Title: As Much as Aeroplanes
Characters: Martin, Theresa, Douglas, Carolyn, Arthur
Spoilers: Vaduz, Xinzhou
Pairings: Martin/Theresa, background Carolyn/Herc
Summary: Martin meets up with Theresa in Berlin for a Christmas celebration, along with the rest of MJN Air.
"Douglas," Martin said.
"Martin," Douglas said.
"You know Berlin?" Martin said.
"The big city in Germany; used to have a wall through it?" Douglas said. "I think I'm familiar with it, yes."
Martin looked over to glare at him, briefly. "I meant the trip to Berlin we're taking in a few weeks, on the 23rd?" he said. "We're taking Mr and Mrs Vandertramp home for Christmas."
"Ah, yes, good old Vandertramp and wife," Douglas said. "Both deaf as posts, and so in love we can hear all the sweet nothings they shout to each other up here."
"Right, well, we're required to have a break when we get there to remain in flight hours," Martin said. "And I'm-I'm not going to be able to share the hotel rooms with you. I hope that's okay."
Douglas looked gutted. "Martin, you know how I treasure our nights in uncomfortable connecting rooms with gorgeous views of cement walls and Arthur trying to put his cot through the doorjamb so he can be asleep in two rooms at once," he said. "But I suppose I'll have to struggle on somehow. You haven't managed to convince Carolyn to splurge on better accommodations, have you?"
"No. God, no," Martin said. "I'm just... staying with a friend."
"I didn't know you had a friend in Berlin," Douglas said. "Why haven't you stayed with him before?"
Martin felt a blush creeping up his neck as he struggled to find a reply. "It's not a him," he muttered.
"Oh, I see," Douglas said, grinning. "This friend wouldn't happen to be a certain Princess of Liechtenstein that you're sitting in a tree with, would she?"
"She wants to get together for Christmas," Martin said. "So, she's going to fly in and meet me there."
"You get a princess, and I get Arthur," Douglas said. "Life isn't fair, is it?"
"No one special to spend your Christmas with, then?" Martin said.
"Not special in that way, no," Douglas said. "I'll drop in and see my daughter, of course. I've bought her a crossbow."
"A what?!" Martin said. "Is that legal?"
"It shoots foam arrows, I don't think she'll be doing any poaching," Douglas said. "That's what she's asked for, and I like to think of all the damage she's going to cause in the ol' Mrs's perfect living room."
"I have no idea what to get Theresa," Martin said. "I got her an Airfix kit for her birthday, and she liked that a lot, but I can't repeat myself. What do you buy a princess for Christmas?"
"I imagine something not quite as nice as you'd buy for a queen," Douglas said.
"What do you buy a queen?" Martin wondered.
Douglas thought for a moment. "A new colony?" he suggested.
"I'm on a budget," Martin said.
"An ant colony?" Douglas said.
Martin grinned. "Not very romantic," he said.
"Well, you have three weeks to think of something," Douglas said. "I'm sure you'll figure it out. What does she like?"
"Well, she likes aeroplanes, and flying," Martin said. Douglas rolled his eyes. "And, erm, horses. And video games; she plays those with Maxi. And she likes history, and I guess she must like peacocks, because she has a lot of peacock feather stuff in her flat in the palace. And she likes this really weird Liechsteiner sitcom called 'Wo ist meine Ziege?', but I've never really been able to figure it out because she's always laughing too hard to translate, but there's a goat in a dirndl and—" He noticed Douglas staring at him. "What?"
"Nothing," Douglas said. "I just didn't realize you had it quite that bad."
"What do you mean?" Martin said.
"You've made it past the topic of aeroplanes with her," Douglas said. "I know how long you can talk about aeroplanes. You must be in love."
"Martin, if you marry Theresa, does that mean you'll be a prince?" Arthur asked.
"I'm not going to marry her!" Martin squeaked, in alarm.
He looked around to make sure Theresa hadn't arrived at the gate yet to overhear this. She was supposed to meet him there, but her flight was late. Arthur had stayed behind to wait with him.
