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Cabin Pressure Fanfic: We're Not Using the Z Word - CaffieneKittySpace
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Cabin Pressure Fanfic: We're Not Using the Z Word
Title: We're Not Using the Z Word
Fandom: Cabin Pressure
Alternate Postings: AO3
Rating/Content: PG13, angst, humour, tough decisions, people trying to be clever and helpful, distressed Arthur. Lots of dialog, Open-ended.
Word Count: 3000
Disclaimer: Not my world.
Notes: These are scenes from a story that will never be fully written, and as a result is open-ended. Posting this as it is now, since the real finale episode will be airing in only a few hours (!!!). I'm out of time to knit things together, smooth out the mostly-dialog with more not-dialog stuff, and get the resolution down in prose, but I'm a bit pleased with how these scenes turned out and I wanted to share them before the finale. Title from "Shaun of the Dead," and one of the scene titles is from Lord Of The Rings. [LJ-only]

Summary: Scenes from an unfinished attempt at writing a finale fanfic for Cabin Pressure.

We're Not Using the Z Word

Martin and Douglas's Dilemma

Two months had passed and Martin still hadn't 'heard from' Swiss Air. It was getting harder not to say anything, but at the same time, harder to make the decision. It wasn't like Martin could come out and ask his friends for advice, not without letting slip he had the job already, but he really needed some sort of perspective on the choice he had before him. After all, he wouldn't be the only person affected by it. MJN would go under and where would that leave everyone else?

Towards the end of a long cargo flight from Monrovia, Martin decided to take the risk of talking. He needed something to put grit under his spinning mental wheels, in one direction or the other.

"Douglas..." he said, having re-gathered his nerves after Arthur's chicken and satsuma pie had turned out surprisingly all right, except for the crust which could have been used for a crash helmet.

"Hm?" Douglas had tried Arthur's latest attempt at fusion cookery, the corn-dog pastie, and still had an air of bemusement that it had turned out to be mostly digestible, if far from a flavour delight judging from his facial expressions as he'd eaten it.

"I might actually get that Swiss Air job, you know." Casual. Not lying, just not the entire truth.

"Stranger things have happened," Douglas said blandly.

Martin carried on. "If... if I do get the job-"

"Moderately large 'if'."

"-and MJN folded-"

"Absolutely miniscule 'if'." Douglas's hand tightened slightly on the control yoke. "More of a certainty, though Carolyn seems not to mind."

Martin took a deep breath, determined to bull through. He needed to know. "Um. Well. What would you do? If you didn't have MJN."

Douglas shrugged breezily. "Oh, this and that I suppose. I'm like a cat; always land on my feet."

"So you'd apply at other airlines?"

Douglas shifted in his seat. Martin wasn't sure if that was due to the question or the pastie. "I might. Might even apply at Swiss Air. If they'll take you and Herc the Berk, then anyone with a pulse has a chance."

"You think that um, thing, getting sacked from Air England. Do you think that will have been forgotten?"

Douglas gritted his teeth. "...stranger things have happened."

"But with all your experience-"

"Yes, Martin," Douglas snapped. "All my experience. All my long, long years of experience-"

"I didn't mean it like that! I just meant. Well." He looked away from Douglas, and out the window at the darkening sky. "Aside from the insane stunts and the lemons and your complete disregard for the rules and everything else... You are a damned good pilot, Douglas."

Douglas glanced at Martin. "...Thanks... I think."

"Any airline would be lucky to have you."

"I know." The hint of long-held bitterness carried through in Douglas's voice. "The trick is convincing them of that."

Martin fell silent, still looking out the window. It's been over a decade now, maybe Douglas's firing from Air England will be offset by his time with MJN. He frowned as the last streaks of daylight disappeared from the sky. Given it's Air England though, and he was fired for breaking the actual, literal law... Martin sighed. If MJN folds, Douglas isn't likely to fly for anyone ever again.

"In any case, this is all hypothetical," came Douglas's voice from beside him in the darkened cockpit. "They haven't offered you a position yet, have they?"

"Yes. I mean no. I-" Martin crossed his arms and stared into the blank darkness outside the plane. "All hypothetical."

They flew in silence until Douglas handed off the controls to Martin so he could leave the cockpit and deal with a corn-dog-pastie-related personal malfunction.


Carolyn and Herc's Dilemma

"You've stopped asking," Carolyn blurted as Herc drove her to the airfield.

