The first time Matt kisses Alex Kingston outside of BBC studios, they’re in his flat after a night of movies and Chinese food with Karen and Arthur. Kaz has fallen asleep on an armchair with her mobile in hand, one thumb still on her keypad. Arthur is on the floor in front of the telly, lying on his stomach and his face pressed into the carpet as he sleeps.
Matt sits with Alex on the sofa, his arm slung around her shoulders as she snuggles into his side. She’s on the verge of falling asleep as well and he has never felt more content than he does right then, with her soft, even breathing lulling him into a state of immense relaxation. He doesn’t ever want to move – it’s warm and comfortable here in the darkness of his living room, his friends surrounding him and Alex’s soft curves pressed against him.
“I should go,” she mumbles tiredly, speaking the words into his shoulder. “Before I’m too sleepy to walk to my room.”
He snorts softly into her hair and wonders if it’s horrible of him to linger just a little longer than necessary, smelling her shampoo and enjoying the way her curls tickle his nose. “I think you’re past that point, Kingston. What’s wrong with my couch?”
“M’not twenty-something anymore,” she says with a sigh. “I sleep on your sofa and my back will not thank me in the morning.”
Matt brushes his thumb across her shoulder slowly and feels Alex shiver and curl further into him. It makes his stomach flip-flop and his mind stray to very dangerous places. Licking his lips, he says softly, “You could always…sleep in my bed.”
“What and let you sleep on this couch when my bed is just down the hall?” She scoffs but makes no move to get up and go to her own flat.
“If it bothers you, I’ll get into bed with you Kingston,” he offers and she laughs quietly. “It would be quite the chore, but if it makes you feel more comfortable, I think I could manage.”
She smiles into his t-shirt. “You are ever so generous, darling.”
Hesitating as her eyes start to flutter shut, he debates with himself for a long, torturous moment before finally just saying it, “Not so much generous as willing to take any opportunity I can get to be with you.”
Eyes flying open, Alex raises her head from his shoulder and stares at him, her brow furrowed as she scrutinizes his face. She looks adorably sleepy, blinking away almost-dreams, her hair mussed and one cheek creased from his t-shirt. He fights the urge to reach out and touch her, waiting patiently for her to understand what he’s trying to say.
“Matt,” she says slowly, her gaze cautious. “Don’t. Don’t say things like that when you don’t mean it. You’re just tired and far too flirtatious for your own good -”
“I’m not saying it because I’m tired and a flirt,” he says, affronted. “Was I tired yesterday when I walked from the set back to your flat with you because you forgot your handbag? Am I being a flirt when I offer you a lift every time you need it? Am I either of those things when I beg you to come out with us on weekends?” Alex is looking at him with wide green eyes, all thoughts of sleep banished. He reaches out a hand and traces his index finger over her knuckles gently. “I do those things because I like you and since you’re bloody oblivious, I take what I can get.”
There. He said it. What she does now is up to her but at least he’d told her and gotten the whole thing off his chest. At least now she knows how mad he is about her. It’s been exhausting trying to keep it from her. There have been times when he thought she’d figure out just by looking at him.
Alex hasn’t stopped staring and her eyes frantically search his face – for what he doesn’t know; maybe she thinks he’s taking the piss or that one bottle of ale has gone to his head. When he offers her a slightly embarrassed smile, she finally springs into action. Leaning forward, she wraps one arm around his neck and yanks his head down to hers, kissing him fiercely.
Surprised but unwilling to ask questions, Matt lets his eyes drift shut and his hands fall to her back, pulling her in closer. Alex traces her tongue over his lips and he opens his mouth immediately, moaning when her tongue slides against his own. Gripping her hips tightly, he reclines on the sofa and pulls her with him. She lies on top of him and they kiss and stroke one another languidly, giving quiet little whimpers and moans, heedless of their two sleeping friends.
They eventually fall asleep there and in the morning, they wake to Arthur crooning ‘At Last’ in their ears while Karen giggles in the background. Matt stirs sleepily and tosses a pillow at Arthur’s head before burying his face back in Alex’s hair. She stirs just long enough to press a half-asleep kiss to his cheek and he grins.
From that moment on, they’re inseparable.
He’s been infatuated with Alex for far longer than he cares to admit – Karen says he’d pined but he hadn’t. He’d just watched her from afar and sighed a lot. He can’t say when the infatuation turned into something else but he’ll never forget the moment he realizes that it has.
When filming for the finale wraps, he spends several long months missing Alex, texting and calling her when he can, but the distance and time differences make it difficult to communicate consistently. They even Skype occasionally but it’s not the same as seeing her face to face. So when Alex comes back to start filming for Who again, he stands outside the building where they’re all living for the time being and nearly wears a hole in the pavement as he paces, waiting for her to arrive from the airport.
He would have gone to pick her up himself but they’re still trying to keep things just between them (and Kaz and Arthur) for as long as they possibly can. The privacy that comes with hiding their relationship is something to be cherished because once they’re found out, their every moment together in public will be photographed and printed all over every magazine and every newspaper in Europe. And they will be found out – it’s only a matter of when.
