When everyone in the world thinks you fancy your co-star, you start to think there's a grain of truth in it. Because, you think, it can't all be in their heads, right?
Except sometimes Karen looks at Matt and it should be, it really should, because he's fumbling around set, tripping over chairs, and imitating her walk. And then when they're sprawled across the rug in her living room, he throws pillows at her face because it's apparently hideous. Who needs to fancy someone like that? No one would, honestly. Masochists. Idiots. And her, Karen Gillan.
Both a masochist and an idiot, if you're going to put a name to it.
It isn't a problem though, not when he's with still with Daisy and she's still seeing Patrick. But one night after she gets home from the theatre, Patrick's waiting for her on the couch. He asks her, "Where's this going?" and when she can't find the answer, he says, "Maybe we should break up, Karen."
The relief is overwhelming.
She doesn't find out for another two weeks that Matt's broken things off with Daisy. And firmly tells herself that it means nothing.
(He gets back together with her like a month later anyway.)
What she likes about the States is that it holds the promise of anonymity. Not in places like Comic Con (god no), but when she's not surrounded by film crews, when she's just walking down a sidewalk, she garners little attention. It's almost an impossibility in London.
The fact that she can go into a Starbucks and get a latte without anyone asking her for an autograph is nothing if not short of a miracle. Karen practically revels in it.
"Matt," she says, lying on his hotel bed, so comfortable in jeans and a t-shirt after they finish shooting for the day. "I want to live here."
"So live here," he replies distractedly, digging through his suitcase. She studies him through half-lidded eyes. "But don't say I didn't warn you."
She turns over onto her stomach, propping her chin on an outstretched arm. "About what?"
"About how whiny you're going to be when there's no more public adoration." Matt spins around to face her and mimics her accent in falsetto, clasping his hands in front of his chest. "Oh, Matt, no one loves me! No one wants to take a photo with me! This isn't like how it is in London -- "
"Shut up!" She throws a pillow at his head and misses by a wide margin. "I'm not that vain!"
He plops down next to her, nudging her with his shoulder. "Course you are. Budge over. You're taking up the whole bed. Don't you have your own bed to commandeer?"
Karen grudgingly scoots over a few inches, though she's still feeling rather uncharitable about his mockery. "I can't commandeer it because it's already mine."
"Semantics." Matt pinches the tip of her nose suddenly, laughing when she yelps and hits him.
"Seriously though," she says after a few minutes of utter chaos, struggling to sit up and trying to compose herself again. Her hair's a mess, tumbling around her face and she busies herself tucking it behind her ears. "I want to move here."
"S'possible," is all Matt says. He has his arms folded back behind his head and his eyes closed. His voice is slurred, like he's sleepy, which shouldn't be possible because he was literally just trying to kick her off the bed. "It would be a great place to live."
"Need a job though." Which deflates her a bit.
"Kazza," and she looks down at him, staring up at her unsmiling (and it makes her heart stop for a beat), "you're going to get loads of offers. You're not going to have to worry about that at all."
His sudden sincerity makes her chest ache and she has to look away, feeling the burn spreading sweetly through her limbs. Fuck, it's unfair that he can be like this, turn from stupid to wonderful like he's flicking on a lightswitch.
She opens her mouth to thank him, but never quite gets there because Matt decides to take advantage of her momentary distraction and shoves her off the side of the bed.
"God, your face!" he laughs hysterically, peering over her, like a giant overgrown child.
Case in point.
He turns out to be right though (the very next day, much to Karen's chagrin). She gets at least one major offer. And he's ridiculously excited for her when she does.
That night, their heads tilted close together over a dark bar, he smiles and says, "Don't forget about us when you're getting your Oscar."
"Oh, stop," she says, but the comment makes her blush with pleasure anyway, and she hopes he can't see it in the dim lighting.
"Didn't think you'd see Kaz as a glamorous film star, did you?" Matt says to Arthur, who squeezes up next to them with a beer in his hand.
"Glamorous might be a bit generous," Arthur replies, straight-faced.
Karen mock-huffs. "And someone won't be getting thanked in my acceptance speech."