"I mean," Martin said, once he was sure she wasn't there. "That it's a bit early to be thinking about marriage."
"But if you did think about it and then do it," Arthur pressed. "Would you be a prince?"
"I don't think so," Martin said. "I think I'd have to be made a prince, by the king or someone. Titles don't pass down female lines, only males."
Arthur looked undeterred. "But, if you did think about it and get married and you were a prince, does that mean I'd be a prince too?" he asked.
"In what way would that make you a prince?" Martin said.
"I don't know, I just think it would be fun!" Arthur said. "We could have lots of money and fly everywhere and not have to worry about the budget or bankruptcy."
"Do you worry about bankruptcy?" Martin asked, smiling a little at Arthur's definition of a life of ease.
"Not really," Arthur said. "I don't really know what it is. I don't know how to ruptcy a bank. I think it sounds painful, though."
"Yes," Martin said. "It probably is. Oh, there she is!" He lifted his hand and waved at Theresa as she came through the gate. She hurried over and dramatically threw herself into his arms. "Oof! Mmmm!"
He readjusted his hat when she stepped back from the kiss, and straightened his jacket.
"Hello!" she said. "I am sorry to be late. I wanted to meet you; look, I even made a little sign." She held up airsick bag with 'Captain Crieff ' written on it in lipstick. "I was going to hold it up like in the films, and look serious."
Martin grinned. "Next time, maybe," he said.
"Hello, Arthur," Theresa said, stepping over and planting kisses on his cheeks. "Maxi sent you a Christmas card." She pulled it from her handbag, along with a Toblerone. "And this, for your collection."
"Oh, brilliant!" Arthur said. "I don't have Liechtenstein one yet."
"Where are Douglas and the Dragon?" Theresa asked.
"Douglas is, erm, exchanging...presents with a...friend from...customs," Martin stammered out. "And the Dra-, I mean, Carolyn, is, erm, discussing...fuel costs."
"I see, well, I am so sorry to have missed them," Theresa said, dryly.
"You'll see them later, though," Arthur said. "At dinner."
"Dinner?" Martin said.
"Yeah, dinner," Arthur said. "We're all going to have dinner together, right? Christmas dinner? Because this is the only chance we'll all have to be together before Christmas? I've booked a table for us, and the menu says they have all the right things. I remembered to include Theresa, and I counted myself this time, too, so they know how many of us are coming."
Martin felt a bit sick. "Well, the thing is, Theresa and I don't have much time together, so we might not be able to make it," he said, gently.
Arthur's face fell. "Oh," he said. "Well, that's all right, Skip. I understand. I'll save you some turkey, and you could maybe have it on the trip home tomorrow."
"Thanks, Arthur, that's nice," Martin said.
"I should meet Mum," Arthur said. "She doesn't like to carry her bag for herself, and I'm still three months short of nine months worth of her carrying me, so I'm not off the hook yet. Have fun!"
"Thanks, Arthur, we will," Theresa said. "You too, ja?"
"Oh, yeah, it'll be great," Arthur said. "Bye!"
Arthur scurried off. Martin watched to make sure he was going in the right direction, still feeling a bit mean.
"It's all right?" Theresa said.
"Yes, it's all right," Martin said. "Nothing gets him down for long. He won't miss us at all."
Theresa had booked them a suite at the sort of hotel that made the hotels Martin usually stayed at look on in sheer envy. He often felt a bit like a 'kept man', as Theresa insisted on paying for most of the things they did. She liked to claim she got a 'princess discount', which she didn't even pretend was the truth, but Martin appreciated her not making him feel bad about his financial state. He knew if their roles were reversed, he would be paying and it wouldn't be weird. It was sexist to think it was different the other way around.
"Come in, Martin, don't stand there like a fish," she said.
"I don't think fish stand," Martin said.
"They gawp," Theresa said, making a fish face at him. "Like little children looking at a puppet show. Come in and relax; stop being such a captain." She pulled him by the hand into the living room, and took off his jacket, slapping his back between his shoulders. "Relax!"