Arthur had taken her car for a drive yesterday and managed to return it with a soft tyre and the petrol gauge on 'empty'. He'd driven his own Douglas-rented car in to the airfield today, but Herc had insisted on this being the perfect excuse to take Carolyn for breakfast.

It had been a civilized breakfast, with some rather enjoyable arguing about whether anything that didn't include at least one egg counted as a hot breakfast. Herc's mushroom and tomato tofu scramble had looked a lot like scrambled eggs, though she'd refused to try them on principal, sticking to her own bacon and eggs with wheat toast. It had been a spirited and lively debate, and in the end neither had given in on their point of view, which was entirely as it should be.

By Carolyn's estimation, Herc had to be about to leave for Zurich. The house-hunting trips had stopped, so she'd assumed he'd found a place and had arranged for the move. He hadn't shared any of the details with her though, and it felt like... Well, it felt like she was being left out of an important phase of his life. She wasn't sure how she felt about that, or how she felt about noticing that she should probably feel something about that. Now though...

"I'm sorry?" Herc asked.

"You've stopped asking," Carolyn repeated evasively. "That question you kept asking me."

"It seemed to be what you wanted me to do." He pulled up in front of the portakabin. "I've asked the question, you and I both know it's unanswered, and we are, for the moment, carrying on as we always have. As requested."

Carolyn gathered her bag and decided to push the point. "And will you be using MJN Air to transport your tat when it comes time for you to move?" She'd been attempting an unaffected casualness, but suddenly her breakfast had turned to stone.

Herc smoothed some imaginary dust from the leather-wrapped steering wheel. "...I haven't decided yet."

Carolyn took a breath, intent on saying something, just to have the last word in an argument that didn't exist, but it turned into a quiet "Bye." as she left the green Mercedes.

She ignored Hercules and his car completely as she went up the stairs and into the portakabin. She certainly didn't notice that he stayed outside with his engine running for nearly five minutes after she'd gone inside.


Douglas's Scheme

Douglas Richardson was many things, but he wasn't a complete idiot. Martin had been distracted and jumpy lately, and then there was that conversation in the cockpit after the corn-dog pastie incident (why in the world had he given that abomination a chance he'd never know, although for several moments during the eating of it, it had tasted nearly all right. The sort of alright that demanded a triple tequila sunrise chaser, but still. Not entirely inedible, just inadvisable for a sober person. He blamed the boredom of the long flight). Something was up with that interview Martin had had. Whether Martin'd been notified he was on a short list, or had heard something from somewhere else, perhaps Herc, Douglas didn't know.

Douglas wanted Martin to get his dream job, he did, or at least get one that was paying. He entertained no thoughts that what he was about to do was in any way a noble or selfless act. He also entertained very few hopes for his own chances of landing another job without MJN.

It was time for a precautionary first strike.

Douglas sauntered into the portakabin office without knocking. Carolyn, sitting at her desk, was the very image of a harried woman. A cold half cup of tea sat by her elbow and her hair straggled down from where she had held her head in her hands as she examined the company's accounts, though from the look in her eyes she was glaring somewhere far beyond the surface of the desk.

"Carolyn, I'd like to discuss my salary with you."

Carolyn kept staring through the ledger. "Oh for- Douglas, if Martin gets this job and moves to Zurich, MJN will fold. Do you really think now is a good time to ask for more money?"

"As good as any other probably, but no. Actually I was thinking of a pay cut."

Carolyn looked up from the ledger in front of her. "...Really."

"I'll take half my current wages, less one percent."

"Really?" Carolyn shifted forward in her chair.

"On the condition that you then offer the remainder to Martin. As a pre-emptive counter-offer."


"Just... consider it, would you? I mean-" Douglas struggled to shrug against his suspicions. "He may not get the job, and MJN may still fold even if he doesn't, but keeping Martin might keep it going a few years yet."

Carolyn examined Douglas over the rims of her reading glasses. "So this is solely about MJN and Martin then."

Douglas put on his blandest expression. "More MJN than Martin. As to what's in it for me, a continued job as a pilot. For a while longer at least."

"And what if I were to tell you I've decided to move to Switzerland?"

With a feeling like a sudden punch to the solar plexus, Douglas blinked. He hadn't factored that possibility in at all. He swallowed and straightened up. "Have you?"

Carolyn's expression soured as she turned her gaze briefly to the portakabin window and back. "...I don't know. Martin leaving and the business folding would make it a far less complex decision."

