Chapter 1: Introduction
It's 2010 and Matt Smith and Alex Kingston, two of the co-stars on the BBC TV institution that is Doctor Who, have been working together on and off for nearly a year while they are filming for the show and living cheek by jowl with the other members of their "Team TARDIS", Karen Gillian and Arthur Darvill. They all live in the Cardiff flats and are generally on set or location with the whole Who team and staff, which is really like a small township of people dedicated to making the best series of Doctor Who ever. Matt plays the 11th incarnation of the Doctor, a 900+ year old time-traveling alien, Alex plays the mysterious female archaeologist River Song, Karen and Arthur the Doctor's companions Amy Pond and Rory Williams. Alex is not there all the time, coming only in for the blocks that include River, but they all become close, working and living in an atmosphere not unlike when they were in uni. Whether running lines, moaning about the Welsh weather, or hanging out in pub, they spend many waking hours together, and despite Alex being 47, divorced, with a 9 year old daughter, and the others being in their 20's, they all seem to mesh, becoming good friends. It soon becomes obvious during the first block filming the Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone that the chemistry between the new lead and his curly haired co-star, the two biggest flirts on the planet, is off the charts, and Matt and Alex gradually put aside their 19 year age difference and other hurdles and confess their interest in quietly pursuing a romantic relationship together. Under the radar. They hope.
It's been several months since they got together, filming is done for the time being, and the promo tours are over. The 5th series began broadcast in April, and the reviews have all been for the most part positive, much to the relief of one Matt Smith, having been thrust into the unenviable task of taking over for the popular David Tennant, the 10th Doctor. Alex was a great help in making him feel that he was more than up to the job of portraying the iconic character of the Doctor. They have not seen each other in person (Skype is a godsend) for a few weeks, Alex was filming in Canada, and Matt had gone home to see his family after the promo tour. They find that they each have a few weeks relatively free beginning in June before having to return to Cardiff, and decide to spend the time together, a sort of 'living together' trial run, at Alex's home in LA. They are both scheduled to film guest shots on US network shows during the time frame. Matt has a guest appearance he's looking forward to on Big Bang Theory, playing himself, who then bumps into the 11th Doctor at the comic book store. ("Two of him, the mind races!" said Alex when she heard.) Then ComicCon hilarity ensues! Since the show writers are a bit Whovian, he's sure the script will give the folks back home a thrill as well. He thinks this time in LA will also give him and Alex's daughter Salome a chance to get to know each other beyond the chance meetings on set earlier in the year when the girl was visiting during school breaks. She is a cool kid, so much like Alex in some ways. He also hopes it will let he and Alex get to know each other better, outside the bubble universe that is Doctor Who.
Alex has another crime show guest appearance the same week, and Matt also has a few meetings and an audition while he is in LA. Salome will be with her mum during most of June while she attends horse camp at the riding academy she has been taking lessons at since just after Christmas, (An inspired gift from Matt, with Alex's permission). She'd been begging for months, having reached that stage in many a young girl's life where they go completely horse-mad for a while. Alex could relate as she had been through the same phase herself starting about age 10, and was still (secretly) a little horse crazy. Who knew? Her mad life didn't allow time to enjoy many pastimes she used to like. Maybe she'd have some time this summer to indulge herself?
Filming the riding sequences for the Pandorica episode late last year had certainly refreshed her memory, although most of the scenes were done on the back of a truck, not a horse! She let the director know she could handle some of the close up scenes, sitting on the white half-draft gelding with her communicator out, and dismounting to enter the tent (where she snuck a pat on the old boy's neck) before her run-in with the Roman commander. Matt and Karen had only truck duty, Karen doing surprisingly well, probably because she was a tad fearful of the very large horses and felt more secure on the make-shift saddle on the back of the truck. Matt, on the other hand, was a riot of Tigger-like bouncing, too fast to look realistic, but they made it work while their three stunt doubles got to do the real galloping across the countryside. Alex was jealous of them, which is probably why she finally gave in to Sal's begging and, checking with her ex-husband Florian first, let Matt gift her a year's worth of lessons at a highly recommended facility in the foothills not far from her home in LA.
