
“We're the Avengers!” Tony continued. “We should be able to get places without needing a lift – it's demeaning. JARVIS, bring up the Quinjet plans.”
“Quinjet?” repeated Martin, getting up so that he could get closer to both the designs JARVIS was starting to show and the irresistible sparking of Tony's genius. He did pause to pull his trousers on quickly, although he didn't bother with his shirt. There didn't seem much point.
“Just look at this and tell me what you think,” said Tony with a grandiose gesture.
Martin looked. And then he looked some more. “Oh, wow,” he said in tones of deep reverence. “That's amazing.”
“I know, right?” said Tony without a trace of humility. “And I'm ninety-seven percent certain it wouldn't blow up in mid-air. Ninety-eight, even.”
“Even if it did,” said Martin, “it would be completely worth it just to fly it for a bit. Are those...?”
“Yeah,” said Tony smugly. “The engines are capable of sonic flight, but without the sonic boom. The rest of the industry thinks that's just a myth, but I've got it worked out.”
JARVIS cleared its throat. Tony scowled. “Mostly got it worked out,” he corrected himself. “Just need a couple of adjustments. It's still a work in progress.”
“It's fantastic,” said Martin, moving around the table so that he could see it from all angles.
“Oh, I should probably mention that it's top secret,” said Tony. “Don't tell anyone, especially not my competitors, yadda yadda yadda.” He stopped and cleared his throat. “You, uh, you're the first person I've shown it to. First real person, JARVIS doesn't count. Sorry, JARVIS.”
“That's quite all right, sir,” said JARVIS.
“I'm honoured,” said Martin, straightening up from where he was examining the elegant lines of the wings. “It's really amazing, Tony.”
Tony grinned. “Yeah? Amazing enough to score me a blowjob?”
Martin blinked. “We had sex less than ten minutes ago.”
“Yeah, well, I like to have something to look forward to,” said Tony. “Me showing you my top secret superhero jet is totally worth a blowjob later, right?”
Martin laughed. “You're Tony Stark,” he pointed out. “You're a billionaire genius superhero. You hardly need to give people any more reasons to want to sleep with you.”
“Yeah, that's true,” said Tony. He turned away as he said it, heading back to where his trousers had ended up, and Martin got the feeling he'd just played that wrong. How was he so awkward as to even mess up on a compliment?
“So, when are you going to be ready to build this?” he asked.
Tony pulled on his trousers, but didn't bother doing up the flies. “Soon, hopefully,” he said. “Just a couple more details to work out.” He came back over to the table and swept his hands over it, moving the blueprints around to zoom in on a certain section. “See, here,” he said. “This bit needs work – it looks like something Luke Skywalker would fly at the moment. What do you think?”
Martin wasn't quite sure why Tony was asking his opinion, but he was more than happy to give it. Especially if it meant he got to hear more details about the Quinjet.
They ended up talking it over for most of the rest of the day, although Martin did find time to give Tony that blowjob, right around the time he discovered the design of the rudder control units.
“Sir, Captain Rogers is outside,” said JARVIS.
Tony let out a long sigh. “Oh, let him in.”
Martin immediately glanced at his shirt, but it was all the way over on the sofa. There was no time to even get to it, let alone put it on, before the door opened and Captain America came in. Suddenly, he was all too aware of just how skinny and un-musclebound his body was.
“Tony,” said Captain America, sounding disapproving. “Have you been down here all day? Don't you think your guest might find that a bit dull?”
Tony blinked as if the thought hadn't even crossed his mind, and glanced at Martin with a faint frown.
“I can't imagine anyone ever finding winglet design dull,” said Martin. Too truthful? He should probably avoid letting on just how much of a plane nerd he could be. Although it was possibly too late for that, given the day they'd just spent together.
Tony gave him a beaming grin that made Martin think that maybe he might have said the right thing this time. “See?” he said, turning back to Captain America. “Besides, we mixed it up a bit and had plenty of sex as well.”
Captain America let out a long-suffering sigh. “Tony, do you remember the conversation we had about you maybe trying out some discretion when it came to your sexual liaisons?”
“Yeah, I decided that wasn't really my style,” said Tony. “Besides, you're the one who came down here. It doesn't take a genius to guess what you'd be walking in on.”
“Miss Potts has been trying to get hold of you,” said Captain America. “She's been getting increasingly irate. I told her I'd get you to call her.”
Tony let out a long sigh. “Oh jeez, has she been ringing everyone I've ever met again? You'd think a man could go one day without contacting his CEO without her causing a mass panic.”
“Most men probably could,” said Captain America. “Unfortunately, Miss Potts knows you too well for you to be one of them. Call her.”
“Yeah, yeah,” muttered Tony, pulling out his phone and dialling. “Pepper, seriously, I told you I'd be busy-” He was cut off. “Yeah, yeah, I know, I know,” he said. “I was gonna do it tomorrow.”
He wandered away, further into the workshop, one hand waving vaguely in the air as he started making excuses. Martin felt terribly awkward, standing there only half-clothed while Captain America looked at him, apparently content to wait out Tony's phone call. He went over to get his shirt from the couch, so that at least he could be awkward and fully clothed.
“No, seriously Pep, I have looked at those memos. I have!” protested Tony. “They were just so dull that the part of my brain that records information shut down in protest.”
“This will probably take a while,” said Captain America. “Has he remembered that you might need to eat today?”
Martin glanced at his watch. It was still on UK time and it took him a moment to work out what the local time was, and just how long ago lunchtime was now. “Uh, no,” he said. “We seem to have missed lunch.” How was it already evening? Had they really just been talking about planes and having sex all day? God, that had to be one of the best days Martin had ever had.