"Yeah, Darvill," Matt says, "you won't be getting thanked in her acceptance speech but I will."
"Aren't we cocky," she grumbles and takes a long sip of her beer. "I didn't say I'd thank you either."
"You will," he says, all self-assurance and quicksilver grins.
When she's thinking it over later, staring at the ceiling in the quiet still dark of her hotel room, she thinks she might, actually. Thank him in her acceptance speech. It's an incredibly self-indulgent fantasy, but Matt's the one who brought it up. Doctor Who launched her career and it seems impossible to her right now that Matt wouldn't be a huge part of her life.
People lose touch, she tells herself glumly, rolling over onto her side. They aren't friends forever. She just can't imagine it happening with him. Or she doesn't want to.
Wine makes her get all maudlin. She buries her face in her pillow. Never again.
Actually, there was this moment when they were Spain when she thought -- well -- it seemed like --
Karen remembers the taste of alcohol between the two of them, pressed up against a wall, and his hands on her waist and the way he was laughing, these hiccup-y drunk laughs, into her hair. The air was cold but she was warm from wine and spinning and his eyes on her.
"Gonna miss you so much, Kaz," he said against the shell of her ear, his voice low and gravelly, and the words sent shivers all the way through her body.
"Yeah, me too," she told him, and felt a little bit like she was going to cry.
But Matt was smiling at her and she smiled back and he slid his palm up along her spine and she shuddered, in the circle of his arms, and maybe --
Instead he pressed his mouth to her temple and sighed, so softly that she barely noticed it. "Let's go back inside, yeah?"
There you go.
The thing about Cardiff is that it's probably one of the dullest places she could be living. But suddenly when they're back from New York, something changes, shifting beneath Karen's feet. The idea of leaving becomes, quite inexplicably, the worst decision she could have ever made. Why did she want to leave anyway? Wouldn't it be nice to stay longer in this bubble and be employed?
They talk about the new companion and how she'll fit into the show and even though Karen's known for months and months and months, it hurts in a way it didn't before.
"You okay?" Arthur asks her before they go into makeup one morning.
"Fine," she says brusquely, pulling her hair back.
He puts a hand on her arm, forcing her to pause. "I'm going to miss it here too."
Karen knots her fingers into the sash of her dressing gown and stares at the ground. It's a gray, foggy morning and she stamps her feet in the mist to keep warm. "I don't want to leave anymore," she says, her voice sounding petulant and small to her own ears.
"Me neither." Arthur puts his arm around her and gives her a sideways hug.
"What if he likes her more than me?" she whispers, half into the shoulder of his dressing gown. succumbing to the worst (and most embarrassing) of her insecurities.
Arthur looks at her blankly. "Who? Matt? Are you stupid?"
It really doesn't reassure her that much. She leans into him, hating how awful everything is, and feeling like a child. She doesn't get to have normal days anymore; they're all last days instead.
She's kind of glad there's no more Confidential. God knows what they would have put on air from this series, what with all the crying attacks (her) and random bursts of emotion (Matt and Arthur). Besides, it''s one less thing she has to act for.
(Karen says goodbye to the TARDIS. It feels stupid and childish, but she runs her hand across the knobs and levers and remembers the first time she stepped onto the set. Like a little bit of magic.)
Honestly, the last day is easier than all the days leading up to it. She's been dreading it for so long that when it finally comes, it feels like a relief.
The bonus is, by this point, she's all out of tears. Karen makes up for this by being twice as manic as usual, giggling and joking and tripping over things. This is partially because she knows that if she stops, she'll have to start thinking about it, and she doesn't want to think about it, not ever.
Matt calls her his best friend and favorite companion and only gives her moonface a passing mention at her and Arthur's goodbye party. She snorts unbecomingly into her sleeve and sticks her tongue out at him.
Later, when they're both a little bit tipsy, he pulls her into a shadowy corner and for a second she thinks that it's going to happen now -- he's finally going to kiss her. But he presses something into her hands, something small and plastic ("Sorry, I didn't have time to wrap it properly"). She runs her fingers along the contours of it in the dark.