Karen and Arthur are lounging on the steps outside the building, watching him wear a path in the pavement. Kaz is only faintly amused, thumbing through a fashion magazine and ignoring him but the constant movement is driving Arthur mad.
“Would you just sit?” He asks for the hundredth time. “Pacing like a mental patient isn’t going to make her arrive any sooner.”
“It might,” Matt says, turning to him with a frown. “Don’t pretend to know how the universe works, Darvill.”
He throws up his hands. “Fine. May you wear a hole in your ridiculous boots.”
Matt glances down at his shoes, affronted. “These are the Doctor’s boots, thank you very much!”
Arthur merely looks at him. “You’re making my point.”
Huffing, Matt throws himself onto the steps between his friends with just the right amount of flair to make Arthur jealous and crosses his arms over his chest. “When is she going to get here? It’s been months. Haven’t I waited long enough?”
“You’ve been very patient,” Karen agrees, reaching out blindly to pat his shoulder. “Good doggy. Your treat will be here soon.”
“Yeah, and if we stick around, we’ll get to see him chew on it,” Arthur says dryly and Matt elbows him with a glare.
Wrinkling her nose, Karen glances up from her magazine. “Would you mind waiting until you’re behind closed doors? You nearly burned my retinas last time.”
“I can’t help it you didn’t knock!”
“You were in my flat!”
“Yeah, and who says you can just barge into your own living room like that?” Matt says, leaning back on his elbows and stretching his legs out in front of him. “It’s just not respectful of others’ privacy, Kaz.”
“I hate you,” she mumbles.
But Matt isn’t paying attention because a cab just pulled up to the curb and he can spot Alex’s hair through the window. Grinning widely, he jumps to his feet and hurries to greet her. She opens the door and steps out of the cab with a bright smile and he’s just about to gather her into his arms, spin her around and snog the daylights out of her when he remembers they’re not in private with just their friends. He stops himself just in time and winds up just standing in front of her and clasping his hands behind his back to keep from touching her.
“Hello,” he says, still smiling like a fool and not caring a bit. He studies her face intently; drinking in the features he has missed so much while she’s been away.
Alex grins back at him, bouncing on the balls of her feet and just tantalizing inches from him. “Hello, darling. Miss me?”
The cabbie is busy lugging Alex’s bags from the boot and Matt takes the opportunity to tug on one of her curls playfully and growl, “Wait till we’re alone and I’ll show you how much.”
Her eyes darken and she licks her lips. “Looking forward to it, Mr. Smith.”
“Alex, throw him a bone,” Karen calls from the steps. “I want to come give you a hug but he’s been excited all morning and I’m afraid he’ll wee on my leg.”
Matt turns to glare at Karen but Alex throws her head back and laughs. He looks back at her and suddenly his whole life changes. Maybe it’s the way the sun glints off her blonde curls, maybe it’s the way her laugh always manages to make him smile. He can’t say for sure what makes him finally realize it; he just knows that all of a sudden, it hits him like a blow to the chest.
The breath stutters in his lungs and his heart rate slows to a crawl as comprehension dawns. It makes his whole body tingle with warmth, from the top of his head to his toes, and the feeling stays with him all day, like a ray of sunshine following him wherever he goes.
Still giggling as her taxi drives away, Alex leans up and wraps her arms around Matt, pressing a warm kiss to his cheek. “You’re a nightmare to miss, darling. I think I’ll take you back with me as my carry-on.”
As she pulls away with a wink and goes to greet Karen and Arthur, he stares after her, dizzy and breathless.
He’s fallen in love with Alex Kingston and it’s the start of something amazing.
After he realizes it, all he wants to do is tell her. But this is a very delicate situation and the last thing he wants to do is scare Alex away. She’s been through a lot and she has her little girl to think of. He knows she won’t be nearly as willing to jump headfirst into this the way he is. She has so much more to lose, so much more to worry about. So he bides his time, waiting patiently.
His patience lasts all of a week before he’s devising cunning plans and clever ways to make her realize what he feels without actually having to say it. It’s a slow process but he’s trying to gradually ease her into saying those three words. If he starts off small, maybe she won’t be taken off guard when he can’t hold his feelings in any longer.
He starts with small gestures, like hearts drawn on little slips of paper and snuck into her coat pockets so she’ll pull them out throughout the day. While Alex laughs and beams at him every time and keeps them all tucked away in her bedside table, she doesn’t seem to understand what Matt is trying to say through them.
He continues with the little papers because she seems to enjoy them so much but he gives up on them ever telling her how he feels. He moves on to other measures, like cutting her sandwich at lunch into a heart and spelling out ‘love’ using little chocolates. He sets it all out on the kitchen table in her flat and waits for her to come in from filming.
It’s been a long day for her and he’s hoping the little message will make an exhausting day of running around in a field with Karen a little better. Only, he hadn’t counted on Karen coming back to Alex’s flat with her. The two of the burst through the door talking and laughing, and Matt straightens from his slouch, standing nervously by the table. It might be a little more awkward than he’d hoped with Kaz here but it doesn’t matter. What matters is that Alex understands what he wants to say to her.