“You should have said something to him,” said Captain America. “He tends to forget about these things. Come upstairs – Bruce is making curry. You can have some.”
Martin glanced back at Tony, who waved his hand at him, mouthing go, go. Apparently he didn't have a choice on this one. “Yeah, okay then,” he said, and followed Captain America back into the lift.
If he'd thought being in the workshop semi-naked was awkward, it was nothing on being trapped in a lift with Captain America. He tried to think of things to say that weren't I had a plastic doll of you when I was a kid or Did you ever get to meet R.J. Mitchell during the war? How close did you get to a Spitfire? What about a Hurricane?
He clenched his teeth to keep himself from launching into some sort of inane babble, but the longer the silence went on, the more he felt like he should be saying something – anything.
When Captain America spoke, it was actually a massive relief. “You shouldn't let him make you skip meals, you know. He just forget these things – if you remind him, he's generally happy to grab something.”
That made Martin feel defensive of Tony, which seemed odd. If anyone needed defending, it wasn't the Invincible Iron Man. “I forgot too,” he said, but that sounded a bit weak. “I tend to get a bit obsessive about planes,” he added, but that was even worse – made him sound as if he was only interested in Tony's planes. “And being with Tony makes it pretty hard to focus on anything else.” Oh god, that just sounded creepy, especially when they were just messing about. “I mean, with the way he's so caught up in everything, and talks about his designs – the things he has to say about aeronautical engineering are just fascinating.” Oh god, and he was back to geeky aeroplane fanboy. Maybe he should just give up.
Captain America was regarding him with an amused look. “Seems like you guys have a lot in common, then.”
Martin couldn't hold in a laugh at that. Him, have things in common with Tony Stark? Hardly.
“I'm serious,” insisted Captain America. “I think you're the first person outside of a very small group to be allowed down to his workshop, and you’re certainly the first person other than Bruce to actually listen to him talk about all his science stuff while they're down there.”
Luckily, the lift doors opened before Martin had to come up with a response to that.
“Five of us eating then?” said Clint, opening a cupboard and pulling plates out. Martin did a mental count and then let out a tiny sigh of relief that he wasn't going to be expected to have to cope with a Norse God tonight, on top of everything else. Or with Black Widow, who he had secretly always thought was the most intimidating Avenger.
“Yeah,” said Captain America. “Tony's just talking to Miss Potts.”
Clint sniggered. “Being yelled at, you mean. I swear, I had no idea that being a multi-billionaire involved so many people telling you off.”
“I suspect that's less about being a multi-billionaire, and more about being Tony,” said Bruce. He turned to drain the rice with a sudden motion than Martin wasn't expecting, and he flinched backwards. Bruce raised an eyebrow at him, but didn't comment.
Tony wandered into the room, still talking down the phone. He had found the time to put his shirt back on at some point, which Martin was faintly disappointed by. “No, Pep, seriously, it's- Oh, come on, seriously? That project is dead until they can show me how they intend to break the laws of physics without sending the budget through the roof.” He caught Martin's gaze and rolled his eyes theatrically, as if Martin could sympathise with whatever the hell he was talking about. Martin managed a smile back in response.
Tony put his hand over the speaker. “You guys start without me, I'll be back in a minute.” He didn't wait for a reply before he started talking down the phone again. “Really? Seriously? And you're sure it doesn't involve ideas he stole from Star Trek? Okay, okay, schedule a meeting with him tomorrow. No, not that early, are you insane?” He wandered out of the room again.
Bruce snorted. “As if Tony doesn't steal ideas from sci-fi shows.”
“Pretty sure he only watches them to get ideas,” said Clint. “I caught him taking notes during Star Wars, once.”
“Star Wars,” said Captain America with a frown. “That's the one with the light-swords? And the dame with the silly hairstyles?”
“Lightsabers,” corrected Clint, “but yeah.”
“If Tony could make a working lightsaber, he really would be a genius,” said Bruce as he served out the food.
“I'm not sure the world is ready for a lightsaber-wielding Hulk yet, man,” said Clint. “Sorry, and all that.”
Martin pictured that, and tried not to shudder.
“I'll try not to be too broken-hearted,” said Bruce, bringing the plates over to the table. He set one in front of Martin, who held himself very still to stop himself from flinching away from an arm that could turn giant and green at any moment. “I hope you like things spicy.”
“Uh, yes, yes, I do,” said Martin. As if he was really going to complain about any part of a meal cooked by Bruce Banner. He did value his life, as pathetic as it was. “Spicy is great. Wonderful.” Shut up, he ordered himself, and snapped his mouth shut.
“Good, good,” said Bruce, sitting down with his own plate and exchanging an amused look with Clint. Martin suddenly felt his face go hot as he realised they were mocking him. Oh god, this was worse than hanging out with Douglas's pilot friends and trying to make a good impression.
“So, whereabouts in England are you from?” asked Captain America. “I spent some time there, you know.”
“Ah, Fitton,” said Martin. Captain America looked blank. “It's a tiny town, you won't have heard of it. It's near Coventry.”
Captain America continued to look blank, but he managed a nod. “Ah, right.” Martin decided that 'I spent some time in England' meant 'I was in London, and failed to realise that there is anything beyond it', in the same way that it did for most Americans who had been to England.
“And you're a pilot, right?” said Clint, and Martin realised uncomfortably that they'd reached the interrogation phase of meeting the friends of a new- uh. A new what? 'Fuckbuddy' was probably the most accurate term, but Martin wasn't sure he could claim to be any kind of 'buddy' to Tony, not after having only met him twice. 'Casual fling' maybe, but that didn't usually come with having to meet friends. Just Martin's luck to get stuck being interrogated by superheroes over what was really just a bit of fun before Tony got bored of slumming it and went back to his usual fare of supermodels.
