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The Strange Little Man in My Phone

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The Strange Little Man in My Phone

Chapter One: A is for Aeroplane

 Martin          Douglas           Arthur              Carolyn


 

February 2nd

(1:21 PM)
Got another one. Brian Blessed.

 

(1:22 PM)
What?

 

(1:23 PM)
The ‘Brians of Britain’ game.
(1:25 PM)
And another: Brian Cant.

 

(1:26 PM)
How about Brian May?

 

(1:28 PM)
Oh good one! I hadn’t thought of that.

 

(1:29 PM)
Well now that’s out of the way--can I just ask when exactly we began this game, Arthur? I don’t quite recall agreeing to it.
(1:30 PM)
And your answers are uncharacteristically intelligent, if you don’t mind my pointing out. Did you ask Carolyn to assist?

 

(1:34 PM)
Sorry… I’m actually beginning to think this is the wrong number.
(1:35 PM)
I don’t suppose your name is Karl?

 

(1:36 PM)
I fear not.

 

(1:39 PM)
That makes more sense. This is embarrassing, I am so sorry to have bothered you!

 

(1:40 PM)
And my apologies for inadvertently calling you unintelligent. It’s not personal; I just thought you were this idiot I happen to know. He’s always playing games like this one.

 

(1:45 PM)
Thanks?

 

(1:46 PM)
Again, not personal.

 

(1:47 PM)
I fail to see how that couldn’t be personal!
(1:48 PM)
It’s tremendously rude to call someone an idiot, even if you do know them.

 

(1:48 PM)
Are you really defending a stranger from a stranger right now?

 

(1:49 PM)
Well…yes. Someone has to. Your joke obviously wasn’t in good humour and so I feel it is my duty to say something.

 

(1:51 PM)
Oh my. I didn’t realise I was exchanging texts with ‘Superman: Defender of the Weak’

 

(1:52 PM)
Out of all the people in the world whose numbers I could have mistakenly sent messages to, I get an arrogant sod who bullies people to boot.

 

(1:53 PM)
Is it customary for you to shield the honour of those you’ve never met via a virtual network, Mr. Kent?

 

(1:58 PM)
Look, my point was that you shouldn’t call anyone an idiot. And you’d meant for that Arthur fellow to see that you’d called him that! I just think you should know better.

 

(2:00 PM)
And who is to say that my words weren’t intended to be a sort of playful rouse between my friend Arthur and I?

 

(2:01 PM)
Were they?

 

(2:02 PM)
Perhaps. Not that you’ll ever know.

 

(2:05 PM)
Well if they were, I apologise. But it just strikes me as being a little odd that a ‘grown up’ would say something like that about a ‘friend’ of theirs.

 

(2:06 PM)
Something tells me you were picked on in high-school.

 

(2:07 PM)
First of all, that wasn't called for. And second, none of your business.

 

(2:09 PM)
Ah I’m sorry, I was under the impression that we had began a union wherein we sought to eliminate all ill-placed remarks from bullies across the globe.
(2:10 PM)
Just to entertain my curiosities though, what did you get teased over? Being different? Your hair? Or perhaps you engaged yourself in other people’s business too often?

 

(2:11 PM)
This conversation is wildly inappropriate and I’d rather not engage in it any more, thank you very much.

 

(2:13 PM)
I bet you’re not very tall.

 

(2:15 PM)
I don’t want to talk to you anymore.

 

(2:16 PM)
You could just stop replying.
(2:17 PM)
Though I’m a little interested in your use of ‘grown-up’ earlier. What gave you that impression? I could be an immensely gifted child for all you know.

 

(2:19 PM)
Are you?

 

(2:20 PM)
Hardly.
(2:21 PM)
Though I’ve been told that I was at some stage.

 

(2:25 PM)
Hurrah for you. And to answer your question, it would be pretty hard to think you were anything but an adult. You speak like a monarch.

 

(2:28 PM)
What about you? Do you not consider yourself an adult?

 

(2:29 PM)
Well…not really. I didn’t graduate all that long ago.

 

(2:35 PM)
Nor did I.

 

(2:40 PM)
You? Really?

 

(2:49 PM)
I fail to see how any of this actually matters though.

 

(2:50 PM)
It doesn’t.

 

(2:53 PM)
And yet you’re still replying.
(3:02 PM)
Oh well played.


February 3rd

(11:03 AM)
Hello. I hadn’t planned to speak to you again but I have an important question.
(11:05 AM)
It would mean a lot to me if you could answer as well because once you have I can stop bothering you and we can both get back to our lives.

 

(11:06 AM)
“Get back to”?

 

(11:08 AM)
Just humour me.

 

(11:10 AM)
I’m listening.

 

(11:15 AM)
The thing is… I’m putting myself through study at the moment. I’m working two jobs and picking up money wherever I can because the study is so expensive. And since on top of paying for lessons, I also pay for my own phone bills I was wondering if you’d be as trusting as to tell me what part of the world you live in.
(11:17 AM)
I realise it sounds strange but if I could at least mentally prepare for how horrendous my bill is going to be in advance, that would be great.

 

(11:20 AM)
I see. And your thinking being that if I am in some desolate part of the globe, that you’ll have wasted your precious funds on verbally abusing some stranger who, in the long run, means absolutely nothing to you.

 

(11:21 AM)
Look, I’m really sorry about all of that.
(11:22 AM)
Hang on a minute! No, I never verbally abused you! You’re the one who called me an idiot.

 

(11:24 AM)
A small detail. And nevertheless, I reluctantly accept your apology.

 

(11:28 AM)
Just tell me where you bloody well live so I can stop worrying, please!

 

(11:29 AM)
Slow down there, man cub. We’ve just met. And it would be chivalrous to ask my name first…

 

(11:31 AM)
I’m really not in the mood for sarcasm, okay?

 

(11:32 AM)
Very well. If you must know, I live in England. Does that mollify your anxiety?

 

(11:33 AM)
Yes actually…

 

(11:43 AM)
So I’m in league with a fellow Englishman. How lucky for me.

 

(11:45 AM)
I’ll give you that I’m in England but we are not ‘in league.’
(11:49 AM)
And in the vein of our conversation from yesterday, how do you even know I’m a man? You’ve specifically said that I was a man at least four times since we started speaking.

 

(11:50 AM)
Are you?

 

(11:51 AM)
Well yes. But how do you know that?

 

(11:53 AM)
You’ll learn that it boils down to one very simple equation.

 

(11:55 AM)
And what would that be?

 

(11:58 AM)
I’m never wrong.


February 7th

(2:59 PM)
Hi Douglas! Learning much?

 

(3:01 PM)
I am at class, yes, though the learning part is highly debatable.

 

(3:03 PM)
Mum just read that over my shoulder and she wants me to tell you to stop doing whatever you’re doing and listen. She also wants you to stop talking to me.

 

(3:05PM)
That all sounds rather polite coming from Carolyn.

 

(3:07 PM)
Well…yeah I might have changed it a bit. Okay a lot. Point is, please get off your phone and listen to the lecturer.

 

(3:08 PM)
And why is my higher education suddenly a concern of yours and your mother’s?

 

(3:09 PM)
Well, because you’re my friend Douglas! Mum and I both want you to do really well at university. You deserve to do really well.

 

(3:10 PM)
And ‘do really well’ I shall. Hang on a tick, Arthur, I just saw that I missed a text from another idiot who likes to bother me.

 

(3:11 PM)
Douglas, no! You’ve got to concentrate!
(3:11 PM)
Wait—you’ve got more than one?


February 7th

(3:09 PM)
Is it Thomas?

 

(3:11 PM)
The Tank-Engine?

 

(3:14 PM)
No silly, your name.

 

(3:15 PM)
I actually thought we were under the mutual agreement to never speak again.

 

(3:16 PM)
Yes… we were. But I’ve got a huge lunch break and I’m bored out of my mind. I didn’t think you’d particularly care given that we both live in England.

 

(3:17 PM)
I’m not sure if you’ve noticed this but England isn’t actually that small a place.

 

(3:19 PM)
I’m not saying we’re neighbours but the phone charges can’t be wildly out of control if we’re in the same sort of area.

 

(3:30 PM)
Don’t you have some friends you could be bothering instead?

 

(3:35 PM)
Well… not really. Not at the moment, at least.

 

(3:36 PM)
Ah I see.

 

(3:38 PM)
What’s that supposed to mean? ‘Ah I see.’

 

(3:39 PM)
I wasn’t aware there was an alternate way to interpret the phrase but alas you have opened my eyes to the possibilities.

 

(3:40 PM)
It can’t be that much of a surprise… you figured it out within an hour or so of talking to me. I don’t have many friends, alright?

 

(3:41 PM)
Fine. My name is not Thomas. Commendable first effort though.

 

(3:52 PM)
Was I close then?

 

(3:53 PM)
Not in the least but I suppose I could see how it is a plausible enough name to have.

 

(3:54 PM)
I suppose I threw off our luck then. I mean, I knew you were a grown-up and then you knew I was a man. I supposed I would know your name then by default.

 

(3:56 PM)
Well the earth works in mysterious ways and I can see how that would throw you aback.

 

(3:59 PM)
If you’re so high and mighty, what do you suppose my name could be? I mean since you’re always right, there’s no harm in guessing.

 

(4:01 PM)
And here I thought you’d ignored that message.

 

(4:01 PM)
Don’t change the subject. If you’re so clever, prove it.

 

(4:02 PM)
Somehow I fail to understand how cleverness can be measured by taking random stabs in the dark at a stranger’s name until I get it right
(4:02 PM)
If anything that’s luck. Or just stupidity.

 

(4:03 PM)
Well if it’s luck then there’s no harm in playing along.

 

(4:04 PM)
Very well. Give me three guesses?

 

(4:05 PM)
I suppose that’s fair. There are a lot of names in the world.

 

(4:07 PM)
Wonderful. I imagine you have a plain name, no offense intended. So my first guess is… how about Jon?

 

(4:07 PM)
Wrong.

 

(4:08 PM)
I’m not wrong yet. William.

 

(4:09 PM)
No again.

 

(4:11 PM)
Martin?

 

(4:12 PM)
…You can’t possibly know that.

 

(4:13 PM)
I didn’t. Though I always had the sneaking suspicion I was a very lucky individual.

 

(4:14 PM)
That’s not luck-- that is just a fluke! Trust you of all people to get it right in three times!

 

(4:15 PM)
“Me of all people”? How do you mean?

 

(4:15 PM)
You’re horrendously egotistical.

 

(4:16 PM)
And yet you still don’t know my name.

 

(4:17 PM)
Shut up. I have to go back to work now.

 

(4:18 PM)
It’s been pleasant distracting you.
(4:19 PM)
…Martin.


February 10th

(7:29 PM)
Okay I’ve given this a lot of thought and I think your name might be Richard.

 

(7:31 PM)
Now I know this may be a phrase you’re unaccustomed to hearing, but you’re not actually far from being right.

 

(7:32 PM)
That so? Well I give up—just tell me.

 

(7:34 PM)
Douglas. My name is Douglas.

 

(7:35 PM)
How was that even close?

 

(7:41 PM)
Are you ever satisfied?

 

(7:45 PM)
Sorry… fine. I suppose it suits you. I’m just irritated that I didn’t guess it as easily as you guessed mine.

 

(7:49 PM)
It isn’t your fault that you were born predictable.

 

(7:53 PM)
I can’t decide if you’re insulting me.

 

(7:54 PM)
Go with your gut instinct.

 

(7:59 PM)
Douglas is a very authoritative name though. Professional-sounding. I’m almost a little jealous.

 

(8:01 PM)
Funnily enough, having heard hundreds of reasons other men are jealous of me; I’ve never had one envy my authoritative name.

 

(8:04 PM)
Sorry… it’s just that I’m in training to be a pilot. I don’t know how anyone could ever respect a ‘Captain Martin’

 

(8:05 PM)
No, nor could I.

 

(8:07 PM)
Thanks for the support.

 

(8:09 PM)
Well my name does sound rather good.
(8:11 PM)
A pilot though? That’s surprising.

 

(8:13 PM)
Surprising? Why is that surprising?

 

(8:18 PM)
Well don’t take this the wrong way, Martin, but you don’t strike me as the most relaxed individual. Pilots always seem to be quite cool and distant. You’re practically holding every stereotype an adversary.

 

(8:20 PM)
You don’t know that! You don’t know me in real life.
(8:21 PM)
I can be cool and distant. Relaxed and authoritative. Calk
(8:25PM)
CALM* I meant calm. Obviously—calk isn’t a world. Well it is a word but it’s not the word I wanted. Sorry I wasn’t sure if it was clear enough that it was supposed to say calm, I mean you can’t be too sure. It’s important that I can be understood easily and the typo might confuse things. It’s so easy to misinterpret over text. Did you get calm from that? Hopefully you did. I’m very calm.

 

(8:26 PM)
You’re right. I should never have suspected otherwise.

 

(8:28 PM)
Thank you.

 

(8:29 PM)
No, you’re the very epitome of calm, ‘Captain’.

 

(8:31 PM)
…You’re teasing me, aren’t you?

 

(8:32 PM)
Whatever gave you that idea?

 

(8:33 PM)
Well I suppose you must be above all of this. What do you want to do with yourself? Are you going to head the British government?

 

(8:34 PM)
…I’m studying medicine at university.

 

(8:35 PM)
You want to be a doctor? You?

 

(8:37 PM)
No. I want to be a medical student.

 

(8:39 PM)
?

 

(8:40 PM)
Well they always look like they have the most fun. I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to be a doctor.

 

(8:45 PM)
You’re the worst.

 

(8:47 PM)
You know, now that you’ve brought it up…I wouldn’t mind being an airline captain.

 

(8:48 PM)
Don’t start, Douglas. It might seem stupid to you but being an airline captain is all I’ve ever wanted.

 

(8:49 PM)
No I’m being very serious. It all seems rather glamorous. Perhaps if things somehow manage to work out for you, you could get me some contacts.
(8:51 PM)
In the unlikely circumstance that things don’t work out though, have you got a back-up plan?

 

(8:53 PM)
Aeroplane.

 

(8:54 PM)
Sorry what?

 

(8:56 PM)
Nothing...No I don’t.


February 12th

(10:20 PM)
Don’t you think it’s a bit strange though?

 

(10:21 PM)
Do you usually get philosophical late at night?

 

(10:22PM)
Oh sorry! Did I wake you?

 

(10:25 PM)
No, no. I’m out having drinks with a few friends. What’s strange?

 

(10:27 PM)
Never mind! Enjoy your drinks.

 

(10:29 PM)
You mean that we text each-other? That being strange?

 

(10:31 PM)
Well it is a bit weird.

 

(10:33 PM)
I was afraid to mention it but now that it’s out in the open…

 

(10:34 PM)
Douglas seriously. I don’t even know you.

 

(10:35 PM)
I’m not against it if that’s what you’re clumsily trying to get at.

 

(10:37 PM)
Really? Because it is…bizarrely nice having someone to talk to. It gets a little lonely.

(10:38 PM)
I don’t want you to feel obliged or anything. I can stop.

 

(10:41 PM)
Let me put it this way: if you can afford to maintain this contact then there is no reason I’m averse to the idea of talking to you.

 

(10:43 PM)
No it’s not too expensive. I mean, they’re just baked potatoes. It’s not a big deal.

 

(10:44 PM)
I… think I might have missed a crucial part of this conversation.

 

(10:45 PM)
No you didn’t. But thank you.

 

(10:46 PM)
And what did I do to deserve the honour of your thanks?

 

(10:50 PM)
  Nothing. Enjoy your night, Douglas.

 

(10:51 PM)
You too, Martin.


 

Chapter Text

Chapter Two: B is for Bachelor

 

 

 

 Martin             Douglas           Arthur              Carolyn


 

February 13th

(11:21 AM)
Good morning, Douglas! I’m not sure if you know this but today is actually the first official ‘We’ve Known Each-other for Eleven Days Now’ celebration.

 

(11:23 AM)
In the extensive history of terrible conversation starters, that’s got to be the worst one to ever grace my phone.

 

(11:25 AM)
Be nice. I was just pointing out a fact.

 

(11:27 AM)
And I’m not sure what’s more depressing: the fact that you went back through the messages to check for dates or the fact that we’re still talking.

 

(11:30 AM)
With every text I get from you, I find myself asking the same questions. Also why I bother talking to you.

 

(11:34 AM)
Blame my magnetic personality.

 

(11:41 AM)
I was actually thinking it was your overblown sense of self-importance I was being pulled towards.

 

(11:43 AM)
How long did it take you to think up that one?

 

(11:45 AM)
…It doesn’t matter.

 

(11:46 AM)
I’ll let it slide. Has it really been eleven days already? Whatever did I do with myself before you?

 

(11:48 AM)
I don't think I want to know. What have you been up to this morning?

 

(11:50 AM)
Well I’m currently attending one of my classes.

 

(11:51 AM)
Oh! Are you? I’ll leave you be.

 

(11:54 AM)
Can’t believe I’m saying this but I’d actually rather you didn’t. My friends are all nursing enormous hangovers and it feels like I’ve been in this lesson for about a week now.

 

 (11:56 AM)
Isn’t there a girl you could be toadying to?

 

(11:58 AM)
I prefer it when they fawn over me actually. And no, Martin, I’m a committed man.

 

(12:00 PM)
You have a girlfriend? Ha, of course you do.

 

(12:02 PM)
I do indeed. Her name is Helena and she thinks I’m terrific.

 

 

(12:04 PM)
I’m not all that surprised you’d go for that sort of thing.

 

(12:06 PM)
I suppose you’re unattached then?

 

(12:08 PM)
Unattached? Yes… I suppose I am.

 

 (12:10 PM)
Something of a bachelor, are you?

 

(12:13 PM)
Well I wouldn’t call myself a bachelor.

 

(12:18 PM)
Why ever not?

 

(12:19 PM)
Because saying I’m a ‘bachelor’ sort of implies I’m… happy about it.

 

(12:21 PM)
Ah.

 

(12:29 PM)
Is that all you’re going to say?

 

(12:31 PM)
What response were you hoping for?

 

(12:32 PM)
I don’t know, actually. Not that one.

 

(12:35 PM)
Haven’t had too many girlfriends then?

 

(12:37 PM)
That’s private.

 

(12:39 PM)
Absolutely. Forget I asked.
(12:42 PM)
Well a colossal amount of help you were. If anything, I’m even more bored now than I was before.

 

(12:43 PM)
It isn’t my job to entertain you.

 

(12:45 PM)
Well you’ve got to serve some purpose. Speaking of which—when we first started speaking, didn’t you have some sort of word game going?

 

(12:47 PM)
Oh yes. ‘Brians of Britain.’ My friend and I play them quite a bit.

 

(12:51 PM)
I suppose that will have to do. Got any others like that?

 

(12:53 PM)
Um I think so. I’ll think one up.

 

(12:56 PM)
How about ‘books that sounds more interesting with the final letter knocked off’?

 

(12:59 PM)
That was better than anything I’d thought of. Have you got one?

 

(1:02 PM)
Of Mice and Me.

 

(1:04 PM)
Suddenly everything has gone out of my brain.

 

(1:07 PM)
Three men and a boa.

 

(1:10 PM)
This is unfair. You’re really good.

 

(1:11 PM)
You haven't thought of any, I'm guessing?

 

(1:12 PM)
Erm no.
(1:14 PM)
Wait! I’ve got one: “The Mill on the Flos”
(1:15 PM)
See—I’ve taken the ‘s’ off!

 

(1:17 PM)
I’m not quite sure where to begin.

 

(1:19 PM)
I knew I’d think up one eventually.

 

(1:21 PM)
Could I perhaps just confirm something with you? You’ve taken the ‘s’ off ‘The Mill on the Floss’ to make ‘The Mill on the Flos’
(1:22 PM)
Are you seeing the dilemma posed here?

 

(1:25 PM)
No?


February 14th

(9:05 AM)
Happy Valentine’s Day, Douglas.

 

(9:07 AM)
Now Martin… I readily excused your other questions about my love life but I feel that with this message I might as well tackle the issue head-on. I fear you may have confused my interest.

 

(9:08 AM)
No!
(9:09 AM)
Oh god no.
(9:11 AM)
I was just trying to be polite.
(9:11 AM)
Seriously, Douglas, no. I’m not interested. No.

 

(9:13 AM)
Well isn’t that a weight off my shoulders? I’d rather not have to explain the strange little man in my phone with the crush on me to my girlfriend.

 

(9:15 AM)
Definitely don’t have a crush on you.
(9:16 AM)
Hang on! “Little man”?

 

(9:18 AM)
Well, you’re short aren’t you? I thought we established that.

 

(9:19 AM)
No we didn’t. In fact, you just said it and I chose to ignore it.

 

(9:21 AM)
That was as good as a confirmation to me. If you weren’t self-conscious about it, you’d just tell me you were of average height or something. Your avoiding of the topic just acts to verify my suggestion.

 

(9:23 AM)
Does my height really matter? You don’t know anything else about how I look so why should it matter if I’m tall, short or in between?

 

(9:25 AM)
In truth, Martin, the only reason I care is because you react so defensively to the mention of it. You make yourself a target.

 

(9:28 AM)
I almost forgot for a moment that you get joy out of harassing people.

 

(9:31 AM)
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: you’re more than welcome to just stop replying.

 

(9:34 AM)
I thought we were sort of becoming friends.

 

(9:37 AM)
And a twisted pair we are.
(9:40 AM)
But what does Martin the Bachelor find himself doing on this momentous occasion?

 

(9:41 AM)
Well at the moment, I’m eating toast.

 

(9:43 AM)
I can hardly begin to imagine a better way to celebrate the Feast of Saint Valentine. Any other plans?

 

(9:51 AM)
I might sit and read for a bit. Get some study in.

 

(9:53 AM)
Careful Martin. Don’t want to over exert yourself.

 

(9:54 AM)
Yes, well not everyone has admirers lined up at their doors like you obviously do.

 

(9:57 AM)
No they really don’t. Must be awfully difficult.

 

(9:59 AM)
You actually have no idea.

 

(10:01 AM)
Well Happy Valentine’s Day, Martin. Don’t read too many flight manuals.

 

(10:03 AM)
You might be a few years too late on that one…

 

 


 (2:03 PM)
Happy Valentine’s Day, Douglas! Mum and I hope you have a good one.

 

(2:04 PM)
You might want to pass onto Carolyn that while I’m thrilled with the attention, I don’t think she’s quite in the age bracket deemed acceptable for me.

 

(2:05 PM)
Urgh! Douglas, she’s my Mum!

 

(2:07 PM)
As someone who has spent ample time in your household, I’m only far too aware. I'm not sure if you've noticed but she has something of an imposing presence that's altogether rather impossible to ignore...

 

(2:10 PM)
You’d better be careful then. She might actually kill you if you say things like that near her.
(2:11 PM)
Oh no, Douglas, you’ve definitely upset her. When I accidentally showed her, she pulled a weird face and went a funny sort of colour like she might explode and now she’s hitting her phone quite a lot.

 

 


(2:13 PM)
Douglas Richardson—if you were not friends with my idiot son, there would be Hell to pay for jokes like that one. Consider yourself very lucky.

 

(2:14 PM)
Blessed Ms Knapp-Shappey. I would never fail to overlook the courtesies you extend to me.

 

(2:15 PM)
Don’t come around for tea or I’ll serve your food frozen solid.



(2:17 PM)
So you’ll be expecting me at eight?

 

 


  February 15th

(10:09 AM)
How did your day go yesterday?

 

(10:11 AM)
Quite agreeably. I spent an hour or so having lunch with Helena and then went to my friend’s house to have tea with his family.

 

(10:13 AM)
Sorry, I regularly forget that you have friends. Even with your constant reminders, it just strikes me as really odd that you could keep any.

 

(10:15 AM)
Well that’s the benefit of having a good friend with a vocabulary of fewer words than a children’s picture book.

 

(10:18 AM)
Ah. So the friend you called an idiot. Arthur, wasn’t it?

 

(10:19 AM)
Don’t you have a good memory?

 

(10:21 AM)
Why have dinner with them though? Shouldn’t you have spent the entire day with your girlfriend?

 

(10:23 AM)
She had other places to be. And after all, Arthur’s household is very entertaining place to be. Between annoying him and his mother, I hardly had time to insult you.

 

(10:26 AM)
Yes I imagine you’d be a horrible house-guest.

 

(10:28 AM)
Be grateful I don’t have the faintest idea where you live.

 

(10:31 AM)
How did you and this Arthur fellow meet anyway?

 

(10:34 AM)
Oh we’ve known each-other since we were tiny. My parents knew his parents and the rest. His father is an irrefutably unpleasant gent but his mother has an acquired-taste sort of charm. They treat me like extended family.

 

(10:35 AM)
And how did he end up looking past all that smugness of yours to befriend you?

 

(10:37 AM)
The odd thing about Arthur is that he’s rather like a clingy girlfriend. Once he’s lured you into his company, he’s impossible to shake and far too daft to understand that you don’t want him around all that much anyway.

 

(10:39 AM)
You’re charming.

 

(10:42 AM)
I hardly need you to tell me that.

 

(10:44 AM)
You might be interested in his family, actually. His father is incredibly rich and his mother ended up being granted with his jet during the divorce. The three of them all happen to know a lot about aviation between them.

 

(10:47 AM)
I would give anything to live in a family like that. Mine don’t quite understand the field where my passions lie. Dad thought it was a bit of a waste of time actually.
(10:49 AM)
Hang on—all three of them? Even Arthur?

 

(10:52 AM)
I see you caught on. Though the husband and wife are quite knowledgeable, Arthur is still an utter clot who knows nothing much about anything. I think that goes to show just how much the others make up for his lack of a contribution.

 

 (10:54 AM)
But he still knows something about aeroplanes?

 

(10:56 AM)
Not sure I’d be that gracious. He did want to be a pilot though—guess I’ve got a type.

 

(10:58 AM)
So he doesn’t want to be one now?

 

(11:00 AM)
No. Though that isn’t to say he didn’t try in his own special way.

 

(11:02 AM)
How do you mean?

 

(11:04 AM)
He went to go to flying school but left due to some other circumstances.
(11:07 AM)
He hates Maths. That and he didn’t look like a ‘Muppet Baby Pilot.’

 

(11:09 AM)
Oh god.



(11:11 AM)
Just count yourself lucky to never face the prospect of getting in an aeroplane manned by my friend, Arthur. He once argued with me for a solid hour thinking that China was a continent.

 

 


  February 16th

(8:02 PM)
It occurred to me earlier that this arrangement was a little unfair. You asked me at least eighty questions about my friend yesterday and I still don’t know anything about a single one of yours. Except Karl and his affinity for stupid word games.

 

(8:06 PM)
First of all—Karl doesn’t have an affinity. I hold the games up and that’s saying something. Secondly—there isn’t actually that much to tell.

 

(8:09 PM)
Don’t give me that. You must have at least one friend whom you’re close with.

 

(8:11 PM)
Well… yes. I suppose there are a couple here and there but none really worth noting.

 

(8:14 PM)
What a depressing thought.

 

(8:18 PM)
You’re telling me.

 

(8:19 PM)
Alright. New topic.
(8:20 PM)
How about this: what sort of place do you live in?

 

(8:21 PM)
That’s a bit of a weird question.

 

(8:23 PM)
Not particularly if you answer it right. Do you, say, live with your parents? Or with roommates? For example—I live in an apartment at my university with a few friends.

 

(8:24 PM)
Frat boys, I bet.

 

(8:31 PM)
It’s not your turn.

 

(8:39 PM)
I live with…roommates, I suppose.

 

(8:42 PM)
I deliberated waiting for you to add something but now I’m beginning to suspect that’s all you have to say.

 

(8:45 PM)
It was a rubbish subject change.



(8:47 PM)
Fair enough. All right, apart from your expressed interest in aviation, what else do you like?

 

(8:51 PM)
What else do I like…apart from flying?

 

(8:53 PM)
Is that really so difficult a feat to answer one question?
(9:11 PM)
I’ll take that as a yes.

 


 (11:19 PM)
Douglas?

 

(11:21 PM)
Oh, are you replying now?

 

(11:24 PM)
Sorry about earlier… guess I’m not all that interesting.

 

(11:25 PM)
No? Then to what do I owe the pleasure of this exchange?

 

(11:27 PM)
I just had to say something.

 

(11:29 PM)
I’m very nearly breathless with anticipation.

 

(11:31 PM)
I thought of another one. Books that sound more interesting with the last letter knocked off.

 

(11:33PM)
Go on.

 

(11:34 PM)
Okay. The Hound of the Baskerville.

 

(11:36 PM)
…Almost good.


 

Chapter Text

The Strange Little Man in My Phone

Chapter Three: C is for Crazy Golf


Martin                     Douglas               Arthur               Carolyn


 

 

February 19th- 

(10:01 AM)
Douglas you’ll never guess what happened!
(10:02 AM)
Douglas!
(10:03 AM)
Douglas, are you there?
(10:08 AM)
As my friend you should definitely be here listening.
(10:10 AM)
It’s a brilliant story. I might have gotten a job.
(10:16 AM)
Douglas?
(10:18 AM)
Righto. I’m guessing you might have had too much to drink and you’re sleeping in.
(10:25 AM)
It’s okay if you did. I won’t tell Mum…not that Mum could do anything because she’s my Mum and not yours but I won’t tell her regardless.
(10:29 AM)
I’ll bring round coffees.

 

 


 

February 20th-

(7:25 AM)
Rise and shine, Arthur.

 

(7:27 AM)
Oh. It’s not a very good feeling is it?

 

(7:31 AM)
I’m afraid I’m not quite sure which feeling you might be referring to.

 

(7:34 AM)
Opening your eyes to a phone screen. It’s like the sun is in my hand or something.

 

(7:35 AM)
Profound as ever I see. Though if I do recall our conversation from yesterday correctly, you’re beginning your new job in less than a half hour.

 

(7:37 AM)
Oh thank you Douglas! I’d almost forgotten!
(7:38 AM)
Wow, this is quite cool isn’t it? Getting to wake up for work. I’ll be one of those suited business owners before long.

 

(7:39 AM)
I thought that might have been the case. That’s why I made certain to remind you.
(7:41 AM)
It does, however, perplex me that you were capable of forgetting the job you found so desperately important a mere twenty-four hours ago. You did bombard me with text messages and drive to my dorm just to tell me about it.

 

(7:40 AM)
Well…yeah, memory still isn’t my best thing.

 

(7:42 AM)
Suddenly memory isn’t mine either. Pray tell, what is your best thing?

 

(7:43 AM)
Crazy Golf, Douglas! Which is why it’s so brilliant that I have a career in it now.

 

(7:45 AM)
I’m not entirely sure that administration could be considered a ‘career’ in golf, Arthur.

 

(7:48 AM)
No but it’s a start, isn’t it? Wish me luck!

 

(7:50 AM)
I think my wishes lie with your ill-fated customers, actually.


 

(12:01 PM)
Morning, Douglas.
(12:01 PM)
Afternoon. Doesn’t matter.

 

(12:03 PM)
Morning/afternoon/doesn’t matter to you too Martin. And may it be a good one.

 

(12:04 PM)
Thank you very much.

 

(12:07 PM)
I’d sort of assumed you had something you wanted to say..?

 

(12:10 PM)
Oh…no, not particularly. Sorry I’ve been revising some things and needed a break.

 

(12:14 PM)
Aviation academy taking its toll?

 

(12:17 PM)
Was that some misguided attempt at a joke?

 

(12:19 PM)
Not in the least.

 

(12:22 PM)
Oh... well, never mind.
(12:24 PM)
I just needed to take some time away from it.

 

(12:26 PM)
How can I be of assistance?

 

(12:28 PM)
You don’t really need to do anything. I just needed someone to talk to. I’m completely exhausted at the moment; I keep falling asleep in the lounge and waking up there the next day buried in textbooks.

 

(12:34 PM)
You should go out and do something to take your mind off it. Go bowling or something.

 

 (12:36 PM)
I appreciate the suggestion but I’m broke enough as it is without wasting money bowling.

 

(12:40 PM)
I can see how that would be problematic.

 

(12:43 PM)
Not to worry though. I don’t need to go out.

 

(12:45 PM)
What do you need?

 

(12:49 PM)
…I probably need to study.

 

(12:54 PM)
Can’t say I envy the thrilling life you lead.

(1:00 PM)
When do you ever study? You’re a medical student, for goodness sake.

 

(1:02 PM)
Simply put, I never study.

 

(1:04 PM)
Then how on earth do you pass?

 

(1:07 PM)
Do you remember that time when I told you I had a sneaking suspicion that I possessed some sort of superhuman luck?

 

(1:09 PM)
You just wing your exams, don’t you?

 

(1:13 PM)
As much as it pains me to tear down your hard work, yes I do.


 

(5:40 PM)
Douglas, I’ve got to ask a favour of you.

 

(5:45 PM)
What an unexpected privilege. I’m not sure I’m prepared.

 

(5:48 PM)
I’m being very serious. Arthur the idiot has gone and driven his car into a telegraph pole. I’m busy trying to schedule something so I can’t go to pick him up. Now normally I wouldn’t rely on you for anything but I’m out of options.

 

(5:51 PM)
What first day of work is complete without an obligatory road accident? Very well. I’ll reluctantly accept your offer on the basis that you’ll now owe me.

 

(5:53 PM)
I owe you nothing, Douglas. You abuse my hospitalities at least three times a week expecting home-cooked meals. Now will you please pick up my son?

 

(5:59 PM)
Fine. Tell him I’m on my way.


 

(9:01 PM)
And how was a day in the life of the ever-exhilarating Captain Martin?

 

(9:04 PM)
I really wish you’d stop calling me that.

 

(9:06 PM)
Well excuse me for thinking it was a term of utmost respect and esteem.

 

(9:09 PM)
It would be if it weren’t coming from you.

 

(9:12 PM)
I say again: how was your day?

 

(9:14 PM)
Oh I was too busy processing that you texted me first to notice you’d asked a question.

 

(9:16 PM)
Don’t do sarcasm; it doesn’t suit you.

 

(9:18 PM)
Doesn’t particularly suit you either but that’s never discouraged you.
(9:20 PM)
And it was fine. Fine. Mostly fine. Sort of fine. Fine.

 

(9:24 PM)
Well anything you say five times is obviously true.

 

(9:26 PM)
It wasn’t entirely fine.

 

(9:29 PM)
I figured out that much funnily enough. What happened?

 

(9:31 PM)
Nothing happened. I’m just really tired.

 

(9:39 PM)
Then you should probably stop being so hard on yourself. Really, Martin, if you stop studying for the night…what’s the worst that could happen?

 

(9:41 PM)
Given that we aren’t all born fortunate and gifted like you were, the worst that could happen is pretty bad indeed.

 

(9:45 PM)
So you might fail one exam?

 

(9:49 PM)
It’s not… it’s a bit more complicated than that.

 

(9:51 PM)
Your family?

 

(9:53 PM)
In a way.

 

(9:56 PM)
If you fail one thing it doesn’t make you a failure.
(9:59 PM)
I don’t like talking to you like this, it’s miserable.

 

(10:01 PM)
Gee I’m sorry. I didn't mean for my 'actually important' problems to make you miserable.

 

(10:03 PM)
Usually I’d have a snarky comeback in response but I was being sincere. Is there anything I can do to assist?

 

(10:04 PM)
Don’t need help. Forget it.

 

(10:08 PM)
Have you heard of Fitton? Just west of Daventry.

 

(10:09 PM)
…Why?

 

(10:11 PM)
I’m waiting.

 

(10:13 PM)
Fine. Yes.

 

(10:15 PM)
And do you happen to live somewhere in that proximity?

 

(10:18 PM)
Douglas, this is hardly appropriate.

 

(10:21 PM)
Yes I realise it requires a certain amount of trust but I’m not exactly asking your address.

 

(10:33 PM)
Well, I’m about an hour out.

 

(10:36 PM)
Lovely. You can make a day of it.

 

(10:37 PM)
Make a day of what?
(10:43 PM)
Douglas?


 

(10:30 PM)
Hey Douglas! I’ve got to go to sleep in a moment because it’s been a big day but I just wanted to say thank you again for rescuing me. I might have been stuck on that road forever if you hadn’t come to help.

 

(10:34 PM)
Ah Arthur, perfect timing. I was just about to message you. And it was my pleasure to save you from that road, though the road might argue that you hadn’t actually had all that much contact with it…

 

(10:36 PM)
Yeah it was pretty bad, wasn’t it? Why were you about to message me?

 

(10:39 PM)
Well I can’t help but noticing that in the light of today’s events, you might owe me a bit of a favour.

 

(10:41 PM)
Well… sure I do! You saved my life.

 

(10:45 PM)
Close enough.

 

(10:46 PM)
What do you need me to do?

