It was opening night for the latest film that promised to be the summer’s best adrenaline-pumping-action-thrill-ride blockbuster. The Sandford Mini-Plex was filled to capacity, save one seat.
Sergeant Danny Butterman sat in the darkened theater doodling in his notebook. While he sat alone, he wasn’t lonely.
Images flashed on the screen. Since the film had been slated to be this year’s big summer blockbuster, the trailers were endless. That was okay by Danny. It gave the audience a chance to ‘snuggle in,’ as it were, and adjust to the transition between real life and the world only dreamt of in the movies. Plus, trailers for action films tended to precede action films, which suited Danny right down to the ground. He loved the previews. Hated missing them, in fact. They helped him get into the proper frame of mind. He loved the sense of anticipation, the slow buildup toward the opening credits for the movie he came to see.
And trailers bought time.
There was a certain ebb and flow to the artistry of how each trailer was chosen to proceed each other. Being a film buff since knee-high, he was aware of the pattern. Since it was an action flick, it began with an in-your-face extreme shot that built to a fever pitch before transitioning into the more sedate, introspective films.
While those were rolling, Danny would look up every-now-and-then, and even turned his head around hopefully when movement caught his eye.
He heaved a sigh. After what he sensed was the last trailer, he settled in. Placing his notebook inside his jacket pocket, he propped his elbow against the armrest, and rested his head against his closed fist.
Sometimes the trailers surprised him, though, ending with a bang.
"In a world where good is seen as a sign of weakness, and evil goes unchallenged, one man will risk everything..."
There was a loud crash as the cinema doors were thrown open wide. Sandford’s citizens screeched and swiveled around in their seats.
Eyes twinkling, Danny's attention remained studiously fixed to the screen.
"This summer, Britain's favorite action hero will be tested beyond his endurance..."
Out of the corner of his eye, Danny caught a white blur hurtle past. His lips curved, as the blur raced back.
“Willing to stand up for his beliefs...”
The sound of “Excuse me, pardon me, excuse me” came progressively closer.
"Oi! Young man, my foot!" shouted an irate octogenarian.
"Sorry, Mrs. Murchison."
Danny’s grin grew even wider.
“And this time, he’s brought the fam...”
Danny noted that Nicholas was still in uniform, having forgone a shower and a change back at the station.
“Starring the critically acclaimed actor...”
"Evening, Angel. Evenin', Angel. Evening, Angel," chorused among several of the more amiable patrons.
Danny looked up as Nicholas Angel edged his way past several additional moviegoers who had to swivel in their seats to allow him passage. Danny supposed he should have chosen an aisle seat to avoid this sort of thing, but watching Nicholas stumble around, completely out of his element was always worth the price of admission. Good for a laugh, too.
“Oh no! Here comes the Fuzz!”
Popcorn bounced off Nicholas’ chest. A jujube whizzed past his head. It was followed by a rather rude oinking sound. The youths snickered.
Nicholas halted, pointing his index finger with authority. “Excuse me...”
Sometimes Sandford’s more rambunctious residents had a bit more spirit than they had sense. With the crowd growing antsy, Danny decided to intervene before Nicholas arrested the entire back row.
He reached up, grabbed a fistful of white shirt, and pulled Nicholas down onto the seat beside him, all the while keeping his other arm nonchalantly propped against the elbow rest.
“Billy Wilde, I know it’s you,” Danny threw over his shoulder. “Also know yer posturin’ for yer bird, and all. But if ya don’t stop with the aggressive popcorn throwing, I’m calling yer mum.”
It was the oldest counter-terrorism measure known to humankind: the invoking of one's 'mum.’ If that didn’t work there was always the threat of Sandford’s social network, which consisted of shop store owners, lonely housewives and … the knitting circle. Danny knew things. All it took was three phone calls to ruin lives. It was the veritable triple threat.
He only used this tactic as a last resort. With great power came great responsibility, after all.
The snickers died down.
