Warning: There is nudity in this chapter, as well as vague references to a sexual situation. You have been warned. Please refer to the disclaimer at the beginning for more information on this chapter.
AN: One of my biggest challenges was trying to make Martin as IC as possible while starting to develop his character a bit. I asked for help on the forum, but none came. I did my best. Let me know about that as well. Did I do a good job of developing Martin and Diana while keeping them in character?
Diana's head shot up, bumping Martin on the chin hard, which caused him to lift his head up abruptly and unwrap his arm from around her in order to rub his chin. Diana's head fell in the path between her waist and his chin, so he ended up hitting her on the back of the head in the process. Diana thought that he did it on purpose so she whacked him on the back of the head in return.
"What did you do that for?"
"You whacked me upside the head first!"
"That was an accident! It's not my fault that your head was in the way. Besides, if you hadn't knocked me on the chin, I wouldn't have needed to move my arm."
"It's not like I hurt you on purpose! Your chin just happened to be in the way when I lifted my head. It's not like I had a choice. You, on the other hand, could have used your other arm."
Somebody cleared their throat. Martin and Diana looked up from their little spat for a moment, only to notice everyone staring at them in astonishment.
"What are you looking at?"
"Do you wake up like this every morning?"
"Of course not!"
"Good, because it would be really hard to maintain a marriage if you did."
"Marriage? What marriage?"
"Your marriage. You two are married, right? I mean, that's why you're here, on your honeymoon. Unless there's something you're not telling us."
"To each other?"
More strange looks from around the room.
Martin and Diana finally remembered their situation.
"Oh! Yes. Of course. We're married. Right. That's us. Totally in love. Sorry about that little spat there. Arguing is one of our things, if you know what we mean."
The employee that had given them the rude awakening chose to interrupt before the couple's tirade could grow any more wearisome.
"So lovers' spats fan the flames. Nice to know, but could you please get on with your story? There are other events after this you know."
The employee looked about ready to explode when Kristoff wisely chose to enter the semblance of a conversation.
"How did you two meet?"
"At Pizza Hut."
The audience waited a few seconds, but no further information came. Juliana decided to coax them.
"What was the meeting itself like?"
Still no further information came.
"In detail. We want to hear about how you met, when your relationship began, when you got engaged, and what your wedding was like in detail." The employee stated this through clenched teeth in an effort not to scream.
"Well, why didn't you just say so?"
"I did. At the beginning. Before you fell asleep.". The employee nearly shrieked the last part.
Martin and Diana reeled back at his tone. "No need to be impatient.".
The employee took a deep breath to control himself. "Why don't you try telling us what it was like, Diana?".
"All right. Well, we were thirteen years old at the time. My mother and Martin's father are... friends. They thought it would be a good idea if we met, seeing as how we were the same age."
"Yeah, basically the whole 'our kids can be playmates' bit. If you ask me, we were a little too old for it. If they were going to treat us like little kids, why not go all the way and take us to Chuck E. Cheese? At least they have an arcade."
"Come on, Martin. It's not like they meant to treat us like little kids. Besides, it's hard to carry on a conversation at Chuck E. Cheese."
"There wasn't much conversation. Neither of us talked much. And even then, all you talked about were books. Bo-ring."
"Well, at least I made an attempt at intellectual conversation. Forgive me for not reading comic books. And I'm not boring. You're irritating."
"Irritating! Just because I know how to have fun doesn't mean I'm irritating!"
"I know how to have fun! I also know how to use my brain at the same time!"
"How the hell did you two end up together? You don't even like each other!"
"That is so not true! I love Diana!"
"I love Martin! Besides, how do you know whether or not we like each other? Sure, we may be complete opposites and get on each other's nerves, but that doesn't mean we can't be friends."
"Which we are. We're together all the time. Sure, Diana can get preachy but I don't know what I'd do without her. She's smart and I like that. Hell, half the time I wish I were as smart as her."
"Of course I do, Di."
