"All systems ready for take-off, Captain," Douglas said, then added in a low drawl, "More than ready."
Martin inhaled sharply, and it took him a while to voice a reply. "Let's get those engines started then," he finally said, trying for a seductive tone. Oddly enough, he was starting to enjoy himself.
Douglas smirked. "I'm happy to turn on your engines, Sir. And what impressive engines those are."
"What? Do you want us to stop? Because I'll have you know, I either do it properly or not at all."
Unwilling to stop now that he'd given it a try, Martin shook his head. "Fine, fine," he said. "Go on then."
"Now the mood is gone."
Martin snorted. "Well, maybe a little system check will help with that. Let's see ... what about ... the landing gear?"
Douglas raised a questioning eyebrow, then looked around. "Landing gear ... checked."
"You can check my landing gear any time," Martin replied smugly.
"Well played," Douglas murmured appreciatively.
"Fuel flowing in the right direction again?" Martin couldn't help but add.
"Indeed it is. You'd better prepare for impact, Captain. The touch-down might be a little rough, especially—"
Suddenly, the door to the flight-deck burst open and Carolyn stormed in. "What on earth are you two doing— Oh thank God, you still have your clothes on."
"Why wouldn't we have our clothes on?" Douglas asked innocently. "Although, now that you mention it, maybe it would make our stand-bys more interesting if—"
"Stop it, Douglas. Don't even dare to think about it, whatever it is that you are thinking. Thanks to you two, I have enough images in my head to make a lesser woman weep."
"We were just playing a game," Martin offered.
"Yes," added Douglas. "'Make flight routines sound naughty.'"
Carolyn raised her eyebrows. "Well, you succeeded. I hope it makes you feel satisfied. Next time, at least have the decency to turn off the intercom."
Martin stood up from the narrow hotel bed and fiddled nervously with his flies, well aware that Douglas was watching his every move. It always made him uncomfortable to be the first to undress. Well, at least Douglas had already lost his shirt and vest, which was a small consolation. Taking a breath, Martin stepped out of his trousers, folded them neatly and placed them carefully on top of the rest of his discarded clothes before finally meeting Douglas's gaze. Douglas smirked and let his eyes roam up and down Martin's body, now covered by nothing more than a pair of briefs.
"Stop staring," Martin snapped.
"Stop staring?" Douglas repeated incredulously. "Well, maybe I've been doing it wrong all these years but if one isn't allowed to have a look, what is, in Sir's opinion, the point of—"
"Hey chaps!" A muffled, but decidedly cheery voice sounded through the door of the hotel room. Before either Martin or Douglas could react, the door flew open and Arthur stormed in. "I've invented a new game we could play! It goes like this— Oh!"
Arthur stopped in his tracks when his eyes fell on Martin and Douglas. "I'm sorry, I didn't know that you two were... well, uh ... Congratulations! That's brilliant!" Arthur grinned. "You could have told me!"
"Told you what?" Douglas asked, while Martin hastily scrambled back into his trousers.
"That you and Skip are together!"
Douglas prodded, "And you have come to that conclusion because...?"
"Well, it's pretty obvious, isn't it? Two people half-naked in bed together..."
"Did you learn that in Ipswich, too?"
"No. I came up with that by myself. Brilliant, isn't it?"
"Yes, quite," murmured Douglas.
"Arthur," Martin said after he had regained his breath. "We are not 'together.' We were playing strip poker. The cards lying between us might have given you a clue."
"Oh!" Arthur said for the second time this evening. "Ooooh! That's nearly as great as what I was going to suggest! Can I join in?"
"No!" Douglas and Martin answered in unison.
"Ah." Arthur's shoulders slumped.
"We'd just finished anyway," Martin said placatingly, glad for an excuse to end the game he was so obviously losing.
"No we hadn't," protested Douglas.
"Yes we had." Martin stared at Douglas.
Arthur brightened up again. "Then you have time for my new game! So I thought that one player..."
"What on earth is this?" Carolyn asked and pointed at her computer screen. "I hope you are not seriously suggesting that this would make for a good promotional photo, Arthur?"
Arthur stopped the hoover, dropped it in one corner of the portacabin and went to peer over his mother's shoulder.
"Uh, no, mum. I thought it would be a great idea to make a surprise snapshot of the flight deck. So I snuck in, took the photo ... but then I heard Douglas say 'Deeper,' and Skip moaning, so I, uh, remembered that I still had the kettle on."
"Arthur!" Martin yelped and jumped to his feet, feeling heat rushing to his cheeks.
