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Part 1

Chapter Two

It was certainly fortunate that Douglas wasn’t at all embarrassed or upset by his likeness to the hapless Secretary of State for Social Affairs & Citizenship, since it appeared glaringly obvious over the next few weeks that Mannion had a flair for winding up in publically humiliating situations that cast even Martin’s into the shade – catapulting the MP into the news again and again. And, the more people saw of Mannion on the television, the more they noticed the resemblance to Douglas. He and Carolyn laughed about it. At one point, Hercules made an aborted attempt to mock Douglas over it, which was short lived once Douglas made it quite clear that the likeness didn’t bother him one iota.

Martin never brought it up. But then, Martin was likely even less interested in politics than Douglas was. Or so Douglas thought, until the day of the Arthur Shappey Litmus Test.

Douglas had found long ago that his three MJN colleagues made a good “sliding scale” indicator of how glaringly obvious something was. Carolyn had the perception and wit to pick up on things very swiftly. Martin made a good “control” – if he spotted something, then the chances were that the average chap on the street would too. If Arthur made a note of it, then it was absolutely as plain as the nose on your face. So Douglas abandoned all hope of not spending the next few years being asked by strangers if they’d seen him on the news or something when Arthur came bursting into the flight deck with the teas one morning wearing an expression that could only possibly go with a small cartoon lightbulb shining away above his head.

‘The chap on the slide!’ Arthur beamed.

‘Beg pardon?’

‘That’s who it is you look like. That MP who had his photo taken going down a slide the other day.’

‘Arthur,’ said Martin, ‘I don’t think…’

‘Oh, what’s his name?’ Arthur asked. ‘Hummitty Hoo. Secretary of something.’

‘Peter Mannion,’ replied Douglas with a resigned sigh. ‘Yes, I had noticed.’

‘No you don’t!’

Douglas and Arthur blinked in unison at Martin’s needlessly horrified outburst. Martin stared back at them both, floundering, before attempting a scoff.

‘He doesn’t look a bit like him, Arthur. Don’t be silly.’

‘But he does!’

‘Loathed as I am to admit it, Martin, I really do. Sound like him, too.’

‘So what is he – a long lost twin or something?’ Arthur asked cheerfully.

‘Oh, God.’ Martin was suddenly very pale.

‘Certainly not,’ Douglas told the Steward. ‘He has none of the Richardson flair.’ Wanting to bring Martin in on the joshing, he nudged the Captain’s ankle with his foot. ‘Probably more Crieff in him than Richardson, what would you say, Martin?’

‘Could we drop this, please?’

Douglas withdrew his foot and frowned. Martin looked as if he was about to throw up.

‘He does get himself into some real scrapes, Skip,’ Arthur added, oblivious to Martin’s reaction. ‘Hey, maybe this is like Doctor Who! Because he’s a bit like if you and Douglas could have a baby together in some weird SciFi way or get cloned together or something and then the baby was thrown back in time so he’s about 60 and then that would be him.’

‘Sorry, no. You’re talking utter rubbish.’ Martin got to his feet, suddenly. ‘Excuse me. I. Er. I’m going out. I need some air.’

‘Martin,’ said Douglas, gently, ‘it may have escaped your attention, but we’re currently at 15,000 feet over the North Sea where there is, admittedly, an abundance of air out, although none of it terribly good for you.’

‘Out of the flight deck. It’s too stuffy in here. I. I just need to sit out in the cabin for a bit.’

‘You don’t look very well, Skip.’ Arthur’s face flashed concern. ‘Oh, no! One of our pilots is sick! This is just like that how that film starts. The one with the aeroplane. What’s it called?’

‘Airplane.’ Martin squeezed at his eyes. ‘And I’m fine. Really. I just need air. I’ve… I’ve got a headache.’

‘Another headache?’ noted Douglas. ‘You might want to see somebody about those if they persist.’

Martin gave Douglas an odd look for a second, before leaving the flight deck.

Douglas frowned at the door as it closed. ‘I should talk to him.’

‘I think flying the plane’s a bit more important for you to do right now, Douglas, what with Skip feeling poorly and all. Unless you wanted to talk to him over the cabin address system, but I think he went out there mainly because the talking was making him feel bad.’

