Title: Kiss the Cook
Rating: PG (this chapter)
Words: 3501 this chapter
Pairing: Eventual Martin/Arthur
Disclaimer: I do not own Cabin Pressure because I am nowhere NEAR as awesome as John Finnemore or the BEEBEECEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!
Summary: Martin is down on his luck again until he realizes he's had a friend this whole time. As it turns out, Arthur may not be such a clot after all.
Both Martin and Douglas (eventually) received their coffee. Despite this, Arthur continued with his (frequent) visits to the flight deck. As time wore on, Carolyn had to step in (numerous) times to pull her son back to the cabin and assist the passengers. She made a passing comment on her son's sudden obsession with the flight deck, but all Arthur could think about was how he would much rather be there than in the cabin.
Saying that college students were rowdy would have been a gross understatement. They preoccupied themselves on the flight with songs and jokes and discussions that started out innocent enough, but always ended in a heated debate. Arthur hated doing his usual rounds because several of the students had decided it would be great fun to belittle Arthur as much as possible. While Arthur thought most people were brilliant, a select few were just all right, and an even smaller percentage were hardly likeable.
He didn't mind the normal conversations; those were okay. When the discussions turned into shouting debates, Arthur would turn to the front of the plane (was it the fore or aft? He would probably never remember) and let his mother calm everyone down. It wasn't that he was afraid of the shouts, or that he felt incapable of making sure the students could be kept under control. He only hated when they tried to include him.
The first debate came from a discussion of clouds that had turned into a debate about religion ("It's like we're flying through heaven!"). One girl with impossibly straight teeth had asked Arthur whether or not he believed in heaven. He could feel his face going red as she searched the cabin for his mother. Her lessons never involved something like this! He simply answered, "Heaven… is… full of otters," and whirled around to the galley.
The second debate brought up another touchy subject: the economy. As college students, it was probably required to have a shouting match about every forbidden subject on the planet. A pompous young man had been giving a rather lengthy speech on the economic downturn over the past few years and stopped Arthur by the sleeve. "What do you think? Are major corporations choking small businesses? Has this airline suffered from a loss in profit margin?"
At first, Arthur didn't quite understand him over the shouts of everyone else and answered, "My self regrets to inform you that we do not have margarine onboard today, but could my self interest your self in some peanuts?"
"MARGIN," the student repeated.
Arthur scrunched his facial features in an attempt to hear the passenger over the buzz. "Martin? Oh, the captain? Shouldn't you call him the captain?" How come no one called Martin the captain?
"For God's sake, man!" The man ran a hand through his hair and turned to the passenger next to him, muttering.
Arthur didn't much care for what they were talking about. He could even care less if they were saying things about him (which they probably were). It wasn't like he was going to see them again after this whole round trip was over, and he had experienced much worse (Mr. Birling being one such experience). He knew just how to handle situations like this: think of something lovely and keep smiling. People always stopped bothering him once they found out they couldn't stop him from smiling.
Besides, some of the more quiet and studious passengers were very kind to Arthur and offered some very pleasant conversations. One girl in particular had a very soft demeanor. She had insisted upon knowing his name and used it throughout the duration of the flight. She said 'please' and 'thank you' and 'excuse me' (which rather impressed Arthur), and he came to think of her as a very lovely girl. She had short, sandy brown hair and a nose that was a little too big for her face, but made a very good rest for her glasses. Her name was Ellen Barton.
"Arthur," Ellen said as the steward rushed by. He felt safer in the galley, away from the awkward questions. When Ellen said his name, however, he stopped.
"Yes, Miss Barton," Arthur said with a smile. This part of his job was easy. He could answer her questions without panicking.
"You don't have to call me that," Ellen waved her hand in dismissal. "Just Ellen is fine."
"Oh, I couldn't Miss Barton. It wouldn't be right." Arthur looked around to see if his mother was watching. He spotted her wearing her best forced smile as she dealt with a passenger a few rows in front of him. "I promised mum I would be on my best behavior."
"Well," Ellen said with a giggle. "I won't get you in trouble, then. I only wanted to let you know not to worry about my peers. They are awful excited about this trip, you see, and it brings out the worst in them."