"Arthur!" Douglas joined in. "Really. Didn't it occur to you to delete that photo before handing the camera over to your poor mother? Preferably after you saved a copy for me?"
Arthur shook his head. "Sorry, chaps." Then he brightened up. "You can still have that copy, though, if you'd like!"
"No, you cannot," Carolyn said decidedly.
"What are we even talking about?" Martin asked, getting more and more confused.
"Are you telling me you don't remember this?" Carolyn turned the screen of her laptop around.
When Martin's eyes fell upon the photo, his face flushed even more.
"It's definitely not what it looks like!" he burst out.
"Then why are you on your knees in front of Douglas, with your face in his lap and your shirt-sleeves rolled up? I've never even seen you without your jacket before."
"What an interesting camera angle," Douglas said smoothly as he studied the picture. "Actually, Martin was going to show me his juggling skills and was groping for the balls."
"Yes, exactly— Douglas! It was an apple! One apple, and I'd dropped it!"
"And it rolled under my a—"
"Under your seat, that's right! Is there anything you won't turn into a double entendre?"
Douglas raised an eyebrow. "Is Sir suggesting a new game?"
"That's quite enough," Carolyn snapped, then she sighed. "I'm not sure if I prefer a pilot who can't even juggle one apple, or a pilot who goes down on his first officer in my plane. And no, Douglas, that is not a challenge."
"Are you ready to collect your prize, Martin?"
"What, now? Here?"
"Why not? We'll be stuck in this godforsaken place for at least another couple of hours. Arthur has gone to find us some food and Carolyn is giving hell to some poor executive or other, so we have G-ERTI all to ourselves for a while. And frankly, if you don't mind my saying so, you look like you could use a little relaxation."
"Thank you," Martin said dryly. Though he had to admit that Douglas had a point, and despite himself he started to look around. "It's not exactly the most comfortable place though..."
"Well, if you sit down here," Douglas said and manoeuvred him into seat 3A, "and if you turn like this... I think it would work well enough."
Martin let himself be directed. After all, Douglas was known for being good at everything, and maybe a little bit of the 'Douglas Special' was exactly what he needed right now. Not that he would ever admit to that, of course.
Douglas settled behind him. "Let's get this off you," he drawled.
"I don't want to be responsible for ruining Sir's uniform."
"I thought you'd just..."
"Martin, for some wondrous reason I don't quite fathom, it was you who won the bet, and now it's me who owes you. I am not intending to chicken out of my debt, so shut up and get this off."
Martin sighed, but complied.
"There's a good boy," Douglas muttered. "So where did I put... Ah, here it is."
Douglas made a show of reading the label of the little bottle he had produced. "Sensual Massage Oil."
Martin giggled. "Don't tell me you always carry massage oil with you."
"As a matter of fact, I do. You never know when you'll be in need of some lubrication."
Martin rolled his eyes but didn't comment. He hissed a little when the cold fluid touched his body, but quickly relaxed. Douglas really was good at this; his hands were strong and warm and dexterous and found all the right places. Martin probably should have been embarrassed at how he couldn't refrain from moaning whenever Douglas hit a particularly sensitive spot, but he was past caring. When Douglas was done with him, he felt as if he'd melted into a boneless heap.
"There," Douglas announced. "Feeling better now?"
"That's what they all say," Douglas commented smugly, wiping his hands with a paper napkin. "Not to break your very understandable post-Douglasian bliss, but you might consider dressing in the near future."
"Right," Martin replied, trying to muster up the energy to move.
After a few minutes spent in mutual silence, there was a soft sound in the back of the plane, and a muffled voice called out.
"Uh, chaps, can I come out now?"
"Arthur?" Martin asked, perplexed.
"I really don't want to disturb you guys, but it's getting a bit uncomfortable in here."
"Of course you can come out. Why are you hiding in the toilet, for God's sake?"
Arthur opened the cubicle door carefully and peeked out. "Well, you seemed ... busy, so I'd thought I'd give you some ... privacy."
"How very considerate of you, Arthur," Douglas said.
"Privacy," Martin echoed as realisation dawned on him. "Please tell me you weren't thinking that Douglas and I..."
"Don't worry, Skip, I won't tell mum!"
"That's a relief," Douglas muttered. "We all know how very good you are at keeping secrets."
"Arthur, where do you keep getting these ridiculous ideas!? Douglas was massaging my neck."
"Sure thing, Skip," Arthur said, twitching his face in a way barely recognisable as a conspiratorial wink.
