“Darling, I’m starving,” Alex says, wiggling her sock-covered feet in Matt’s general direction.
Matt grins at her, waggling his eyebrows from where he sits on the end of the somewhat ratty couch, “And what would you like to eat?” His tone is suggestive and a little smirk tugs at his mouth.
Alex rolls her eyes, but she’s smiling, “You really need to cut that out, Matt, you could give a girl the wrong idea.”
“And what idea might that be, Kingston?” Matt asks, turning his head in curiosity as he flicks the telly off and tosses the remote on the coffee table where it lands with a clatter.
She sighs, “Oh, I don’t know… that you’re interested.” She tucks her feet underneath her and looks at him, her eyes a bit unreadable in the dim light of his BBC funded flat. Not that he couldn’t get new light bulbs he just… hadn’t yet.
Matt sits for a moment, stunned with his mouth agape because is she serious? He’s been interested since the moment he laid eyes on her.
Alex chuckles a bit, then smiles, “Still hungry though, and you did invite me over for dinner.”
Matt laughs, running his hand through his hair. It had been a long day of filming some rather emotional scenes and he’d invited Alex back to his flat to unwind, sensing that neither of them really wanted to be alone tonight as they unpacked their emotions. She’d smiled and agreed straight away, showing up right on time in soft grey yoga pants and a blue t-shirt that strangely makes her eyes look greener.
“So I did,” He picks up his phone and unlocks it, scrolling a bit through his contacts, “And what’s on order tonight just so happens to be my specialty, I’ll have you know!” At her curious look, he grins, “Takeaway.”
Alex smiles, clearly enjoying his ridiculous joke; he thinks she secretly loves how he never takes anything too seriously. In truth, they have that in common, most days. The laughter they share frequent and genuine; it’s always been so easy between the two of them, even in moments where maybe it shouldn’t be.
Matt dials his local curry place when he’s in Cardiff, he and Alex’s favorite place for takeaway actually, but no one picks up. Frowning at his phone, he tries again, to the same response. After the third time, he moves on to their second favorite takeaway place – a little Italian joint just on the edge of town. They do a good pesto and a decent Bolognese, but their garlic bread tastes like a little bit of heaven. He gets the answering machine there too, with a clipped message stating they’re closed for the night. When he calls the Lebanese place just down the way that is usually their last resort and gets no response, he starts to think that something must be going on – Cardiff is Cardiff sure, but it’s still only eight at night. He tosses his phone to the side in frustration.
“No one is picking up,” Matt looks at Alex, “I feel like I’m missing something. Am I missing something?”
Alex chews on her lip in thought and Matt tries not to watch, tries not to wonder what it would be like to feel her teeth scrape along his skin, to tug on his bottom lip the same way she is tugging on her own right now. He’s been having these thoughts more and more lately, and they’ve begun to feel quite dangerous.
Suddenly Alex’s hand reaches out and grasps his bicep, her palm warm and small. He tries not to think about how her touch sends little jolts of electricity through his body even through his clothing, but he fails miserably. He usually does when it comes to not thinking about Alex.
She lets out a little gasp, “It’s a bank holiday today!”
Matt furrows his brow, “Is it?” With filming, he’s never really quite sure since they don’t typically adhere to the normal holidays the rest of the country so enjoys, “Well that shouldn’t matter, the restaurants aren’t usually closed on bank holidays.”
Alex shrugs, “Sometimes they are. At least a few of them – maybe they just all took a turn this time.” She leans her head against the back of his couch, “There’s always pizza.” Even as she says it she wrinkles her nose.
“Or…” Matt ventures, an idea suddenly taking hold, “We could have an adventure!”
Alex slings her eyebrow up at him, “What sort of adventure?”
“The sort that leaves us sated and happy, of course!” At her suspicious look, Matt laughs, “Food, Alex. Still talking about food.”
She smirks at him, “More’s the pity.”
Matt feels his jeans suddenly tighten and he shifts around a bit on his couch – that voice of hers should be illegal, really. It’s un-bloody-fair the things she can do to him with just her voice alone.
He clears his throat, “Come on! Let’s go out into the Cardiff night and forage – just like our ancestors must have.”
She pats him gently on the forearm, and even that touch feels electric, “Yes, honey, Cardiff on a bank holiday is quite… rustic. It’ll be just like the ancient days, I’m sure.”
Alex smiles at Matt again and he feels his heart tap-dancing in his chest and not for the first time tonight – and he’s sure not for the last – he wonders how she does the things she does to him. Her smile shouldn’t cause his heart to flutter in his chest, and the fact that it does is a bit ridiculous. He’s not a teenager getting his first taste of a crush – of love. He’s a grown man, an actor on one of the biggest shows in the UK, and he should not feel his heart fall at his feet at her mere smile. And yet.
