Be ready to leave for the station in 15 minutes; I’m just picking up some last-minute items and then I’ll swing by to pick you up.
Martin read the text message and smiled to himself; Arthur had been planning (as he called it) Operation B.R.I.L.L.I.A.N.T. for the better part of two months. He didn’t know anything that Arthur had planned, or even where they were going, just that Arthur told him to pack for 5 days of ‘festive-ness,’ whatever that meant. Martin had packed hours before Arthur left, but, while he was waiting, he checked to make sure he had all the essentials that one would need for a trip, and, of course, that one would need for 5 days of ‘festive-ness.’
“Skip, you ready to go?” Arthur asked, letting himself into the flat that he and Martin shared.
“Yes; though, you sure you can’t tell me where we’re going, or well, anything, for that matter?” Martin asked, walking up to Arthur and pulling him into a hug.
“I told you; I don’t want to ruin anything. You know that I’m not the best liar…”
“That you’re not; I’m surprised you’ve managed to hold out for as long as you have.” Martin grinned at Arthur.
“Douglas has been teaching me.”
“Really? Douglas? Teaching you? Teaching you what, exactly?” Martin asked, pulling away from the hug and looking Arthur straight in his gorgeous hazel eyes, with a coy smile.
Arthur darted his eyes around the entrance hall. “Uh, you know. How to, um, be more creative when telling the truth.”
“You mean he’s been teaching you how to lie?”
“Well…I wouldn’t say that, really. But, I also wouldn’t, wouldn’t say that either.” Arthur winked (with one eye) at Martin.
Martin sighed and shook his head and said, “It is a damn good thing you’re adorable, Arthur.”
Arthur broke into a grin and exclaimed, “Aw, thanks Skip!”
“Shall we go?” Martin asked, grabbing his bag.
“Yeah; let me just grab my own bag and we’ll be on our way. Feel free to wait in the car; I’ll only be a moment.”
A few minutes later, Arthur and Martin were en route to the station. Martin had no idea if it was a fire station, a petrol station, or a bus station. Or, maybe, it wasn’t even a real station; maybe it was just another one of Arthur’s code words.
“Thanks for not blindfolding me, Arthur.” Martin said, turning to look over at Arthur.
“Why would I blindfold you, Skip? We’re not playing ‘sexy instrument rating test’ right now, so I’ve left my blindfold at the flat.”
Martin flushed. Arthur had such a way at being so direct that always made Martin blush something fierce, especially when it was about something intimate. “Oh, uh, right. Well, I guess I thought you might blindfold me so I don’t know where we’re going until we get there.”
Arthur smiled at him. “We’re almost there.”
A comfortable silence took over the car. Martin glanced over to Arthur and couldn’t help but grin; he couldn’t believe his luck that this was actually happening to him. He was, for the first time in his life, wonderfully, blissfully happy, and all it took was a very lovely couple acting as his cheerleader. He had kept in touch with them, as Martin had promised, but it had still been a few weeks since they last spoke (or had seen each other).
“We’re here, Skip. Grab your bag and follow me!” Arthur said, turning the car off and grabbing his bag from the backseat.
Martin woke up from his daydream, grabbed his bag, and followed Arthur. It finally dawned on Martin what Arthur had meant by ‘station.’ In front of them was London’s St Pancras railway station, which was about an hour away from Fitton. Martin followed Arthur inside the station. Arthur insisted that Martin wait at the benches near the front of station while Arthur checked in and got their tickets, so Martin followed suit, smirking at just how organized (and sneaky) Arthur was being. A few minutes later, Arthur met up with Martin, with their tickets in hand.
“Lead the way, Wing Commander,” Martin said, winking at Arthur.
Arthur led Martin to their train, which, according to the sign, was leaving in twenty minutes for Brussels. Martin tried to figure out what on Earth was in Brussels that would merit going there for a holiday in the middle of July, but his thoughts were quickly derailed when he heard a familiar voice.
“Martin! How the devil are you?” the Manager said, half running, half walking to Martin, before embracing him in a hug.
“Manger?! What are-?” Martin asked as he stood bleary eyed while the Manager hugged him rather tightly.
