5. Co-habitation

They argue like every couple does. Henry will throw up his hands and make grand gestures, cutting swathes through the air with his palms, or else clench his fingers in his hair and tug when he's trying to make a particularly salient point. If it's a serious argument, not of the not-doing-the-washing-up kind but more important than that, his voice will pitch higher, near to squeaking sometimes if he's spectacularly frustrated.

Martin is also a fluttery arguer, hands wringing, exclamations in an irate tone, his face reddening the longer his displays of extended speech go on for. Neither of them are the brash sort who square their shoulders and puff out their chests in a display of dominance, it's more the sorts of sudden bursts of frustration which are quickly let out and then just as quickly resolved. Often they are fairly small things, minor irritants that pass by with only an exasperated comment.

Martin complains about how Henry is the worst bed-cover hogger in possibly the entire history of the world, or how he stares at the TV when it's on and in doing so allows his dinner to go cool, or even how he'll always use up the hot water by giving full length musical renditions in the shower. He doesn't like the fact that Henry smokes (and he can always tell when the taste lingers after their kisses), but then it's stupid to assume either is perfect. Martin too has his bad habits; how he always drinks the orange juice straight out of the bottle, his meticulous planning of everything instead of sometimes leaving things to chance, how he never wears socks around the house, so when he gets into bed and curls into Henry's side, when their feet touch it is freezing. All these little things make them up, patchwork men with their odd edges slotted into each other, and they wouldn't change any of these things, not really.

No, what they really fight about, when it comes down to it, is money.

Martin's too proud for his own good, Henry sometimes thinks, and even says when they're in full swing about one thing or another. He should just accept some financial help every once in a while, because it doesn't cheapen him, or make him a kept man, or any of the things he knows Martin worries himself over. He doesn't like the fact that nearly every other day when he's not flying, the pilot is exhausting himself carrying boxes from his van, his limbs tired and back sore, and even then staying back at the end of his shift at MJN, working too hard for barely any return for his efforts. He worries, of course he does, and bloody hell, Martin won't let him help him, will always just say that it's fine, that he's on top of it all, even when his shoulders are stiff with overuse and his eyes show the clear evidence of a full three days working even on top of jet lag.

Martin will always respond to these with the snappish comment that he can manage, thank you very much, how he doesn't wanthelp because he doesn't want anyone thinking he can't work such things out like a grown man. He thinks sometimes that Henry isn't quite able to understand what it's like having to ask for money, how humiliating it can be, how it makes him weigh up what's more important every time he wants to buy something in his head: rent or sandwiches for lunch, rent or heating bill, sometimes even rent or petrol, what with pricing shooting up. He doesn't quite know how to put into words that his dignity is one of the few things he can cling to without having to go begging for help. He sometimes can't even afford the petrol for this drive across to Dartmoor, and he hates bringing Henry back to his own flat because he knows in his heart that while it's his home, the fact still remains that it's a horrible cramped old place that rattles in the winter, nothing like Henry's spacious house with central heating and hot water, and well-stocked fridges of everything under the sun that isn't pasta and beans.

They don't fight often, but when they do, it is nearly always about this.

Tonight, it's gotten to the stage where Martin's become so stressed and uptight he's had to leave the room, throwing his hands in the air and calling Henry bloody impossible, Henry shouting back that he's one to talk, isn't he. Henry fumes not-so-quietly for a while, before the first strains of guilt start weaving through his anger, and he ends up knocking tentatively on the bedroom door (they're at his house, so technically it's his room, but Martin's shut himself in there and he's trying to test whether the pilot has cooled off or not). This is how all of their fights end, short lived as fireworks, one of making the move to put pride behind them, sneaking back to the other with mumbled sorrys and eyes cast down and both apologising. They rarely stay mad for long, the capacity for long grudge-holding not in their natures, too settled with each other to find much comfort in self-administered absences apart, and the one night where Martin demoted himself to the sofa downstairs, it took only until half eleven for Henry to slink back downstairs and tell him it was cold upstairs without him, scuffing his toes anxiously on the carpet, the pilot not even resisting as he returned apologetically to their shared bed.

"Martin?" he murmurs tentatively, and opens the door by slowly turning the handle, peeking his head around the frame. The pilot hasn't jumped off the bed ready to restart their argument again, quite the opposite: he's sitting on the side of the bed nearest the door, staring down at his bare feet skimming the floor, lanky legs swinging wretchedly. Henry gives a sigh without anger, coming into the room and perching himself on the side of the bed next to Martin, finding his cold hand and threading their fingers together.

