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Flyboy

Chapter Text

New Zealand was quite a long way from... well, anywhere, Douglas thought. Sixteen hours of flying had worn him out, and his body had no idea what time it was. Douglas rather thought it was evening as the sky outside his hotel window was glowing pink and blue, but maybe that’s just how skies looked in New Zealand, all the time.

Douglas’s least favorite part about long distance flights was trying to fall asleep after. His entire body ached with exhaustion, but he couldn’t turn off, the twin stimuli of tiredness and keyed-upness warring in his head and body.

Douglas had been flying for 30 years, though, so he knew the solution to this particular problem: Porn.

The internet truly was a wonderful invention, Douglas thought as he took his clothes off, grabbing his phone as it fell out of his pocket. The hand not holding his phone migrated to his dick, loosely stroking himself without any real purpose or expectation as he opened up a private browser and started to click around the usual sites.

His brain still couldn’t settle, though. He found himself thinking about the runway choices at Christchurch, about Arthur’s inane questions as they did post takeoff check offs (“Does the wind go in the other direction in New Zealand?”). He clicked on a video, watched two burly men make out for a minute, and then his mind began to wander again, wondering what Carolyn had planned for them, idly replaying the buttons and choices of their last flight, Martin’s fingers gripping the throttle as he landed. His dick, while pleased by the attention, had also not quite decided if it wanted to fully pay attention to the proceedings.

Pornhub Gay clearly wasn’t meeting expectations at the moment, so maybe he needed to try something new. An ad for “Live Cams - Models nearby!” seemed enticing enough, and took him to a new site.

Douglas didn’t really see the point of Live Cams. He didn’t want spontaneity, he wanted professionals who had rehearsed and had standards to maintain, for goodness sake. Some of the boys were cute though, and he clicked on a faceless torso at random. Clicking led to more clicking, and while Douglas found himself mostly intrigued by the absurd usernames, there was something kind of appealing about all these bodies, shamelessly spread out across bedroom floors or plain white sheets, abs clenching and pecs quivering and a truly remarkable variety of toys going in and out.

He lingered for a while on the headless torso of one particular cam boy (what were they supposed to be called? Actors?). “Flyboy” was an utterly ridiculous username, but Douglas wasn’t going to pretend that he didn’t like a well-placed aviation reference, even in his porn. “Flyboy” was attractive, too - wiry but strong looking, with defined shoulders and a sprinkling of freckles down his torso. He wasn’t live at the moment, but there were a bunch of past streams to click on. It seemed Flyboy was reasonably prolific on this site - streams every couple of days, sometimes two a week, but sometimes a few weeks would pass without any new videos.

Douglas’s dick was perking up a bit, and now Douglas was a bit more focused. Flyboy’s own dick was gorgeous, perfectly straight and almost plump, leaking a little bit at the tip as Flyboy’s flyfingers wrapped around it. Flyboy was moaning off screen, little huffs of breath that were remarkably sexy for something so simple. The whole thing was simple - Douglas had seen a couple more complex and intriguing premises in the previews for other streams, but this was just Flyboy jerking himself off on camera. Or, on camera from the neck down.

The setup gave a good view of Flyboy’s whole chest, all the way up to his neck, which was rapidly turning a dusky pink, even red. His nipples were hardening as Douglas watched, stroking himself, pert and stiff as his chest heaved. The man on the screen was panting now, deep gasping breaths that lifted those magnificent shoulders, that emphasized the lines of his ribs, the concavity of his stomach. He was thin, skinny even, but Douglas could see the strength under his skin, the twist of his oblique muscles as Flyboy’s flyforearm bent to grasp his dick. His fingers were long and slender, and he looked like he was squeezing himself hard enough to hurt.

It was really hot, Douglas realized, jacking himself harder. The little puffs of air, the way the man gyrated and twisted himself in different directions, as if seeking out a particular sensation, pushing his hips into his hand, fucking into his fist. Douglas was closer to orgasm than he’d thought, his eyes glued to those tiny glimpses of the man’s cock as it poked between his fingers on the upstroke. Douglas was suddenly desperate to see that cock come. He wanted to see it, he wanted to taste it, to feel that skin, to touch the sticky wetness he could see on the screen.

