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An Old Sky God

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It took a little while for Douglas to realise what that little noise at the back of his head was. The warmth tipped him off though, someone was praying intensely. Not to him of course, no one had done that since... oh it had been some time in the twelfth century, hadn't it. Nonetheless, it was a powerful, undirected blast of prayer energy swirling around in his vicinity. It was intoxicating after so long.


It took him a while to realise the source, but Martin was praying desperately to anything Divine that might lend him a listening ear.
'Please let me just get through this bloody flight before I collapse, please? Oh God this is awful!'


Looking over to his captain Douglas reevaluated the pastiness of his face, the determine cast of his features that on closer examination was tinged with desperation. Martin would never believe honest concern from him, not after six months of relentless teasing, so Douglas looked out at the open sky spread out before them and gently coaxed the wind around to their tail, chivvying the clouds away. It brought a very slight sense of relief to the timbre of the prayers.


Focussed as he was on flirting with gentle Zephyr, charming the warm wind to give them a helping hand, Douglas almost missed the warming signs, but the noise Martin made as he fainted was just enough warning for him to grab the yoke and summon the air to catch Martin as he swooned.


Martin was still visibly breathing, but looked awful, pallid and clammy. Now he wasn't making an effort to be discreet Douglas could also hear the rattle of mucous building up his lungs. They were over the Atlantic Ocean, at a guess a minimum of three more hours in any direction away from anywhere that might be conceivably equipped for looking after Martin.


On a cargo flight he wouldn't have hesitated to call one of the others in, but there were fifteen American business people paying handsomely to be ferried from Chicago to Fitton. Douglas suspected they might get a little twitched if they knew the captain had keeled over. Since Arthur was due with the coffee any time soon, Douglas waited.


'Hello Skip, Douglas!...'


Arthur dropped to his knees, using his rather rudimentary first aid skills to check Martin over. He contemplated the keeled over captain for a long moment. 'I'm going to fetch Mum.' He decided at last.
'Good idea, Arthur.' Douglas bit back the instinctively sarcastic response and aimed for encouraging instead.


Douglas hummed something stirring, trying to yank his mood into energetic cheer. Everyone assumed grey skies and poor weather made Douglas Richardson grumpy, but it was quite the opposite. Instead he was practically the embodiment of pathetic fallacy, so he needed to stay in a useful mood if they wanted to get back to the British Isles swiftly and safely. The sun shone a little more brightly in response to his singing and as Douglas switched to the Toreador Song from Carmen the tail wind blew steadily.


Carolyn shut the cabin door behind her before speaking. 'Arthur is trying to be discreet about something, what on.... Oh.' She ground to a halt as soon as she saw Martin's sprawled form and hurried over, arranging his limbs into the recovery position and spreading a blanket over him.


'At this point the nearest point we could divert to is all of three hours away. Hopefully he can hang on that long. I'm trying to squeeze a little more speed out of the old girl in the meantime.' Douglas forestalled her next line of questioning.


'Good, radio ahead when we get closer. I'll see if we can get a cold compress for his forehead, it looks like a nasty 'flu' that he's picked up.'


As Douglas continued to get them back towards Fitton, coaxing the winds with honeyed words and divine wiles, Carolyn rummaged in her handbag for Lemsip and tissues, alternately coaxing and bullying the semiconscious captain into drinking lots of fluids and generally mothering him.


The look Carolyn shot Douglas when he glaned over to check on them and caught her holding Martin's hand could have withered an oak tree, so he swallowed the teasing words he'd been about to speak and turned his eyes stolidly back to the horizon.


The landing was smooth, with nary a bump, Douglas reminding all present of why he had the title 'the good pilot' to Martin's 'safe pilot' and the paramedics on standy were in the cockpit almost before the American business contingent had even unfastened their seatbelts. Carolyn brooked no possible objections to the fact she would be accompanying Martin to hospital and Douglas wrinkled his mose at the waiting clipboard ful of paperwork.


'We'll keep him in overnight for observation and carry on pushing the fluids, but it looks like a simple 'flu' that's taking its toll due to his degree of exhaustion.' The nurse reassured Carolyn as he led her to the bed they'd put Martin in. The silly boy had woken briefly on the way in, confused and ready to jump off the stretcher to find his misplaced hat, but after a little reassurance that of course he wouldn't lose his job for this so stop being silly and let the professionally trained medics do their job for crying out loud he'd dropped back into unconsciousness.


As she sat in the back of the taxi taking her back to the airfield Carolyn elt an unaccustomed pang of guilt. Martin had work himself out doing van jobs in between their unusually busy schedule, leaving him vulnerable to infection. She couldn't afford another pilot's wage (Douglas was already on a pittance by pilot standards as it was, although he was too proud to mention it) but she was sure they could work at least something out.


Didn't amateur jockeys get unofficial bonuses or gifts when they won a race? She was sure she'd read something of the sort in the Dick Francis novel that had been the only English-language book available in that hideous layover in Kiruna. Performance bonuses weren't exactly unusual, maybe she could manage something along those lines, if only so the boy could afford to eat something other than potatoes for once.


Carolyn glanced at the clock in the portacabin as she sat down to deal with the mountain of paperwork a collapsed pilot generated. Then she looked at it again and started doing the sums in her head as she realised what time it was and what time they must have arrived at. Douglas had literally achieved the impossible, getting them home so quickly in Gertie. Hell, there were more modern planes that would have struggled to achieve a flight time like that.


She frowned and looked over to the airfield where her vexing, puffed up, ridiculous, not-so-bad-after-all First Officer appeared to be doing something she dared not examine to closely to entertain her great man-child of a son. He'd done it, that was certain.


Something in the back of her head pointed out the oddly wing-y quality of his hairstyle and that impossible voice that she'd seen deployed in countless airports to work hundreds of tiny miracles with ATCs and customs officers. The myths always said they had to leave a few clues for observant mortals.


'Oi, Zephyr!' Carolyn called sharply out of the door, stopping the pair of men in their track. Arthur bounded over, Douglas following with his hands in his pockets and a smug grin on his face.


'Not quite, but you're getting warmer.' He tipped his hat to her with a flirtatious wink that only very occasionally made her knees wobble these days. 'If that's all you wanted then I'm off. Places to see, people to do and all that...'


She watched him go, amusement and disapproval warring on her face. The old gods were notorious for having it off with nearly everything that moved, was that why he stayed on? A girl in every port and the lustful stared reflected in golden (gold coloured) buttons? Her mind turned to Herc and her vision tilted momentarily as he wondered, just for a moment.


'Don't be so daft.' She told herself. There was paperwork to do.