 

(10:48 PM)
Let me just call you, Arthur. It’s vital that you listen very. carefully.
(10:50 PM)
I can’t have you messing this up with your dismal lack of the ability to keep a secret.

 


 

[Incoming call: Douglas Richardson. 10:53 PM]

Oh hi Douglas. What’s the favour?”

 

Hello Arthur. Do I have your undivided attention?”

 

“Completely undivided. And I’m definitely not doing anything else.”

 

“Terrific. As thanks for my rescue mission today, I need you to make a reservation for a friend of mine to spend the day at your Adventure Golf park, or whatever it’s supposed to be.”

               

Oh righto. And you’ll just pay me back?”

 

Arthur. That could hardly be considered a favour.”

 

Oh now I understand… Okay, I guess that’s fine. I do owe you one.”

 

“You most certainly do. All you’ll have to do is add his name to the reservations list for tomorrow and pay for him when he comes up like one of the other customers.”

 

What’s your friend’s name?”

 

“His name is Martin.”

 

And what does he look like?”

 

“You know, I don’t have the faintest idea…”

 

Well that’s not very good. You’re always telling me I have a terrible memory.”

 

“Not quite the same, Arthur. I haven’t actually met this friend of mine. We only keep in contact digitally.”

 

Wow, that’s amazing! Like a robot! But Douglas… if you don’t know what he looks like then how will I know who to pay for?”

 

 “Well I suppose if he comes in calling himself ‘Martin’ that might give you some indication.”

 

“There might be more than one Martin though, Douglas.”

 

“That’s all right I’ve worked out a solution to that too.”

 

“What’s that?”

 

“Well there’s one other name you could add onto his reservation…”

 


 

(11:06 PM)
Hello Martin. I hope you aren’t busy tomorrow.

 

(11:09 PM)
Oh god I am not meeting you. No this has been far too nice to ruin now.

 

(11:11 PM)
…As warming as it is to see how enthusiastic you’d be in my presence, I’m actually not asking you to meet me.

 

(11:20 PM)
I don’t understand.

 

(11:24 PM)
You’ve got reservations at the Adventure Golf Course in Fitton. I have a friend there who owed me a favour so I’m not paying a cent. You get your day off after all. No more complaining about being tired or too poor to go bowling. I hope you can spare money for petrol?

 

(11:27 PM)
Douglas… I really can’t.

 

(11:29 PM)
Oh? Crazy golf not your thing?

 

(11:34 PM)
I mean… I really can’t accept in good conscience. I don’t even know you and it just seems a little…improper.

 

(11:37 PM)
Well I assure you that the fact that we won’t have met will remain intact. I don’t even know what you look like so I don’t think there’s much of a chance of me intercepting you on your way there and kidnapping you.

 

(11:39 PM)
You know… hearing you say that isn’t all that comforting.

 

(11:43 PM)
Well if you must know Martin, tomorrow my girlfriend and I will be catching a train to Daventry where we will spend the day fine-dining and then going to a nice club to finish off the night. You aren’t at any risk of seeing me.
(11:46 PM)
All right, I can see you’re against the idea so I’ll tell my friend to cancel it.

 

(12:01 AM)
Wait don’t. I’ll go.

 

(12:02 AM)
Delightful.

 

(12:04 AM)
What’s in all of this for you though? Why go out of your way to help a stranger?

 

(12:07 AM)
A man once told me that it was my civic duty to help those in need.

 

(12:09 AM)
Shut up Douglas.

 

(12:10 AM)
Very well. Martin—you are a competent student with meticulous study habits. Can you see how that might possibly aid someone who has zero interest in learning and makes no effort to abide the strict deadlines that university life demands?

 

(12:13 AM)
You’re doing this for me so that I’ll do your school work for you!?

 

(12:15 AM)
…Well you would owe me.

 

(12:24 AM)
I didn’t know you were capable of stooping this low.

 

(12:25 AM)
Sleep well, Martin. You’ve got a drive ahead of you.

 

(12:29 AM)
Good night.
(12:30 AM)
Morning. Doesn’t matter.

 


 

 

February 21st-

[Incoming call: Arthur Shappey. 5:32 PM.]

“Arthur. Finally. I assume you have news?”

 

“I thought you were busy with your girlfriend today! Oh and why do you assume that? Should I have news?”

 

“…I didn’t think I’d have to explain.”

 

Ah right! Your friend!”

 

“Yes my ‘friend.’ Did he come in?”


“He sure did, Douglas!”

 

And you didn’t, under any circumstances, mention your name?”

 

Nope! I took my badge off and everything and told my boss that I'd lost it, like you said.”

 

“Good. I didn’t want him making the connection.”

 

Who? What connection?”

 

“Nothing. Tell me about it.”

 

Sure what do you want to know, Douglas?”

 

“Just general things. For example, how did you know it was him?”

 

Well when he walked up to the counter, he told me that someone had made reservations for him. And I very professionally asked what his name was. And when he said it was Martin, I said: “Oh…we don’t have a Martin on this list.”

 

“And then?”

 

“He got a bit panicky when I said that and asked if anyone named Douglas had booked anything. So I told him that Douglas had made a booking for a ‘Skip.’”

 

“Well done, Arthur. What did he say to that?”

 

He went sort of quiet and then started playing with his shirt sleeves. And his face went really red! You should have seen it .”

 

I almost wish I had. And astoundingly, I don’t think you made any mistakes. That’s all very good.”

 

Just doing my professional duty, Douglas. I take my job very seriously.”

 

“Oh—one more thing before you go.”

 

What’s that?”

 

“What did he look like?”

 

“Erm…it's sort of hard to explain.”

 

“…”

 

"Well, the thing is,  I don’t really remember much of what he looked like! I mean—it was ages ago.”

 

Arthur.”

 

I’m really sorry, Douglas. Memory really isn’t my best thing.”

 

“Are you honestly telling me that you remember nothing?”

 

Well… I remember one thing.”

 

“Really? And what might that be?”

 

He was really bad at Crazy Golf, Douglas!  Worse than Mum."

 

"And... he was a bit… on the short side.”

 

“Douglas, are you there?”

 

“…Was he really?”                                              


 

(7:21 PM)
Really Douglas?

 

(7:24 PM)
Martin. To what do I owe the pleasure on this fine night?

 

(7:25 PM)
You know exactly what I'm talking about!

 

(7:26 PM)
I hope you enjoyed your day off.

 

(7:26 PM)
I hate you.
(7:29 PM)
Really! 'Skip'!?

 

(7:28 PM)
Suits you fine. Though I did debate putting down 'Captain Martin' but I thought it might be a just a tad too cruel.

 

(7:31 PM)
To think I trusted you.

 

(7:34 PM)
Good night.
(7:35 PM)
...sir


 

Chapter Text

The Strange Little Man in My Phone

Chapter Four: D is for Duxford

February 25th-

(10:43 AM)
Martin, entertain me. My head might actually implode from the lack of stimulation.
(10:45 AM)
No really, this lecture is so tedious that no human being on the face of this earth deserves to be put through it.
(10:47 AM)
I may have just singlehandedly devised the solution to repeat offender-criminals nationwide. Stick them in this room and they won’t soon commit another crime.

 

(10:49 AM)
I’m busy, Douglas! And if it’s so horrible, why can’t you just leave?

 

(10:51 AM)
Because, Martin, believe it or not students are actually expected to attend their classes when they dish out thousands of dollars annually to partake in the acclaimed medical academics spectrum.

 

(10:53 AM)
Yes but I imagine that those students are not expected to contact aviation students from Wokingham to do their homework for them in exchange for crazy golf.

 

(10:56 AM)
Wokingham? Ah…that’s a shame.

 

(10:58 AM)
A shame? Why is it a shame?

 

(10:59 AM)
No reason.

 

(11:01 AM)
Douglas.

 

(11:04 AM)
Well the thing is, you’d only told me that you lived about an hour from Fitton. In that instance, I had some grounds for imagination wherein I could picture you living in any one of the many neighbouring places in that vicinity.  Now you’ve told me you’ve sort of taken the fun out of it.
(11:05 AM)
And what a bland place. Do you really mean to tell me that that’s where you’ve been all this time?

 

(11:07 AM)
I didn’t mean it…

 

(11:11 AM)
You don’t live in Wokingham?

 

(11:14 AM)
Oh I do. I just didn’t mean to tell you.

 

(11:18 AM)
Ah. Wonderfully done.

 

(11:20 AM)
Where do you live then?

 

(11:24 AM)
Think very carefully about that question, Martin. And then tell me what you’ve deduced.

 

(11:27 AM)
Well… I don’t know. You’ve never said anything.

 

(11:32 AM)
You know that my friend whom I see on a regular basis lives in Fitton. You also know that I’m familiar enough with the leisure activities in Fitton to know where the Adventure Golf park is located. Why don’t you make an educated guess?

 

(11:34 AM)
Then you live in Fitton?

 

(11:36 AM)
Oh Martin, where could you have gotten that from? I was hinting towards Daventry.

 

(11:39 AM)
Were you?

 

(11:41 AM)
No.
(11:44 AM)
Oh silent treatment again. I forgot you had a low tolerance for sarcasm.

 

(11:46 AM)
I have a low tolerance for you.

 

(11:49 AM)
I’ll choose to ignore that. Though, dare I ask, what is it that you’re so busy doing today? I don’t think I’ve ever had a conversation with you where you’ve left your room.

 

(11:52 AM)
How could you possibly know that I haven’t?

 

(11:58 AM)
You’ve given me ample reason to suspect your highly engaging social life, but call it a stab in the dark.

 

(12:03 PM)
Forget I asked. I’m at Duxford with my sister.

 

(12:05 PM)
A bit of a drive for you. Aren’t getting slack are you?

 

(12:07 PM)
No I’m not. I’m at an air museum actually.

 

(12:09 PM)
Imagine my surprise.

 

(12:11 PM)
Don’t be like that… I like it here.  It’s the Imperial War Museum—ever been? They hold all sorts of events throughout the year about aviation.

 

(12:14 PM)
Can’t say I have, thrilling as it sounds. What’s on today?

 

(12:16 PM)
Glad you asked. There’s an exhibit on historical Duxford that explores the period of time where the airfield was used by members of the RAF in the early nineteen-twenties. They’ve got a few guest speakers who were actually alive during that time and worked for the company. It’s amazing, really.

 

(12:18 PM)
I probably should have let you know before you wrote your speech but I really don’t care.

 

(12:21 PM)
Don’t be like that Douglas. It’s actually hugely informative and a central part of the RAF’s records. Even Cat seems to like it and she hates these sorts of things.

 

(12:23 PM)
How old is your sister, exactly?

 

(12:30 PM)
You did not just read all of that and only take in the part about my sister.
(12:32 PM)
No of course you did.
(12:35 PM)
It doesn’t matter.
(12:37 PM)
Also, your indifference towards major aviation history is appalling.

 

(12:40 PM)
Can’t say I’m envious of those who your sister keeps in her company. Not so long as you’re in it too.


 

(5:30 PM)
And how did the noble Skipper take to Duxford air museum?

 

(5:32 PM)
I really wish you’d stop calling me that. The term ‘captain’ and all its variants are terms of respect that ought to be earned. It’s like calling someone ‘soldier’, it’s a mark of esteem. It just seems a bit inappropriate given that I’m not an airline captain.

 

(5:35 PM)
I hardly think that the reverence of the term ‘soldier’, which encompasses all of the men and women who fought nobly to defend our country and made countless sacrifices for our welfare, compares to a teenager being called Skip.

 

(5:37 PM)
Well it sounds stupid when you say it like that.

 

(5:39 PM)
Precisely.

 

(5:42 PM)
Well Duxford was nice. Very nice. Really, very nice.

 

(5:45 PM)
We ought to get you a dictionary.

 

(5:48 PM)
Again—ignored.
(5:49 PM)
It really was nice though.

 

(5:53 PM)
I don’t dispute that much. Learn anything new?

 

(5:56 PM)
I suppose I was reminded of a few things here and there but the museums shows are aimed more at the layperson rather than someone who has extensive knowledge of the topics.

 

(5:59 PM)
Oh my.

 

(6:03 PM)

 

(6:05 PM)
Sorry, what?

 

(6:07 PM)
I just automatically waited for the sarcastic comment to follow.

 

(6:10 PM)
Well if you insist.
(6:14 PM)
I mean, heaven forbid that someone of less than the highest professional calibre should visit a museum on a day-trip hoping to learn something. They ought to just stay at home so that the highly-specialised, though unemployed, experts of the aviation industry can be sufficiently satisfied with the information.

 

(6:18 PM)
I’m not actually unemployed—I work a few jobs, I told you that. And I’m not claiming to be an ‘expert.’ I’m just saying that even a twelve year old would know most of the information that they provide there.

 

(6:20 PM)
Did it ever occur to you that perhaps the eleven-year-olds of the world were visiting that day; hoping to learn something?

 

(6:23 PM)
You know what I mean!

 

(6:30 PM)
Perhaps people would be able to take you a little more seriously if you were to temporarily suspend your judgement until you actually become a qualified pilot?

 

(6:34 PM)
Would take a bit more than that, I think.

 

(6:35 PM)
Have some faith, Martin.

 

(6:37 PM)
It’s a little hard with ‘people like you’ around to remind me of how ‘people like me’ are never taken seriously.

 

(6:39 PM)
I do nothing of the sort. Any judgement you bring on yourself entirely.

 

(6:43 PM)
It doesn’t help that you just sit there texting me with your name and your girlfriend and your university and your hair.

 

(6:45 PM)
My…hair, Martin?

 

(6:48 PM)
The imagined version.

 

(6:51 PM)
Might I ask what this imagined version of my hair looks like?
(6:53 PM)
 I guess not. Well fine, I’m sure it doesn’t compare to the real thing anyway.
(6:56 PM)
For what it’s worth, I imagine that you’re a redhead. Though I might be wrong.
(6:59 PM)
‘I might be wrong.’ Hahaha.

 


 

February 26th-

(9:03 AM)
Hi Skip!

 

(9:05 AM)
…Douglas? I told you not to call me that. Though apparently the last eighteen times I’ve asked haven’t quite sunken in.
(9:07 AM)
Very clever swapping phones though. I’m very amused.

 

(9:07 AM)
Now before you get mad, just know that it wasn’t entirely my fault. I mean—Douglas left his phone sitting on the lounge right beside me and your number sort of flashed up on the screen and I sort of copied it down and then this…sort of just happened.

 

(9:09 AM)
Wait what are you talking about? So you mean you aren’t Douglas?
(9:10 AM)
 One of his frat friends?

 

(9:13 AM)
Not quite. I thought this might be okay because I thought you might guess who I am!

 

(9:14 AM)
Oh! You’re Arthur, aren’t you!? Yes, Douglas mentioned he was visiting you.
(9:16 AM)
Well, to be honest, there isn’t much about this situation that’s okay but at least I know who you are.

 

(9:16 AM)
Do you? That’s a relief because I know who you are too!

 

(9:18 AM)
Wait do you?

 

(9:20 AM)
Yep! Douglas said you didn’t know who I was so that’s why I wasn’t supposed to say my name.
(9:22 AM)
But since you know who I am too I guess it doesn’t matter!

 

(9:25 AM)
Hang on… why wouldn’t Douglas want you to say your name? I think we might be on a slightly different level here.

 

(9:29 AM)
I meant that I wasn’t supposed to say my name when I saw you the other day. But so long as you know about that, it's alright!

 

(9:34 AM)
Arthur—when exactly did you see me?

 

(9:41 AM)
The other day when you came in to the Adventure Golf Park. And Douglas made the reservation for you.  He told you, didn’t he?
(9:45 AM)
Though looking back…that was actually a secret.

 

 


 

(9:50 AM)
Arthur.

 

(9:52 AM)
Valiant effort but no: Douglas.

 

(9:54 AM)
No I mean ‘Arthur’ as in ‘Arthur was the friend that owed you a favour.’ You tricked him into meeting me!

 

(9:56 AM)
I never did anything of the sort. He was very aware who you were after all.

 

(9:59 AM)
Oh I don’t doubt that you told him all about me. Rather, it was me that you tricked into meeting Arthur.  It’s like I’m a chess piece in a bloody game of yours. Tricked into meeting your friend. Tricked into doing your homework.

 

(10:03 AM)
Now, now Martin. I wasn’t trying to deceive you or take advantage of you. I simply offered a tired friend a day of golf by using a favour that another friend owed me. Is there anything so wrong about that?

 

(10:05 AM)
The part that is wrong, Douglas, is that I made it very clear that I didn’t want to meet you.

 

(10:08 AM)
Yes you rather made your point. And meet me you didn’t.

 

(10:12 AM)
But so long as there was a point of contact between us, you lied to me. Arthur knows what I look like now and it was all done without my knowledge. You went behind my back.

 

(10:15 AM)
I think you might be blowing this ever-so-slightly out of proportion.
(10:18 AM)
It’s also worth mentioning that it wasn’t a scheme to find out all the gory details on you. Arthur is so daft he can’t even remember a single thing about you, so your mystifying identity is still very much intact.

 

(10:21 AM)
Are you just saying that?

 

(10:24 AM)
Martin you worry. I know nothing about what you look like and nor does Arthur. My motivations were simply to ensure that you didn’t die from the intensive workload of the also-mysterious study you partake in.

 

(10:26 AM)
And to get me to do assessment for you.

 

(10:28 AM)
Well I’d have to get something out of it.

 

(10:34 AM)
You are by far the most deplorable human being I’ve ever had the horror of accidentally texting.

 

(10:36 AM)
Is it a hobby you engage in often?

 

(10:38 AM)
No. And god knows why I thought it was a good idea to stay in touch with you.

 

(10:41 AM)
Would you be as kind as to tell me how you managed to figure out my so-called scheme?

 

(10:46 AM)
Arthur. He got my number from your phone.

 

(10:49 AM)
You’ve been talking to Arthur?

 

(10:54 AM)
I’d apologise for over-stepping a boundary but you already did that when you sent me to the ruddy golf course.

 

(10:59 AM)
No need for an apology. In fact, I rather pity you.

 

(11:00 AM)
Do you?

 

(11:03 AM)
Indeed. You see, when I told you that Arthur was a difficult man to shake, I really wasn’t exaggerating. I fear you might experience firsthand the extremity to that truth.

 

(11:05 AM)
Oh no.

 

(11:09 AM)
Oh yes.


 

(11:10 AM)
Arthur you clot.

 

(11:13 AM)
I’m sorry, Douglas! Really I am! I couldn’t be more sorry.

 

(11:15 AM)
I gave you a few very specific instructions; the most important being that under no circumstances ever would you tell Martin your name.

 

(11:16 AM)
And technically I did that part perfectly…up until a point. I mean, from the way he was talking I was so sure that you’d told him and it just slipped out.

 

(11:17 AM)
As is so often your way. What possessed you to contact him in the first place?

 

(11:19 AM)
It just seemed like an awful lot of fun you two were having. He seems really nice and I thought it would be okay to join in.

 

(11:23 AM)
Yes well Martin is not your friend. Martin is *my* friend. And he doesn’t want you talking to him any more than I want you to.

 

(11:25 AM)
But Douglas! You’ve got loads of friends.

 

(11:28 AM)
Well Martin is not like any of load of those friends. Not that I’d expect you and your colossal lack of brain power to comprehend.  

 

(11:30 AM)
You’re right, I really don’t understand. I mean, can’t we just share?

 

(11:34 AM)
I will grant you the right to occasionally contact Martin on the basis that you do not annoy him and he wants you talking to him. That part is very important, Arthur, as you are often incapable of noticing that most of the people you hang around do not, in fact, want you around.

 

(11:36 AM)
Brilliant, Douglas. I can do that.
(11:38 AM)
Hey this is kind of nice isn’t it? I mean three good friends. Talking and stuff.

 

(11:39 AM)
Which part of one text conversation made Martin your good friend?

 

(11:41 AM)
Well…maybe not yet, but soon. We could be like the Fantastic Three, Douglas.

 

(11:45 AM)
I believe you’re searching for the ‘Fantastic Four.’

 

(11:48 AM)
Oh yeah. Well we could ask Mum to join in too!

 

(11:49 AM)
That’s a delightful image.

 

(11:50 AM)
Well have you got anthing better?

 

(11:52 AM)
We could always be ‘men with a Venn.’

 

(11:54 AM)
Well that’s just silly.


 

Chapter Text

The Strange Little Man in My Phone

Chapter Five: E is for Exam

Martin           Douglas             Arthur        Carolyn


 

March 1st-

(9:01 AM)
How’s the studying going?

 

(9:03 AM)
How do you think it’s going?

 

(9:06 AM)
Well I hope that your non-answer means that you are actually studying. I don’t care too much how you’re going so long as you’re doing it.

 

(9:08 AM)
Then I’m sure you’ll be disappointed to know that I haven’t so much as touched my revision.

 

(9:10 AM)
…Douglas. I did your essay for you because I owed you. The revision sheets, on the other hand, were just a favour. It would be nice if you could take an hour or so to actually use them. I think you’ll find they’re very helpful.

 

(9:14 AM)
I understand the trouble you went to, Martin, and rest assured that I am very flattered by your investment in my study habits. However, I think I have a certain factor on my side that will assist me even more than your revision sheets.

 

(9:17 AM)
Oh really? Well you could have told me about this ‘certain factor’ before I wasted my time making the sheets up. What is it anyway?

 

(9:20 AM)
Luck.

 

(9:25 AM)
I thought for a moment that you were joking but then remembered that it’s you I’m talking to. No you can’t rely on luck. It’s an important exam and you’ve got to study. No one can just wing it.

 

(9:29 AM)
Perhaps you can’t. However, I think you’ll find that I can.

 

(9:31 AM)
Oh come on. I don’t buy that for a second.

 

(9:32 AM)
Ah well. You’ll see.

 

(9:34 AM)
You really aren’t going to look at the revision sheets?

 

(9:36 AM)
I’m afraid not.

 

(9:39 AM)
Unbelievable.

 


 

 

(12:00 PM)
Alright Douglas. You’ve got three hours. It isn’t too late to just swallow your pride and study. You don’t even have to tell anyone if it’s reputation you’re worried about. Just do it and then I’ll be able to rest easy.

 

(12:02 PM)
It’s rather charming that you’re so concerned about my exam but I might be disappointing you again. I’m quite determined not to study.

 

(12:04 PM)
But why!? Why spoil your results on purpose? I just don’t understand it.

 

(12:06 PM)
Well as it happens, I’m a big believer in fate. And if the gods of tertiary study don’t wish for me to continue being a medical student, who am I to take a dig at their crucial world views?

 

(12:10 PM)
No. I don’t trust you. You’re trying to prove a point or win a bet or something, aren’t you? That’d be just like you.

 

(12:14 PM)
How little faith you have in me, Martin.

 

(12:18 PM)
If you don’t study, I’ll tell Arthur.

 

(12:20 PM)
I keep forgetting you two are in contact.

 

(12:25 PM)
Yeah well it was just like you said. He texts me every day.

 

(12:31 PM)
I warned you so. Though pray tell, what do you think Arthur would contribute to the situation? He wouldn’t make me study.
(12:34 PM)
 As I’ve mentioned on numerous occasions, Arthur is the singular biggest idiot I’ve ever had the misfortune to come across.

 

(12:37 PM)
No he’s just different and that isn’t necessarily bad.

 

(12:41 PM)
No not necessarily bad. That is, if you enjoy being untiringly pestered by a sanguine crazy golf receptionist with a penchant for failing even the simplest of tasks.

 

(12:45 PM)
Well maybe I do!

 

(12:48 PM)
Right. I’ll leave you to that then. Admittedly not going to study though.

 

(12:51 PM)
You have no idea how frustrated I am with you right now.

 

(12:59 PM)
Don’t hold back in your attempts to asphyxiate me through the phone.

 

(1:03 PM)
God knows I won’t.


 

(1:04 PM)
Arthur he won’t study. He’s going to fail his exam if he doesn’t.

 

(1:06 PM)
I know you’re worried Skip, but Douglas never fails anything! Really. In all the years I’ve known him, he’s never once failed a single thing. He’s like magic or something.

 

(1:09 PM)
No, really, no one can rely on luck for everything. It’s quite difficult subject matter and he’s not going to pass if he sits idly by. Is there really nothing you can do?

 

(1:13 PM)
Nope. And nothing you can do either unless you’re magic too.

 

(1:16 PM)
How do you mean?

 

(1:18 PM)
Well once Douglas sets his mind to something, there’s no changing it.

 

(1:23 PM)
There’s got to be something!

 

(1:26 PM)
There really isn’t though. I’m sure he’ll pass. I mean—you did all you could. It’s not your job.
(1:28 PM)
It’s really good of you to try though. You don’t even properly know Douglas but you’re still worried. You’re like a virtual version of his mother or something!

 

(1:34 PM)
I’m trying very hard to pretend I never read that.

 

(1:35 PM)
I wish I had a virtual version of Mum. That’d be brilliant.
(1:38 PM)
Actually…no. That’d be very not-brilliant. She’s great but one of her is enough. If she lived in my phone as well, there’d be no getting it past her that I didn’t eat my vegetables.

 

(1:40 PM)
She still pesters you about your vegetables?

 

(1:43 PM)
Well yeah. No one really likes vegetables, do they?

 

(1:46 PM)
Not quite what I meant.

 

(1:49 PM)
Well Mum is pretty scary. In a good way because I wouldn’t ever change her even if I had the opportunity to. But really she’s terrifying, even Douglas is scared of her.

 

(1:51 PM)
She must be pretty bad then. I can’t imagine Douglas being afraid of anyone.
(1:54 PM)
Oh wait, Arthur! Douglas is scared of your mother. Can’t you ask her to get him to study?

 

(1:57 PM)
That’s a great idea, Skip! But there isn’t much time left is there?

 

(1:59 PM)
Well no. There’s only an hour. Anything is better than nothing though, isn’t it?

 

(2:01 PM)
Yeah you’re right. I’ll have a bit of a talk with her. You’re a really good friend to him, Martin.

 

(2:03 PM)
Yeah well, from the way he acts I’m pretty sure he needs one.

 


 

(2:10 PM)
Start talking and make it good.

 

(2:13 PM)
Afternoon Ms Knapp-Shappey. Anything in particular you’d like me to talk about?

 

(2:16 PM)
You can start with why you haven’t studied for an exam that you’re sitting in less than an hour. And you’d better make it very, very good because, as I’m sure you can struggle to remember, your mother and I are good friends.

 

(2:19 PM)
How could I ever forget?

 

(2:23 PM)
Douglas I am serious. Your parents pay thousands of pounds to send you to that idiotic elitist university; you could at least repay them by caring just a little.

 

(2:25 PM)
You wanted my explanation?

 

(2:27 PM)
Yes and please do make it good.

 

(2:29 PM)
Truth be told, Carolyn, I’ve had a change of heart towards medical school. Call it an epiphany. I’m starting to call into question whether it’s meant to be or not.

 

(2:31 PM)
The problem with you is that I can never quite be sure whether or not you’re being a sarcastic moron. Let’s say figuratively that you are telling the truth and god knows how unlikely that is. But for the sake of argument, if you did decide to do something different; what would that be?

 

(2:34 PM)
I’ve started attending flying lessons.

 

(2:35 PM)
You’re joking.

 

(2:38 PM)
I’m really not.

 

(2:39 PM)
What on earth brought that on?

 

(2:41 PM)
A certain friend of mine inspired me. I figure there is no point wasting my time working towards a field I couldn’t care less about when there are other options accessible to me that could make me far happier.

 

(2:43 PM)
That’s a surprisingly eloquent response.

 

(2:45 PM)
This exam is a trial of sorts. If I pass, I’ll agree that the gods of fate are quite determined to welcome a Doctor Richardson into their ranks. If I don’t, I’ll have cause to re-evaluate my options.

 

(2:47 PM)
While I am rather surprised, I really can’t scold the decisions you’ve made. Not if you’re sure that being a pilot is what you want.

 

(2:51 PM)
I’ve been paying for lessons out of my own wallet for the past couple of weeks. I’m quite sure. I might even apply to an aviation academy or two. And perhaps once I’ve progressed further in my learning, there’d be work experience through your airline in it for me.

 

(2:54 PM)
MJN is far from being an ‘airline.’ It’s rather more like an ‘air-dot.’ Nevertheless, I’m sure something could be arranged if you see this through.

 

(2:56 PM)
Well I have to be inside in a few minutes, so we’ll have to reschedule this conversation I’m afraid. I think it’d be best if you didn’t mention this to my parents. I’ll have that talk with them when the need arises.
(2:57 PM)
Thank you for understanding though.

 

(2:59 PM)
It’s the least I could offer. Don’t get used to me being nice though, I’m still furious about your utter lack of commitment.
(3:00 PM)
For what it’s worth though, I wish you the best. I truly hope that things will turn out the way you want them to.

 

(5:31 PM)
Well, I suppose it rests with the fates now.

 


 

 

March 2nd-

(10:02 AM)
I messaged you at least eighteen times yesterday afternoon and I’ve still heard nothing.

 

(10:04 AM)
Martin you really ought to learn to relax.

 

(10:06 AM)
Radio silence for twenty hours and that’s all you have to say?

 

(10:08 AM)
I was only acting to discourage the frankly obsessive behaviour you’ve developed towards my studies.

 

(10:11 AM)
And now I remember why I shouldn’t bother. You’re impossible, you know?

 

(10:14 AM)
 And you’re very attached to the lives of people you’ve never met.
(10:16 AM)
That may have been slightly uncalled for. Thank you for your concern. The exam was fine.

 

(10:20 AM)
Alright I get it. You’ve got your amazing life and your hoards of friends with everything going right for you and I am just an irritating stranger who texts you. And maybe you take up a fraction of my life that is slightly unhealthy given our circumstances, but those circumstances don’t prevent me from caring.
(10:25 AM)
I am not you, Douglas. I don’t have your amazing life and I will never have anything close to it, but somehow you managed to weasel your way into the small list of people who I hold important and I DO care. If that’s bad, it’s too late to change anything.

 

(10:27 AM)
Perhaps your true calling lies with writing speeches.

 

(10:29 AM)
Yeah I don’t know why I even expected a sensible response from you. Whatever, I’ll leave you alone if I’m that big of a hassle.

 

(10:40 AM)
Very well. You brought this on yourself. Martin—you are quite frankly the most ridiculous person I have ever spoken to. And from most people’s stand-points, your life seems to pale in comparison to mine. As it so happens though, I am completely directionless and unmotivated. I’ve sat a test that makes up fifty percent of my grade for the semester without knowing the answers to any one of the questions. I’ve also recently broken up with my girlfriend after discovering that she was cheating on me with the instructor of her college tai-chi class. To top it off, the strange and perpetually-unlucky man from Wokingham I speak with via text has more figured out about his life than I do.

 

(10:45 AM)
Oh.
(10:46 AM)
Oh Douglas, I am so sorry.

 

(10:48 AM)
Thank you.

 

(10:51 AM)
No really, I’ve been on your case all this time. I keep forgetting you aren’t as invincible as you seem.

 

(10:54 AM)
I rather like the idea of my seeming invincible and I’m sorry to burst your bubble over that. Though, if it matters to you at all, I don’t blame you for anything.

 

(10:59 AM)
I’m still really sorry. Douglas, my life is very far from enviable. I am seriously the most unlucky person in the world. I have next to no friends and I work more than one job to pay for my studies. And as you subtly hinted at, I’ve got basically nothing going for me and that’s why I’m so easy for you to mock. So yeah, I know that I got a bit intense over your exam…but it’s just because I care. I value the friends I have.

 

(11:02 AM)
You don’t have to explain yourself, Martin. You weren’t the cause of any of my problems. If anything, I should be thanking for you. You inadvertently helped me realise something very important. And also for what it’s worth, I value having you as my friend. Obsession and anxiousness included.

 

(11:04 AM)
Gee thanks. And I really value you constantly alternating between being frank and being a sarcastic idiot.

 

(11:06 AM)
I am many things, Martin, but an idiot has never been one of them.

 

(11:08 AM)
Whatever this is though, now that we’re friends… it’s gotten sort of personal. Is that still okay?

 

(11:10 AM)
I can’t think of any objections. And as you said, it’s too late to change a thing now. We might as well just accept this and see where we end up. Is there really any harm?

 

(11:14 AM)
No… no harm. Just the opposite actually.

 


 

 

 

Chapter Text

  Chapter Six: F is for Father

Martin        Douglas       Arthur       Carolyn


 

 

March 4th

(11:02 AM)
“I Want to Know What Scud Is.”

 

(11:06 AM)
As do I.

 

(11:08 AM)
No, Douglas! The game.
(11:09 AM)
Replace ‘love’ in a song title with aviation terminology.
(11:12 AM)
By the way, scud is actually a layer of clouds that’s rather like fog. It gave the name to ‘scud-running.’ Nowhere near enough pilots have been taught to fly at a low altitude under a cloudy sky.

 

(11:15 AM)
“How Deep is Your Sea Lion?”

 

(11:18 AM)
Not bad…

 

(11:19 AM)
“Where are you now? (My Swash Plate)”

 

(11:20 AM)
Have you been saving these up?

 

(11:24 AM)
“I’d Do Anything for Cowl Flaps.”

 

(11:26 AM)
I regret asking to play this.

 

(11:29 AM)
And here I was just starting to enjoy myself.

 

(11:31 AM)
You always do this. Save up a bunch of them in the time you haven’t been replying.

 

(11:35 AM)
Be grateful I never got to the reference about ‘down thrust.'

 


 

(1:03 PM)
Just an out-of-the-blue question: Have you ever thought about what it would be like to call each-other?
(1:05 PM)
I’m not saying we have to. I’m not even saying that we should but I just think it’s interesting to consider.
(1:08 PM)
I mean... whether or not your voice would match the one I hear in my head.

 

(1:10 PM)
The thought had occurred to me. To entertain my curiosities though, what do you imagine my voice sounding like?

 

(1:12 PM)
Well… a bit like Stephen Fry actually.

 

(1:14 PM)
That’s a very strange though very specific image.

 

(1:16 PM)
Well go on then. How do you imagine me sounding?

 

(1:17 PM)
I don’t really. Though if your texts are anything to go by, I suppose you get flustered and start rambling when you’re anxious. And I’m sure that happens rather frequently.

 

(1:19 PM)
…You’re not wrong.

 

(1:21 PM)
I rarely am.
(1:24 PM)
What brought this on though?

 

(1:27 PM)
It’s just a little strange having someone who I hold important being such a blank spot in my mind. I know a fair bit about you but I don’t know how you sound or how you look.

 

(1:29 PM)
Are you trying to ineptly hint at wanting to meet with me?

 

(1:32 PM)
No!
(1:35 PM)
No, that’s not what I meant at all.  I just mean that it’s strange, that’s all.

 

(1:39 PM)
Yes I suppose it is. You are very fortunate that Arthur saw you in person or your behaviour might have come off a little peculiarly. You do rather open yourself up to suspicion.

 

(1:45 PM)
Oh you think I sound like some kind of cyber stalker, do you? Well I’m not the one who tricked you into meeting that particular friend.

 

(1:47 PM)
Are we really still dwelling on that?

 

(1:49 PM)
Well it was ill-mannered of you.

 

(1:53 PM)
Answer me this, Martin. Has there ever been a point where you haven’t trusted me? Where you suspected I might have an ulterior motive in this friendship?

 

(1:58 PM)
All the time. You’re the most morally questionable person I know. You’re constantly scheming and betting and foraging for favours.

 

(2:00 PM)
No. I mean in the more sinister, criminal sort of way. The type they always warn you about; posing as someone else to take advantage of a teenager.

 

(2:04 PM)
Well I'd say I'm a very cautious person but…no. I’ve never suspected you of anything like that. You always seem too real for that.
(2:06 PM)
But now I’m starting to get paranoid.
(2:09 PM)
Wait was that some kind of inadvertent confession? You aren’t one of…those, are you?

 

(2:10 PM)
Could you truly be asking me whether I’m a criminal trying to take advantage of you? If that were the case, why on earth would I be telling you?

 

(2:14 PM)
Okay point taken. Well… no. I trust you. I’ve not doubted you before.
(2:15 PM)
Have you ever doubted me?

 

(2:18 PM)
No.

 

(2:23 PM)
Why not?

 

(2:25 PM)
Well in truth, I did actually have some doubts initially as to whether or not you were real.

 

(2:31 PM)
But… you don’t have them now?

 

(2:34 PM)
No.

 

(2:35 PM)
Why?

 

(2:37 PM)
No one could deliberately inflict the continual misfortune of being you onto themselves all the time.

 

(2:39 PM)
I always regret asking when it comes to you.

 


 

 

March 5th-

(9:10 AM)
I’ve thought up a new word game.
(9:13 AM)
Aren’t you interested?
(9:28 AM)
I can take a hint. Your loss.