“Uh, yes,” he said. “I'm a captain at a small charter airline.” And hopefully they wouldn't ever find out just how small MJN was.
“And you're just in town for a couple of days?” prompted Bruce.
They were all staring at him, and Martin began to feel uncomfortably aware that they were probably more used to questioning criminals. “Yeah,” he stuttered. “Leaving tomorrow morning.” All three continued to stare at him. “We flew a hen party out,” he offered.
“Hen party,” repeated Captain America blankly. “A celebration of chickens?”
Clint snorted his amusement.
“It's a bachelorette party,” offered Bruce.
“Right,” said Captain America, although he still sounded vaguely mystified. “The women's version of a bachelor party? Seeing the sights, going to the sales, and getting saucepans and linen and things like that for their new household?”
Oh, wow, if Carolyn had heard him say that, she'd knee him somewhere delicate regardless of his status as a World War veteran. “Um,” said Martin, wondering how to explain how inaccurate that was and if he should include the fairy wings in his explanation.
“Almost,” said Tony from behind him. “Seeing the sights and engaging in drunken debauchery, right?”
Martin turned to look at him and was unable to hold in a smile. Partly of relief that his arrival might signal the end of the interrogation, partly just because Tony was leaning against the doorframe, holding a tumbler of whisky and looking exactly as Martin would have pictured Tony Stark looking whilst hanging out in his penthouse, before he met him.
Captain America frowned. “Right,” he said with a little headshake. “I guess I'm being old-fashioned again.”
“A bit,” said Clint, slapping his shoulder, “but the good news is Natasha's not here to hear you imply that women are only interested in housewares.”
Tony pulled himself upright and sauntered over to the table. “You've avoided a knife in the hand, my friend,” he said, raising his glass as if in a toast.
“Yours is on the side,” said Bruce to Tony, nodding at the plate of curry he'd put aside for him.
“Thanks, but I'm not hungry,” said Tony, slumping into the chair next to Martin.
Bruce fixed him with a long, intense stare. “You're not replacing food with alcohol today, Tony,” he said. “Besides which, I've cooked it, so you'll eat it.” There was more than a hint of giant green rage-monster in his voice and Martin found himself tensing up, wondering if heading under the table or running for the lift would be a best idea.
Tony let out a long sigh and stood up again to get the plate. “Honestly, you're worse than a wife.”
“And now who's being sexist?” asked Clint. He tutted in an over-the-top manner. “Honestly, Tony, don't make me tell Fury to send you on an equality course.”
Tony grimaced. “You do that, I'll tell him what happened with the fire extinguishers on the Helicarrier.”
Clint pulled a face. “How was I meant to know that would happen? Fire extinguishers aren't meant to blow up like that.”
Tony was eating his curry with one hand and he slipped the other one under the table to rest on Martin's knee. Martin blinked in surprise and glanced at him, but Tony's attention seemed to be fixed on Bruce as he tried to explain to Clint that even fire extinguishers have their limits. Martin just gave in and settled back, already feeling calmer now that Tony was there to save him from either an appearance of the Hulk or another interrogation.
They had mostly finished their food when Clint said, “We're watching a movie tonight, right? Been a while since our last attempt to educate Steve.”
“I'm perfectly well-educated,” Captain America protested, but was ignored.
“You guys joining us?” Clint asked Tony and Martin. “Or are you going to rush off to talk about planes some more?”
Tony glanced at Martin with a raised eyebrow. “Whaddaya think?” he asked. “Movie or more sex? Course, no reason we can't do both.”
“Not in the same room as us, you can't,” said Bruce.
Tony rolled his eyes at him. “I meant one then the other. Night's still young, after all.” He looked at Martin again.
“Uh,” said Martin, wondering what the correct response was. He really did just want to go up to Tony's room and get him naked again – there was only tonight left before he was leaving, after all, and it seemed really unlikely that he'd be allowed three chances at hanging out with Tony Stark. Two times was already completely surreal. On the other hand, how many people could say they'd had a film night with the Avengers? “What film are you watching?”
Clint shrugged. “Anything major from the last fifty years that Steve hasn't seen yet.”
“Something with planes,” said Tony. “Hey, I bet I can guess your favourite film. Top Gun, right? Steve, you seen Top Gun yet? You'll love it – nothing but insane flying, stupid amounts of testosterone and Tom Cruise's completely untouchable hair. Man, I wish mine looked that good after a couple of hours in a helmet.”
Martin cleared his throat awkwardly. “Actually, I hate Top Gun.”
Tony's gaze swivelled back to him. “What? Oh, come on – you love planes and flying, and that's basically all it is.”
Martin pinched his lips together. “It's reckless flying,” he pointed out. “He disobeys several extremely important safety guidelines, endangering those around him. Besides,” he added, “the love story is just painfully bad.”
Bruce laughed. “He's not wrong,” he said. “Although, reckless flying and ignoring safety guidelines…You haven't seen Tony fly yet, have you?”
Tony let out a long sigh. “No one has ever been in danger from my flying,” he said. “It's perfectly safe. It just looks reckless.”
“Right,” said Bruce sceptically. “At any rate, Top Gun seems like a bad movie to show Steve. Remember what happens to Goose?”
There was a sudden, tense pause.
“Ah,” said Tony. “Yeah, right.”
“What?” asked Captain America. “What happens?”
“There's a plane crash into an ocean and he dies,” said Clint.