"Alright, thanks!" Arthur smiled and turned to go back to the galley, maybe the flight deck. Martin was on the flight deck. Arthur's stomach caught a little when he thought about Martin.
Arthur paused and glanced back, "Yes, Miss Barton?"
"Pardon me if I am being forward, but would you mind asking the pilots if they would be so kind as to turn off the seatbelt light? We are almost an hour into our flight; surely we have reached our correct altitude?" Ellen said with a small smile on her lips.
Arthur glanced at the seatbelt light and his eyes widened. He thanked Ellen for the information and dashed back to the galley. Anything to get him away from the passengers and to talk to those he thought were simply brilliant; and especially to Martin. He picked up the intercom and buzzed the flight deck. "Hello chaps."
"Ah, Arthur…" Douglas' sarcastic drawl came through the intercom first and Arthur's spirits fell. He was hoping for the other pilot—the nicer one that liked his cooking. "What can we help you with this time? Are they debating about animal rights yet?"
"No, not yet," Arthur replied, then thought for a moment and then added, "Although, if they do, what should I say?"
"Tell them to sod off."
"OK!... Wait. Douglas!"
Carolyn burst into the galley at that moment, flustered and irritated. Arthur didn't catch what Douglas said next because Carolyn's voice drowned him out, "Arthur, the intercom is not a chatting service. How many times do I have to remind you?"
"Only once, mum," Arthur answered, and then quickly turned back to the intercom. "I need you to turn off the seatbelt warning, Douglas."
"Oh, is it about that time?" the drawl answered.
Arthur was about to answer back, when his mother ripped the intercom from his hands and began to address it sharply. "Douglas, you will turn that light off and you will do it now. I will not be having any races with my passengers today. Do you even understand what kind of madhouse it is in here?"
"I can only imagine."
"Then let's hope you have a good imagination. You don't have to deal with them, and I do. If you make their flight miserable, I will make you miserable, and we both know I am very capable of that." Her voice dripped with malice and evil intent. Arthur thought his mom would make a very good super villain.
"But I have a very good wager on this one!" Douglas protested. "Martin has agreed to—"
There came a shuffling noise, and Martin's voice rang in clear and Arthur couldn't help but smile. He didn't even realize he wasn't smiling before then. "To turn the light off, now," the captain finished for his first officer.
Douglas' voice could be heard in the background, faint, but definitive, "Oh, come, now…"
"No, Douglas," Martin said. "You may not care about the rest of this trip, but I do, and I don't want it ruined because you want to win."
A click sounded as Douglas must have switched the light off and Arthur braced himself for the storm ahead.
Voices died down as one by one the students realized the situation. There came a flurry of clicks as seatbelts unsnapped, tray tables moved into place, and several passengers stood up. Then came the pushing and the shoving, the quickened pace, the shouting, the slam of the door to the lavatory, and a collective moan from all those who had failed to claim the prize.
As the tension for the lavatory died down, so did the tension around the passengers as the excitement for the trip wore off. Arthur took this time to rest against the counters for a moment. It would still be a while before he had to start preparing dinners, so he had a bit of free time. Carolyn usually took this opportunity to go over paperwork by herself, so Arthur often took trips inside his head.
This was something he had been doing his entire life, and he found he quite enjoyed it. The inside of his head was always happy and everyone got along brilliantly. He didn't have to worry about job performance, or saying the wrong thing during touchy subjects. His decisions were the right decisions and things went well for everyone.
Speaking of everyone and their accompanying problems, Arthur found it easy to switch his mind over to one of his favorite subjects as of late: Martin Crieff—and Martin was always so full of problems. Arthur had always thought of Martin as a friend, ever since they first met. This was no uncommon occurrence, however, because Arthur always wanted to believe he was friends with everyone, until proved otherwise.
When his mother hired Martin, Arthur was only all too eager to talk to him. The smaller age gap came as a great relief to Arthur, seeing as his mother's previous pilots were always a bit on in their years and generally made Arthur feel a bit intimidated—but not Martin! Martin had introduced himself kindly and with a big handshake, and he talked every bit as much as Arthur did. Arthur thought him to be brilliant.
As time wore on, Martin's brilliance outwardly shone like a beacon to Arthur. Martin, ever the stickler for protocol, always appeared patient with Arthur when it came to facts about flying. He never used a condescending tone, and even if he did, Arthur didn't notice. He was biased, and he didn't care.