Matt stuffs his feet into his shoes and stands up, holding out his hand to her, “Come on, Kingston!”
Alex looks at him like he’s a bit mad, and honestly he feels like he might be – because suddenly a night of running around Cardiff of all places looking for a place to eat with Alex Kingston feels like it has the potential to be the best night of his bloody life.
Alex reaches out and takes his hand, shaking her head as she stands, sliding her own shoes on. “You’re mad.” She gives voice to her thoughts, but she’s still smiling, and she says it fondly.
“A bit,” Matt agrees, grabbing one of his jumpers from a coatrack by the door. Holding it out for her, he grins when Alex steps in front of him and loops first one arm and then the other through it. When he pulls it up over her shoulders, she reaches up and untucks her hair from the sweatshirt and he catches the faint scent of lavender and he does not lean in to get a better smell. But every single part of him desperately wants to, and he feels quite like he should get a medal of some sort for resisting that little temptation.
“Thank you, darling,” She says, turning around to face him.
The jumper is huge on her – it swallows her up; her small frame is hidden in so much material, but he’s never seen anything quite so alluring. She looks bloody adorable, and he briefly wonders how he’d never imagined her like this, in his flat, in his clothes on a lazy Monday evening when he’d imagined her so many other ways before: some sexy, some sweet. This way, though, might just be the best of all – and it’s a reality.
Matt nods, suddenly speechless, overcome with nerves weaving themselves around his empty stomach. He holds the door of his flat open for her and she exits, waiting for him as he locks the place up.
They make it into the cool night air and Matt inhales sharply, watching as Alex does the same. It’s invigorating sometimes, the cold, and as they walk down the dimly lit street Matt watches the street light bounce off of her hair and can’t help but think how beautiful she is in every moment between them.
They walk to the end of the block just to be sure the curry place is closed. It is, and they travel north, with absolutely no clue where they’re going. The streets are a bit dead until they come to a pub with people spilling out into the streets; it’s lively and boisterous and Matt turns to look at Alex but she shakes her head.
“Not really in a pub mood tonight,” She whispers quietly.
Matt nods, “Neither am I,” He reaches down and grabs her hand, tugging her along the street. When they get to the end of the block, he intends to let go but he doesn’t.
Alex doesn’t pull her hand away from his, either, and the thought sends his heart surging in his chest – her hand is soft and so warm, so tiny in his and it feels like it’s exactly where it belongs, her fingers interlocked with his own. They fit, she and him, and he wonders how else they might fit. He’s got a feeling she would fit into his life exactly like a puzzle piece he never knew was missing until it slotted itself in and suddenly the picture that was once incomplete and hard to decipher is finally clear.
Walking, they pass a dozen or so food establishments, all dark and closed, but Matt doesn’t mind – he’s still holding her hand, and he will search for a thousand restaurants and be happy to find every single one of them closed if she just won’t let go.
He’s about to suggest they circle back when a faint red light from the end of the block they’re currently standing on catches his eye.
“Hey, what’s that place?” He turns to look at Alex, indicating the building.
Her brow is furrowed in thought, “I – don’t know. I’ve – never seen it before?”
They move slowly towards it – this is a well-known part of Cardiff, and he spends most of his life in Cardiff these days. He knows every alleyway and street corner like the back of his hand. And yet – he’s quite sure he hasn’t seen this place before, would have remembered it if he had.
When they get to the storefront, they stand and look at it for a moment, the faint red glow emanating from inside the restaurant bathing their faces now. Matt scans the building, but the writing is in Mandarin save for the one sign in English that says Open.
“How’s your Mandarin?” Matt asks, turning to look at Alex.
Her face is illuminated with the red light and she smirks, “A bit rusty.”
Matt grins, “Mine too.”
“Says it’s open though,” Alex turns to look at him, her eyebrows raised in a challenge. “Are you up for it, darling?”
Matt winks at her, his tone suggestive, “I’m up for anything when it comes to you, Kingston.”
She lets out that throaty laugh of hers and Matt feels his heart start to beat faster, sending blood decidedly south in his body.
She lets the innuendo slide into her voice, “We’ll see about that,” She squeezes his hand, stepping into the mysterious building.
He follows her willingly – just like he always will.
They’re greeted by a hostess who smiles, and then silently leads them to a table in the corner of the restaurant. They sit down, Alex shrugging out of his jumper and tucking her curls behind her ears. Her eyes dance around the restaurant.
“It’s empty,” She observes, and Matt follows her gaze, landing on empty booths and tables around the restaurant.
Matt shrugs, picking up one of the glasses of water on the table and taking a sip, “Bank holiday?”
Alex narrows her eyes, as though that’s a bit too easy of an explanation, but eventually she shrugs and settles into the booth, her arms resting gently on the wood of the table. A waiter brings them two glasses of wine and sets some appetizers down in front of them, unprompted.
