Marty and the Pilot
Marty Bell knows what it’s like to be bullied. He was the shy, overweight kid at school, and those memories have helped turn him into an excellent teacher – though he’s never spread his wings beyond the remote northern village where he grew up.
The last thing he needs in his life is the reappearance of Devlin Surtees, leader of the gang who made his schooldays so tough. Dev is the glamorous village hero now, flying acrobatics planes and fighter jets for the RAF. He’s just as spellbinding, handsome and infuriating as Marty recalls.
But the years have transformed both of them, and their old enmity blazes up into a powerful attraction. The sex is great, and Marty’s beginning to wonder if the schoolteacher and the stunt pilot might have some kind of future – until a terrible secret of Devlin’s comes to light, and threatens to drag both of them down into a vortex of the past.
A visit to the wing commander's house had been a very big deal when Marty was young. He'd only been there twice, both occasions severely formal, when the Otterbeck headmistress of the day had put together delegations of the cleaner, more presentable kids to go and say thank you to Devlin's father for his regular donations to the school. Marty hadn't been pretty, but he had a nice voice and could be relied upon to struggle through old man Surtees' favourite Northumbrian folk songs without too much embarrassment.
When he realised that Devlin's directions were taking him up out of town and onto the flank of the hill where the big house lay, he had to fight laughter. His pint and a half was fizzing in his veins, the object of their journey preposterous, even if the hard-on he'd had to conceal with his jacket on his way out of the pub was still live and dangerous. Devlin had a bloody nerve, to make fun of people who still lived at home. “Tell me,” he said, squinting through the rose-gold sunset rays making their way through the ash trees along their route. “Is your dad more open-minded these days? Because I don't fancy rattling the glass in his cocktail cabinet while he sits in the next room reading the Times.”
“My dad?” Devlin seemed to shake himself out of a mild trance. “Oh, don't worry. The house is empty. I'm just crashing here for a few days while Clarkie gets his knot tied. It's just up this lane here.”
“Yeah, I remember.”
“Er... Right. I'll get the gate.”
Marty stood in the driveway, listening to the engine's cooling tick. He'd been so overawed by the place last time that Bill Allen had had to poke him in the ribs before he could return the wing commander's greeting. A flight of marble steps up to the brass-bound front door, a portico bigger than the kitchen where Ma Bell baked her cakes. Staring red brickwork three storeys high, windows curtained in purplish brocade, and all this manorial splendour encased in a florid monoculture of rhododendrons. He'd still have found it all pretty jaw-dropping now, except that he'd seen – had been tenderly shown – something better. He waited until Devlin had unlocked the door and was standing between the heavy pillars, a little uncertainly, as if he didn't belong here anymore. Then he went to join him, and followed him into the house.
Not just empty but vacated. The paintings Marty remembered were gone from the oak-panelled hall, the ancestral portraits that looked as though they'd been recently painted to order and the big sad head of a stag. Glancing through doorways, he saw that the remaining furniture was sheeted, eerie shapes in the dusk. Devlin led him through to a small back parlour he hadn't seen before. There were signs of life here, a sofa and armchairs and a gas fire ticking over on a low setting. “Used to be the housekeeper's room,” Devlin said by way of explanation. “She used to make herself pretty comfortable, so I'm camping out here. Can I get you a drink?”
Some items from the wing commander's formidable cocktail cabinet had made their way through here, including a crystal decanter and some glasses. Marty had had enough for one night, at least if he wanted to be able to drive himself home. But Devlin was leaning by the sideboard, arms folded, looking at once bold and shy and good enough to eat. No-one had laid a hand on Marty in two months. He leapt into the new stream. “Please. A stiff one.”
Devlin twitched an eyebrow at him. “Nervous?”
“Course I am. The school loser, about to bed the flyboy hero... Better make it a double.”
Devlin snorted. “You don't think you're a loser any more than I think I'm a...” He trailed off before Marty could learn his opinion on the status accorded him by Otterbeck school and village. “Here. Do you want soda with that?”
“Just a splash. Don't drown it.”
“Jesus. Last time I shared a table with you, you were trying to decide between Fanta and Tango to wash down your Mars Bar.”
“I grew up. Life changes you.”
“People change you too.” Devlin poured two scotches from the decanter, added Marty's soda with an elaborately careful hand, and brought them over. “Here you go. You don't seem the type to run two dogs in one race, but I'm finding it a bit hard to believe you haven't been snapped up.”
“I don't cheat, if that's what you're asking.”
“Kind of. And I wouldn't mind finding out who taught you to get picky over your scotch. Was it your – ”
“Hush,” Marty advised, smiling. “I think we should only be allowed a couple of questions each at a time, or I'm gonna feel interrogated. It's my turn now, so...” He knocked back a good measure of his double. “Why is your house empty? What happened to your dad?”
“Didn't you hear? He died a couple of years back.”
“Oh... God, Devlin. No, I didn't know. And I'd never have asked that way, if I'd...”
“Chill out. It was ages ago, and we weren't that close.”
“I was away at college. My parents never mentioned it.”
“I don't suppose your socialist dad would have mourned the village capitalist pig.” Devlin swirled the contents of his glass. “Don't worry – half the RAF turned out for his funeral.”
“I'm glad. That's... That's nice.”
“Yeah. It was quite an event. After the service, they took his coffin all the way up into the Cheviot hills. Then they... attached a set of booster rockets to it and launched him off the top of Yeavering Bell.”
Marty froze. He stared at Devlin, his glass at his mouth. Then he exploded into giggles, sending scotch and soda flying. “Sorry,” Devlin went on, without a trace of contrition. “You look bloody gorgeous when you laugh. Come here.”
Marty went into his arms. He didn't fight when Devlin put a hand on the back of his neck. All kinds of half-forgotten fantasies sprang back to life at the touch of that mouth on his, sparks and heat and a wild sense of unreality. Never once in Marty's dreams had Devlin's kiss been tentative, and he didn't want it that way now – took hold of the broad shoulders and pulled him in, running a tongue-tip over his lower lip. “Come on, handsome. Where's that callous, overbearing bastard I remember?”
“Right here.” Devlin returned the tongue-push, kissed him with bruising force, then shoved him to arm's length. “Turn round. Bed?”
“Romantic of you, but I'll gladly take the sofa.”
“Oh, you hot little beast. Who knew you'd turn out like this?” Devlin marched him across the room, propelled him in the direction of the couch. “Stay there. Don't move a muscle.”
“Not even to take off my pants?”
Devlin emitted a low whistle. “Are you always like this?”
“Not at all. In the classroom I'm a teddy bear. And the worlds never meet, mate, so fuck my brains out if you like, but don't you dare open your mouth about it afterwards. Understood?”
Marty listened to the retreating thud of footsteps on the stairs. He knelt on the sofa and imagined Devlin in his bathroom or bedroom, pulling out condoms, finding the lube. The images stiffened his cock, and he dismissed the lingering fear that his prank-plagued childhood had followed him here and Devlin had only gone upstairs to fetch a camera, or Jared Clark from some hiding place, and was about to spring back through the door to laugh at his naked arse. He undid his smart school trousers and pushed them down around his knees. Briefs too, a moan breaking from him. He took hold of the back of the sofa: glanced over his shoulder as Devlin returned. “At last. I nearly started without you.”