Flyboy was panting now, moaning almost continuously, moving his hand faster and faster, and Douglas’s hand was speeding up too. Abruptly there was silence, a held breath, and then several things happened at once:

Flyboy said “oh, shit,” out loud, voice deep and resonant, sounding strained.

That gorgeous dick finally exploded, sticky white come coating those long fingers.

Douglas realized he knew that voice, knew exactly who “Flyboy” was.

Douglas came so hard he blacked out.

 

Two and a half hours later, Douglas had:
Many new jokes to make at Martin’s expense
Two orgasms
A worrisomely chafed penis
Some anxiety about Martin’s current lifestyle and income needs
Intimate knowledge of several months of Martin’s activities
An absolutely massive problem.

“Flyboy.” God, it would be.

Now that he, unfortunately, knew what he was looking at, Douglas was able to recognize what had to be the inside of Martin’s bedroom in his horrible student housing, present in the majority of the videos. Drab walls, a very basic bed with a well-loved quilt - that was about it. Flyboy was good at camera angles, had gotten better since his early videos, and his shots revealed almost nothing about where he lived

Douglas knew the camera angles had improved, because he had now watched… all the videos.

All the free ones, at least. It appeared Martin had a premium subscription option, which was almost too much to bear. Douglas couldn’t bring himself to sign up for that, but he wanted to. He really, really wanted to.

Some of the shots in the videos he’d watched, however, were most definitely not Martin’s room. They looked like they were in hotel rooms. HOTEL ROOMS. That meant that Martin was doing… this… while they were on the road. It meant that, on several particular nights, while Douglas was eating sushi or talking on the phone to his daughter or half-heartedly scrolling through the channels on the hotel cable television, Martin was mere feet away, moaning into a camera. Or licking his fingers lasciviously. Or all manner of things Douglas could now perfectly picture.

Was Martin recording right now?

Douglas sighed, and put his phone down. This was a real problem. And aside from Douglas’s unexpected reaction, which he likely needed to examine, this was also Martin’s life, and Douglas was more than a bit concerned about him.

From all appearances, Martin enjoyed being Flyboy. The videos made it seem as if he enjoyed it quite a bit. But that was Martin’s job, in this situation - to look like he enjoyed it. People didn’t turn to sex work if there were other options for them, Douglas was pretty sure. He knew Martin was skint, knew he worked hard and never had enough money, but had it gotten that bad? Was this the only recourse Martin had?

And worst of all, how could Douglas talk to Martin about it? He was worried, and he wanted to check in. But this was… the very definition of private. And admitting Douglas knew would be admitting how he knew, and that would be horribly awkward, not to mention Martin was likely to deny it, or clamp down. They were coworkers, for god’s sake.

A REALLY massive problem, indeed.

It was very late, now, and Douglas did still have to fly to Christchurch in six hours. He really needed to go to sleep. One more video, one more orgasm, and then he would pass out, really he would.

Douglas felt like he was watching someone else’s fingers as they clicked through rows of videos on the site, settling on one in particular. Even if he did talk to Martin about this whole thing, there was no way Douglas could tell him about having watched this video. Or having watched it twice, or how Douglas’s fingers were wrapped around his rock-solid cock, again, and how Douglas’s mouth was open and his breathing was getting faster. On the screen, Martin’s face remained out of the frame, but he was talking, words slipping out like it pained him to say them, “God,” and “fuck” and more. The camera was focused on Martin’s groin, on his fingers rubbing and stroking his cock, without quite taking it out of the pale pink lacey underwear he was wearing. The lace pulled against his hips, against the bones of his pelvis, even as his cock was dark and red within it.

“Oh, oh fuck, please,” Martin said, and Douglas groaned, out loud, alone in his hotel room. How loud had that been? Could Martin hear him in his room next door? Fuck.

On screen, Martin’s breathing had gotten faster, and there was a dark spot forming in the pink lace as he leaked pre cum.

“Please, daddy,” Martin whimpered, and that was it. Something hot and dark rushed up Douglas’s spine, something that made him feel both warm and guilty all over. Douglas squeezed his eyes shut, but he could still hear Martin’s sobs, his pleading moans, another “daddy” and “please” and “I’ll be good.” Douglas came before Martin did, but he didn’t fall asleep until the video clicked off.