They both are scheduled to arrive in town mid-week as Salome is due to be back at her mother's after school lets out for summer starting that Friday, which gives them both a chance to recover from their flights and have some alone time before the summer began in earnest. It had been too many days apart and they had a lot of unresolved um.......well, let's just say they missed each other greatly!
Chapter 2: Preparations
Alex is preparing for two reunions, with Matt tomorrow AND with her daughter Salome on Friday. She was nervous about the first, excited about both....and hoping for clarity in her relationship with her co-star on Doctor Who.
Alex flew in from Vancouver on Tuesday and took a taxi to the auto storage lot where she kept her almost new Prius when she was away from home for more than a few weeks. Part of her eco-awareness campaign, that car. She stopped at the grocery store for the basics and began mentally planning meals for the week in anticipation of both Matt's arrival the next day and her daughter's return Friday. She was looking forward to both reunions, but felt nervous about Matt coming in, unsure how things would be between them after several weeks apart while he and Karen were on their Series 5 promo tour and she was filming for a TV episode up north. At least she wasn't jet lagged.
Turning into her driveway in a suburb of LA, she noticed the yard crew was just finishing the mowing, and were clearing debris from the walkway. She pulled into the garage and unloaded the groceries into the kitchen, putting everything away in the fridge and pantry. Taking her canvas shopping totes with her as she went, she retrieved her bag from the car's boot, dropping the totes in as she did, then took the roller bag and left it at the foot of the back stairs. She saw a note from her house cleaners that they had been there just yesterday, having made sure the house was spotless, top to bottom, changing all the linens out in the bedrooms as well. One less thing to worry about she thinks with a smile.
Filling the teapot with water and flipping it on, she pulled out the tea bags and her favorite mug, then she sat at the kitchen table, opened her phone and shot off a text to her ex-husband Florian that she was back and would call Salome after supper that night. A whistle from the teapot let her know the water was hot, so she poured it over the teabag, added a splash of milk to her mug and returned to the table. Seeing a reply to her text, she opened it to see the one word response from her ex, "Okay", and rolled her eyes. For a journalist, he was sure stingy with words when it came to texts.
Sighing, she then called up Matt's contact info, typed her message and hit send.
"I'm home Sweetie, when do you arrive tomorrow?" xoxo ~A
She rose and pocketed her phone, rinsed her empty mug and left it in the sink for later, then headed for the stairs, meaning to haul her bags up to unpack and start a load of laundry, when her cell rang with the familiar Eleventh Doctor's theme "I Am the Doctor" by Murray Gold. She stopped on the first step, sat down and opened the phone with a wide smile.
"Hello darling! How are you?" Alex said, eyes brighter, her face the picture of 'delight'.
"Alex! You're home safe, eh? Oh, I've REALLY missed you!" Matt exclaimed, adding "I'm fine, better now, hearing your voice." as his own voice dropped and took on a warmer timbre. Like melting dark chocolate. Suddenly, she had a craving.
Shaking her head as if to clear her mind, Alex laughed fondly, then said "Sweetie, you talk to me nearly every day....", huffing to herself, not AT ALL in frustration. Yeah, right.
"Yes, talk, Skype....and every time I feel better just hearing your lovely voice, my dear." He did it again. That quiet warm voice that melted her heart, then started it racing just a bit. She kinda likes that.
Wishing she could see his face she replied "Oh darling.....I can't wait to see you too, these last few weeks have been far too long....so, when does your flight get in tomorrow?"
Matt groaned "Umph, I'm at the airport in London now, it's midnight. Let me check." Alex heard rustling, then.... "Looks like in about 11 hours, plus a bit....Eleven, ha.....so that puts me in....what time is it there Alex?"
Rolling her eyes at the "Eleven" comment, Alex tells him "It's just past 4:00 pm local in LA darling, so that's close to 4:00 am here for your arrival, barring delays. You're on BA I presume?"
Matt groaned AGAIN, affirming and muttering something about time zones and too little sleep, and Alex reassured him, saying "Sweetie, I'm an old pro at this....call me when you land. By the time you collect your bags and clear Customs, I'll have arrived, parked and picked up coffees, trust me!"