Douglas sighed. ‘I suppose so.’

‘Don’t worry. I’ll make sure he’s all right. That’s what Stewards do – make sure people in the cabin are all right, and it’s not like I’ve got any passengers to do that for. He can be my passenger! Captain Passenger.’

‘Best to keep the chatter to a minimum, though.’

‘Can do!’

‘And best not to mention Mannion to him any more,’ added Douglas. ‘You know – the slidey MP. He seems to really upset Martin. I wonder why.’

‘Oh, politicians always upset people,’ replied Arthur. ‘It’s just what they do. I remember my dad used to shout at Neil Kinnock when he was on the telly – I kept telling him he couldn’t hear him, but he still shouted.’

‘Hmm,’ said Douglas, non-commitally. This was a mystery. He wasn’t fond of mysteries concerning his lovers – particularly since the Tai Chi Teacher incident.

He was going to get to the bottom of this.

-x-

“Headaches” notwithstanding, Martin did indeed seem keen on carrying on with their clandestine meet-ups. He avoided Douglas for a few days after both the incident in Alaska and the one over Arthur mentioning Mannion, but on both occasions was at Douglas’ bedroom door within the week, full of nervous energy and a frantic need to be touched, and kissed, and enthusiastically fucked. Douglas obliged. The matter of Martin’s reluctance to bring their changed relationship out of secrecy was rather a sticking point, but in the early weeks Douglas hoped that, given time and a little gentle persuasion, they’d be able to move things forward.

Two months passed, and Martin doggedly refused to even waiver. Douglas decided that it was time to try a different approach. He found himself able, during a return flight, to talk Martin into going to his house for the night. A night together on their home turf, rather than in an anonymous hotel room. It was a tiny, baby step, and even that had taken a considerable amount of bribery, but it was a step in the direction Douglas wanted, at least.

Martin was on his doorstep at 10pm, anxiously looking around to check he hadn’t been spotted. By 10.10, they were both stark naked and Douglas was finishing off the last tie to leave Martin spread-eagle and helpless on Douglas’ bed – a limb tied to each bedpost.

‘How’s that?’ Douglas sat back, enjoying the delightfully pinking skin splayed out under his own handiwork. ‘Or, when you expressed an interest in being tied up, were you hoping more for me to have you detained in a long, boring business meeting?’

‘This is fine.’ Martin tested the ties on his wrists a little. ‘Good. Good. Yes, this is good.’

‘Told you I’d make it worth your while.’ Douglas ran a light touch up Martin’s thigh and hip, over ribcage and nipple to neck, and watched the goosebumps flare. ‘And now, I’ve got you right where I want you.’ He watched as Martin closed his eyes, gnawing on his bottom lip. ‘For as long as I want. I might untie you at midnight. Until then, you’re all mine.’

He bent down and planted a soft kiss on the inside of one of Martin’s opened thighs, smirking to himself at the wriggle and moan that it elicited.

‘Do you know what I want to do with you, Martin?’

‘What are you going to do with me?’

‘I want to have a chat.’

Martin snapped his head up as far as it could go. ‘What?’

‘I’ve got you for two hours, you’ve given me a list of the things you don’t want to do – having a chat wasn’t on there.’

‘A chat,’ repeated Martin. ‘A chat. Er… a sexy chat?’

‘A personal one, certainly. See, I enjoy knee-tremblers up against the wall, or bent over the bed, or… maybe not in the shower quite so much when one’s partner has quite the knack for falling over on slippy surfaces as you do…’

Martin winced at the memory. ‘Agreed.’

‘I enjoy those things as much as the next man,’ continued Douglas. ‘But I also enjoy dates. Talking – getting to know somebody.’

‘But you already know me.’

‘Not intimately. Not the way I like to know my sexual partners. And, since you steadfastly refuse to let me take you out on a date, don’t want to have this sort of talk while we’re flying and never stick around for pillow talk, I thought I’d bring the date to you. I even got in a nice bottle of Merlot if you’re more comfortable doing this over drinks – although, in your current state you’re probably best using a straw.’

‘And that’s your idea of a sexual adventure, is it? Stripping me off, tying me down and then wasting two hours asking me cheesy questions like what my favourite colour is, or what sort of biscuit I’d be?’

