It starts out as something completely innocent.
They’re on a bus driving through Monument Valley and it’s absolutely breathtaking. The land is totally untouched by humankind, just gorgeous natural vistas as far and wide as the eye can see below a sky so blue it almost hurts to look at. It’s all at once one of the most fascinating and humbling experiences Matt has ever had and he isn’t alone. The entire bus is silent – even Kaz and Arthur have stopped bickering about the song selection on Arthur’s ipod to stare out the window in appreciation. Next to him, Alex faces the window and presses her fingertips to the glass, staring out at the red desert like it holds the key to life itself. He can’t even hear her breathing anymore.
For a moment, he finds himself distracted from the view out the window by the view right next to him. He can’t see her face but those wild blonde ringlets are distracting enough all on their own. His eyes trace over the whirls and spirals with the same wonder and appreciation with which he had viewed the desert only moments ago. Alex Kingston’s hair – yet another wonder of Mother Nature.
A soft sniffle draws him from his thoughts and Matt quickly looks up to see Alex wiping at her eyes and trying to be discreet about it. Alarmed, he glances around to make sure no one is paying them any mind and then scoots a little closer, until his chest is pressed against her back. She doesn’t even react when he lays a hand on her shoulder and more than a little anxious now, he asks softly, “Alex, are you alright?”
She gives a choked laugh, turning to face him with watery green eyes and a fond smile. “I’m fine, darling. Just…emotional.” She gestures behind her sheepishly. “It’s so beautiful and I guess I just lost it for a moment.”
He grins. “That time of the month, Kingston?”
Smacking him, she laughs. “Shut up, you ass. Where’s Karen, I want to sit with someone nice.”
Laughing as she begins to look around the bus for another seatmate, Matt grabs her wrist and yanks her back down, right against his side. “You like sitting with me, Kingston. Don’t even kid yourself.”
“You make fun of me,” she says, struggling weakly against his hold, but he wraps an arm around her waist and keeps her pressed against him.
“I’m just trying to lighten the mood,” he reasons, and smiles when she stops wriggling about and rests against him with an air of resignation. “I don’t like seeing you cry, happy crying or not.” She snorts and he huffs. “I’m serious! It makes me all panicky and I start thinking of stupid rubbish things to say or do that’ll make you stop and just be annoyed with me instead.”
“Well you’re very good at it.” She tilts her head up, green eyes dry and sparkling as she looks at him.
Heart thrilling, Matt settles more comfortably in his seat. “Why thank you.”
“Are you going to let me up now?”
“I don’t think so, no.”
Alex sighs, but she doesn’t protest, fidgeting a bit until she finds a comfortable position, her arm around his waist and her head pillowed on his chest. Her hair – riotous and unruly as it is – obscures Matt’s senses, invading his mouth and nostrils and obstructing his vision. He huffs a bit in hopes of shooing it away but only succeeds in causing Alex to make a noise of protest. He sighs, giving up and burrowing his face in her curls, breathing her in.
They continue to roll through the gorgeous landscape but it suddenly doesn’t seem quite so interesting anymore, and in the silence of the bus with Alex warm and pressed against him, Matt is asleep in minutes.
The next day, it happens again.
They film on the lake all afternoon, and with the sun bright and searing overhead, lethargy soon begins to set in. Drinking warm cranberry cordial and lying on a blanket in the sand with Matt next to her, smelling of the desert and tweed, Alex feels her eyes begin to grow heavy.
She blinks and wrinkles her nose when Arthur tosses a grape at her from across the blanket. “What was that for?”
“You’re falling asleep on the job,” he says, and the look he gives her is so full of fatherly concern that she wonders if he’s guessed who River is already.
“Am not,” she grumbles, picking up the grape. She’s just about to pop it into her mouth when Matt turns his head toward her to say something, his mouth open. Grinning, Alex tosses the grape and lands it directly into his mouth.
“Oh! Nice.” Karen claps enthusiastically and Alex is starting to wonder if maybe she’d spiked her cordial. “Let me try.”
Wounded and chewing on his grape with a pout, Matt flops onto his back in the sand and complains, “I was not ready for that! I could have choked!”
“Said by every woman on her knees ever,” Alex smirks, and he coughs, blushing horribly.
Karen snorts and Arthur shakes his head like an exasperated adult dealing with children – he’ll strike a fantastic father figure when Rory’s time comes.
“You’re a naughty woman, Alex Kingston,” Matt says, looking amused.
Plucking another grape, she shrugs, sliding it past her lips and chewing slowly. “You like it, darling.”
“Never said I didn’t,” he says, and opens his mouth like a baby bird waiting on a worm.
Alex sighs, plucking another grape and tossing it. He catches it easily, chewing happily and winking at her. “Comfortable, your majesty?”
“Not yet,” he says, patting the space beside him. “Every king needs a queen. Come sit with me, Cleo.”