 

(9:49 AM)
Sorry busy.

 

(9:51 AM)
Oh my. Did Martin wake up with thorns this morning?

 

(9:56 AM)
I’m serious. Not today.

 

(9:59 AM)
Something happen?

 


 

 

(11:02 AM)
If it makes you feel better, I failed my exam. Mind you, I was only off one mark from passing. Hopefully I haven’t spoken too soon but thus far, the universe hasn’t fallen completely out of balance.
(11:07 AM)
I’m not sure if you’ve heard but I don’t often fail. At anything.
(11:09 AM)
I’m really not enjoying this one-sided conversation thing.

 

(12:09 PM)
Why would you failing an exam make me feel better exactly?

 

(12:10 PM)
Oh so you are alive. I had gotten to thinking the worst. Overhead powerlines might not be a hazard with your height but I’m sure you could find some other disastrous way to injure yourself, since it is you we’re talking about.
(12:14 PM)
I thought perhaps if you were having a bad day, I could be having a worse one. That tends to cheer people up, doesn’t it?

 

(12:18 PM)
It’s not a competition.

 

(12:19 PM)
Really, Martin, what’s going on?

 


 

 

(4:38 PM)
Right, there’s something off with you. I can understand if you don’t want to talk about it but if you don’t give me some sort of reassurance I ought to contact the humble officers of Wokingham to explain the mysterious discrepancy of Martin’s personality.

 

(4:41 PM)
Douglas leave me.

 

(4:49 PM)
If there’s one thing I pride myself on, it’s my ability to unwaveringly do exactly what you’d least like me to do.

 

(4:50 PM)
You’re only making it worse. I’d just like to be alone, please.

 

(4:57 PM)
If that were the case, you would have switched off your phone by now and since you haven’t I can only assume you’re subconsciously craving the company.
(4:59 PM)
Fine. I’ll be right here when you decide that I’m right.

 


 

 

(11:09 PM)
Douglas, I’m sorry. I do need to talk.

 

(11:13 PM)
I was starting to think I’d be waiting up all night. Is this about our contact? Do you want us to stop talking?

 

(11:14 PM)
No.
(11:15 PM)
No, not at all.

 

(11:17 PM)
Then I’ll let you speak. What do you need to talk about?

 

(11:19 PM)
It’s sort of…stupid.

 

(11:23 PM)
I’m sure it doesn’t compare to other stupid things that you’ve done.

 

(11:28 PM)
You aren’t exactly instilling me with loads of confidence.

 

(11:31 PM)
I’d have to be a higher power to grant that miracle.

 

(11:34 PM)
The thing I want to tell you is pretty personal. And probably stupid but I really can’t deal with sarcasm during it, if you can manage that much.

 

(11:36 PM)
I’ll implement only the most disciplined restraint of which I am capable.

 

(11:39 PM)
Today is my Dad’s birthday.

 

(11:45 PM)
Forgive me Martin; was that an attempt at a joke?

 

(11:51 PM)
No. It’s the first birthday he’s had since he passed away.

 

(11:52 PM)
Ah.

 

(11:56 PM)
I’ve gotten myself in a terrible place thinking about it. I didn’t go home to my family to…celebrate or whatever it is that you’d call it. They were having lunch together but I couldn’t bring myself to head over there. My sister has been calling me all day, leaving voice messages. I just couldn’t go over.

 

(11:58 PM)
That is perfectly reasonable. They will understand.

 

(12:01 AM)
I keep thinking about how much I disappointed him.  He thought this pilot business was hopeless and sometimes I do too. I’ve already spent thousands of pounds on it and there’s going to be more to come. That’s why he didn’t give me any money when he died. He knew it was useless.
(12:04 AM)
I mean—I didn’t want his money.
(12:06 AM)
But he left me his van, his toolbox and his sodding multimeter. My brother and sister got five grand each. Now I move people’s belongings around in boxes from place to place in the van to earn enough money to keep up my flying lessons.

 

(12:10 AM)
I don’t think he thought your aspirations were hopeless, Martin. Perhaps he was just giving you a back-up plan. The aviation industry is very competitive.

 

(12:15 AM)
Oh god knows how aware I am of that. It’s all I know anything about. I have no other hobbies because being a pilot is all I’ve ever given a damn about but I can never convince anyone else that I’d be any good at it.
(12:17 AM)
Dad would have been enough. Just him believing in me.

 

(12:18 AM)
I’m sure he did, Martin. It’s difficult to accept as true but I’m quite sure that he did.

 

(12:21 AM)
You wouldn’t say that if you saw how many people have never believed in me for a second.
(12:24 AM)
Not Simon, Not Cat or Mum or any of my friends. Well I barely have any friends at all now. And it never helps when my uncles and aunts who come down for dinner parties ask if I’ve moved onto something else yet.

 

(12:26 AM)
Well, for what it counts, I believe wholeheartedly that you will become a pilot. You might even go on to become one that is more than just barely adequate.

 

(12:29 AM)
That was sort of a back-handed compliment but thank you, I think.

 

(12:34 AM)
It’s about as compassionate in my compliments as I get, I’m afraid.

 

(12:36 AM)
Douglas… can I call you? Not theoretically, I mean actually call you.

 

(12:39 AM)
I doubt your phone bill could handle that load. Give me a moment.

 


 

 

[Incoming Call: Douglas. 12:46 AM]

“…”

 

Well my phone insists that you’ve answered but I’m starting to question its precision.”

 

“Oh. It’s…sorry—I mean. Hello.”

 

I had never imagined that my guess would be so spot-on.”

 

“Your guess?”

 

As to how you’d sound. Oh, what am I talking about? Of course it would be spot-on.”

 

“I can’t believe I’m hearing you.”

 

That tends to be the principle of phone calls.”

 

“You sound just like how you write.”

 

I don’t think I’ll bother you with the details of how technically incorrect that statement was.”

 

“I just mean—wow.”

 

“Yes. Wow, indeed.”

 

“Now that I’m speaking with you, I’m not sure what to say.”

 

We are in the same time-zone but still I note you’re speaking rather loudly.”

 

“You are too.”

 

Aren’t you at risk of waking anyone? Other students, perhaps?”

 

“Well that’s the perk of living in an attic.”

 

An attic?”

 

“It’s cheaper…”

 

I see.”

 

“How about you? Your room-mates awake?”

 

I’ve gone for a walk.”

 

“Oh.”

 

“…”

 

Well, this conversation proceeded pretty much exactly how I thought it might. Allow me.”

 

A-allow you?”

 

Martin—you are in a difficult position. You’re in a poor emotional state and you’re also entirely isolated as far as I know. They aren’t easy circumstances to navigate around so I can understand why you might feel a little helpless.”

 

“I…I’m not used to you being empathetic. Or nice.”

 

Well I’m operating on the belief that you’ve had a couple of sorrow-induced drinks and won’t remember too many details of this by tomorrow morning.”

 

“…”

 

As I thought. And with that in mind, I won’t have you doing anything reckless in your unstable state of being. So you’re going to follow my instructions very carefully.”

 

“All right.”

 

First of all, you’re going to go and climb into bed because I am quite sure that not even you are capable of hurting yourself with pillows. Once you’ve done that you’re going to stop thinking so hard and close your eyes.”

 

“Douglas… don’t you think that’s a bit..?”

 

I don’t care how foolish you feel. No one is going to see you and not even I have figured out a way to spy on your through your mobile phone.”

 

“B-but why? Why am I-?”

 

Because the safest state for you to be in right now is asleep.”

 

“…”

 

Have you done that?”

 

“Yes.”

 

And now we’re going to have a conversation. And it’s going to be about whatever springs to either of our minds because the only purpose is to distract or bore you long enough that you can asleep.”

 

“Well, uh, what should we talk about?”

 

I’m dropping out of medicine.”

 

“Are you?”

 

Yes. As I mentioned earlier, I failed my exam. What I never mentioned was that it counted for fifty percent of my grade and it meant failing my semester as well. Your essay salvaged a little of my academic integrity but the exam resulted in a fail overall.”

 

What will you do now?”

 

…I’m sure I’ll think of something.”

 

“You really don’t know? That must be a whole new experience for you.”

 

Hmm. I guess so.”

 

“…”

 

Perhaps I’ll follow in your footsteps?”

 

“M-mine?”

 

Yes. Aviation.”

 

“Please.”

 

Is it really so out of the question?”

 

“Well, no… but why? You’ve never seemed interested before.”

 

Maybe I had a change of heart.”

 

“Right.”

 

Or maybe you just inspired me.”

 

“Now I know you’re joking.”

 

Think what you will.”

 

“…”

 

“Erm Douglas— I don’t mean to be rude but I am sort of nodding off. I thought I might warn you in advance so I could say a proper goodbye.”

 

That was quicker than I'd expected. A goodbye won’t be necessary because you won’t be hanging up. I intend to wait until you’ve fallen asleep.”

 

That's a bit… y-you know!?"

 

Not in the least. I’ll just carry on speaking. You don’t even have to answer.”

 

“Oh.”

 

Helena and I had a row. Not too much happened. She did say something interesting though. It was along the lines of claiming that confessing to her cheating had been made easier by my actions.”

 

“She was sure that I’d been cheating on her too.”

 

“And as I’m sure you’re interested to know: her reason for this conclusion was the unhealthy amount of time I spent on my phone texting people.”

 

“Didn’t go over too dandily when I confessed it was just a friend of mine who I didn’t even know in the flesh who was engaging all my attention. She said I was an awful boyfriend.”

 

“I happen to think I am better off without her. She’d rather lost her novelty anyway.”

 

…Thank you Douglas.”

 

“Don’t talk. The instructions were very clear.”

“…”

 

However, I won’t be seeing much of her if I’m accepted to any of the new places I’ve applied. I rather like the idea of a brand new fish pond.”

 

“Don’t suppose my prospects are all too great with the gender ratios.”

 

“But you never know. Maybe I’ve found better things to occupy my time.”

 

“Or maybe not. Those ‘things’ are pretty moronic when I give them some thought.”

 

“The word game. Another one just came to me. ‘Saving All My Drumstick for You.’”

 

“Well including drumstick was a bit of a stretch…but in my defence, it was a stupid game anyway.”

 

“Ahem. Do we have a Captain Martin present? A noble Skipper?”

 

 “…Well you’ve definitely fallen asleep then.”

 

“Good.”

 

“…Hang in there, won't you?”

 

[Call Disconnected: 1:17 AM]

 


 

Chapter Text

The Strange Little Man in My Phone

Chapter Seven: G is for G-ERTI

Martin        Douglas         Arthur         Carolyn


 

March 8th-

(3:40 PM)
Arthur, will you let your mother know that I’ve considered her offer and I will reluctantly agree on the basis that I don’t have to pay a charge and that she provides the accommodation.

 

(3:42 PM)
That all sounds a bit shady, Douglas…

 

(3:45 PM)
It truly doesn’t matter which direction your thoughts have wandered in because no matter what you manage to conjure up, you’re most certainly wrong.

 

(3:46 PM)
Okay…well can’t you just let her know yourself?

 

(3:49 PM)
I suppose I could. Seems a bit too easy though, doesn’t it?

 

(3:51 PM)
Righto, I’ll pass it on.
(3:54 PM)
Oh wait. Before I do that, can I ask a sort of hypocritical question?

 

(3:56 PM)
I’m fairly certain that was the wrong adjective but I‘ll let it slide. What’s your question?

 

(3:59 PM)
Okay so imagine that for some reason a friend of yours made you meet another friend of theirs and now you think they might be a bit jealous of you making friends with that friend, what would you do? And this is all hypocritical of course.

 

(4:01 PM)
Well ‘hypothetically’, I’d go on as I was and explain to my friend the reasons towards my actions.
(4:05 PM)
If I were being strictly hypocritical though, perhaps I’d go back on the favour I’d asked of my friend and remain irate with them for continuing the engagement between said friend and the second.

 

(4:06 PM)
Hey, I didn’t say it was actually a real situation. Or about you at all.

 

(4:10 PM)
No but the fact remains rather obvious. I do understand Arthur—you simply took a shine to Martin. And as the two of you only remain in contact over text message and you can barely remember what you ate for breakfast let alone what he looks like, I have no reason to be against the arrangement.

 

(4:12 PM)
Well that’s just silly, Douglas. I can definitely remember what I had for breakfast.

 

(4:16 PM)
Can you? Really?

 

(4:19 PM)
Well, not right at this very minute but I’m sure it will come to me.

 

(4:21 PM)
I did rather put you on the spot with that one, I admit.
(4:25 PM)
But back to the question posed earlier, the idea that I am jealous of you is so outrageous that I hardly think it deserves my time. To put it in the most basic of terms: no I am not jealous of you.

 

(4:26 PM)
Thing is Douglas…I don’t really think it’s outrageous. You do get a bit shouty whenever I mention him.

 

(4:29 PM)
Arthur I’d think very carefully before proceeding with this line of questioning.

 

(4:35 PM)
It’s true though isn’t it? I mean—there isn’t any reason to be jealous of me being friends with Skip.  And you are or you wouldn’t be so grumpy whenever I bring him up.

 

(4:38 PM)
Arthur, I assure you that you are more than welcome to speak with Martin. I don’t own him nor have you stolen his friendship from me. I’m sure he is more than capable of balancing more than one friendship at the same time—though a foreign experience for him it may be.

 

(4:41 PM)
If you say so, Douglas…

 

(4:46 PM)
Have you passed on the message to your mother yet?

 

(4:50 PM)
Whoops, I nearly forgot! Back in a tick.

 


 

 

(5:03 PM)
Are you out of your mind? My company is not a voluntary service. We are a “charter air line”, Douglas, and thus we rely rather heavily on the revenue that often assists the act of chartering passengers.

 

(5:07 PM)
I suppose you’re right. Oh well, your loss.

 

(5:10 PM)
Douglas—your assisting the trip would not be for my benefit, as I am sure you are aware, and so I would expect you to pay for it. Why am I surrounded by idiots?

 

(5:14 PM)
No. You said that I would be more than welcome to join you and Arthur on your next trip. That would be so I’d gain some experience in the aviation industry and see if I still have a taste for it after spending eight hours locked in a flying metal tube with you.
(5:18 PM)
Granted those weren’t your exact words.

 

(5:20 PM)
Yes I did say that you were more than welcome to join us—at a cost, Douglas. I’d obviously think you would intend to pay for your journey. This is not a charity.

 

(5:23 PM)
Isn’t it? Well colour me surprised. You’ve always seemed so generous and public-spirited.

 

(5:29 PM)
Shut it.

 

(5:31 PM)
With all due respect; there is no way I will be wasting my own money on a joy ride to Gdansk, Carolyn.

 

(5:35 PM)
Of course you wouldn’t. Though you would be more than willing to waste mine, I’ll bet.
(5:38 PM)
Very well. Let me suggest an alternative.

 

(5:39 PM)
I’m listening.

 

(5:40 PM)
How about instead we make an exchange of sorts? I’ll allow you to fly free of charge on G-ERTI… on one condition.
(5:46 PM)
Idiot Features has gotten interested in stewarding so I’m letting him assist the passengers on the trip over. If you’ll help him for the entire four hours, I’ll forget we mentioned an airfare. I might even let you sit in with the Captain on the return trip if you actually do your job properly.

 

(5:49 PM)
Really Carolyn? Me? And with Arthur of all people?

 

(5:51 PM)
I don’t want you to! I am trying to help you.

 

(5:53 PM)
On a completely unrelated note, do you really think it is in good protocol to only have one pilot employed for your company? 

 

(5:56 PM)
You are deflecting, Douglas Richardson. You have never and you never will give a damn about the protocol for anything.

 

(5:59 PM)
You’ve got me there. Fine. I’ll help Arthur steward for the first half of the round trip only. But I refuse to wear any sort of clothing that resembles a uniform in any way.

 

(6:02 PM)
You will only be required for the first half of the trip. That is, if I am satisfied with the work you provide. Make so much as one mistake and you will be helping on the return as well. Tread very carefully.
(6:05 PM)
Unfortunately, as far as uniforms go, I really must insist you wear one.

 

(6:09 PM)
But they’re ludicrous! You might as well have picked them up from a fancy-dress shop.

 

(6:12 PM)
Strictly speaking, they are not at all necessary. On the other hand, the idea of you in one of those ridiculous bright red shirts is far too good to refuse and thus you will indeed be wearing one. See you on the eleventh.

 

(6:14 PM)
You’ll regret that.


 

March 11th-

(10:13 AM)
Good morning Douglas.

 

(10:15 AM)
And good morning to you too, Martin. How are we today?

 

(10:18 AM)
I’m good. And you’re inexplicably chipper. What happened? Who did you trick into doing something?

 

(10:20 AM)
I assure you that I am far from being chipper. You’re just an unusually welcome distraction compared to the other alternatives.

 

(10:25 AM)
Charming as ever.  What might those be?

 

(10:28 AM)
Well I am currently wearing the most uncomfortable red dress-shirt I’ve ever had the misfortune of putting on, Arthur is beside me claiming to be here to help which is never the best sign, his mother is also present and she’s in an awful mood and, to top it off, I am surrounded by angry looking passengers to a dodgy charter airline who are demanding I serve them breakfast.

 

(10:31 AM)
I won’t lie… I’m not really seeing how those things all line up.

 

(10:35 AM)
It’s a long and tedious explanation. Just know that I’m on an aeroplane and I’m not in the best of moods myself.

 

(10:38 AM)
I know better than to ask more questions. Though I am a little curious as to why you’d be serving people breakfast.

 

(10:41 AM)
It was a terrible agreement overall. Do you remember me mentioning once that Arthur’s mother owned a jet? She offered me some ‘experience’ in the industry on a few conditions…the most important being that I’m allowed to sit in the First-Officer’s seat on the trip home so long as I help with the stewarding on the way there.

 

(10:45 AM)
I didn't think you were actually serious about this piloting business. God I’d give anything to swap with you. That’s a pretty exciting opportunity for you. Isn’t it? I mean—why aren’t you in the best of moods?

 

(10:47 AM)
I'm surprised you remember me mentioning the 'piloting business'. And I am not in the best of moods, Martin, because I have no motivation to humiliate myself like this by acting as a steward.
(10:53 AM)
 Pilots, as a rite of passage, become grizzled air veterans the very minute they qualify for a license. It’s hard to maintain a cool and distant demeanour when you have to spend the day being a steward. No one takes them seriously.

 

(10:55 AM)
Ha! No one ever takes me seriously.

 

(10:57 AM)
Well of course they wouldn’t. Can’t say I’m too eager to walk in your shoes again.

 

(10:59 AM)
Why don’t you concentrate on getting through today first?

 

(11:03 AM)
God knows I’m trying.

 

(11:06 AM)
Incidentally, why are you on your mobile phone while you’re supposed to be doing a job?

 

(11:12 AM)
Two reasons: The first being that phones have no effect on the navigational equipment. And the second being that Carolyn hates them which only makes my using one seem more desirable.

 

(11:15 AM)
I wasn’t really concentrating on the phone part of things. I meant: why aren’t you doing your job?

 

(11:18 AM)
Martin. Do you remember who you are talking to? I’ve been known to do anything humanly possible to carry out as little work as is possible.

 

(11:21 AM)
Try not to poison anyone’s food.

 

(11:25 AM)
I’ll endeavour to bear that in mind. Have you any more advice?

 

(11:28 AM)
Don’t yell at anyone. Or do that thing you do where everything you say is sarcastic and it goes on for at least ten sentences to the point where you aren’t even sure if it’s sarcasm anymore.
(11:31 AM)
Try to avoid saying things just to show how clever you are. I’m pretty sure everyone knows it already.
(11:35 AM)
You also don’t have a point to prove. You’re supposed to believe that the customer is always right.
(11:39 AM)
Oh and don’t steal anything. That means anything.
(11:42 AM)
In fact—just don’t be yourself. That’s safer.

 

(11:46 AM)
A word to the wise, Martin, when people ask for your advice they probably don’t actually want it.

 

(11:49 AM)
Oh.

 


 

 

(1:09 PM)
I probably should have asked earlier but where exactly in the world are you?
(1:17 PM)
I’m going to assume you’re ignoring me because my phone bill is going to cost more than my rent.
(1:29 PM)
Yeah…that’s what I thought.

 

 


 

 

(9:03 PM)
It turns out that I made up for it in the end.

 

(9:05 PM)
I like it how you can reply when it suits you.

 

(9:07 PM)
As do I. Now aren’t you interested?

 

(9:10 PM)
Yes I am. Still about which bloody country you were in though.

 

(9:15 PM)
You don’t want to know. My enthusiasm is dwindling though so you might want to go ahead and ask me what I did this time.

 

(9:18 PM)
What did you do this time?

 

(9:23 PM)
I made one thousand pounds for my struggles today.

 

(9:25 PM)
You…what?
(9:28 PM)
I don’t believe you. If I could make one thousand pounds for a few hours of being a steward, I’d be looking for vacancies.

 

(9:32 PM)
Oh Martin, I’m not so sure that red is your colour.
(9:34 PM)
Well I suppose you’re right in one respect: I didn’t make the money from stewarding.

 

(9:37 PM)
Douglas…

 

(9:41 PM)
The passengers I mentioned were rather wealthy businessmen from Fitton. It just so happened that I, clumsy as I so often am, came to spill a glass of wine on one of the men’s shirts as I was pouring it. This was all a horrible mistake so, naturally, I was prepared to make amends for it. In a fresh stroke of luck, I had a spare shirt in my carry-on luggage that I was able to offer him. The air conditioner on aeroplanes really are ruthless, Martin, and I fear that if I’d never graciously offered him my shirt, he may have frozen half to death. He went to change in the loos and I relieved him of his sodden shirt so that I might set it aside to dry before we landed.

 

(9:48 PM)
You aren’t about to tell me that his shirt was made of some kind of rare material that you were able to barter away for cash?

 

(9:53 PM)
Terribly close but not quite. The shirt wasn’t anything all that special.
(9:56 PM)
I did happen to notice, however, that he’d left a rather nice set of diamond cufflinks attached to the sleeves.

 

(10:00 PM)
You didn’t.

 

(10:03 PM)
I cannot tell a lie.
(10:05 PM)
Who am I kidding? I'm excellent at telling lies. However, the man left still wearing my shirt, and I was left hapless with a still-drying shirt that wasn't mine. That was the case of course until much later, in the waiting room at Gdansk, Carolyn received a very frantic message from said businessman who wondered if there was a way to have his shirt and precious cufflinks safely returned to him. If someone could only have it mailed to his house, he'd offer them one thousand quid on the spot…which was a proposal so unexpected that I could hardly refuse.

 

(10:06 PM)
You all but stole a man’s cufflinks for money!
(10:08 PM)
Wait, Gdansk! I was texting you in Poland?!

 

(10:13 PM)
Don’t sound so disapproving, Martin. I never stole a thing. 
(10:18 PM)
I rather turned the day around. I got a free return trip in someone else's plane and spent four hours in the co-pilot’s seat, which wasn't exactly up to regulations but the plane only has sixteen seats and 'seats' is putting it kindly. Not only that, I can basically overlook the nightmare that was stewarding thanks to the cufflinks. It was a tidy profit, even you have to admit. If I had happened to steal the cufflinks, I may just have made a great deal more money than a thousand pounds. But you'd never think so low of me.

 

(10:24 PM)
Oh god I was texting you in Poland!

 

(10:29 PM)
To be completely frank, I’m slightly disappointed by your reaction to my plan. For a self-professed martinet, you’re hardly striking fear into my law-disputing heart.
(10:34 PM)
A congratulations may have been in order.

 

(10:38 PM)
I’m not about to congratulate you for breaking the law, Douglas!

 

(10:40 PM)
Oh keep your hat on.

 

(10:45 PM)
I really can’t fathom how we are friends.

 

(10:48 PM)
That, I admit, I agree with.

 

(10:50 PM)
But as it so happens, I also can't fathom how anyone would leave you in charge of anything remotely important on an aeroplane.

 

(10:56 PM)
Well Martin, one day you may come to learn that G-ERTI is hardly an aeroplane...

 


 

 

Chapter Text

The Strange Little Man in My Phone

Chapter Eight: H is for Home

Martin     Douglas    Arthur    Carolyn


 

March 15th-

(10:09 AM)
Arthur!
(10:13 AM)
H

 

(10:13 AM)
What?

 

(10:15 AM)
H!

 

(10:16 AM)
OH! Henry
(10:18 AM)
House
(10:19 AM)
Helicopter. Hand
(10:20 AM)
Home
(10:24 AM)
Helicopter

 

(10:27 AM)
Helicopter again?

 

(10:29 AM)
So it’s not helicopter?

 

(10:31 AM)
No. I’m afraid the answer is ‘Hotel.’

 

(10:35 AM)
Gosh, the phonetic alphabet is hard! Well I was sort of right. Technically if you lived in a Hotel, you’d be ‘Home.’

 

(10:39 AM)
Technically… if you were speaking to a very abstract person, I suppose. To be safe, just try to remember it means Hotel.

 

(10:40 AM)
Will do, Skip! Thanks again for helping me.

 

(10:45 AM)
No problem.
(10:46 AM)
Oh, damn! I’m almost late for work, Arthur. I’d better run!

 

(10:48 AM)
Really Skip! Even I can tell that isn’t a very clever idea. You’ll definitely be late if you run.

 


 

(11:09 AM)
I came through customs and all I had to declare was some jelly from New Delhi, a tunic from Munich and some maracas from Caracas.

 

(11:20 AM)
Sorry, whose phone is this?

 

(11:23 AM)
And here I was thinking I meant something to you. Douglas.

 

(11:26 AM)
No, I know you’re ‘Douglas’ but whose phone am I texting you from? Sorry, it’s not mine. I just found it in the lounge.

 

(11:28 AM)
Ah I see. This is Martin’s phone. I imagine he loses it a fair bit.

 

(11:30 AM)
I wouldn’t know. I didn’t even know there was a Martin living here.

 

(11:34 AM)
In the dormitories? How did you manage to let that one pass you by?
(11:38 AM)
Actually no. With Martin, it’s entirely possible that you never noticed him.

 

(11:40 AM)
It’s a share-house. We’re all students and we go to college together…never heard of a Martin though.
(11:45 AM)
Oh wait. Is his last name Crieff? Someone just told me that there is a Martin Crieff living in the attic.

 

(11:56 AM)
That does sound like the one.

 

(12:01 PM)
Gosh I had no idea what his name was this entire time.

 

(12:08 PM)
Guessing you don’t have many classes with him?

 

(12:10 PM)
With him? Haha! He doesn’t even go to university. No one really knows what he does.

 

(12:14 PM)
I know that flying school hardly counts as being a university but you could humour him just a little.

 

(12:17 PM)
No really. He doesn’t go to university anywhere. I’ve lived here about a year and I’ve always just known him as the weird guy in the attic. He never bothers anyone though.

 

(12:19 PM)
…Really?

 

(12:20 PM)
Really really. Shouldn’t you know that?
(12:24 PM)
I still can’t believe he has a friend. You are his friend, aren’t you?

 

(12:24 PM)
I am.

 

(12:25 PM)
Then how didn’t you know that?

 

(12:28 PM)
I don’t have the slightest idea.

 

(12:29 PM)
Right.

 

(12:32 PM)
You may also want to delete these messages before returning his phone.

 

(12:34 PM)
Yeah…good point. I’d better put this up in his room. Thanks for the help.

 

(12:36 PM)
Only too glad.

 


 

 

(8:23 PM)
Oh rhyming journeys. Erm… I went through customs and all I had to declare was some jelly from New Delhi, a tunic from Munich, some maracas from Caracas and… some cattle from Seattle.

 

(8:27 PM)
Some cattle?

 

(8:30 PM)
Yes.

 

(8:34 PM)
Fine--big plane. Thankfully we’ll have Captain Crieff in charge of the vessel.

 

(8:39 PM)
…You can’t possibly know that.

 

(8:39 PM)
Know what?

 

(8:41 PM)
My last name! I’ve never told you that!

 

(8:46 PM)
You didn’t, no. But thank you for the confirmation. You also neglected to mention the fact that you don’t actually go to flying school.

 

(8:49 PM)
I’m serious Douglas, I don’t know how you’re finding all of this out but it is definitely not okay.

 

(8:50 PM)
Why do you work so many jobs and take so many night shifts if you aren’t at school? What are you studying for?

 

(8:54 PM)
Okay, alright fine! I applied for flying school and I never got an offer.
(8:57 PM)
I have to do it the hard way, alright? Putting myself through my PPL and my CPL. Doing menial jobs to save money so I can get up my flying hours and eventually take instrument ratings.

 

(8:59 PM)
Surely you’d almost have your licenses by now? Haven’t you turned eighteen?

 

(9:08 PM)
Thing is… I have my private license. That part was simple enough. I mean, it was just a desk exam and a course. I’ve memorised basically all of the general flying and protocol manuals available to prospective pilots. The commercial license is more...challenging.

 

(9:13 PM)
Martin…the only limit to getting your second license is that you: a.) Are eighteen.
and b.) Understand how to fly a plane.
(9:14 PM)
So long as you’ve got the hours up, I assumed there wouldn’t be a problem. Which element are you struggling with exactly?

 

(9:16 PM)
I’m…not very good at flying aeroplanes. I'm also not very good under pressure.

 

(9:18 PM)
What a baffling dilemma.
(9:20 PM)
Well go on. How many goes have you had at it so far?

 

(9:23 PM)
Three so far.

 

(9:30 PM)
Ah.

 

(9:34 PM)
There you go. I answered all your questions and now I feel like a complete moron. The least you could do is explain how you found my last name out.

 

(9:36 PM)
In truth, you left your phone in the lounge room of your share-house and I got talking to one of the students who found it.

 

(9:39 PM)
Of course you did. Any other interesting revelations you’d like to share or are you saving them up as blackmail material to drop on me at a later date?

 

(9:41 PM)
I haven’t quite decided.

 

(9:42 PM)
Douglas.

 

(9:45 PM)
The share house part did take me a little by surprise, I admit, as did your not attending university. I’d always been under the impression that you were rooming with some friends. I guess the share-house explains your evading the subject whenever I brought up dormitories.

 

(9:49 PM)
Also that one time you said that I was studying at an aviation academy and I got a little bit defensive.

 

(9:51 PM)
I suppose it does. I’d almost forgotten about that.

 

(9:54 PM)
It’s rubbish though. Nothing good ever happens to me. It’d be nice if I was lucky just once.

 

(10:03 PM)
How long have you lived in that share-house?

 

(10:07 PM)
A while. I mean the students aren't close to graduating but they aren't too drastically far off it.

 

(10:09 PM)
You’re in your twenties?

 

(10:12 PM)
Don’t you think I would have corrected you by now after all the times you’ve called me a teenager?

 

(10:15 PM)
Nineteen then, I bet.
(10:19 PM)
Well anyway, I’ve finalised my withdrawal from the medical course.

 

(10:20 PM)
Have you? Why?

 

(10:24 PM)
It’s probably poorly timed but I got an offer.

 

(10:28 PM)
Of course you did! You never do an ounce of work and yet you get an application to the first place you apply to.
(10:29 PM)
The RFC, I bet.

 

(10:34 PM)
Oxford Aviation Academy, actually.

 

(10:39 PM)
Unbelievable.

 

(10:43 PM)
Did you know that Oxford is only an hour’s drive from Wokingham?

 

(10:51 PM)
I don’t want to see you.

 

(10:57 PM)
Very close though. Just thought it was worth noting.

 

(10:59 PM)
Well however angry I am with you, I suppose congratulations are in order. Oxford easily makes the top ten flying schools in the continent so you’ll definitely like it.

 

(11:03 PM)
And they’ll definitely like me. I’m going to have to find a new place to live though.

 

(11:06 PM)
I’m sure the boarding there will be very accommodating.

 

(11:09 PM)
I’m sure it will. The people as well.

 

(11:11 PM)
You’ll probably get your CPL before I do.

 

(11:14 PM)
There’s still hope for you. Three tries isn’t so awful.

 

 (11:18 PM)
Ha. Knowing me, it will take seven or eight.

 


 

March 16th-

(9:13 AM)
Hey Douglas, remember that time that I said I thought you might be a bit jealous of my making friends with Skip?

 

(9:16 AM)
How could I ever forget that?

 

(9:19 AM)
Well the thing is, Douglas… Mum sent me on a course about understanding people in Ipswich and I can now reliably inform you that you are displaying signs of consecutive distance.

 

(9:24 AM)
Arthur…could you be referring to ‘cognitive dissonance’?

 

(9:26 AM)
Same thing. Anyway, it’s like when you’re told something that goes against what you believe in and so you try to distance yourself from it or make it sound like something you’re alright with.

 

(9:29 AM)
Explain.

 

(9:34 AM)
Well you haven’t really been speaking with me that much. You’re my best friend and I hardly talk to you at all. Even on that aeroplane trip, you kept sneaking off to the galley to text Martin whenever we were low enough for it to send. I think you might be avoiding me because I said you were jealous. And you being jealous just doesn’t happen normally. So you’re trying to stay away from it.

 

(9:37 AM)
Arthur, that is the biggest load of garbage I’ve ever witnessed. I don’t get jealous. And more importantly, I don’t get jealous of you. You are over-thinking things.

 

(9:39 AM)
Is that why you’re going to Oxford? To get away from me and Mum?

 

(9:43 AM)
Where is all this coming from? I am not trying to stay away from either of you.

 

(9:48 AM)
Sorry, I’m being a bit… yeah.
(9:54 AM)
It’s just really hard because we’re going to miss you loads and you’re going to be a whole hour away. I’m used to seeing you all the time.

 

(9:55 AM)
It won’t be forever.

 

(9:59 AM)
I know. And it is sort of brilliant that you’ll end up flying aeroplanes like Skip. Maybe one day when you’re officially pilots, you could both work for Mum!

 

(10:04 AM)
God no—that would be ghastly. There’s no chance in hell that would ever happen.

 

(10:07 AM)
Even you have to admit it would actually be pretty amazing. Speaking of Skip… you’ll be pretty close to him, won’t you?

 

(10:10 AM)
Geographically?

 

(10:23 AM)
Yeah of course.

 

(10:27 AM)
Not much closer than usual. Only half an hour or so.

 

(10:29 AM)
Are you ever going to meet him?
(10:28 AM)
Properly, I mean.
(10:34 AM)
Surely you’ve spoken about it. I mean—you’re so close.
(10:40 AM)
I think it might be worth thinking about.
(10:47 AM)
Douglas?

 


 

 

(2:09 PM)
If I had have known I was speaking with a Junior Corporal of the air cadets all this time, I might have been a tad more respectful.

 

(2:14 PM)
Yeah, laugh as you may but the Air Cadets are a very professional group to train amongst and they consistently promote practical interest in the field of aviation. Being a Junior Corporal helped me to develop leadership qualities and gain hands-on experience in the field. As well as that, it allows young people to form unions with others who are also interested in the industry that will assist them later within the workplace.

 

(2:18 PM)
And I can see how far that’s gotten you.

 

(2:23 PM)
Shut up Douglas. And don’t Google me.

 

(2:25 PM)
Oh don’t panic. No photos of you came up—just a couple of RAF brochures that mentioned your name. A particularly interesting quotation from a local newspaper in 2008 appeared about your collection of Airfix models. I confess that at first I did think it was too good to be true…but how many people in Wokingham could be named Martin Crieff?

 

(2:35 PM)
As per usual, this is completely unjust. You’ve always got the upper hand! I don’t have the slightest idea what your last name might be and you’re sitting over there looking me up on the Internet.

 

(2:38 PM)
I didn’t go looking for your last name, Martin. It was all but handed to me on a silver platter.

 

(2:45 PM)
Yeah, like most things I imagine.

 

(2:48 PM)
Of course I completely understand your envy towards my professional-sounding name now. It makes a great deal more sense now that I have heard the misfortune that is ‘Captain Martin Crieff.’

 

(2:54 PM)
And I’m willing to bet that your name is perfectly airline captain-worthy.
(2:56 PM)
So what is it? Douglas Hartmann? Lindbergh? Doolittle?
(2:57 PM)
Von Richthofen!?

 

(2:59 PM)
You may want to throw in some more universally recurrent last names than ‘Von Richthofen.’

 

(3:03 PM)
It doesn’t matter what your last name is. No doubt it’s the perfect name for a captain.

 

(3:07 PM)
Douglas Richardson. If that at all aids your argument.

 

(3:10 PM)
Oh of course it is! I should have known.  
(3:12 PM)
Captain Douglas Richardson.
(3:14 PM)
Captain duh-duh-DUH-duh-duh. That’s what you need. Not Captain duh-duh-dhff.

 

(3:10 PM)
I fear you may have lost me.