‘Well, no, because firstly, we’ve had both of those conversations on flights – blue, and a Jammie Dodger, see, I remembered – secondly, if that’s your idea of what to talk about on a date, then you really do need to brush up on your skills in that area, and thirdly, I was planning on having an awful lot of terribly enjoyable sex with you as well. Just see this as a part of the foreplay. I always do. If it helps, I have ice, lubricant and a couple of interesting looking sex toys on hand. One of the perks of having your date in the bedroom.’ He slid a finger up martin’s thigh again, running it over the cleft of his arse and up his perineum. ‘Can’t do this in Nando’s.’

Martin huffed, pushing his head back into the pillow at the sensation. ‘Why don’t you do some more things to me that you wouldn’t do at Nando’s, and we’ll talk.’

Activities thoroughly unacceptable at a Peri-Peri chicken restaurant chain, which Douglas decided were suitable for commencing his “date” with Martin included tonguing his balls, teasing the underside of his cock with his mouth and sliding a lubricated finger inside his arse while kissing and licking his nipples into aroused, pink little peaks. He waited until Martin was duly blissed-out before starting with the questions he’d been itching to have an honest answer to for weeks.

‘So, what’s the story with you and men? You never gave any real indication that they were your cup of tea before our first little altercation in Athens.’

‘I’m… not sure that’s any of your business.’

‘Martin. You’re tied, naked to my bed and I’m about to do terrible, terrible things to you. I’d say that your sex life is rather my business by now.’

‘Not my history, no.’

‘I’m just curious! I’d like to know whether the man I’m sleeping with is closeted gay, or Bi, or pansexual, or just unwilling to categorise himself. I want to know what kind of man you like – what kind of sex you like.’ He kept the addition that he wanted to know what made Martin so anxious about people knowing he was sleeping with Douglas that he’d rather go through this rigmarole of keeping things under wraps for months on end to himself. Not that it mattered, because Martin was still clearly in no mood to start talking.

‘Fine,’ said Douglas. ‘I’ll start. I’ve found myself generally preferring the female form as a rule, but I do make some very special exceptions. Without wanting to pigeonhole you into a “type” too much, the men do tend to be smaller, slighter… a certain daintiness to them.’

‘I can honestly say,’ replied Martin, quietly, ‘that I have never been described as “dainty” before.’

‘Well, yes. As I say, I didn’t want to typecast you too much.’ Douglas treated Martin’s chest to another couple of quick licks and nibbles before going on. ‘There have been three men, before you. There was Jeremy, and then two Tims. As two completely separate relationships, by the way – I wasn’t at some sort of All Tim Orgy.’

‘Although it does sound as if you have a thing for Tims.’

‘I did. And now I have a thing for Martin. There’d been something bubbling under for a while before Athens. When we had that blazing row I knew I was either going to end up kissing you or killing you.’

‘And have you made up your mind, yet?’

Douglas nuzzled at his neck, casting his mind back to the argument they’d had on the flight back over the correct way to pronounce “pot pourri”. ‘Jury’s still out.’

‘Well, if it makes you feel any better, the feeling was – and continues to be – mutual.’

Douglas felt the smile on Martin’s face. He pushed the finger inside the other man a little deeper. ‘Now. Tell me. What’s your star sign?’

‘You’re lucky I can’t slap you right now.’

Douglas laughed.

‘You’re the only man I’ve been with,’ said Martin after a moment.

‘Oh,’ sighed Douglas.

‘I mean. There’s been women. A few women. I always thought I was straight. And then… Douglased. Douglased to within an inch of my life.’

‘Gracious.’ Douglas took a couple of seconds to digest this. ‘Well, there’s a piece of information that could either cause a chap to feel overwhelmed by the pressure of expectation implied or incredibly smug.’

‘Yes. You see now why I didn’t really want to talk about it?’

‘Luckily for both of us, “incredibly smug” is rather my default setting, so I think I’ll settle for that.’

Martin gave him another smile.

‘So,’ continued Douglas, ‘is that why you insist on keeping this a secret?’

The smile dropped.

