"Good morning to our favourite passengers, Arthur 'Cujo' Shappey and Ms. 'Delores Claiborne'. My name is First Officer Douglas Richardson, and I've just come off 'The Night Shift' where I flew over 'The Green Mile' with my co-pilot, 'The Apt Pupil' himself, Captain Martin Crieff. Today, our 'Skeleton Crew' will be flying in the direction of 'The Shining' sun en route to the lovely city of Paris. Whilst in Paris, we will be parking the aeroplane 'Under the Dome' near 'The Dark Tower' of Orly Airport. As it is a daytime flight, we will be landing at four past noon instead of 'Four Past Midnight'. I do hope the unending boredom of a cargo flight doesn't create a sense of 'Desperation' and turn you into a 'Firestarter'."
"What was that? Twelve?"
"I believe so, Sir. Would you like to try?"
Martin took a deep breath, trying to decide if he could out-Douglas Douglas. "For the next month, you'll do the walk arounds?"
Douglas thought about it for a minute. "What do I get?"
"What do you want?"
Martin went quiet for a moment. He couldn't really afford to lose twenty quid. He'd been doing relatively well as a man with a van, but twenty quid was still a lot of money for him. "Fine. You're on. Twenty quid if you win."
Douglas tried to hide his surprise. Martin never bet money, and definitely not as much as twenty quid. Douglas knew how little his Captain made as a man with a van. He really hoped he lost.
Martin closed his eyes, whispered a soft prayer that he would win and then began his cabin address. "A jolly good morning to 'The Man in the Black Suit' and 'Rose Madder'! Today, you are 'Riding the Bullet' to Paris and our only passenger for this 'Home Delivery' trip is a 'Stationary Bike' and not 'The Cat From Hell'. I am your Captain, Martin Crieff, and up here in the pointy end with me is 'The Man Who Loved Flowers', First Officer Douglas Richardson. It has been '1408' minutes since our last flight but I suffer from 'Insomnia'. As a result, my 'Grey Matter' is a little sluggish this morning, but I promise I will not take 'Mrs. Todd's Shortcut' and land us in a 'Pet Semetary'. Enjoy your flight. I hope it gives you 'That Feeling You Can Only Say What it is in French'." A huge smile took over his Martin's face as he put down the intercom. "That's fourteen!"
"Fourteen? I'm impressed, Martin." Douglas purred. "A month full of walk arounds it is, then. Are you sure you don't want the twenty quid as well? That was quite an impressive performance."
Martin shook his head. "I don't want your money, Douglas. I'm doing OK if that's your subtle way of asking me how business is."
A soft smile tilted up the corners of Douglas' lips. He was caught. The two men had gotten closer since Douglas' divorce, but they didn't often talk about Icarus Removals as it was still a source of embarrassment for the younger man. "You got me, Sir."
They sat in a comfortable silence for a while, Douglas sneaking peeks at the younger man when he could. Once or twice, he'd notice his Captain doing the same. It had taken Douglas a while to get over his third divorce, but during that same time, he'd started to take more than just a passing interest in Martin. There was one night, a year ago, that was burned into his memory. It was the night Martin had fallen asleep and curled up to him as they watched the aeroplanes at Bradley International Airport. The scent of Martin's shampoo and the feel of those auburn curls as he kissed the top of his head still haunted him. He hoped one day to relieve the experience.
Douglas cleared his throat and Martin thought he looked a little nervous. "There's this little bistro not too far from La maison d'un millier de cafards et les rats that I wanted to try on our next trip here. You know I hate to eat alone. Come with me? Please?"
Martin knew, without asking, that Douglas was going to pay for the meal and that he wouldn't allow Martin to argue with him. He looked at Douglas and saw sadness etched across his face. Douglas knew he was going to say no, just like he had a thousand times before. Arthur had once told Martin that Douglas only looked sad when he thought Martin couldn't see him, but those days were in the past. He chewed on his bottom lip nervously before answering. "OK. I will."
Martin pretended not to notice the way Douglas' face lit up, just like the way he pretended not to notice the way his heart skipped a beat when realised that HE made Douglas that happy.