Chapter Text

24A had asked for a refill on her tea five times. Five times, before they’d even reached cruising altitude. Where was the woman putting it all? Did she have an extra bladder in those overpriced high heels?

Either way it was a sure bet for passenger derby, Carolyn thought, as she walked up the aisle to the cockpit. She might as well make a few quid off the horrible woman.

“Drivers!” Carolyn called imperiously as she opened the flight deck door, but, shockingly, neither of them responded to her, or even looked up. They were supposed to be flying an aeroplane, though, so maybe not looking up was some rare good sense.

Douglas was looking at Martin but acting like he wasn’t, his eyes flitting back and forth from Martin’s face to the window in front of him.

Martin was facing straight ahead, the stiffness of his neck belying how seriously he was keeping his eyes fixed on the horizon.

Carolyn wasn’t totally sure, but she thought Martin had said something like “How did you even find it?” as she walked in.

Douglas’s mouth was open as if he was pondering his response when he saw Carolyn.

“Ah, hullo, Carolyn,” Douglas said, his voice missing some of its usual mellifluousness. “How are our honored guests? No problems, I assume?”

“They’re horrible, of course,” Carolyn said. “What are you two up to up here? Did I interrupt a game?”

There was no response, and the air felt… thick, somehow. Awkward. What had she walked in on?

Wait, Carolyn thought. I don’t care.

“Well,” Carolyn said. “Are you up for a round of passenger derby?”

“Oh, YES,” said Arthur, coming through the door with coffees.

 

Carolyn didn’t win five quid because no one was willing to put actual money down, but the glory of winning was almost as good, as was the sight of 24A knocking a tall snotty gentleman in a bowler hat out of the way.

They were nearly to Christchurch now; she expected Martin to announce landing checks over the PA shortly. Martin and Douglas were still being… strange. Themselves, but somehow with lots of extra furtive glances and pauses where they shouldn’t be. Douglas kept looking at Martin’s hands on the controls, for some reason.

Carolyn told herself it was none of her business and also probably trivial, but she was extra quiet in creeping up to the flight deck, and the door barely made noise as she opened it.

“You’re just going to make fun of me,” Martin was saying, his voice sounding incredibly small. “Or, you’ll… you’ll tell..”

Martin trailed off but Douglas seemed to know what they were talking about it

“I’m not going to tell anyone,” Douglas said, with more conviction and earnestness than Carolyn was used to hearing in his voice, except when he was trying to swindle customs officials.

Martin seemed taken aback by the sincerity, too, and there was a few seconds pause. Carolyn should really leave, this was none of her business and also, remember, she didn’t care.

“Well then, why did you bring it up?” Martin said, and he sounded defensive, but also curious.

Douglas had abandoned looking at the instruments and was looking straight at Martin. He breathed in like he was going to say something, and then paused. From her spot hiding - standing - by the flight deck door, Carolyn couldn’t see all of Douglas’s face, but he looked startled, like something had struck him.

The pause lingered, and Douglas looked more and more bewildered.

Carolyn backed herself out of the flight deck, heading to the galley full of dignity and not at all like a nosy busybody. It would take Douglas some time to answer that question, she would bet, and Carolyn had things to do.

Chapter Text

Either Carolyn was in an inordinately good mood or New Zealand hotels had serious regulations about outdoor spaces, because their hotel suite had an actual balcony.

Martin rested his elbows on the railing, looking out towards the mountains across the water. The air smelled crisp and cool, and he could feel a breeze ruffling his hair.

There was the smooth scraping sound of a glass door opening to his left, and then closing again. He and Douglas’ rooms were connected by an interior door, and shared a balcony. That was more like Carolyn’s MO - balconies, but they had to be shared. Martin spared a brief thought for how excited Arthur must be about the balcony attached to the suite he was sharing with Carolyn, and a brief prayer that Arthur didn’t fall off it.

“I guess the skies do always look like that,” rumbled Douglas, breaking the silence. The other man came to stand next to Martin, his own elbows resting on the bannister

“Like what?” Martin said. Douglas was ... closer than he should be? Or maybe this was normal. What was normal? Had they stood next to each other on a balcony admiring a sunset before? Was that strange? What was appropriate here? Douglas seemed different, but maybe Martin was the one who was different. And of course Douglas was different, he knew about… about the website, and the streams, and Douglas had so many questions. Was he standing closer? Maybe?