“No menu,” He explains, smiling happily, “We’ll bring your food.”
Alex and Matt exchange a wary glance at the unorthodox method, but they’ve come this far, he figures, they might as well stay. He’d wanted an adventure with Alex, and sitting in this empty-save-for-the-staff mystery restaurant he’d somehow never seen before was certainly that.
Matt looks at Alex across the table, considers the way her curls spill around her shoulders, the curve of her smile as she looks at him – she is an adventure.
They talk quietly about the shooting schedule this block, about their scenes, about her daughter, about family, friends, loves lost, about hope in the quiet moments. The waiter brings them food and they eat their fill, sharing the dishes, forks reaching across the table because you have to try this one, darling.
It’s intimate, romantic, everything he’s found himself wanting in the back corner of his mind with Alex but didn’t think he could actually have. By the time the waiter brings their steaming green tea, Matt feels unspeakably full – and not just his stomach. His heart, his entire soul feels like its being fed in this restaurant tonight with Alex.
The waiter slips two fortune cookies on the table, and Alex looks at Matt, smiling.
“This is my favorite part.” She grins, pushing a cookie towards him; at his curious look, she shrugs, “You should never choose your own fortune.”
Matt smiles, and then pushes the remaining cookie across the table to her. They pick them up at the same time, the rustling sound of plastic now somehow the only sound in the restaurant.
Alex extracts her cookie, breaking it in half. Matt watches her in amusement as her eyes light up in excitement – she really does love this part.
She pulls the little slip of paper out of the cookie and puts half the cookie in her mouth, chewing quietly. When she’s swallowed, she peers down at the scrap of paper she holds delicately between her fingers.
Matt watches as she reads, licking her lips a bit as her eyes widen just slightly.
“Well?” Matt asks, “What does it say?”
Alex licks her lips again and then laughs, the sound a bit nervous.
“Go on, then,” He prompts.
She clears her throat and tucks a curl behind her ear, “It says – um, it says one who admires you greatly is hidden before your eyes.” She bites her lip, glancing down at the table. She drops the little scrap of paper on the table and then looks up and smiles at him self-consciously.
He considers making a joke about a secret admirer, but the moment between them now feels too heavy. Instead, he finishes unwrapping his own cookie from the plastic, breaking it in half and chewing on one half of it, just like Alex had. It’s not lost on him that they eat fortune cookies the exact same way.
Matt removes his fortune from the remaining half of his cookie and glances down at it, his eyes scanning the words. His heart skips, and then starts slamming in his chest. He looks around for a minute, panicked, sure this is a setup of some kind, before he looks back at Alex, who is watching him intently. She looks vaguely worried.
“What is it?” Alex asks, her brows drawn together, “Are you alright, darling?”
Matt nods solemnly – he is alright, but a bit blown away. “It’s – my fortune,” He says, quietly.
“What does it say?” Her voice belies her curiosity and her fingers drop to fiddle with her own fortune in front of her.
Matt clears his throat now, watching her, before his eyes drop down to the paper – he doesn’t need it, he knows this fortune by heart after reading it once – it’s seared in his memory: “It says you know precisely what is needed to complete your puzzle.”
He thinks he sees Alex’s breath hitch in her throat, but he doesn’t stop to think that he could have imagined it. She is staring at him now with wide eyes, and he reads hope in them, he knows because he’s sure that’s the same look she’s reading in his eyes right now.
Matt sits up a bit in the booth so he’s leaning over the table; he’s more than halfway across it and his heart flutters in his ridiculous chest when Alex mirrors his action and then leans forward too.
Their lips meet, and he swears he sees the red lights of the restaurant flicker behind his closed eyes, the red ebbing and flowing in a rhythm he can’t begin to try to pattern, like some ancient language he's never learned how to speak. His lips move against hers and she is so soft under his mouth as she kisses him back. Her hand reaches up to cup his face and his hand slides up to thread in her hair, that wild and magic hair he’s spent years admiring from a distance. The position he’s in is absolute hell for his back, but he doesn’t care because he is kissing Alex Kingston across a table in a mysterious restaurant in Cardiff and he just can’t care about anything else but that at the moment.
Matt’s tongue slips out, running across Alex’s lips as he seeks entrance. She lets him inside her mouth, whimpering a bit against him and the sound works its way into his body and he knows he will dream about that sound, about this moment.
His tongue sweeps across hers slowly, learning every inch of her mouth so he will know it by heart, and in this moment he knows he was right earlier – and so is his fortune– because oh, they fit like this, too. And everything in his heart feels like it’s clicking into place, like everything he couldn’t decipher is finally at last blessedly clear.
Alex tastes of fortune cookies, adventure, and a night he will spend a lifetime remembering.