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Fate, or Something

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"You can't be serious." Jonathan Sims raises his eyes at last to properly look at Georgie, expecting her to laugh and make some quip about finally getting him to put the damn book down, at least. Because she couldn't be serious.

"Well, I am," she shoots back. She crouches down briefly to pick up the purring cat circling her ankles, then makes her way over into the living room and takes a seat on the couch next to Jon.

"Oh, don't be like that. You'd think I'd just asked you to fuck Elias."

Jon grimaces, recoiling, as Georgie laughs. "Language, Georgina. But to be honest even that might be preferable," he grumbles. He sets his book aside and turns fully towards her, betrayal clear on his face. "A blind date , really?"

She scratches the cat's head distractedly, shrugging. "I know, I know, but I just thought I'd bring it up. You've been so grumpy lately, and you've been working way too much-" Jon opens his mouth in automatic protest and she presses on before he can cut in. "-And so I thought it might do you some good to have some fun , for once, Jon. Meet people. Get out of that stuffy institute and spend some time with someone that isn't me or The Admiral here. Or your creeper boss."

The Admiral in question abruptly pads his way across the couch and climbs onto Jon's lap.

"Now look," Jon says, indicating the cat. "You've offended him." He sighs. "Listen, I- appreciate that you care, I do. Always. But you and I both know that I'm not really cut out for...” He waves his hand in a vague gesture. “Dating. Any of that. You of all people should be all too aware."

Georgie’s mouth quirks up in a rueful half-smile. "Our relationship had its... ups and downs, to put it mildly. Pretty heavy on the ‘down’ part towards the end. But I care about you, Jon, and you're my friend and I want to see you happy. You deserve to be happy.” She sighs and holds up her hands in a conciliatory gesture. “-But I'm sorry, you're right, I know this isn't your sort of thing and you’ll get back out there when you’re ready. If you’re ever ready. I shouldn't try to push you."

She reaches over and ruffles his hair, causing him to scrunch his face in annoyance and lean sharply back out of her reach. The Admiral lets out an irritated ‘brrrt’ before resuming his kneading of Jon's thigh.

They move on after that; Georgie turns the tv on, settling on a nature film for lack of anything else catching her attention, and Jon goes back to his book, each of them chatting idly here and there throughout.

At one point Jon glances up at the screen and sees that they’re doing a segment on insects. Georgie catches his nervous expression. “Don’t worry,” she tells him, “the second I see a spider I’ll warn you not to look up.” He huffs irritably in response but visibly relaxes. Awhile later she makes a comment about ordering takeout later and they get into a small argument about who is going to pay. (Jon insists that he at least pay for his half; Georgie finally insists that they flip a coin for it, much to Jon’s disdain. Georgie ends up paying. Jon will slip some money between the couch cushions later. Such is their routine.)

Despite the evening having very much moved on, Jon’s thoughts, however keep drifting back annoyingly to their earlier conversation. He still can’t believe Georgie thought that was even remotely a good idea. There’s no way she could have. She knows him, and therefore knows that his experiences with people are unfortunate enough when he’s already familiar with them and knows what to expect. Or, more often, he admits to himself, their experiences with him. He scowls down at his book, becoming aware that he’s been reading the same paragraph over and over. He glances up at Georgie to see if she’d noticed, but she thankfully seems fairly engrossed in the migration patterns of puffins. The Admiral is curled up snugly between the two of them, fluffy tail twitching in his sleep.

"...So,” Jon says at length, “tell me about this mystery date? I'll admit I'm curious who you thought would actually be a good match for me."

Georgie starts and looks surprised at him for a brief moment, then, recovering, smiles brightly and pats his arm. "Now if I told you that, it wouldn't be a mystery, would it?” Then, “His name is Martin Blackwood, though. I know him through Melanie's- hey, don't make that face! Melanie’s cool if you're not a dick." She fixes him with a rather pointed look.

Jon tries but doesn't entirely succeed in schooling his expression into something gentler than open disdain. "Yes, well, I have to say I'm disappointed, Georgie. That you would think anyone in association with that... show-"

"Oh, don't be such an elitist. Is it really so different? He's into ghosts, you're into ghosts..."

Jon makes an indignant sound. "I am not- into ghosts-"

Georgie waves him off, continuing, "Anyway, he's really nice. Pleasant. Warm. Thought it might balance you out. Opposites attract, and all that."

“Ah, a very scientific selection process, I see.”

Georgie laughs, then, looking at him curiously, asks, “Why’d you ask, by the way?”