When she sees him, her smile widens and she breaks off from Karen to greet him, wrapping her arms around his neck. “A girl could get used to this,” she says, kissing his chin. “Going to work all day and then coming home to dinner and dessert waiting for her on the table.”
“Must be what it feels like to be a man,” Karen says around a mouthful of food.
Alex snorts and kisses Matt again. He wraps his arms around her and loses himself in the way she smells and the way she feels under his hands and against his mouth until suddenly he remembers something very important. Tearing his mouth from Alex’s with a gasp, he whirls on Karen and shouts “Wait!”
But it’s too late. Karen has already eaten the ‘L’ and half of the ‘O’ in his chocolate formation and while the heart-shaped sandwich is still left, Matt doesn’t hold out much hope that Alex will catch onto his meaning with just that.
Staring at him with wide eyes and a full mouth, Karen mumbles, “What?”
He sighs, running a hand through his hair. “Nothing. Never mind.”
Releasing him, Alex joins Karen at the table, sighing happily as she picks up her sandwich. “Darling, first the little notes and now this? You spoil me.”
“He’s a sap,” Karen agrees and Matt frowns at her while she eats the rest of the ‘O’ and starts on the ‘V’, popping chocolates into her mouth.
Alex winks at him and bites into her sandwich.
After that, he just moves on to words, making a list of synonyms for love and using them whenever the opportunity presents itself. After days spent on set and on location filming late at night or into the early hours of the morning, unable to touch or hold each other between takes the way they want, it’s not unusual for Matt and Alex to pounce on one another the moment they’re behind closed doors. Between passionate kisses and fumbling to undress each other, he always murmurs terms of endearment into her skin, telling her how much he wants her and needs her, how she drives him absolutely mad.
But it doesn’t quite mean the same thing as loving her. Those words speak more of desire than anything else, and while he does desire Alex more than anyone he’s ever been with, she means so much more to him than that. Those words seem paltry and weak. They’re cheap, meaningless phrases compared to how he really feels.
So he comes up with something else to say instead.
They’re filming outside today, another Pond family picnic, about to be interrupted by a sand creature coming up out of the ground. While they take a quick break so the director can discuss shots with the cameramen, Karen and Arthur use the opportunity to run off and find some alcohol to sneak into their cups but Matt lounges on the blanket with Alex, closing his eyes behind his sunglasses and enjoying the moment.
Alex is reclining next to him, propped up on her elbows, her legs bent at the knee. Through the smell of sand and the cranberry cordial in their cups, he can still smell her shampoo and the faint scent of her perfume. She hums contentedly, head tilted back and eyes shut. It’s a perfect moment and the only thing that could make it better was if there was no one around to see him and he could touch her the way he wants to right now.
His fingers itch to reach out for her, to wrap her curls around them and pull her mouth to his. Drumming his fingers against his chest idly, Matt glares at them and orders them to stay put.
And of course, they don’t listen. His hands have a mind of their own. Hardly his fault. He tries his best, really he does.
Quite without his consent, he twists around to face Alex and his fingers begin to walk up her leg. He isn’t quite sure where they’re headed, but he hopes it isn’t anywhere indecent, with the crowd around them. Squirming, Alex giggles and pushes his hand away, hissing, “Matt, no. Someone will see!”
“Don’t care,” he pouts, but drops his hand anyway.
Alex rolls her eyes. “Patience, darling. We’ll be done for the day before you know it.”
Sighing, he watches her from behind his sunglasses, enjoying the way the wind spills her curls over her eyes and makes her wrinkle her nose delightfully. “Is it wrong that I want to spread you out on this blanket and do unspeakable things to you right now?”
Breath catching, she regards him through suddenly dark eyes and it makes something within him tighten and coil, like a body of water pushing against a dam and waiting for it to break. For a moment, he wants to let it, wants it to spill over and burst forth until he has absolutely no control over himself at all and Alex is in his arms while he kisses her breathless. Swallowing hard, he licks his lips and curls his suddenly shaking hands into fists.
Patience, he repeats inwardly.
“Promise me we’ll come back here later?” Alex asks, voice wavering slightly, and he wonders if she’s wrestling with her control the same way he is.
“Tonight,” he agrees in a soft growl, and when he places his hand back on her leg, he feels her shiver beneath his touch. “With this blanket and some wine.”
She smiles, a naughty smirk that curls her lips and makes his heart turn over. “And unspeakable things?”
“Oh, so many unspeakable things,” he grins and she laughs.
“It’s a date, Mr. Smith.”
Unable to contain himself a moment longer, Matt glances around briefly, sees no one looking at them, and presses his lips to her calf, his fingers caressing the inside of her knee. Meeting her bright green eyes meaningfully, he says quietly, “I adore you, Kingston.”
Her whole face lights up then, eyes sparkling as she reaches forward and trails her fingers down his cheek fondly. Heart beating rapidly, Matt scarcely breathes as he waits for her reply. “I adore you too, darling.”
Letting out a quiet breath as her hand falls from his cheek, he drops another kiss to her leg before she shoos him away, fearing discovery. It’s not an ‘I love you’ but it’s a start.