Martin found himself wrapped in warm slender arms. "That's one of the sweetest things you've ever said to me."
"I didn't say it to you." Martin then turned in his seat to face Diana so he could lean in and whisper, "But you know it's true. You're amazing, Di.".
"You're pretty amazing yourself, Martin Mystery. You always manage to stress me out and loosen me up all at the same time." The two were now whispering and brushing their foreheads against each other.
"All right then. Next point: when did the love aspect enter the love-hate relationship?"
Martin and Diana did not appear to hear the next question. They were too busy exchanging Eskimo kisses and calling each other pet names.
"Well, would you look at the time!". Martin and Diana looked up at this. "I'm afraid that we have to move on to the next event. Let's move along to the dance floor.".
Diana and Martin continued rubbing their noses together until the only people left in the room were Kristoff, Juliana, and the employee. The older couple shooed the employee out of the room, gave the younger couple a quick glance and a smile, then left.
Martin and Diana remained close for a few more minutes, glanced up towards the doorway, separated themselves, then quietly sneaked back up the stairs and into their room.
"I'm not sure how many more pet names I could have handled."
"It was the only plan I could come up with at the moment."
"And it was a good one. Nauseating but effective. Still, we'd better come up with a tale we can both agree on. Someone else is bound to ask us again later."
"Don't I know it. Man, these people are nosy and obnoxious."
"You'll get used to it. God knows I did."
"Very funny, Di. We should at least fire up the Legendex first."
"You've got a point. We need to know what phenomenon we're dealing with."
Martin found the Legendex key on his ring, but each time he pressed it the hologram kept flickering in and out of sight. Martin's face screwed up in confusion. Diana tried her ring but wielded the same results.
"The rings must be defective."
"I don't think that's it. They were functioning fine before. Hold on.". Diana grabbed Martin's left hand with her own, entwined their fingers, then used her right hand to fire up the Legendex on both rings. This time, the Legendex stayed in place. "We were standing next to each other and used both of our rings when we received the call from the Center. The rings are weak individually but have enough power to function properly when used together.".
"Right, got it. Let's see: look up sex, crystalline sweat, mist, and nectarine.". They waited a few minutes before finally receiving a result. "Spirit of Lust. At least, that's what the modern English translation would be. The first recorded incident was in ancient India. Couples in several neighboring villages were found frozen in a state of bliss on their marital beds with crystalline drops attached to their skin. The next such incident was in ancient Greece. Several people managed to escape from an orgy and claimed to remember smelling nectarine and seeing a white mist in the room. The comments were dismissed because orgies often involved wine, fruit, and the burning of incense.
The last incident to date was in the early 1950's in Chicago. The same elements were reported by the people who had managed to escape, but this time they were taken seriously. The Center had managed to cover it up because everyone was in a sexual frenzy after the war ended. The only problem is that none of the couples were restored to normal because no cure has been found. The only linked cause is a high amount of sexual activity for prolonged periods of time."
"OK, now is there anything useful in the entry?"
"I'm looking, I'm looking.". Martin leaned in towards the Legendex and skimmed the rest of the entry for any useful information on how to deal with the Spirit of Lust, unaware of Diana was doing the same right across from him. They both reached out their right finger at the same time to scroll down the entry, then continued reading the entry in concentration. The moment Diana finished, the Legendex shut itself down, startling Martin who had yet to finish reading the entry.
The moment Martin moved, they both became aware of their position. Their left hands were entwined, their faces were inches away from each other's, and their right index fingers were hovering just next to the slope of each other's left cheekbone.
Just then, a strand of Martin's hair flopped into his eye, and Diana tucked it behind his ear. They froze in that position, eyes locked on each other. The tableau was interrupted by a yawn issuing from Diana's lips. As she brought her hand back to cover her mouth, Martin remembered himself and pulled his own hand back.
"What, one nap wasn't enough for you?"
"As if it were enough for you?"
"Of course it was. After all, I have much more stamina than you."
At that, Diana uttered a brief derisive laugh. "You wish!".