"It's not too early for you Alex? I could catch a cab...." he hedged.
"You will not! That early just means less traffic to battle, and besides, I've REALLY missed you too Matt....so much." And her voice wavered just a bit.
"Well, okay then...." his voice catches, "they're calling to board now. I've got no one's hand to hold during takeoff, so it's white-knuckle time for me, at least until we get to cruising level...sleep well Alex, you will need the rest 'cause I have PLANS for you when I get there.....see you soon love!"
"Oooh! You too darling, you too." Alex sighs. Only a few more hours. She pockets her cell phone, picks up her bags and climbs the stairs to her bedroom. Right. Unpack. Throw in a load of laundry. Grab a quick shower so she felt human again after her long day. Then, make a light dinner, call her baby girl and get some sleep before the early wake up and drive to LAX. She had worried during their forced separation the last two months that Matt might have lost interest despite their frequent phone calls, but this call from him calmed her nerves. This was going to be okay, she hoped.
By the time Alex got in bed around half ten she was really needing the rest. Even staying in the same time zone, travel was hard on her, and her excited daughter was no help in that area either, wanting to fill her in on the phone to ALL the goings on as the school year came to a close. She took the time to bake some scones for tomorrow, knowing how much Matt loved them, then took the stairs to her bedroom. During the call with her daughter, Salome reminded her that as of Friday she would officially be a 4th Grader! Has it really only been nine years since her baby girl was born? Friday could not get here soon enough. She was hoping the next several weeks with her, Salome and Matt would be perfect, that it would be easy, but she just didn't know. Sal had taken to Matt and the rest of the cast on set and in the Cardiff flats, but how would she react to having him around for the extended time, and how would she feel about her Mum's new relationship...and what did they even call it? Well, better crawl into bed and get some sleep. She was thoughtful as she set the alarm for 3:30 am. The next time she lay there, she wouldn't be alone. She smiled as she fell asleep, exhausted but excited too. Soon. Soon she would have both her favorite people back.
Meanwhile Matt attempted somewhat unsuccessfully to sleep on the plane, happy that all his promotion travel let him upgrade to 1st class. More room for his lanky body. Better food. Marginally. After some hours of restless dozing, breakfast (coffee!) arrived at his seat on London time, as the plane was flying into US airspace. He fiddled with the seat back video player and found a couple of movies to watch. That over after a few hours, he got up to stretch his legs and visit the loo, then tried to read, finding he couldn't concentrate fretting about his reunion with Alex after nearly two months, so he fired up his iPod and listened to music and snoozed until the flight crew began preparing for landing at LAX, and he shook himself awake. Alex was down there. His heart took a leap. He didn't think he'd be so nervous. This visit could make or break them as a couple, so he had a right to be anxious! He hoped Salome was going to be okay with him being there for several weeks. He wanted her to like him, the real him, not just him playing the Doctor. It was all happening now. Soon. Soon he would be with Alex. And Sal.
After a thankfully smooth landing as the early morning LA lights lit the sky, Matt collected his satchel with his laptop, and pulled on his knit cap as he thought to himself...no point in risking getting recognized, cover the quiff, Smith. Not that he minded, it was still early days for the 11th Doctor, AND in the States, but Alex was far more familiar to the local paps in LA, and she wanted to be careful. He pulled out his cell phone and called up her number, checking the time on the phone...almost four in the morning, so the flight was a bit late, but what else is new? Alex picked up on the second ring to his surprise, a bright "Hello darling!" greeting him.
"Alex! You sound chipper this early morn! I'm here finally, just now leaving the gate for Baggage Claim and Customs." He found his way toward the claims area, dodging some sleepy girls with large duffel bags that read "Bruins Soccer", and rolled his eyes, muttering "Wonder what Bruins are?" He wouldn't mind taking in a FOOTIE game while he was here, maybe take Sal? The LA Galaxy were having a pretty good year without Beckham, out since March with an injury. Later, Smith. Concentrate.