Karen and Arthur join them again in moments, sneaking a thermos onto the blanket with them and emptying it into their cups before tossing it aside like naughty children. They end the day with their cheeks flushed pink and their eyes bright with the alcohol but no one seems to have noticed and the day is a success.
Matt steals the blanket away to his flat until the crew packs up for the days and goes home, leaving the spot deserted. He sneaks back to the site with Alex after dark, spreads the blanket out and pulls her down with him. He presses heated kisses into her skin, whispering again when he reaches her neck how very much he adores her.
When Alex beams into his shoulder and whispers it back, it sends his hope soaring to delirious heights that maybe, just maybe, she’ll love him too.
A week later, after lying on the sofa with Alex in her flat and watching some American film she’d brought with her, Matt isn’t thinking at all about how to tell her he loves her. He’s a little too distracted to come up with any plans. Every time a movie makes Alex cry, she seems to cling to him a little more, crave a little more affection. It’s why he’d agreed to watch the movie in the first place – he loves it when she uses him as her very own personal cuddly teddy bear.
Her kisses become increasingly desperate until Matt is stripping them both of their clothes and pushing her back onto the sofa. She reaches for him instantly, tears still clinging to her eyelashes as he covers her body with his. Brushing his mouth over her cheeks and across her forehead, Matt lets his hands roam over her skin. He’ll never grow tired of being able to touch her and he’ll never understand what made her let him to begin with. What was it about his soppy, bumbling speech that made her give him a chance?
Recalling the film they just watched and the soppy speech contained therein, he thinks that maybe there might be something to it. It had certainly worked for Tom Cruise, after all. And then Alex is arching into him and moaning softly. He doesn’t think about anything else for a while.
When he does think about it again, he’s lying on his back with Alex curled into his side, both of them naked and trying to catch their breath. His body thrumming with pleasure, he’s a little too dazed to come up with anything properly romantic. Alex trails her fingers up and down his stomach lightly, her lips busy mouthing kisses across his chest.
Hugging her tightly into him, Matt feels her curls tickling his chin and feels so content he could burst with it. If it were possible to spend the rest of his life lying here with her, he would. There is nothing outside this flat he needs more than he needs her. He just wishes he could tell her that. And he can, can’t he? He could stop beating around the bush right now and just tell her. It’s the perfect moment, with both of them lying here, trading body heat and sharing kisses. Why shouldn’t he tell her?
Pressing one last kiss to his collarbone, Alex murmurs, “I should get dressed. Almost time for Salome to call.”
Ah, yes. That’s why.
Alex has more than just herself to consider.
Still, he resists when she tries to pull away. “Not yet,” he mumbles, holding onto her a little tighter.
Laughing, she wraps an arm around his waist and says, “You can’t keep me here forever, you know.”
“I could,” he insists stubbornly. “We could make this sofa our home. It’s not much but we could make it work.”
“You’d be willing to live on a sofa for me?” She asks, amused.
He’d be willing to live anywhere if he had her.
“Of course,” he says instead, looking down at her with earnest eyes. “You complete me.”
She rolls her eyes. “Thank you, Jerry Maguire. Can I put on my knickers now?”
Hmm. This had worked much better for Tom Cruise.
“I’m serious,” he protests, hugging her to him and kissing her temple. Alex relaxes against him, resting her head on his chest. “I think I knew it the day we met. You walked in and you were just so…gorgeous. And then you walked up to me and smiled.” Remembering, he nuzzles his nose into her hair. “And I think that was the moment it all started. You had me at hello, Alex Kingston.”
She laughs softly, tilting her head to look up at him. “Actually, I said hello and you proceeded to spill coffee down the front of my shirt.”
He frowns. “Well that was because I was so staggered by your radiance. Stop ruining this beautiful moment between us.”
Giggling, Alex leans up to press her lips to his and while disappointed that the whole soppy speech thing hadn’t worked; he wraps his arms around her and kisses her back hungrily. Kissing is good. Kissing is brilliant, actually. There’s nothing at all to be disappointed about when Alex is kissing him.
The ringing of her mobile breaks them apart and she scrambles out of his arms to get to it. She answers her phone without a bit of clothing on and Matt leans back into the sofa cushions, hands behind his head and admires the view. Alex glares at him but he only grins and watches her try to put on her knickers and talk to Salome at the same time.
When she finally manages it, she pulls his button down shirt on to cover herself up. He frowns in disappointment but Alex only ushers him from her sofa, shoves his pants and trousers at him and tosses him out with a flirtatious smile. Standing outside her door with his trousers barely done up and no shirt, Matt thinks back on his speech and wonders where he’d gone wrong. He should be getting cuddles and those teasing little bites to his earlobe he loves so much right about now.
Grumbling to himself and cursing Salome’s timing, he begins to walk back to his flat before deciding that he really needs someone to talk to. So he makes a detour and barges into Arthur’s flat across the hall without bothering to knock.
Sitting in the middle of his living room floor and holding his guitar, an open notebook in front of him, Arthur watches Matt fall backwards onto his sofa dramatically and says nothing.