Danny sent a quick glance over toward Nicholas, and then returned his attention to the screen. He didn’t comment on the fact that Nicholas was out of breath. He never did. It only drew attention to the obvious and tended to make his partner uncomfortable over the fact that he’d made a determined effort to make it to the premiere on time. He also must have been forced to park quite a ways away to be breathing so hard.
Nicholas coughed softly, still wheezing a little. “Hi.”
“Aw’right,” Danny greeted him affably.
“I’m sorry I’m late. We had a situation arise after you left. Thank you for saving my seat.”
Danny had actually left earlier in the day to run errands, and then drove over to the mini-plex where he’d left the pass for Nicholas out by the ticket booth. He shrugged. “S’all right.”
He kept his focus on the screen until he caught Nicholas fidgeting out of the corner of his eye. It was probably wrong that he found it just as amazing as any high speed pursuit. Nicholas Angel had stood up to a village full of murdering twats. He could stare down even the most hardened criminal without batting so much as an eye. Yet he got all fidgety at the thought of ruining movie night and disappointing Danny.
Danny drew his gaze from the extended opening title sequence and reached over to tap Nicholas on the forehead. “Hey. None of tha’. Weren’t angry. Knew you’d turn up eventually.”
Nicholas relaxed. “I’m like a bad penny, that way.”
Danny grinned. “So not the swan again, I take it?”
Nicholas shook his head, leaning in to keep their conversation private. “Apparently several of our more industrious teenagers were bored and got it into their head to fashion together a vehicular stunt ramp out of some old planks and other sundry materials. We received a report they were performing high-flying leaps along the motorway.”
Danny’s eyes instantly lit up. “Whuuuuh! Misspent youth! And I here I was missin’ all the proper action and shit?” He shook his head. “Tragic.”
Nicholas smiled that smile that made the skin around his eyes crinkle. It softened his features and made him go all glowy.
“Everythin’ back under control, then?” Danny leaned forward in his seat to pick up the bucket of popcorn he’d set down between his feet. He placed it on his lap, anticipating the moments when their fingers would “accidentally” brush up against each other as they reached in.
Nicholas nodded. Whispering, he said, “Parents were called; lectures were given. It’s all been taken care of. Doris volunteered to stay late and finish up the paperwork. And the Andes offered to dismantle the ramp.” He scowled. “I suspect subterfuge, but didn’t have time to argue. Though I have a distinct feeling they’ll sidle in around noon tomorrow with claims of mysteriously blown-out tires and their vehicle showing evidence of a scraped undercarriage.”
Danny snickered softly. “S’pposin’ the more things change, the more they wind up stayin’ the same, eh?”
“Something like that," Nicholas breathed, bumping his knee against Danny’s. “So what did I miss?”
“Only the previews. The best ever, I might add.” Danny was a little older now, a little wiser and slightly more prone to keeping his peace instead of running off at the mouth, but movie-talk always managed to get him going. His smile couldn’t be contained. “Slow-mo bullets. Detective blokes dodgin’ ‘em whilst jumpin’ through the air. High speed pursuits. Lens flare. Ninjas! Blue backgrounds with bad guys being blown back by massive fiery-red ‘splosions! Bruce Willis!”
Nicholas smiled fondly over Danny’s irrepressible enthusiasm.
Someone shushed them.
A frown line formed between Nicholas’ brow. He slowly turned to scowl behind him. “Jog on.”
Danny ducked his head, grinning in delight.
“You’ll have to fill me in with greater detail later,” Nicholas whispered, settling back in his seat.
Danny took the notebook from his jacket pocket and handed it over to Nicholas. “Took copious notes for ya. Drew a little constable helmet beside the titles I figured would tickle yer fancy.”
Nicholas’ expression softened again. “Thank you. I look forward to reading it.” He learned in, lifted Danny’s chin, and kissed him with the quiet assurance that grew from long intimacy.
He withdrew with a soft, contented hum that always made Danny’s eyes go dark and slightly unfocused.
The more things changed, the more, well they changed, actually.