 


 

 

March 18th-

(11:17 AM)
Arthur has only just told me your good news. Congratulations on Oxford, Douglas. I only wish you had have told me sooner. I thought you would have been the first to parade it around like the arrogant child you are known to be.

 

(11:20 AM)
I appreciate your congratulations, Carolyn, but I am not a child. And I didn’t think that you’d care all that much about my being accepted.

 

(11:26 AM)
You will not catch me admitting things like this very often but if I had no interest in your success then I would not have let you in my aeroplane—free of charge especially.
(11:29 AM)
Don’t think the cufflink ordeal went unnoticed either, sticky fingers. Couldn’t resist, could you? You simply cannot go risking the relationship between my patrons and I. God knows the company is at risk enough as it is without your help.

 

(11:33 AM)
I don’t mind if you noticed. After all, I figured you would. So long as your patron did not.

(11:38 AM)
He wasn't suspicious of your malicious intentions at all. I don't think the idea that you had an ulterior motive had even crossed his mind, bless that level of naivety. If I weren’t so pleased with you going to Oxford, I’d tear shreds off you. 

 

(11:41 AM)
You know, I'd have thought you’d exhausted all possible ways to ruin the relationship between you and your customers well before now. But, alas I’ll hold back in future.

 

(11:46 AM)
When do you leave?

 

(11:51 AM)
One week. I’m already late to the program but they made an exception for me.

 

(11:58 AM)
You’d better not forget about Arthur. It’s near impossible to explain it to the boy when people leave. After Gordon, I mean.

 

(12:01 PM)
I wouldn’t forget about him. He makes ignoring him a rather impossible feat to accomplish.

 

(12:06 PM)
I know he does. You can hardly blame him though. He has a fear of people leaving him—of bonds breaking apart and the like. You’re virtually second-family to us. Do not let him down.

 

(12:14 PM)
Ridiculous as he is, I wouldn’t dare. And he won’t be alone. Isn’t he seeing that girl; Minty or whatever her name is?

 

(12:19 PM)
Good god-- do not mention that brutish sycophant or her stupid Alice bands.

 

(12:25 PM)
Not a fan of Minty, Carolyn?

 

(12:34 PM)
Never mind her! You had better visit us.

 

(12:39 PM)
It’s only an hour’s drive. I’m sure I can spare a weekend here or there.

 

(12:47 PM)
I’ll be holding you to that.

 

(12:58 PM)
While we're on the subject of visits, what are you serving for tea tonight?

 

(1:09 PM)
You’d best be here by seven sharp if you’d like to find out.

 

(1:14 PM)
Always a pleasure.

 


 

 

(10:15 PM)
To be completely honest, I can’t work out why you still talk to me after everything you’ve found out.

 

(10:18 PM)
What do you mean?

 

(10:25 PM)
Well—I’m the odd little not-quite-pilot in the attic. I’ve failed my license three times and that’s just the beginning. I have next-to-no friends and I live in Wokingham. My last name is Crieff, for goodness’ sake. You’ve said it yourself; I’m the most unlucky human being on the planet.

 

(10:29 PM)
Are you trying to discourage me?

 

(10:34 PM)
Are you honestly telling me that you aren’t already?

 

(10:39 PM)
Well I’d hardly try to get rid of the one person willing to be the victim of my relentless taunting.

 

(10:43 PM)
Fantastic. That makes me feel really great about myself.

 

(10:49 PM)
You make it too easy, Martin.
(10:55 PM)
Let me explain why I still talk to you.

 

(10:59 PM)
This should be interesting…
(11:09)
Oh come on, this is just embarrassing. Is it really that hard to think up one reason?
(11:13 PM)
…Douglas?

 

(11:14 PM)
Never mind. I've changed my mind. It turns out that I’d much rather leave you guessing.

 

(11:15 PM)
You could have just said you couldn’t think up any.

 

(11:18 PM)
Trust me, Martin, I’ve thought up plenty.

 

(11:20 PM)
Then perhaps you could just be kind and tell me instead of being difficult.
(11:24 PM)
But of course you wouldn’t because it’s you.
(11:29 PM)
You’re a horrendous excuse for a friend.
(11:39 PM)
...Good night Douglas.

 

(11:45 PM)
Good night, Martin.

 


 

Chapter Text

Chapter Nine: I is for Illness

Martin     Douglas      Arthur     Carolyn


 

March 20th

(8:12 AM)
Rise and shine, Captain Crieff…

 

(8:15 AM)
Oh God, why?

 

(8:16 AM)
No, not God but points for toadying.

 

(8:19 AM)
I’m aware of that! I mean why wake me up so early? And on a Thursday too…

 

(8:23 AM)
Surely you weren’t still sleeping? We’ve had conversations earlier than this. What’s so awful about Thursdays? Quite a strange day to have an issue with.
(8:26 AM)
I, and I don’t flatter myself by claiming originality, save all of my weekday-related hatred for Mondays.

 

(8:28 AM)
Mondays are actually bearable though.

 

(8:31 AM)
You may find that most of humanity disagrees with you on that one, Martin. Though that is not an entirely uncommon occurrence.

 

(8:35 AM)
I just mean for me personally. I usually don’t have to work on Mondays and if I do it isn’t until the afternoon so I can spend most of the day brushing up on things. I never know exactly how to feel when it comes to Thursdays.

 

(8:38 AM)
My, what a quandary.

 

(8:40 AM)
Seriously though, have you ever thought about it? Thursdays don’t hold much purpose.

 

(8:43 AM)
No… I suppose they don’t. Though I fear we may have exhausted our list of conversational topics if this is what we’ve resorted to discussing.

 

(8:46 AM)
Well, since you’re so perfect, what do you want to talk about?

 

(8:49 AM)
For starters, why weren’t you out of bed?

 

(8:51 AM)
Well… I’m still not out of bed.

 

(8:53 AM)
But you’re always out of bed by now.

 

(8:55 AM)
First of all, I’m not even going to ask why you think you know that.

 

(8:57 AM)
It’s not that elusive a remark.

 

(8:59 AM)
And secondly, it’s because I’m feeling a little under the weather.

 

(9:03 AM)
Ah, you’re ill.

 

(9:05 AM)
No! Not ill… just under the weather.

 

(9:07 AM)
Yes, I believe the simple term for such a thing is ‘ill.’

 

(9:09 AM)
But that would mean I’m actually sick and I’m not sick; I’m completely fine. Utterly fine, in fact. Just a little less fine than usual and that could just be down to the changing of seasons because there is really nothing wrong with me.  I was a tad dizzy when I woke up but that could just be the abnormality of my inner ear though that is really nothing to be worried about because it’s passed now and I’m completely fine.

 

(9:11 AM)
You only said it four times.

 

(9:14 AM)
Said what?

 

(9:17 AM)
That you were fine. Any idiot could tell you, when talking to Martin Crieff, the term ‘fine’ only becomes valid once it’s been said five times.

 

(9:20 AM)
Fine! I’m completely fine!

 

(9:23 AM)
Well that was six, now it’s obvious that there’s something wrong.

 

(9:25 AM)
There is nothing wrong! And I’m going to get ready for work now.

 

(9:29 AM)
You’re ill.

 

(9:31 AM)
Not ill.

 


 

 (10:35 AM)
What’s the job today?

 

(10:39 AM)
Douglas you really can’t text me while I’m doing delivery jobs. Using your phone whilst driving is against the law so I have to pull over each time to check it. Of course, there's every chance it could be an emergency so I have to check it every time. If it’s just you, you’re wasting time that could be spent driving.

 

(10:42 AM)
Ah you’re in the van your father gave you? Well since you’ve pulled over now, you might as well tell me where you’re headed.

 

(10:43 AM)
Longwick.

 

(10:46 AM)
Interesting fact: you’ll be practically half way to Fitton.

 

(10:47 AM)
And I’ve only worked out the fuel I need to get to Longwick.

 

(10:50 AM)
Of course you would do that.

 

(10:52 AM)
This has been a great chat but I need to keep driving.

 

(10:55 AM)
Eyes on the road and stop if you’re feeling unwell.

 

(10:57 AM)
It’s probably mild hay-fever, Douglas! I don’t appreciate the sarcasm either.

 

(10:59 AM)
As you were.


 

 (12:03 PM)
I stumbled across this website that tells you the geographical mid-way points between two places and I discovered something strange.

 

(12:05 PM)
Really Douglas? Did this strike you as one of those life-threatening moments I needed to pull over in?

 

(12:06 PM)
Not particularly but I found it interesting.
(12:08 PM)
Anyway, I found that the geographical midway point between Wokingham and Fitton is Oxford.

 

(12:10 PM)
We should start calling you ‘Captain'.

 

(12:14 PM)
Jokes don’t suit you.

 

(12:16 PM)
What’s so special about that though?

 

(12:18 PM)
I did recently accept an offer to a university in Oxford…

 

(12:19 PM)
I know that, I just mean… it won’t really matter what the midpoint is once you’re there. Bit of a fluke though, I suppose. Is it really Oxford?

 

(12:22 PM)
Technically speaking it’s a pub in Murcott but close enough.

 

(12:29 PM)
Must be a very bloody un-technical speaker. Murcott is fifteen miles or so away from Oxford, isn’t it?

 

(12:31 PM)
Oh Martin. You just looked it up on your map, didn’t you?

 

(12:39 PM)
And you just wasted my time again.

 

(12:43 PM)
For someone so methodical in their planning, you aren’t doing a very good job on this trip. Are you sure you’re feeling alright?

 

(12:45 PM)
Shut up Douglas.

 

(12:48 PM)
What’s that thing I always hear Arthur saying about defence mechanisms…? Ah yes, I think this might relate to the Freudian ideas regarding abnegation. When someone outright denies or rejects the existence of something. That sounds a bit like you and your illness, Martin. I believe we’re dealing with an act of ‘minimisation’ here.

 

(12:50 PM)
Arthur would never say any of that. And I am not sick!

 

(12:52 PM)
Or just flat out denial. Could go either way, really.

 


 

 (1:25 PM)
Are you home yet? You’ve been on the road for about a week.

 

(1:29 PM)
How could I possibly be home when you keep texting me?

 

(1:34 PM)
You could stop pulling over.

 

(1:38 PM)
Or you could stop texting.

 

(1:40 PM)
Or you could multitask.

 

(1:45 PM)
I’m not breaking the law so I can answer your pointless messages.

 

(1:47 PM)
The law is for sissies.

 

(1:48 PM)
Yeah? Well I guess I am one. And a safe one, at that.

 

(1:51 PM)
How could I have made such a horrifically-boring friend…?

 

(1:54 PM)
Look, that doesn’t matter! I just want to get home so please stop texting me.

 

(1:56 PM)
Very well.

 


 

 

[Incoming Call: Douglas Richardson. 1:58 PM]


“Oh this is just great. Very clever, Douglas…”

 

Hello again, Martin. I trust you’ve been acquainted with the concept of loudspeaker?”

 

“Yes, I have. Thank you very much for this brilliant and completely non-distracting solution to my problems.”

 

You are sick, aren’t you? I can hear it in your voice. Might be a flu or something—I’ve heard that’s going around.”

 

“Did you call just to patronise me?”

 

No I called because I am outrageously bored and I figure that if I am, you must be too.”

 

“Well I’m not. I’m trying to concentrate and you are distracting me from my duty as-”

 

Yes, of course. The highly impressive and strenuous duties of driving a van along a highway.”

 

“Douglas, I mean it-”

 

I’d like to think I’m a welcome distraction.”

 

“Welcome? No, not exactly-”

 

I’ll interrupt you once again there and invite you to reconsider whatever it was you were just saying as I am the one who is paying for the phone-call.”

 

“I didn’t even ask you to call!”

 

Then you should humour me, shouldn’t you?”

 

“Fine.”

 

How’d the job go?”

 

“Apart from the constant disruptions, it went off without a hitch. I dropped off the woman’s things and I’m going home now. I can’t wait to have some tea and go back to bed, personally.”

 

Tea and honey for the sore throat, I suppose…”

 

For god’s sake, I am not sick.”

 

"Were you coughing just now? I swear I heard coughing."

 

"For the last time, I'm not-"

 

Well I’m certainly glad to hear that—not that I believe it. I do count my blessings that you haven’t admitted to it though. Once you admit to it, we know for certain you must be dying.”

 

“Douglas, really, I’m-”

 

Fine?  Are you really though?”

 

“I might actually hang up on you.”

 

Oh might you?”

 

“Yes, actually, I might!”

 

Then by all means, go ahead.”

 

“…”

 

“What a completely unexpected string of events.”

 

“…Shut up.”

 

That wouldn’t make for a very interesting phone call, Martin.”

 

Seriously. You are by the most impossible-"

 

Surely there’s a game we could be playing. Long-distance or not, there must be something.”

 

-insufferable, sarcastic, arrogant-”

 

I don’t suppose I-Spy would work. It might for me but I don’t think it would go down too smoothly for you. Windscreens are notoriously high up."

 

“-ignorant, unbearable excuse for a-”

 

Martin, are you quite finished?”

 

“…Fine. What are we playing?”

 

How about ‘Who am I?’ The game is stereotypical enough to create the illusion that we’re stuck in a car together. I’d be just as sufficiently bored there as I am here, so it's quite simple to put myself in those shoes.”

 

“Alright. You go first.”

 

I have one. You ask the questions.”

 

“Right… am I a well-known person?”

 

Not particularly.”

 

“Am I a man?”

 

…Yes.”

 

“Am I associated with a sport of some kind?”

 

No. Not in the least.”

 

“Am I… fun to be around?”

 

Are you fun to be around?”

 

“I’m not good at thinking up questions.”

 

You don’t say. No you aren’t—not particularly.”

 

“Do people like me?”

 

A few do. Not many.”

 

“And I’m not a famous person?”

 

No. It would be an inexcusable lie to say otherwise.”

 

“So why don’t people like me?”

 

This is probably against the rules of the game but it’s because you’re something of an acquired taste.”

 

“Do you like me?”

 

“…”

 

“Oh god! Not me. I mean—the person in the game. Not ‘me’ me. I mean me as the person who I’m guessing me. God this is terribly embarrassing, wait did you know what I meant? I know you like me but you don’t like me as in ‘like’ me. Or you might like me—the game me, I mean. I wouldn’t know. I don’t even know who I am.”

 

“I had no idea you were such an existentialist. Yes I do like the person in the game.”

 

“Sorry…I think I got myself a bit worked up then. My head is a bit strange.”

 

Martin—are you alright?"

 

“No, no… I’m okay. Problem is, with my ear, I tend to pass out when I get dizzy.”

 

Are you dizzy now?

 

“No just a bit spin-y.”

 

God give me strength. Pull over now, you colossal idiot.”

 

“Okay, okay…”

 

Keep talking so I know you’re conscious.”

 

“Hello, I’m Martin Crieff and I… am still conscious.”

 

You have the gift of gab. Have you pulled over?”

 

“I have now. I’m okay, really, I’m not-”

 

I’ve had it up to here with you denying that you’re ill. You’ve got a flu or something and you shouldn’t be working at all; even if it is as simple as driving a van. You should be home in bed.”

 

“That’s where I’m trying to get to!”

 

Yes but now I’m concerned that you’re going to pass out. And knowing you, you certainly will.”

 

I will be fine.”

 

Do you need an ambulance?”

 

“There is nothing wrong!”

 

Then call a taxi. You’re going to have to figure out some other way to get to your van tomorrow because you are not going to drive home in your state.”

 

“You’re starting to feel a  lot like my mother, Douglas-”

 

I do allow myself some flattery in saying that I’m a great deal worse.”

 

I can’t afford to waste money on a taxi.”

 

For someone I’ve never met, you’re a very large inconvenience. Rather taxing on my own health too, I add.”

 

“…”

 

Martin?”

 

…You’re right. I’m really not well.”

 

My god.”

 

“W-what? What is it?”

 

I was taken aback by your admitting to illness. Call an ambulance.”

 

“I’m fine—just a bit dizzy!”

 

And you know that dizziness leads to unconsciousness."

 

It’s passing.”

 

You’re a terrible liar.”

 

“Then what am I going to-?”

 

Call a taxi. I’ll transfer however much the fare costs you into your bank account or something.”

 

“Douglas, I am not asking for money.”

 

And I wouldn’t give it to you if you did. Consider it… a birthday present.”

 

“My birthday’s not until July.”

 

Then happy-bloody-birthday!”

 

“Douglas I can’t ask you to do-”

 

Just do it. No doubt you’ll pay me back in homework sooner or later.”

 

“…”

 

“Martin? Will you have enough to take care of yourself until I can transfer the money to you?”

 

“Yes… fine.”

 

Call the taxi now.”

 

"I will."

 

"If I speak to you later and find out you haven't called it-"

 

[Call Disconnected: 2:17 PM)


 

(9:14 PM)
So...um, the person isn’t well known or famous. He’s a man but he probably isn’t good at sports.

 

(9:17 PM)
Oh hello. You are alive. I was wondering when I’d hear from you.

 

(9:19 PM)
Yeah I’m fine. It’s nothing serious, I promise. The taxi dropped me off at the Doctor’s down the road and I got some medicine.

 

(9:24 PM)
Ha, so you were sick.

 

(9:26 PM)
…And the person isn’t particularly fun to be around.

 

(9:28 PM)
Not in the conventional sense.

 

(9:29 PM)
And he also isn’t well liked. He's an acquired taste.

 

(9:30 PM)
Yes.

 

(9:34 PM)
But you like him?

 

(9:35 PM)
Yes.

 

(9:38 PM)
I give up. Who is it?

 

(9:40 PM)
Shouldn’t you be sleeping by now?

 

(9:45 PM)
They gave me a load of antibiotics so no doubt I’ll collapse soon. I’m already drowsy.

 

(9:48 PM)
I knew you were ill. Was it a flu?

 

(9:53 PM)
Not ill.

 

(9:54 PM)
Whatever you say.

 

(9:57 PM)
Alright who was the person?
(10:08 PM)
Okay, as much as I’d like to stay awake for the answer, I keep dozing off.
(10:09 PM)
Tell me in the morning?

 

(10:10 PM)
But if I keep it a secret, do I win?

 

(10:14 PM)
You can’t win ‘Who Am I?’ Douglas.

 

(10:17 PM)
Martin, please. I win everything.

 


 

 

Chapter Text

The Strange Little Man in My Phone

Chapter Ten: J is for Jealous

Martin                  Douglas               Arthur                   Carolyn


 

March 25th-

(8:04 AM)
Morning Douglas! Today is the day. I hope you’ve packed well enough.

 

(8:09 AM)
You’re remarkably excited about this whole situation.

 

(8:13 AM)
What do you mean?
(8:15 AM)
Shouldn’t I be?
(8:17 AM)
I’m just happy for you and that’s alright.
(8:18 AM)
Isn’t it?

 

(8:19 AM)
Truthfully? I thought you’d be a little less enthusiastic.

 

(8:23 AM)
Why would I be?

 

(8:28 AM)
Well I’d think that my getting into Oxford represents something of a conflict for you. You are, by every extreme of the definition, very dedicated to being a pilot. And I am completely disinterested in following any method of learning that doesn’t involve dumb luck.

 

(8:34 AM)
That doesn’t mean you aren’t clever and deserving of it. Even if that cleverness is probably used for evil more often than good.

 

(8:36 AM)
You know me well. Though the fact remains, I achieved something you desperately wanted with ease. That does justify a little… how should I put it…?

 

(8:37 AM)
Don’t you dare.

 

(8:39 AM)
…Jealousy.

 

(8:42 AM)
No it’s not about that at all! I’m happy for you because it’s a great opportunity and being jealous hadn’t even occurred to me. Don’t go thinking that I am.

 

(8:45 AM)
In that case, thank you. And to answer your inquiry, yes I have packed ‘well enough.’

 

(8:50 AM)
I’m glad. Let me know how you settle in once you arrive?

 

(8:53 AM)
Gladly.

 


 

 

March 26th-

(7:13 AM)
I suppose you forgot to let me know.

 

(7:16 AM)
Ah sorry, Martin. There was quite a lot I had to do yesterday and it slipped my mind.

 

(7:18 AM)
That doesn’t matter. Tell me about it now.

 

(7:25 AM)
I spent most of yesterday either filling out paperwork for registration or unpacking boxes. I’m starting classes today.

 

(7:28 AM)
Oh so soon? Well, good luck!

 

(7:29 AM)
If I didn’t start today, they were worried I’d fall further behind. Though I doubt that’s possible for me.

 

(7:32 AM)
Don’t get like that.

 

(7:35 AM)
Like what?

 

(7:39 AM)
Like… you.

 

(7:45 AM)
Afraid I can’t quite do anything about that.

 

(7:48 AM)
You know exactly what I meant.
(7:49 AM)
Anyway—what are the people like? Do they seem okay?

 

(7:52 AM)
Everyone has been very welcoming.

 

(7:54 AM)
Obviously.

 

(7:55 AM)
What do you mean ‘obviously’?
(7:58 AM)
No, never mind. Yet again, I do know exactly what you mean.

 

(8:01 AM)
Yes you would.

 

(8:04 AM)
My room-mate is the most likeable so far. Everyone else just seemed in awe of me, really.

 

(8:06 AM)
That must have been a burden on you. And your roommate? Uh what is she like? Or he.

 

(8:07 AM)
At an aviation academy, you really thought that female was the most likely gender to bet on?

 

(8:09 AM)
You never know.

 

(8:13 AM)
Well ‘he’ is quite a good fellow as far as one can tell. Apparently he’d rather be an actor than a pilot but his parents insisted.

 

(8:17 AM)
Oh of course. Some guy who doesn’t even want to be a pilot gets to go to Oxford and I’m stuck in the agriculture college share-house attic.
(8:19 AM)
I’d give a year of my life to go to Oxford.

 

(8:21 AM)
We really don’t have to talk about this if you don’t want to.

 

(8:23 AM)
No, no. That’s not what I meant at all! I still want to hear about everything.

 

(8:29 AM)
Interesting tid-bit of trivia though. My room-mate’s name is Martin as well. I did think briefly that he might be you with some strange plot to join me here but then I remembered the small issue of your height.
(8:31 AM)
And the redheadedness.

 

(8:35 AM)
You’ve never even seen me before and you manage to pinpoint the two things I dislike most about myself. No one will ever take me seriously because of the way I look.
(8:37 AM)
I mean—I think I’m okay looking. A little odd, maybe, but nothing complaint-worthy.
(8:38 AM)
Doesn’t mean I can’t envy the genetically gifted.

 

(8:41 AM)
Genetically gifted in your terms translating to ‘those who look like airline captains.’ Am I wrong?

 

(8:45 AM)
No you’re right. But you knew that before you asked.
(8:47 AM)
So? Does he look like an airline captain?

 

(8:49 AM)
My Martin? Yes he does. Which is somewhat ironic because of his acting ambitions.

(8:51 AM)
Your Martin?

 

(8:53 AM)
My room-mate Martin. Let’s call him Martin D to make it clearer.

 

(8:54 AM)
Ha. ‘Martin D’
(8:55 AM)
Does that mean I actually beat him at something? Because academically a C is higher than a D and I’m Martin C so perhaps that’s just one thing I have over him.
(8:56 AM)
Granted that Crieff isn’t a very good name for a pilot. But I still beat him.

 

(8:59 AM)
Unless of course you’re counting the array of cultures that class a ‘C’ as being average but a ‘D’ as a ‘Distinction.’

 

(9:04 AM)
You couldn’t have just let me have that one?

 

(9:07 AM)
No.

 

(9:11 AM)
Of course not.

 


 

 

March 28th-

(11:20 AM)
I didn’t hear from you again yesterday. How is everything?

 

(11:24 AM)
Everything is going well. How is everything with you?

 

(11:28 AM)
It doesn’t matter. I don’t do anything.
(11:34 AM)
I mean: you’re the one who’s doing things worth talking about. I don’t matter.

 

(11:37 AM)
Well let’s see… the classes so far have been rather good. Better than medicine anyway.

 

(11:39 AM)
And… you’ve made some friends?

 

(11:43 AM)
Yes a few. Martin introduced me to his lot over drinks last night.

 

(11:45 AM)
Martin D?

 

(11:47 AM)
Yes. I haven’t met any others, though I’ll be sure to let you know when E and F show up.

 

(11:49 AM)
Just out of curiousity though… what is his last name?

 

(11:54 AM)
Does this really have any bearing in the conversation?

 

(11:56 AM)
Just interested.

 

(11:59 AM)
Martin Davenport.

 

(12:03 PM)
Of course!

 

(12:10 PM)
I’m guessing you aren’t about to elaborate..?

 

(12:13 PM)
You’ve both got them! I really shouldn’t be surprised.

 

(12:15 PM)
What are you talking about?

 


(12:16 PM)
You’ve both got duh-duh-DUH-duh-duh names.

 

(12:18 PM)
Martin… are we really about to bring this up again?
(12:19 PM)
Because I think the last time it was brought up was about all I could handle.
(12:20 PM)
No?

 


 

 

March 29th-

(10:08 AM)
Hi Douglas! Just saying hello and letting you know that Mum and I miss you loads even though it’s only been a couple of days. It’s REALLY quiet around here without you dropping in all the time but I know your new school is going to be brilliant.

 

(10:11 AM)
Oh thank you Arthur. Yes I suppose it has been ‘brilliant’, for lack of a better adjective.

 

(10:14 AM)
Oh come on, Douglas. Brilliant is a great word.

 

(10:16 AM)
I suppose it does attribute a certain charm. How would you describe the word ‘brilliant’ though Arthur?

 

(10:19 AM)
Well… it’s uh…
(10:23 AM)
Well, it’s just brilliant Douglas.

 

(10:24 AM)
Snappily put.

 

(10:28 AM)
Oh yeah! Have you talked to Skip lately?

 

(10:31 AM)
Martin? A little.

 

(10:38 AM)
I was just wondering if anything seemed a bit off about him. I mean, I might have just imagined it but I figured you’d know since you know him better.

 

(10:45 AM)
I actually might have to disappoint you. I hadn’t really noticed.

 

(10:51 AM)
Really Douglas? Because even I noticed.
(10:52 AM)
Me.

 

(10:56 AM)
Yes Arthur—no need to rub salt in the wound. I’ll speak to him.

 

(10:59 AM)
Righto Douglas. I made coffees—should I bring one around?
(11:01 AM)
Oh wait…
(11:03 AM)
I keep forgetting you’ve left. I don’t really like that feeling much.
(11:05 AM)
Now I’m going to have to learn the amounts for just one.

 


 

 

(11:31 AM)
Hello Martin. How are things?

 

(11:38 AM)
Fine. They’re fine. The same as always, I suppose. Why?

 

(11:41 AM)
Merely making conversation. No need to worry.

 

(11:51 AM)
I wasn’t worrying. I was just cooking.

 

(11:54 AM)
It took you an entire ten minutes to think of that excuse and it was still awful. Leave the lying to the professionals.

 

(11:56 AM)
I wasn’t lying.

 

(11:59 AM)
It isn’t even lunch-time and you live on toast and pasta.

 

(12:04 PM)
Did you message me just to be a pain?

 

(12:09 PM)
Not in the least. In fact, I think the actual purpose of the conversation was to divulge how things were for you. Seems we got a bit off track though.

 

(12:14 PM)
Sorry. It’s been a strange couple of days.

 

(12:18 PM)
Something happen?

 

(12:23 PM)
No. Just a feeling I can’t seem to shake.

 

(12:26 PM)
Ah I see.

 

(12:29 PM)
How’s Martin?

 

(12:34 PM)
Martin D?

 

(12:38 PM)
No Martin A.

 

(12:40 PM)
This is getting awfully confusing, isn’t it?

 

(12:45 PM)
I can actually hear your sarcasm from all the way in Wokingham.

 

(12:49 PM)
What’s the issue with Martin though?

 

(12:50 PM)
No issue.

 

(12:54 PM)
If it’s the nickname that troubles you, we could always call him ‘Big Martin.’

 

(12:58 PM)
Oh and I’d be ‘Little Martin.’ Thanks a lot Douglas. I’m laughing really hard.

 

(1:01 PM)
Someone else caught the sarcasm bug. Really though: what is it you don’t like about him? You’ve never actually met him.

 

(1:04 PM)
Well I manage to like you alright without having met you. I just have a funny feeling about him.

 

(1:06 PM)
Ah a funny feeling. That explains it.

 

(1:09 PM)
How?

 

(1:13 PM)
Because, as I believe I’ve already said, you’re jealous. That’s all there is to it.

 

(1:17 PM)
Oh for God’s sake! I am not jealous of Big Martin.

 

(1:18 PM)
He’s officially Big Martin now, is he?

 

(1:20 PM)
No!

 

(1:24 PM)
There’s really no room for concern. Or jealousy.

 

(1:27 PM)
I am not concerned. I am not jealous. I am happy for you at your great new college with your great new friends and that is all there is to it.

 

(1:29 PM)
Which of course doesn’t equate to jealous undertones in any way.

 

(1:31 PM)
No it does not.

 

(1:35 PM)
Truly glad we cleared that up.
(1:37 PM)
Given the circumstances though, I actually thought you would be more sympathetic.

 

(1:39 PM)
…Towards who?

 

(1:40 PM)
Martin D. Big Martin.
(1:43 PM)
Paramount Martin, if you like.

 

(1:45 PM)
What an inventive way to take a stab at me.

 

(1:51 PM)
No. I’m being very serious. I thought, given your similarities, you’d have a bit of understanding for the fellow.

 

(1:54 PM)
Oh yes. I’m very sympathetic for him and his height and perfect school and great name.

 

(1:58 PM)
And the fact that, despite his perfect school, he’s stuck doing something that he has no passion for. That no one ever takes him seriously or believes he can achieve his true goal of being an actor.
(2:01 PM)
Now I don’t think you’ll be breaking into the acting biz any time soon but I’m sure you can find parallels in the rest.

 

(2:04 PM)
Oh.

 

(2:07 PM)
There isn’t all that much to be jealous of when you get to the facts of a situation, is there?

 

(2:09 PM)
Oh god, you’re right. I’ve been acting horrendously.

 

(2:10 PM)
No I think your behaviour was perfectly justified.
(2:13 PM)
Or it would be.

 

(2:16 PM)
What do you mean ‘would be’?

 

(2:18 PM)
Your behaviour would be justified if this were about Martin’s life. And I’m beginning to suspect it isn’t.

 

(2:20 PM)
Well… of course it was. What else do I have to be jealous over?

 

(2:22 PM)
You tell me.

 

(2:25 PM)
Nothing of course. There’s... nothing.

 

(2:29 PM)
Is it about our friendship?

 

(2:31 PM)
Oh it’s…. I really misread that.
(2:32 PM)
I mean no.

 

(2:35 PM)
It seems to me that you may have felt a bit competitive against Martin. Not just because of his name/school/height etc.
(2:38 PM)
But because you had to compete for my attention.

 

(2:40 PM)
That’s insane.

 

(2:42 PM)
Is it?
(2:44 PM)
Strange I began this week believing it would be me you'd get jealous of. You never fail to surprise me.

 

(2:49 PM)
Don't get smug.

 

(2:51 PM)
Well there's not all that much to be jealous of. Not as far as Martin is concerned. I think I prefer a different caliber of company.

 

(2:54 PM)
Is that supposed to  be comforting?

 

(2:56 PM)
Why not? I mean, you ought to take comfort in the fact that I prefer short, red-haired and stammering Martins that selflessly provide constant opportunities to be taunted. But that's just my opinion.

 

(2:59 PM)
Gee, don't hold back on the compliments.

 

(3:03 PM)
I wouldn't dare.

 


 

 

Chapter Text

The Strange Little Man in My Phone

Chapter Eleven: K is for Kidding

Martin                  Douglas               Arthur                   Carolyn


 

March 31st

(8:57 AM)
Morning Douglas.

 

(9:01 AM)
Good morning Martin.

 

(9:04 AM)
I just realised I didn’t really have this conversation planned out.

 

(9:07 AM)
Do you usually have them planned out?

 

(9:10 AM)
Well…yeah. I generally know where it’s going to begin at least.

 

(9:11 AM)
Ah.

 

(9:14 AM)
Oh you mean you couldn’t tell?

 

(9:16 AM)
While your seamless fluidity of speech is most deceptive, no. To be honest Martin—I’d hardly be able to tell the difference between your standard of rehearsed and your usual stammering.

 

(9:18 AM)
I’m going to ignore all that and start over. Morning Douglas. How are you?

 

(9:20 AM)
That response does somewhat lack the originality of our earlier exchange.

 

(9:21 AM)
There is no pleasing you, I swear.

 

(9:24 AM)
I’d argue that I’m rather easy to please.

 

(9:26 AM)
I’d fight you on it.

 

(9:29 AM)
Martin in a fight? That’s a disturbing image.
(9:31 AM)
And you should know that it also happens to be a hilarious one.

 

(9:34 AM)
Thinking about it…I wouldn’t literally fight you on it. I don’t really know how to fight and you know… fighting isn’t pleasant so I suppose I’d try and avoid it if I could and I wouldn’t really want to fight you I just sort of meant verbally. Does that make sense? I’d fight you verbally.
(9:39 AM)
No… on second thoughts maybe I wouldn’t. You do have a sort of intimidating way of speaking. So does that mean I’d have to actually fight you? In that case I wouldn’t fight you on it. I’d just say it.
(9:41 AM)
Oh wait, hold on. Does this count as verbal fighting? Because if it does maybe I would. Maybe I’m doing it right now. But it isn’t in person so I suppose it doesn’t count. Perhaps I wouldn’t fight you then.
(9:43 AM)
I’m glad I cleared that up.

 

(9:45 AM)
Yes. Your point is about as clear as crystal now.

 

(9:51 AM)
This is why I try to plan conversations.

 

(9:54 AM)
If it’s any consolation, this is equally as disjointed as the ones you supposedly plan.

 

(9:57 AM)
Thanks Douglas.

 


 

 (3:09 PM)   
Oh Douglas! I just remembered. It’s April Fools’ Day tomorrow, isn’t it?

 

(3:14 PM)
I fear nothing gets past you, Arthur. It is indeed.

 

(3:16 PM)
Oh brilliant! I love April Fools’ Day. It’s just so…

 

(3:18 PM)
Brilliant—yes we know. Though I do seem to recall a very particular instance in which you ended up eating a very particular food item and swore off the holiday entirely.

 

(3:21 PM)
I’ve had a whole year to move on though Douglas!

 

(3:25 PM)
But is wasn’t just any old practical joke was it, Arthur? I rather think you might be traumatised for life. Though do remind me what happened again?

 

(3:29 PM)
Mum baked a cake… It wasn’t a cake.

 

(3:31 PM)
Pray tell what the cake was again, Arthur?

 

(3:36 PM)
It was a vegetable bake…shaped like a cake. She even had little candles in it.

 

(3:39 PM)
And the scars of those old wounds are only just healing a year on.

 

(3:41 PM)
No I think I’m okay now.
(3:44 PM)
But it was REALLY unfair. I mean who actually eats their vegetables?

 

(3:46 PM)
The point I was trying to make is that I’m surprised you’re even looking forward to April Fools’ Day.

 

(3:48 PM)
Well yeah. I love holidays, Douglas. Any old holiday. I love them all. But my favourites are Christmas, Summer, my birthday, Mum’s birthday, Easter and  Lent.

 

(3:51 PM)
So poor old April Fools’ doesn’t make the cut?

 

(3:53 PM)
Not after last year. That was pretty horrible.

 

(3:55 PM)
That’s why I figured you could use a break this time around. Care to assist me on a little endeavour of sorts?

 

(3:58 PM)
Ooh okay. I like the way you said that. Sounds a bit like a mission in a spy film.

 

(4:01 PM)
Well it is certainly just as serious as one. Are you sure you want to help?

 

(4:03 PM)
Of course Douglas! I love helping.

 

(4:05 PM)
I’m only too aware.
(4:07 PM)
This year I propose we play a little game with a new friend.

 

(4:09 PM)
The way you said that is really mysterious. Sort of like they aren’t really a friend because we’re about to do something really terrible.

 

(4:11 PM)
No. To be honest I just want to prank Martin and I thought we could make a game of it.

 

(4:14 PM)
Oh. You ruined the illusion. That’s not mysterious at all.

 

(4:16 PM)
No but his gullibility falls second only to your own. The rules would be as follows: the first person to genuinely fool Martin into believing something, beginning April Fools’ Day, wins. It doesn’t count as a win if he so much as mentions the words ‘joking’, ‘kidding’ or the name of the holiday. Anything involving those is an instant disqualification.

 

(4:19 PM)
So as long as he believes it and doesn’t question it, that person wins?

 

(4:21 PM)
That’s right Arthur. Our little competition begins at five AM. But remember—April Fools’ ends at midday.

 

(4:22 PM)
That doesn’t sound so bad. I mean how hard could it be really?