“She’s killing me,” he complains with a groan. “Actually, honest to God, killing me. How can one person be so oblivious?”
Taking his pencil from his mouth, Arthur says slowly, “I’m going to take a wild guess and say we’re talking about Alex.”
“No flies on the musician,” Matt says dryly, turning his head to look at his friend.
“Hey, rude,” Arthur glares. “I was just sitting here innocently in my own bloody flat. I’m not obligated to listen to your problems. Which, by the way, are probably all your fault because Alex is a saint to even put up with you to begin with.”
Matt stares at him silently for a moment. “You haven’t eaten dinner yet, have you, Darvill?”
Arthur glances away, scowling. “No.”
“I suggest you do that, mate.”
“Was that too tetchy?”
Matt shrugs. “A bit.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Matt sighs, turning again to stare up at Arthur’s ceiling. “Do you think she’s doing it on purpose?”
“Doing what?” Arthur asks, halfway to the kitchen for a snack already.
“Ignoring me when I tell her I love her.”
Immediately, Arthur is stumbling out of the kitchen again, clutching a chocolate bar and staring openly. “You what?”
“Well,” he amends quickly. “I haven’t actually told her yet. But I’ve been trying to and she isn’t paying attention.”
Eyes narrowed suspiciously, Arthur slowly walks back into the living room, taking a bite out of his chocolate bar. “Trying how?” He mumbles around a mouthful.
Holding up a hand, Matt ticks off a list, “The little notes with hearts on them, the chocolates that spelled out ‘love’ before Kaz ate them all, a heart-shaped sandwich and saying various endearments and synonyms for love. And just now, I quoted bloody Jerry Maguire at her and she still didn’t get it.”
“Which part of Jerry Maguire?”
Sitting up quickly, Matt swings his legs over the side of the couch and leans forward, elbows on his knees as he stares across the table at Arthur, looking deeply into his eyes. “You complete me.”
Arthur blinks. “Bloody hell. And she didn’t go for it?”
He shakes his head mournfully, falling back into the sofa again. “I even went a bit further and said ‘you had me at hello’.”
“I thought that was the bird’s line?”
“I know. I was desperate.”
Snorting, Arthur bites into his chocolate bar again and asks, “Why don’t you just tell her then?”
“Because she’s been through this sort of thing before and we haven’t been together all that long,” Matt sighs. “I don’t want to scare her off. She’s got Salome to consider, you know?”
“Yeah, but you love Salome,” Arthur points out.
“Of course I do,” he says. “She’s my poppet.”
“And Alex knows that. So stop pissing about and just tell her how you feel.”
“I can’t,” Matt whinges. “If I move too quickly, she might back off and I can’t deal with that. This has to be handled with the utmost delicacy, Darvill. I know what I’m doing.”
Arthur snorts. “Says the man who just used an American film to say how he feels.” He bats his eyelashes and cops a high, feminine voice. “Oh Mr. Smith, you’re so dreamy and eloquent.”
Growling, Matt tosses a sofa cushion at his head. “Shut up and eat your chocolate.”
Having Arthur know and still making no progress makes Matt feel like an incompetent twat and like maybe he doesn’t deserve Alex at all if he can’t even manage to make her understand what he feels. Now, there’s just even more pressure to get the words out. But he won’t rush things just because he can sense Arthur’s knowing gaze on him whenever Alex is in the room.
Like now, for instance. They’re all gathered in Karen’s flat, sitting on the floor around her coffee table, drinking and talking about the upcoming trip to New York. They try to avoid the fact that it’ll be Karen and Arthur’s last episode – the mood between them is lighthearted and no one wants to ruin that by bringing up how close they are to the end of things. Matt still doesn’t know what he’s going to do without them. It’ll be so strange being on set without having Kaz to dance with or Arthur to torture when he’s bored.
Arthur seems to be distracting himself from those sorts of thoughts by focusing on Matt’s love life instead, if the way he keeps looking at Matt and raising his eyebrows is any indication. Shaking his head, Matt gives him a pointed glare that says he definitely hasn’t told Alex yet.
Sighing and leaning back against the sofa behind him, Arthur takes a swig of his ale and looks at him like he’s a disappointment. Matt knows how he feels.
Bottle of ale in hand, Alex leans into his side, her head on his shoulder while she discusses various places she wants to visit with Karen. Apparently there’s a vintage shop on 9th street in New York that has the best shoe collection Karen has ever seen. Leaning his head on top of Alex’s, Matt closes his eyes and listens to the sound of her voice, wishing she already knew how much he loved her so he could just whisper it in her ear now and see her smile.
Clearing his throat, Arthur speaks up, interrupting the girls’ conversation. “Okay, bored. Game time.”
Karen rolls her eyes. “I am not playing Truth or Dare with you again. You always trick me.”
“I can’t help it you aren’t intelligent enough to see through my clever ruses,” Arthur points out and Karen kicks him under the coffee table. “Fine. What game do you want to play then?”
Matt boos and gives it a thumbs down while Alex giggles and nudges him for being mean.
Arthur makes a face. “That’s not a game. That’s an excuse for you to be louder than usual and torment us with your singing abilities.”