‘Look,’ said Douglas. ‘Whatever it is – because we’re both men, because we work together, or just that it’s because you’ve managed to fall for someone with several dozen bedpost notches and two decades on you…’

‘Oh, shut up.’

‘I think it would be easier to overcome than you think.’

‘For the last time, Douglas, I just don’t feel ready for it, yet. It’s all of those things. All of them and more. And once it’s out, it’s out, whatever we do, so would you please just give it a rest?’

‘Fine.’ Douglas sat back, withdrawing his hands. This wasn’t foreplay any more. This was the edge of a nasty argument. Still. In for a penny, in for a pound.

‘Why does my likeness to Peter Mannion upset you so much, Martin?’

Martin glared at him for a second, before starting to wriggle furiously in his bonds.

‘Let me go.’

‘Just tell me!’

‘Let me go, Douglas. I want to go home.’

‘Martin, would you please tell me?’

‘Concorde, Douglas. Bit fat Concorde!’

‘You’re safewording out of a conversation?’

‘Yes! Let me go. Let me GO!’ Martin was frantic to get out, now. With hindsight, Douglas wasn’t quite sure why he didn’t untie Martin there and then. He watched him with a grim fascination - curiosity and concern urging him to find out what on earth it was about that man’s name that caused such a violent reaction in Martin.

‘Good God, Martin. What did he do to you?’

‘Douglas, I will scream. You’re not allowed to do this.’

‘If you don’t tell me, Martin, I’ll ask him. He’s got a website.’

‘No.’

‘There’s a comments section – admittedly, it’s being moderated, considering his current popularity, but I’ll ask, and I’ll ask until I bally well get an answer.’

‘Don’t you bloody dare.’

‘Why do you hate him so much, then?’

‘I don’t hate him!’ Martin was fighting back tears, now. Douglas knew he’d gone too far – much too far – but he had to know, now. He just had to. Mental images of the sorts of thing somebody as wealthy and powerful as Mannion could do to an impressionable, confused young man and then cover up flashed a lurid horror show through his imagination.

‘What did he do to you? Did he hurt you? Did he… fuck you? Did…’

‘Jesus Christ, no, that’s disgusting!’

‘Why? He’s not much older than me.’

‘He’s my father, all right?’ Martin stared up at him – still naked, still spread out on the duvet, the suggestiveness of the pose he was trapped in utterly at odds with the fury and humiliation in his expression. ‘Are you happy now? He’s my father.’

-x-

‘Jesus.’ Douglas’ hands scrabbled to untie Martin’s wrists. ‘I’m so sorry. I… I knew there was something up, but… your father. Really?’

‘Really.’ Martin wouldn’t look him in the eye.

‘So, the electrician from Wokingham…’

‘…was my Dad,’ interjected Martin. ‘Will always be my Dad. Nothing will ever change that. He raised me, and he loved me, and he always… well, he always tried to do what was best for me, although we didn’t always exactly see eye to eye on that, and I still miss him, every day. But he wasn’t my birth father.’

Now completely freed, Martin perched on the end of the bed. Douglas apologetically passed him his underpants and trousers, but Martin just clutched them over his lap.

‘My Mum told me,’ Martin continued. ‘When she found out they couldn’t operate on her cancer. She wanted me to know the truth, before she… well. Her and Dad went through a really rough patch a couple of years into their marriage. For a while they were living apart, seeing other people. And there was this guy, a regular at a restaurant she worked at, who took a shine to her, and showered her with gifts and attention, and one thing led to the other… Mum said it only lasted a few weeks. He was married, and an MP, so he couldn’t be seen to be with her, even though they all had mistresses, apparently. Mum didn’t even know she was pregnant until she’d already patched things up with Dad. She told me… she told me I was always wanted. I was a surprise, and not the best timed one, but I was always wanted, by her and by Dad. And most of the time I believed her, but then I’d look at the way dad was with Simon and Caitlin – with his own kids, and I’d wonder.’

‘So, your Dad knew.’

Martin nodded. ‘He knew, and he knew that Mum had told me. But we never talked about it. And, five years later, he died. So it’s all too late for that, now. Simon and Caitlin don’t know. And I don’t want them to.’

‘Does Mannion know?’