"Do you want Martin to leave?"

"I want him to be happy. I want him to get paid."

"He's happy here." As soon as he said it, Douglas realised it really was true.

"He must be, somehow." Carolyn sighed and removed her reading glasses to hang from the chain around her neck. "God only knows how he's stuck it out as long as he has."

"My offer would let him get paid...."

Carolyn sighed explosively. "Douglas Richardson, you delight in making my life more complex, don't you?"

Douglas shrugged eloquently. "I wouldn't say delight, it's just a bonus side effect."

She waved her hands. "Go. Be somewhere else."

"And my proposal?"

With a disgusted sound, she turned again to look out the portakabin window. "...I'll think about it."


The Breaking of the Fellowship

"But if I leave MJN will fold, Arthur. I can't do that to you all."

"Oh it'll be fine! We'd all still be together! Mum might move to Zurich with Herc if they get married, or even if they don't maybe, and I could move with them!"

Martin coughed. "Um. Arthur, if your mother and Herc are living together they might not-"

"Oh I know. I just meant I could move nearby, in case Mum needs me. We could still all be together there!" Arthur gasped and clapped his hands together as though suddenly transported with joy. "And I could work in a Toblerone factory!"

Martin smiled. "It'd be nice, wouldn't it? Living in a foreign country would be easier to adjust to with some friends around."

"Sure! And Douglas already knows someone in Zurich who likes fish cakes, so maybe he'd introduce us!"

"Arthur..." Martin sighed, shaking his head. "I doubt Douglas would be moving to Switzerland."

Arthur looked crestfallen. "But why not!"

"His daughter is in England, and he wouldn't have a job if there's no MJN-"

"But Douglas could figure something out!" Arthur insisted. "He's brilliant! And he could get a job anywhere!"

The intent look on Arthur's face convinced Martin not to press the point. Instead, he changed the topic and listened to Arthur babble for the next hour about what magical things he thought happened inside a Toblerone factory.


Herc's Scheme

"What's this?" Carolyn said, looking at the few sheets of paper Herc had handed her at her portakabin desk.

"It's my application for employment."

"Hercules Shipwright, if this is some sort of a joke-"

"It's not. I heard that MJN Air was expecting to have a vacancy at the command level and thought I would apply."

"You already have a job, with Swiss Air."

"Ah, yes. I thought about it of course, but my Schweizerdeutsch is quite rusty, and that dry Alpine air?" Herc tsked. "Murder on my sinuses. So, I've retracted my acceptance and taken redundancy instead."

"Sorry, but you-" Carolyn frowned. "You aren't moving to Switzerland?"

"No, I've retired. Though in the-" Herc made a show of glancing at his watch, "-3 hours I've spent in retirement, I've found that idleness doesn't agree with me, so I'm applying for the job opening. Semi-retired you see."

Carolyn opened her mouth, looking thunderous.

"However, don't think that means my services will come cheap. I demand you pay me exactly the same salary as your outgoing Captain, and not a penny less."

Carolyn's eyes flared. "Hercules Shipwright. I do not need or want your help, or your charity."

Herc smirked. "I know, which is why I'm not offering any. I'll need to get type-rated, Douglas and I will be at constant loggerheads, and the flight deck will be full of opera."

"Call Swiss Air immediately! Claim momentary insanity, maybe they'll reinstate the offer.

"I've retired. End of. I can't turn back. You would in fact be doing me a favour by hiring me."

"What are you going to do for money?"

Herc shrugged. "The redundancy package was a little more than adequate, as is the pension. I can sell that racing green 'mid-life crisis' you abhor."

"Abhor is a strong word," Carolyn murmured, shuffling some papers on her desk.

"No, you were right. The car is as ridiculous as your dog. I'll sell the car, get something more economical, or perhaps just cadge rides."

"What about your ex-wives?"

"They're all paid on a percentage of what I make above minimum living expenses - at their own insistence - and all either now fully support themselves through their own careers or are remarried. I'd not have to make the payments, and they wouldn't miss them."

Carolyn opened her mouth.

"And yes, I have already discussed this change with them. None of them were too concerned. Katherine was even relieved. My payments were complicating her tax preparation."

Carolyn stared at Hercules.

A qualm shot through him that she wouldn't take his offer. He'd been as careful as he could to remove any potential disputes, but still ensure he wasn't trapping her into making the decision he thought was best. To which point- "It's fine if you say no," he added breezily. "I'll be bored, but I imagine I can find something to occupy my time. I could do some charity work, write my memoirs-"

"God spare us all."