“Oi! I have a beautiful voice!”
“If you were a dying cow giving us one last serenade before kicking the bucket, then yeah, I’d say your voice wasn’t bad at all.”
Gasping, Karen delivers another vicious kick to his ankle and tries not to smile as Matt giggles into Alex’s hair. “Shut up. I hate you both.”
“Do not,” Matt says. “You love us.”
“Nope,” she insists, scooting a little closer and taking Alex’s hand. “I only love Alex.”
Matt glances sharply at Arthur, who grins at him. “What a coincidence because -” Eyes wide, Matt makes a frantic motion with his hand and hopes Alex doesn’t see with her head still on his shoulder. Arthur looks smug as he finishes his sentence, “So do I.”
Heart pounding, Matt releases a breath he hadn’t even realized had been lodged in his throat and curls his trembling hands into fists. “What?” He asks, forcing his voice to come off as teasing. “No one loves me?”
“No, you’re mean,” Karen says. “And your face is funny-looking. We’re just grateful Alex will date you at all. We’re thinking about nominating her to be the next Mother Teresa.”
Lifting her head from his shoulder with a laugh, Alex leans her head up and places a soft kiss to his chin. “I happen to like his face very much. It’s a lovely face.”
Matt sticks his tongue out at Karen and then cups the back of Alex’s neck with his hand, bringing her mouth to his and kissing her gently. Her lips curve into a smile against his and he grins. “I like your face too. Better than butter on bread.”
Karen snorts. “If she was a sweater you’d wear her on your head?”
Grateful that someone has caught on, Matt nods while Alex looks at him like he’s lost the plot. “Thank you, dear. I think.” She places one last kiss to his lips before pulling away but Matt laces their fingers together and doesn’t let her go far.
At last, Karen seems to grasp what exactly is happening right in front of her and her mouth drops open. She glances between Matt and Alex and the moment Alex turns her head, Karen points at Matt, draws an invisible heart in mid-air and then jabs a finger in Alex’s direction, her expression questioning.
Biting his lip, he glances at Alex to make sure she isn’t paying attention and nods. Karen squeaks, clapping her hands together gleefully. Alex turns to look at her and when Karen continues to grin like a loon, Matt makes a slicing motion with his hand and glares. Not a word, Kaz.
Pursing her lips, she nods, eyes sparkling. Arthur watches it all with amusement, obviously waiting for his opportunity to pounce. Pushing his bottle of ale aside, he leans forward. “Tell her what you’d give up for her.”
Karen giggles, delighted that they’re having a spot of Karenaoke after all. “All the bread in China!”
“Nah,” Matt laughs and kisses Alex’s temple. “All the rice in China.”
Shaking her head, Alex stares at them like they’ve all finally gone round the bend. “I should be more worried when you do things like that but I think I’m getting used to the insanity. Hardly fazes me at all anymore.”
“That’s because you’re becoming just as mad as we are,” Karen says, shrugging at Matt apologetically.
Shooting Matt a sympathetic look, Arthur scolds Karen, “Don’t tell her that. You’ll give her nightmares.”
Alex laughs. “Conversion nightmares. I’ll be wearing ugly jumpers and singing obscure songs no one’s ever heard of.”
“Like Dorothy in Oz,” Arthur supplies. “Except our brick road wouldn’t be yellow.”
“Ooh, polka-dot!” Karen says. “No! Pineapple print! Can it be pineapple print instead?”
Slumping back against the armchair in disappointment, Matt sighs and slings an arm around Alex’s shoulders as his friends continue their ridiculous discussion. He should have known Alex wasn’t really the type to listen to Ima Robot. Otherwise she would have known he was saying ‘Hello, I love you.’ Bless her; he’s really going to have to start expanding her musical horizons. He briefly wonders if it would work if he looked up lyrics to some country song and quoted it at her instead.
But he’s not quite that desperate yet.
They’re packing for their trip to New York the next time he attempts another expression of his feelings that she’ll no doubt either roll her eyes at or laugh off like he’s taking the mickey. Matt has already shoved a handful of clothes into a bag and called it quits with his own packing, but Alex is going back to Los Angeles after they film in New York, and she won’t be coming back to this flat for weeks so it’s taking her a while to get her things together.
Matt lounges on her bed, watching her go through her closet and toss various items onto the mattress. Sometimes an article of clothing will land on his face and he swats it away while Alex tries to pretend she hadn’t done it on purpose. When a funky-printed button down sails across the room and falls onto his chest, he raises his head slightly and studies it with a frown.
“Is this…?” He raises himself to a sitting position and picks up the shirt, holding it out for inspection. “It is.”
“This is my shirt, Kingston,” he says, sounding scandalized.
“And I’ve been looking for it for months!”
She shrugs, not turning to look at him as she rummages through her closet. “Sorry.”
He huffs because she doesn’t actually sound sorry at all. “Why is it in your closet?” He sniffs it curiously and smells floral perfume that is distinctly Alex. “And why does it smell girly?”
“Because I took it back with me last time I was in London,” she says, like it’s the most natural thing in the world to steal a man’s shirt and take it all the way to Los Angeles. “I’ll need you to wear it again before I leave.”
