It was 3 pm on a Saturday in August, and the leaves in London were already turning shades of gold and orange. John Watson stepped outside for the first time in he didn’t know how long. He hadn’t really wanted to go out, but Mike had had enough of him moping around the flat bored, and John supposed that the flat was boring, his roommate was boring, and he had had enough. He couldn’t stand it, and today John was going to see a film for the first time in years.
John pushed himself down an alley, swinging his good leg to keep up momentum to allow himself to drag his bad one across the asphalt a bit. He cut through a few unfamiliar pathways on his way to the theatre, luckily managing to not get lost on his way. He really didn’t know how long it had been since he had walked this far from the flat, but he didn’t want to take a cab. Cabs were boring.
He finally reached the entrance of the theatre and was glad to be able to enter without being forced to heave himself up any stairs. He leaned on his walking stick, glancing over the sign of the films and their showing times. There were probably three or four of what seemed to be romantic comedies- boring, a few kids films, and a horror film. The choice was obvious. There was no way his therapist wanted him seeing a horror film. This would be a good way to piss her off, and pissing off his therapist was most certainly not something John thought of as boring.
John approached the desk, pulling his wallet out of his jacket pocket and smiling tightly at the man behind the counter. “I’ll have, uh, one adult ticket to the next showing of…” he trailed off. The sign was behind him now; he couldn’t look at the title now. “Uh, the horror film.” The man behind the counter nodded and laughed.
“You mean ‘The Devil’s Chamber,’ yeah?”
“Uh, yeah.” John tried to smile while scolding himself internally. He was really losing it. His ability to pay attention to and to remember even basic details was melting away. He was drawn back to reality by the voice of the man behind the counter.
“Here’s your ticket. Third door on your left. You’ve probably got a good ten to fifteen minutes before the previews end and the film begins.”
John took his ticket, twiddling it in his fingers. “Thank you.”
He limped to the theatre, ignoring the stand offering popcorn and sweets. He wasn’t hungry.
John stepped into the theatre and sighed as he scanned the rows of blue seats. The film must have been new. Almost every seat was filled, except for the front rows and the side seats in the back. John stood at the rear of the theatre, let out a breath, considered leaving, then resolved to stay. He shuffled into the end seat in the back row. The seat wasn’t ideal, but he couldn’t exactly step over other people’s legs, and it wasn’t like there were any seats open in the center anyways. He settled into the blue velvet with his cane resting between his legs. He pulled out his mobile and made a conscious effort to not look at whoever was sitting next to him. He didn’t want to do anything that might prompt any sort of social interaction.
John flipped open his mobile. No messages.
He sighed softly and slipped his phone back into his pocket. He folded his hands and stared straight ahead at the screen. The man at the counter had been wrong. Previews hadn’t even started yet, and the lights in the theatre hadn’t even gone down yet. John blinked. Once. Twice. He shifted in his seat. He pulled out his phone and opened it. Nothing. He glanced around the theatre. His eyes skimmed over a garish pink suit, a blonde woman sitting alone on her laptop with a flash drive plugged in, a brunet in a suit and sunglasses talking on his mobile, a large group made up solely of Asian men, an attractive young woman in knee-high boots and red lipstick, an older man with wire-framed glasses and a smug smile, two children sitting alone with a bag of sweets, a mousy woman in a striped jumper (of which John approved), and- and the man sitting next to him.
God, that man was gorgeous. He was texting rapidly, yet calmly, on a flip phone. He was tall; John guessed that the man had at least six inches on him when standing. John’s gaze rolled over a pale, slender neck, an impossibly defined cupid’s bow, cheekbones higher than an opiate addict with a new fix, and thick, furrowed brows. The man would’ve been the perfect image of a Victorian age vampire, if not for his lack of sharp canines (as far as John could tell), bright blue eyes, and immaculate brown curls, which despite their obedience to quite a bit of product seemed to contradict the man’s professional demeanor, what with his pressed suit, upturned coat collar, and poised posture. He didn’t even seem to notice John’s staring, and neither did John himself until the man frowned suddenly at his mobile and let out a dramatic sigh-and-eyeroll combo. John busied himself with looking away as Gorgeous typed out another message at a furious pace.
John put his left arm, the one farthest from Gorgeous, on an armrest and placed his cheek in his palm, tapping at it absentmindedly with his pinky finger. He moved to place his arm back in his lap after a few minutes, clearing his throat as he glanced towards the door to his left. He looked back towards the screen, and the lights began to dim. Finally.
Some advert for a cab service played, and John thought of his dreaded return to the Flat of Boredom. Then an advert for a circus coming into town in a couple of months came on, and John remembered all of the daring tricks he and his friends had pulled off to make it out of Afghanistan. He thought of those who hadn’t been so lucky. An advert for a jewelry shop was next. John couldn’t help but glance at Gorgeous’ folded hands. He wasn’t wearing a ring as far as John could tell. Not that it mattered.