Alex waited for him to stop rambling about footie something and queried "Um, Matt? What are you on about darling? Oh, never mind....I'm just finishing my tea, I'll head out for LAX in a sec....must go incognito dear, wouldn't want to be recognized and go viral...I'll meet you outside Customs in the Starbucks, with coffee. Look for me in a TARDIS blue head scarf, okay?"
"Check! Blue scarf. Starbucks. A shame to cover those glorious curls love, but I get it. Under the radar." Matt was anxious to see her, wishing they didn't have to hide. His heart beat faster at the thought of her arrival. Smirking though, he added "Going undercover are we?"
Alex heard the flirty tone, and her heart sped up, but managed to purr "Are we? That sounds exciting!" with her sexy River voice, and he might have flailed a bit as he turned the corner toward the baggage carousels. She did things to him when she used that purr!
"Oh, I expect there WILL be some undercover excitement, love. Patience!"
Alex just laughed, then flirted back saying "There better be!"
That got a flirty laugh from Matt that caused a couple of people watching the baggage trundle by to glance over at him. Oops. "Guess I'd better let you leave, so you can get here faster. Be careful driving Alex!" He spotted his stuff slowly rotating his way on the carousel.
She replied "See you soon sweetie!" before closing her cell and backing her car out of the driveway to head to LAX, and Matt. He meanwhile joined the queue for Customs once he retrieved his duffel and large roller bag. Checking that all his paperwork was in order and his passport was handy, he pocketed his cell phone and pulled out his iPod to occupy himself as the line slowly inched forward. Not too famous yet in the States, no one had seemed to recognize him, which in this case was good. He was in full on hipster mode. Under the radar. Yeah.
Chapter 3: Together Again
Chapter 3~Together again...
The sun was beginning to color the sky to the east and Alex was waiting at a table in the airport Starbucks for her name to be called with her coffees, studying her phone, checking for any messages from Matt, when he was suddenly just THERE, leaning in to whisper "You're a vision love..." before kissing her on the cheek, dropping his bags and pulling her up into a hug. She felt herself melt just a bit, hugging him back tightly, and loosing herself in his arms for a long moment. She jumped when the barista called out "Alex, your order is up!" to the waiting folks. Matt pressed her back into her chair and said "I'll get them, it's okay, you wait here", and was across the room and back without a stumble, sliding into his chair and pinching off part of her chocolate filled croissant as he set down the tray with their cups. Still, Alex was unable to speak, she just sat there wide-eyed staring at him, dressed as usual in jeans and a band tee under a rolled-sleeve shirt, with a dark wool cap covering his floppy hair. "Well, this must be a first! The Kingston, speechless!"
She shook her head and laughed, slapping his arm gently, saying "Oi! MY croissant! But she was smiling broadly, and whispered conspiratorially "You look just as delicious darling!" and she blushed. Like a teenager. "Sneaking up on me are you?"
Matt grinned, saying "Who, me? Nah, just couldn't wait a second more to hug you again, I've missed you." She was dressed casually in yoga pants and a loose floral blouse, beautiful as usual despite the blue scarf hiding (badly) her curly locks, pulled up and back in a messy ponytail.
Their eyes met, and she reached out to squeeze his hand, "Oh, Sweetie, I've missed you too..." Half a beat, and their eyes said it all, blue-green and hazel, locked together. The spell was broken by other coffee deprived travelers shuffling by. They sipped their concoctions, both needing the caffeine at such an early hour, and shared the croissant while Alex inquired about his flight and they fidgeted, held in check by the crowd, not wanting to draw attention to themselves.
"Done there darling?" Alex asked, a scant few minutes later, catching Matt staring at her, eyes wide. "What? Oh, yeah, yeah, done...lets get outta here, eh?" stammered Matt. Bless. So much Doctor in him, it was sweet.
"I thought you'd never ask!" smirked Alex. She stood up immediately, picked up her purse and Matt's satchel and turned, saying "I'll get this and the trash, you get the rest...time to leave!" She dropped their cups in the bin by the exit, raking him with her eyes, and raising an eyebrow suggestively.
"Well, well! Eager to get home there Alex?" Matt winked at her, turning and placing his arm across her shoulders, tugging on an escaped curl gently and watching it bounce.