Another nod. ‘Mum said she’d told him when she’d found out she was pregnant, but that he wasn’t all that interested. She sent him a baby photo, but he asked her not to send any more. I looked him up. Tried emailing, when I found out. Just let him know how I was getting on, you know? He sent me a reply. Pretty generic. I emailed again when I became a pilot, and a couple of Christmasses since, just to keep him up to date. I got a “Well Done”, and a string of “Season’s Greetings” in return. “Kind Regards, the Right Hon. Peter Mannion MP”, yadda yadda yadda.’

‘Charming. Do you want some water, or something?’

‘Please.’

Douglas hurried out to the bathroom to wash his hands and pour out a glass of tap water for Martin. When he got back, less than a minute later, the other man looked on the verge of tears again. Douglas handed over the glass without a word.

‘And then I got this job,’ said Martin, ‘and I saw you. And… oh, God.’ He covered his face with his free hand. ‘You’re going to think I’m such a pervert. I saw you, and you looked so much like his pictures, and you sounded so much like the radio clips I’d heard. I wanted you to like me so badly. And I wanted you to care, and I wanted you to be proud, because he wasn’t…’ his voice petered out as he fought back a sob.

‘Martin,’ sighed Douglas. ‘Dear God. Please, please tell me that these last months haven’t been because you think you need to have sex with me to get me to like you.’

‘No,’ said Martin. ‘No. No, I do really fancy you, and sometimes I think that those feelings sort-of evolved naturally from really wanting to impress you. And sometimes I think… well, like I say, I don’t fancy men. I just fancy you. And maybe that’s because you look like… Because it’s in those awful magazines sometimes, isn’t it? Long lost parents and children and siblings and when they finally meet and they’re all grown ups they’re attracted to each other, only in this case I went for a proxy and oh God, this is so messed up. I’m sorry. I can’t even have sex without it turning into some Godawful Jeremy Kyle worthy mess.’

‘Don’t you dare apologise for any of this.’ Douglas rubbed at his face. ‘I shouldn’t have pushed the matter. Certainly not the way I did, that was appalling.’

‘Well. Yes.’ Martin took another little sip of water. ‘I was going to tell you off about that after I’d finished feeling sorry for myself over this.’

‘Will you still stay the night?’ Douglas asked. ‘I’ll take the sofa, of course.’

‘No. No, I should probably… er.’ He looked around. ‘Where are my trousers?’

‘You’re holding them.’

‘Oh!’ Martin looked down at his hands. ‘So I am.’

‘Martin. Are we OK, here?’

‘I think we’re really quite far from OK. And I’ve known it for ages, I just haven’t been able to stop myself, because I fancy the arse off you, idiot that I am, and for once somebody actually feels the same way, and to top it all, the sex is absolutely fantastic.’ Martin slumped. ‘Just my rotten luck.’

‘Yes. Poor you with your unfortunately incredible sex, with somebody you fancy who cares about you.’

‘You know what I mean. You can’t seriously be thinking about carrying on with this, knowing the truth about Mannion?’

‘It’s not like I’m your father.’

‘Douglas! I’m serious. And if people find out about this, and then it ever gets out about Mannion, what are they going to think? Everyone says you’re the spit of him - everyone. Even Arthur. They’re going to look at this as if it is incest. What would they say about you? What would they say about me? They’d see me as some sort of... Gay Oedopus or something.’

Gay Oedopus. Good grief. Douglas was caught in that danger zone between really wanting to laugh and really, really knowing that he mustn’t. It happened a lot, with Martin. Usually, laughter won out, but this was rather too serious. What felt like a hundred instances when he and Martin had laughed inappropriately flashed through his mind as the other man dressed, and suddenly the thought of losing him as a lover felt horribly sad. The thought of them growing apart as friends as a result of this nagged at him as well, but felt so utterly intolerable that he dismissed it as quickly as he could.

Mannion. Bloody Mannion, that Champagne swilling, children’s slide hogging, philandering arse. This was all his fault.

Well. It had been well over 30 years since Mannion’s indiscretion with a waitress had brought about the most wonderful, ridiculous young man, and a host of problems, neuroses and unhappiness to boot. It was about bloody time he was held to account.

Part 3
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