Steve's face shuttered over. “I don't want to see that.”
“Yeah, no,” agreed Tony. “Something more light-hearted.” He looked back at Martin. “What is your favourite movie, then?”
Oh god, that was just the kind of question Martin hated. So much pressure on him to answer with something that was a bit intelligent but not completely pretentious, and that wasn't going to get him labelled as a geek or a sap or having a bad sense of humour or...
His moment of panicked indecision was interrupted by Clint. “How about Star Trek?” he asked. “We did mention it earlier, after all.”
Martin jumped on the suggestion. “Yes, that sounds like a good idea,” he said. Even if Captain Kirk's smug I-was-born-to-be-a-Captain attitude always rubbed him up the wrong way, it was still better than watching Tom Cruise completely disregard all safety regulations and still come out on top.
“Anyone else?” Tony asked.
Clint shook his head, holding up the beer he'd brought from the kitchen. “I'm good, thanks.”
Steve and Bruce didn't bother replying and Tony's gaze skipped straight to Martin, which made Martin think they usually didn't drink. Made sense – he wouldn't want to risk getting drunk if he might turn into the Hulk, either.
Tony twitched his eyebrows at Martin and he found himself nodding. He would rather have just had a beer but he was still feeling too nervous and tongue-tied to say that. He'd need to make sure he only had one, though. He rarely had enough money to drink, so he was an awful lightweight. The last thing he needed was to embarrass himself by getting stinking drunk.
Tony settled onto the sofa next to Martin, but he was up again after barely ten minutes of the film. “Another?” he asked Martin, holding up his empty glass.
Martin looked down at his own glass, which he had only sipped at so far. “Uh, no. I'm fine,” he said.
Tony nodded, heading for the bar. Martin began to wonder just how much he was intending to drink. Christ, they were just chilling out with a film – surely he didn't need that much alcohol for that?
It seemed he did. By halfway through the film, Martin's glass was still half-full, but Tony's had been refilled several times. The lack of reaction to his constant trips to the bar from the others made Martin wonder if he did this sort of thing a lot. It made him want to reach over, take the glass from Tony's hand and put it somewhere he couldn't reach it, and then sit on him so that he couldn't get another.
He didn't, of course. He didn't have that right – he wasn't Tony's friend, he wasn't his lover, he was just a bloke having sex with him for a couple of days. He could only wish that he did, that he was more than just a passing fancy. He wanted to be able to spend more days like today, interchanging aviation talk with sex, listening to Tony spout off his brilliance while wearing next-to-nothing. The thought was extremely dangerous and one Martin had been desperately trying to keep himself from having ever since he'd seen Tony waiting for him at the airport.
Don't get greedy, he told himself. He knew his usual luck, the lot in life that he'd been given, and expecting more than what he had was idiotic. As it was, he was watching a film with three of the most famous superheroes on the planet, and would very likely be having sex with one of them later. That should be more than enough for him. It would have to be, because the chance that Tony wasn't going to have had enough of him after this interlude was extremely slim. He was just Martin Crieff, after all – unpaid pilot and over-worked man-with-a-van. Things this good didn't happen to him.
Tony got up for another drink and there was a sway to his steps that hadn't been there at the beginning of the film. Martin watched him walk, then turned back to the screen with a resolutely clenched jaw. Not his place to say anything.
As he turned back, he caught Captain America also watching Tony. He was frowning, looking as if he was having the same thoughts Martin had just had. He caught Martin watching before he could look away, and gave a self-deprecating smile and a raised eyebrow, as if to say what can we do?
That took Martin aback. It said a lot if someone like Captain America had apparently given up on trying to rein in Tony's drinking. He felt a sudden burst of defiance – why should they just sit there and say nothing? – followed immediately by the sense of how ridiculous he was being. This was just one night, after all. What was to say Tony was usually like this? Maybe he was just trying to drink his way into spending yet another night with a skinny ginger.
Tony gave him a slanting grin as he came back to the sofa. When he sat down, he was closer to Martin than he had been and one hand found its way to Martin's knee. Martin looked at it for a while, nerves running through his body, then let out a gentle breath and told himself to grow up. Confidence, he reminded himself. He thought about how he'd been able to push all of his usual self-doubt aside today, mainly by focussing on planes until there wasn't room for anything in his head – well, nothing but sex, anyway. And there had been a lot of sex – sex in which Tony hadn't once shown any sign of regretting his decision to meet Martin at the airport. He spent some time trying to recapture that feeling, focusing his mind on ailerons and autopilots, and then let himself relax sideways into Tony, settling against him. Tony's arm immediately moved to drape around him, pulling him in closer, and Martin blinked with surprise at how easy that had been. He snuggled in further, trapping Tony between his body and the arm of the sofa.
Fifteen minutes later, Tony's glass was empty again. Martin remained as he was, settled against him, and tried to keep his attention on the screen, but really he was just waiting to be moved to one side so that Tony could get out and go to the bar again. There was a pause for half a minute during which Martin did his very best not to tense up, and then, to his very great surprise, Tony set the glass down on the floor. He relaxed further into Martin, tightening the arm that was wrapped around him and stroking his hand down Martin's shoulder.
Well, that seemed pretty unambiguous. Martin moved his own hand to Tony's knee and gave it a squeeze. A moment later, Tony had turned his head so that he could press a kiss just underneath his ear. It was a slow, wet, lingering kiss and it put Martin instantly in mind of various other things they could be doing right now. Things they'd spent a great deal of time doing over the last twenty-four hours, but which he couldn't get enough of. He slid his hand a little higher up Tony's thigh, wondering just how much longer the film was going to last. Did they really have to stay for all of it?