“Nevermind,” Douglas said, quietly. He wasn’t looking at Martin, he was looking out onto the horizon. Martin searched Douglas’s face, more intently than he usually did, trying to see if something was different. What was Douglas thinking, now?

Douglas’s gaze tilted slightly towards Martin, and caught him staring. Martin was sure he was blushing, he always blushed, but there was a moment when they looked into each other’s eyes, and, something was … different.

Martin cleared his throat, and stood up straighter. He was sorely tempted to walk back a meter or two, but that was ridiculous.

“I didn’t really start on purpose,” Martin said. “I actually made a bunch of videos and deleted all of them as soon as I made them. I didn’t think I was going to really do it.”

Martin didn’t even have to look over to know that Douglas was making his “I’m a mere bystander to this conversation, of course” face, so he didn’t. Martin kept his eyes on the distant mountains, and laughed, softly, at the response Douglas hadn’t said out loud.

“I know you’re going to ask about it, eventually,” Martin said. “I’m just saving time.”

There’s a pause, the only sound the birds in the settling dusk.

“All right,” Douglas said, finally. He sounded thoughtful, and also like he was trying to keep himself in check. “So what changed, then? Why did you post them?”

“Well - “

“Actually, scratch that,” Douglas said. “If I’m allowed to ask questions, and we’re not doing this solely on your assumptions of what I might say, I want to start with a different one. Where did you even get the idea?”

At this Martin did look over at him. Douglas looked earnest, which was a strange look on him.

“Where did I get the idea for … porn?”

A pause.

“Douglas, do I really need to explain the concept of taking your clothes off for money to you? I would think you, of all people, would have some -”

“All right, all right,” Douglas said. “I guess I won’t ask the questions. Go on with your narrative, you’re the star here.”

Martin frowned as he turned back to the sunset. That … almost … sounded like a dig at him? But Douglas’s didn’t sound like he was teasing, it wasn’t a teasing voice. Was Martin a star, was that what Douglas was saying? He was already blushing from this whole conversation, but he could feel his face and neck heat further in the cool dusk air.

“Well, um,” Martin continued. “What changed was needing the money. It was around Christmastime, and I wanted to buy something nice for Mum, she’d been through a lot that year, and people don’t need to move stuff as much around that time, so Icarus had mostly dried up. And the heating had gone out in the house, while none of the students were there to pay… it was a rough patch.”

Douglas remained silent. Martin didn’t look at him.

“So I thought, well, lots of people do this, it can’t be that hard, I’ll just put one video up and see what happens, pay off the heating and that will be that,” Martin continued. “It was a devil of a time setting up the account, too, all sorts of weird questions and features, it took me ages.”

“You don’t say,” Douglas drawled, dry as possible.

“Yes, well,” Martin said, stumbling a bit. “Well, that first video turned out to be all right. I mean, I didn’t make enough to cover the heating, at first, but people actually seemed to like it, and paid me pretty well. So I did another one, but live this time -”

Douglas made a noise. Martin waited to see if he was going to say something, but he didn’t, so he continued.

“And that was pretty good, and then I got better at figuring out what people wanted, so I was making more money so I - uh, I kept doing it,” he finished, trailing off a bit awkwardly.

“And that’s … it?” Douglas asked.

“Well, yes,” Martin said. “I mean, I’m careful, I never show my face, or any identifying details-”

Douglas made a sound, and Martin stopped talking.

“Ah - signet ring,” Douglas said. “I just realized you weren’t wearing it,” and then he stops talking.

“Um, yes, exactly,” Martin said. There was a bit of a pause, but it seemed it was still Martin’s turn to talk. “I’m quiet on the videos, too, I’m sure no one I live with knows about it.”

“You’re quiet,” Douglas said, and sounded like he wanted to say something else.

“Well, quiet enough,” Martin said. He almost asked “You’ve never heard me, right?” But then that would mean admitting that he streamed in hotel rooms sometimes, and Douglas probably didn’t need to know that. Martin never made videos on company time, per se, but it was close enough, and Douglas would probably be appalled at how close Martin had brought his less savory job to MJN. Martin had worried about this a lot.