"Nah, just want to beat the traffic darling...." winking back at him. "We're reaching critical 'sweetness' levels here, lets get home before we explode!" Privately, Alex wasn't sure she could stop herself from a clinch that would get more attention than was welcome, despite their 'undercover' appearance. Meanwhile, Matt was thinking nearly the same thing. Collecting his bags, he turned to her and said "Let's hit the road!" with a corny smile, before following her out into the corridor and toward the door to the parking deck. He only tripped once.
The ride to Alex's home took more time than they would have liked, but considering it's LA, it was not surprising. Matt had no idea how Alex managed to drive at all, he was a jittery ball of nerves and her presence so close to him was intoxicating, but LA traffic required her full attention, so he fidgeted and shifted in the passenger seat, which felt weird because it was the WRONG side, and he kept flinching at oncoming cars. He felt like he was rambling on and on about his visit home, his parents, his sister Laura, his old mates...before he knew it they were on suburban streets, nice homes, manicured lawns, the whole American dream cliche. The sun was fully up, the dog walkers were out and about, and the newspapers had been delivered. Alex slowed and then turned into the driveway of a pleasant looking two story with attached garage, nice green yard with a few trees and a path that no doubt led to a garden in the back. The Prius rolled into the two car garage, the empty bay re-made as a garden potting space with a table near a deep sink and a door that led to the side yard. There was a girl's bike alongside a larger one he figured Alex used, and other evidence that a child lived there, including a neon green kid's size football. It felt homey. He started to relax.
Alex spent the drive hyper-aware of Matt's presence, his fidgeting, and her own nerves, but tried to concentrate on driving safely as the traffic increased and Matt chattered on, clearly nervous. She understood why he would be, first time to her HOME, the place she was most comfortable and could be truly herself. She was sure she would feel the same if the tables were turned. She hoped to make him feel welcome, and that this was going to lead to a deeper relationship for them, beyond the physical attraction (which was undeniable) and the quirky sense of humor they shared. She admitted to herself that she was still nervous about the age difference and how that would be perceived by the people around her here, though for herself it was not an issue any more. Matt had an air about him, charisma for sure, but also a sense of the world that was uncommon in someone his age. A young face, but old eyes, as she had heard many describe him. An old soul. How they worked in the home dynamic that included her 9 year old daughter and all that came with having her there with them was the only thing keeping her from total relaxation, but they still had two days before Salome returned home, and she was going to make the most of it while she could. She pulled into the garage, pushing the button on the remote to close the door as she shut off the car. She then sighed, took her hands off the wheel and tugged the restricting scarf off her head, pulling off the scrunchie and shaking her hair out of it's confines, before turning to Matt, smiling and saying "We're home darling!" She then yanked the ridiculous wool hat off his head and finger-combed his fringe gently, enjoying the silky feel.
Matt, released his shoulder belt, turned to Alex, and reached out to softly tug on a curl, watching it bounce back, then gently pulled her into a kiss, huffing at the awkward reach across the center console in the Prius. Smirking again, Alex punched the boot latch button, released her own shoulder belt, and opened her door. "Come on dear, wait 'til we get inside the house at least!"
Matt scrambled to unfold from the car's seat, meeting her at the back of the car to remove his bags. Before he knew it, Alex had her arms around his neck, pushing him into the side of the car and leaning up to plant a PROPER welcome kiss on his mouth as he stood wide-eyed in her garage. A tiny flail, and Matt returned her ardor, plunging his fingers in her hair and holding her head still so he could deepen the kiss. Alex responded to his intense kiss, then broke away to exclaim "My god darling, I've been wanting to do that since you whispered in my ear at the airport!"
"Don't I know it...." Matt replied without releasing her. He dove in for a quick but thorough second kiss, breaking to add "Inside now?" with a smirk of his own, to which Alex replied saucily "Eager are we?" as she grabbed a bag and headed for the door into her house, leaving Matt to collect the rest and follow her. Flirting was their comfort zone, and felt totally natural. But was it just lusty intent, or was there more?
