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“Mum, did you know there are 9 sheep for every person in New Zealand?” Arthur said, pouring the coffee into two cups.

“How on earth do you know that?” Carolyn replied, sounding long-suffering.

“There was a poster of fun facts about New Zealand in the elevator, and that’s the only one I remember,” Arthur said. “Are all those sheep going to be in the cabin with us, or do they go in the hold?”

“What - we’re not taking sheep on our flight, Arthur, why would we?”

“Well, if every person in New Zealand comes with 9 sheep, we’d have to?”

“Oh, Arthur,” Carolyn said. Arthur recognized that tone as the end of that particular line of thought.

“Nine times as many sheep as people, though,” Carolyn said a moment later. “I’ll have to bring Herc here.” She had a very considering look on her face.

Arthur opened the door to the flight deck, with a “Morning, Skip! Morning, Douglas!”

“Oh, uh, hello, Arthur,” said Martin. He was turning very pink for some reason.

“Did you get a sunburn, Skip?” Arthur asked.

“What?” Martin said, or more like squawked.

“Well, you’re a bit red on your neck. Oh, and your ears, too. Oh, and now your face! Were you out on the balcony too long?”

“Balcony?” Martin asked. “We were - I wasn’t - why would you ask that?” His voice had gotten quite high.

“It was a brilliant balcony,” Arthur said, handing the second coffee to Douglas. “You could see all the mountains!”

“You could indeed,” Douglas said. “All kinds of things you could see from that balcony.”

Martin made a strangled noise. Maybe his sunburn was impacting his ability to talk?

“All right, chaps,” Arthur said. “See you in a bit!”

“Thanks for that, Douglas,” Martin said as Arthur turned around. His whispers were always very loud.

“You’re very cute when you’re squawking” Douglas said as the door closed. And maybe, after that, though Arthur couldn’t quite hear, “flyboy.”

“Douglas!” That screech, Arthur could definitely hear.

 

It turned out China was not very close to New Zealand, which was disappointing because they were both on the same side of the world, so by rights they should be close.

But after almost 10 hours of flying, they were nearly there, finally. Arthur had provided the cheese tray, many coffees, dinner, and also another meal that should really have been breakfast, because that’s the order of things, but which everyone kept saying was a second dinner.

Every time he’d come into the cabin, though, Martin and Douglas were… different. They’d stop talking as soon as he came in, for one thing, rather than what they usually did, like try to get him to play a game that he didn't properly understand. They were looking at each other in funny ways, too. Sometimes Douglas was smiling, sometimes Martin was blushing, and one time they both immediately looked away as if he’d caught them at something. Arthur wondered if they were planning some scheme, again.

This time, as Arthur walked in, they were quiet, both looking towards the lights of Chengdu. It was never this quiet in the flight deck.

“Hello, chaps,” Arthur said, as he came in.

“Oh, hello,” Martin said, before lapsing into silence. Arthur snuck a look at his face and saw he looked happy. Like, really happy. Brilliantly happy.

He looked at Douglas, and, he, too, seemed… quite happy.

“Why’re you so happy?” Arthur asked.

“What now?” Douglas said, but he didn’t really seem like he was listening.

“You both just seem...really excited, or something.”

“Oh, you know,” Douglas said. “Just, excited to be almost there.”

“Are you really fond of Chengdu then, Douglas?” Arthur said.

“Some parts of it, I suppose,” Douglas said. “I’m mostly excited for the hotel room, to be honest with you.” Douglas looked over at Martin when he said that.

“Oh, yeah,” Arthur said. “I guess you must be tired, after all this flying.”

“Indeed,” Douglas said. “All this flying. That’s what it is.”

When Arthur looked over at Martin, he was smiling, too.

“Skip, your sunburn is back,” Arthur said. “Weird, it’s dark out.”

“Maybe it’s from the spotlights,” Douglas said. “Martin is a star, after all.”