He frowns suspiciously, clutching his shirt to his chest. “Why?”
Exasperated, Alex turns to look at him, hand on her hip. “Because what’s the point of sleeping in it to remind me of you if it’s going to smell like me and not you? Honestly, darling. Do keep up.”
He stares at her long after she turns back to her clothes, his shirt gripped tightly in his fist and his mouth hanging open. After a moment of stunned silence, he climbs off her bed and crosses the small bedroom to stand behind her. Shirt still in hand, he rests his chin on her shoulder and wraps an arm around her waist, asking softly, “You sleep in it?”
She pauses in her sorting and nods, sighing as she leans into him. “Sometimes. Other times I just place it next to me on my pillow. I can smell your soap and your cologne and it’s easier to imagine you’re next to me.” She turns in his arms and he stares at her in awe, feeling the burn of tears behind his eyes because this is it. He’s going to say it. Now is the time. “I missed you while I was away, honey.”
“Oh, Alex.” Matt drops the shirt in his hands to the floor and cups Alex’s face instead, smiling when she leans into his palm. He presses his forehead to hers. “I missed you too, sweetheart. You are so precious to me. I -”
They both freeze at the sound of Karen’s voice coming from down the hall.
“Are you in here?”
He sighs, letting his hands drop from Alex’s face. “Yeah, Kaz. What do you need?”
“Have you seen Arthur’s glasses? Because he can’t find them and he’s going a bit mental.”
Oh, he’s going to hurt Darvill. Serious maiming is coming his way.
Running a hand through his hair and offering Alex a small, weak smile as she looks up at him curiously, he calls out, “I think he left them on the fire escape last night.”
Karen makes a small noise of realization and they hear her mutter ‘aha!’ before the door slams shut again. Matt shakes his head, bends to pick up the shirt on the floor and slips it on over his t-shirt. “There,” he says, kissing Alex softly. “It’ll smell like me again in no time.”
Alex smiles. “Thank you, darling.”
It had been so close. He’d almost had the words out. They were on the tip of his tongue and it had been right. It was the perfect moment. But that moment is broken now and Matt leaves Alex to her packing, falling back onto her bed with a dejected sigh.
He’s decidedly grumpy when they reach New York and the mood lasts throughout their first day in the city. He hadn’t even been able to sit next to Alex on their flight and he can’t help but feel that time is running out. She’ll go back to California after this episode is filmed and she’ll go still not knowing that he loves her. On top of feeling like a total failure, he knows that Kaz and Arthur will be departing as well. It leaves him in a foul mood that must show on his face because everyone seems to steer clear of him but Alex.
She must realize he’s in a bad temper but she only links her arm with his as they walk through city streets, pretending to be friends and nothing else. It’s frustrating. His next step if he can ever tell her how he feels without buggering it up, is to convince her that what they really need to do is stop hiding because while the privacy had been nice, he’d very much like to snog her in public, paparazzi be damned.
Karen and Alex spend an unholy amount of time in vintage shops and thrift stores, trying things on, buying too much and then making him and Arthur carry it all. Matt tries not to be irritated with his friends. It’s hardly their fault he can’t seem to find the words to say what he feels. They hadn’t meant to interrupt and he knows they’d feel terrible if they knew they had. It’s their last episode together and he doesn’t want to waste time being petty.
As he and Arthur wait outside yet another shop, bags piled at their feet, Matt sighs. “How long before we can escape to a pub, do you think?”
Arthur glances at his watch. “At least another hour. They’ll go until lunchtime, I should say.” He huffs and glares at the shopping bags. “This is hardly fair. You’re dating Alex -” He stops when Matt shushes him and glances around nervously. Lowering his voice, he says, “Sorry. But you’re dating her. It’s your bloody job to carry bags. But why the hell do I have to be here?”
Matt shrugs. “I don’t think Kaz cares who you’re dating. You’re an extra set of arms and that’s all that matters.”
“I feel so used,” he says, turning to look through the store window where Karen is trying on outrageous hats. “Like a glorified coat rack.”
“Get used to it, mate,” Matt says with a laugh.
The door jingles and Alex steps outside carrying a small bag. Matt reaches to take it from her but she shakes her head. “I’ve got this one, darling. You look very unhappy and I can’t bring myself to add to your misery.”
Matt shrugs and slouches back against the brick wall behind him again. “What did you buy, then? Another dress?”
She shakes her head, pulling a shirt from the bag and holding it up for him to see. It’s a button down shirt just appalling enough to appeal to him. “To replace the one I stole from you.”
He doesn’t need a replacement. He just needs her to stay with him always and wear his shirt to bed every night while he falls asleep holding her. He needs her to understand that when he says these ridiculous, nonsensical things to her, he really means that now that he has her, he can’t imagine his life without her in it.
Instead, he smiles and takes the shirt from her. “Thank you, love.”
Alex winks at him and makes a kissy face. Matt grins despite his mood and Arthur pretends to gag until Alex elbows him with a playful glare.
When Karen finally comes out of the shop wearing a velvet purple monstrosity on her head, Arthur nearly chokes from laughing so hard while she smacks him and tells him he knows nothing about real fashion.