Inside the door was an alcove with hooks for coats, a shoe rack and a pair of bins marked LA Recycle, one of which had a newspaper lining the bottom, with several pieces of junk mail on top that Alex had disposed of the day before when she brought in the accumulated mail she had scheduled for delivery the day of her return. This all registered on Matt subconsciously, as the rest of his mind was focused on Alex, her close proximity after so many weeks taking over his conscious thoughts completely. He set down the bags and reached for her again. One hand went to her hip, pulling her closer as his other hand held tight to the back of her head, fingers threaded through her curls. Alex was still holding his satchel and her voluminous purse, handicapped by them, so she let them slide to the floor and Matt whinged as the purse landed on his foot, causing him to release her and exclaim "What's in there Alex? My toes are mashed!" but laughing brightly as he said it, toeing off his black trainers by the door, revealing neon striped socks.
"Oh you!" Alex retorted, rolling her eyes at the garish socks, and pushing him toward her kitchen after slipping off her sandals as well, leaving them next to Matt's shoes and smiling at the image, side by side footwear. She followed him, her arm reaching out to encircle his narrow hips and turn him toward her pulling him into that clinch she wanted at LAX to show him that she wanted him there, with her, in every way. They stood there, embracing. This was about more than sex, at least for her. Her heart was out there, and she hoped he understood how hard that was for her. She took his hand and led him into the heart of her home.
Matt found himself in the middle of the spacious kitchen, with many touches that said 'Alex lives here', from the sunny eat-in area by the double doors out on to the deck and garden beyond, to the white appliances, center island cook top and bay window over the sink filled with violets lining the sill. Silly man that he was, what really caught his attention was the plate of scones under a clear cake dome next to the teapot on the center island. "Ooh! Scones!" Matt turned, beaming "You made scones!"
"You dear, have the attention span of a puppy!" Alex chuckled, he was so adorable. "Putting aside that croissant at the airport, neither of us has a chance to eat anything; what do you say to brunch now, seeing as it's mid-day for you?"
"Oi! Puppy? Really?" he exclaimed, adding "Brunch now?" Dropping his voice to a warm rough tone Matt said "Well, as long as I get YOU for afters Alex...I guess I could eat a bit...airline food leaves something to be desired, as you are well aware!" He was following her lead here, in her house. He wanted her to feel good about his visit, be comfortable in everyday life, he could go slow if that was what she wanted. This wasn't the Cardiff flats, they had time to be relaxed in their growing relationship. He didn't want to push too hard and scare her off, but at the same time he wanted her to know he was serious about THEM.
Alex flipped on the element under the teapot to set it to boiling, taking cups out of the cupboard and collecting the elements to make them tea. She handed the plate of scones to Matt, directing him to take them to the table, and pulled jam from the fridge along with juice and milk for the tea. She pointed to one drawer, asking "Matt, can you get out the silverware?" which he did, turning to ask "What else can I do Alex?"
"Your task darling, is to relax! You spent hours cooped up on the plane, sit, I'll do a fry-up of some eggs and sausage...besides...you'll need your strength!" She winked and handed him two plates, as the teapot whistled. She thought they worked well together, like on the TARDIS set, a team effort. She handed him the bottle of orange juice and indicated where he could find glasses.
"Okay," he smirked, "I'll sit, but I'm making tea for us while I do." After setting down the juice and the glasses, he took the tray of tea things to the table, and prepared tea for both of them, then began slathering jam on some scones, popping one in his mouth and humming with enjoyment.
Alex turned on a different burner, threw a pat of butter in a fry pan, broke 4 eggs over the edge and sliced some turkey sausage links in at well, scrambling the mixture and leaving it for a minute to pop some bread in the toaster before returning to stir the eggs. She washed some grapes and put the bowl on the table, then retrieved the toast. Dividing the egg-sausage scramble between the two plates, she set the fry pan back on the stove, turned off the burner and joined Matt at the table. Pouring them both a glass of juice, she said "Have at it darling...enjoy!"
Chapter 4: Dessert Afters
Chapter 4~Dessert Afters
After they finished eating, it was mid-morning, and Alex wanted to clean up and not just leave it all for later, so Matt thought it would be a good time to wash off the travel grime asking "Alex, can you point me in the direction of your bath? I'm feeling pretty gringy about now, and I'd like to grab a shower, if that's okay?"