“Hmm,” was all Douglas said to that, and then it was quiet again.

Martin wasn’t sure what to think. He’d expected… well, he never really expected Douglas to find out, in the first place. He’d been so careful for just that reason.

A smaller part of him, one Martin tried very hard not to acknowledge, had thought a lot about Douglas finding the videos, and what he might do with them. That part of him tended to come out when Martin was filming, when he was really close to coming, when he needed just that extra push...

But now that it happened in reality, not in fantasy, and Douglas did know, Martin had expected more of... something. He expected teasing, or maybe for Douglas to be appalled or disgusted. Not this quiet contemplation.

“What people wanted,” Douglas said, abruptly. “You said - you said you figured out what people wanted?”

“... yes?” Martin said.

“Well, what was it?” Douglas asked. “What do they want?”

“Oh!” said Martin. “I mean, I don’t know what everyone wants, or anything like that. I just noticed which videos did better and tried to keep doing those things.”

“And those things were…” Douglas prompted.

“Um,” Martin said. Douglas wasn’t acting like he was about to tease him - he seemed genuinely interested, maybe. Martin had never really talked about any of this with anyone; no one in his life knew about Flyboy, and it wasn’t like there was a social club for cam models that he was a part of, where he could network and talk about best practices.

So Martin hadn’t really talked about it with anyone, but maybe he could.

“Shy, mostly,” Martin said. “Sweet, I guess. Quiet, and, and soft, and stuttering.”

“Stuttering?” Douglas said.

“Don’t laugh,” Martin said, warningly. “The first time was an accident, clearly, but there were… well, a bunch of comments about it being, uh. Um. It worked, is what I am saying, so I started to play it up, and, well.”

Martin heard Douglas shift next to him. The sun had almost set now, and it was starting to get dark. The air was cool and clear, a slight breeze blowing. Martin noticed he was biting his own lip.

“Is that,” Douglas started, and stopped. Martin couldn’t think when he’d ever heard him this hesitating. “Were you…” and then he trailed off again.

“I tried a few times to do other things,” Martin said, answering a question he wasn’t sure had actually been asked. “Tried to be more dominant, or more aggressive or more, I don’t know-”

“More supreme commander?” Douglas said wryly.

Martin chuckled. “Maybe,” he said. “Anyway, it didn’t work. Some of my regulars commented and said that it was funny or cute, but those videos didn’t get the same play count or views so I stopped trying it.”

“Hmm,” Douglas said, and then it was quiet again.

It was dark now, for the most part, and Martin still wasn’t sure what Douglas was thinking. Which was rare, because, aside from the exact specifics of some lie or scheme, Douglas always broadcast exactly what he was thinking. That was Douglas’s whole thing.

“So, do you want to just get all of your quips out now, or should I expect an ongoing supply over the next few months?” Martin said, and now he looked over.

“Hmm?” Douglas said. He was looking over at the mountain, slouching over onto his elbows, his back hunched over himself. He appeared lost in thought.

“I just - I assume you’re going to make fun of me now,” Martin said. “I thought it would have started already. Or that you are going to tell me what a terrible idea this all is, or how awful I am, or - I don’t know.”

Douglas sighed, and seemed to shake himself a bit as he turned toward Martin. He really was standing closer now, Martin was sure. He could see the breeze swaying the soft grey hairs on Douglas’s temple.

“Actually, Martin,” Douglas said, his voice still calm and earnest, no trace of teasing. “I was mostly worried.”

“...worried?”

“Yes, I’m sorry for caring too deeply, when you so clearly have it in hand,” Douglas said sarcastically, folding his arms across his chest. “But forgive my concern about my younger coworker and the circumstances that might make him turn to… well, to less traditional forms of employment. I worried about what might have happened to you.”

“Oh! Well, nothing too terrible,” Martin said. He got some revolting comments, but that was normal, and that was what the block button was for. “There was one, uh, one customer who messaged me every day for a few weeks telling me I had to marry him.”

“Really?” Douglas asked, his eyes widening. He looked - angry?

It had been months, actually, but Douglas didn’t need to know that. “Yeah, he tipped well, but eventually I got tired of it and blocked him.” That part was true.