“I might be persuaded not to mock you endlessly,” Arthur finally says, tears of laughter still in his eyes. “If you stop shopping and let me eat. Otherwise I’m going to be unmanageable and grouchy. And your hat will be mercilessly ridiculed for the rest of the day.”
Karen huffs. “Fine. Let’s go find some chips for poor delicate Darvill. Don’t want him PMS’ing on us again.”
“Everyone gets tetchy if they don’t eat,” Arthur protests, dragging her bags behind him as he follows Karen down the street.
Following behind them at a safe distance so as not to be associated with the mad bickering pair, Matt and Alex stroll along in silence, both of them carrying a handful of bags.
Glancing at Matt, Alex asks, “What about you?”
He frowns. “What about me?”
“What’s your excuse for being so grumpy? Do you need food too?”
Shaking his head, Matt looks at her as they walk along and wishes his hands weren’t full so he could reach for hers. “Sorry. Just going to miss you all, I guess.”
She looks at him sympathetically, eyes soft. “You’ll still talk to Karen and Arthur, darling. It’s not like you’ll never see them again. You three have been through too much together.”
He purses his lips. “And what about you?”
Smiling enigmatically, she replies, “Just because her parents are leaving doesn’t mean River is.”
“But what if you were?” He asks, frustrated with himself. “What if you were leaving too and I just let you go without -”
Alex looks at him oddly, slowing to a stop in the middle of the sidewalk and making everyone else step around them with disgruntled murmurs. “Without what?”
This is not a good moment. They’re in public, standing in the middle of the sidewalk in bloody New York City. Karen and Arthur are going to be wondering where they’ve gone and now is not the time.
But that doesn’t stop his big fat mouth from blurting out, “Without telling you I’m in love with you.”
For a moment, Alex stares at him in stunned silence. And then her eyes crinkle and she laughs softly. Confused and a little hurt, Matt watches her with a wounded expression until she drops her bags at her feet and reaches out to touch his jaw. “Finally,” she says quietly, still smiling. “I thought you’d never say it.”
He sputters, mind racing to put together the pieces because none of this is making sense. “What?”
Stroking her thumb along his jaw and heedless of the people still skirting around them on the sidewalk, she says, “You certainly took your time. I was beginning to think you’d let me leave without a word.”
Gaping, Matt struggles to form proper sentences. “You mean you knew? All this time?”
“Of course I did, darling.” She laughs, rolling her eyes. “I was just waiting for you to pluck up your courage. Took you long enough, bless.”
“How did you know?!” He asks, still feeling rather disoriented and more than a little disappointed. It was supposed to be romantic and wonderful, not standing on the sidewalk while Alex laughed at him.
She sighs, looking at him like he’s being particularly dense. “Because you’ve been saying it for months.”
“I have not,” he insists, frowning.
“You have,” she says, reaching for his hand. She carefully uncurls his fingers from around the bags he’s still clutching and they fall to the sidewalk to join hers. Lacing their fingers together, she smiles up at him. “I see it every time you look at me.”
Well. Now he feels a bit silly. He’s been going about this like he needed to find the right words and the right time, like they both needed to be ready before he said it but he’s been telling her all along without the words. Because love is more than just that short little phrase, it’s in his actions. The way he treats Alex and the way he looks at her. And it’s then that he realizes something very important.
Alex loves him too.
Because she wears his shirt when she misses him, and she buys him clothes and lets him see her crying over a silly chick flick. Because she puts up with him and his antics every day and doesn’t shy away from him when he’s cross. Because he sees it in the way she’s smiling up at him right now.
And just like that, the fear of rejection is gone. Alex isn’t going anywhere.
Breaking into a wide grin, he reaches down and slides his hand into her curls. “I love you, Kingston.”
“I love you too, daft idiot,” she says with a laugh.
Matt bends his head and kisses her, right there in the middle of the sidewalk. Alex immediately wraps her arms around his neck, sliding her hands into his hair. As he holds her close to him and revels in the way she always fits so perfectly against him, he realizes that ‘I love you’ kisses are somehow even better than normal kisses. If he has his way, every kiss between them from now on will be an ‘I love you’ kiss. Alex opens her mouth under his and sighs as his tongue slides against hers. He wonders if they could have ‘I love you’ breakfasts and dinners and walks through the park. If he could, he would just make their whole life together one long, impassioned love letter. It might not be possible, but he’s certainly willing to try.
As they break apart to breathe, still holding each other, he’s vaguely aware of someone snapping a picture with their iPhone but Alex is clinging to him and beaming, and who gives a damn about pictures?
Well, Alex might.
“I think I might have just accidentally outed us,” he says softly, wincing a little.
She laughs, fingers toying with the hair at the back of his head. “I really don’t care, darling.”
“Oh. Good.” He nuzzles his nose against her cheek and sighs contentedly as he feels her eyelashes flutter against his skin. “So you don’t mind if I do that again?”
Alex shakes her head, nose crinkling as she grins. “Please do.”
So he does. And as it turns out, lifelong love letters are entirely possible after all.