Captain America cleared his throat in an overly-loud, awkward manner. “Am I meant to be understanding any of this science?” he asked, but it was pretty clear that wasn't the real reason for his interruption.
Martin immediately felt heat rush to his face and let go of Tony's leg, trying to pull away from Tony and allow a bit of distance between them. Tony clung on tightly and didn't let him get too far, and in the end Martin was forced to admit defeat and stay pressed against his side.
“Not really,” said Tony. “It's pretty much complete bullshit. Most science in films is.”
“Except Back To The Future,” said Clint.
There was a brief, confused pause. “Ah,” said Bruce in the tone of someone about to break bad news.
“No,” said Clint quickly, putting up a hand. “I don't want to hear it. There is absolutely nothing wrong or inaccurate about Back To The Future. It's perfect.”
“Right,” said Tony, sounding deeply condescending. “Except for the-”
“Don't make me throw stuff at you,” said Clint. He picked up the TV remote threateningly.
“Okay, okay,” said Tony. “I get it. Back To The Future is the pinnacle of human achievement, and it's the laws of physics that are wrong, not the film.”
Clint nodded sharply, and put the remote back down. “You got it, man. That's exactly right.”
Tony let out an amused breath next to Martin's ear but didn't make further comment.
The film ended not long after that and the second the credits started rolling, Tony was leaping to his feet, dragging Martin up with him.
“Well, that was great, lots of fun, but I find myself suddenly very tired, exhausted in fact, just falling asleep on my feet – you're the same right, Martin? Totally wiped out. We should go to bed right now.”
Clint snorted as he stood up. “Yeah, you're fooling no one,” he said. “I should go, anyway. I need to rescue the dog from my neighbours before they overfeed him into obesity.”
Tony was gently tugging Martin towards the stairs. “Okay, great, see you later then.”
“Um, it was lovely to meet you,” managed Martin.
“You too,” said Clint. “Have a great night,” he added with an over-the-top smirk. Martin felt himself blush again.
“Ah, fuck,” Tony muttered, and gave up on subtlety in his attempts to drag Martin away.
The minute they were upstairs and out-of-sight, he pushed Martin back against the wall and kissed him as if he hadn't had sex in months, instead of just hours. “Fuck, that blush,” he muttered. “Fucking hot.”
There wasn't much Martin could say to that, other than to pull Tony into another kiss, ignoring his creeping, insistent awareness that they were still out in public, where anyone – Captain America, the Hulk, anyone – could walk in on them.
“Bedroom,” he said in a gasp, then made his voice into more of a command. “Bedroom.”
“Yeah,” muttered Tony. “Fuck, yeah.” He grabbed Martin again and dragged him away, this time getting him behind a closed bedroom door before he kissed him again.
Tony's fingers were tracing over the bare skin of Martin's back, sliding across his shoulder blades in zig-zagging lines. It took Martin a few minutes to realise what he was doing.
“Are you playing dot-to-dot with my freckles?” he asked.
“Yep,” said Tony, swirling a finger around a patch of skin and then drawing a line down Martin's spine.
Martin felt his back prickle with self-consciousness, and he was tempted to turn over or pull the sheet up over himself. As if he needed another reminder that his appearance was hardly what Tony usually had in his bed.
“These ones are totally a tree,” said Tony, running his finger in a shape that felt vaguely like a tree as a toddler might draw it. “And here, this bit is a smiley face.”
Martin groaned. “Don't,” he said, shifting in preparation of turning over. “Don't mock me.”
Tony put his hand on Martin's shoulder, holding him in place. “Mocking? Come on, when do I ever mock? Would I do such a thing? Well, okay, all the time, but not right now. Freckles are awesome, and yours are particularly good. Seriously.”
“Of course they are,” said Martin, rolling his eyes but obediently staying in place.
“You don't believe me,” said Tony. “I'm hurt, how could you not believe me? Hang on, wait, let's try this – JARVIS, map Martin's freckles and project them onto the ceiling.”
“Yes, sir,” said JARVIS smoothly, as if there was nothing odd about the request. There probably wasn't for an A.I. used to Tony Stark's mad whims.
“Oh God,” muttered Martin, lowering his face to hide in his arms.
“No, no, look at this,” said Tony, poking at him until he reluctantly turned over.
The pattern of lights on the ceiling was vaguely Martin-shaped and he supposed it was rather pretty. But then, any collection of dots would probably be pretty when displayed as pinpricks of light.
“See?” insisted Tony. “Look, there's the tree I was talking about, and the face.” He gestured at various dots and Martin squinted, trying to spot the shapes Tony claimed were there.
“They're just dots,” he said.
Tony let out a sigh. “Come on, use your imagination. You must be able to see something.”
An imagination wasn't one of those things that Martin got accused of having very often, but he stared at the dots anyway. “I don't-” he said after a moment or two.
“No!” interrupted Tony. “No giving up until you see something.”
Martin made a face, but continued to look. “I suppose,” he said after another long pause, “if you use those ones there, and trace lines across that way, and ignore that cluster, there's a plane.”
Tony laughed. “Of course you'd see a plane, Spitfire,” he said. He tipped his head slightly, then nodded. “I see it,” he said. “Wings shaped like a Douglas Dakota, but a tail more like a Dassault Falcon.”
“Yeah, that's it,” said Martin. He pictured what such a plane would be like in real life, and shook his head. “It wouldn't fly very well.”
“I don't know,” said Tony slowly, clearly thinking hard. “You could redesign the fuselage and mount the-”
Martin started laughing. “Please tell me you're not actually mentally designing a plane based on my freckles.”