Martin winced, and tried to let his shoulders droop. They did it automatically when she began to rub them, making him sort of melt onto the sofa as though he had no knees. She followed him down, landing half in his lap.
"There, hello Martin," she said, wrapping her arms around his neck. "Goodbye, Captain Crieff. We are being happy now! No more serious pilot."
Martin smiled, and earned a kiss of approval. "How are you?" he said. "How have you been?"
"Well, and well," she said. "We have Maxi back home from school, light of our lives. He is threatening war every time he doesn't get what he wants. It was cute when he was five, not so cute now. Mama indulges him too much." She reached back and removed her shoes, tucking her legs up under her.
"He is the king," Martin said.
"He is a naughty king," Theresa said. "He must learn to keep his temper in check. Mama says it's just a phase all boys go through, but it is a long phase."
"I really don't remember going through a phase where I threatened invasion on foreign countries," Martin said.
"No, but you grew up and got an aeroplane and now you invade all the time," Theresa said.
"With permission," Martin said.
"Yes, you are British and polite," Theresa said. "You must always ask permission for everything."
Martin leaned forward to kiss her. "Not everything," he said.
One of the things Martin enjoyed most about flying planes, besides the flying planes part, was how much of the world he got to see and all the different weather he got to experience. England had different shades of the same weather. Sometimes it got very hot, sometimes it got very cold, but mostly it was just hot or cold, and blah. Since becoming a pilot, he'd seen palm trees and snowstorms and heat waves and even a hurricane or two. Sometimes within a day or two of one another.
The snow was falling in Berlin as the afternoon dwindled away, and Martin watched it through the balcony doors while Theresa went to get changed. Snow could be scary from a pilot's point of view, but as a plain person watching it fall, Martin found it a bit hypnotic. So much so that it was only when Theresa wrapped her arms around him from behind that he realize she'd returned.
"You want to go for a walk?" she asked. "We're not far from the Christkindlmarkt. Have you been before?"
"No, never," Martin said. "Do you have one in Vaduz?"
"Every year," she said. "Even Mama likes to go."
"Is she, erm, warming up to me at all?" Martin asked. He would swear he could still feel her disapproving eyes on the back of his neck some days.
"No," Theresa said, with a laugh. "But she's stopped crossing herself whenever I say your name, so maybe in time, yes?"
"Maybe," Martin said, shivering a little.
"Come on, Captain, put on your warm clothing," Theresa said, tugging his hand. "We'll go and get some Lebkuchen."
It was hard to deny Theresa something when she decided she wanted it, and, in this case, Martin was, as usual, happy to follow her along in her plans. They put on their things and walked down to the Christmas Market. The sun was just setting, and the fairy lights began to be lit up as they walked through the stalls. Theresa conversed cheerfully with all the owners; Martin standing stupidly in the face of the rapid German. Somehow, they kept being given free samples of everything.
"Oh, he looks like you!" Theresa exclaimed, as she stopped in from of a stand of nutcrackers. She picked up one carved to look like a pilot, even with a little airliner in his hand. She made the mouth work, and lowered her voice. "'I am the commander of this vessel'."
"I don't sound like that!" Martin objected.
"'This is Captain Martin Crieff, your captain speaking'," Theresa went on. "Yes, it's a perfect likeness, even his little red cheeks. I will buy him for Mama's collection. She has hundreds of them."
"Erm, I don't think she'll appreciate that," Martin said, nervously.
Theresa smiled her wicked smile. "Yes, I know. It will be wonderful!" she said.
Martin sincerely hoped that she and Douglas never got together to scheme. The world would not survive it.
Theresa bought the nutcracker, looking very pleased with herself, and had it wrapped up to keep it safe as they wandered further into the market. As it approached evening, Theresa suggested they get dinner, and led him purposefully through the streets until they found a quite small, out of the way restaurant.