"I'm sorry." Martin says miserably, and it's almost a whisper, ashamed of his conduct like he always is, even though Henry never blames him, knows he doesn't mean it. "I didn't mean to shout."

"I'm sorry too." Henry replies, and they shuffle closer together, Martin resting his head against Henry's shoulder in a gesture of affection and forgiveness.

They sit quietly for a few moments. There's a high wind tonight on the moors, and it tremors over the window catches, the sleek glass doors. But in here, in this room, they are filled with their own sounds; the pulse under their skin, a lazy lub-dub of a heartbeat, breathing layering breathing so neither know whose air is whose.

It is Henry that shifts from their created haven first, the pilot raising his head quizzically as the other man moves the hand not attached to Martin over to root around in his jacket pocket. His fingers clench hold of something, obscured in his palm as he pulls it out.

"Guess it's a bad time to bring it up," he says, licking his lips, and he's suddenly a little bit nervous, that pulse under his skin a little bit faster, that heartbeat a focused thrum in his chest. "but I had a surprise for you. I was going to do this later, but maybe it's about time yeah?"

He passes something over to the pilot, opening his hand and tucking something against his palm, smiling as he does so, biting his lip nervously all the same.

Martin stares at the key in his hand as though not quite recognising what it is. He fingers the jagged edges, the long strip of metal, the hole near the top where it would slot onto a keyring.

"I don't understand." he glances up at Henry finally, his voice sounding just slightly lost, like he's not completely sure what this means. Henry coughs, and worries his top lip with his teeth, coughing again before continuing.

"It's for a house." he says quietly. "Just a small place outside Fitton, near enough to the airfield for you... I mean, you wouldn't have to spend loads on petrol getting there. It's not completely finalised, I mean, if you don't like it or if you think this is too fast or anything, I can return the deposit, and that'll be the end of it..."

"You bought a house?" Martin asks slowly. His fingers play with the key, and he looks up at Henry and there is so much on his face that it's a jumble, unreadable, and Henry isn't sure whether this is the best thing he's ever done for them or whether he's just made a monumental cock-up.

"For us – I mean, if you want to." Henry replies, hesitantly, and then, takes a deep breath. "Thing is, I know I snore, and that I'm incapable of doing the hoovering or the washing up, or that you have to tell me to give the covers back at night, and not to just make my meals out of the microwave, but I... I really want you to live with me Martin. I... I want there to be an us for... for, well, as long as you will have me... and... god, I'm really making a right mess of this aren't I...?" He breathes out again. "I want to be with you, and I want to have a future with you, and I would really really like to make this first step with you."

"What about this house?" Martin gestures around them. "This is your home, Henry."

"It's a family house. I'm not selling it, but there's... too many ghosts there. Too many things I want to forget. I want to start again, and I... I'd like to do that with you, if you'll let me."

"You mean that?" Martin's voice is that disbelieving quiet tone, the one that's wondering what Henry could possibly see in him, the one that's asking why he hasn't left him yet, why he hasn't got bored. Henry wraps his fingers around Martin's again, pressing his lips to the mop of his head tenderly and says "Of course I do, you idiot", promising Martin a forever without words.

"The thing is, Henry," Martin whispers as they lean close together, a grin growing on his face until it floods him with light all the way through his eyes, "All those things that you said, the snoring and the cover-hogging, and how you don't know how to work an oven, all those things are exactly why I would want to live with you. B-Because they make up you. And that's all I want, w-w-when it really comes down to it. You. " He flushes red, as though embarrassed at his outburst, self-consciousness seeping into his tone, but Henry beams back, and kisses him, and Martin hums in the back of his throat with happiness as he arches his neck for a closer union, his hands clenching round that key still imprinted against his palm.

"Is that a yes then, captain Crieff?" Henry smirks when they eventually part, and the pilot grins back, face gone as red as his hair.

"I think so." Martin says, and there's a teasing quality in his voice now, coltish and deliberately so. "I mean, I'd prefer it if you didn't snore so much..."

"Oy!" Henry shoves him playfully, then pulls him closer and covers his mouth with his lips again. It seems to do a good job in shutting him up.