She wants to roll her eyes and maybe toss a grape at his forehead but she can’t help remembering how comfortable it had been on the bus yesterday, nestled in the crook of his arm. And she is rather tired. She could just close her eyes for a moment, until the crew is ready to start filming again.
Giving in to him yet again – she should really stop that before he starts expecting to get his way all the time – Alex abandons the blanket and crawls to his side, giggling when he tugs on her arm until she molds herself against his side, curling around him. Matt wraps an arm around her waist, forces her to rest her head on his shoulder, and then turns his head into her hair with a contented sigh.
“Better?” She asks, amused.
“Much,” he says, and he sounds like he means it. “Problem, though.”
Expecting a crack about her hair getting in his way, she asks, “And what’s that?”
“There’s no one to feed us grapes.”
Smiling, she says, “Get one of your servants to do it.”
“Oh, right. Forgot I had those.” He raises his head just slightly to look at Karen and Arthur on the blanket. “Oi, royal court jester Darvill. Toss me a grape.”
Arthur gives him an exasperated look. “Only because I don’t want to listen to you whinge about it for the next hour.”
The grape sails through the air and Matt catches it in his mouth like a pro. Alex pokes his chest, frowning. “And what about mine? Fine way to treat your queen.”
“Want to share?” He leers; opening his mouth so she can see the round, plump fruit lying unchewed on his tongue. “All you have to do is take it. One rule, though. You can only retrieve it with your tongue.”
Alex snorts, thumping him on the chest while he giggles and shuts his mouth, chewing like a proud peacock. “You are such a prick,” she mutters, and blushes when he kisses her forehead fondly before flopping back down on the sand, pulling her with him.
“You like it, Kingston.”
“Never said I didn’t, darling.” She closes her eyes to the Utah sun beating down on them mercilessly. It should be uncomfortable but with Matt stroking his fingers up and down the length of her back, she isn’t bothered. As the minutes tick by, her earlier weariness begins to creep up on her again. Over the sound of Karen and Arthur talking quietly just a few feet away, she listens to Matt’s breathing even out with the onset of sleep and surrenders herself to exhaustion with the taste of grapes on her tongue and the scratchy material of Matt’s tweed under her cheek.
It’s been a long day.
Hell, it’s been a long two months.
Ever since they arrived back from America, Matt hasn’t been sleeping well. He lies awake every night, no matter how exhausting his day has been, staring at his ceiling, tossing and turning for hours until sleep finally claims him. It’s frustrating beyond belief and he hates the thought of relying on sleeping pills to get any rest but he’s getting desperate to the point of giving in. He can’t work like this – he has trouble remembering his lines, he zones out at table reads and his level of enthusiasm on set is at an all-time low.
The day Alex flies in from Los Angeles, Matt is lying on his sofa, staring blankly at his telly and trying to sleep. They’ve just finished a long day on set, wrapping up an episode. Tomorrow, they’ll begin again bright and early, this time with Alex there as well. He’s looking forward to working with her again, but the thought of dealing with flirtatious, naughty Alex – his favorite kind of Alex, really – on little to no sleep is terrifying to think about.
He’s just so tired.
He has tried tea. He has tried a hot shower. He’d even read a book – a really boring book he nicked from Darvill. Nothing works.
When Alex finds him, he’s blinking numbly at a rerun of The Empty Child. She perches on the arm of the sofa and it isn’t until she actually speaks that he notices her. “You look like hell, darling.”
He jumps, just barely managing to contain a shriek as he jerks around to face her. “Bloody hell, Kingston! What happened to knocking?”
“I did,” she says, raising an eyebrow. “You didn’t answer. Thought maybe you might be languishing from missing me so I let myself in to cheer you up with my presence.”
Snorting, he swings his legs to the floor and sits up, running a hand through his hair tiredly. “When did you get in?”
“This afternoon,” she says, sliding from the arm of the sofa and onto a cushion, tucking her legs beneath her.
“And you waited till -” He checks the clock on the wall. “Eight in the evening to find me? I thought you worried about me languishing?”
Alex laughs, tossing a pillow at him and he’s usually quick to catch it and toss it right back but right now his reflexes are far too sluggish. He lets it hit him on the side of the head and doesn’t try to retaliate. She frowns, snatching her pillow back and hugging it to her chest. “Are you feeling alright, darling?”
“Fine,” he nods, and it’s weird because his eyes are growing heavy for the first time in days. He feels like he could curl up and sleep right now.
Alex purses her lips, looking skeptical. “Well, a little bird told me you’re not sleeping. Know anything about that?”
He sighs, settling back against the sofa cushions. “Had time to gossip with Kaz but not see me? I’m feeling very unloved right now, Kingston. I thought what we had was special.”
She rolls her eyes. “If you must know, I was going to see you hours ago but Karen said to leave you. She thought you might be sleeping.”
“I wish,” he mumbles, secretly warmed by the thought of her seeing him before anyone else.