"Sweetie, you're free to make yourself at home, my room is at the top of the front stairs, help yourself to whatever you need. I even cleared a drawer or two for you. I'm just going to finish up here, and I'll be up shortly."
She directed him toward the front of the house after he collected his stuff from the garage door drop zone. He found himself passing through her living room, large comfy sofa and chairs, TV cabinet, and a large fireplace with a framed old English racing print over the mantle. On the coffee table in front of the sofa were a couple of books, one a photo collection of iconic British scenic places, and another that was titled simply "Equus" and showed a white horse standing in a field of poppies. Between them was a small sculpture of a leaping horse. Sal's not the only horsey one in this house Matt thought as he passed through, climbed the stairs and entered Alex's bedroom.
Rich jewel tones and a large floral painting stood out, as did the king size bed. This is so very 'Alex' he thought as he dragged his roller bag in and hefted it onto the bed, opening it and digging out his shave kit and a change of clothes. Just being in her house was enlightening. He's seeing a different side of her, beyond the flirty, sexy woman he knew in Cardiff. He felt his heart warm, thinking about how she was showing another side of herself just by being in her own home, in her comfort zone. Crossing to the ensuite bath, he started the shower and stripped, stepping in and pausing for a minute to enjoy the hot water pounding on his slightly stiff back. He heard the door open, then close, and heard Alex's voice, low and sexy, asking "Alright in there darling? Need any help?"
"Did you bring me my dessert beautiful?" Matt asked cheekily, grinning from ear to ear, stepping aside as she slipped through the shower door, sliding it closed again. Sexy Alex was making an appearance, finally!
"What do you think love?" as she joined him under the hot water spray, reaching up to pull his head down for a kiss that quickly turned heated. Hands and mouths strayed and wandered, as they refreshed their memories after a long time apart, sexy times in the shower before quickly washing hair and bodies as the hot water ran out.
Alex handed him a towel which he used, then wrapped low around his hips, then she wrapped a second towel around herself, pointing him to the twin sinks, and saying "Shave!" as she began the ritual that was required to tame her curls...sort of.
Bathroom necessities taken care of and luggage contents sorted and put away, they found themselves lost in each other's eyes once again, just standing in the middle of Alex's bedroom. Now that the almost shy hesitancy had been overcome, they found themselves again devouring each other, this time more slowly, savoring the sights, sounds, scents, touches and tastes of their reunion, before curling up together and slipping into a contented nap.
Alex woke first, within the hour, and reached for her dressing gown, realizing it was coming up on noon. She turned to the still sleeping Matt, smiling fondly. God she loved looking at him, high cheekbones, strong chin, deep-set hazel eyes, ridiculous fringe, and that long lanky body that held her with such affection, maybe even...love. She thought that the idea should frighten her, considering her history, but his open, honest face reassured her. Strong affection and yes, very strong attraction had been there since they first met, but this was feeling like more than just affection. She felt she could open herself up to him the way she had not been able to in her previous relationships. He never laughed at her dress style, never belittled her taste in anything really, never did anything but support her and respect her. Yes he was a flirt and a flatterer, but he did it all with such honesty and a complete lack of guile. He played the Doctor so well, but unlike the Doctor, he didn't lie, and surprisingly she trusted him with her heart. This visit, she hoped he would open up to her in the same way. She reached out and brushed his fringe back, nudging him. "Wake up sweetie, you'll have a hard time with jet lag if you sleep too much now. Are you hungry?"
Matt stretched, turning toward Alex, who was sitting beside him in a dressing gown. "What did you say? Um, what time is it Alex?" She chuckled at his sleepy disheveled state, answering "Nearly noon, darling. You don't want to sleep too much or you'll be suffering from jet lag for days. You need to get up...I can make you a sandwich if you're hungry."
Sitting up in bed, sheets still pooling around his hips, he reached for her, murmuring "Are we going undercover again love? I'm hungry for you..." as he reached for the tie on her gown and pulled her into his lap for a snog, which led to another secret agent exploration as he demonstrated just how much he had missed her the last several weeks. He was very thorough.