And then there was that time when Martin had asked him for a huge favor: to help drive him and a piano do Devon! Arthur! Douglas had deemed Arthur a clot, but Martin had believed in him. Really! He had! Arthur wasn't his default choice! He had faith in him!
Arthur grinned to himself, and if Carolyn noticed, she was used to her son's random bursts of cheer and said nothing.
Thinking about Martin had been taking up more and more of Arthur's time as of late. Ever since Martin had agreed to stay over at his place for a few hours, Arthur found it harder and harder to speak to his captain. Martin had always avoided coming over, before, and therefore Arthur's mind couldn't stop wrapping itself around the idea that something had changed between the two of them to make Martin actually accept the offer of hospitality.
Surely Martin had agreed to come over because he wanted to strengthen their friendship! It was not at all related to the fact that he was cold and hungry and tired and that a warm meal and a soft bed were more appealing than the alternative, whatever alternative that may have been. Arthur was firm in his convictions.
If Martin, in Arthur's head, liked Arthur, now, then why was it so hard for Arthur to find simple conversational topics for the two of them to discuss? He turned to the only person he knew could help.
"Say, mum…" Surely she would know what to do!
Carolyn's eyes did not leave her paperwork. She merely turned over a page and frowned at its contents. "Yes, dear heart?" she replied, absently.
"I need some really good conversation starters. You know, like when people can talk for hours about something other than the weather. Not that I don't like weather. Weather is brilliant… especially when the sky gets all dark and gray like it's about to storm and you feel like you're going to die. Well, I don't much like feeling like I'm going to die, but I do like the sense of adventure a storm brings!"
Carolyn pulled her eyes from the documents over which she had been scouring and stared her son in the face. A look of almost pity softened her features a bit. "Arthur, don't you bother with these passengers. They're all a bunch of loonies and not worth more than the time it takes to fly them to the Great Wall of China."
Arthur paused, "Mum…" He said, relaxing a little. Really, his mother should know where they were headed! "We're flying to Lhasa, not the Great Wall."
"I would much rather fly this lot into the Great Wall."
"Lhasa has loads of mountains."
"A mountain would work, too. The snow can hide the bodies."
"Mum!" Arthur said with an appalled tone, but he didn't quite disagree with her. He didn't much like the passengers, but he didn't want to crash them into the side of a mountain. He would never admit it out loud, though. He and his mother were more alike than most people realized which is why he genuinely liked to live with her.
"And anyway," Arthur said, continuing on from before, "I'm not talking about talking to the passengers; I'm talking about—" he stopped. He almost didn't continue but his mother had his full attention. "A friend…"
"Oh, a friend, now?"
"Yeah, you know, a mate. A pal of mine. Someone I like being around."
If Carolyn was suspicious of anything, it was of Arthur having a friend. It didn't matter to her what her son did in his free time, but he spent most of it in one of two places: home or work. The idea of him having a friend that deviated from one of those two places was highly unlikely.
"All right, Arthur, I'll play along," Carolyn mused, fully aware she had said that out loud. "Just talk about what you know."
"What, like, bears? And Egypt? And making coffee?"
"Yes," Carolyn agreed. "And if he or she finds any of that boring, then they aren't worth your time."
Arthur sat quiet for a moment, his head nearly smoking with the amount of thinking that occurred. "Thanks mum," he said, after a while, but Carolyn had already gone back to her paperwork.
Douglas stretched in his seat. This was going to be a long flight—much longer than many other flights of the same persuasion due to the fact that he was stuck inside his mind with most unpleasant thoughts. He tried to think of a topic other than his soon to be ex-wife, but it was nearly impossible. So much so that when Martin had suggested they play a game, even Douglas' heart was not in it. To make matters worse, he hadn't slept too well before the flight, which was dangerous, he knew, but he felt as though he didn't have a choice.
Martin settled back into his pilot seat and glanced at his watch for the one hundredth time. "I can't believe they ruined passenger derby for us," he said after a while.