Alex makes a soft, soothing noise and scootches across the sofa to sit pressed against him. “Why can’t you sleep, darling?” He shrugs and she coos at him like he’s a starved kitten, pushing his head down to her shoulder to run her fingers through his hair. Oh, that is lovely. He’ll gladly be her undernourished kitten if she’ll just keep doing that. He must make some sort of contented noise because Alex chuckles softly in his ear, her fingers scratching at his scalp.
Shutting his eyes sleepily, Matt curls up into a ball and nuzzles his head into the crook of her neck, soothed by her touch and her smell and just her Alex-ness. “God, you’re like a sedative, Kingston,” he mumbles drowsily. “I can’t be around you anymore without falling asleep.”
“Charming,” she says, and she might have been attempting to sound insulted but she yawns and ruins the effect. “I could say the same for you, darling.”
Throwing his arm around her waist and dangerously close to falling asleep, he says, “Time for bed. Finally.”
“Not in LA,” she protests, but makes no move to get up.
“Sshh,” he whispers. “M’ helping you get over your jetlag, Kingston.”
She doesn’t say anything else, dropping her head to rest atop his and in a matter of minutes; Matt is sleeping more deeply than he has in weeks.
It’s been two weeks since Alex arrived in Cardiff and tomorrow is their first day off from filming. Karen had decided the best way to celebrate was to get very drunk but Alex had managed to talk her out of going to a club, and instead they sit around the younger girl’s flat, mixing drinks and talking as they get progressively more smashed.
At one point, Karen drags Arthur to his feet and puts on some music, making him dance with her. Matt refuses to be budged and when Alex tries to stand and make her way to the kitchen on very wobbly legs for another drink, he grabs her wrist with surprising coordination and tugs.
With a yelp of surprise, Alex tumbles into his lap and giggles, just barely managing to keep a firm grip on her glass. “Darling, what are you doing?” She asks, feeling him wind an arm around her waist. “I want another drink.”
“An’ I want you, Kingston,” he says with a slight slur. “You’re very cuddly.”
“I’m choosing to take that as a compliment,” she says, settling more comfortably in his lap. “You know, dear, I’m a bit concerned about how often we keep meeting like this.”
Matt toys with a curl by her ear, tugging it straight and then watching it spring back into place with an amused grin. “You should take it as a compliment,” he says, as if he hadn’t even heard the last part. “I meant it as one. You’re all…” He waves a hand and she just manages to duck before he hits her in the head with it. “Curvy and soft.”
Rolling her eyes, Alex leans forward to put her glass on the table and pick up his half full one instead – he’s certainly had enough for tonight. Taking a sip, she says, “Glad you enjoy it, darling.”
He hums his agreement, tracing his fingers up her arm, across her collarbone and then dipping down between her breasts. She nearly chokes on her drink but she doesn’t have time to scold him – or god help her, lean into him – before his fingers have moved further down, over her stomach and to her waist. He pokes her in the side, grinning when she jerks away from him with a glare.
“You’re feeling very cheeky tonight,” she observes. “Sleeping better, then?”
“Much.” He nods, watching her sip from his glass with a spark of interest behind his eyes. “Probably because I know you’re just down the hall, Kingston.”
She laughs, shaking her head. “And what will you do when I’m all the way in America again?”
“Easy,” he says, leaning back against the cushions and pulling her with him. “I’ll call you and have you sing me to sleep.”
“I’m serious,” she says, elbowing him and laughing when he whinges. “If you’re having trouble sleeping, you need to see a doctor, darling.”
“I am the Doctor.” He tweaks his invisible bowtie with a smirk.
She huffs. “Matt.”
“I am not helping you sleep by being down the hall, you delusional twat.” He looks affronted but she continues anyway. “Don’t make me worry about you working yourself to death and then not getting any rest. Promise me you’ll see a doctor if you’re still having trouble.”
He pouts. “Fine, I promise.”
“Thank you,” she says, and relaxes against the warmth of his slender body again. In the middle of the living room, Karen dances around by herself, having been abandoned by Arthur, who walks by and hands Alex another drink. She beams at him gratefully as Matt slides his hand down her back.
“So,” he says after a moment, his mouth right against her ear. “You worry about me?”
She laughs, turning to look at him as she sips from her new drink – far too much ice and too little alcohol but since she hadn’t had to get up and make it herself, she isn’t complaining. “You’ve less grace and coordination than a baby giraffe, darling. I fret constantly.”
“Rude,” he mumbles, and props his feet up on the coffee table, his arm still keeping her firmly in place.
“Says the man who won’t let me get up from his bony lap.” She wiggles to emphasize her point and Matt coughs, gripping her hips tightly and stilling her.
“Keep that up and my lap will be more bony than you’d like, Kingston,” he says, blushing furiously while Alex giggles at him.
She licks her lips just to watch his eyes widen and purrs, “Maybe I like a bony lap, darling.”