“Ah! I thought that was you making all of this commotion, Martin.” The Driver exclaimed, joining the hug with Martin and his Manager.
“Allow me to explain, Skip.” Arthur began, while the Driver, the Manager, and Martin broke the hug. “So, remember our first date at that Italian restaurant a little outside of Fitton a few months ago?”
“Of course, Arthur. How on Earth would’ve I’ve forgotten that?”
“Well, and please don’t get mad at me for doing this, you left your mobile on the table when you went to the loo to wash your hands before our dinners came. And, I didn’t mean to, but I noticed that someone had sent you a text, congratulating you on asking me to dinner on a date. So, I saw who it was from, and jotted down their number.”
“Yeah, Martin, and then after your date, I get a text from this chap asking if I could be of some assistance for this ‘operation’ that he was planning.” The Driver said smiling at Martin, rubbing Martin’s shoulder affectionally.
“The Driver told me about Arthur’s little operation, and I had to agree. We knew immediately that this was the lovely coworker that you had told us about, and we had to go through with it.” The Manager said, wrapping an arm around the Driver’s waist.
“S-so, what is this little operation, Arthur?” Martin asked, quietly.
“Well, we’re going to Brussels! It’ll be brilliant!” Arthur replied, excitedly.
“Well, that I figured, Arthur,” Martin began, smiling at Arthur through tear clouded eyes, “But, exactly why are we going to Brussels?”
“Ah, that part I still cannot tell you, at least not until we’ve departed.”
Martin looked around, and glanced at his watch, “Uh, is everyone else on this train running late or something?”
“Ah, no. That was another part of Arthur’s operation, Martin. It is just the four of us on this trip. You’re taking the train there and then flying back to London after your trip.” The Manager replied.
“You mean that he rented out the entire train just for, for-”
“Yes, Martin. Just for you.” The Driver explained.
“But if you were going to Brussels anyways, why wouldn’t you have a train full of people?”
“There’s typically not many people who take the mid-day train to Brussels, so we worked out a deal with Arthur to allow the train to go to Brussels with you two as our only passengers.” The Manager said, smirking at Martin’s awestruck expression.
Arthur beamed at Martin and said, “You’re worth it, Martin.”
“Right, chaps, we best be on our way so we can stay on time. Take your seats.” The Driver said, gesturing to a compartment near the front of the car.
Once the Manager and the Driver left, Martin grabbed Arthur, pushed him up against the wall of the compartment, and kissed him fiercely. Martin felt Arthur smiling and Martin couldn’t help but smile back; he found himself quite spellbound by Arthur’s rather intoxicating smile. “I can’t believe you did this for me, Arthur.” Martin whispered, breaking the kiss and taking a seat.
“Like I said earlier, Martin, you’re very worth it.”
Martin knew he meant it, too. It wasn’t often that Arthur called him Martin in conversation, and when he did, Martin knew it was typically done very intentionally. “I mean, you a) set this up with the Driver and the Manager along with having them keep this a secret from me each and every time that I’ve met up with them for coffee or for a pint; b) booked a train (and this entire elusive trip to Belgium, for that matter) for just the two of us; and c) kept this a secret from me for over two months? Especially after all that we’ve been through between me moving out of my horrible attic flat, us moving in together, and the countless flights that we’ve been on together.”
“Yeah; I started planning it immediately following our first date. I first met the Manager and the Driver a few days after our first date where we started planning the train portion of the trip.” Arthur smiled and continued. “I really took a shine to the Driver almost immediately after meeting him, for some reason.”
“You knew that we were going to be together, after just one date?”
“Of course, Martin. You knew it too. I’ve never seen you look at anyone that way before; I knew you wanted us to be together,” he took Martin’s hands in his hands and continued, “the same way that I wanted us to be together. That’s why we’re still together, Martin; our mutual wanting of this relationship to work and for us to be together.”
“So, about the rest of this operation…”
“Right, well,” Arthur began, looking at the window, “Seeing as we’re no longer in London-. “
“Brilliant deduction, Sherlock.” Martin said, dryly.