 

(4:24 PM)
Have a think about your less than adequate lying skills and see if you’d like to ask that again.

 

(4:25 PM)
…Yeah you’re probably right. Maybe this year someone will finally fall for the house-fire one.

 

(4:28 PM)
Have the past attempts at that one taught you nothing?

 


 

 

April 1st-

(5:01 AM)
Skip! My house is on fire!

 

(5:03 AM)
Did the surprising rice go wrong again?

 

(5:04 AM)
Hey…that has only happened once.

 

(5:05 AM)
And now I’m surprised.

 

(5:06 AM)
Double hey! Surprising rice is one of the best things I’ve accidentally discovered.

 

(5:07 AM)
Then go back to bed. In the case of a real fire, I hope you wouldn’t actually react like this.

 

(5:09 AM)
…I definitely wouldn’t.

 

(5:12 AM)
I live in hope.

 


 

(6:04 AM)
Good morning Martin.

 

(6:07 AM)
Even before you start talking I can tell that something is wrong about this.

 

(6:09 AM)
Whatever you do you mean?

 

(6:11 AM)
‘Good morning Martin.’ When is the last time you texted me first?

 

(6:14 AM)
You’re right. Let me express my sincerest apologies. But please understand that I do live in anticipation of the feeling I get when I wake up to a message from you.

 

(6:15 AM)
Oh shut it you.

 


 

(8:19 AM)
Skip! My house is actually on fire!

 

(8:20 AM)
Oh that’s right, it’s April first. I was wondering what you were doing.

 

(8:24 AM)
Darn! I definitely thought you’d fall for it if I said it a second time.

 

(8:26 AM)
Nice try, Arthur.

 

(8:29 AM)
Not to worry! There’s plenty of time left to trick some other people.

 


 

 

(8:25 AM)
What are you up to today anyway?

 

(8:28 AM)
Just the usual. Trying to avoid the kitchen, lounge and bathroom because the students probably have traps everywhere.

 

(8:31 AM)
I almost pity you.

 

(8:34 AM)
Why is that?

 

(8:38 AM)
Well we both know that with your luck, you’ll walk right into at least one trap, even if you don’t leave your own room.

 

(8:41 AM)
That’s probably true. Well then what are you doing today?

 

(8:45 AM)
Organising for a party.

 

(8:49 AM)
Your party?

 

(8:51 AM)
Well it is my birthday.

 

(8:54 AM)
No it isn’t. You would have mentioned it.

 

(8:59 AM)
Martin. Do you really think that a seasoned liar like myself would go for the old ‘it’s my birthday’ trick on April Fools’ Day? I thought you knew me better.

 

(9:03 AM)
Now I’m almost confused.

 

(9:07 AM)
I thought you had more faith in my abilities. I can certainly do better than a birthday prank if I wanted to.

 

(9:10 AM)
No this is definitely an April Fools’ trick.

 

(9:14 AM)
An April Fools’ prank? Me?
(9:15 AM)
On April Fools’ Day?

 


 

 (9:01 AM)
Mum, the kitchen is on fire!

 

(9:04 AM)
Arthur, did you happen to check the kitchen before you sent this?

 

(9:10 AM)
Yes that’s how I know that it’s definitely on fire.

 

(9:13 AM)
The thing is-- I find myself in a very strange predicament now that you’ve said that because I am standing in the kitchen and there is no trace of a fire anywhere to be seen.

 

(9:15 AM)
Oh… I suppose you caught me.

 

(9:17 AM)
Leave the lies and moronic pranks to Douglas, dear-heart. We both know he is vastly superior to you.
(9:19 AM)
Your breakfast is ready too if you’d like to stop texting me and actually communicate.

 

(9:20 AM)
Is it really? Thanks, Mum, I’ll be right down!

 

(9:24 AM)
No it’s not. April Fools’ Day. Make it yourself, lazy child.

 


 

(10:01 AM)
Martin, I need your advice.

 

(10:03 AM)
You’re hilarious really.

 

(10:05 AM)
Damn.

 


 

 

(10:08 AM)
Skip—I’m actually serious this time. The house is on fire.

 

(10:13 AM)
A word to the wise, Arthur, if I may. First of all, that one isn’t going to work no matter how many times you try it. And could I also recommend that if your house was on fire that you don’t text the stranger who is one hundred miles away asking for help?

 

(10:15 AM)
Yeah you’re right. I’d better go think of some new ideas.
(10:18 AM)
Have you got any ideas? I need a trick to play on my girlfriend, Minty.

 

(10:21 AM)
Your girlfriend’s name cannot be Minty.

 

(10:23 AM)
No that part isn’t a trick... Her name really IS Minty.

 

(10:25 AM)
Of course it is.

 


 

(11:03 AM)
Martin—I don’t think we should talk anymore.

 

(11:05 AM)
I don’t think we should either. Until tomorrow at least because you and Arthur are driving me insane.

 

(11:09 AM)
I’m speaking with the utmost sincerity. It’s not healthy being so heavily reliant on someone you don’t know.

 

(11:12 AM)
I’m going to go on ignoring you.

 

(11:15 AM)
I know the thought has crossed your mind. I don’t think we should go on investing so much money and time on one another when there isn’t even the slightest chance we’ll meet.

 

(11:18 AM)
Don’t you have a birthday party to be planning or something?

 

(11:20 AM)
That was a joke, Martin, but this isn’t. I know my timing is awful but it’s something we really must discuss.

 

(11:24 AM)
I don’t trust you when you sound serious.

 

(11:28 AM)
The truth is, I’m seeing someone. Our constant communications all but cost me my last relationship. I’m not sure I could handle that a second time.

 

(11:31 AM)
Helena was cheating on you though. She didn’t deserve you.
(11:32 AM)
And who’s this mysterious someone? Martin Davenport?

 

(11:35 AM)
Still bitter over Paramount Martin, are we Martin?

 

(11:39 AM)
Not in the least. It was a joke. But really—you expect me to believe you’ve started seeing someone in just under a week at Oxford?

 

(11:41 AM)
If anyone could it would be me.

 

(11:43 AM)
That I believe. But tell me again that it’s true after midday.

 


 

 

(11:40 AM)
Any progress Arthur?

 

(11:42 AM)
I sort of gave up, Douglas. He’s really good.

 

(11:43 AM)
He hasn’t fallen for anything I’ve said either.

 

(11:44 AM)
You’ve still got a bit of time Douglas! Come on—we can’t both lose! And especially not you. You don't lose anything!

 

(11:45 AM)
You're absolutely right, Arthur. I'd better turn this around.

 


 

 

(11:45 AM)
Martin I think I’ve fallen for my best friend.

 

(11:46 AM)
Who—Arthur?

 

(11:47 AM)
Perhaps I didn’t think that one through.

 

(11:49 AM)
Might make things awkward between you and your ‘new girlfriend’ too. Ignoring all your bad tricks again, can I ask something that’s actually serious?

 

(11:52 AM)
I’m listening.

 

(11:55 AM)
I think I… might have become too invested in something. And someone. I mean not overly invested just more invested than is probably normal and my brain has sort of stopped doing the intelligent thing and it’s gotten to the point where I think I might even take things a step further if the opportunity arose. They’re just a really great person and I think I could see myself maybe sort of meeting them.
(11:56 AM)
Meeting them in a normal way—of course! I mean I wouldn’t want them to feel pressured into it because that would be insane but one day maybe kind of meeting them. Not meeting them in a sinister way either just as friends. Just to hang out. Just to be around them and see them... I don't mean... I mean not today maybe not even soon just one day and I think I’m ready…for that.

 

(11:57 AM)
…I see.
(11:59 AM)
Wait a second. Martin!
(12:00 PM)
To think you managed to squeeze that one in there before the time ran out. That was almost a stroke of genius.

 

(12:01 PM)
Hang on what?

 

(12:03 PM)
Don’t play baffled. After all, it’s midday now and you actually had me for a moment. This is a repeat of Simon Says all over again. You knew that you could beat me by entertaining my ego. The moment you asked my opinion last time, you knew that acknowledging the importance of my words would be the key to winning. You made that all sound like me on purpose, didn't you? To think I fell for the same trick twice… I am almost proud.

 

(12:09 PM)
Oh right. Haha.
(12:10 PM)
Kidding of course. Yeah I got you.

 

(12:12 PM)
Well Martin, you have surprised me. For a moment, I thought you might have been confessing something. Enjoy your win while it lasts because those instances are few and far between.

 

(12:16 PM)
Thank you.

 

(12:19 PM)
Arthur won’t ever let me hear the last of this once I tell him.

 

(12:24 PM)
In that case…maybe don’t tell him. Just pretend you won. I know you’ve got a reputation to uphold. Just pretend I fell for the birthday trick or something.

 

(12:29 PM)
Another thing I might have to repay you for. Perhaps I don’t state often enough the importance of our friendship, Martin.

 

(12:31 PM)
No. Perhaps not.


 

Chapter Text

The Strange Little Man in My Phone

Chapter Twelve: L is for License

Martin                  Douglas               Arthur                   Carolyn


 

April 5th-

(9:39 AM)
You know Martin I think I may finally be beginning to understand your borderline unnatural fixation with aeroplanes.

 

(9:43 AM)
Oh-- are you? I would have thought you’d have understood far more quickly given that you’re trying to become a pilot too.

 

(9:47 AM)
Sure, I suppose that planes have always had some kind of universal pull. But there’s something almost compelling about them now. Just consider the human force behind them and their mechanics.

 

(9:52 AM)
Is this really Douglas?

 

(9:55 AM)
Aren’t I allowed to appreciate the beauty of it?

 

(9:59 AM)
Well… I suppose you are.
(10:02 AM)
It’s just a little strange hearing you speak like this.

 

(10:05 AM)
Oh Martin. It’s almost as though you think I’m uncultured.

 

(10:07 AM)
Not uncultured. No.

 

(10:10 AM)
How about this? Even you have got to admit there is something undeniably romantic about having a person’s ashes scattered to the winds once they’ve died. Forever suspended in their air adventure and becoming one with the land below in a variety of places.

 

(10:12 AM)
To be honest, the only thing romantic about that is the sap you’ve turned into this morning. I didn’t know you could get like this.

 

(10:14 AM)
I think I should like my ashes scattered one day. Seems a bit bolder than an ordinary burial.

 

(10:16 AM)
Actually Douglas… the idea of scattering remains is a common misconception.
(10:21 AM)
You need a permit to drop things from aeroplanes. And even if you have one—your ashes wouldn’t actually be scattered. They’d just be put in a little sack attached to a plastic bag and dropped. Ashes have a sort of gluggy consistency and if they were actually scattered there’s the risk of them getting stuck on the windows and setting like cement. Impossible to get off and it might chip the paint.

 

(10:25 AM)
Well that dampened the mood just a little bit.

 

(10:29 AM)
Really Douglas you ought to know that already. How did you even get into such a competitive training programme? I mean I’m not saying you aren’t clever.

 

(10:32 AM)
No I wouldn’t think you’d say that.

 

(10:33 AM)
I just mean… it was late notice and you weren’t exactly a model student at your previous university. Why did Oxford even take you on?

 

(10:35 AM)
Do you remember that time when I was told there was something I couldn’t do?

 

(10:37 AM)
…No?

 

(10:41 AM)
No, nor do I.
(10:47 AM)
What’s on the agenda today?

 

(10:49 AM)
Not all that much.

 

(10:51 AM)
Well that’s new.

 

(10:54 AM)
Well I am actually doing something tomorrow but I don’t really want to tell you what it is because if it goes wrong you’ll make fun of me and I can’t deal with that right now.

 

(10:56 AM)
You seem anxious.

 

(10:59 AM)
Do I?

 

(11:02 AM)
It would actually be wildly out of character if you didn’t.

 

(11:04 AM)
I live in hope that one day you’ll actually be empathetic and notice things without having to be an arrogant sod.

 

(11:07 AM)
Alright Martin, what’s happening tomorrow?

 

(11:11 AM)
Douglas, I mean this so listen carefully: if I tell you and you so much as make one joke about it, I will not be happy.

 

(11:13 AM)
What kind of person do you take me for?

 

(11:15 AM)
I’m going for my license again.

 

(11:16 AM)
Oh good. Lucky number four.

 

(11:18 AM)
Douglas. I mean it.

 

(11:21 AM)
It wasn’t a joke. I was merely expressing a sentiment of good fortune.

 

(11:22 AM)
Seriously though. If I don’t pass this time around, it’s going to be a long time before I can go for a test.
(11:25 AM)
Last year, I had enough money to keep having turns around my studies. This year I’m at an all time low. And if I don’t pass this one, I’ll obviously have to be paying for flying lessons, petrol, food and rent before I pay for another bloody CPL attempt.

 

(11:29 AM)
You’re talking yourself out of it before you’ve even tried. Probably not the best way to begin.

 

(11:31 AM)
No probably not. But I’m not stressed. I’m in control. I have control.

 

(11:35 AM)
You aren’t fooling anyone, especially me, with that.

 

(11:38 AM)
I wasn’t even fooling myself.

 

(11:41 AM)
Let me propose an alternative. Limericks.

 

(11:43 AM)
Very helpful. Thank you Douglas.

 

(11:45 AM)
By means of distraction. A competition.

 

(11:47 AM)
I’m rubbish at limericks.

 

(11:49 AM)
Then this may be an easy win for me.

 

(11:52 AM)
No I don’t feel like doing this.

 

(11:54 AM)
Your loss then. I personally find my limericks rather charming.
(11:58 AM)
Though incidentally, have you heard about the anniversary of that park tonight just out of town from you? The one with the live band.

 

(11:59 AM)
Oh yes I think I heard someone mention it. It has food and rides or something too, doesn’t it?

 

(12:04 PM)
That’s the one. That might be a good way to relax yourself.

 

(12:07 PM)
I don’t think so.  I don’t go out all that often and I don’t think there’d be anything relaxing about it.

 

(12:07 PM)
Nonsense. What’s not to like about a commemorative celebration in the park?
(12:10 PM)
Or should I say:
Martin you know that I’m right.
So before this turns into a fight,
can I just say
you’re a mere hour away,
so there’s a chance I will see you tonight?

 

(12:14 PM)
No Douglas— you’ve got university tomorrow and I’ve got the test. It’s not a good idea.

 

(12:16 PM)
I’d be going out anyway. Might as well be there… I rather like rides.
(12:19 PM)
Ah, I forgot you had a strange aversion to meeting in person. How about this then? We’ll both attend the event without having to meet up there.

 

(12:22 PM)
So we’d both be there and just not see each-other?

 

(12:25 PM)
Surely you haven’t got anything against that? We both know basic facts about our appearances but it’s safe to say there’ll be at least one other short, redheaded male present.

 

(12:36 PM)
But what’s the point in it? I don’t even like rides.

 

(12:39 PM)
But I do. And perhaps there is comfort to be had in the company of an enigmatic friend. We can both bask instead in the immense calm of close proximity. There is something strangely appealing about being in such close range of you.

 

(12:41 PM)
You really have turned into a sap today. And I’m certainly not enigmatic.

 

(12:45 PM)
Is that a yes?

 

(12:48 PM)
Not a yes.

 

(12:52 PM)
Then it’s a maybe. That’s good enough for me.

 


 

(1:08 PM)
Arthur do you really remember nothing about Martin’s appearance?

 

(1:11 PM)
I’m really sorry Douglas… I’ve told you absolutely everything I can remember.

 

(1:17 PM)
I thought as much. Not to worry then.

 

(1:19 PM)
If you’re so interested, you could just ask him for a photograph or something.

 

(1:21 PM)
Rather takes the fun and imagination out of it though doesn’t it?

 

(1:24 PM)
I guess. Well—why did you want to know anyway?

 

(1:28 PM)
No particular reason. I just thought it would make him easier to spot in a crowd of people if I had some idea what he actually looked like more vividly than a couple of hazy details.

 

(1:29 PM)
With all due respect, Douglas, I really don’t think he’s going to be in a crowd of people. He’s ages away.

 

(1:31 PM)
You might be surprised about that. We might be actually end up being quite close.

 

(1:36 PM)
No.  You can’t mean it!
(1:38 PM)
Are you going to do it, Douglas?
(1:39 PM)
You’re really going to meet him!?
(1:40 PM)
Oh this is like Christmas, isn’t it?

 

(1:43 PM)
I’m slightly disappointed to inform you that I’m not quite ‘meeting’ him so much as ‘frequenting the same area as him.’ Rather in the same manner that your mother deals with her boyfriend--ridiculous name included.

 

(1:45 PM)
Yeah Douglas… definitely never call Herc her boyfriend.
(1:48 PM)
Hang on a minute, you’re going to be in the same place as Skip but you aren’t going to see him?

 

(1:55 PM)
It’s a little difficult to explain to someone of your intellectual capabilities—but yes.

 

(1:57 PM)
But you’re friends. Why carry on if you could just see each other and be done with it?

 

(1:59 PM)
Though I don’t usually recommend meeting up with virtual friends in real life, especially not to you, it’s a little complicated. Granted, I would meet him if he wanted to.

 

(2:01 PM)
He seemed really nice in person, Douglas, even though I can’t really remember him.

 

(2:05 PM)
That’s very comforting Arthur. Thank you.

 

(2:08 PM)
Thing is though, you two aren’t like normal ‘virtual friends.’ Are you?

 

(2:10 PM)
I fear you’ve lost me.

 

(2:14 PM)
Well you’re closer than that. I mean whenever I see you, you’re practically leaping on your phone to send a reply to him.

 

(2:16 PM)
I wouldn’t say leap at the phone so much as jump at the chance to have the last word.

 

(2:18 PM)
Well there’s that. But it seems to me that you two care about each-other more than you let on.

 

(2:20 PM)
Martin is my friend, Arthur. A completely ridiculous, unfortunate clot of a friend but a friend all the same.

 

(2:22 PM)
But we’re best friends. I mean you and me.
(2:25 PM)
 I’m just saying, I don’t mind if you have more than one.
(2:29 PM)
Seriously because Mum is my best friend so I already have two and it seems a bit unfair if you get just one.

 

(2:30 PM)
I certainly wouldn’t call Martin my best friend.

 

(2:32 PM)
Then what would you call him?

 


 

(4:43 PM)
Made up your mind yet, Martin?

 

(4:50 PM)
Yes.

 

(4:52 PM)
And?

 

(5:01 PM)
And I’ll be there.

 


 

[Incoming Call: Martin Crieff. 7:21 PM]

“Martin. This is a pleasant surprise.”

 

“Is it? Why is it?”

 

I can already hear your mind going into overdrive. You really must learn not to worry so much.”

 

“Okay… fine. Just, erm, are you here?”

 

Where is ‘here’?”

 

“Don’t give me that. The park commemoration.”

 

Ah yes. As a matter of fact, I am.”

 

“Are you really?”

 

Yes.”

 

“Really? That’s really… that.”

 

Always so well-expressed. There’s never a dull sentence with you.”

 

“It’s just… it’s something, isn’t it?”

 

I suppose it is in a way.”

 

“Wait. Just to prove it—what colour is the main singer’s hair?”

 

It’s been dyed black. She’s wearing a red shirt and dark blue jeans.”

 

“Oh. You really are here?”

 

“…I thought we had established that much.

 

 “…You could be right near me for all I know.”

 

I could. I’ve got to admit though; I was surprised you called me. It does somewhat narrow down the amount of potential ‘Martins’ in the crowd.”

 

“Oh! Oh god! You can’t see me can you?”

 

No I cannot.”

 

“Best not to risk it then. We should probably stick to texting.”

 

Always so anxious, Martin-”

 

[Call Disconnected: 7:24 PM]


 

(7:25 PM)
Now, Martin, that was a little rude. I did drive all this way.

 

(7:28 PM)
I know you did. Sorry. I didn’t think it through.

 

(7:31 PM)
Sarcasm. Though it was nice to hear from you again.

 

(7:33 PM)
I just can’t believe you’re here. It’s a bit surreal.

 

(7:35 PM)
I suppose it is.

 

(7:42 PM)
You could be any one of these people. I could have just walked past you or be sitting near you. Doesn’t that seem a bit strange?

 

(7:44 PM)
For the third time, Martin, yes. It’s strange.

 

(7:46 PM)
But not bad-strange?
(7:47 PM)
Sorry if I’m being irritating.

 

(7:49 PM)
No and no again.

 

(7:50 PM)
Oh good. Because I just worry sometimes.

 

(7:54 PM)
I’ve noticed that much.

 

(7:57 PM)
Also…thanks.

 

(7:59 PM)
For what?

 

(8:02 PM)
Well this was your idea. And this is the calmest I’ve been for a while, funnily enough.

 

(8:13 PM)
This is your calm?

 

(8:16 PM)
…You should try the candy floss. They’re giving it out for free.

 

(8:17 PM)
I know. I was just in the line for it.

 

(8:19 PM)
So was I.

 

(8:20 PM)
And as fate would have it, I was too busy texting you to look out for potential you.

 

(8:22 PM)
…So was I.

 

(8:24 PM)
Damn.


 

(10:20 PM)
Well everything is just about wrapped up here. I’d better head home soon.

 

(10:23 PM)
It’s rather run out the course of its novelty, I agree.

 

(10:25 PM)
Well thank you… kind of, for a night out.

 

(10:29 PM)
It’s been wonderful being in your almost-company.

 

(10:31 PM)
I really enjoyed completely missing you.

 

(10:34 PM)
There’s no one I’d rather not-see more than you.

 

(10:35 PM)
And back at you.

 

(10:39 PM)
Did you think up any limericks?

 

(10:40 PM)
No. You win by default.

 

(10:42 PM)
I still thought another one up. A sort of good-luck gesture for you tomorrow.

 

(10:45 PM)
Now I’m worried. Okay…let’s hear it.

 

(10:50 PM)
I somehow befriended a man,
who hails from Wokingham.
He’s restless and worried
so all day he studied.
If else fails—there is always his van.

 

(10:58 PM)
…Thanks a bunch, Douglas.

 

(11:01 PM)
Good luck tomorrow Martin. Let’s do this again some time.

 

(11:04 PM)
I’d like that.

 


 

 

 

Chapter Text

The Strange Little Man in My Phone

Chapter Thirteen: M is for Missed Calls

Martin     Douglas    Arthur    Carolyn


 

April 6th

[Three Missed Calls From Douglas Richardson]

(11:57PM)
Well Martin?
(11:59 PM)
Did you get the license?


 

 

April 7th

(8:01 AM)
I thought I’d let you know that I am still waiting.
(8:10 AM)
I also thought I’d let you know that leaving me to wait for this amount of time is, quite frankly, unforgiveable. And you should be completely ashamed of yourself.
(8:15 AM)
I might be exaggerating ever so slightly. And yet none of my many messages appear to have reached you.
(8:21 AM)
I hadn’t been made aware of the mysterious spectre-like entity that inhabits mobile phones and blocks my messages to redheaded future-pilots but alas the truth has enlightened me.

 


 

 

April 10th

(10:12 AM)
Really Martin? I thought we’d been through enough by now for you to understand that I do in fact have the capacity to worry about your well being.
(11:12 AM)
In other, simpler, terms: I am getting rather concerned.
(11:19 AM)
Now call me a sucker for thinking the worst after only a week but really...

 


 

 

April 15th

(7:01 AM)
I’ve had enough now. This is boring.
(7:11 AM)
I’ll be honest. I thought I’d made it obvious enough last week that I don't mind what your result was but apparently I haven’t.
(7:40 AM)
…By all means, tell me nothing.

 


 

(8:20 AM)
Hi Douglas! You haven’t called in a bit. Is everything alright?

 

(8:23 AM)
Just fine Arthur, thank-you.

 

(8:25 AM)
Oh okay good…
(8:26 AM)
Actually wait no. I definitely don’t think you’re alright.

 

(8:31 AM)
This ought to be interesting. Pray tell why?

 

(8:36 AM)
Well… I dunno really.

 

(8:45 AM)
I did wait for you to go on.

 

(8:51 AM)
Nope that was it. Sorry Douglas!

 

(8:59 AM)
I’d suspected as much.

 

(9:04 AM)
But is something the matter?
(9:06 AM)
Is university rubbish?

 

(10:05 AM)
No… university is just fine.

 

(10:10 AM)
So university is just fine and you’re just fine. I don't think you’re just fine, Douglas.

 

(10:15 AM)
God— this is starting to sound hauntingly familiar.


(10:19 AM)
But really! You can trust me. I’m really good at keeping secrets, Douglas. Sort of.

 

(10:24 AM)
I’ve nothing to do today. Can we please shift this fascinating exchange to something just a little more engaging?

 

(10:29 AM)
Righto. Like what?

 

(10:37 AM)
I was rather hoping you’d be the one to offer that.

 

(10:42 AM)
Hm… nope. I don’t think so, Douglas.

 

(10:48 AM)
This isn’t quite the same.
(10:51 AM)
Look, I’ll talk to you later, Arthur.

 

(10:52 AM)
Same as what?
(10:54 AM)
Douglas!


 

[Two Missed Calls From Douglas Richardson]

(11:01 AM)
…I’m getting a bit tired of this.

 


 

April 18th


(12:09 PM)
Do you care for a word game, Arthur?

 

(12:12 PM)
Well sure, I love games.

 

(12:17 PM)
Well have you got one?

 

(12:20 PM)
Got one what?

 

(12:24 PM)
Got one game.

 

(12:26 PM)
Got one game?!

 

(12:31 PM)
Arthur—do you have a word game that we could play?

 

(12:35 PM)
Well not really. I’m a bit on the spot now.

 

(12:39 PM)
Alright. Well how about a reprise of Brians of Britain?

 

(12:40 PM)
How about that chap who hosted that…oh no I’ve forgotten his name!

 

(12:43 PM)
Was it Brian?

 

(12:45 PM)
Well probably. I don’t remember. Maybe it was Bob?
(12:47 PM)
It was definitely Bob.
(12:48 PM)
Hey wait, why do you want to play word games anyway?

 

(12:50 PM)
What do you mean ‘why’?

 

(12:54 PM)
Just why?

 

(12:58 PM)
Because… that’s just what we do when I’m bored.

 

(12:59 PM)
We?
(1:00 PM)
Who do? 

 

(1:03 PM)
Look, never mind.

 

(1:05 PM)
Well we could play Yellow Car.

 

(1:07 PM)
Arthur, I thought I made it rather clear that we wouldn’t be playing Yellow Car ever again.

 

(1:09 PM)
Aw Douglas! Why not?

 

(1:12 PM)
Do you remember the last time we played Yellow Car? That little detail that made the game go ever-so-slightly wrong?

 

(1:15 PM)
Yes… we didn’t see any yellow cars.

 

(1:20 PM)
Do you remember why that was?

 

(1:23 PM)
Because we were on an aeroplane…

 

(1:25 PM)
Better to just do things my way, wouldn’t you agree?

 


 

 

April 20th

[One Missed Call From Douglas Richardson]

(12:01 PM)
Two weeks without a reply, Martin. It’s almost a little laughable that I’d be the one to become the clingy party in our very profound textual relationship.
(12:05 PM)
After I was in your almost-company and everything. I really thought we had something important.
(12:07 PM)
Sarcasm aside, you’re welcome to answer me at any time you feel like it.
(1:09 PM)
Any time at all.

 


 

(7:09 PM)
Arthur—have you spoken to Martin?

 

(7:12 PM)
Oh, no I haven’t! I can’t believe I forgot but I haven’t spoken to him in ages!
(7:14 PM)
I’d always thought I was pretty good at being a friend but now I just feel guilty.
(7:16 PM)
Is he angry at me, Douglas?

 

(7:19 PM)
Haven’t spoken to him.

 

(7:21 PM)
Today?

 

(7:28 PM)
No, not just today in fact. A couple of weeks now. I think perhaps he’s angry at me and not you.

 

(7:31 PM)
 Oh no Douglas, you can’t not talk to Martin. I’ll fix this.

 

(7:34 PM)
Might be better if you stayed out of it. Despite your optimism, you don’t have the best track record with ‘fixing things.’

 


 

(8:12 PM)
Hi Skip! Gosh it’s been ages since I last spoke to you! Sorry about that!
(8:18 PM)
Oh no… I upset you, didn’t I?  I’m really, really sorry.
(8:23 PM)
You are angry at me, aren’t you?
(8:30 PM)
Oh I feel awful. After we became sort-of really-good friends and everything.
(8:34 PM)
I’m so sorry for forgetting to talk to you for a bit, Skip!
(8:36 PM)
Douglas was sure it was him you were upset with but if it’s me, you should really stop ignoring him and take it out on me.
(8:39 PM)
I really don’t mind if I take all the blame so long as you two go on talking.

 

(8:45 PM)
Arthur, stop. It’s not you.

 

(8:48 PM)
Oh Skip, you’re alive!
(8:49 PM)
And you’re okay!
(8:54 PM)
Oh this is brilliant. And you aren’t angry with me!

 

(9:01 PM)
Arthur, really! I’m fine. And not angry at either of you.
(9:04 PM)
Not in the least.

 

(9:09 PM)
I’m just a tiny bit confused now.

 

(9:11 PM)
It’s a...stupid story. I just didn’t want you to feel guilty for nothing.
(9:14 PM)
Just please do me a favour and don’t mention this to Douglas.

 

(9:19 PM)
But he’s our best friend!

 

(9:21 PM)
Well, yes I suppose.

 

 (9:23 PM)
Then why aren’t you speaking with him?

 

(9:26 PM)
Arthur, I desperately want to explain this to you so it clears up any confusion. But I just can’t.

 

(9:28 PM)
Why not?

 

(9:31 PM)
Well… you aren’t… the best at being quiet.
(9:32 PM)
I mean you try very hard!
(9:32 PM)
And you’re great, really.
(9:33 PM)
Really really really great.
(9:34 PM)
You’re great but sometimes you…
(9:35 PM)
I’m sure this isn’t all the time but…

 

(9:38 PM)
It’s okay Martin. I sort of know I’m terrible at keeping secrets. But if you tell me, I might be able to lend a hand.

 

(9:40 PM)
…It’s stupid.

 

(9:42 PM)
I don’t think anything is stupid. Mum thinks that making pasta art is stupid but I think that it's fine.

 

(9:45 PM)
Well… I suppose I could explain. But it is completely vital that you don’t repeat this, Arthur.

 

(9:48 PM)
Pinky promise.
(9:50 PM)
Well sort of a pinky promise. A virtual pinky promise. But you can’t see my fingers so maybe you don’t believe me.
(9:54 PM)
Should I take a picture?

 

(9:56 PM)
No, no, never mind that. Just listen.

 

(9:59 PM)
Got it! I can do that.

 

(10:09 PM)
Well, I went for another attempt at my pilot’s license a couple of weeks ago. Douglas knew I was going and he asked me to tell him how it went…

 

(10:13 PM)
Well how did it go, Skip?

 

(10:15 PM)
Uh—not all that, um.
(10:18 PM)
Not well.

 

(10:19 PM)
Oh.

 

(10:23 PM)
Yes ‘oh’.

 

(10:24 PM)
Sorry but, if you don’t mind me saying…I still don’t really understand the problem.

 

(10:28 PM)
I can’t bring myself to tell him.

 

(10:31 PM)
But Douglas wouldn’t mind!

 

(10:34 PM)
This isn’t about Douglas ‘minding’ or even about Douglas teasing or being Douglas in any way at all.
(10:39 PM)
Or I suppose it is a bit about him being Douglas. Namely, being as fortunate and successful as he is.
(10:45 PM)
I can’t help but feel awful about how effortless everything is for him.  And ashamed about how terrible I am at… just about everything.

 

(10:50 PM)
Skip, that’s not true! I’m sure you’re great at loads of things.

 

(10:53 PM)
It’s nice that you think that, Arthur, but I don’t believe it for a moment.
(10:54 PM)
Point is… I can’t do it. I can’t admit that I messed up something important to me when he’s doing so well accomplishing the things he wants.

 

(11:00 PM)
I don’t think you understand how much you mean to him, Martin. He doesn’t care if you make mistakes. He just wants you to talk to him. I don't think you need to worry about me keeping this secret because you could just tell him yourself and everything would be fine!
(11:03 PM)
Really, he hasn’t been the same not talking to you. And I’m not very good at being you.

 

(11:06 PM)
At being me?

 

(11:10 PM)
Well yeah. Douglas has been talking to me the entire time you haven’t been. And I’m pretty sure he’s just finding ways to fill in the time without you. Like a sort of replacement.

 

(11:14 PM)
Arthur... you aren't a replacement.
(11:18PM)
But the rest...you aren’t just saying that?

 

(11:19 PM)
Of course not, Skip. You should tell him the truth even if it is a bit tricky. You don’t have anything to be ashamed of. Because…well, you’re brilliant.

 

(11:24 PM)
Arthur, don’t let anyone ever tell you that you aren’t a good friend. Thank you.

 


 

 

 (11:54 PM)
Douglas?

 

(12:05 AM)
I’m not sure I know how to respond.

 

(12:08 AM)
Well you shouldn’t have to know. I mean— I’ve been selfish not answering you. But I can explain.

 

(12:10 AM)
I’m all ears.

 


 

[Incoming Call: Martin Crieff. 12:14 AM]

 

“What a surprise. Everything tickety-boo Martin?”

 

“Really, you don’t have to be funny. You’re allowed to be completely furious with me.”

 

“I’m not furious. I’m just a tad confused. Said confusion might have arisen from my not hearing from you for two weeks.”

 

“I… I’m not good at… admitting…”

 

Don’t strain yourself.”

 

“Douglas—I’m serious. I’ve been very unfair with you but please hear me out.”

 

…Go ahead.”

 

“I went for my license and it was abysmal. I did everything wrong. Everything, Douglas, and I’m not exaggerating.”

 

Well you must have done something right, since you walked away from it. You might have noticed my concern in the several text messages I sent-”

 

“…I’m sorry. I know. But I failed the test and I felt-”

 

Let me stop you right there, Martin. Are you about to tell me that the reason I haven’t heard back from you is because you were embarrassed about failing the test for your license?”

 

“S-simplified. Yes.”

 

Oh Martin.”

 

“What? What is it? Why are you saying that?”

 

Don’t fret. I was only about to express how absolutely moronic you are.”

 

“Douglas, this is serious.”

 

“No, Martin, it isn’t. Once again, you have let yourself feel intimidated into thinking you weren’t worth something because of one small set-back.”

 

“Not just one set-back! The tests aren’t cheap. I’m drowning in debt and work and-”

 

Let me put it this way—I don’t care that you failed this test. I’ve known you long enough to understand how much you want to be a pilot. I’m not going to question your ambition based on one failure. Nor am I going to judge you based on my position at Oxford. I’ve told you this before. It's hardly a failure and, besides, it really doesn’t matter to me."

 

“It doesn’t?”

 

No. And the fact that you’re ashamed by comparison to me is ridiculous. We are in the same sinking ship, Skipper.”

 

“Aeroplane.”

 

I beg your pardon?”

 

“The same sinking aeroplane. Though… I don’t suppose aeroplanes really sink, do they?”

 

Not really no.”

 

“I’m really sorry, Douglas. And I can understand if you’re angry with me-”

 

No just the opposite. I think I may have almost missed this.”

 

“Almost?”

 

…Almost.”

 

“Thank you.”

 

“You’re very welcome …but… oh, hold on just a moment!”

 

What? What’s the matter?”

 

Well something just occurred to me completely at random. It seems you may just owe me.”

 

I do not owe you.”

 

Don’t you? Not even for the hours I’ve spent worrying incessantly about your welfare?”

 

Do not be sarcastic with me right now.”

 

Sarcastic? I am appalled by that accusation.”

 

“Douglas!”

 

In fact, I think my hair might actually be thinning as a result of my extreme stress levels. And I’m sure you owe me for the amount I spent on at the grocer's putting together my own cheese-trays. Comfort food, Martin. I was in a state of constant and perpetual worry-”

 

Fine! What do you want?”

 

Well, now that you've brought it up…”

  


 

 

April 22nd

(8:06 AM)
Duxford Air Museum, Martin? When I said that I wanted to schedule another ‘not-quite-meeting’, I didn’t mean one that would involve quite this much driving.

 

(8:09 AM)
Well there’s an air show on and there will be lots of people. Plus it was your crazy idea to use this as repayment. Duxford was the first place that popped into my head.

 

(8:14 AM)
Fair enough.

 

(8:19 AM)
This will be just like the commemoration at the park, won’t it? I mean…you don’t want to actually meet with me?

 

(8:24 AM)
Martin, that would completely ruin the rules of our 'casually frequenting the same area as each-other' plans.

 

(8:28 AM)
Well I suppose I’ll be in your 'almost-company' again soon.

 

(8:31 AM)
Yes I suppose so. Though I do think that perhaps one day we might actually bridge that gap…

 

(8:35 AM)
I suppose… maybe. I mean, perhaps it could happen. Maybe.