His fingers flex around her hips and he groans. “Stop torturing me with your drunken flirting, you hussy,” he complains. “Settle down and be a good little sedative.”
Sighing, Alex puts her drink aside and makes herself comfortable in the crook of his arm. They watch Karen collapse onto an armchair in dance-induced exhaustion and Arthur turn down her music with a wrinkle of his nose, turning on the telly instead. Matt runs his fingers through her hair, toying gently with her curls, and it’s soothing enough to make Alex close her eyes. The drinks, the sound of the television in the background, and Matt’s comforting presence all work together to keep her eyes firmly shut and she drifts off to sleep within minutes.
When she wakes again, she’s still on the sofa but the sun is shining outside and there’s a blanket draped over her. Frowning, she struggles to sit up and finds herself detained by a heavy arm around her waist. There’s a body beneath her, she realizes blearily. A slender, lanky, familiar body.
Matt grumbles in his sleep, his hand sliding from her back and down to her bum, and Alex emits a squeak of surprise. “Um, darling?” She pokes at his chest nervously.
“Mm,” he mumbles, shifting beneath her. “Five more minutes, love.” His hand does not move from her arse, and instead, he spreads his fingers and squeezes affectionately.
Oh god. He must think she’s his bloody girlfriend.
Screwing her eyes shut, cheeks pink, Alex rests her forehead against his chest in mortification and says in a louder voice, “Matt, darling. Wake up.”
“What?” He whinges, opening his eyes with a sigh. She raises her head and stares at him, biting her lip. He blinks up at her sleepily. “Hello, Kingston.”
She waggles her fingers at him, smiling weakly. “Good morning to you, too.”
“What’s the matter?”
She raises an eyebrow. “Your hand is on my arse, dear.”
Eyes widening, Matt removes his hand immediately, blushing just as much as she had, which makes her feel a bit better. “Fuck, sorry, Alex.”
“It’s fine, dear,” she says, giggling. “Should probably get up, though.”
“Right,” he nods, running a hand through his hair as she shoves the blanket away and stumbles from the sofa, her limbs aching. “You are ruining sleep for me, you know.”
“How?” She frowns, stretching.
Still reclining on the sofa, he raises his arms above his head and yawns, and Alex tries not to stare at the pale skin of his stomach on display between his t-shirt and the waist of his jeans. “Because how am I suppose to sleep on my own when you’re spoiling me like this?”
She snorts in disbelief, glancing away. “I’m sure you’ll manage, darling.”
He doesn’t manage.
Instead, he spends nearly another week not sleeping. He does his best not to let anyone know – especially Alex, who will worry and make him go to a doctor. There’s nothing wrong with him, though. He just gets so wound up during the day and makes himself so exhausted that he can’t sleep when the time comes. This happens sometimes but never for this long, and for some reason, all of his usual remedies aren’t working.
And he’s pretty sure his latest unusual one wouldn’t take kindly to him showing up on her doorstep with his pillow and a blanket.
Still, it doesn’t stop him from knocking on Alex’s door at three in the morning – red-eyed and exhausted. She answers the door in thin cotton shorts and a tank top, her green eyes sleepy and her hair adorably mussed. “Matt, darling? What’s wrong?”
He shuffles his feet nervously. “Can I sleep with you?”
Her jaw drops. “What?”
Scowling, he says, “Not like that. I just…I can’t sleep. And you’re better than any sleeping pill.”
“Me being down the hall not good enough anymore?” She smirks.
He glares at her. “Apparently not.”
She sighs, leaning wearily against the doorframe. “Darling, I told you that you should -”
“You help,” he interrupts, desperate not to be turned away. He has to be up in three hours and even a little sleep is better than nothing. “I don’t know why but you do. And I promise if it hasn’t sorted itself out by the time you leave, I’ll go to a doctor and…I dunno, get some sleeping pills or something.” He bites his lip, seconds away from getting down on his knees and begging if he has to. “Please, Alex? I’ll keep my hands to myself, I swear.”
She eyes him for a moment, arms crossed over her chest and pushing her breasts up enticingly. She isn’t wearing a bra but Matt does his best not to let his gaze linger in hopes that if he keeps his eyes to himself, she’ll relent. Finally, she gives a tentative nod and steps aside to let him through.
He beams, leaning in and kissing her cheek warmly before sliding right past her into her flat. “You’re the best, Kingston.”
“That’s what they all say, darling,” she mumbles tiredly, and he follows after her as she makes her way down the hall to her bedroom.
Her bed looks so comfortable he feels tears of relief and exhaustion sting his eyes – the sheets are rumpled, the pillows plump and begging for him to rest his head on them. He crawls into bed with a grateful sigh and is instantly hit with the scent of Alex – her perfume, vanilla lotion and that strawberry shampoo she uses. It’s as comforting a smell as home and if he weren’t so knackered, he might have found something unusual about that.