Arthur gave Martin a look, and continued, “Seeing as we’re no longer in London, I can tell you the rest of my operation. We’re going to Brussels to celebrate Christmas!”
“Arthur, it is July.”
“I know that Skip, but we can still celebrate Christmas! Y’know, Christmas in July! Its a thing! I read about it online, annnnddd the Driver and the Manager had both heard of it, too, so I knew it wasn’t something that the internet had made up.”
Martin grinned. “So, how will be celebrating Christmas, in July, in Brussels?”
“Oh! Tons of things, Skip! We’ll be going to a few different museums, including an aviation museum, this brilliant shopping place that has historic marine and aviation items, and a trip to the aviation school!”
“But, that’s not very Christmas-y, Arthur.”
“Well, I know you’re not the biggest fan of Christmas, so we’re doing lovely things that I know you’re going to love while we wear,” Arthur paused, and after rummaging through his bag for the items he was looking for, he continued, “these!”
The ‘these’ that Arthur was talking about were two tank tops: one was quite small, and the other was a fair bit larger. They were tie-dyed red and green and had red, white, and green craft pom-poms all over the tank tops’ front and back. In 3D puffy paint, there were little triangle Christmas trees and bells in various colors also all over the front and the back of the tank tops.
Martin blinked at Arthur, then back at the tank tops, and then back at Arthur. “You mean, we’re going to be wearing those around Brussels?”
“Yes! I made them myself, Skip.”
“Oh good Lord.” Martin tried to imagine himself walking around Brussels wearing what could only be described as an ugly summer Christmas sweater. “Please tell me we’ll just be wearing those tank tops and shorts, right?”
“Oh thank, God.” Martin sighed a breath of relief, looking outside the window, taking in the scenery whizzing past him.
“Though, if by shorts you mean, these, then, you’re in luck!”
Martin winced as he looked over to see what other article of “clothing” Arthur had produced from his bag.
“Red shorts? Really?”
“Yes! And I know they’ll fit you because they’re the same brand as those navy shorts, just in red!”
“As if we couldn’t be any harder to spot wearing those red shorts and those tank tops.” Martin muttered.
“Oh, cheer up, Skip! It’ll be fun! We need to wear summertime Christmas-y clothes when we celebrate Christmas in July! And, I thought red shorts would be fun ‘cause we’ll be like Santa!”
“I’m terribly afraid to ask, Arthur, but is there anything else that we’ll be wearing?”
“Oh, right! How could I forget these?!” Arthur rummaged in his bag a final time and pulled out two berets.
“Yeah! It is part of the traditional dress that Belgians wear,” he paused, just as it if were for dramatic effect, “in Belgium!”
“Are those polar bear ears glued to yours?”
Arthur held up his hat with a grin, “Of course.” He put it on his head. “And this one is for you, Skip,” he said, handing Martin a white beret with goggles that were made from black and gold felt.
Martin took it from Arthur while Arthur stared at him with an almost nervous look on his face. Martin put the hat on and Arthur smirked at him. “Do you like your hat, Skip?”
“In comparison to the tank tops, I adore the hat, Arthur.”
“Brilliant! Well, we’ll wait to get dressed until after we get off the train.” Arthur got the almost nervous look on his face again. “Are you alright, Skip? You look a bit, well-.”
“No, Arthur, I’m fine. I just have a lot of anxiety being in public sometimes, and I knowing wearing, all of this” he began, gesturing to the hat on his head, along with the tank top and the shorts, “in public is going to just stress me out. I’ve always been weird looking with my super bright red hair and the fact that I’m so short, and I’m just, worr-.”
Martin’s statement was cut off by Arthur giving him a hug. Martin buried his nose in Arthur’s hair, breathing in his shampoo and Arthur’s scent. Strong arms and hands wrapped around Martin’s body, pulling them even closer together. A few moments went by before Arthur broke the hug, and while still holding onto Martin, said, “Martin, I know this is scary for you, but you did say in the past that you really need to put yourself out there, right?” Martin nodded. “But, believe me; there is nothing for you to be afraid of when we walk about Brussels wearing our brilliant summertime Christmas outfits. I’ll be there right with you and if someone says something really mean to you, I’ll call them out on it. I’ll protect you, Martin.”
