Alcoholic breath. Kisses, hot like fire, burning his skin. A cool breeze. A night sky full of stars. Grass tickling his neck. An unfamiliar weight upon him. A worried whisper in his ear.
"Martin, are you alright?"
Martin pushed Granby away and managed to reach a bush before the content of his stomach came up his throat. Despite the dark he could see it was purple, surely a result of all the wine he had consumed.
"Yes, I'm fine", he said and took an unsteady step towards the other man.
He almost fell, but Granby grabbed his arm and pulled him up to his feet.
"You are even more smashed than I thought."
Martin grabbed his neck and tried to kiss him again, but he held him at an arm's length away.
"You smell like the streets of London", he told him. "Let me help you to your room, I don't want you to pass out in this cold, you would get sick."
Martin couldn't find the words to make an objection and simply let Granby take him back to the covert.
When they were at his door he asked him if he wanted to come inside, but Granby rejected the request.
"The rest will do you good, it is not as though I am going anywhere."
The next day Granby couldn't find Martin anywhere. He figured the man was in his room, probably with a quite strong hangover. Since they all had gotten a few days off duty since the victory at Dover there were no duties which could be neglected, therefore he could have his rest. Although Granby thought Martin's absence depended on the liquor rather than what happened between them, he couldn't help but worry. What if he found it repulsive when he was sober? Perhaps the spirits had played too big a part.
'But', he thought. 'He wasn't that drunk when it started.'
This rang hollow and didn't comfort him at all. He headed back to his room right after supper, though many of his friends tried to convince him to stay and celebrate with them. It had been three days since the battle, but still men would burst out in loud singing as the bottled had passed them once or twice. One would almost think it had been this very day. He tried to get some sleep, but couldn't stop thinking about Martin. Once he finally got some rest he had convinced himself that he was avoiding him.
A heavy knock on the door woke him the next morning.
"Who is it?" Granby called and was relieved when he heard Martin's voice.
"I'm afraid I'm not dressed yet, but if you wait just a moment I will accompany you to breakfast."
He put on his clothes in a hurry and was in a slightly worse disorder than usually, but in comparison many other aviators he was formally dressed. He hadn't even put on his coat, which might say a lot about the others' appearances.
After a short breakfast they decided to go to Granby's room, but there was so much people running around that the risk of getting caught was much too high. Martin proposed they would find an empty dragon clearing since most men and dragons stayed close to the covert. Although it was quite chilly Granby agreed to this and they stepped outside.
Martin's tongue pressed against his teeth and his irregular breath was heavy in Granby's ears. He let his hand slide over his bare chest while he pulled away the yellow hair from Martin's face with the other. Their shirts lay on the ground next to them and Granby had just started kicking of his shoes when he looked up and saw a very surprised Laurence standing a few feet away. He immediately rolled of Martin and got up on his feet.
"Laurence, it's not as you think…" he started, but then he closed his mouth. It was exactly as he thought.
Laurence looked from one to the other. "I heard a strange noise while I headed back to Temeraire's clearing and thought I'd better go see if anyone needed help", he said in a very distant tone.
Martin stood up, handed Granby his shirt and put on his own. Laurence was wearing his full uniform, only the sword missing and it made them feel almost naked. Even if they hadn't been breaking the law, or were about to at least, a relationship between a midwingman and a first lieutenant was inappropriate, although Martin possibly would get a promotion.
When neither of them answered, Laurence continued. "Would you might explain this to me, John?"
Granby shifted his weight from one foot to the other. "I don't know what to say, else than ask you not to have us arrested."
Laurence frowned. He knew his duty towards the crown was to hand over these two men, but his duty towards the corps and Temeraire might not be the same. The dragon appreciated his crew and seemed to think they were rather like his belongings. No doubt their efforts on the battlefield had been of great benefit for Britain and he would suffer the loss of Granby especially. Also he enjoyed the company of both of them.
"I will not, but I hope you will be more careful from now on, if not wholly abandon it. I think there are others who are more willing to turn you in."
"I will take the first part of that advice", Granby answered.
Laurence smiled briefly and nodded. "Now, if you excuse me, I will go and forget this ever happened. Mr. Martin, Mr. Granby - pray do not attempt this out in the cold again. I don't want two of my crewmembers to get sick."
"Yes, sir", they answered immediately, though they both were grinning.
Martin and Granby headed towards the covert and Laurence to Temeraire. They stopped behind the shelter of some bushes and Martin gave Granby a quick kiss.
"Another time?" he whispered and the lieutenant nodded.
Then they took separate ways.
Granby bounced in to Laurence shortly after dinner. There was an awkward moment when they both thought about what happened earlier that day.
"John, would you please take a walk with me? I need to speak to you and this is not the place for it."
He wanted to say no, but knew he had no choice.
"Are you sure you know what you are doing, John? Risking your career - your life."
"I know very well what the stakes are, Laurence", Granby said calmly as they walked through an empty clearing. "I always have it in mind and what happened today will not happen again. You wont even notice there is something between Martin and me."
"My concerns are not for me, I assure you. They can not threaten me without loosing access to Temeraire but you do not have a reassurance of that kind. I consider you a friend and wish not to loose you."
They had reached Temeraire's clearing and the dragon peered down on them.
"I will not let them take Granby from me", he said. "Why would they?"
"You heard us?" Laurence said with an unhappy smile.
"Only the last sentence."
"There will be no need to take me away, so you have no reason to worry", Granby said without looking at Laurence. "Now if you have said what you wanted I will go back to the covert, you were right, it is cold."
Laurence frowned but said nothing. He started to realize he wouldn't be able to talk him out of it before something serious happened. Yet he saw it as his duty and would not give up so easily. He was rather reluctant when he sought Martin out. He considered it unfair trying to manipulate the younger man and had to tell himself it was for his own best. But Martin seemed to have received a warning from Granby, cause he said in his always so easy manners:
"Laurence, I know you're worried, but just give it a rest. Nothing you say will make us change our minds."
This made him stare after the midwingman as he took of, smiling and waving. Granby joined him and they headed towards his room. Laurence thought about pursuing them and stop any interaction they might attempt, but he already knew he had lost the war.
"Maybe this time my duty is to look the other way", he mumbled and with a smile twitching in the corner of his mouth he went outside to read to Temeraire.