Standing beside the bed, Alex tucks the blankets around him, brushing his fringe from his forehead and pressing a lingering kiss there before turning to round the bed and climb in next to him. He shuts his eyes as she settles in, soothed by her presence, her rather fantastic pillows and the scent of her all around him.
The last thing he hears before he falls blissfully into dreams is Alex whispering goodnight.
He wakes three hours later feeling more rested than he has in a week. Alex nudges him awake gently, telling him it’s time to get up and he blinks open his eyes to find her leaning over him, already dressed and her usual cheerful morning self. Stretching amongst the sheets, he says roughly, “I think you’re magic, Kingston.”
She laughs and tugs him out of bed but he’s entirely serious. He gets through the long day of filming jumping about like he usually does, pestering Kaz whenever Alex isn’t around to protect her and running through his scenes with ease. He’s found the cure for his insomnia and it’s Alex Kingston.
When he shows up at her flat again that night with an offering of pastries, Alex lets him in with a sigh. “Is this going to be a thing now?”
“Maybe,” he says, setting the box on her coffee table and helping himself to a pastry. “Would you like to have a thing with me, Kingston?”
She peruses the selection in the box and picks one of the smaller ones, nibbling at it with a smirk. “I’d like to do a lot of things with you, darling.”
He chokes. “That is not what I asked.”
“Too bad,” she murmurs, and bites into her pastry.
When they’re both finished, Alex licks at her fingers and Matt does his best not to watch, keeping his eyes glued to the floor and listening to her faint hum of satisfaction instead and when did it get so hot in here?
“Alright,” she says, and he glances up to see her smiling at him. “It’s past your bedtime. Let’s get you tucked in, then.”
“Really?” He bites his lip. “You don’t mind?”
“We’ll see,” she says, and begins ushering him toward her bedroom. “Did you brush your teeth?”
He rolls his eyes.
“Need something special to cuddle?”
Alex snorts and tosses a pillow at him.
It quickly becomes routine for them – he tries to come over late in the evening, when he knows Alex is ready for bed, so that she at least has some time to herself. Sometimes, he doesn’t time it right or Alex just isn’t tired, and he winds up either watching a film with her or helping himself to her leftovers in the fridge and watching her paint her nails.
But afterwards, she’ll look up at him with an indulgent smile and ask, “Ready for bed, then?”
He’ll always nod, ignoring the strange gymnastics being performed in his stomach whenever she says that. He’ll climb into bed beside her and sometimes he’ll lie awake just long enough to listen to her breathing even out but other times he falls asleep almost immediately. Sleep comes to him easily when Alex is there with him – like a child soothed by a nightlight.
Matt tries to keep his promise about keeping his hands to himself but no matter the space between them when they fall asleep, they always wake up tangled together in the middle of the bed. He would probably feel worse about it if Alex didn’t cling to him in her sleep as tightly as he clung to her. They don’t mention it, giving half-asleep smiles of mild embarrassment before letting go and turning away from each other to climb out of bed. Matt goes back to his flat to get ready for the day and sometimes Alex follows him, and he makes breakfast for them both as a thank you, though he never calls it that.
About two weeks into his strange little arrangement with Alex, he wakes up to the sound of the shower running in the bathroom. Stretching sleepily, Matt yawns and climbs out of bed as he listens to Alex humming under the spray of water. Smiling slightly, he knocks once on the door and calls out, “Going to my place, Alex. Breakfast?”
“Five minutes,” she shouts back, and he ducks his head, grinning to himself as he leaves her flat. He steps into the hall outside running a hand through his hair and he doesn’t notice Karen until she squeaks at him.
Startled, he turns and sees her just stepping out of her flat, gaping at him with wide eyes. “What?”
Peeking around as if to make sure no one is watching, Karen hurries to his side looking giddy, bouncing on the balls of her feet. “What are you doing in Alex’s flat at this bloody hour and looking like that?”
Frowning, he glances down at himself – pajama bottoms, bare-chested and barefoot – and realizes how bad this must look. “Oh god.”
“Oh god is right, you numpty,” she says, shoving at his shoulder with a scandalized expression. “You spent the night, didn’t you?”
“Yes, but -”
Karen bounces, grinning. “Oh my god. You and Alex -”
“Sshhh,” he hisses, shushing her with a hand over her mouth. “It’s not what it looks like.”
She glares at him and he quickly removes his hand from her mouth before she has a chance to bite him. “So you didn’t sleep with Alex last night?”
Karen squeaks again. “Is it the first time?”
“No but -”
“Oh my god -”
Matt shushes her again, glowering at her and Karen quiets with a pout, but her eyes remain excited. Sighing, he grabs her elbow and drags her with him to his flat, pulling her inside and shutting the door. “We didn’t shag, alright? I have a girlfriend for god’s sake, Kaz.”
“But you just said -”
“I know. But we’re just sleeping. Nothing else.”