"You're giving me a toy TARDIS?" she says, holding it up to her face to see better. She's prepared to make fun of him, but his expression stops her.
He looks down into his drink and avoids her eyes. "Open it."
Karen does, poking open the doors, and feels folded paper against her skin. Matt's still looking away, almost bashful, so she takes the paper out and unfolds it, smoothing out the creases.
In all fairness, it's not very good, but that kind of makes it all the more endearing. He clearly just printed it out on his computer. It's a regular sheet of A4 paper, with a grainy picture of her and Matt from their first week on set, goofing off in Karen's trailer during lunch. She was already a little bit in love with him then and there were so many possibilities.
Love you forever, Kaz, he's written beneath the picture, scrawled out in that familiar script she knows so well. Karen traces the words with her index finger and they settle in a space above her heart.
"I -- I just wanted to give you something," he says, turning the glass in his hands around and around. "I didn't know what to get you. So. I made it."
"Matt," she starts.
"Come visit?" he asks, peering at her shyly through his fringe of hair.
The "yes" gets caught in her throat and she has to nod, tight, and take a long breath.
"Okay," Matt says into the pause between them. "I'll just. Yeah." He leans in and kisses her cheek. "I'll see you in a bit. Should go talk to Arthur."
She looks at the picture again. Sometimes, she thinks, sometimes it seems like he's a little bit in love with her too. But it's a bit late for that.
The news that Matt and Daisy have split up again hits magazines three days later, when Karen's buying more packing tape and a bag of crisps at Tesco. She normally wouldn't look, but the headline is so garish that she does against her better judgement.
She's surprised she didn't know first, though the article makes it sound like the split was several weeks ago. There's no rule, of course, that he has to tell her everything. She never warmed to Daisy especially. It would make sense that he wouldn't have mentioned it.
Still, these things are almost never true, she reminds herself after staring at the magazine for a second too long, and puts her sunglasses on.
On Friday night, Karen wakes up at 2 AM, thrown from sleep by the banging at her front door. It sounds like someone's trying to barge into her flat and her hand automatically goes to her mobile, sitting on the nightstand. It's probably just a drunk neighbor at the wrong flat, but at least she can ring the police if she needs to. She throws on a jumper, pulling her hair through the collar, and pads towards the door.
"Karen!" she hears in Matt's familiar, slurred voice. "Karen, open up!"
What the hell.
She unlocks the door. "Have you gone mental? It's 2 in the morning! People are asleep, Matthew."
He sways a little unsteadily, leaning against the doorframe. "Sorry," he says, not looking the least bit abashed. "I wanted to see you."
"You're plastered." It's amazing how much disapproval she can muster, considering the number of times in recent memory she's stumbled back home totally sloshed. Still, she was never yelling at a volume loud enough that they'd hear her on the next block over.
"Yeah," he continues, unfazed. "Arthur and I had a few."
That hurts. Karen crosses her arms across her chest and does her best to look grumpy and not insulted. "So you invited Arthur to have a drink and not me."
"Kaz," his voice goes soft and she moves her gaze to the hardwood floor instead. "I couldn't." It's a weird answer and she doesn't understand it, but it doesn't make anything better.
"Well," she bristles. "I'm glad you and Arthur are enjoying your boys' club."
"You know it's not like that." Matt pauses, running his palm along the frame. "Can I come in?"
Karen bites back a scathing response and shrugs, turning her back on him and striding into the kitchen to get herself a glass of water. She's not really thirsty, but it seems better to have something to do. Matt follows her there and opens the empty cabinets, searching for something.
"What are you doing?"
He looks baffled. "Where are all your glasses? Did you chuck them all out in a fit of pique?"
"Matt, I'm moving back to London, remember? I've packed everything." She's so annoyed with him still, but it's hard with him looking so ridiculous, the hair on the back of his head sticking up in odd directions, and his shirt all rumpled. "Here." She hands him the glass she got for herself.
He drinks half the contents and gives her a smile. "Thanks, Kazza."
"So why are you here?" Karen asks warily, leaning back against the counter, feeling a bit self-conscious in her pyjama bottoms and ratty old jumper.