Jon flusters a bit and turns back to his book, making a show of flipping the page. “It was odd enough that you even suggested it, so it stuck in my mind I suppose.” He can still feel her watching him, though, and he very pointedly does not look up.

“Were you… considering it?”

He looks up. Sharply. “No. ...Maybe. Maybe, but it’s stupid - it was just an idle thought and I certainly would never act on-”

“Wait, are you serious?” She’s staring at him with open disbelief. Skeptical. “You’re not telling me you were actually going to do it.”

“I just said I would never- What, are you trying to talk me out of it now?"

"No! Not at all! I thought I’d chance bringing it up, but I never thought you'd actually consider it. But you’ve been thinking about it the whole evening, haven’t you? You, Jon Sims, a blind date. Why?” She studies his face now, thoughtful, resting her chin in her hand.

Jon is feeling a bit defensive now and his voice takes on a sharp note, more out of habit than actual annoyance. "I don't know. It was your idea. I, I just- you're right, I suppose. My life right now could use some... fun." He spits the word out like it bit him, getting a fond eye roll from Georgie. He continues, "Some variety. Whatever people are supposed to have in their lives. And maybe if I actually go through with something this absurd, it’ll satisfy your need to get involved in my personal life for awhile.”

A less fond, more exasperated eye roll this time. “You know I’ve only set you up one other time, right? Nearly lost a friend over it, too. You should appreciate my sacrifice.” This gets a snort from Jon, and she continues, “So. You’re really going to give it a try, aren’t you?”

He laughs a little, despite himself. Mostly at himself. “It-- looks like I am. I know it's going to go horribly, for the record. And I will come immediately over afterwards and announce my victory."

“You’re the only person on the planet who goes on a date hoping to have a bad time. But fine! If it does go that badly, I'll buy you dinner to compensate."

"You just bought me dinner. How about you agree to stop meddling in my love life?"

"Or lack thereof, you mean? And only for six months."

"A year."

She grins and holds out her hand. "Deal. I'll set it up tomorrow and text you the details."

"W-wait, wait. You mean you were serious about that?" Martin Blackwood sets down the stack of books he’s been carrying with a thud, straightening up and pressing a hand to his aching lower back. He casts a skeptical look at his phone propped up on the table, where Georgie is on the screen, eyebrows raised, awaiting his response. "I thought you were joking! We agreed that you were banned from helping me find dates after the taxidermist incident."

"He told me he worked with animals! You like animals! I honestly thought it was a good fit."

"He brought a dead bird to our date, Georgie. He sat it right on the table."

"Well, just hear me out. I know this guy really well, and he is one hundred percent bird-free, I promise. His job is actually a lot like yours. He's a researcher at the Magnus Institute."

“Oh, god.” Then, "Sorry, sorry. Just, you know. They have... a reputation. But I shouldn't judge, I know."

"He had a dickish reaction when I told him your job too, so you already have something else in common," Georgie informs him cheerfully. "But really, he's... sweet. Or can be, in his own way. Really. Once you get past his prickly exterior and asocial tendencies."

"Sounds promising," Martin deadpans. "Shall we skip straight to the wedding? Jesus, you really know how to sell a guy. I don't want to know what you told him about me." He takes out his notepad and skims the list that Melanie had given him to fact-check for the upcoming Ghost Hunt UK episode.

From his phone, he hears Georgie make a mock offended noise. “Martin Blackwood, you know I have nothing but the best to say about you, always. I just want you to be prepared, if you accept. He’s just... But I wouldn’t be offering to set this up if I didn’t see you two being good together.”

He shakes his head at her, incredulous. It’s a terrible idea - dating is risky enough and blind dates rarely go well - but he has to admit, his routine has been feeling stale lately. He’s been feeling - "You know what? I'll do it. I don't know why I'm still willing to put my romantic future into your hands, mind you, especially after that glowing description, but I'll do it. It's..."

He turns his attention to the stack of books, begins distractedly sorting them. "It's been awhile. And, you know... I get on with my coworkers and I love my job, and I have hobbies, yeah, but...” He picks his phone up. “Alright! Set it up! Let's meet your prickly asocial mystery man."

Georgie beams at him. "Great. This Wednesday work for you?"

“Good as any.” They say their goodbyes and Martin ends the call, trying not think about what he’s just got himself into.

Jon is having a small box of raisins at his desk in lieu of a lunch break the next day when his phone chimes in his pocket. It's a text from Georgie: Jonathan Sims Fun Initiative Update: Italian place down the street from my flat, this Wednesday, 7:30pm. Don't be late!