“Well then what’s the bloody point?” Karen huffs, watching him retreat to his bedroom to find a shirt and some trousers.
“It’s not sexual,” he insists, and he hears Karen scoff from her spot on the sofa. Determinedly not thinking of how often he falls asleep wondering what it would be like to hold Alex, or how often he wishes they were falling asleep with considerably less clothing, Matt pulls a shirt over his head and finds his shoes. “I haven’t been sleeping well.”
“And what?” Karen asks. “Alex is wearing you out with sex?”
Growling, Matt tugs on a boot and calls out, “Bloody hell, Kaz. Don’t you listen? I just said it wasn’t about sex.”
“Oh, sorry. Did you not hear my scoff of complete disbelief? I can do it again if you like.”
Rolling his eyes, he stomps out of his bedroom fully dressed and walks into his kitchen, rummaging around for something decent for breakfast. “I sleep better when she’s around. It’s just for a while.”
“Doesn’t that tell you something, though?” Karen sprawls out on his sofa and stares up at the ceiling. “Why Alex?”
“I don’t know,” he shrugs noncommittally.
It’s the sort of thing he’s been avoiding thinking about at all, so trust Karen to bring it up immediately and ruin everything.
“I think you do.”
“You think?” He mumbles, cracking eggs into a bowl.
“Oi, you have no right to be grumpy! You’ve been sleeping with Alex.”
He sighs, cracking another egg a little too viciously and getting eggshell in the bowl. “It’s not like that!”
“But you want it to be.”
Glancing up from fishing the eggshell out of the bowl, Matt stares at her. “Who said that?!”
Karen sits up, swinging her legs over the edge of the sofa and giving him a look. “You do. Every time you look at her with your gooey eyes.”
He scowls, going back to the eggshell with renewed interest. “Shut up, Gillan.”
“Because you know I’m right?”
“No, because you’re getting on my nerves.”
Before Karen can reply, the door opens and Alex strolls into the flat with her hair still wet from her shower. “Good morning, dear,” she says when she sees Karen. “You here for breakfast too?”
“She was just leaving,” Matt says, throwing Karen a threatening look.
She raises an eyebrow. “I was?”
“Yes,” he grits his teeth. “I’m sure you have somewhere else to go be annoyingly Scottish.”
Ignoring their bickering for once, Alex leans in close and peers at what he’s doing. “Eggs and sausage? My god, you’re spoiling me, darling. I’d be happy with toast.”
For a moment, he doesn’t answer, torn between leaning into the heat of her body and smelling the shampoo in her wet curls, his mouth suddenly dry. So he does neither, blushing and muttering about how they might as well have a decent breakfast before their long day. He doesn’t pay attention to Karen getting up and leaving, but he’s pretty sure she’s laughing at him.
It’s only a few days later that Matt starts getting tired on his own, falling asleep on his sofa while watching the telly during the day or yawning around bedtime, and he knows if he went to his own bed and turned out the light, he would fall asleep quickly. The insomnia has passed, just as it always does. But the thought of no longer going to Alex leaves an empty feeling in the pit of his stomach.
He likes counting her breaths as she falls asleep next to him, likes the security of knowing she’s right there. He likes waking up with his limbs tangled with hers most mornings, and opening his eyes to her sleeping face. He likes the mornings when he wakes up to her singing in the shower, and he likes sharing breakfast with her before they head onto set together. If he starts sleeping in his own flat again all those things will go away.
So he doesn’t mention that he’s feeling better, and he keeps going to Alex at night. He lets her think she’s still helping and falls asleep feeling guilty, not only about her but about Daisy. Technically, he isn’t doing anything but it’s getting more and more difficult to ignore the whisper in his mind telling him how much nicer it would be to sleep next to Alex if he could lean over and kiss her good night and good morning – among other things.
He lies awake most nights now, unmoving and barely even breathing next to Alex, waiting for her to fall asleep so he can relax. He stares at the ceiling, hyperaware of her every movement, every rustle of the sheets as she shifts in her sleep, every faint little sigh, every time she moves just a bit closer, until he can feel the heat radiating from her body and it takes every bit of willpower he has not to reach out and touch her.
He’d started this in a desperate attempt to get some sleep, but now, it’s more frustrating than soothing. He still sleeps better than he had before, because being this close to Alex is better than being in another flat down the hall without her, but most nights, he lies awake for about an hour after Alex has fallen asleep. He bites his lip as her head falls to his shoulder and her leg finds its way between his, willing away his erection and clenching his hands into fists in order to keep them to himself.
He thinks he’s starting to go a bit mad.
Tonight, Alex is sitting up in bed with a book, dressed in a knee-length nightgown that on anyone else might have been perfectly modest, but it clings to all her curves and it’s just indecent. She’d piled her hair on top of her head, just a few wisps of curls brushing the nape of her neck and he does his best not to outright stare, instead sneaking little glimpses over his own book every now and then. She bites her lip sometimes, as if concentrating on a particularly interesting passage.