"It's true. I'm stronger, more graceful, just plain-out more athletic than you."
Diana was tired and couldn't articulate a good come-back, so she opted to growl and tackle him.
Martin, who was equally exhausted but unwilling to admit it, didn't see the attack coming and found himself on the floor with Diana straddling him and pinning his wrists to keep him in place.
"Too bad your sixth sense stinks."
"Oh really?". With a grin, Martin lifted his legs up and used his lower body strength to replant his feet on the ground while flipping them over and used his own body to pin hers down. Nose to nose, he smirked at her and whispered, "Guess you're no match for me.". His smirk developed into a full-blown grin as he commenced to tickle her mercilessly.
Diana burst into laughter and tried to shove Martin off, but to no avail. The tickle attack went on for what seemed to be forever, until Diana finally managed to grab Martin's hands. Diana had flailed her legs and they were now spread out with Martin's legs resting between them. The hand that Diana had managed to grab and hold on to was stretched high above her head. Martin's free hand had still been searching for ticklish spots and was hovering at her hip. Diana had been attempting to grab that hand as well and ended up accidentally pressing it to herself.
Their laughter died down nearly immediately when they realized the implications of their position. Normally, it wouldn't have worried them, but there had been plenty of awkward moments between the two ever since they began this mission, and there was no need to make things weirder if it could be helped. Martin rolled off Diana, and they lay side by side while struggling to catch their breath.
"We really should catch a nap."
"What about getting our stories straight?"
"I think we'll be able to manage that better once we're fully rested. I doubt that even you could come up with something very good if you're tired.". Before Diana could protest, he continued on. "It wasn't an insult. No one's mind functions at one's best when one is tired. That, and we tend to argue a lot when we're both cranky, which we will be if we don't get some sleep soon.".
Diana sighed. Martin was right and if she attempted to argue that point she would only prove it so. They finally stood up. Diana headed towards the closet, and slid the door open, unaware of Martin following right behind her. She pulled her sweater off, folded it neatly, then placed it on one of the shelves. Another sweater was thrown haphazardly onto the shelf above. Diana gasped and turned around to face Martin.
"You always complain about me throwing my clothes all over the room. Might as well put it away in its proper place.". Diana glanced at the shelves, then turned her eyes back to Martin with an eyebrow raised.
"It's a start. At least I didn't throw it on the bed or floor. Besides, you of all people should know that I can't fold clothes."
"I think you can fold clothes if you tried. You just haven't done it in a long time.". Martin was about to complain, but Diana smiled at him, taking the sting from her words. She then turned around, pulled his sweater from the shelf, and turned back to him with the sweater in her hands. "Now watch carefully.".
She held the shoulders of the sweater in each hand, then folded the sweater in half along an invisible line down the middle of the sweater. She then smoothed out the arms so that they lay over each other perfectly. She folded the arms over the torso of the sweater, then folded it down hiding the sleeves from sight, and repeated that step to form a small, bulky rectangle.
"It's not the neatest way to fold a sweater, but it's one of the simpler ways, and it gets the job done. Now you try it."
Martin reached for his sweater again. "Don't.". Martin pulled his arm back down and looked at Diana with his brows knitted together. "I folded the sweater for you. It was the least I could do.".
"Thanks. Pants are different. What about pants?"
"Pants," Diana took off her pants and held them up in front of him, "are easier.".
"Martin raised an eyebrow and took off his own pants. Now both of them had their pants held in front of them, ready for the next lesson.
"Hold your pants at the corners of the waistband by the fingers and fold them in half. Now hold the waistband in one hand and raise the pants up while running the grip of your hand down the side of the leg. This should automatically line up both legs evenly. Once you reach the knee, hold it there tightly, bring it up, and bring the waistband down at the same time so it lines up with the cuff. Now let go of the waistband and bring your hand to the new center. Fold it in half again. That's the most common way to fold pants."