 

(8:40 AM)
Well don’t hesitate to give me a straightforward answer any time soon.

 

(8:45 AM)
So you are the clingy party in our ‘profound textual relationship’ after all.

 

(8:49 AM)
Don’t use my words against me. I was in a very vulnerable state.

 

(8:52 AM)
Sure you were. Well I guess I'll not see you soon.

 

(8:54 AM)
Certainly not, captain.

 


 

Chapter Text

 

 

The Strange Little Man in My Phone

Chapter Fourteen: N is for Never Have I Ever

Martin     Douglas    Arthur    Carolyn


 

  April 24th

(10:02 AM)
Martin, what’s the wing area of a 683 Lancaster MK1?

 

(10:05 AM)
1207 square feet. Why?

 

(10:07 AM)
Know much about their cruising speed?

 

(10:10 AM)
200mph. Max speed is 287.
(10:12 AM)
Why are you asking this?

 

(10:13 AM)
I’m sitting a quiz. I also happen to know that your brain is something of an encyclopaedia of useless aviation information. I took my chances that you’d be quicker than a search engine.

 

(10:16 AM)
Well, ha! Looks like I am quicker. Aren’t you grateful that you’re friends with me now, Douglas?

 

(10:20 AM)
Yes Martin. Grateful is what I am, knowing that you could pull figures about a war-bomber from the Second World War from the back of your mind when you can’t even successfully navigate yourself down a flight of stairs without injuring yourself.

 

(10:23 AM)
You can’t say that for certain!

 

(10:27 AM)
Is that denial that I don’t hear?

 

(10:31 AM)
…Shut it.

 


 

 

April 25th

 

(12:01 PM)
Douglas Richardson.


(12:04 PM)
Carolyn Knapp-Shappey—which I admit has less of a ring to it.

 

(12:05 PM)
Shut. Up.
(12:08 PM)
I was not contacting you to discuss names, unfortunate though mine may be.

 

(12:10 PM)
Then to what do I owe the pleasure?

 

(12:14 PM)
Arthur let something slip just now that had me mildly concerned.

 

(12:17 PM)
Arthur let something slip? How terribly out of character for him. And Heaven forbid your concern is any greater than mild.

 

(12:20 PM)
Douglas, my patience is wearing thin.
(12:23 PM)
Arthur’s phone bill was outrageous this month—he thinks I don’t pay it any mind but I do—and I saw that he’d been spending a great deal of time texting two numbers. Namely yours and some strange fellow named Martin’s.

 

(12:28 PM)
Oh Carolyn. You don’t still pay Arthur’s phone bill, do you?

 

(12:31 PM)
That is irrelevant.
(12:34 PM)
You can imagine my concern though, as most people do their best to avoid frequent contact with Arthur.

 

(12:38 PM)
Are you sure that Martin isn’t some strange pet name for girlfriend Minty?

 

(12:41 PM)
Minty happens to be out of the picture.

 

(12:45 PM)
Should I interpret that as an admission of guilt, Carolyn?

 

(12:48 PM)
It’s far too early for your snark.

 

(12:50 PM)
Might I ask which hours my snark is permissible during?

 

(12:58 PM)
Preferably none of them.
(1:01 PM)
Douglas—do you know anything about this Martin character? Arthur tells you more than even me at times. I don’t want him over-extending himself to anyone who might take advantage of his disgusting willingness to help others.

 

(1:04 PM)
What has he told you about this Martin?

 

(1:07 PM)
Well, that was where the mild concern began. Apparently Martin is a friend from Wokingham. I’m fairly certain that Arthur has never set foot there.

 

(1:12 PM)
Well, for what my opinion is worth, Martin is someone who is completely deserving of your trust. At least as far as Arthur’s wellbeing is concerned.

 

(1:15 PM)
Then you do know him.

 

(1:19 PM)
Yes.

 

(1:23 PM)
I thought as much. And somehow knowing that he has your seal of approval makes me trust him far less.

 

(1:26 PM)
You’re free to trust or not-trust as you will, Carolyn, but Martin is by far the most meticulously law-abiding individual to ever grace my presence.

 

(1:29 PM)
Good Lord. Law-abiding? However did you two manage to hit it off?

 

(1:31 PM)
That’s another matter entirely. Just know that your son is in perfectly non-threatening hands.

 

(1:35 PM)
Doesn’t help much with the phone bill though—does it?

 

(1:38 PM)
There I cannot help you.

 


 

 

(4:40 PM)
I hear you’ve been talking with Arthur.

 

(4:45 PM)
I don’t think there are many points in my life nowadays where I haven’t been talking with Arthur. He’s very…excitable, isn’t he?

 

(4:50 PM)
Who, Arthur?

 

(4:52 PM)
Okay, so perhaps it’s not exactly irregular.

 

(4:55 PM)
Not even a little bit. I only mentioned it because his mother seemed concerned you were some sort of malevolent force out for Arthur’s good spirit.

 

(4:49 PM)
Well at least I’m semi-capable of being intimidating.

 

(4:52 PM)
Don’t be too pleased with yourself. Carolyn has never seen you.

 

(4:56 PM)
Nor have you.

 

(4:59 PM)
But I do happen to know you.

 

(5:02 PM)
…Good point.

 

(5:04 PM)
Glad you understand.

 


 

 

(5:07 PM)
Thanks for clearing things up with Mum, Douglas! I think she might have thought Skip was a serial killer.

 

(5:10 PM)
Well, it would be just like you to end up talking to one without noticing. I can’t say I blame her.

 

(5:12 PM)
Hey! That’s not fair. I’ve seen enough Miss Marple to know about serial killers, Douglas.

 

(5:15 PM)
I suppose you’re right. Who in their right mind would question the knowledge delivered to you via Miss Marple?

 

(5:18 PM)
Exactly. I’m practically an expert now.

 

(5:20 PM)
I’m sure you are.

 

(5:27 PM)
So what did you tell her anyway? About Skip?

 

(5:29 PM)
I really wish you’d stop calling him that.

 

(5:31 PM)
Well you started it. And I sort of think it suits him.

 

(5:36 PM)
Martin is hardly a pilot though.

 

(5:39 PM)
Nor are you!

 

(5:43 PM)
How do you figure that?

 

(5:47 PM)
Well…you’ve only been attending flight lessons for a little while.

 

(5:50 PM)
Once again—how do you figure that?

 

(5:52 PM)
Because you told me.

 

(5:54 PM)
No. What I had told both you and Martin was that I had started flight lessons.
(5:56 PM)
I never specified whether or not I’d taken flight lessons before and stopped.


(5:59 PM)
Sorry Douglas, you lost me. I’m really confused.

 

(6:04 PM)
Truth be told, I’d started lessons years ago. I never told Martin because I didn’t want to alarm him.
(6:10 PM)
I’ve even pondered asking your mother for more work experience with old Captain Nigel, since I’ll be qualified to act as a First-Officer in just over a year, thanks to Oxford.

 

(6:13 PM)
I still don’t understand why you lied.

 

(6:16 PM)
I never lied, Arthur. I merely omitted a few facts. Flying was never a passion of mine when I had started the lessons. I was only sixteen or so, and it was my parents who had organised them. When I told Martin I had started lessons, I really had started them…after a rather large break.
(6:18 PM)
If you’re asking for a reason, I thought it seemed cruel. I’ll be qualified for a job with minimal effort in a short amount of time. A job that Martin can only begin to dream of at this point.

 

(6:25 PM)
He’ll still have to find out though...won’t he? The extra experience on top of your graduating will definitely land you a job, Douglas.

 

(6:29 PM)
I know that, Arthur. My hope was that in the next year, he’ll have gotten his license and this won’t be a problem.

 

(6:31 PM)
I’m sure he can do that. Fourth time lucky!
(6:34 PM)
Maybe the two of you really will end up working for Mum.

 

(6:35 pm)
Fifth time, actually.
(6:37 PM)
And I’d like to avoid that particular future at all costs. I don’t really fancy myself a First Officer either. Hopefully I’ll be promoted rather quickly, once they’ve come to realise my brilliance.

 

(6:40 PM)
Captain Douglas Richardson, eh? Well it does sound really good!

 

(6:42 PM)
It does.

 

(6:45 PM)
So you and Martin might both end up Captains!

 

(6:48 PM)
Really, Arthur, let’s be reasonable…

 


 

 

(7:01 PM)
I’ve thought up a new game, Martin.

 

(7:04 PM)
What is it?

 

(7:10 PM)
Now I know you aren’t the type to inhabit bars or house parties, but have you perchance heard of ‘Never Have I Ever’?

 

(7:12 PM)
…I’ve seen it on television.

 

(7:14 PM)
Well....that’s a start.
(7:19 PM)
Something of a depressing start, but it’s still something.

 

(7:24 PM)
I don’t see how we could play it over the phone though.

 

(7:28 PM)
We’ll take turns with the Never Have I Ever statements, true or not. If it’s something you’ve done, you send the number ‘1’. This goes on until someone reaches 10.

 

(7:34 PM)
And once someone has?

 

(7:39 PM)
Well the person who reaches 10 has to do whatever the other person asks. For example, if you reach 10 first, you have to meet me.

 

(7:41 PM)
…Douglas. This is unfair.

 

(7:45 PM)
No one is forcing you to play. Nor is this unfair in any way. After all, you did say that you’d meet me one day.

 

(7:49 PM)
I said maybe!

 

(7:51 PM)
I see little to distinguish between yes and maybe. After all, it’s your call whether or not you’d like to play.

 

(7:56 PM)
Fine. I’ll play.
(7:59 PM)
I still think this is a trick. I never win at anything! And you know that!

 

(8:03 PM)
Ah yes, Martin, I had considered that. You are forgetting the very nature of this game though. Statistically, you’re at an advantage. What I mean by this is that I am sure I’ve done at least twenty times the amount of things that you have, so you’re more likely to ensure I have scored ten first.

 

(8:07 PM)
Funnily enough, you’re one of the few people who can make ‘being at an advantage’ sound more offensive than convincing.

 

(8:11 PM)
What prize are you playing for, regardless?

 

(8:14 PM)
How about…if you reach ten first, then you have to complete all of your extra credit work for a month?
(8:16 PM)
And you aren’t allowed to cheat answers off of me.

 

(8:17 PM)
Really Martin…? That’s what you feel is a worthy prize?

 

(8:20 PM)
Yes, actually. And since you said I could choose, it shouldn’t be a problem!

 

(8:23 PM)
Well, the stakes are punishingly high.

 

(8:30 PM)
Shut up. Who’s starting this, anyway?

 

(8:34 PM)
You choose. I’m rather confident either way.

 

(8:36 PM)
You start then.

 

(8:42 PM)
Was that a tactical move, Martin? A very poor one. I think you’ve evened out the playing field.
(8:48 PM)
Never have I ever taken part in any form of ballroom dancing.

 

(8:50 PM)
...1.
(8:51 PM)
Honestly this wasn’t the line of questioning I’d been expecting.

 

(8:52 PM)
I’m sorry. I’m too busy laughing at the idea of you ballroom dancing to provide an accurate response. However did that happen, Martin?

 

(8:54 PM)
It was compulsory at school!!!
(8:56 PM)
 I’m really regretting agreeing to this already.
(8:59 PM)
Never have I ever gone to Duxford Air Museum.

 

(9:02 PM)
1.
(9:05 PM)
Though that one was rather unfair.

 

(10:01 PM)
You never said it couldn’t be.

 

(10:04 PM)
Though I admire your attempts at strategy, you won’t discover much about me using that method.

 

(10:10 PM)
I’m actually not sure that I want to know what you get up to.

 

(10:11 PM)
Nonsense. It’s very interesting.
(10:14 PM)
Never have I ever injured myself more than twice in one day.

 

(10:16 PM)
2.

 

(10:21 pm)
I would have been astounded if I were wrong on that one.

 

(10:24 PM)
Well, since you’re Douglas Richardson… never have I ever had too many dates scheduled to attend in one night.

 

(10:25 PM)
Also 2.
(10:27 PM)
Never have I ever wallowed in self-pity over my height.

 

(10:29 PM)
Wallowed in self-pity!? You make my situation sound a lot worse than it actually is.

 

(10:34 PM)
I’ll grant you that people don’t particularly wallow. Not that I’ll be able to confirm how dire your situation is until I’ve won.

 

(10:38 PM)
Then no point for that one. Never have I ever consumed alcohol with Martin D.

 

(10:41 PM)
Oh Martin. Are we still hung up on Big Martin?

 

(10:42 PM)
Not hung up.
(10:44 PM)
Not Big Martin.

 

(10:45 PM)
Paramount Martin. 3.

 

(10:48 PM)
Knew it.

 

(10:52 PM)
We’re roommates. What do you expect?

 

(10:54 PM)
I expect everything when it comes to you.

 

(10:56 PM)
Never have I ever been single for more than a month.

 

(10:59 PM)
3. Was that a joke? I’ve been single most of my life. And since I’ve been single the entire time I’ve known you, that wasn’t particularly surprising!

 

(11:02 PM)
You said yourself that there were no rules concerning fairness.

 

(11:05 PM)
I regret that now.
(11:11 PM)
…Never have I ever been someone’s best friend.

 

(11:13 PM)
Well, of course. Multiple times I’d like to think. 4.

 

(11:16 PM)
Really? Multiple times?

 

(11:18 PM)
I’m only going off what I think, but we know my track record with being correct.
(11:21 PM)
There’s Arthur at least. He likes to throw that term around. So I’ve got a confirmed one.

 

(11:22 PM)
Oh. Of course.

 

(11:25 PM)
Never have I ever missed an exam.

 

(11:28 PM)
What a waste of a question. No.

 

(11:30 PM)
I was hoping to unearth a scandal.

 

(11:32 PM)
Well the scandal is no. Never.

 

(11:35 PM)
I keep such unruly company.

 

(11:40 PM)
Don’t complain. You choose to keep it, after all.

 

(11:43 PM)
I wasn’t complaining.

 

(11:47 PM)
Well I
(11:48 PM)
Oh I hit send there by mistake.
(11:48 PM)
I meant to say thank you.
(11:49 PM)
Well sort of thank you?
(11:50 PM)
It doesn’t matter.

 

(11:51 PM)
Try not to get too flustered by the compliment.

 

(11:53 PM)
Anyway! Never have I ever been fired.

 

(11:54 PM)
5. I was quite a testing adolescent.

 

(11:57 PM)
I’d have never guessed.
(11:59 PM)
Sorry to be a pain—but can we postpone the rest of this game? I’m completely exhausted.

 

(12:02 AM)
Of course. I understand that the pressure this might place you under is rather overwhelming. You can’t rush these sorts of games, after all, since they are so vitally important.

 

(12:04 AM)
Seriously though, Douglas, we will continue it.

 

(12:10 AM)
I won’t let you forget it.

 

(12:13 AM)
Well good night. Or morning.
(12:15 AM)
I always struggle with this one.

 

(12:19 AM)
I’d noticed.

 


  

April 26th

(10:12 AM)
Alright, Douglas, spit it out. I want an explanation about this Martin and who he actually is.
(10:15 AM)
Arthur came to me this morning asking how much it costs to send packages to Wokingham, so I am at my wit’s end trying to figure out how the hell this stranger has suddenly come into the picture.

 

(10:19 AM)
Packages, Carolyn?

 

(10:23 AM)
Not that this matters—but he was hoping to mail the two flavours of cheesecake that we serve on particularly crowded passenger flights. The scoundrel had smuggled them from the fridge. It seems it had never occurred to him that cheesecakes do, in fact, require a fridge for a reason.

 

(10:25 AM)
Why on earth would he want to mail a cheesecake?

 

(10:29 AM)
I was hoping you’d help me to elaborate.

 

(10:34 AM)
Well whoever can explain the mysterious ways of Arthur’s mind?

 

(10:35 AM)
Arthur’s mind is mostly unimportant at the moment. I’d love if you might explain Martin to me though. How exactly do the two of you know him?

 

(10:43 AM)
Couldn’t you just ask your son that?

 

(10:47 AM)
Ha! God knows I’ve tried!
(10:49 AM)
You should have heard the answer I got. Honestly.

 

(10:52 AM)
I’m rather intrigued now.

 

(10:56 AM)
What I’ve managed to gather from Arthur’s babble is that he is a pilot who neither of you have met except that Arthur saw him once from a distance at Crazy Golf, and then immediately forgot what he looked like. Apparently you are also his best friend, and the three of you maintain some sort of odd, virtual friendship. I can’t seem to find a logical reason that this permits incessant text messaging or mailed cheesecakes.
(10:58 AM)
I’d say my concern is warranted at this point.

 

(11:03 AM)
The truth is, Carolyn, that Martin is a very good friend of mine. He is not a pilot—only an aspiring one. You may say we bonded over that mutual interest, though we only communicate over the phone.
(11:04 AM)
As to Arthur’s involvement, any interest of mine is bound to become an interest of Arthur’s before long. You know how he likes to involve himself.

 

(11:07 AM)
And you’re sure that I have no means to worry?

 

(11:10 AM)
Absolutely certain, Carolyn. 

 

(11:13 AM)
I also don’t recall when it became acceptable to refer to me by my first name, but know that just because I have allowed it, does not mean that I care for your stupid, smug face any more than usual.

 

(11:18 AM)
Ha. I gathered that much.

 

(11:21 AM)
Silly son and his silly friends.
(11:23 AM)
You ought to count yourself fortunate that you’re alive.

 

(11:24 AM)
You’d never wish any misfortune onto me, would you?

 

(11:28 AM)
Something you may have overlooked: that was the opportune moment for you to stop replying, and you missed it. I really thought that much was implied.

 

(11:30 AM)
Oh Carolyn.

 


 

 

(1:09 PM)
Alright Martin. Let’s finish this game.

 

(1:10 PM)
Oh right. Whose turn was it then?

 

(1:13 PM)
You’re on 3, and I’m on 5. It’s your turn to ask.

 

(1:16 PM)
Never have I ever missed the Belgian Grand Prix.

 

(1:19 PM)
I had no idea that you remembered. Missed it live or on television?

 

(1:24 PM)
Television, of course.

 

(1:25 PM)
Then of course I have missed it. I don’t watch it the years I go in person. 6.
(1:29 PM)
Never have I ever written a paper on aviation for fun.

 

(1:32 PM)
…4. You already knew that one.
(1:35 PM)
Never have I ever been intoxicated whilst underage.

 

(1:39 PM)
7. And I’m supposing you never were. You really let yourself down in your younger years.

 

(1:43 PM)
Not at all, Douglas. I found it quite nice waiting until I was of age. You might try following the rules for once. You might even enjoy it.

 

(1:49 PM)
Rules are just constructs. So is authority.

 

(1:52 PM)
You wouldn’t be saying that if you were in a position of power.

 

(1:53 PM)
Right you are. How about this then? Never have I ever broken a rule.

 

(1:56 PM)
It doesn’t really seem like you’re playing to win, Douglas. I don’t think I’ve ever broken a rule. I’d have to think about it.

 

(2:01 PM)
Well I thought you still might surprise me. Never broken a rule? Ever?

 

(2:10 PM)
Well… I suppose I might have spoken when I wasn’t supposed to in primary school.
(2:11 PM)
Ah yes! I spoke once during silent reading!

 

(2:14 PM)
Oh Martin. You didn’t.

 

(2:16 PM)
I did. So… 5 for me?

 

(2:18 PM)
I’m still overwhelmed that you broke a rule. Who could have foreseen that Martin Crieff would speak during silent reading?

 

(2:23 PM)
Okay, I have one. Never have I ever had a cavity.

 

(2:30 PM)
This may be the tamest game I have ever played, and you happen to have gotten very, very lucky. I had a cavity once. Now I pride myself on teeth-related perfection. 8.

 

(2:35 PM)
Is it really that shocking that you’d had a cavity?

 

(2:39 PM)
Well… it is me.
(2:45 PM)
Never have I ever failed a CPL test.

 

(2:50 PM)
6. And you’re a ruddy friend.
(2:54 PM)
Never have I ever been in love.

 

(2:56 PM)
This took a profound turn. Yes I’d say that I have been. Not as many times as you might expect. That’s 9.

 

(2:59 PM)
You have been?

 

(3:01 PM)
That isn’t all that surprising, is it?

 

(3:05 PM)
Well…no. Not at all. I’ve just come to expect sarcastic answers.

 

(3:07 PM)
Well I’m something of a romantic below all this compelling snark.

 

(3:10 PM)
I’ll believe that when I see it!

 

(3:12 PM)
Then let me turn that back on you. Never have I ever been in love.

 

(3:15 PM)
No.
(3:16 PM)
No I don’t think I have. Well, not think, I know. I’m sure I’d have noticed.

 

(3:20 PM)
They do say it sneaks up on you. So looks like you’re still on 6, while I’m on 9. I must say I’m somewhat disappointed the game took this route. My prize was far more interesting than yours.

 

(3:24 PM)
That’s what you think. I’m looking forward to an entire month of you having to do your own work.
(3:25 PM)
Never have I ever been close to losing to Martin Crieff! Ha!

 

(3:36 PM)
Can’t say this is an outcome I’d expected, but congratulations Martin. Looks like you’ve beaten me. Though I wouldn’t get used to hearing that.

 

(3:39 PM)
I’ve won then! You admit it!

 

(3:45 PM)
Well yes, of course. I have hit 10. And according to our slipshod set of rules, that does happen to count as a win.

 

(3:49 PM)
Yes! I beat you!
(3:49 PM)
I really won!
(3:50 PM)
YES!

 

(3:51 PM)
That depends entirely on your definition of beaten. But yes— you are relieved of all university quiz answering. You can also look forward to less contact than ever from me since you’ve essentially deprived me of my social life.

 

(4:01 PM)
Oh shush! In a month’s time, your grades will be better than ever and you’ll be thanking me.

 

(4:05 PM)
Not sure that will be the case. But congratulations nonetheless.

 

(4:10 PM)
Thank you.

 

(4:14 PM)
Don’t dwell on your win for too long.

 

(4:17 PM)
As in you’ll find some other way to trick me into meeting with you?

 

(4:21 PM)
I certainly will.

 

(4:25 PM)
Good luck with that.

 


 

  

April 27th

(10:03 AM)
Was the Andover C MK1 prototype was developed in 1963 or 1967?

 

(10:11 AM)
You can’t have forgotten already.

 

(10:15 AM)
I haven’t. I just thought I’d attempt it before looking up the answer or cheating off of someone else.

 

(10:18 AM)
Douglas—just attempt the question fairly! This goes against everything I was playing for!

 

(10:23 AM)
You never said that cheating was out of the equation.

 

(10:30 AM)
You can’t be serious.

 

(10:34 AM)
Terribly sorry to disappoint you.

 

(10:38 AM)
And yet you continue to do so. Constantly.

 

(10:41 AM)
Don’t pretend you aren’t secretly a little amused.

 

(10:42 AM)
I’m not.

 

(10:49 AM)
 Really Martin? Not at all?
(10:53 AM)
Though incidentally, while we’re here…Do you know much about the engine of the 716 Shackleton?

 


 

Chapter Text

 

The Strange Little Man in My Phone

Chapter Fifteen: O is for Omega, Beta, Alpha Dogs

Martin     Douglas    Arthur    Carolyn

 

 


 

 

May 1st

(9:01 AM)
Hey chaps! Sorry for starting this up when I know you’re both busy, but does anyone know what a good present for Mum might be? She already has basically everything I can think of. Okay bye!

 

(9:20 AM)
Hold on a moment, Arthur. A gift for Carolyn? Why on earth do you need one of those?
(9:23 AM)
And my next question, which you will notice is a very natural sequence for me to follow, is what did you do to her that warrants a gift? I assume it was something absolutely moronic. Nothing ruffles Carolyn’s feathers like needless expenditure.

 

(9:25 AM)
I’m sorry, but Douglas why do you know so much about Arthur’s mother and what ruffles her feathers? Does anyone else find that just a little strange?
(9:27 AM)
I probably could have phrased that better but regardless! Needless expenditure?

 

(9:30 AM)
Well not really, Skip… Douglas spends a fair bit of time with my Mum.

 

(9:32 AM)
Funnily enough that did absolutely nothing to clear up what I found strange.

 

(9:34 AM)
Yes, funnily enough.
(9:36 AM)
I think you may find what Arthur means to say, is that Carolyn is something of a motherly figure to me. She’s seen me through my darkest days. She watched as I became a man, nurtured me into adulthood, and shouted bouts of encouragement in my direction all the way.

 

(9:37 AM)
That’s sarcasm, isn’t it Douglas? It’s hard to tell when we’re just typing it, but I know because of my understanding people course in Ipswich.

 

(9:39 AM)
My yes! Another success down to the glory of the understanding people course in Ipswich. Perhaps you should look into this course, Martin. Just marvel at how quickly Arthur deduced I was being sarcastic.

 

(9:42 AM)
I can pretty safely deduce that this conversation has lost me. Also, why is it that we never send group texts?

 

(9:46 AM)
Because it’s double the charge, Martin, and we’re very aware of embarrassingly under par your bank account is.
(9:47 AM)
I would like to also add one more reason to that… The two of you are hardly bearable on your own, let alone both at once.

 

(9:49 AM)
Double the charge, of course it is. And I’ve sent five now.
(9:50 AM)
Also ‘hardly bearable’? Ha, you might try telling that to the countless messages we’ve sent each other since we’ve met!

 

(9:50 AM)
I hardly think the messages will listen. Plus, it’s best not to underestimate what boredom does to a man.

 

(9:51 AM)
Douglas doesn’t really mean that, Skip.  He really does care about all of us deep down, even Mum!

 

(9:54 AM)
All right… well, let’s not get back onto the Douglas really caring about Carolyn thing. I’m not sure I can handle too much more of that.

 

(9:55 AM)
And back to the original point. Why did you need a gift for Carolyn?

 

(9:57 AM)
Oh yeah! I almost forgot. Well, it’s Mother’s Day soon. I figure I’d better get her something.

 

(9:59 AM)
There’s just one tiny problem with that, Arthur. Mother’s Day is not soon. In fact, it seems like you may have completely missed it two months ago.

 

(10:01 AM)
No I didn’t, Skip! I bought her a really lovely bunch of flowers for Mother’s Day in March. But Mother’s Day in May is still just as important!

 

(10:02 AM)
Mother’s Day in May? What are the requisites for that, if I may ask? Do only the most elite and deserving of mothers get a second holiday?

 

(10:08 AM)
No, it’s not that at all! It’s because Mother’s Day is in May in Australia, and as you know, I’m half Australian!

 

(10:10 AM)
I’ll give you that you’re half Australian, but you do happen to be living in England. With its’ English holidays. And your English mother.

 

(10:11 AM)
But I AM half Australian.

 

(10:13 AM)
Really Arthur, no one is disputing that.

 

(10:14 AM)
I honestly had no idea.

 

(10:16 AM)
You should hear me do my accent, Skip. It’s really good.

 

(10:18 AM)
I keep telling him that accents aren’t genetic but it’s a fruitless argument.

 

(10:20 AM)
I’ve really got to stop replying to these.Ten messages. So twenty messages! And all over some bloody holiday Arthur all but invented himself.

 

(10:24 AM)
Well I don’t think the Australians will be too happy to hear you say that.

 

(10:25 AM)
I can almost feel their kangaroo-laden wrath from here.

 

(10:27 AM)
Perhaps I could get her a cheese tray, Douglas. I mean it sounds kind of funny, but do you remember when you used to come over and we’d have one prepared for us all to share? She loves those.

 

(10:29 AM)
While I do remember that we used to have platters of cheese, I don’t ever recall ‘preparing’ it with you. In fact, doesn’t Carolyn more or less have that all on hand to serve to her pilots? All you did was carry it from the fridge to the living room.

(10:32 AM)
Well yeah, but it’s the thought that counts! Plus Mum paid for all of those with the company money. If I buy her one, it’ll be really special.

 

(10:35 AM)
You do know her best.

 

(10:38 AM)
Really? Because that wasn’t the impression I was getting earlier.

 

(10:40 AM)
Ah, replying again are we, Martin? So glad to have you back.
(10:50 AM)
And I fear we’ve lost him again. Anyway, go ahead and buy her a cheese tray for fake-Mother’s Day. I’m sure she’ll be thrilled.

 

(10:53 AM)
Alright Douglas. I think I will! I’d save some for you if you weren’t so far away. Maybe I could mail it to you. Oh and to Skip!

 

(10:55 AM)
I’ll have to politely decline. I honestly feel you’ve had more than your fair share of mail-related food incidents.

 

(10:56 AM)
Can I just ask how many mail-related food incidents you think the average person has!?

 

(10:57 AM)
Oh look who it is! Martin Crieff graces us once more. And since you asked so kindly, I was currently speaking on the basis that the average person has about…zero. And by that logic, Arthur has very much exceeded the average.

 

(10:59 AM)
His poor mother.

 

(11:00 AM)
Hey, I think you’re both being a bit unappreciative! I might’ve even sent a bit of the Camembert if Mum wasn’t the Alpha dog.

 

(11:01 AM)
I’m sorry Arthur. Did you really mean to write ‘alpha’ dog? Alpha of whom, might I ask?
(11:02 AM)
And since when was there Camembert?

 

(11:04 AM)
The Alpha dog of me and you in a way! Maybe even Skip too. I watched this wildlife show about African dogs and their order of eating. I suppose that works out so she’s the Alpha. Then comes the Beta dogs and the Amigo dogs.

 

(11:08 AM)
Amigo dogs?

 

(11:10 AM)
Surely you’ve heard of Amigo dogs, Martin.

 

(11:13 AM)
Omega? Do you mean Omega?

 

(11:17 AM)
Hmm maybe. But I suppose you two might be the Beta dogs. I just have a go at the leftovers, because you’d both be the guests, that’s just common curtesy. So I guess I’m the Amigo dog.
(11:18 AM)
Omega dog. It really doesn’t have the same ring to it, does it?

 

(11:19 AM)
But is Carolyn really the Alpha dog? I’ve never even spoken to her, so it’s not too much of a leap to say she has no authority over me.

 

(11:23 AM)
I dunno! If you met my Mum, you might think a bit differently.

 

(11:25 AM)
Well for the sake of argument, who’s the Alpha dog among the three of us? We’ve obviously firmly established the Omega. I rather think the top dog is quite obvious.

 

(11:27 AM)
Ha ha ha, Douglas. Hilarious really. Are you honestly trying to have one of us tell you that you’re the Alpha dog? Because I think you’ll find that both Arthur and I might have qualities that make us the Alpha over you anyhow!  

 

(11:28 AM)
Do you fancy sharing any of those superior qualities, Captain?

 

(11:30 AM)
Just because you were accepted into a fancy flight school DOES NOT MEAN YOU ARE ANY MORE QUALIFIED TO BE THE ALPHA DOG.
(11:31 AM)
You even called me Captain just now! That means I win! I’m the Alpha dog!!

 

(11:35 AM)
I assure you, the nickname Captain is loaded with the utmost level of snark and derision. My decision remains. I’m the Alpha dog.

 

(11:38 AM)
Why don’t we just have you both be the Alpha dogs? That’ll settle it.

 

(11:40 AM)
NO.

 

(11:40 AM)
I think not.

 


 

 

(1:10 PM)
You know, it does surprise me a little that you’d consider yourself an Alpha dog. What with you constantly comparing your life to mine and all.

 

(1:12 PM)
Oh shut up. You’re always so superior with your fancy voice, and your quips, and just general smoothness.
(1:14 PM)
See it sounds like I’m admitting that you’re the Alpha dog but I’m actually not because even with all of those things, I think you’ll find I’m also capable of being the authoritative one! And if I ever hope to be an airplane captain, I have to be confident in these things.
(1:15 PM)
And I am confident.

 

(1:18 PM)
Well I can see how I should be thoroughly convinced by this display of confidence, but as it so happens, I’m not.

 

(1:20 PM)
Well how about the other day, eh? When I beat you in the game? Or did you forget?

 

(1:23 PM)
I rather think you’re forgetting the hundred other times when the results were very much reversed.

 

(1:24 PM)
No…not forgetting. Just worth mentioning, that’s all.

 

(1:25 PM)
You’re right. Your menacing streak of 1:100 odds have really thrown a spanner in the works of my whole point.

 

(1:27 PM)
Well how about this? I started actively working to become a pilot far before you did!

 

(1:29 PM)
And are you an airline pilot, Martin?

 

(1:30 PM)
No, but it doesn’t matter!

 

(1:31 PM)
Hmm, I guess you’re right. It doesn’t matter.
(1:34 PM)
Or I suppose, it wouldn’t matter…if you were any closer to being a qualified pilot than I am.

 

(1:35 PM)
Douglas…

 

(1:36 PM)
Feel free to stop me if I’m saying anything that’s out of line.

 

(1:38 PM)
You’re absolutely insufferable today.

 

(1:39 PM)
Because I’m right?

 

(1:41 PM)
No!

 



 

(2:10 PM)
Arthur—for the sake of this argument again, just briefly, do you think that I’d be the Alpha dog over Douglas? I realise you’re just a tiny bit biased having known Douglas the longest but your opinion is still very valuable.

 

(2:14 PM)
Wow, my opinion is very valuable? That makes me sound important. Like a politician.
(2:15 PM)
Though I guess I’m not like a politician but it would be loads of fun to pretend. Alright Skip, I’ll try my best to answer in a way that the cabinet finds satisfactory.

 

(2:16 PM)
The cabinet? What on earth Arthur..?
(2:17 PM)
Just never mind. Ignore everything I said about valuable opinions. I only want to know about who you find more authoritative between us.

 

(2:19 PM)
That’s a good question, and I’m glad you asked it. So let me ask you: what do you think? And what about the taxes?

 

(2:21 PM)
The taxes?

 

(2:24 PM)
Yes, the taxes! The taxes are really taxing! And you might be wondering how this happened. Let me ask you: what about the jobs?

 

(2:26 PM)
Arthur… are you really dodging the question right now? Because I may have been a little unclear, I wasn’t asking you to be an actual politician, or anything like that at all. I just want you to be Arthur and answer the question, please.

 

(2:29 PM)
But the jobs are a real issue. An enormous issue!

 

(2:31 PM)
Arthur, please just stop. Has Douglas already spoken to you?

 

(2:34 PM)
I’m afraid I’m not at liberty to say.
(2:34 PM)
But also that he definitely did not speak to me.
(2:34 PM)
Ever.
(2:35 PM)
We’ve never even spoken in my life.

 

(2:35 PM)
Oh for goodness’ sake!

 



 

(2:00 PM)
And to summarise, if Martin confronts you about any of this just say we’ve never spoken about it.

 

(2:01 PM)
Okay Douglas! Cross my heart.

 

(2:02 PM)
And I am the Alpha dog.

 

(2:03 PM)
I suppose so. It does sort of seem that way.

 

(2:04 PM)
It seems that way because it’s the right way.

 

(2:05 PM)
I mean…If you’re sure that having never had anything off the cheese tray makes you an Omega dog.

 

(2:07 PM)
Of course I’m sure, Arthur. What kind of Alpha dog lets his subjects feed before him? That does means you’re in for a promotion. A Beta dog in only a matter of hours. I think that calls for celebration, how about your superior’s shout for pineapple juice as a thank you for your hard work?

 

(2:09 PM)
All right, deal.

 


  

(2:36 PM)
Resorting to blackmail!? Some Alpha dog there!
(2:37 PM)
An Alpha dog’s respect ought to be earned and not bought, Douglas, you are compromising the integrity of this entire order!

 

(2:38 PM)
Blackmail? I am shocked by that accusation. Who am I to blackmail?
(2:39 PM)
Not only that, but aren’t you taking this whole Alpha nonsense a little too seriously?

 

(2:40 PM)
Look, I’m not taking it too seriously, I just want to put this to bed!

 

(2:42 PM)
No, you’re right. Far be it from you to take things too seriously. After all, no one has ever taken you far too seriously.

 

(2:43 PM)
Douglas, I am serious!
(2:44 PM)
Wait no! Not all that serious.
(2:45 PM)
Well, I am serious! But in a sort of detached, offhand sort of way. Like a cool teacher!
(2:46 PM)
This is getting ridiculous.

 

(2:46 PM)
Then it’s probably best to drop all of it, don’t you agree?

 

(2:49 PM)
Yes! Finally.
(2:50 PM)
We should be done with it and agree to never bring it up again.

 

(2:51 PM)
Yes, Martin. We’ll drop it and I’ll be satisfied just in knowing you agreed to drop it when I told you to.

 

(2:53 PM)
ARGH, NO! I’m not dropping it!

 

(2:54 PM)
Very well then. It’s your call. In that case, the game continues.