"Are you sure this is where you want to eat?" Martin said. "It looks a bit...dodgy."
"I am positive," Theresa said. "The man who told me about it was very enthusiastic. Come on."
He opened the door for her, and followed her in. It wasn't a big restaurant, and not very busy either. His eyes went right to the table in the corner.
"Skip!" Arthur shouted, waving his arms. "Skip, over here!"
Martin looked to Theresa, surprised.
"Oh, what a coincidence," she said, dryly. "Of all the restaurants in Berlin, huh?" She made an airy gesture of disbelief.
"You don't mind?" Martin said.
"No, of course not, silly Captain," Theresa said. "It would break that boy's heart, and I can't bear that."
Martin beamed at her. "Thank you," he said. "I know it's silly but—"
"It's not silly," Theresa said. "It's not silly at all."
The food wasn't very good, which made Arthur happy ('it wouldn't be a proper Christmas meal if the food was good'). Theresa gamely ate, and contributed to the conversation. Carolyn started off very wary of her, and Theresa played into her 'Dragon Slayer' image until Martin kicked her sharply under the table to make her behave. She reluctantly took it down a notch; from terrifying to a bit of a snot.
"Can we do our Secret Santa presents now? Can we?" Arthur asked, as they waited for dessert to be served.
"Oh! I didn't bring mine," Martin realized.
"I did," Theresa said, pulling his badly wrapped present from her handbag. "I looked in your flight bag, I know it is sacred, but I did not touch anything else."
"It's, er, fine," Martin said, a bit awed by the depth of her scheming. It was like dating Douglas. Oh God, get that thought of his head, now. "Thank you for thinking ahead."
Carolyn had drawn Douglas in the exchange. Douglas had drawn Carolyn. Arthur had drawn himself, but declared that to be okay because he knew what he wanted, but Martin explained that, as he too had drawn himself, it might be more fun to swap.
"I got something for you, too, Theresa," Arthur said. "I forgot you'd need a present and then I remembered, but you weren't coming, and then you were coming, but I hadn't remembered, so I didn't have much time to get anything, but you had to have something to open, so I did it quick."
He handed Theresa a small parcel wrapped in a magazine cover and tied in a shoelace. It was a bar of hotel soap.
"How thoughtful, thank you," Theresa said, managing to look extremely pleased with it.
"You can keep the shoelace, too," Arthur said.
"For those rare occasions when you just need one shoelace, and hate to buy a pair," Douglas said.
Theresa hid her smile, and repeated that it was very thoughtful.
Carolyn and Douglas's presents to each other were somewhat passive-aggressive.
"It's a torch," Carolyn said. "For the next time you decide to lose my aeroplane in Norway, in December. Look, I've even had your name put on it, so everyone knows it's yours."
"How kind," Douglas said. "However, I resent the implication that I 'lost' Gertie. I knew precisely where she was. The sun just might have set a bit sooner than I was planning for all the tasks I had to accomplish, and made it slightly more difficult to return to her precise location at the time I was originally anticipating."
"You walked around for two hours, with Arthur yelling 'Marco'," Carolyn said.
"I was hoping Martin would call 'Polo,'" Arthur said. "But then I remembered he was in the A&E because of his face."
"That is a story I wish to hear more of," Theresa said.
"Later," Martin said, for his own safety. Reminding Douglas of his mistakes was the quickest way to get yourself in very big trouble.
"Anyway, letting bygones go by," Douglas said. He handed Carolyn an envelope. "Enjoy."
Carolyn opened the envelope carefully, as though she expected something dangerous to come out of it. Two pieces of paper fell instead. "Opera tickets," she said.
"I knew how sad you were that you'd missed out on the performance Hercules had scheduled," Douglas said. "And I thought, well, how lovely would it be if I could get those two lovebirds together for a nice evening out?"
"Yes, you're a regular St Valentine," Carolyn said. "However, I thought we had a budget set on this?"
"I haven't gone over," Douglas assured her. "It's for a community performance. Amateur Opera Society of Fitton. Surely you must have heard of eh-os-ffff? I'm sure you'll enjoy it."