A few seconds later, another message pops up: Disclaimer: You have to actually make an effort, or the deal is off. Be charming! I know you have it in you! Good luck! Xoxo

Jon stares at the texts for a moment, dread forming heavy in his stomach. Oh right. The date. What the hell was I thinking . For a moment he considers telling her he's changed his mind and to call the whole thing off. Instead he just sends a terse reply confirming that he'd received her instructions and shoves his phone back in his pocket with a scowl.

A date. Really. A blind date, of all things, with some- 'Martin' who works on that awful excuse for- Jon releases a long-suffering sigh. It's only dinner. It shouldn't be too painful. And he was serious when he'd admitted last night that he could use some fun in his life. Not that this is remotely his idea of fun, but it's a change of pace at least. He realizes he can't remember the last time he spoke with someone who wasn't Georgie or a coworker. ...Or Elias. He shudders. And he doesn’t know where to begin fixing that himself, branching out, or if he even needs to.

And one deeply unfortunate museum date with a mutual acquaintance aside, he hasn't even thought seriously about dating since he and Georgie broke up. That experience alone was enough to finally convince him that romance wasn't for him. And it's really not. He doesn't miss it, doesn't feel anything lacking for not having it. But here lately, sometimes when he listens to his coworkers, overhears them bantering and talking about shared outings and their lives outside the Institute, he feels... He feels. Something he can't quite categorize. Perhaps he's lonely. He hasn't really thought about it in a long while. As a rule he doesn't make a habit of examining his emotions too carefully.

But it’s possible that… on some level, he thinks it could be nice. To at least try. To do something. To just have someone around. Georgie is around, but sooner or later she’s bound to meet someone and want to build a life with them and then--

Jon banishes that train of thought abruptly. Unhelpful. Wednesday he's going on the damned date because he’s bored and curious and also to make Georgie happy and get her off his back about his personal life. But for now, he has work to do.

To his credit, Jon does intend to actually make it to the restaurant on time. But he was out for four hours chasing a lead on a recent statement that had come in, only to come up frustratingly short and to have to head back in to spend the day scouring the institute’s library. He's deep in the third reference book from over a dozen at his desk when his phone buzzes from somewhere beneath a stack of papers. He straightens up with a grimace, stretching a bit before excavating his phone from the clutter and swiping to the message screen.

It's from Georgie again: Because I know you, I know you haven't left work yet, so just a heads up that your date is in 45 minutes! Don't be late!

...Shit. He glances at the time stamp on the text. That was nearly thirty minutes ago. Shit .

He arrives at the doors of the restaurant at 7:43pm. In the time it took him to get there, he'd received three new texts from Georgie, to the effect of "have you left yet", "oh my god you're late aren't you", and "Jonathan Sims answer me right now". He's opted not to answer for now. One problem at a time.

He stops for a moment outside, thinking that Georgie would probably want him to at least check his reflection before going in, and then makes the pointed decision not to. With that final act of defiance, Jonathan Sims lets out a long breath and pulls open the door.

Georgie had chosen Wednesday, 7:30pm as the appointed time for the date, confirmed Martin's availability, and assured him that she would inform the mystery man. Jonathan Sims, she'd said his name was. Jonathan Sims, that one Italian place, Wednesday, 7:30pm. Sounds good, he'd said. I'll be there.

Which is how Martin Blackwood finds himself nearly tripping down the stairs in his rush to get out of his flat at 7:31 Wednesday evening, having barely had time to throw on some halfway respectable date clothes and grab his wallet before barreling out the door.

Shit. Shit, shit, shit . He only just manages to flag down a passing cab. He gives the driver the address and flops back against the seat, panting. Winces internally as he catches a glimpse of his reflection in the rearview mirror; Christ, he hadn't even had time for a shower. He makes a half hearted attempt at finger-combing his hair into some sort of order but quickly gives up, exasperated and ready for the evening to be over before it’s even begun.

How had the time gotten away from him so badly? He swears it was only just 3 o'clock and he'd sat down to research some local haunting lore for that upcoming episode. He scrubs at his face, still feeling drained from the hours gone by reading.

The cab pulls up outside the restaurant, and Martin pays the driver and gets out, checking the time on his phone. 7:43. His face heats with embarrassment. Ah, well. Nothing for it. He rushes for the door, checking himself in his phone screen and making one last attempt to tame his hair--

--And subsequently slams directly into the back of another person, knocking them straight through the open doorway, where they both collapse in a heap on the restaurant floor. Because of course. Of course .