Here’s a short Douglas angst fic I wrote a while ago for the Cabin Pressure kink meme. There needs to be more Douglas h/c in the world but alas I’ve only yet managed to write the hurt.
Title: The Mona Lisa’s Smile
Characters: Martin Crieff, Arthur Shappey, Douglas Richardson
Summary: Though Martin had seen Douglas smirk many times, he couldn’t recall the last time he saw him smile.
Another Birling Day, another trip to Paris. Rather than sitting around and twiddling their thumbs while Mr. Birling watched his rugby match, growing ever more red faced and closer to a coronary (whether through pleasure at his team’s victory or anger at their defeat, it really made no odds), it was decided by an ever enthusiastic Arthur that they would take a trip to the Louvre. Carolyn stated that she couldn’t possibly join them, citing a headache as her excuse- not that she had one at that present time, but that she surely would if she had to listen to her imbecilic crew prattling on about art- and Douglas stated that he had important phone calls to make. Martin eyed his First Officer suspiciously as he strode away, phone in hand, wondering what he would be trading with his contacts this time- cheese, wine and garlic from the French end, obviously, but what commodity could be scarce enough here for Douglas to exchange? A sense of humour, perhaps, or was that the Germans?
Arthur displayed his usual resilience when recovering from the disappointment of their group being whittled down to two and he was on sparkling form by the time they arrived at the museum. Martin grumbled slightly the cost of the tickets but found it difficult not to be cheered by the steward’s obvious delight at absolutely everything. It would appear that Arthur had swallowed a book on Art at some point and as such he alternated between rattling off obscure facts and dates and dubbing every piece from The Last Supper to a half finished painting of a cat ‘brilliant!’ The running commentary on every moment of ‘brilliance’ continued long after their jaunt about Paris had ended so that even by the time they landed in Fitton late that evening it was still the importance of Monet’s brush strokes and Van Gough’s ear (or lack thereof) which occupied the minds of the MJN crew, whether they wanted it to or not.
Douglas sauntered off as soon as the post landing checks were complete, an envelope of questionable contents in hand. Martin, as ever the conscientious Captain, stayed behind to do the paperwork and Arthur hovered nearby, still buzzing from a combination of excitement and Diet Coke. “Skip…?” he began in that ponderous voice which never bodes well. Martin put down his pen with a sigh and nodded resignedly for him to continue. “You know the Mona Lisa?”
"Yes, intimately," he replied wryly, removing his hat and running a hand down across his eyes. No one could exhaust him as quickly as Arthur.
The steward gaped a little before squeaking “what, really?”
Martin sighed- why did he bother?- and made a vain attempt to make his hair lie flat “it was a joke, Arthur, go on.”
"Oh, right. Well, I was just thinking, she’s sort of like Douglas, isn’t she?"
Martin’s brow furrowed in confusion “you mean smug and overrated?”
"No, I mean he hasn’t got any eyebrows." This statement could more readily have applied to Martin at that moment as his own brow had shot up to be swallowed by a mass of curls. "I mean, obviously he does have eyebrows," Arthur continued, oblivious, "but she doesn’t. And everyone comes to stare at her and they stand there for hours and write books about how perfect she is, but she isn’t, because she hasn’t got any eyebrows."
"Arthur, if you’re trying to state that Douglas’s ego is over-inflated, it’s not me you should be talking to."
"No, Skip, it’s not that ‘cos she doesn’t think she’s perfect, not at all. She looks really sad. It’s just other people who think she is and then they tell other people that she is perfect and they believe it and it goes on like that. Like a fairy tale or something when people believe dragons exist because they’re told about them and then they tell people about them but they still don’t exist which is a shame because dragons would be brilliant."
Martin was beginning to realise why Carolyn had foreseen a headache. “Look, Arthur, as Douglas has said himself, no one has a higher opinion of him than he does.”
"But, Skip, what if that opinion’s not very high at all?" Martin snorted but Arthur carried on doggedly. "If he doesn’t actually think that much of himself then he could just think that other people think less than that. Like today, he was really sad and he didn’t tell us about it at all like when I fell over when I was little and didn’t go to mum about it because I thought I’d get into trouble."
It occurred to Martin that listening to Arthur was like that flying key scene in the first Harry Potter where in order to get to the important key you had to be smacked a thousand times by the useless ones. “Wait a minute… what do you mean he was sad? Douglas hasn’t been anything approaching ‘sad’ in all the time I’ve known him. Smug, yes, frequently, but not sad. I think I’d notice.”
"No you wouldn’t, Skip! He hides it from you but no one hides anything from me because they think I can’t see the obvious." He doesn’t sound upset about this, just matter-of-fact. He’d be the first to admit that more often than not it’s true.
"Well, I’m sure that’s not…" Martin cleared his throat, knowing full well that Arthur’s assessment was true. "So why was he sad?"
"The envelope. It was like the one mum got when her divorce was finalised and when he was speaking on the phone it was to his ex-wife. I accidentally overheard and bit when I was getting your coffee."
Martin looked stunned “right… so…” he didn’t really know how to continue, the revelation that Douglas Richardson was not the unflappable sky god he pretended to be having struck him like the results of another failed pilot’s exam.
Arthur was looking at Martin assessingly and, though his gaze could not be called ‘intelligent’, precisely, there was something strangely philosophical in his expression (though, in truth, it might have been a trick of the light making him suddenly look a touch Socratic). “I think we’re impressionist paintings, Skip, a bit blurry around the edges but happier for it.” Certainly if anyone was a poster boy for happiness it was Arthur who picked up his bag and began whistling tunelessly as he made his way over to GERTI and his cleaning duties, leaving Martin to ponder the revelations of the day.
The more he thought about it, the more stupid he felt. Douglas hadn’t exactly been entirely tight lipped about his past with details having emerged at unexpected intervals. Martin knew about the failed marriages, the daughter he barely saw, his dismissal from Air England, the implications of his abstinence from drink and yet he had somehow never equated these facts with the image of ‘the indestructible Douglas’ that he saw every day. How could he have been so blind that it had taken Arthur, of all people, to point out that this was all a myth?
Sipping his now stone cold tea with a grimace, Martin resolved to talk to Douglas in the morning. As he tidied away the paperwork and flicked off the portakabin light, another similarity between his First Officer and the Mona Lisa occurred to him. Though Martin had seen Douglas smirk many times, he couldn’t recall the last time he saw him smile.