It’s impossible to concentrate on his own book when she’s right there being distracting so he closes it and drops it to his lap with a sigh. Tapping his fingers nervously against the cover, he says, “We’re becoming very domestic, Kingston.”
She glances up from her book with an absent frown that means her mind is still on the page in front of her. “Hmm?”
“Look at us,” he says, waving a hand between them. “We’re like the couple who’ve been married for fifty years and have nothing to say to each other anymore.”
Alex blinks at him. “I’m sorry, darling. Are you feeling neglected in our nonexistent relationship?”
“A bit,” he admits, fixing what he thinks is a very convincing pout on his face, but Alex only laughs.
Shutting her book and putting it on the nightstand, she turns back to him, drawing her legs up beneath her and leaving her knees and one creamy thigh bare. Mouth watering, Matt struggles to pay attention to what she’s saying, her voice low and teasing, “I’d love to entertain you, but I’m afraid you’re unavailable.”
Watching her arrange the blankets around her and turn out the light on her nightstand, Matt swallows hard and asks as lightly as he can, “You mean you’re not always so boringly domestic, Kingston?”
She laughs softly and the sound goes right through him, sending a thrill up his spine. “Darling, nothing is ever boring when rabbits and handcuffs are involved.”
Matt gapes at her as Alex turns over on her side and shuts her eyes to sleep without another word, leaving him alone with images he really shouldn’t be having – the cold bite of metal around his wrists and Alex straddling him, naked and gorgeous, working her vibrator inside her with the most fantastic look of ecstasy on her face while he’s helpless to do anything but watch.
Biting back a whimper, Matt turns over to lie on his erection, pressing it into the mattress and waiting for it to go away. He doesn’t fall asleep for a very long time.
The next night, desperate for some relief, Matt goes out with Karen and Arthur, hoping that when he gets back, Alex will already be asleep and he’ll get all the restful benefits of lying next to her without the added frustration of temptation. He stays out until he’s sure Alex must be sleeping, stumbling into her flat around two-thirty in the morning.
He navigates his way to her bedroom in the dark, clinging to a wall for balance and trying not to make too much noise. Her bedroom is dark and grinning drunkenly in victory, Matt toes out of his shoes and climbs into bed without bothering to change his clothes.
Sliding beneath the sheets, he sighs quietly as his head hits the pillow and glances toward Alex’s side of the bed, startled to find her eyes open, as if she hasn’t slept at all. She doesn’t look at him or comment on the smell of smoke and alcohol he must have brought with him from the clubs. In fact, she doesn’t react at all to his presence other than a faint smile and an extended hand in the space between them on the mattress, her palm up. The room spinning, Matt laces his fingers through hers, closes his eyes, and sleeps.
He’s driving her mad.
Every night, he’s there in bed next to her and she can’t touch.
She doesn’t know what they’re doing. Well, Matt is obviously desperate to get some sleep and for some reason, having her near is the only way he can get it. But Alex – what the hell is she letting him for? She can’t say no to that man. It’s like his presence in her bed is a drug and she’ll take him any way she can get him, even if it means going to sleep with her whole body on fire and a throbbing between her thighs while he lies next to her smelling amazing and just being Matt.
She feels horrible for thinking of him like that when he’s just trying to sleep, but for fuck’s sake, how can she be unaffected when he’s so near? She isn’t blind – he’s stupidly attractive. And then on top of that, he flirts with her constantly. To lie in bed next to him and not think about climbing on top of him is unfathomable. No matter how innocently this has started out, sleeping in the same bed lends itself to a certain intimacy. She’d have to be a bloody robot not to be tempted.
The truly terrifying thing is that Matt has ruined her sleep as well. As long as he’s there, she can ignore her desire and eventually fall asleep. She wakes up aching and unsatisfied, but she still sleeps. But without him…He has only been late getting to bed once, when he went out with Karen and Arthur, and Alex had lain awake until he staggered through the door in the wee hours of the morning, tossing and turning until the moment she heard him come in. All he’d had to do was take her hand and she’d fallen asleep with their fingers laced together between them.
Apparently, she can’t sleep without him either.
And tonight, he hasn’t shown up again. Sometimes, he’s a bit delayed depending on whether or not he’s doing something with Karen and Arthur and usually she waits for him. But this time, Alex tries to go to bed anyway because honestly, she’ll have to once she goes back to America anyway and this ridiculous codependency she’s developed with her costar has to stop. What would people say if they found out she and Matt are sleeping together? Well, in the most innocent sense of the word. And god help her, she is tired of it being innocent.