Tony turned onto his side to look at him. “Hey, it's not the craziest idea I've ever had. We could call it the Crieffjet. Or the Freckles 1000. Or-”
“No,” said Martin firmly. “Just stick to the Starkjet.”
Tony let out a huff and rolled back over. “Fine,” he said. “Stifle my creativity, see if I care.”
“I think you've got plenty of chances to use your creativity,” said Martin. He thought back over the day, and Tony's endless descriptions of things he was planning for the Starkjet 6000 and the Quinjet. “Your ideas for the empennage on the Quinjet alone are amazing.”
“Yeah,” agreed Tony, apparently without any modesty at all. “Hey, talking my ideas out with you today was pretty helpful – your input is a lot better than my bots. I'm still working through some of the things we talked about – can I call you if I need to think out loud for a bit?”
Martin was so surprised that he didn't know what to say for a minute. His immediate reaction was 'yes, yes, of course', because of course he wanted to be able to talk to Tony Stark about plane design whenever he could, but common sense kicked in after a moment. “Ah,” he said, hesitantly.
Tony didn't let him finish. “It's cool if you can't be bothered, I get it – I talk a lot, and even a pilot must get bored of planes eventually, especially if we're not mixing it up with sex, don't worry about it, I can keep using JARVIS. Probably better that way, otherwise he'd feel left out, can't have that-”
His voice had taken on a note Martin knew all too well from his own voice; one that said 'I'm trying to pretend I don't care by using too many words'. He put his hand on Tony's chest, just above the arc reactor. “It's not that I don't want to,” he said, cutting into the flow of words. “I really like talking to you about your designs. It's just-” he made a face to himself at how stupid this was going to sound to a man like Tony Stark. “My phone company charges me a lot for international calls, even when I'm just receiving them.”
“Oh,” said Tony. “Well, that's not a problem, I can pay for that – hell, I can give you a phone, right now if I could be bothered to get up. I've got tons of them – you would not believe how often superheroes break their phones. I'll just give you one of those. Latest Starkphone, not even released yet, you'll love it, and then-”
“No,” said Martin, as firmly as he could. “No, thank you. My phone is fine.”
Tony frowned. “Well, it's clearly not if you can't call me on it. Take a Starkphone, I'll set you up a company account so I'm paying the bill, and then-”
“No!” said Martin again, sitting up. “I have a phone, it works perfectly well,” as long as you charged it every night, and didn't want to do anything more than use it to text or call people, “and I don't need your charity, thank you.”
“Charity?” repeated Tony. “That's not – Martin, I literally have millions of phones, I have a whole factory making them. It's stupid for you not to take one. Besides, what's the point of sleeping with a multi-billionaire if you don't get a couple of freebies out of it?”
Martin stared at him, anger beginning to course through him. “I'm not- Tony! I haven't been having sex with you in order to be given things,” he said. “I'm not some kind of prostitute!”
Tony sat up, holding his hands out placatingly. “Whoa, hey, that's not what I meant at all.”
Martin wasn't listening. He grabbed for his pants, where they'd been discarded on the floor earlier, and stood up to pull them on. “If that's what you think of me,” he said, looking around for his trousers, “then I think it would be best if I left.”
“No,” said Tony, lunging forward to grab Martin's wrist. “No, don't- Martin! Listen to me.”
Martin stopped and took a careful breath, glaring at Tony.
“Look, I just meant that it seemed stupid that I shouldn't give you something you need, when I have a surplus of the things. I wasn't – I didn't mean anything by it.”
Martin regarded him carefully for a minute. Of course, a man like Tony Stark wouldn't know what it was like to have to save and scrape for everything you wanted to buy, to count the pennies even for things like food, to know that paying the telephone bill meant skipping a few meals for a bit. And as such, he had no idea what it was like when people thought that meant they could just buy you with a few careless luxuries, and that you'd be so grateful you'd do anything in return. Martin had had several very short-lived relationships, and even a couple of friendships, that ended once the other person realised that being richer than Martin didn't mean they got to dictate what he did.
“I'm not interested in hand-outs,” he said.
“Course not,” said Tony. “Never thought that for a moment, why would you be? I'm just – most of my friends are either employed by me or on the team that I'm funding. I'm used to just giving them the things they need, when they need them.”
Martin considered that, then gave a short nod and sat back down on the bed. “I don't need you to give me anything,” he said, just to make it absolutely clear. Yes, okay, he lived off pasta and toast, but he made ends meet, somehow. He paid his bills almost on time and he wasn't in debt to anyone, not even his bank.
“Just a bed for the night, right?” said Tony. “Come on, get back into it, I'm feeling lonely here, come on, come on.”
Martin reluctantly allowed himself to be pulled back into the bed. He let out a slow breath. “I may have over-reacted,” he admitted, after a few minutes of silence had allowed him to rethink his automatic anger. Tony didn't know anything about his situation, after all. He thought Martin was a salaried captain, with all the perks that entailed.
“Might have?” repeated Tony. Martin tensed and tried to pull away from his grip. “Oh, no,” said Tony, clinging on to him instead. “No, you're not going anywhere. We've only got till tomorrow morning; I'm not wasting that time on an argument. Stay here.”
He had a point. Martin allowed himself to be kept in place.
“Right,” said Tony, tucking himself around Martin as if to anchor him to the bed. “Good. That's better. Now, seriously, I want to be able to call you. It seems silly for me to not be able to just give you a phone so that I can do that, so explain to me your objections, ignoring any idiotic remarks I may have made, because I'm just not getting it.”
Martin clenched his jaw. “I don't like being an object of charity.”