Carolyn looked Hercules up and down. Herc put on his best and blandest face.

"Well. I shall have to examine my accounts and see if a new pilot is wise at this point in my fiscal year, particularly one who is not type-rated on my only aircraft, but..." She closed the folder she was fiddling with. "I shall let you know."

"That's all I ask."


A Tale of Two Someones

With Carolyn grudgingly accepting Herc's offer to replace Martin, MJN would be as safe as it ever had been for years longer. Martin could take the Swiss Air job, move to Switzerland, and hope he didn't manage to muck things up with Theresa which was always a worry. She'd offered him the royal family's Zurich diplomatic flat until he found a place to live, an offer that was still astounding to him. It seemed like all the logistical barriers to Martin flying for Swiss Air were falling with barely any input from him.

Why then did he still feel like something wasn't right?

Martin closed his log book and noticed Arthur had been running the hoover over the same section of portakabin carpet for the past half hour. The hoover was off.

"What are you doing Arthur?"

Arthur jumped. "What! Oh, nothing really, Skip. I was just going to hoover, but you were working on the logbooks and I didn't want to disturb you so I didn't plug the hoover in."

Martin frowned. "It's not going to do much hoovering if it's not on."

"I- I know, you just seemed so at home there, like you always do, and- Oh, phoo!" Arthur dropped the hoover's handle with a clunk.

Martin jumped. "What is wrong with you, Arthur?"

"It's. I just. I want to do something really bad."

Martin felt his eyes pop. "...Ummm..."

"Well, not 'really bad' illegal bad, but...." Arthur closed his eyes and took a breath. "Skip."

"Yes, Arthur?"

"Suppose... Suppose someone was going to go somewhere where everything they ever wanted would happen, and another someone is their really- well, another someone thinks of the first someone as a really good friend, but all the second someone can think when the first someone gets their dream is that the second someone will never ever see the first someone again. And they really-" Arthur blew out what little remained of his breath, took another big gulp of air and kept going. "And all the second someone feels like saying sometimes, when they see the first someone is just- 'Please, please, don't go!'"

Martin sat behind the desk, more than a little stunned. "Arthur-" he began, but Arthur was off again.

"I know! It's bad! It's horrible!" The steward flung his hands in the air and paced in front of the desk. "I'm happy for- I mean. The second someone is so happy for the first someone finally getting his dream, but still feels awful inside, aching and sad, because the first someone will be going away forever."

"Switzerland's not that far, Arthur," said Martin, standing up from the desk and moving to stand in Arthur's frantic pacing path. "And I'll email, and I'll be able to buy a computer from this millennium and use Skype or something-"

Arthur stopped pacing, looked up at Martin and then down and away. "I just. I mean. I think the first person would try, but... they'd forget. And I'm not talking about Switzerland! At all! I'm speaking hypodermically."

Swallowing against a smile, Martin wanted more than anything to soothe Arthur's distress. "Heh. I know. Just hypothetically." Martin looked down at the desk he'd done his log books at for the past several years, squaring the books to the corner of the desk before looking back up at Arthur. "I think though, that the first someone, if he's actually going to have his dream come true, would never ever forget the second someone. Or any of the other someones he knows. Not after all they'd done together over the years."

Arthur's face was meant for smiles, but Martin had never seen such a sad smile on it. "If you say so, Skip." Slumping, Arthur turned to leave, picking up the hoover by the handle.

I can't let him leave like that. "Arthur?"

Arthur paused in the doorway and looked back, smiling a smile that didn't have the strength to reach his eyes.

"The uh, first someone. He..." Martin tried for a reassuring smile. "He thinks of the second someone as a really good friend too."

Arthur beamed for a split second, but then the smile faded down to a sad shadow of itself again. "But that just makes it so much worse. Doesn't it, Skip?" Arthur walked out the door of the portakabin, dragging the hoover behind him.

Martin stood alone in the empty portakabin, door yawning open into the dusk outside. After a while, he spoke.

"Yes Arthur, it really does."

(...and that's all)

Notes:....and there would have been a lot more other scenes including Theresa being helpful, Douglas having a Plan, and Carolyn and Herc coming to an understanding, all eventually leading to a somewhat overwrought ending where everyone is together in one big happy Team MJN family, but I'm out of time, so....

Enjoy Zurich, everyone!

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