“You are very protective, though. And you are right; I know I need to spread my own wings a lot more, so this will be an excellent test in that.”
Martin leaned in to kiss Arthur on the cheek. “And, I know Christmas and I really don’t get along quite well, but the way your face lit up as we celebrated our seven-minute flight deck Christmas was just so magical. The fact that I, of all people, helped you radiate joy during our first Christmas together, as friends, was probably the first time that I, knew I was, well.” Martin flushed in embarrassment.
“Oh, Martin,” Arthur began, kissing Martin wherever there was flushed skin, “that was such a brilliant Christmas. I’m looking forward to all of our Christmases that we’ll share together.”
Martin snuggled up against Arthur’s chest, letting Arthur’s scent engulf him, and soothe him. “So, why are we going to an aviation school, actually? Have you decided to take up flying?
Arthur began stroking his hair. “Oh, that was another part of my plan, actually. I emailed the head of the school about you and your story and they wanted you to come in and speak to their students.”
“Me? How on Earth am I motivational? I mean, sure, I’m a young captain, but-.”
“Martin. Please stop putting yourself down; your worth so much more than negative, hurtful words. I told them about your struggles throughout life and they wanted you to come in to talk about how it is okay to fail, as long as you never, ever, lose sight on what you really, truly want in life. I even brought your captain’s uniform so you can wear it when you give your talk. And, in case you get nervous, I brought my steward’s cravat, so you can put it in your captain’s blazer. That way, it’ll be like I’m right next to you during your talk, even though I’ll be as close to you as the audience.”
Martin snuggled further into Arthur’s chest. “What on Earth did I do to deserve you, Arthur?”
“You were your true self, Martin. Not the version of you that the world sees, but the version of you that you kept hidden from the world because you were so afraid to be that person.”
“So, what did Operation B.R.I.L.L.I.A.N.T stand for anyways? I assume it did, at least.”
“Oh, of course it did. The word ‘brilliant’ stands for, The Big, Ravishing, Invigorating, Loving, Luxurious, Intoxicating, Affectionate, and Nautical Trip for Martin. They’re all words used to describe the goals of the trip. I know you already know this, Martin, but I want to tell you it anyways: I love you.”
Martin blushed a lovely shade of red and kissed his gallant steward on the lips.
The Manager came out from the front of the train and walked over to where Martin was still snuggled up against Arthur. “Just wanted to let you know that we’ll be arriving in Brussels in about 15 minutes.”
“Thanks.” Martin replied, draping one of Arthur’s arms across his torso, so Martin felt even more protected.
The boys carefully packed up their summertime Christmas outfits back into Arthur’s bag and resumed the position they were previously in for the duration of the trip. After the train stopped at the Brussels station, the boys untangled themselves and grabbed their bags. The Manager and the Driver were waiting for them at the front of the train after the boys left their compartment.
“Thanks again for doing this, chaps.” Martin beamed at both men, while giving them a hug.
“Don’t mention it, Martin. Though, to be fair, we really didn’t do that much; it was all Arthur.” The Driver replied, grinning at Arthur.
“Well, you boys have fun on your summertime Christmas holiday.” The Manager said, hugging both Arthur and Martin.
“We most certainly will, Manager.” Arthur said, positively glowing.
Together, Arthur and Martin left the train, after waving back at the Driver and the Manager. According to Arthur it wasn’t a terribly long walk from the station to the first hotel they would be staying in during their summer Christmas holiday.
“Skip, I forgot to mention one thing that I brought with me.” Arthur said, while walking hand in hand with Martin, with the glorious July evening sun shining down on them.
“Oh dear; please don’t tell me it is another hat.”
“Even better than a hat, Skip. The blindfold.”
“I thought you said you forgot the blindfold, right?”
“I did say that, yes. But, I’m rather enigmatic that way. Now we can play ‘sexy instrument rating test’ whenever we want.”
Martin felt himself flush as he and Arthur quickened their pace to their hotel. It was most certainly going to be a B.R.I.L.L.I.A.N.T. summer Christmas holiday.