 



 

May 2nd

[Incoming Call: Douglas Richardson. 8:17 AM]

 

“Hello? This had better be very important, Douglas, because I’m just in the middle of—”

 

Don’t underestimate the importance of a little daily check-in from a higher-up. Keeps the pack loyal and all that.”

 

“I thought we agreed to drop this.”

 

We did agree, but you couldn’t drop it. It’s a vicious cycle, isn’t it?”

 

“Alright, what do you want?”

 

I thought we could settle this with some rhyming journeys.”

 

“Some rhyming journeys? Do you really think—?”

 

We’ve settled other things with less. What’s the harm in it?”

 

“You go first then.”

 

Letting me take the lead?”

 

“Wait—”

 

I can’t decline. How about Vienna to Sienna?”

 

“Oh okay, um…”

 

Poole to Goole.”

 

“Hold on a second!”

 

Aruba to Cuba.”

 

“Y-York to New York!”

 

Well…yes. Ish.”

 

“Damn it, well…Paris to…uh, Baris, Caris, Daris, Faris…”

 

You’re bound to find one with that method.”

 

“…uh, Faris Wheel?”

 

Incredible, Martin, really. Good old Faris Wheel.”

 

“B-Boston to—”

 

Austin?”

 

“Oh give me a chance, would you?”

 

I’ll hand this one to you. Lisbon to…?”

 

“…Misbon, Nisbon, Pisbon…”

 

As worthy as Pisbon is, you might find Brisbane is a better fit. Points for obscurity though.”

 

“All right, we need to find a different way to settle this! I’m not great under pressure, and you know that perfectly well. This isn’t going to work!”

 

You may be relieved to learn that a leader doesn’t actually have to be any good under pressure. They tend to be the panicked, frozen sort who wind up glued to their spot when something challenges them.”

 

“Mmfrgh!”

 

I’m just teasing, Martin. Ah well, you can’t win them all.”

 

“I’m not winning anything at this rate!”

 

No. You’re not, are you?”

 

“We’ll do this later!”

 

[Call Disconnected: 8:24 AM]

 


 

(8:25 AM)
Arthur, I don’t know what Douglas offered you in exchange for agreeing he’s the top dog, but I’ll bloody well double it if I have to. I’ve got to prove that I’m capable of being authoritative and taken seriously.

 

(8:27 AM)
Well, Douglas said that since you never get anything off the cheese tray, then you’re probably the Omega. No offense, Skip, but it makes a little bit of sense. Even I get a bit.

 

(8:29 AM)
The Omega!? I am not the Omega! Alright, what did he offer you? Was it money? I probably can’t compete with anything financial but I’ll try literally anything else.

 

(8:30 AM)
Pineapple juice, Skip.

 

(8:31 AM)
Pineapple juice? That’s it? You’re joking.

 

(8:32 AM)
Pineapple juice is really brilliant.

 

(8:33 AM)
I’ll pay for double the amount of pineapple juice he offered, Arthur.

 


 

(8:33 AM)
Hey Douglas. I’m starting to wonder if Martin might actually be the Alpha dog.

 

(8:34 AM)
Tell me he didn’t.

 

(8:35 AM)
I have no idea what you mean. I also wasn’t offered anything to say this.
(8:35 AM)
Skip would be a great Alpha really. And I think he is one!

 

(8:37 AM)
Arthur. I am prepared to triple.

 

(8:40 AM)
Oh dear.

 


  

(8:49 AM)
Um, I’m facing a bit of a dilemma.

 

(8:51 AM)
Well go on. Out with it.

 

(8:53 AM)
Triple the pineapple juice.

 

(8:55 AM)
Triple! God, how much pineapple juice are we talking right now?

 

(8:59 AM)
So much! SO much Skip!
(9:01 AM)
Way more than I’m allowed!

 

(9:03 AM)
Urgh, blast it. Why won’t Douglas just let me have anything?

 

(9:06 AM)
Well Douglas is… Douglas! Thing is though, I think you’d both be great Alpha dogs, just like I think you’d both be great airline captains.

 

(9:10 AM)
Yes, but us both having it isn’t quite good enough.

 

(9:11 AM)
But why?

 

(9:14 AM)
I don’t know! Competition, I suppose. Proving a point. We’re both damn stubborn when we want to be.

 

(9:16 AM)
I don’t think being the Alpha dog matters though, does it?

 

(9:18 AM)
It does a little bit for all the reasons I just mentioned.

 

(9:20 AM)
You’re both really different, and really great for different things though!
(9:23 AM)
In fact, since we’re all really brilliant on our own and as a team, we could just stop talking about the whole thing. We don’t need a leader at all. I like it better when we’re all working together.

 

(9:22 AM)
We are working together! Douglas and I aren’t fighting, we’re just… I don’t know, bickering.

 

(9:24 AM)
Mum would say you’re like an old married couple.
(9:25 AM)
Just maybe not so old.
(9:26 AM)
And maybe not so married…
(9:27 AM)
I mean you’re none of those things.
(9:28 AM)
To be fair, I don’t really get what she'd mean by that at all.

 


 
 

(11:01 AM)
Up for another round? I won rhyming journeys, so it’s fair game either way. Best of three?

 

(11:03 AM)
What are we playing?

 

(11:07 AM)
I’ll be the gentlemen. Your choice.

 

(11:10 AM)
Oh please, don’t strain yourself. But I will choose… because I’m very decisive and am always making important choices.

 

(11:11 AM)
Alright. What’ll it be?

 

(11:40 AM)
Fortunately, unfortunately?

 

(11:41 AM)
Oh hello, I’d fallen asleep. I wouldn’t be as impolite as to comment on how long that reply took.
(11:42 AM)
Looks like I lied though. I would comment on it after all.

 

(11:47 AM)
You know how it works? I used to play it in the car when I was a kid with my brother and sister. Someone poses a problem and the other person has to counteract it.

 

(11:48 AM)
Not bad, I’ve played it before. Not only that, don’t important figures have to be good under pressure? I feel like I heard someone talking about that weakness of theirs recently.

 

(11:50 AM)
If someone takes longer than a minute to reply, then they lose. Agreed?

 

(11:51 AM)
Seems reasonable enough. Go ahead.

 

(11:53 AM)
Keeping in mind that I’m going to win this one, then there’ll need to be a tie-breaker.

 

(11:54 AM)
And keeping in mind that I’m very good with coming up with solutions, there might not need to be a tie-breaker at all.
(11:55 AM)
But in the extremely unlikely event that it comes to a tie-breaker, I propose we raise the stakes.

 

(11:56 AM)
Okay… and what are you suggesting?

 

(11:57 AM)
A bet of sorts. Whoever wins the tie-breaker gets a reward. Now this may be very predictable, but I’d quite like to meet you face-to-face. I feel I may have mentioned that in the past.

 

(11:29 AM)
Yes, I think you may have mentioned that half a million times.

 

(11:32 AM)
Then I’m not taking you by surprise by any means. If you’re confident enough in your abilities as an Alpha leader, then this shouldn’t be a problem for you. Feel free to add your own reward for miraculously pulling another two rounds of wins.

 

(11:34 AM)
I just have to win this round and the tie-breaker?

 

(11:36 AM)
Yes. The odds are somewhat stacked against you though, I’ve got to admit. Nevertheless, if it comes down to it, and I take the tie-breaker, then I’d like to meet you.
(11:37 AM)
Granted, that desire mostly comes down to how much you don’t want to meet me. You make yourself an easy target, Martin.

 

(11:39 AM)
And you wonder why people think you’re challenging.

 

(11:40 AM)
All down to the Douglas Richardson charm. Anyway, do you agree?

 

(11:45 AM)
Yes, yes, fine.  

 

(11:46 AM)
I can hardly contain myself. Should I do the honours?

 

(11:47 AM)
If you want to.

 

(11:48 AM)
One day a very prosperous airline captain, let’s call him Dougal, was on his way to Switzerland in a plane filled with passengers.

 

(11:49 AM)
Unfortunately for Dougal, he wasn’t actually a qualified airline pilot and had only scammed his way into being hired for the company.

 

(11:50 AM)
Fortunately, though Dougal wasn’t properly qualified—he was properly skilled, and was more than capable of flying for the company that hired him.

 

(11:51 AM)
Unfortunately, Dougal was having an off day and found he was starting to lose control of the plane.

 

(11:52 AM)
Fortunately, he was able to use his finesse to quickly regain his control and get things in order again, in fact—Dougal’s skills were praised loudly throughout the cabin.

 

(11:53 AM)
Yes but unfortunately, it didn’t last long, because a young man named Marvin, a REAL pilot, entered the flight deck and quickly caught onto the situation.

 

(11:54 AM)
Fortunately, Dougal was able to just as quickly remove Marvin, as he didn’t pose too much of a threat.

 

(11:55 AM)
Unfortunately, Marvin wasn’t actually removed and he alerted the authorities to the actual hijacking that was essentially taking place.

 

(11:56 AM)
Fortunately, no one including the authorities took Marvin seriously.

 

(11:57 AM)
Unfortunately, FOR DOUGAL, one flight attendant decided to check his licenses on a whim and Dougal realised he was caught.

 

(11:58 AM)
And fortunately, it just so happened that a freak storm hit and Dougal was the only person on-board capable of actually flying a plane.

 

(11:59 AM)
Unfortunately, the freak storm was so strong that it actually knocked Dougal out, and everyone had a reawakening that Marvin could in fact fly a plane and Dougal was not their only hope.

 

(12:00 PM)
Yes well, fortunately

 


  

[Incoming Call: Arthur Shappey. 12:00 PM]

 

Arthur—I’m in the middle of something vitally important—”

 

Never mind that Douglas, I’ve got the perfect present for Mum! I’ve got to tell you all about—”

 

I’m sorry, Arthur, but please just give me a few.”

 

[Call Disconnected: 12:00 PM]


 


 

 

(12:00 PM)
Yes well, fortunately Dougal was actually perfectly awake.

 

(12:01 PM)
Unfortunately, Marvin had been trained in the apprehension of unsavoury characters in the flight deck and was able to contain him on his own!

 

(12:02 PM)
Fortunately

 


  

[Incoming Call: Arthur Shappey. 12:02 PM]

 

Arthur, really! I cannot type as long as you’re calling, and Martin and I are trying to—”

 

It’ll only take a minute though!”

 

That is exactly the problem!”

 

Okay I’ll make it quick. Which out of these would she prefer—?”

 

Arthur, I’m hanging up and if you call again I swear…”

 

[Call Disconnected. 12:02 PM]

 


 

 

[Incoming Call: Arthur Shappey. 12:03 PM]

 

[Call Disconnected: 12:03 PM]

 

 


 

 

(12:03 PM)
Fortunately, Dougal escaped.

 

(12:03 PM)
TWO MINUTES!
(12:04 PM)
That took you almost two minutes!

 

(12:05 PM)
Admittedly, it wasn’t my best work. Also admittedly, it took me two minutes. However, Arthur called me three times in the span of three minutes. I’d like to appeal that, due to outside interferences.

 

(12:06 PM)
Yes I had a feeling you would.

 

(12:07 PM)
Hold on a second, Martin. You don’t mean to tell me that you…?

 

(12:08 PM)
We never said anything about interferences. The conditions were very clearly laid out. If someone took more than a minute to respond, they lost. No one ever said I couldn’t help that along a little.

 

(12:09 PM)
And Arthur was in on this?
(12:09 PM)
Oh Martin, did you really quadruple the pineapple juice?

 

(12:10 PM)
I might’ve.
(12:11 PM)
But that doesn’t matter! What matters is that this is down to the tie-breaker and I’m not going to lose to you easily.

 

(12:12 PM)
Devious, Martin, really. If I didn’t know you better, I might think you were half the stickler for directions you actually are.

 

(12:14 PM)
Well, I am capable of surprising. Point is, I don’t intend to lose that tie-breaker.

 

(12:15 PM)
And I think I’m finally rubbing off on you.
(12:16 PM)
Fine by me. By all means, make it more exciting. But just so you know, I don’t intend to lose either.
(12:17 PM)
Who knows, fate might just bring us together before you know it.

 

(12:18 PM)
I wouldn't count on it.

 

 


 

 

Chapter Text

 

The Strange Little Man in My Phone

Chapter Sixteen: P is for Perfectionist

Martin     Douglas    Arthur    Carolyn

 

 


 

 

May 14th 

(7:01 PM)
How much do you think the world would fall apart if you had one, pre-set soulmate?
(7:03 PM)
Before you make any comment, it’s just interesting to think about. The percentages would be pretty depressing, wouldn’t they?

 

(7:10 PM)
Well it’s not a stretch to say that. I can already imagine the stupid ways people would start to behave.
(7:11 PM)
Though I’ve got to admit, I have found myself wondering why you’ve brought this up, Martin.

 

(7:13 PM)
Well with you being the self-proclaimed expert on dating advice and all. You’ve never hesitated to point out how much broader your history is than mine, so I thought it might bring out some difference in opinions.

 

(7:15 PM)
Yes I suppose mine is broader. Remind me how many once more..?

 

(7:17 PM)
Anyway. How about taking the same problem and applying it to friendships? What if you only had one perfect friend, so to speak? You could have other friendships that seem fulfilling enough, but there’s always something in the back of your mind reminding you they aren’t the perfect ideal.

 

(7:19 PM)
I think the first scenario made a great deal more sense. It’s common for people to have multiple friends, but not common to have multiple partners, at least not at once.
(7:21 PM)
And at least, not for everyone.

 

(7:23 PM)
Yes but statistically it’d probably be much easier to find a friend soulmate than a romantic partner soulmate.
(7:34 PM)
Supposing you meet more friends than potential love interests.
(7:35 PM)
Though the likelihood is still just one to several billion.
(7:27 PM)
Hang on… “not for everyone”?

 

(7:29 PM)
I truly did have faith you’d have learned to read sarcasm by now.

 

(7:31 PM)
Yes, well, I had faith you could write a sentence or two without it but apparently not.

 

(7:34 PM)
Guess not. Terribly sorry to disappoint once again.
(7:35 PM)
Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Gandhi.

 

(7:36 PM)
Not bad.

 

(7:36 PM)
So that’s four for me. And a half for you.

 

(7:38 PM)
I think one half is a little unreasonable, Douglas. I’m fairly sure you could spare to give me one full point at this stage.

 

(7:40 PM)
Do you really feel you deserve the point?

 

(7:42 PM)
“How Green Was My Valley?” “Se7en”

 

(7:43 PM)
Thank you, Martin. Funnily enough, typing it out again didn’t make the joke any more comprehensible. Nor does it explain how your valley is seven green.

 

(7:45 PM)
Out of ten! I think the scale is implicit.

 

(7:48 PM)
What’s The Matter With Helen? Funny Face.

 

(7:49 PM)
Well, okay. I mean I don’t see how it’s better than mine but regardless. Five for you?

 

(7:50 PM)
What’s Up, Doc? The Birds.

 

(7:50 PM)
…Six. Okay hang on.

 

(7:51 PM)
Who Is Killing The Great Chefs of Europe? Mostly Martha.

 

(7:52 PM)
You’ve been saving these up! You always do this!

 

(7:53 PM)
I do no such thing.

 

(7:54 PM)
I think we need a different game for the tie-breaker.

 

(7:55 PM)
My, that’s very sudden. Could it be because you’re losing?

 

(7:56 PM)
Don’t get high and mighty because you’re trying to be clever.

 

(7:57 PM)
I don’t think there’s an awful lot of trying involved.

 

(7:58 PM)
I just want to do this right, that’s all!

 

(8:00 PM)
I feel like you might be slightly overthinking things. It’s just friendly competition.
(8:01 PM)
Well, Martin, I’m not entirely heartless. Since you’re adamant that I’ve saved them up (which I haven’t), we’ll find another way to compete.
(8:03 PM)
If we want to alleviate all foul play, we could always just let someone else pick the game.

 

(8:04 PM)
Oh? Like who?

 

(8:05 PM)
Like Arthur.
(8:07 PM)
You should know that even the mere suggestion pains me. Nevertheless, he’s the only party that knows us both with no bias.

 

(8:07 PM)
Now you’re the one making it sound more serious than it is.

 

(8:10 PM)
Thing is, I’m only too aware how much of a stickler you are for the rules, Martin. Wouldn’t want something to slip through the cracks and ruin your procedure.

 

(8:11 PM)
Not a stickler.
(8:13 PM)
But there’s really no hurry. We can let Arthur know and have him get back to us in his own time. There’s really no rush.

 

(8:14 PM)
Isn’t there? I assure you I hadn’t already gotten that impression with your almost two weeks of avoiding the subject whenever I attempt to broach it.

 

(8:16 PM)
Yes, but this entire competition was also based around some stupid concept that’s only relevant to African hunting dogs! It doesn’t really matter who the Alpha dog is. So…we could maybe drop the tie-breaker?

 

(8:18 PM)
I was under the impression you didn’t want to lose. You were very adamant you could be the leader when we last spoke.

 

(8:19 PM)
No, of course I don’t want to lose! I just hadn’t particularly expected to be meeting you in the event that I do lose.

 

(8:21 PM)
It’s too late now for cold feet, because you’ve already agreed. The Martin I know wouldn’t drop something midway. And if you don’t want to lose as much as you say you don’t, then I suggest you work very hard on winning this tie-breaker.
(8:23 PM)
You still haven’t picked your reward, by the way. Of course, you’ll never get the reward, but you might as well set one to satiate my curiousity.

 

(8:25 PM)
You may very well be disappointed there because I can’t think of anything.

 

(8:29 PM)
How sensational. That’s just the attitude we need to fuel our competitive spirits.

 

(8:30 PM)
Alright, then my prize can be to not meet with you. Because, honestly Douglas, it’s just an enormous pressure.

 

(8:31 PM)
I really am so glad my ego is able to sustain itself without a slither of affirmation from you.

 

(8:32 PM)
It’s not that I don’t want to meet you.
(8:33 PM)
And not even necessarily that I wouldn’t do it.
(8:33 PM)
You know I’m terrible with things like this.
(8:36 PM)
There’s just a part of me wonders if it feels right. It’s… honestly quite nerve-wracking. God knows how you’ll be in real life. God knows how I’LL be in real life. It might just…not work? Expectations can be very funny things and the stakes are higher now, I don’t know.

 

(8:37 PM)
This shouldn’t come as a surprise to you—but whether it’s ‘real life’ or on this screen, it makes very little difference in terms of my personality. And yours, no doubt.

 

(8:38 PM)
You’re missing the point though. The thing is, I’d like to meet you. I intend to…at some stage. It’s just different for me than it is for you.

 

(8:39 PM)
Different for you? I haven’t got the slightest idea what you’re talking about. Different than what, Martin?

 

(8:40 PM)
Than everything. 
(8:41 PM)
I’ve got to get my things organised for a job in the morning but I’ll speak with you soon. Let me know what Arthur comes up with, whenever you get round to asking him.

 

(8:41 PM)
No rush.

 



 

(9:31 PM)
Hello Douglas!

 

(9:32 PM)
Hello Arthur. Has Carolyn retracted her bedtime regulations?

 

(9:33 PM)
Uh no. She hasn’t done that.
(9:34 PM)
In fact, that rule is still there, technically.  But not to worry, because I’m being incredibly sneaky about it.

 

(9:35 PM)
I’m sure you’re wide awake with the utmost secrecy. Though I wonder, do you realise you’re old enough to just choose your own bedtime…?

 

(9:37 PM)
See, you say that, but you don’t have to live in a house with Mum. Don’t get me wrong, she’s great. Most of the time I feel like I’m living with my best friend.
(9:37 PM)
But I should be able to watch Gremlins at two in the morning if I feel like it. Or y’know, just take a bath. Perhaps even while watching Gremlins, if I wanted to.

 

(9:38 PM)
You know, Arthur, perhaps in this single scenario the rules may exist for a reason.

 

(9:41 PM)
Aw Douglas, not you too! And you never listen to rules or anything like that!

 

(9:43 PM)
Yes. But I don’t use my rule-breaking prowess to take baths and watch Gremlins.

 

(9:45 PM)
Urgh, I guess you’re right.
(9:46 PM)
What are you up to anyway? I miss you at Oxford. It’s just not the same at home.

 

(9:48 PM)
I’m doing fine. It’s all well and good here. And I’m sure you’re doing fine as well, since what you haven’t got in Douglas, you’ve certainly got in pineapple juice.

 

(9:51 PM)
You’re right about that. I mean, I know you aren’t meant to take bribes but Martin is great, isn’t he? I’m so glad you accidentally made friends with him.

 

(9:52 PM)
He’d love to hear you say that, I’m sure.
(9:54 PM)
Sorry Arthur but I’d better be going.  I’m just down at the pub with some Oxford friends. Say hello to your mother for me. Don’t leave in this part—but I genuinely do miss going round for tea with the two of you.

 

(9:54 PM)
And you miss me and Mum. Not just the meals?

 

(9:55 PM)
Of course not just the meals. While my own culinary skills are nothing to be sneezed at, I can safely say I miss the meals, and you two equally.

 

(9:56 PM)
Oh wow, thanks Douglas!

 

(9:58 PM)
Always my utmost pleasure.

 


  

May 15th

(10:12 AM)
Did Douglas ask you about the Alpha dog tie-breaker, Arthur? I’m not exactly pressed to ask and there’s really no rush on when it actually takes place, but if he’s at least explained it to you, that would be helpful.

 

(10:17 AM)
As a quick disclaimer, I’m not usually in the business of reading my son’s text messages. On the other hand, Arthur IS in the business of leaving his phone in stupid places and I am the one who pays his phone bills. I also feel I’ve seen your name more times than I count, Martin, and it’s time you were introduced to me.

 

(10:18 AM)
You’re… Arthur’s mother? Yes I do think
(10:19 AM)
Ah sorry, that sort of just sent itself?
(10:20 AM)
Hello, I’m Martin!
(10:21 AM)
That looks much more enthusiastic when it’s written out, doesn’t it?
(10:22 AM)
 I’ve also just realised how sinister this whole thing may look but I assure you it’s not what it seems like.

 

(10:24 AM)
Yes, I very much am his mother, much to his delight and on particularly rare occasions… my own delight. Carolyn Knapp-Shappey. It’s by no means a name that strikes fear into anyone’s heart, I realise that, but what idiot relies on a name for any reputation?

 

(10:25 AM)
Yes, what kind of an idiot would do that?

 

(10:27 AM)
Truth be told, the reason I’ve immorally hijacked my son’s phone to answer you is not because I suspect you of anything sinister, though I’d prefer those activities were avoided, but more out of curiousity.

 

(10:29 AM)
Uh, why is that, Ms Knapp-Shappey? If you don’t mind my asking.

 

(10:34 AM)
Call me Carolyn. My surname, or names rather, are ridiculous and no one is denying it.
(10:35 AM)
The curiousity is less in my son’s attachment to you, and more in Douglas’. He’s a loyal friend to Arthur and thus has grown up like a second child of mine. That said, he’s also an insufferable smart-aleck who is more pompous and self-satisfied than an audiotape narrator reading Deresiewicz or Tolstoy. Do you see why I find it difficult to believe you’re, as he puts it, “meticulously law-abiding”, when you’re a friend of his?

 

(10:36 AM)
Alright, I completely understand the concern. Or curiousity, whatever. Douglas is completely irresponsible, smug, self-satisfied, all of that. But I personally promise, as an authority on the subject, that we are very different people. Also that I have nothing but their best interests at heart. Because they’re my friends.

 

(10:45 AM)
No offence, but you hardly struck me as very authoritative earlier.

 

(10:46 AM)
I’m finding no way I could interpret that other than offensively, but you’re absolutely right.

 

(10:47 AM)
I also won’t validate the idea that a virtual friendship is anything like the real thing, but that’s because phones are annoying, idiotic, and I hate them. With that said, I have no objection to you speaking with them both, granted you are exactly who you say you are.

 

(10:49 AM)
Nothing but the truth, Carolyn, I promise. I’m not a great liar, regardless.

 

(10:51 AM)
Then I will allow this to continue. I’m glad I could finally speak with you and I do very much hope you don’t disappoint me. Arthur treasures his friends, more than you could imagine.

 

(10:54 AM)
I won’t do that. As in disappoint you, not imagine him treasuring friendship.  I won’t be disappointing you. Nor will I be disappointing Arthur, or Douglas. Just to be very, very clear.

 

(10:55 AM)
And that is very, very, good. Thank you.
(10:56 AM)
Oh and just one more thing while I have you.

 

(10:58 AM)
Of course. Yes?

 

(11:00 AM)
The dispute you’re having with Douglas and Arthur, the one about the hunting dog rankings, is quite frankly outrageous. The fact that those two idiots know me well and are still engaging in the discussion is even more outrageous. I am the Alpha dog and you may as well be aware of that very early.

 

(11:02 AM)
I’ll…remember that.

 


 

 

(11:05 AM)
Arthur’s mother is terrifying.

 

(11:07 AM)
Isn’t she charming?

 

(11:10 AM)
That was not exactly the reaction I’d expected, but my God. You weren’t kidding.

 

(11:11 AM)
Would I ever kid you, Martin?

 

(11:12 AM)
I’m just going to go on acting like you never said that. Anyway, you don’t sound too surprised that I’ve spoken with her.

 

(11:13 AM)
No I don’t, particularly, do I? I’ve actually only just woken up, so I may have overdone it last night.

 

(11:15 AM)
Overdone it? Aren’t you supposed to be in class?

 

(11:18 AM)
Yes I am. But the couple of drinks down the pub last night turned into a couple more, and a couple more. You know how these things happen.

 

(11:20 AM)
Well, if I could just stop you right there for a second, I really don’t. I don’t do much drinking out with friends. I mean—I have friends. I also have drinks, if I want to, because that’s entirely legal, but not all that much drinking…overall.

 

(11:25 AM)
You know, messages like that one are a much larger hurdle when my head feels like it might split in two at any given moment.

 

(11:27 AM)
Yes, well that’s your own fault. If you have some aspirin, you’ll be able to make it to class in time. Not actually in time, but by some stretch of it.

 

(11:29 AM)
I think this qualifies as a sick day. I won’t be able to get anything done like this.

 

(11:32 AM)
Douglas, you really should go to class. If you’re feeling hungover, then that’s pretty self-inflicted if you knew you’d have to be in class the next morning.

 

(11:34 AM)
Yes, I take full responsibility. Don’t really think I’ll be going to class though.

 

(11:36 AM)
Douglas… You need to take this seriously.

 

(11:37 AM)
And what is that supposed to mean?

 

(11:39 AM)
I’m not trying to be harsh…but Oxford. Your studies. Becoming a pilot.

 

(11:42 AM)
I don’t think there’s been a point so far where I haven’t taken that seriously. In fact, the fruits of socialization can be quite therapeutic and relaxing for some people. We can’t all be Captain Perfect, now can we?

 

(11:45 AM)
I’m not “Captain Perfect”, I really wish you’d stop with that. I just hold myself to a high standard.

 

(11:46 AM)
Yes. Like a Captain Perfect might.

 

(11:47 AM)
If anything, I might be a perfectionist. That isn’t a compliment. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it isn’t good either.

 

(11:49 AM)
You should list that in a job interview as your greatest weakness.

 

(11:53 AM)
Shouldn’t I? I read somewhere that it was quite effective, because it seems like it’s a weakness but you’re actually kind of proving you’re thorough.

 

(11:59 AM)
Oh Martin. Oldest trick in the book. Note my use of ‘oldest’ and not ‘best’.

 

(12:03 PM)
Well alright then, what’s your expert advice? You don’t have any bloody weaknesses, so what would you say in an interview?

 

(12:05 PM)
I frequently intimidate those around me which might lead to poor work performance. I imagine being my co-worker must be a fairly daunting affair, since they would feel a constant and smothering pressure to live up to a standard they might never achieve.

 

(12:07 PM)
Incredible…

 

(12:10 PM)
Yes I am. That was the point I was trying to make.

 

(12:13 PM)
Do you think you’ve already found the friend soulmate? I mean between me, Arthur, Martin D, and the no doubt countless others, you’ve probably got a pretty high chance.

 

(12:15 PM)
That was a rapid shift. And since this is all hypothetical, I suppose I’d have an alright chance, not fantastic though. Not even I can meet enough people to beat those odds.

 

(12:19 PM)
I suppose so. I’m not sure why I keep thinking about it, just the idea of the likelihood is interesting. You’d be one of the luckiest people in the world to find that one single person.

 

(12:23 PM)
What if the friend-soulmates who found each other were two of the world’s most heinous and depraved humans who combined into one unstoppable terror? We wouldn’t be counting it lucky then.

 

(12:25 PM)
Now you’re spoiling it.

 

(12:26 PM)
As it happens, our friendship’s beaten a fair few odds already.


(12:27 PM)
It has. Quite a few.
(12:28 PM)
You know, I thought of a prize as well.

 

(12:30 PM)
For the tie-breaker? Don’t leave me hanging.

 

(12:31 PM)
A photograph.
(12:32 PM)
That is of you.
(12:33 PM)
Well obviously of you, not just of any old thing.
(12:34 PM)
Just a normal, casual photo of you?
(12:35 PM)
And with absolutely no implication, because I’m just now realising that asking anyone for a photograph over the phone makes me sound like a complete and utter weirdo.

 

(12:36 PM)
Surely you’re imagining the uncomfortable phrasing and unfortunate insinuation, because I can see nothing wrong with the request. After all, it’s not the first time someone has considered my photograph to be prize-worthy.

 

(12:38 PM)
I think I liked it better when you were slower to react earlier. It was almost a breath of fresh air.

 

(12:41 PM)
Nonsense, Martin. A hangover couldn’t slow me down.

 

(12:43 PM)
I’d just like to know what you look like. You know a little about me already, but I wouldn’t have a clue where you’re concerned. You’re quite a huge part of my life and I can’t put a face to you.

 

(12:44 PM)
There’s actually another way that problem can be solved. You could just meet me.

 

(12:46 PM)
You are completely relentless, aren’t you?

 

(12:48 PM)
A little. But absolutely no pressure. Even if I do win, I wouldn’t make you meet me if you didn’t agree to it.
(12:50 PM)
But you did agree to the competition, and my terms. So are you really that opposed to the idea?

 

(12:51 PM)
No, for the last time, I’m not “opposed” to anything. I just think it’s setting the stakes unbelievably high.

 

(12:53 PM)
You said that earlier. I won’t pretend I understood what you meant, but I did listen.

 

(12:56 PM)
No, because it doesn’t apply to you. Things like that don’t…ruffle you.
(12:58 PM)
Bit jealous of that actually.

 

(1:01 PM)
There’s no need to be. I have many other amazing qualities other than my ability to not be ruffled by ‘things like that’, and you are welcome to be jealous of any of those.

 

(1:03 PM)
Like your authoritative name? I’ve told you before I’m jealous of that.

 

(1:06 PM)
My heart literally swells with pride.

 

(1:08 PM)
Oh, shut up.
(1:10 PM)
Alright, I’ve got to head off for another van job in twenty minutes, so please try to at least stay hydrated. And sleep, so this doesn’t happen again and miss more of your classes.

 

(1:13 PM)
Alright Doctor Crieff. Just when I thought we couldn’t possibly grant your name another title, we’re shown that yet again the Captain exceeds every expectation. Might we hope for you to be leading a lecture at Oxford sometime soon, Professor?

 

(1:15 PM)
I’ve pretty much had my quota of sarcasm today, thanks.

 

(1:16 PM)
And yet you keep coming back for more.

 




May 16
th

(10:01 PM)
Forgot to get back to you yesterday and this is sort of…well really late. Sorry. But hello, how are you feeling now?

 

(10:21 PM)
Much better, Martin, thank-you. You might say I burst back into form. I couldn’t bring myself to let that headache have the least bit of satisfaction. And yourself?

 

(10:34 PM)
Oh, you’re up? I figured you’d still be recovering.

 

(10:36 PM)
I know you aren’t particularly accustomed to student life, but it certainly wouldn’t take that long. In fact, I’m already on the move again. An acquaintance of mine, Dirk, is having a party. While I prefer the mental depiction of a bar, fireplace, and good conversation more than a run-of-the-mill party, I do go in for this sort of thing sometimes too.

 

(10:38 PM)
And Dirk is from Oxford?

 

(10:40 PM)
No. I think Dirk may have been in the Oxford catchment at least once in his life, but I’d venture that Dirk hasn’t set foot in any sort of schooling institute in quite a long time.

 

(10:42 PM)
Then how did you meet him!?

 

(10:44 PM)
A friend of a friend. An unreasonably unafraid friend.

 

(10:45 PM)
Why unreasonably unafraid?

 

(10:46 PM)
Well, if I were afraid of anyone out of my circle, I’d probably start by being afraid of Dirk.

 

(10:47 PM)
I don’t want to know.

 

(10:49 PM)
How about you? How’d your job go yesterday?

 

(10:52 PM)
It was fine… Just fine. I moved a piano.

 

(10:56 PM)
A piano? How lovely.

 

(10:57 PM)
Yes a piano. Of course, I didn’t just move it on my own. There were…others for that. You know, they’re surprisingly bulky.

 

(10:59 PM)
The others?

 

(11:00 PM)
The piano!

 

(11:01 PM)
I’m rather good at playing piano.

 

(11:01 PM)
Well you would be, wouldn’t you?

 

(11:03 PM)
Yes, as a matter of fact.
(11:05 PM)
Martin D. says hello.

 

(11:07 PM)
Wait, does he? I don’t know why I figured he didn’t know I exist.
(11:10 PM)
I mean… hello other Martin!
(11:12 PM)
I hear you’re probably taller than me. Haha, that’s great! I’m very pleased for you.
(11:13 PM)
Douglas calls you Paramount Martin to tease me!

 

(11:13 PM)
Alright, you can stop. I’ll also do you the favour of never showing him that.

 

(11:16 PM)
…Just say I said hello too.

 

(11:17 PM)
I did that a few minutes ago, to be completely honest with you.

 

(11:19 PM)
That’s probably better.
(11:21 PM)
How did Martin D. know who I was though?

 

(11:23 PM)
Because I mention you?

 

(11:24 PM)
You do?

 

(11:25 PM)
Did you really think this was all one-sided? That I tell you everything like you’re my psychiatrist, and just act as though you don’t exist to the rest of the world?

 

(11:26 PM)
Well… no. But I mean, you don’t tell him everything?

 

(11:27 PM)
No, Martin. I tell him you’re a close friend. Which you are, unless I’ve been mistaken.

 

(11:28 PM)
Well yes.
(11:29 PM)
I mean, no. You aren’t mistaken. No.
(11:32 PM)
I’m just surprised you’ve mentioned me.


(11:34 PM)
I really wish you had more faith in yourself.

 

(11:36 PM)
Me too.
(11:49 PM)
I’m off to bed anyway. Enjoy your night, Douglas.

 

(11:53 PM)
Night Martin. I’ll try and be responsible.

 

(11:55 PM)
No you won’t! You’re Douglas Richardson, for goodness’ sake.

 

(11:56 PM)
I’ll say what I can for your sanity.

 


 

 

May 17th

(10:21 AM)
Oh wow, Skip, I had no idea you’d met Mum until now! She seemed to really like you, didn’t she?

 

(10:23 AM)
She did? THAT was her liking me? Seriously?
(10:24 AM)
Also, sorry I didn’t get the chance to ask first or anything. I realise it was your phone she was on, and I didn’t get much choice in the matter.

 

(10:27 AM)
Why would I mind that? It’s really great that you’ve met her. Before you know it, you’ll be coming over to eat with the family! Well just me and Mum. Occasionally Herc, but she doesn’t seem to like if I mention that. And Douglas! Wow it would be great if we could all meet up for tea at some stage.

 

(10:27 AM)
I have no idea who Herc is, but sure. That would be great, if it eventually happened.

 

(10:29 AM)
The best. You have no idea. Just having everyone in the same room would be brilliant.

 

(10:31 AM)
I’ll have to take your word for it. Oh incidentally, did you see the message about the tie-breaker? Would you be up for something like that?

 

(10:33 AM)
To declare a winner out of you and Douglas? I can definitely do that!

 

(10:35 AM)
We’re trying to be absolutely fair in the final round, so you’ll be picking the game. You also can’t tell us about it until it happens, to be completely sure.

 

(10:37 AM)
Terrific! I’ve already got ideas for games and none of them are Charades! When did you want it be held?

 

(10:39 AM)
It’s better if you don’t tell us. But really, and I can’t stress this enough, there’s no rush. In fact, feel free to wait several weeks if you’d like to. Or months.

 

(10:42 AM)
No problem. I’ll make sure you never see it coming!

 

(10:44 AM)
Thanks Arthur, I appreciate it.

 

(10:45 AM)
Anytime, Skip!

 


 

 

(10:46 AM)
SURPRISE CHAPS!
(10:46 AM)
See it’s clever because this is the last thing you’d ever see coming.
(10:47 AM)
Because Martin said to start the game in my own time, but I’m actually starting it right now.
(10:48 AM)
So... SURPRISE!!!