Diana turned around and they both put away their pants. Diana then turned around to face Martin again. "Now for the final lesson.". Diana pulled off her tank top, revealing a white cotton bra underneath. "Sleeveless tops and short-sleeved shirts are folded the same way, but differently from long-sleeved tops.".
Martin stared at Diana. Does she realize that she's in her underwear? Not that it's an unpleasant sight - Bad Martin! She's your stepsister and this is a folding lesson. Concentrate!
"OK, now first... Martin?". Martin appeared to be staring off into space in her direction. Diana waved her hand in front of Martin's face. "Martin?". No reaction. She finally zoomed in on Martin's face and yelled, "Martin!".
He had finally snapped out of it and breathed, "Huh?".
Diana pulled away. "It's time for the final lesson. What's up with you?".
You do not want to know. "Do you realize you're in your underwear?".
Diana looked down at herself then back up at Martin. Is he blushing? "I'm aware of that. How is this different from my bikini?".
Martin mentally slapped himself. How is this different from a bikini? "It's not.". His voice cracked on the first syllable. He cleared his throat. "It's just that this is the first time I've seen you in your underwear, that's all. It just caught me by surprise. It's the first time I've seen any attractive woman close to my age in her underwear.
"I see. Well, would you mind taking off your t-shirt so we can move on to the last lesson?"
Martin took a deep breath and lifted his shirt over his head, then waited for Diana's next instructions. His stepsister had been staring at his rippling muscles while he was taking off his shirt and was now trying to remind herself that this was no different than his beach attire.
"Should I turn it out or is it OK to put it away while it's still inside-out?"
"Hm? Oh, turn it out. I've already turned out my tank-top."
Martin managed to do this much himself. "OK, now what?".
"Hold it by the shoulders or the top of the straps and fold it in half. Now hold it at the top with one hand and bring the other down to rest it in the middle of the shirt and let go of the top. Make sure the top lines up with the hem perfectly so nothing sticks down below it. Now fold it in half again and put it away.
Martin folded his t-shirt with meticulous attention then put it away very carefully, taking extra care not to brush against Diana in any way.
Once they were done, Martin took a tiny step away from Diana as she turned around to face him again.
"I guess that concludes our lesson. Don't ask me about folding underwear. I wouldn't know about yours and I don't fold my own. I've never been bothered to because it's not like anyone ever goes through there.". She yawned, stretched her arms above her head, and brought them down to stretch them in front of her and crack her knuckles.
Martin looked away for his own sake. He was still trying to control himself and the fact that Diana's cleavage appeared to be deeper when she held her arms together in front of her didn't help his situation.
Diana finally brought her arms back down to her sides and walked towards the bed, quickly brushing her hand across Martin's shoulder to catch his attention. Not that she needed to. She wasn't quite aware of how attentive he was of her at the moment.
"Let's take that nap now. We can concoct a tale after we wake up. Unless you want to have lunch. It's already noon."
"Erm, aren't you going to put on a nightgown?"
"This would actually be more comfortable for me. I'm used to sleeping in cotton. The satin doesn't really breathe and heats up too easily. You don't mind, do you?"
"Mind? I guess not. If it makes you more comfortable, then I suppose it's OK.". Oh shit. It's not like the satin is going to alleviate the situation as it is. Shit, shit, shit.
"Good. I don't mind if you sleep in your boxers only. I know that you tend to do that. I've woken you up often enough to know that you sleep shirtless when it's hot, and I've seen you wearing shorts or boxers under your robe in the mornings during summer."
"Really? If you really don't mind. 'Cause it's OK if you do have a problem with that."
"Martin, I want you to be comfortable when going to bed. It's pointless otherwise."
He wouldn't let the innocuous wordplay get to him this time. Diana had been treating this as a domestic situation the whole time, because that's all she saw this as. Which made perfect sense. And if she could do it, he could do it. Just a little further down and everything would truly be back to normal. His willpower would have to hold out just a little longer. And so would the memory of his parents down the hall, reminding him just how dire this mission was.