“This wouldn't be charity,” said Tony. “No, listen,” he said, when Martin tensed up again. “Come on, listen to me. I'm being selfish on this one. I want to be able to call you and ramble at you for an hour or two about my designs, and it seems like the only way I'll be able to do that is if you take a phone. It's purely for my benefit – you don't have to use it to call anyone else.”
Martin let out a sigh. He had to admit that it made sense, but the idea still didn't sit right with him. “I have a computer at home. We could use Skype,” he said, even though his computer was third-hand from his sister and so old that he wasn't sure it could cope with Skype without crashing.
“Right, and how often are you at home with your computer, rather than jet-setting it around the globe?” asked Tony. “Come on, just take the phone.” He slid his hand down Martin's chest to his stomach, then across to cup around his hip. “Take the phone, Martin, take it, take it, take it-”
Martin batted his hand away. “I'm not going to be seduced into it,” he growled.
“Oh, that's a sexy tone,” said Tony. “Remember that one for later.” His hand stopped moving though, content to hold Martin's hip and stroke a thumb across his skin. “Tell you what, bet your First Officer would take a free Starkphone. How about I give him one, and if I happen to call it, then he can just hand it over to you for a bit?”
Martin sighed. “That's ridiculously convoluted.”
“Yeah, well, you're not giving me a lot of options here. Come on, Martin. Take the phone.”
The problem was, Martin really wanted it. And not because it would be the nicest, most modern thing he owned, or because he was sick of the way the 3 key on his existing phone had started to need several taps to get it to register. It was because he really, really wanted to be in a position where Tony could call him at any time just to talk about his planes for a while. “Okay, fine,” he conceded. “Fine. I'll take it.”
Tony beamed. “Excellent.”
“God, no one ever says no to you, do they?” said Martin.
Tony shrugged. “Not for long,” he said. “Speaking of not long, we should be using our time better...” His hand moved lower, and Martin let himself be turned towards him. “Want to try using that sexy tone again?”
“Martin,” said a quiet voice. “C'mon, Spitfire, wake up already.”
“If you want more sex,” muttered Martin, “you'll have to wait ten minutes for me to wake up properly.”
There was a low laugh. “No, it's- well, yes, actually, of course it's yes to sex, but that's not why I woke you.”
Martin opened an eye to squint at the clock. “I don't have to leave for a while yet.”
“Well, no, not technically, not if we take a car,” said Tony. “I was waking you to offer you a choice on that one, actually.”
That sounded intriguing. Martin turned onto his back. “What do you mean? Please tell me you're not suggesting we jog to the airport.”
Tony laughed. “I think we've burnt off enough calories with physical activity over the last couple of days,” he said. “No, I just meant that I could give you a ride, if you wanted.”
Martin blinked. How was that different to taking a car?
Tony sighed. “I mean, Iron Man could give you a ride,” he said with more emphasis. Martin felt his eyes widen. “I mean,” continued Tony, “I'd have to go pretty slow, so it would take longer than a car, and it would probably be a bit uncomfortable – it's not really built for passengers, and-”
“No,” said Martin quickly, before Tony could talk himself out of having made the offer. “I mean, yes. Yes, I would love that. That would be amazing. The best thing ever, really. Better than amazing. Yes. Please.”
Tony laughed. “Okay, good,” he said. “Nice to hear some enthusiasm.”
“As if I'd be anything other than enthusiastic,” said Martin, and he pushed Tony over onto his back to show him just how enthusiastic he was about the idea.
The Iron Man suit was breathtaking in person, even more so than it was in the news clips. Martin spent several minutes just circling Tony once he was in it, fingers stroking over the panels, and asking questions about streamlining and velocity that he had to admit he didn't really understand the answers to. Maybe if he sat down with a few diagrams he would be able to get it all, although part of him doubted it. He could just about keep up with Tony when it came to aeroplane design, the kind of thing he had spent his whole life learning about, but this suit was another thing altogether. For a moment, he was almost bowled over by the awe he felt for Tony's brain, which could produce something like this as well as the Quinjet and the arc reactor and the Starkphone and everything else that he had a hand in. How could one man be at the cutting edge of so many areas of technology and design?
“Okay,” said Tony eventually, “as much as I'm enjoying getting to show off – and I am, don't get me wrong, showing off is definitely in my top ten things to do – we really need to get going.” He held out an arm invitingly. “Come on.”
Martin glanced out at the view over New York's skyscrapers, suddenly hit with a burst of nerves. Don't be ridiculous he told himself. You're a pilot. Flying is your job. This is just the same, only without a plane.
Yeah, that wasn't exactly reassuring. Still, he wasn't about to pass up the chance to go for a trip with Iron Man, even if it did end with him falling from a great height.
“No need to worry,” said Tony, as if reading his mind. “I haven't dropped anyone yet. Well, no one who wasn't already struggling, and I caught them before they hit the ground.”
“Oh god,” said Martin, with a dry mouth. “I'm going to die.”
Tony rolled his eyes. “Not right now, you're not,” he said. “Superhero, remember? And you're a good guy. We don't let the good guys die.” Something dark came into his eyes, and he amended his statement. “Well, not if we can help it, anyway.”
Martin really didn't like that look on his face, so he stepped forward into Tony's metal-clad arm. “If you do drop me, you're going to have to explain to Carolyn why she's missing a pilot,” he said. “And believe me, she can be pretty terrifying.”
“That sounds fair,” said Tony, shutting his faceplate. “Okay, hold on tight,” he said, in a more computerised voice. “Here we go.”