"Told you. I came to visit." He walks around the kitchen, surveying the emptiness, setting the glass down on the table.
"Couldn't have rung first?"
"Spur of the moment decision. I'm being spontaneous." Matt stops in front of her and tugs at the hem of her jumper with two fingers. "I like this one. Haven't seen it before."
"Vintage shop," she says quickly, feeling herself stiffen at his proximity. "Thanks."
"Too bad about your face though," he grins.
Trust him to follow up a perfectly nice compliment with something awful. She rolls her eyes and gives him a little shove. "Can't barge into someone's flat in the middle of the night and insult them. It's bad form."
He shoves her back and then they're in a shoving match in her kitchen, Matt pushing her across the floor. She breaks away from him and runs into the sitting room and he chases her, clumsily, tripping over nothing at all in the hallway and nearly falling on his face.
She collapses on the rug in a giggling heap and he joins her, gasping a little.
"Praying mantis," he calls her after a minute.
"Come off it! You run like a wounded giraffe!"
"Giraffes are nice. I like giraffes. And I thought I was the drunk giraffe. Make up your mind, Gillan. Drunk or wounded. I can't be both."
Karen turns on her side to look at him, her hair in her eyes. He brushes it back for her and his touch grazes her forehead, making her pulse jump. The quiet between them stretches on and she swears her heartbeat is so loud that even he could hear it.
"You're leaving on Monday, yeah?" he asks at last, his tone serious.
He makes a noise like a sigh and lies on his back, staring up at the ceiling, his hand resting on his chest. This feels like it could be a big moment, like it has the potential to be. Karen's just not exactly sure what.
"Why are you here, Matt?" she asks again.
He doesn't answer right away and instead starts fiddling with the cuff of his jacket sleeve, apparently a sudden Very Deep Interest of his. "I...had something to tell you."
There's an odd, falling sensation in the pit of Karen's stomach. "What?"
"Uh." The fiddling intensifies. "I can't remember."
He's lying. She can tell. He won't look at her and his voice is a little too high for it to be true. She lets another long moment pass in case he wants to take it back and when he doesn't, Karen feels disappointed, the weight of it leaden on her shoulders. She lies there for a minute longer before sitting up, pulling her knees against her chest and hugging them.
"Useless you are," she says, trying for a light tone. "I'm going back to bed then."
Matt sits up halfway, leaning back with his weight on his elbows. "Alright."
"You can stay if you want. There are still sheets on the spare bed."
His eyes follow her when she stands up, crossing the room. "Thanks. G'night, Kaz."
It takes her ages to fall asleep, even after she hears him padding through the hallway to the spare bedroom and shutting the door behind him.
Fuck, she thinks morosely, and shuts her eyes. Once again, ladies and gentlemen -- idiots, masochists, and Karen Gillan.
The next morning he's gone by the time she wakes up. The door to the spare bedroom is wide open and the bed is neatly made, like no one had been there at all. Karen wanders into the kitchen, the light filtering in through the windows watery and gray. There's a note on the table and she squints at his scrawl.
Karen Gillan = worst host ever. Doesn't even keep any coffee around. No food in the pantry. Rated one star. Would not stay again.
Beneath that, it says in smaller letters: Come over tonight?
Within five minutes of Karen walking into Matt's flat, they've gotten into a squabble over which place they should get takeaway from. In the end they settle on Chinese and wait for it on Matt's couch, sharing a bottle of wine, and getting progressively drunker while they watch a documentary on Channel 4 about families with five million children or something like that.
"Drinking on an empty stomach is the worst idea," Matt says, bobbing his head up and down like he's imitating a wise sage, clearly indicating to Karen that he's been affected.
She just reaches for the bottle to refill her wineglass. "Can't waste a perfectly good bottle of wine."
"But you're Scottish. You could drink that whole bottle and be fine," he grumbles, which is ridiculous because she may be Scottish but she's still human and drinking half a bottle of wine is still going to affect her (possibly in mortifying ways which has been her greatest fear about drinking with Matt these days).