It was strange how Martin had been so eager to play that particular game. They had bet on embarrassing escapades the other had to perform during their stay in Lhasa. Douglas' mind was temporarily distracted as he brainstormed all of the different ways he could make Martin uncomfortable just for fun. Instead, he said, "I can't believe Arthur still isn't here with that coffee." He stole a glance back at the flight deck door. "Should we give him a ring?"
"I don't know…" Martin hesitated. "Those passengers seem pretty demanding. Carolyn hasn't even been up here since before we took off."
"No, she hasn't," Douglas agreed. "Although, I don't see a reason as to why we can't give them a bit of a buzz. Carolyn can't afford to have her only pilots fall asleep at the controls."
"Douglas, you aren't by any chance flying tired, are you?" Martin asked, trying not to let the panic show too much in his voice, but Douglas caught it. Martin really wasn't very good at hiding anything.
"Yes, Martin. I get my kicks staying up at all hours just to hop on board a flying metal death trap… and proceed to fall asleep while landing. Does this conflict with your flight plan?"
Martin frowned. "I'm serious, Douglas."
"So am I," Douglas crooned and leaned over to buzz the galley. "Arthur, are you particularly busy at this moment?"
Arthur's cheerful tone chimed over the speaker, "No, Douglas. Just having a bit of a sit-in. Why, did I forget to do something?"
"I seem to recall waiting eagerly upon the arrival of a deliciously bitter drink."
"Oh!" Arthur exclaimed. Douglas could hear the sound of clinking glass, which meant Arthur was rushing to get their coffees prepared. "Sorry about that, Douglas. I'll be up in a minute. Or, maybe more. Well, I can't really tell you how long to wait because I can't predict these things. But I'm making the coffee now."
"Thank you, Arthur. Don't burn yourself."
"Owww!" Too late.
In moments, Arthur bounded into the flight deck holding two cups of steaming hot coffee. Martin all but jumped out of his seat and took his beverage with haste. "Thank you, Arthur!" He flashed a sincere smile at the steward and blew gently on the top of his mug before taking a slow sip.
Arthur beamed. He didn't just smile his usual smile. He beamed so brightly Douglas was afraid the poor boy's hair would catch fire.
Well, that was an odd turn of events. Douglas took his own coffee slowly, making double sure to eye Martin and Arthur. They had been acting increasingly odd over the past couple of hours. Something must have happened between that day and the day before to make the two of them want to smile down each other's throats.
Martin probably didn't even realize it himself. He fumbled more with his coffee mug than usual, his face was almost as red as his hair, and he stumbled over his words a little more than necessary. Arthur, on the other hand, was well aware of his predicament. He hung on Martin's every word, movement and facial expression to the point that it was almost sickening. Arthur was probably back there wishing to be called back to the flight deck just to speak to Martin.
Douglas rubbed his eyes and decided he should probably just stare straight head out the flight deck window and drink his coffee. He found himself fortunate, though. Both Martin and Arthur's little show had taken his mind off more depressing matters. If what Douglas observed was what he thought he observed, this was going to be a very interesting trip, indeed. It was hard not to hear their conversation.
"So, where do you want to go when we get to Lhasa, skip?"
"Oh, I… I don't know… I haven't really given it much thought."
"There are travel brochures in the galley, maybe I can bring one up here and we can look through it?"
"Well, I'm not… sure. I should be flying the plane…"
"Oh, but it's a long flight. You can spare a few minutes. The more time we spend planning here, the more time we have to look about the place when we land!"
"Arthur, that's quite… You're right! Yeah, go ahead and bring a brochure up. Why not."
Yes, the trip would be interesting, but it could very quickly turn annoying. Silence cast itself about the flight deck for a moment. Arthur hesitated to leave because he was too busy sending facial sunbeams down at Martin, and Martin looked like he wanted to say something but didn't know what and had decided that biting his lip would help matters.
Douglas cleared his throat to break through the tension. Arthur gave Martin one last sheepish smile before turning around and leaving the flight deck.
Martin sighed a bit dramatically, as if he had been holding his breath and he could finally let all the air out of his lungs. He sipped his coffee with an annoyingly smug look on his face. When he caught Douglas staring, he grew defensive. "What?"
"Oh, nothing," Douglas said as he fought desperately to hold back a grin. "I just thought of a few fun games to set my troubled mind at ease."
Martin did not look reassured.