"I'm sure," Carolyn said.
"My turn," Arthur said. "It's my turn."
Martin prepared himself for what wonderful surprise might be coming his way. Arthur had gone all out on the wrapping, with no less than six bows, all of them a bit squashed, and so much Sellotape that Martin kept getting the paper stuck to his fingers, and Theresa had to pry it off.
"It's socks," Arthur said. "And they're patterned like Christmas presents. They're Christmas presents present socks."
Martin held up the very very brightly coloured pair and put a smile on his face. "Very nice, Arthur, thank you," he said. "I'm sure I'll get a lot of use out of them." He might, actually. He was running low on socks. It might be nice to throw out one of his overly darned pair. If he could stand to go out in public in these ones.
"I think they are very chic," Theresa said, in his ear.
Martin flushed. "Ahem," he said. "All right, you're last Arthur. Good job waiting."
"It was very hard," Arthur said, solemnly.
Martin handed the present over. He'd found a shop in Toledo last week that had individual candy canes in various weird flavours. Arthur loved things that didn't taste like the things they were, and they were only 5 cents each, so Martin had got him the weirdest ones he could find. Pickle, gravy, wasabi, bacon, apple pie, root beer, birthday cake, and pumpkin pie.
Arthur was beside himself. He opened the gravy one immediately.
"Ugh, that's disgusting!" he yelled, happily. "That's brilliant, Skip. Thanks!"
Martin grinned. It was easy to buy for Arthur; he loved everything he was given, even horrible jumpers, or pants. He was the living embodiment of goodwill toward man. Which was definitely something to appreciate around Christmas. Especially when one would be in Wokingham with a less than ideal family in a few days time. All the better to spend time with friends.
"Thank you for bringing me," Martin said to Theresa, as they headed out again after the festivities had died down.
"Of course," Theresa said. "A princess is always generous with her time, and caring toward her subjects."
"We aren't your subjects," Martin said.
"No," she agreed. "But maybe in time, you might get a little closer to one, ja?"
Martin woke up to the alarm the next morning, with a startled snort. Due to the fact that Theresa liked to sleep with three quarters of herself flung over him and her head tucked under his chin, he inhaled some of her curls up his nose, and sneezed violently. Thankfully, not on her. He managed to turn his head.
"Gesundheit," Theresa murmured, sleepily.
"Thank you," Martin said. He reached and turned the alarm off, barely managing to get to it and knocking it onto the floor with a clatter. "Time to get up."
"No, you are mistaken," Theresa said, snuggling in deeper. "There will be no getting up. By royal decree, no one is to get out of bed yet."
"I don't think royal decree works on Carolyn," Martin said.
"I could make it work," Theresa said, ominously.
"Theresa," Martin said.
She sighed and lifted her head up. "I am serious. Be a little late for once, Captain. They aren't going to leave without you. They can't fire you, you aren't even paid," she said. "Be a bit spontaneous."
"It's bad form," Martin said. "It's my duty to be punctual. If I'm even a little late, I might overlook something on the walkaround and compromise everyone's safety."
"You and your duty," Theresa said, affectionately. "It's very admirable. I will give you a little medal for it. You can pin it right here." She pressed a kiss to his chest.
"I can't pin it there, that's where my wings are," Martin replied.
She gave him a grin. "Maybe a little lower then?" she said, kissing downwards.
"Theresa," Martin said.
She laughed. "I never like to let you go until your face is as red as your hair," she said, pressing her hands to his flaming cheeks. "I am getting very good at it. You may leave."
Martin slipped out of bed, rather reluctantly, he had to admit. If he had the choice, staying there would be it. He found himself very startled at the notion that he might prefer Theresa over aeroplanes. He'd never preferred anything over aeroplanes, before.
By the time he stepped out of the shower, he'd concluded he liked her at least as much as he liked aeroplanes, and felt a bit odd about it. Maybe a bit panicked. He almost missed the little box sitting next to the uniform he'd laid out the night before.
