I've got a new little Cabin Pressure fic, based on this absolutely irresistible prompt by connie_welsh: Basically, I squealed with manic amusement at the thought that Martin would totally be into it. So I'd love to see someone getting this for him as a gift, (Douglas as a gag gift, Arthur as an earnest, whatever you want) and Martin acting all, "Har har, real funny/Erm... thanks Arthur". But then someone catches him secretly watching it somehow. Cue Flustered!Martin. It's gen, rated Teen or General, and features the entire demented crew. My thanks to enigel for looking this over for me so enthusiastically, and to oxoniensis for her inestimable beta and Britpicking skills.
"Up Like Planes Are Up"
Martin had succeeded in ignoring the growling of his stomach by dint of concentrating on the paperwork that had to be filed for the next three trips; take that, stomach, he might have cried in triumph had he been alone. But he could hear the sounds of the workday beginning all around him, from the shouts of the ground crew to the gurgle of the ancient coffeemaker Carolyn had situated in the corner of the office with a threatening look worthy of the most alpha of all alpha dogs. So he kept silent, relaxing with each dotted i and crossed t. It was actually quite soothing.
Perhaps he hadn't been at it long enough, because he could feel his shoulders climbing up to brush his ears when he heard three distinct sets of footsteps - one belonging to each other member of the tightly-knit (if loose-screwed) crew. He offered up a quick prayer that he was mistaken about the intent he heard in those footsteps and wished he could stroke Gertie just once for comfort.
Arthur, as always, was in the lead, his sheer enthusiasm propelling him forward. "Happy birthday, Skip!" he said excitedly, laying a small, badly-wrapped package down right on top of the flight plan for Mumbai. Martin had barely had time to pick it up before Arthur was dancing from foot to foot and chanting, "Open it! Open it!"
It was like a tiny candle had been lit in his chest, throwing out a cheerful light at the thought that someone cared so much that he'd not only bought a gift but wanted to be there for the opening of it. Martin laughed and tore apart the wrapping.
The little candle went out. It was - it was a DVD made for children -
"It's Lots & Lots of Jets and Planes!" Arthur explained unnecessarily, still sporting that terrifyingly wide smile. "And it says it's for ages three and up, and you're up, Skip! You're up like jets are up! And planes too!" That earnest explanation, even with its odd detour into vaguely figurative language, was enough to relight the candle. Martin smiled at Arthur wholeheartedly.
"Goodness," Douglas murmured, still loud enough to be heard. "Wherever did you find that, Arthur? Surely there can't be many shops specialising in such . . . exotic merchandise?"
"Oh, it's not from a store!" Arthur answered, pointing to the sticker on the DVD case that said Not sold in stores! "I saw it on the TV! And then all I had to do was call the number and give them all of the credit card information -"
"Good Heavens, who on earth let you have a credit card?" Carolyn asked sharply.
"It's not my card, Mum. It's Rover's. Though why he has a card when I'm the one who buys his dog food, I don't know. I mean before he died, of course. Do you think he'd mind -"
"Good Lord!" Carolyn had turned quite pale, and Martin started to rise to offer her his seat. She slapped an envelope down in front of him and ran off, saying something about cancelling the card before Arthur landed in jail for fraud.
Martin looked at the envelope. It had "Happy Birthday" written across it in a way that managed to look both emphatic and hasty. A piece of A4 folded in thirds was inside, and when he unfolded it, a fifty-pound note fluttered to the floor. He picked it up, trying to believe that he really was holding that much in his hands all at once. The paper itself was no less exciting; it was a list of three people to whom Carolyn had recommended his moving services. Martin bit his lip to keep from making a sound as he put the paper and the note back in the envelope with shaking hands.
"Martin," Douglas said, spinning his chair around so that he had no choice but to meet his first officer's eyes. "My hands are empty."
Ah. One could always count on Douglas to check any rising tide of emotion. Martin waited for Douglas's next words - surely something along the lines of "Sir never mentioned a birthday," or "With all the dashing about I do to keep up with my bustling social calendar, today's date completely slipped my mind." But what Douglas said was very different. "When you get home today, you should be prepared to sign for a package. It will be your first selection from the meat-and-cheese-of-the-month club." Douglas looked suspiciously sincere, even distorted as he was by the tears starting to come to Martin's traitorous eyes. "Think of it as a group effort to fatten you up a bit before you start scaring neighbourhood children," Douglas said, "by me and the good people at Decidedly Non-Kosher Enterprises."
The ridiculous name made Martin laugh instead of blubber, and when Arthur said, "Wow! I hope you get lots of squidgy cheeses!" things were really back to normal.
Martin sat on his lumpy sofa with a plate of Camembert de Normandie and Prosciutto di Parma balanced on his knee. The late afternoon sun was making him pleasantly drowsy, and he let the rich flavours of his food explode on his tongue. For the first time in months, he felt full, and there was plenty more meat and cheese still in his fridge.
He basked for long minutes in the sunshine, then remembered he'd put Arthur's DVD into the player he'd got when a client said she was going to throw it out since she'd upgraded to Blu-Ray. He turned it on, nearly jumping off the couch when music started blasting from his television's speakers. He scrambled frantically for the volume control while the nasty couple next door pounded on their shared wall. It took him a minute after that to realise that there was actually narration under the music.
It was . . . a little insulting, actually, as the man droned on about "fast planes! slooooow planes! big planes! small planes!" and to top it off, he was doing it with an American accent. Martin hit mute and just watched the planes soar and loop and glide through the sky.
He was lost in contemplation of the aerodynamics and curiosity about how many goes the pilots on screen had needed to get their licences when he became aware of the oddest noise. He pressed his ear to the wall, but Carl and Carol were uncharacteristically silent. The noise persisted, and he firmly told himself that there was no way his flat was haunted - not because of any faith in the moral uprightness of past tenants, but because he knew, or was at least mostly sure, that ghosts didn't exist. Still, he crept silently toward the front door, and as he did, he became aware that the noise, which sounded like ghostly laughter, was coming from . . . the vicinity of his bum.
Sighing, he stopped short and pulled his mobile out of his back pocket. Like everything else he owned, it was in dire need of an upgrade, and he cringed in anticipation as he brought it up to his ear. "Hello?" he asked, wondering who he'd pocket-dialled.
Of course it had to be Douglas, who was breathless with laughter and still somehow managing to say, "Slooooow planes!" between gasps. He finally got himself under control. "Enjoying yourself, Martin?" he asked.
"Immensely," Martin said, willing Douglas to believe that he wasn't the slightest bit embarrassed for becoming enthralled by a video clearly meant to keep fractious children entertained.
"Oh, Martin," Douglas sighed, slowly descending from his heights of mirth. "Points for effort, really, but it's time to put your special treat away."
"What? Why?" Oh, God, was he going to be implicated along with Arthur for misuse of a credit card or receipt of stolen goods?
"Because we're taking you out to dinner and we'll be picking you up in an hour. So wean yourself - slowly, gently - from the bosom of that aeroplane DVD and be ready."
"What, really?" he asked stupidly.
"Does your birthday only come round once a year?" Douglas asked jovially. He sighed when Martin remained tongue-tied. "That wasn't a trick question, Martin. Arthur's made reservations somewhere - he won't spill those beans, if I may be allowed to predict the nature of our future repast - and we're to get a move on sharpish."
"Oh," Martin said, sitting back down rather abruptly. "That - that would be lovely."
Douglas's voice was warm. "Indeed, Sir."
As always, I'd love to hear what you think.