 

(10:48 AM)
Arthur, when I said we’d be starting the tie-breaker in your own time, I meant a long time from now! I thought I’d explained that.

 

(10:50 AM)
Well, come on Martin. You know how this works. There’s no stopping a tie-breaker once it’s in motion. Alright, Arthur, hit us. What will it be?

 

(10:55 AM)
Douglas is right, Skip, but there’s no need to worry because I’ve picked the perfect game for a tie-breaker.
(10:56 AM)
I happen to be on G-ERTI with Mum right now. And there’s at least five people in the passenger seats.

 

(10:57 AM)
Are you suggesting what I think you’re suggesting?

 

(10:59 AM)
I think I am. Are you both ready for a game of Passenger Derby?

 

(11:01 AM)
Oh yes.

 

(11:03 AM)
Passenger Derby! What on earth…?
(11:04 AM)
And aren’t you supposed to be assisting on these flights, Arthur? Why are you on your phone? Not to mention the coverage.

 

(11:05 AM)
There should be enough to squeeze in a quick round. That worked when I was speaking with you on my last flight.
(11:06 AM)
Do you think one of them will crack before the drinks trolley even goes round?

 

(11:07 AM)
Definitely!

 

(11:07 AM)
Hold on Douglas, the last flight you were on was when you told me you were in Gdansk! Were you in fact in Gdansk? Because I feel like that was never actually explicitly stated and even if it was, you’re hardly reliable.


(11:08 AM)
Arthur, I forgot to mention that Martin doesn’t know the rules.

 

(11:08 AM)
Oh that’s okay! They’re really easy. What it basically boils down to, is that you’ve got to pick the passenger that’ll go for the loo first when the seat-belt sign comes off. Me and Douglas usually play around forty minutes in so this might be a bit too early.

 

(11:10 AM)
Never underestimate the capacity to which some people do not want to use the public airport bathrooms.
(11:11 AM)
Take us through the runners and riders, Arthur.

 

(11:15 AM)
Okay chaps! It’s a lovely 11:15 over here on the runway. Clear conditions. The seat-belt sign is on as we prepare for take-off in fifteen minutes.
(11:17 AM)
The obvious stand-out is definitely a lady who has her hair up a bit like a Teletubby in Row A. She already looks restless.
(11:18 AM)
Actually, you know, there’s a nice looking gentleman in the third row too and he looks like he means serious business. Business Bob with his business things.

 

(11:20 AM)
Does Business Bob have his books set out on the tray yet?

 

(11:21 AM)
He doesn’t, Douglas! He’s definitely waiting for something!

 

(11:22 AM)
So Business Bob is probably a good bet?

 

(11:23 AM)
Up to you! Let’s not forget Row B. Because there is a very capable gent who brought four pairs of shoes in his carry-on. He’s looking pretty wriggly, and he’s got the entire row to himself so he isn’t going to be worried about obstacles!

 

(11:24 AM)
You choose first, Martin, just to maximise the fairness.

 

(11:25 AM)
Well I’ll have to take Business Bob then! He’s a safe choice, but that’s fine with me.

 

(11:27 AM)
I’ll take the man with the shoe collection.

 

(11:27 AM)
Not the Teletubby-haired woman? Even though she’s the “favourite”?

 

(11:28 AM)
I hate safe bets.

 

(11:29 AM)
Alright, preparing for take-off! Good luck! I’ll let you know how it plays out in a bit.

 

(11:30 AM)
Thank you, Arthur.

 

(11:49 AM)
The seatbelt sign’s off and they’re already on their feet! Shoe Collector has already stashed his tray table, but it’s Teletubby Hair who’s in the lead. Business Bob’s up as well, but he’s slow to the aisle. Business Bob tries to make up some ground but Teletubby Hair cuts him off and he falls behind. Shoe Collector seems to be joining the race now, and he’s got his carry-on under his arm! The weight of those shoes must be slowing him down! Business Bob means business, and he takes a short cut through a few empty seats. Teletubby lady has been distracted by the in-flight entertainment, and Business Bob slips past her! It’s Business Bob and Shoe Collector neck and neck! It looks like Business Bob will take it! BUT WAIT, Shoe Collector has taken out one of the pairs from his bag and has whacked Business Bob with it! Business Bob is so shocked he’s forgotten to move! It’s starting to look like he’s out of the race! And yes! Shoe Collector is safe with the element of surprise on his side!!!


(11:50 AM)
Yes! The element of surprise, indeed!


(11:50 AM)
You’ve got to be kidding! Do you really mean to tell me that he hit him with a shoe!? What kind of outfit are you running!?

 

(11:50 AM)
Bad luck, Skip…

 

(11:51 AM)
This is unbelievable. Actually unbelievable.

 

(11:52 AM)
Don’t beat yourself up.

 

(11:52 AM)
It wasn’t your day…

 

(11:53 AM)
Not my life!

 

(11:54 AM)
You’ve been tremendously helpful, Arthur. I hope you enjoy the rest of the flight.

 

(11:55 AM)
That’s okay! And thank you! I think this’ll cut out sending in a sec, but you’re both still great, regardless of who won.

 

(11:56 AM)
But for the sake of finality, I win.

 

(11:58 AM)
Yes, I suppose so.

 

(12:00 PM)
Something the matter, Martin?

 

(12:01 PM)
No… nothing at all.

 


 

(1:10 PM)
You've gone awfully quiet. Hope the loss didn’t hit you too hard. I did have an inkling that I was the Alpha dog, even if it is a stupid argument.

 

(1:11 PM)
It was, but that’s not it and you know it.

 

(1:12 PM)
Then you’re getting cold feet again.
(1:13 PM)
You realise we could just call off the deal if it’s going to be such an incredible grievance, but I’m afraid that would leave an awful blow on the integrity of our competitions.

 

(1:14 PM)
I don’t want you to call it off. I just don’t know how to feel about it.

 

(1:15 PM)
You are your own worst enemy. Why would meeting in person affect my opinion on you in any way whatsoever?

 

(1:15 PM)
I can’t explain it to you.

 

(1:17 PM)
Then should we start talking dates?

 

(1:18 PM)
…Soon.
(1:19 PM)
By the way, I know you hated the idea but I think Carolyn may actually be the Alpha dog.

 

(1:20 PM)
I already knew that much. It doesn't make admitting it any better though, does it?

 


 

 

 

Chapter Text

The Strange Little Man in My Phone

Chapter Seventeen: Q is for Quid Pro Quo

Martin     Douglas    Arthur    Carolyn

 


 

 

June 3rd 

(9:01 AM)
Douglas, this is getting very repetitive of me, but Arthur and I would very much appreciate you making the trip here for at least a day or so. I haven’t got any jobs coming up this week and Arthur has been desperate to see you. I can’t exactly drop him off onto your doorstep, can I? I know what he’s like and any of your friends would surely become his friends, at least where his overactive imagination is concerned.
(9:10 AM)
I also have a favour to ask of you. Nothing all that taxing either, so never mind that.

 

(9:12 AM)
I’d be glad to make the trip for the weekend, if you didn’t mind, Carolyn. I also realise it’s been too long since I’ve seen Arthur. I’m sure he’s getting impatient.  I have to be home by Monday though, I’m meeting up with someone in Oxford.
(9:13 AM)
The mention of a favour is intriguing though I admit. I didn’t think you had to rely on ‘underling idiots’ for favours.

 

(9:14 AM)
I never said you were an underling idiot.

 

(9:16 AM)
Didn’t you? It does seem like something you may have said.

 

(9:18 AM)
Nevertheless. Can I ask the favour of you?

 

(9:20 AM)
You’re welcome to ask when I see you. That said, I’m not sure how receptive I’d be without some sort of enticement. I don’t usually pride myself on being a noble and generous spirit.

 

(9:21 AM)
You forget you’ll be staying under my roof, eating my meals, and mistreating my hospitality like the horrid creature you do usually pride yourself on being.

 

(9:22 AM)
And you forget that you asked that of me too. So I rather think we should be discussing that incentive, or perhaps two of them if I take you up on this second favour.

 

(9:24 AM)
I’ll decide if you deserve one for either of these so-called “favours” when I see you in person. Of course, you certainly don’t for just showing up at my home but I’ll pretend to entertain the idea.

 

(9:25 AM)
I’ll look forward to discussing it on Saturday.

 

 


 

 

June 7th

(11:02 AM)
Morning Martin.

 

(11:11 AM)
Morning.  How’s everything going?

 

(11:13 AM)
Just fine. I’ve arrived at the Knapp-Shappey house now. Feels very strange being back in Fitton.

 

(11:15 AM)
Well it would. When are you back?

 

(11:16 AM)
I’ll be back in time, don’t you worry.

 

(11:17 AM)
I’d be less worried if you weren’t but anyway. How are they?

 

(11:18 AM)
Arthur’s excited. Almost disgustingly so.
(11:19 AM)
Carolyn has familiarly taken to acting as though she doesn’t give a toss about whether I’m here or not.

 

(11:20 AM)
Though of course, she does care because you’re just nauseatingly charming?

 

(11:23 AM)
As a matter of fact, yes. You’re learning. And how are things in the attic?

 

(11:25 AM)
Comments like that do seriously make the fact that I live in one all the more depressing.

 

(11:27 AM)
My sincerest apologies. How are things in the place that you live? The place that just so happens to be a very non-depressing attic.

 

(11:28 AM)
It’s fine. Fine. I’ve got a job soon.

 

(11:29 AM)
Ah really. And what are we moving this morning?

 

(11:30 AM)
A cat.

 

(11:31 AM)
And why can’t the cat move itself?

 

(11:31 AM)
It can move perfectly fine!
(11:33 AM)
I’m moving it to a new house. The woman who owns it is elderly and she can’t take it with her to her nursing home, so I’m delivering it to her sister instead. She wants to take care of it, obviously, apparently it’s very old and they can’t bear to give it up.

 

(11:34 AM)
Probably not a very mobile cat still. If it couldn’t just walk there, then it at least explains why it couldn’t drive the van, at that age.

 

(11:35 AM)
Is this really what you’re taking out of this conversation? Because I really can’t believe you’re still going on about it.

 

(11:36 AM)
I am a curious soul.

 

(11:36 AM)
No, you’re an idiot. Say hello to Carolyn and Arthur for me.

 

(11:37 AM)
I will. And do say hello to the cat.

 

(11:38 AM)
Shut up, Douglas.

 

 


 

 

 (11:40 AM)
Are you talking to Skip, Douglas? Because you’re smiling at your phone like you’ve just won an argument or said something clever and I think Mum might think you’ve gone mad. Of course, she does generally assume that you’ve gone mad.  Now that I’ve mentioned it, I’m remembering that I’m not generally supposed to mention that she's mentioned it.

 

(11:41 AM)
Arthur— not only are you spouting nonsense but I am also directly next to you.

 

(11:41 AM)
Oh yeah, that’s right. Wow, that’s an amazing feeling. It’s really good to see you, and I mean really good! But I think I should maybe stop this now before it starts to get a tad odd…?

 

(11:42 AM)
Terrific.

 


 

 

(2:07 PM)
Hey Skip, I was just thinking that it’d be really great if you were here with us all. I mean really here, instead of just in my phone, but I thought I’d just include you anyway so it felt the same.

 

(2:10 PM)
Thank you Arthur. I’d like that as well.
(2:11 PM)
And although I do truly appreciate the sentiment, this isn’t actually a fantastic time...

 

(2:11 PM)
Aw, why’s that?

 

(2:12 PM)
I’m up a tree.

 

(2:13 PM)
Oh righto. Brilliant. I love climbing trees.

 

 


 

 

[Incoming Call: Douglas Richardson. 2:14 PM]

 

“What do you want? Let me guess… Arthur couldn’t keep his mouth shut and now—”

 

Martin, if I may just get one thing straight…”

 

“What? Go right ahead!”

 

If Arthur isn’t mistaken, you’re…?”

 

“Yes?”

 

You’re up a tree?”

 

“Yes! And?”

 

Nothing really. Nothing out of the ordinary, of course.”

 

“I can literally feel that you’re about to say something else. I can feel it through my phone. You’re just so…smug. I bet you’ve got that look. I hate that look!”

 

Oh Martin. What look?”

 

“Are you…laughing right now? Douglas, this is serious! The last thing I need is for you to be laughing at me while I try and juggle my phone up here, because God knows my balance is already terrible enough. The a-abnormality of my inner—”

 

Alright, no more laughing. You may want to explain the situation though.”

 

“The cat didn’t take too kindly to the move and it got away and—ugh, branch! And the blasted thing just shot up here! What if it injured itself up here? I couldn’t be responsible for killing the client’s cat!”

 

And so instead of killing it, you’ve taken it upon yourself to climb up and join it, have you?”

 

“I couldn’t ask the sister to climb the tree! It turns out her she’s not actually that much younger than the woman who asked me to move it here in the first place.”

 

You might’ve left the tree-climbing to the professionals.”

 

“I AM professional! I’ve got this under control!”

 

If I could just point out one thing: you don’t sound like you’ve got it under control. You actually sound rather hysterical.”

 

“I’m not! I’m not hysterical at all, I’m just trying to work out how to get out of this mess and—”

 

If you called for a firetruck, I’m sure that’d solve a few things.”

 

“Yes, the lady said she was calling one earlier for me, so it won’t take all that long, but for now there isn’t too much I can do but wait.”

 

She’s called a firetruck…for you?”

 

“Well, yes, I’m stuck, I thought we’d established that.”

 

You’ve gotten stuck in a tree whilst climbing a tree to save a stuck cat?”

 

“The thing is though, Douglas, the cat isn’t actually stuck.”

 

Right.”

 

“It kind of just hopped down on its own as soon as I climbed up near it. I was relieved, before I realised just how high I’d climbed and that there was certainly no way I’d be able to get back down.”

 

Hmm.”

 

“Well go ahead and say it. Just get whatever comment you’re going to come out with and get it out of the way so I don’t have to actively dread it! I can’t do anything but stay put anyway because I’m really stuck in this bloody tree!”

 

No, it’s nothing, Martin. I was just considering the cat.”

 

“The cat?”

 

Turns out we were wrong about it, that’s all.”

 

“What about the cat, Douglas? Stop being so cryptic!”

 

“It turns out that the cat could move itself. Really outstandingly. A spectacle of mobility.”

 

“I’m hanging up.”

 

If I haven’t heard from you on the ground in half an hour, I’ll call a firetruck from Fitton.”

 

“Thanks a bunch, Douglas. For just the endless flow of support you’re providing.”

 

My pleasure.”

 

[Call Disconnected: 2:20 PM]

 

 


 

 
(3:01 PM)
Just following up… I’m officially on the ground. It wasn’t fun, but I’m fine.

 

(3:02 PM)
Then someone got you down?

 

(3:04 PM)
Not exactly.

 

(3:04 PM)
Martin.

 

(3:05 PM)
I got myself down.

 

(3:06 PM)
Did you?

 

(3:08 PM)
Because it started to rain.

 

(3:10 PM)
Alright?

 

(3:11 PM)
So I was worried the branches would be slippery and I stepped down a branch lower.
(3:12 PM)
I made a misstep and disturbed a beehive. Then got stung by quite a few of the bees.
(3:14 PM)
I suppose my pain-threshold isn’t too impressive because I got a bit lightheaded after that.
(3:16 PM)
And just sort of got myself out of the tree.

 

(3:17 PM)
Martin. Did you fall out of the tree?

 

(3:18 PM)
Yes.

 

(3:19 PM)
I see.

 

(3:21 PM)
Don’t say anything. Nothing at all. I don’t want to hear the words ‘cat’, or ‘tree’, or ‘bee’ for the rest of my life.

 

(3:23 PM)
How about the words ‘rat’, or ‘flea’, or ‘key’?
(3:25 PM)
Or…splat went he at three.

 

(3:27 PM)
Douglas!

 

(3:29 PM)
I suppose I’m not immune to the pull of Doctor Seuss.
(3:30 PM)
Are you alright, though? As poignantly comedic your life once again proves to be, I hope you aren’t hurt.

 

(3:31 PM)
I’m fine. My foot’s a bit tender… and my hand, where the bee stings are but I’m alright. And the woman got her cat. She probably got a good laugh too. Oh and the firemen set us both up with a lovely little fine to settle them coming out for no reason, which was just the cherry on top really.

 

(3:32 PM)
I don’t doubt that it was.
(3:33 PM)
And you’re still perfectly fit for meeting up on Monday?

 

(3:35 PM)
I was sort of trying not to think about it.

 

(3:36 PM)
I’m always floored by your enthusiasm. But of course, we made an agreement.  I did mean something more along the lines of your funds, because I’m more than willing to step in if you should need the help…

 

(3:40 PM)
No, I don’t need the help! I mean, I do appreciate you offering but no. I can’t ask that of you.

 

(3:41 PM)
Could call it another birthday present.

 

(3:42 PM)
Oh like taxi fare in March? I told you then that my birthday was in July.

 

(3:44 PM)
Well July isn’t that far away now.

 

(3:45 PM)
Well you’ve already bought me that very thoughtful taxi fare, it’s too late now.

 

(3:46 PM)
You’re truly even more stubborn than Carolyn, and I don’t give out compliments very often.

 

(3:48 PM)
Again, is that a compliment?

 

(3:50 PM)
It ought to be. Don’t think for one second I’m exaggerating when I say that Carolyn isn’t accustomed to being beaten by anyone.

 

(3:52 PM)
I suppose I’ll learn that, but God she really was terrifying. It really makes you take a long look at Arthur and wonder ‘how?’

 

(3:54 PM)
She isn’t entirely evil.

 

(3:55 PM)
That’s actually very sweet of you. But anyway, what are you all getting up to for the rest of your trip?

 

(3:59 PM)
Nothing too dramatic. Arthur’s headed off to his work to have a go at their printer. His latest ‘thing’ is fancying himself a budding children’s book writer, so he’s gone to make some copies of that to show me. Then I’ll be headed home tomorrow around midday. I think I have something or other to take care of Monday and I wouldn’t want to be late..?

 

(4:02 PM)
A children’s book? He’s actually written one?

 

(4:03 PM)
Well that’s what he’s calling it, I’ll have to let you know.

 

(4:05 PM)
Good luck with that.

 

(4:06 PM)
I’ll need all your good luck and more. Though we all know you don’t have very much of it to give.
 

 


 

 

(9:14 PM)
Oh Douglas, I really REALLY owe you one.
(9:15 PM)
I mean, really. I would have definitely lost my job if it weren’t for you.

 

(9:17 PM)
You certainly would’ve. Where have you gotten to anyway?

 

(9:18 PM)
I’ve just popped down to the shop, Douglas. It’s surprisingly still open and I really couldn’t think of much else to get you as a thank you but some alcohol because Mum says that’s about all you like.

 

(9:19 PM)
Shops do open sometimes, it's very perplexing. But completely unnecessary to buy me anything in return. Also completely unnecessary to give me Carolyn’s opinion.

 

(9:21 PM)
But I’m probably going to buy you something whether you think it is or not, so you might as well tell me what sort of drink you like or I might just pick anything with a funny-sounding name.
(9:23 PM)
Something like…Bruichladdich or Hakushu.
(9:26 PM)
Sounds like an old lady accusing me of something. Oh no, Mrs Bruichladdich, I would never Hak ush you, that would be terrible of me.

 

(9:28 PM)
Arthur, please stop. I wouldn’t be entirely against a bottle of Talisker whiskey, but where your mother is concerned, I didn’t ask for it.

 

(9:32 PM)
Alright, Douglas! I’ll see you back at home soon with a bottle of Talisker you didn’t ask for, and I’ll maybe say thank you again… just to be safe.

 


 

 

(11:21 PM)
So did you read the book Arthur wrote? And more importantly was it actually a book?
(11:23 PM)
Also hope I’m not waking you.

 

(11:24 PM)
No, I’m awake. You can stop saying that too, just to be polite. You know, I think we’re past it.
(11:26 PM)
Also yes—I saw the book. In fact, I did a great deal more than see it and I’m alive to tell the tale.

 

(11:28 PM)
That sounds ominous.

 

(11:30 PM)
 It was, I imagine, for Arthur. I actually saved his job.

 

(11:31 PM)
You did!? What did he do?

 

(11:32 PM)
Arthur tried to print two copies of his new book.
(11:35 PM)
Do you want to fathom a guess how many he actually printed?

 

(11:35 PM)
Oh no.

 

(11:38 PM)
Arthur printed two hundred copies. So not only did I see his charming picture book, but the entire crazy golf staff saw it too, along with all their customers. By the time I got there, no one was even bothering to catch the papers as they came out of the printer, and they were just clouding the room like a sort of paper waterfall.

 

(11:40 PM)
And what did you do?

 

(11:45 PM)
We waited until the printer had finished. The staff couldn’t turn it off because it’s primarily for business purposes and they didn’t want to miss any incoming information from management, you know apparently people still use fax machines, and I highly doubt that Arthur’s boss had the sense to keep it switched off and cancel the job regardless, so we just waited.
(11:48 PM)
Once it was over, Arthur was getting quite emotional and the manager looked like he might literally blow up, so I stepped in and said that Arthur didn’t mind covering however many pounds it would cost the company in paper, and I also added that he very generously wrote a book for the patients in the local children’s hospital where he volunteers. It looks very good for their company having an employee who’s that kind-hearted and generous with his time. Especially when I told them he’d included their business name in the acknowledgements.

 

(11:50 PM)
He included them in the acknowledgements? And just a follow-up: he seriously wrote an acknowledgements page?

 

(11:52 PM)
Martin, even you are on the acknowledgements page. Hope you don’t expect a cut of the profits because there certainly won’t be a profit to cut.

 

(11:53 PM)
Isn’t it a little…I don’t know, offensive to lie about Arthur volunteering though? Surely that can’t be good karma-wise, which doesn’t exist, but you know…?


(11:54 PM)
Not that I’m worried because of karmic energy, but Arthur truly does volunteer at a children’s hospital.

 

(11:56 PM)
Of course he does.

 

(11:59 PM)
How was your day, post-firetruck?

 

(12:01 AM)
Well…not completely without firetrucks. I’d left my van running during the entire cat… tree debacle. So my van might have run out of petrol, then I may have had to get driven home by said firetruck.

 

(12:03 AM)
Ah.
(12:05 AM)
You know, I said something to Arthur about you as the printing paper was falling all over the ground around us.



(12:06 AM)
Here we go…

 

(12:08 AM)
Arthur was fairly convinced that his day couldn’t get any worse. I promptly reminded him that it could. Martin, you're the master. I think it might have even cheered him up to hear about your day.

 

(12:10 AM)
You’re both awful.

 

(12:11 AM)
And I suppose you’re taking the longest bath of your life and then getting into bed?

 

(12:13 AM)
…I’m about to get out the vacuum.

 

(12:16 AM)
It is the same time in Wokingham as it is here, unless I'm mistaken?

 

(12:19 AM)
I’m not actually vacuuming. I did that already. I sometimes clean when I’m stressed, when I have the time. I was doing the vacuuming once I got home today, up in my room, and realised my Dad’s ring was missing. I was using the Gansos vacuum—and it’s fairly heavy-duty since it has to clean the entire student housing… so after a while of not being able to find it in my room, I’m just trying to get the vacuum open, and you know… take a gander, just in case it's caught inside it.

 

(12:20 AM)
Let me get this straight. So far you’ve managed to follow a cat up a tree, get stuck in a tree, get attacked by bees in a tree, order a firetruck in order to be rescued from a tree, then fall from said tree? After doing all of this your van ran out of petrol, so you were delivered home in a firetruck that you paid an enormous fine for… in order to have a Gansos vacuum cleaner eat your father’s ring?
(12:21 AM)
Are you in fact…done now? Because surely there is nothing left for you to attempt that could make you a better target for teasing and/or taunting at this point.

 

(12:23 AM)
When I find the ring, I’ll be done.

 

(12:24 AM)
Martin, you are very much the master. Really commendable. No one could possibly be better.

 

 


 

 

June 8th

(11:43 AM)
Thank you for visiting, Douglas. It wasn’t entirely unbearable having you around, and you certainly do make friendship with my son seem like an effortless affair. I do also hope you consider the favour. I really have no way around things and can’t afford to miss important business.

 

(11:45 AM)
It was my pleasure, and consider the favour done. Not for free, of course, but you already knew that.

 

(11:46 AM)
I fear that I did, but fine. She’s yours—but only for the one trip.

 

(11:48 AM)
Splendid.

 

(11:50 AM)
Have a safe drive back. Arthur wants me to say to enjoy the Talisker, but we’re about to discuss what in the hell he actually means. Talk tomorrow evening.
 

 


 



(11:58 PM)
Hope you're remembering what's on tomorrow, Martin.

 

(11:59 PM)
Is it tomorrow? I’d forgotten actually.

 

(12:08 PM)
I don’t believe that for a second, but let’s move past it. Did you manage to get the van back then?

 

(12:10 PM)
Yeah, it’s fine. I had it moved and filled it back up with fuel.  I never expected money to be such a rare bloody commodity when I moved out of home.

 

(12:12 PM)
Didn’t you? And you realise you’re training to be a pilot?

 

(12:13 PM)
Ha ha.
(12:15 PM)
Sarcasm aside, the van is fine.

 

(12:18 PM)
Yes but the pub is in Oxford. I am able to drive to Wokingham, though I try to avoid it.

 

(12:20 PM)
Not only are you frustrating beyond belief, but you’re not driving to Wokingham. I’d rather drive to Oxford. You know…for the sake of security.

 

(12:21 PM)
Oh, so I don’t start visiting you? Of course there are only twelve people in Wokingham, so if I met you there, it would a very simple next step to find you and start regularly stalking you.

 

(12:24 PM)
This is hard for me, you know. I say it a lot, but truly.

 

(12:26 PM)
I know that. It doesn’t have to be, because my opinion won’t change, but whatever makes you happy.

 

(12:28 PM)
I’ll do it. I’ll be fine. I mean, I’ll just drive there, and I can’t exactly run away. I’ll be fine. It’ll all be very good and this will just be forgotten.

 

(12:31 PM)
Are you convincing yourself, or me?

 

(12:34 PM)
Bit of both, really, but I can see it isn’t working.

 

(12:36 PM)
Not working in the slightest but I’ll see you tomorrow night at seven.
(12:37 PM)
In the meantime, try not to get into any life-threatening accidents. It would be very much appreciated.

 

(12:39 PM)
I don’t think I can make guarantees after yesterday.

 

(12:41 PM)
You’d better make them. I’m busy the night after meeting another friend, and then tennis the night after that. I think there’s a party or something two days from then, or was it a painting class? I suppose I should study at some point.

 

(12:43 PM)
You can play tennis? And paint?

 

(12:45 PM)
I can do anything.

  


 

 

June 9th

(5:10 PM)
Today’s the day, isn’t it Douglas? I can’t believe it. You’re finally going to meet, Skip. You should take that bottle of Talisker to have with him, because he gets quite nervy. I mean—I met him ages ago so I’m sure it wouldn’t be that big of a deal for him to meet you know, but it really is exciting. Then after this, we can all start meeting as a group because it’s just kind of out of the way.
(5:11 PM)
First is the worst. You know the saying. It wasn’t about first meetings but it sure does makes a lot of sense.

 

(5:13 PM)
I’m not the one to worry about. It’s Martin. But yes, today is the day.

 

(5:16 PM)
I’m really excited, Douglas. Maybe even as excited as you. He’s our best friend and now you’re getting to meet him!

 

(5:19 PM)
I’m meeting him at seven, though the meeting part is very much an area of doubt.
(5:21 PM)
I don’t expect he’s going to show up, Arthur.

 

(5:23 PM)
What!? No way! Martin wouldn’t just not show up. He really does care about you, Douglas! You have to meet.

 

(5:25 PM)
You misunderstand, Arthur. I’m actually rather banking on him not showing up. Not out of the hidden cruelty in his heart, of course, Martin has the best intentions. I’m just fairly certain he’ll get anxious and won’t turn up.

 

(5:28 PM)
Oh Douglas… That’s no good. I mean, it’s not his fault for getting nervous… but doesn’t that upset you?

 

(5:31 PM)
Not particularly. I mean, I obviously want to meet him and intend to. If he shows up…fantastic! But if not, there’s no favour like a favour being owed to me.

 

(5:34 PM)
Well that’s not so good, but if you say so. I hope he does show up though. Just because it would be better.

 

(5:37 PM)
I’ll have to let you know, Arthur, but I’m not usually wrong.

   


 

 

(6:50 PM)
Table’s under Richardson if you’re early. It sounds like a high-class affair but I should remind you it will be pub food so… I suppose it’s still a high-class affair after all.  I’m on my way now.

 


 

 

(7:02 PM)
And I’m guessing you aren’t early. Can’t see any vans in the area, or did it break down somewhere?
(7:05 PM)
Well I’m headed inside.
(7:06 PM)
Really making me chase you.

 


 

 

[Incoming Call: Douglas Richardson. 7:10 PM]

 

“—”


Really Martin?”

 

“I’m… Look, I’m sorry.”

 

You drove all the way here.”

 

“Uh, yes. I did.”

 

And?”

 

“And—?”

 

And what went wrong?”

 

“I couldn’t—I told you on the note—”

 

Yes I got the note, it said ‘sorry’. I also got the beer, and the fully paid steak meal. Granted they weren’t expensive, but I am still finding it incredibly confusing. I’m asking you what happened?”

 

“I couldn’t do it. I’m sorry. I drove all that way, found the place and sat down at the table you reserved. Then I got to thinking a bit and just… I just—”

 

“You panicked.”

 

“Yes. I panicked. And I wrote you a ruddy note on a napkin and paid for your meal because I couldn’t let you think I had no intention of showing up at all. I did, Douglas. I did show up and I was looking forward to it, I just…couldn’t.”

 

It’s quite alright. I’m not mad at you. I actually expected all of this to happen, and I don’t mind.”

 

“Ha, well you have to say that because you keep reminding me we’re close, and things like this don’t matter between close friends—but the truth is, we haven’t met, and it probably does matter to you.”

 

No, Martin, it really doesn’t. We are close. I don’t mind. We can reschedule. The only thing that really matters to me is that you thought you’d be alright to pay for my meal. You’re not really in a position to do that.”

 

“Wait—really? It really doesn’t matter?”

 

Not at all. Did you expect me to be mad? I’m not usually the sort to do ‘mad’. There’s always next time.”

 

“You’re not joking.”

 

Why would I be? It’s also hard to be mad when I've found the photo you folded into the serviette.”

 

“Oh, that. I just…”

 

No, no, Martin. Don’t get flustered. You know, it’s actually rather interesting. I’m usually incredibly right all the time, but I never expected my mental image of you would also be so dead-on. Even down to the details like the height and red-hair.  It's nice to have confirmation in a concrete form. Really, rather interesting.”

 

“Look—it’s very embarrassing to leave it there, but you’re always saying that we don’t know what the other looks like and I thought I’d just place it there, as an apology?”

 

You look very smart, Martin. Incredibly smart. And what an aeroplane!”

 

“I wanted a more recent photo, so I asked my instructor to take a picture with me in front of it before the lesson—and I just…”

 

And you wore your cadet medals, I see? Now that is impressive stuff. Really, truly impressive.”

 

“Alright Douglas, you can stop now! I get it. I stood you up, and now I’ve done more than apologise with whatever teasing you have left for me, there’s actually nothing you can say you haven’t said before so just get it—hold on a minute!”

 

What ever is the matter?”

 

“What did you mean earlier when you said you expected this to happen? You don’t mind!? No, I know you better than that. Of course you mind. You never get stood up. It would be a blow to your ego if it took you by surprise, and yet it didn’t, so I know what that means.”

 

I don’t know what that means at all.”

 

“Of course you do. What’s your agenda? What have you planned?”

 

I was only thinking that it looked like you might owe me one.”

 

“HA!”

 

Not so loud, Martin, I think you might’ve scared the bartender over there.”

 

“I knew it! You always have a back-up plan! Always have an agenda. So what is it then? What have you got up your sleeve? Bet you’re waiting to drop it on me at the opportune moment so I can tell you how clever you are.”

 

“I still haven’t got any idea what you mean.”

 

“Oh really?”

 

None whatsoever.”

 

“Right…”

 

”…But as it just so happens, there was this one thing…”

 

“Of course. Of course!”

 

Carolyn proposed something to me while I was visiting this weekend. She hasn’t got any work on this week, but as it so happens, next week is going to be incredibly busy for her. She has back-to-back trips. One trip is with a very important yacht-seller, but the other is a slightly high maintenance client who needs to get delivered to the airport prior to her trip. Of course… Carolyn doesn’t have time to pick her up, coming off of the other trip, but the second client can’t be told that the trips are back-to-back. Protocol and all that, with the airline’s two pilots.”

 

“Right. That's just...an awful breach of some very vital rules, but right.”

 

Well I’m not generally a kind and giving spirit, but it turns out that tomorrow is the Rugby Grand Final and Carolyn has no work on. She asked me if I’d pick up the second client and deliver her to the airport, but I can’t be expected to do a favour without something in return. A quid pro quo, if you like.”

 

“Unbelievable. Go on.”

 

So I agreed to drop off that particular client for her, under the guise of being MJN’s chauffeur, if she’d deliver me, with a friend of mine, to the Six Nations Final in Edinburgh tomorrow. It’s not too much to ask.”

 

“Not at all. Just a free plane trip to Scotland for twenty minutes of your time taking some poor woman to the airport.”

 

Martin, Martin, Martin… I’m not finished yet. This friend of mine, who likes the Rugby, is actually a retired gentleman named Mr. Birling. We met by chance in a pub last year, on final night. I treated him to a drink, because he was great company, and he treated me to five thousand dollars. ”

 

“Why on Earth did he do that!?”

 

Because, Martin, I was great company.”

 

“I can’t believe this.”

 

Doesn’t make much difference to me if you believe it or not. Last year I discovered that Mr. Birling’s drink of choice is Talisker whiskey. It’s fairly expensive, so it helps if you can call in a favour and have someone else buy it for you. You may remember yesterday I saved Arthur’s career…”

 

“Yes?”

 

So I called in a favour. I now have on my side: one bottle of Talisker, one rich retiree named Birling, and a free trip to Edinburgh. I don’t usually like to give the alcohol away but you can see where this is going…?”

 

“I’m still not entirely there yet.”

 

Mr. Birling likes to get heroically sloshed on Rugby day. With an entire bottle of Talisker to himself, I just want the old boy to have a fantastic day he won’t even remember. Imagine how generous he’ll be with this free flight, favourite whiskey, and his rugby right in front of him? Of course, I’ll propose a bet on the winner.”

 

“On the winner!? Not even you can guarantee that!”

 

That I can’t, Martin, but Birling always bets on Wales and I’m feeling especially lucky. The best part of this entire thing is the tidy profit. I’ll end up with whatever he agrees to bet, with the added bonus of not having to pay an airline or liquor store. The best part is that I won’t have to do a lick of work for it. Except…oh.”

 

“Oh? Oh what?”

 

I suppose I’ll still have to pick up that client for Carolyn, won’t I?”

 

“Douglas…”

 

But now that I’ve mentioned it… I can’t help but remember that you owe me a favour.”

 

“I know what you’re doing, Douglas…”

 

You said it yourself. You bruised my ego by standing me up here tonight. The least you could do is drop some woman off at the airport, it's only twenty minutes of your time. Might call it a quid pro quo. Something in return. An exchange for how hurt I feel…”

 

“Except it’s not twenty minutes because I live in Wokingham! Douglas—you are unbelievable!”

 

Sorry, Martin, but fair’s fair. I’m terribly upset about you not showing up.”

 

“I will pick this woman up next week—but I swear this is the last time! I’m never falling for your schemes again. I’m not doing this anymore.”

 

There’s no scheme, Martin. Just a series of fortunate events. Much like yours’ yesterday, but also the polar opposite.”

 

“I hate you.”

 

You really should show up to dinner next time, Martin.”

 

[Call Disconnected: 7:21 PM]

 


 

 

(8:06 PM)
Don’t let anyone ever try and convince you those cadet medals aren’t a spectacle to behold. Not even me.

 

(8:10 PM)
I’ll get you back one day.

 

(8:14 PM)
We should reschedule.

 

(8:16 PM)
Enjoy the Rugby you colossal idiot.
(8:17 PM)
The plan is actually very detailed and clever but I hope it brings you absolutely no satisfaction to hear me admit it.

 

(8:19 PM)
Thank you very much. And thanks for kindly agreeing to pick up Carolyn's client for me. You know, next time we organise something, I can probably spare enough of my winnings to buy you a steak dinner, but we'll see if fortune favours me.

 

(8:21 PM)
It usually does.

 

(8:23 PM)
That it does.