"You may open it now, since we won't see each other tomorrow," Theresa said.
Martin sat down on the bed, still wrapped in his towel, and undid the wrapping paper. He took the lid off the box and found a pair of cufflinks, shaped like spitfires.
"Oh, wow!" he said. "Wow, these are...wow. Are these...I think I've seen these in—"
"I found them in the Duxford Gift Shop," she said. "I thought it was nice, as it was our first date. Maybe they will bring you luck."
"They must have been expensive; everything in there is expensive," Martin said. He remembered that from when he was a child, and being ushered out while firmly told that he could not have the goggles, they didn't have enough money for them.
"You forget," Theresa said. "I get a discount."
"Thank you," Martin said. "They're great. Thank you. I have something for you, too."
"Yes, I know," Theresa said, clapping her hands in delight. "I saw it in your flight bag. I was very good, I didn't peek."
Martin brought the present to her on the bed. "It's-it's not as nice," he said.
"If you chose it, I will like it," she said, in a very matter-of-fact voice, as though any other outcome were impossible.
He watched her open it, once again unsure if it was quite the right thing. He'd been wavering back and forth since he found it in a charity shop. When he set eyes on it, he knew then it was the right thing, but since he'd bought it, he kept losing confidence. He bit his lip, uncertainly.
"Oh!" Theresa said. "Oh, isn't it pretty?"
It was an old brass compass, with a sundial on it. Martin had given it a bit of a polish, and it shined up very nicely, almost as good as new, even though he'd got it for a very reasonable price.
"I thought since...since you have to travel a lot to see me," he said, awkwardly, "that you should have something to help you find your way, and...not get lost. It's a bit silly—"
"It's not silly," Theresa said, and she sounded very unlike herself. Very raw, and natural, and without her usual poised veneer. She blinked at him, smiling. "It's not silly at all." She wrapped him up in her arms, so tightly he almost lost his balance. "I love it."
He beamed, relieved, and hugged her back. She murmured something near his ear, something in German. His German was far from good, but he knew that phrase. It made him have that odd, panicked feeling again, and he wasn't sure what to do, if he should ignore it or deal with it. He didn't want to ignore it.
"I love you, too," he blurted out, in response. "At least as much as aeroplanes. Erm, I mean—"
Theresa laughed, and hugged him tighter. "No," she said. "No, you said it perfectly."
"Oh, I see you're headed to the open auditions for Graham Norton impersonators," Douglas said, when Martin arrived for pre-flight checks.
"What?" Martin said.
"Nice socks," Douglas said.
"Oh," Martin said. He looked down, and shook his head. He was in such a daze after the present exchange—and word exchange—with Theresa, he'd got dressed without thinking about it. She must have switched his sensible, Captainly socks with the ones Arthur had given him, for those were the ones now on his feet. "Well, it's Christmas Eve, isn't it?"
"Yes, and we've got Arthur for the next two hours," Douglas said. "You know how he gets on Christmas Day. It's worse on Christmas Eve. All that pent up excitement."
"I know," Martin said. "I remember. You weren't here last year, when he made up his own Christmas Eve carols, because there weren't any. Still, it won't be that bad. At least it's not that long a trip this time. And he's already had his celebration, so maybe some of that energy will be spent."
"You're unusually optimistic today," Douglas noted. "Good night with Tess?"
"Very good," Martin said. He flushed. "No, not like that! Well, not not like that. Just, erm, it was nice. She's nice. I...it was nice."
"Oh, I'm sorry, was it nice, then? You really mustn't be so cryptic," Douglas said, dryly.
"Geeeeeet dressed you merry gentleman, let nothing you dismay!" Arthur's voice sang out, from nearby.
"For it is almost, almost, almost, almost, almost Christmas Day," Martin sang back, cheerfully.
"Oh God," Douglas said, shaking his head. "You've got it bad."
"I know," Martin said.
And, he only felt a little panicked about it.