Martin was unable to hold in an exhalation of surprise or the instinctive clutch of his hands as they rose up into the air. This was so much more real and immediate than being in a plane, even in a small plane like the ones he'd learnt to fly on. As Tony took them out over the city, keeping at a relatively low height as they soared over the buildings, he was reminded of his childhood dreams of being an aeroplane, of doing exactly this under his own power.
“You doing okay?” called Tony to him.
Martin managed a jerky nod. “It's amazing!” he shouted back against the wind. “It's just...brilliant!”
Tony laughed, the sound whipping away across the roofs of New York. “I know, right?” he said, and they sped up a bit, diving slightly before rising up again in a gentle wave.
By the time they landed at the entrance to the airport, Martin was freezing cold, the windburn had left his face feeling like it had been scoured with steel wool and he couldn't remember ever feeling more euphoric.
“That was amazing!” he said as Tony raised his faceplate. “I can't believe you don't do that all the time! It was just fantastic!”
Tony's grin was almost as wide as his. “It really is, right?” he said. “Even better when you can go faster and do some proper stunts.”
The sheer glee shining out of him was too much for Martin to resist and he pulled him in for a kiss, clumsily putting his arms around metal armour to pull Tony's face to his. Tony wasted no time in putting his gauntleted hands gently on Martin's hips and pulling him in close, deepening the kiss far beyond what Martin would usually be comfortable with in public. Right now, he was too flooded with adrenalin and endorphins to care about that.
There was a cleared throat from behind him. “I see that Sir has had a pleasant couple of days.”
Martin took a hand away from Tony long enough to send a rude gesture Douglas's way. There was an amused huff of laughter.
“Sir might like to know that he has a growing audience. Some of whom have cameras.”
That was enough to cut through Martin's haze of bliss, and he pulled away from Tony, ignoring the protesting noise he made. They did, indeed, have a small audience, several of whom had camera phones pointed in their direction. Martin felt himself blush again and ducked his head, stepping back.
Tony glanced around, as if being the focus of that much attention was barely worth acknowledging. “Well, that'll give the tabloids more evidence that I'm a philandering asshole,” he said cheerfully.
“Oh god,” said Martin. “Tabloids?”
“Don't panic,” said Tony. “I'll get Pep to make sure they don't identify you. They're only interested in pointing out how bad my life choices are, anyway.”
“You save lives,” said Martin. “How can they say that's a bad life choice?”
Tony shrugged. “I kinda pissed them off a lot, over the years. They're taking a while to get over it.”
A black, expensive-looking car pulled up next to them and Happy stepped out, carrying Martin's luggage.
“Ah, thank you,” said Martin, taking it from him.
“I had him put a Starkphone in there,” said Tony. “Oh, no, don't make that face. I want to be able to talk to you – it's a gift to myself. I give myself the best gifts,” he added, and then gestured at the Iron Man suit.
Martin pulled a face, but nodded. He had already agreed to it, after all. “Fine,” he said. “Just...fine.”
“Skip! Hey, Skip! Douglas!” He turned to see Arthur waving both arms at them from a few metres away, standing with a handful of extremely hungover-looking women that Martin recognised as their passengers.
“Oh, wow,” said Arthur, rushing over. “Mr. Stark! Hello again!”
“Hello,” said Tony, giving him a bright smile.
“You should go,” said Martin as the women began to get over their surprise and started to edge closer.
“Yeah,” agreed Tony. He slipped a hand around Martin's neck and pressed a kiss against his lips, which temporarily halted the creeping tide of women as they all stopped to stare for a moment. “You're going to text me when you get home, okay? Don't worry about what time it is here, I'm up all hours.”
“Ah, okay,” said Martin, feeling himself go pink under the amused look Douglas was giving him. “I'll do that. Um. Goodbye.”
“Bye,” said Tony. He kissed him again, then stepped back a few steps, put his faceplate down and took off. He shot off into the sky in a way he hadn't been able to when he had a passenger, and Martin watched him go with awe. Had he really got to spend the last day and a half having sex with that guy? How on earth had he managed to be that lucky?
“Martin!” snapped Carolyn's voice. “Stop gawping at the sky, and come and prepare GERTI so we can go up into it. I would prefer to get home before the next ice-age.”
“Right,” said Martin, turning away and heading into the airport. Time to get back to his normal life, or, at least, as much as he could get back to normal when he could still feel his lips tingling from kissing Tony Stark. Jesus, how was this happening to him?
Martin sighed. He should have guessed he wouldn't get away without a Richardson Interrogation on this one. “It would seem so,” he said, hoping that a few short answers would make Douglas lose interest.
“And he wants to stay in contact?” pushed Douglas.
Martin pursed his lips. “Yep,” he said.
Douglas waited a moment for there to be more. Martin did not oblige him.
Eventually, Douglas just let out an amused breath. “Well, far be it from me to say 'I told you so', but-”
“Yes, yes, I know,” interrupted Martin. “You're always right, and I'm always wrong. This time, though, I was wrong and I got laid. Several times. With great enthusiasm. How did it go with the hen party?”
“No need to get snappy,” said Douglas. “I was merely showing an interest in-”
A blur of red and gold streaked across the front of the plane, then slowed enough to resolve into the shape of Iron Man. He did a loop in front of the plane, then gave them a wave.
Douglas started to laugh. “Oh, Sir has definitely made an impression,” he said.
Martin ignored him in favour of waving back. For the first time he let himself believe that there was going to be more to this thing with Tony than a casual fling. He wants me to keep in contact, he thought. He wanted to be able to talk to Martin. Perhaps that meant that, even after he'd grown bored by the sex, they'd still be friends. Martin really wanted that.
He wanted other things more, of course, but he wasn't allowing himself to think of them. That would only lead to disappointment, after all.