But she knows better. Matt is far too young, and he has a girlfriend and even contemplating the possibility of the pair of them being involved is just…though, maybe there is something to it. Why is it that he can only sleep around her? What makes her so different from anyone else? She can’t quite shake the thought that perhaps there’s a reason why Matt keeps coming to her but she refuses to dwell on it, knowing that if she’s wrong, she’s only setting herself up for disappointment when he gets some sleeping pills and goes back to his own bed instead of continuing to share hers. So with her jaw set in resolve, Alex goes to bed on her own, absolutely determined to sleep without Matt and his stupidly comforting yet maddening presence next to her.
Her determination lasts until two in the morning.
With red eyes and a heavy heart, Alex pads softly across the hall to Matt’s flat, standing there in her pajamas and willing to sleep on his sofa if he’ll let her. She needs sleep, and he owes her anyway.
Taking a deep breath, she raises her hand to knock, but before she can, the door swings open and she finds herself staring at Daisy, Matt hovering over her shoulder. Stomach dropping, Alex lets her hand fall back to her side and feels her face heat up. God, she’s an idiot. “I’m sorry,” she says, attempting a smile. “I didn’t mean to interrupt. I just couldn’t sleep and I -”
“Alex,” Matt interrupts, shaking his head and waving his arms. “It’s not -”
“No, I’m sorry.” She stops, swallowing as Daisy frowns at her. “I’ll just go. I’m really sorry.”
Without another word, Alex hurries back across the hall and into her flat, mortified and feeling like the stupidest woman on the face of the planet. No wonder he didn’t come to her – he hardly needs a sodding sleep buddy when his bloody girlfriend is staying over. She is stupid and clueless and absolutely daft and god, she just needs sleep. As if it meant something, as if it was ever going to last – she’s more angry with herself than anything because she’s been so bloody thoughtless and idiotic, romanticizing everything just because she misses having someone to sleep next to.
She doesn’t even get a chance to flop onto her sofa and wallow properly about it before her door flies open and Matt barges inside, looking wild-eyed and a bit desperate. “Alex, I know that looked really bad but I can explain -”
Alex sits up on the sofa and stares at him incredulously. “Matt, there is nothing to explain. I was wondering where you were when you didn’t show up but you were with your girlfriend.” She shrugs like she doesn’t care, and she doesn’t know if it’s for his benefit or her own.
“You mean seeing Daisy in my flat at this hour didn’t bother you?”
“Why should it?” She tries to be flippant and wonders if she’s succeeding at all. By the look on his face, probably not. “We’ve just been sleeping, darling.”
He stares at her, shoving his fringe out of his face in annoyance. “Is that really what you think? That it was just sleeping?”
She swallows, glancing away. “What else would it be?”
Turning away from her, he paces the length of her living room and says gruffly, “I was on my way across the hall to your flat when Daisy showed up. She had me halfway to my bedroom before I realized I’d rather be sleeping next to somebody else.”
Alex glances up at him sharply, mouth open.
He doesn’t look at her, pausing in the middle of the room to scratch his cheek nervously. “The insomnia went away a while ago, Alex. I just didn’t tell you because -” He sighs. “I didn’t want to leave you. And if you’d stayed a second longer, you would have seen Daisy flouncing down the stairs in a huff because I’d told her I couldn’t see her anymore. She was on her way out when you showed up.”
She can’t breathe, can’t think. He can’t possibly mean –
“Because of me?”
Matt bites his lip, nodding as he watches her from beneath his fringe. “You’ve been driving me mad, Alex. Do you have any idea how difficult it’s been lying next to you every night and not touching you?”
She laughs faintly, heart in her throat as she whispers, “I have some idea, yes. But-”
But she doesn’t just want sex. She wants him there all the time – wants his toothbrush next to hers in the bathroom, wants to wake up and see him smile at her every morning, feel his arm around her waist in the night and not feel guilty for snuggling further into him, pretending to sleep as she breathes him in. She wants so much more than what he could possibly give her.
His gaze darkens as if he knows what she’s thinking, his eyes meeting hers as he says, “Every morning I wake up next to you, I never want to wake up anywhere else.”
Without another moment’s hesitation, Alex leaps from the sofa and into his arms, laughing at the way he staggers back in surprise for a moment before his arms wrap tightly around her, his mouth finding hers. She parts her lips beneath his instantly and moans as his tongue strokes against hers, a sudden, aching need blazing through her as she cups his face in her hands. He groans against her mouth, hands tight on her hips as he kisses her back with shocking intensity. And Christ, he tastes just as amazing as she’d thought he would – like tea and Haribo sweets and home.
She grins against his lips when his hand sneaks from her hip and around to her arse, squeezing lightly. “You knew it was me, didn’t you?” She asks, brushing her nose against his.
His smile is sheepish. “Might have.”
“Such a naughty boy, Matthew,” she says, sliding her lips over his jaw while he tugs her nearer.
“You like it, Kingston.” He lifts her into his arms without warning and Alex giggles in surprise as he begins to walk toward her bedroom, carrying her bridal style.
Just before covering his mouth with her own again, she kisses his chin and whispers, “Never said I didn’t, darling.”