Douglas said, “Well, good.”

“And as for the rest, well….” Martin paused, chewing on his bottom lip. “It’s not so bad, really. I, um.”

Douglas didn’t say anything, just continued looking at Martin, thoughtfully. He shifted his weight from foot to foot a bit.

“I’ve started to like it, I think, actually,” Martin said. He wasn’t sure why he was still talking, what he was saying all this for. Somehow, a Douglas that was listening to him, focused on him, actually interested in what Martin was saying - it was heady, almost. It made Martin feel - important. Valuable, somehow.

“You like it,” Douglas said, and his voice sounded lower and a bit rougher than it had before.

“Well, the money’s good,” Martin expanded, and his hands had come up now, starting to gesture as he talked. “And it’s much easier than - well, than moving people’s furniture, or even than flying. And I can pick when I do it, and it’s easy to schedule.”

Douglas was looking at him, and cocked an eyebrow as if to say ‘but that’s not all, is it.’ And of course it wasn’t.

“And, well,” Martin took a deep breath. “I like it, too. I like meeting people and talking to them, but being able to log off. I like the uh, the performance. Knowing I’m doing a good job.” He looked up at the sky, sighed, and forced himself to look at Douglas’s face now. Douglas was really close, and in the darkness his eyes were somewhat in shadow. He smelled good, too, Martin realized, a combination of aftershave and who knows what. It made Martin think of flying, and of safety.

“I like knowing that people think I’m sexy,” Martin said, and he was holding Douglas’s gaze now. He’d come this far, might as well go all in. “I like how much they want me, and I like when they tell me that. I like being the reason they get off.”

Douglas was staring at him now, his eyes direct and intense. Martin wasn’t sure what would happen next, but it felt… big. Important.

“I like it, too,” Douglas said. It was quiet, almost said into himself, but Martin heard it.

“What?” Martin asked, because he had to make sure and he wanted to hear Douglas say it.

Douglas’s arms went down, and he stepped closer. He was right in Martin’s space now, forcing Martin to look up ever so slightly at Douglas’s face.

Douglas reached out and touched Martin’s cheek. His hand was cool in the evening air, careful and sure as he stroked down Martin’s face.

“You are doing a good job,” Douglas said. His voice had dropped even lower, deep tones and gravel that almost made Martin shiver. “Everybody does want you.”

Martin felt dizzy, taking in deep breaths. His eyes were fixed on Douglas’s, even as Douglas’s gaze tripped down Martin’s face, to his lips, the pulse in his neck.

“Do you know how I know you’re doing a good job, Martin?” Douglas said, the usual detailed enunciation of Martin’s name sounding even headier now in the darkness. His hand was on Martin’s collarbone now, fingers grazing his throat. “Because I watched all of your videos. All of them, in one go. I wanted to stop, but I couldn’t help myself.”

Martin felt like he was lit up from the inside, incandescent, like he was burning up all his fuel at once.

“I want you, too,” Douglas said, and there was a finality to it, even though Martin knew that Douglas would ask him before anything happened. But Martin was in it now, caught up in Douglas surrounding him, in the quiet night and the breeze fluttering over his skin.

“Yes,” Martin gasped, before Douglas could even ask. He knew he sounded like he did in his videos, when he was trying to be extra breathy and performative, but it wasn’t on purpose this time. That’s just what he sounded like.

“Can we be - can we go somewhere else, not out here?” Martin said.

“Of course,” Douglas said, and then Martin was being shepherded in through the glass door, towards Douglas’s room. Douglas’s bed.

“Are you sure, Martin?” Douglas said, stepping back, giving Martin a modicum of space.

But Martin didn’t want space. Martin had made a lot of videos, and while he never let himself think about it, in the back of his mind on half of them was the idea that a particular person might find them. It was a fantasy, an imaginary concept, nothing he thought about consciously, but he knew. He knew that when he closed his eyes and tried to writhe at the best angle for the camera, he was thinking about… well, this.

“Yes,” Martin said again, and that was that.

The white teeth of Douglas’s grin were visible in the dim light. “All right,” Douglas said. “Then show me how good you can be when the camera is off.”

Chapter Text

“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.”