Karen decides to whine at him instead, mostly to distract herself from thinking about possible inebriated happenings and consequences. "I'm so hungry. Why can't you just make food appear? What good are you as the Doctor if you can't even do that?"
He idly whacks her with a fat couch pillow. "The Doctor can't just conjure up food," he defends, and then he launches into a story about how he was starving on set yesterday and something about wishing for food and then getting food -- whatever, Karen's not listening very closely; she's too busy drinking delicious, delicious wine which has delicious, delicious alcohol which is delicious.
Matt's giving her this expectant look. She stops, glass halfway to her mouth. "What?"
"Some friend you are, not even listening to my witty, amazing stories," he grumbles and stretches out his hand. "Pass it here. Don't hog it all, wine hog."
Karen watches the telly, feeling pleasantly blurry as she gets progressively drunker. At some point Matt goes into the kitchen to fetch a second bottle and they pry it open with a broken corkscrew, the two of them taking turns twisting the cork out. She's fairly certain they open it on sheer willpower alone.
When the takeaway arrives, they eat it out of the containers, sitting on the floor in front of the television, fighting over the prawns and getting bits of fried rice on the rug. It feels good to be spending the evening like this, so familiar and safe. Karen tries not to think about what she's going to do Monday night when she's back in London, alone in her empty flat there, without Matt around for company -- not for a long time.
"I want ice cream," Matt announces as she's eating a dumpling. "I want cookie dough ice cream."
"Go get some," she says, absorbed in both the dumpling and the documentary.
"Let's both go then." He gets to his feet and wobbles a bit. "Come on, Kaz! The sooner we get it, the sooner we can eat it."
"But I'm still -- "
He waltzes off to find his jacket. Karen sighs and pops the rest of the dumpling in her mouth, following him.
So that's where it happens, in the parking lot of the supermarket, as they're starting their walk back. He's holding a plastic bag of ice cream and she tilts her head at him and he leans in and kisses her, just like that. She makes a small, surprised noise against his mouth and he presses her against a stranger's car, the coldness of the metal bleeding through her clothes. Matt's lips are warm and his breath tastes like wine, thick and heavy on his tongue.
He twines his free hand into her hair, until she can feel his palm, sparking electricity, against the back of her neck. Her head is spinning when she pulls away (and only a little bit because of the alcohol), faintly stunned, and even though they're no longer kissing, she still feels like she can't breathe because, finally, he's decided --
Karen doesn't want to question it, so she doesn't, and instead she kisses him again.
He drops the ice cream, but neither of them notice.
"Why?" she asks him hours later (at some unimportant, indeterminable time), curled against him in his bed.
Matt combs her hair with his fingers, occasionally finding a tangle. His eyes are bright in the dark. "Because I can't stop thinking about you and I've wanted to do that for forever," and it's so sincere that the words go straight to her heart.
"Oh," she says, as incredibly articulate as she is, because joy is threatening to strangle all coherent thoughts. "Well. Me too. Can't stop thinking about you that is."
"I was going to tell you last night. That's why I came over. And that's why I went out with Arthur, because I needed to ask him if he thought. Well. I guess I lost my nerve."
"It was a bit odd," she says.
"Kaz," he says, almost nervously, after a minute of just quiet cuddling. "This isn't just -- it's not -- this isn't just a casual thing, yeah? I mean, I don't want to pressure you -- I, erm, I don't..." he trails off.
"I don't -- " she swallows, raising her eyes to his face. "It's not for me either."
The expression on his face makes her laugh a little, so perfectly and adorably happy. "I know it'll be hard," he says quickly, so quickly that the words are almost tripping over themselves, "with us living in different places now. But I think we can do it. I want to do it. And we're not working together anymore, so really, there's nothing stopping us like the show -- "
"Shut up, idiot," she interrupts fondly and kisses him. "You're ruining the moment."
He's right, of course. They make it work.
(It doesn't mean that the press doesn't have a field day when they go public or that they don't have to endure endless amounts of teasing from everyone they know or it's not difficult being hours away from each other.
It just means that they love each other and that's good enough.)