"You were there when I won the bet. You heard what Douglas's wager was!"
"One free massage. Wait, he meant he'd do the massage himself?"
Douglas smiled. "That's what 'he' meant, indeed."
"Wow, that's really clever. Do you think I could learn that, too?"
Martin barely refrained from banging his head against the back of seat 2A.
"Why do they always assume that we ... that we are ... well...?" Martin asked.
"When you say it like that, it is a rather puzzling question," Douglas replied.
"You know what I mean."
"Well, as you might have noticed, I do have a bit of a reputation."
"So have I," countered Martin. "They should pretty much cancel each other out."
"Should they now?"
"Douglas, I know that voice. What are you getting at?"
Douglas looked at him, face perfectly blank but his eyes twinkling with mischief. "You know, I haven't spent the last few weeks working on all those double entendres for nothing."
"Yes, I know, you always have an ulterior motive," Martin sighed. Exactly what that ulterior motive might be though, he couldn't imagine. The novelty of shocking Arthur and Carolyn must have worn off a while ago, and if this was a prank to somehow put off Martin's potential dates then, well, Douglas needn't have bothered. Really, the only effect the whole thing had on Martin was that...
"Wait, are you saying that all the time you were trying to ... get me into bed? Or into ... whatever?"
"Now that sounds a bit unromantic. Personally, I prefer wooing. Or courting. Maybe even—"
"Why didn't you just ask me out on a date?" That wasn't quite what Martin had intended to say, but there it was, out in the open for Douglas to prey upon.
"Oh, should I? What are you doing tonight?" Douglas asked.
"Tonight? Nothing special, why do you... oh."
"Is that 'Oh' as in 'I am free and would love to have dinner with you, Douglas,' or 'Oh' as in 'That's none of your business?'"
"Douglas, if this is some sort of game to you, or some way to stroke your ego..."
"At any given moment I have not one, but several ulterior motives, and 'stroking my ego', as you so nicely put it, is always somewhere on my list. But I assure you, right now it's not on top."
Martin considered that for a while. He had always found Douglas quite attractive and charming, he just never allowed himself to think of him that way—after all, he was his co-worker, and what's more, it had been quite clear that Martin wouldn't have had even a hint of a chance anyway. Or so it had seemed. Now Martin wasn't so sure anymore. Not thinking of Douglas that way had been decidedly harder when everyone else had just been too eager to jump to conclusions and... and that, Martin realised, was probably exactly what Douglas had wanted to achieve, the sneaky bastard. When had he started to like sneaky bastards?
"Okay, then," Martin said at last. "Fair enough. What did you have in mind?"
"My place at eight? I'll cook?"
"Hi chaps! What are you playing?"
Arthur bounced into the flight deck, chipper as ever, while Martin inwardly groaned and wondered if it would be possible to literally sink into the ground. It definitely felt like it.
"What does it look like?" Douglas asked, obviously unperturbed by the whole situation. Knowing him, he was probably even enjoying himself.
"Well, it looks as if you are trying to have sex in the captain's seat. But I'm not stupid; I'm not falling for that anymore. Besides, that would be pretty uncomfortable, wouldn't it. Are you playing strip poker again?"
"Arthur, do you see any cards?"
"Now that you mention it ... no. What are you doing, then?"
"Having sex," Douglas answered nonchalantly.
"Ah, naaaaaah." Arthur waved his hand dismissively. "Nice try, Douglas!"
"Well, if you don't believe me, you can always stay and watch. Learn a thing or two from the old sky god."
"Douglas!" Martin interjected, finally getting his speech back. "Just drop it. Both of you. I knew this would be a bad idea. I can't believe I agreed to it in the first place."
"Twenty minutes ago, you seemed quite eager. So eager in fact that— Ugh!"
Martin shoved a pile of clothes into Douglas's arms with more force than strictly necessary. "Let's just go home, Douglas, shall we?"
They dressed, quickly and silently, while Martin desperately tried not get any more embarrassed than he already was. Damn Douglas and his ever-present calmness. Well, maybe not ever-present, because Martin had recently found out that there were ways to get under his first officer's skin... Right. That train of thought wasn't helping at all right now, not with Arthur gaping awkwardly and trying to work it all out. No, Martin really didn't want to be around when the penny finally dropped.
"Ready, Martin?" Douglas asked, voice warm and gentle.
Martin nodded, and they climbed past Arthur and out of the plane. The last thing Martin heard from Arthur was a faint and thoughtful "Oh."