Martin was on a train to London, reading a book, and he didn’t react when he heard someone clear their throat, because he doubted anyone would want to attract his attention. He continued reading, but then someone said, “Captain Crieff?”
Martin jerked and almost dropped his book, because a) he wasn’t used to being addressed as Captain, which was really ridiculous, given that he was a captain, and b) he recognised the voice.
He looked up, and he could feel his cheeks turn bright red almost immediately. He was right – the man standing in the aisle was Henry Knight, also known as the most gorgeous and adorable passenger MJN had ever had. Martin had made an utter fool of himself in front of Henry when they took him to Ontario last year, to Douglas’ endless amusement, of course – the jokes about knights in shining armours lasted for several weeks.
“I’m sorry,” Henry said when Martin just stared at him. “You probably don’t remember me…”
“No!” Martin interrupted him, trying to think despite the sudden panic that was gripping him. “Of course I—of course I remember you. Mr Knight.”
“Henry, please,” Henry said, and smiled, and that was it. Martin was going to make a fool of himself all over again, he just knew it.
“I’m Martin,” he said, and gestured to the seat in front of him, which was stupid, since they were on a train and Henry could sit wherever he wanted. But Henry smiled even more and sat down, and why were his ears so adorable? They reminded Martin of little wings. Of course, Henry probably wouldn’t be pleased if Martin told him that. Not that Martin was going tell him that he found anything about him adorable. Of course he wasn’t. That would be inappropriate. He shouldn’t even think it.
“So are you, um, going somewhere?” he said hastily to stop his train of thought, and then he wanted to kick himself. Great, Martin. Brilliant question. Because people usually take trains when they don’t want to go anywhere.
“London. You?” Henry said, like he didn’t think Martin was an idiot who asked stupid questions.
“Me too. My sister’s just had a baby, so I’m – I’m going to see my new niece,” Martin said, grateful that he could say something normal and non-embarrassing.
“Oh, congratulations!” Henry said. “On being an uncle, I mean,” he added, and Martin realised with a surprise that Henry was nervous, too. The tips of his ears were pink, which somehow made them look even lovelier. Martin forced himself not to look at them – it was possible that Henry was self-conscious about them, and he didn’t want to make him uncomfortable.
“Why are you going to London?” he asked, hoping that it wasn’t an intrusive question. It was better than saying Are you going to see your girlfriend, at least. But Henry didn’t answer immediately, so maybe it was intrusive. Why couldn’t Martin carry a conversation like a normal person? Henry was probably already regretting that he’d approached Martin.
“Ever heard of Sherlock Holmes?” Henry asked, and the first thing that popped in Martin’s head was Is he your boyfriend? He really needed to calm down, before he said something like that out loud.
“The—the fake detective?” Martin said, remembering he’d seen something about him on the telly.
“Yeah, except he wasn’t fake. Everything they say about him on the telly is bullshit. He solved a case for me, and there’s no way he wasn’t a genius.”
“What case?” Martin asked. His plan not to ask nosy questions was obviously failing.
Henry looked down and said in a low voice, “The murder of my f-father.”
“Oh! I’m—I’m so sorry, I didn’t…” Martin stammered, wishing a black hole could appear in the ground that he could disappear in.
Henry shook his head. “It was twenty years ago. Which is why I know Sherlock couldn’t have… organised it, or something. And, um, he had a… a friend that worked with him—John—and I wanted to tell him I didn’t believe any of the lies, but he hasn’t been picking up his phone, so I thought I’d… go and see if he’s all right.” He looked out of the window, as if he was suddenly worried that he’d been talking too much and Martin didn’t care. Obviously he didn’t know that Martin could listen to him reading the phone book.
“That’s kind of you,” Martin said, wondering if Henry was perhaps in love with Sherlock Holmes’ friend. Which was really none of his business and he should stop thinking about such things.
Henry shrugged. “He’s a good bloke, John, and they were obviously… very close. It must be hard for him.” He cleared his throat and turned back to Martin. “But let’s talk about something less depressing. How’s MJN going?”
Relieved that he could talk about something he was familiar with, Martin told Henry about MJN’s latest misfortunes. Henry seemed interested, and soon they were laughing together at Arthur’s antics, occasionally falling silent to look out of the window, both of them blushing when their feet touched. Henry seemed to relax, and after a while Martin relaxed too. He was having a relatively successful conversation with someone charming and lovely. That was more than he could have expected, even if it wasn’t going to go anywhere.
All too soon, the train pulled into Paddington Station and it was time to say goodbye, which was when Martin found himself panicking again. Should he risk it and ask Henry out? He was probably straight, or seeing someone, or just not interested in Martin. No one was ever interested in Martin, least of all people that Martin found attractive. But maybe… Henry had seemed to enjoy talking to Martin, maybe he… And Martin was used to being turned down, he could deal with one more rejection. He’d already passed the opportunity to ask Henry out once, and now he had a second chance, he probably should…
“I was wondering if you coffee me,” he blurted when they got out of the train, and he could feel the heat radiating from his face.
“Sorry?” Henry said, blinking. His ears were turning pink again.
Martin looked at the train, took a deep breath and tried to articulate correctly. “I was wondering. If you’d like to have coffee. With me. Sometime.”
Right, he’d said it, and now Henry was going to say no, sorry, and that would be it, no harm done.
“I’d love to,” Henry said, and when Martin looked up at him, he was grinning.
“You—you would?” he asked, because apparently he had to make it clear to Henry that he was pathetic and not used to being accepted.
“Very much,” Henry said, rather endearingly avoiding Martin’s gaze.
He put his number in Martin’s phone, which was lucky, because Martin’s hands were shaking so much that he wouldn’t be able to type. They agreed to meet the following day, and right before they parted ways, Henry leaned in and kissed Martin’s cheek.
“See you tomorrow, then,” he said, smiling shyly, and all Martin could do was stare at him and nod dumbly, absolutely certain that the scent he’d just caught a whiff of was soon going to become his favourite smell in the world.