A few more adverts passed by, these mostly trailers for films that John didn’t care enough about to pay attention to. Then, finally, a message requesting that everyone in the theatre turn off their cell phone. John didn’t bother; his phone was always on silent anyways. Gorgeous didn’t seem to be all too concerned about his mobile ringing, either.
The screen slowly brightened to show the scene of a family moving into a suburban home. Ah, of course, films had to have a boring set up for their actual plot. John unenthusiastically watched a mother and her two sons load cardboard boxes into a basement and have generic chatter about moving, the sons complaining and the mother insisting that it was for the best.
After about fifteen minutes, something of interest finally happened. The younger son was left alone in the basement, and as he fumbled for the light switch, a wind-up clown toy started by itself, marching quickly on tiny, plastic legs to stand behind the child. The boy turned around and screamed as his eyes came to rest on the toy-come-to-life. He backed up against a wall. The clown laughed maniacally. The boy ran past the toy, thundered up the stairs, and slammed the door to the basement shut. John sighed.
John watched another half hour and spent it attempting to anticipate jumpscares. The music stopped abruptly as the boys and their mother ate dinner, but there was no jumpscare, only an awkward breaking of silence by the mother. A boy stepped through a doorway, but nothing leapt from hiding to attack him. The older son looked around suspiciously as if he had heard something, but nothing happened. He bent to pick a stray blueberry from the kitchen floor, but he was let be. John hummed and slouched further into his seat.
After what John guessed was a full hour, the film hit a horrible lull. The two sons swam in their new pool with their new neighbors- an attractive blonde teen and her little sister. They all laughed, splashing each other playfully. John tilted his head to the side and cracked his shoulder. Suddenly, a bang echoed through the theatre. John jumped, sitting straight up in his seat. He knew that sound- a gunshot. His head whipped about wildly, then stopped. The rest of the theatre was still, their eyes trained on the screen.
Oh. The film. Who put gunshots in a horror film?
John relaxed into his seat, and that was when he noticed it- a warm presence under his hand- under both of his hands, actually, both on the arm rest to his right. He glanced towards them, then froze. A large, pale hand was clasped between his smaller, tan ones. He recoiled suddenly after the few seconds it took for him to come to his senses, placing his hands in his lap. “Sorry, sorry. I am so, so sorry.” John noticed his cane, which had clattered to the ground. He bent to pick it up and winced. “I am so sorry.” He couldn’t even bring himself to look at the man sitting next to him. He cleared his throat. “Sorry.”
“Don’t be concerned. It’s hardly your fault, after all,” a voice next to him said matter-of-factly. John shivered. He had no idea what the man meant, but God , that voice.
John spent the remainder of the film in a haze of awkwardness and disbelief. This entire ordeal was ridiculous. He had gone to see a film, then grabbed the hand of the man- the very attractive man- sitting next to him after being startled by a gunshot ? Bloody hell, this day was getting to be interesting. In a bad way, though. This unpredictable rollercoaster was exhausting.
John didn’t register much of what happened for the rest of the film, but he was pretty sure that nobody died over its course, and he could be satisfied with that. As the credits rolled, he stayed in his seat. He wasn’t sure why, but he did. Perhaps he wanted to apologize again, or perhaps he had gotten his hopes up despite his obvious bumble that destroyed his already highly improbable chances. He watched the others that filled the theatre slowly file out the doors. He watched Gorgeous out of the corner of his eye. The man didn’t move.
The last of the white text moved up and off the screen, and the lights in the theatre came back on. John stayed silent, didn’t move, didn’t look at the man sitting next to him. Gorgeous didn’t do anything, either. John waited. He counted to five slowly. The other man didn’t make a move. Deciding that staying in the first place was an awful idea, John prepared to stand and leave, gathering up his cane and finally daring to glance at the man next to him. A pair of blue-green eyes stared back at him. John didn’t look away as he had planned to. He didn’t stand up as he had planned to, either.
He caught himself. He straightened up and looked away. He opened his mouth to say something, to apologize again, he didn’t know. Luckily, Gorgeous spoke first.
“Sherlock Holmes, 221B Baker Street.”
John shook his head. “What?”
“My name and address.”
John stopped, his mind frantically trying to keep up. Was this a challenge? A pick-up line? He laughed despite himself. “Do I get your phone number, too?” he asked, half joking, half hoping.
“You can have that at seven o’ clock tonight. You’re free,” the other man said. It wasn’t a question. With that, he swept past John and walked purposefully out the door before John so much processed the words out of the man’s mouth.
John stood. Sherlock Holmes . He mouthed the name to himself. What the hell had just happened?
He replayed the conversation in his mind. He grinned at his realization. That cocky bastard of a man. He turned and walked jauntily out of the door. He caught a cab home. He had a date to get to.