A little while later, they found they needed another shower, finally getting around to dressing in comfortable, lay-about clothes to wander downstairs for some tea and scones to tide them over until dinner. They agreed that Matt would pay for take-out Chinese a bit later in the evening, but for now they just settled on the sofa ("comfy sofa", Matt insisted, with a laugh) and chatted and laughed as they filled each other in on their activities since finishing the last Series 5 block for Doctor Who.
They started to speculate on Series 6 filming to come later that year, and wondered aloud if Steven Moffat had more for River Song to do. Alex had an inkling, but kept it to herself since she had not seen any scripts yet. "I hope River is in EVERY episode!" Matt exclaimed.
Alex replied "I'm sure the Moff will have lots for River to do, the man is obsessed with her!" She laughed, adding "I hope Sue's not jealous!"
"Do you think he will let Eleven rescue River from the Library?" Matt mused. "Stupid Ten left her there, he should have used the TARDIS, it's just not right! They could be married, have centuries together...."
"Oh, sweetie, you know Steven, just about ANYTHING could happen, and it WILL be timey-wimey!" Alex giggled, and Matt laughed at how delighted she sounded....then he paused, looked at her askance and replied "Wait a mo! Do you know anything about River's future?"
"Don't you mean her past darling?" Alex asked, then added her trademarked "Spoilers!"
Matt reached over and began tickling her, saying "Oi! That's not fair! What do you know?" as she wriggled away and stood up, grinning down at him before adding "Nothing really dear, I've not gotten any scripts yet, so right now I'm in the dark just as much as you!" Changing the subject, (yes, off this topic fast!) Alex asked "Matt...what would you like to do tomorrow, before Salome comes home on Friday?"
"Well, we COULD continue our 'covert' operations undercover," he replied with a smirk, "but I suppose we do need to get outside at some point....can we go to the beach? Maybe take a picnic? Unless you have something else in mind?" he added, curious to see what she would say, as he stifled a yawn.
"Well," Alex responded, "I was hoping to get some flowers to freshen up the house, and check the status of my garden out back. It's been neglected for some time now, other than general upkeep by the yard service folks. After that we could go somewhere for lunch, and visit the beach in the afternoon, if that's okay with you? We can do a picnic with Sal next week, she'll love that!"
Matt grinned up at her, saying "That sounds great Alex! I don't know a thing about gardening, but I can tote and carry for you if that helps. What if we get up and check your garden first, cause I'm betting you are going to need a few things to spruce it up, then go to the flower market? We can come back here to change after, and find a place for a seafood lunch near the coast before lazing about on the beach toasting under the west coast sun....does that sound all right to you?"
Alex's face lit up. She replied "Yes, good idea...I was afraid you'd be bored going flower shopping, but I could use the help. I do love digging in the dirt you know."
Matt just laughed. "Just like River, eh?" He stood up, glancing at the clock on the mantle and noticing the time, saying "Feel like dinner yet?" unsuccessfully trying to suppress another yawn.
"Oh dear, you must be tired, but you need to stay awake a little longer, to get yourself on LA time" Let's call for the take-out...by the time we get there it should be ready, and the fresh air will wake you up." She went into the kitchen to call in their order, and they put on shoes before climbing into Alex's car to make the short drive to the strip shopping center where the place was located.
The food was not quite ready so Alex took Matt's hand and they walked over to a store nearby that stocked beer and wine from all over the world, Alex selecting a bottle of red wine, Matt getting some brews from back home. He'd tried American beers, but had found few he liked. Walking hand in hand back to the take-out place, they collected their food and returned to the house.
As they entered from the garage and remove their shoes, Matt asked Alex curiously "What's upstairs on this end of the house Alex?"
"It's my studio darling." Alex answered. "After we eat I'll show you my 'inner sanctum', okay?" Matt was curious to see what she was referring to, but first....food! They unpacked the bags, putting the wine and beer in the fridge for later and filling glasses with ice water before sitting down to eat, sharing bites of their different meals and spooning up their egg drop soup. Alex let Matt have her egg roll, as she was getting full. She got up to clear the table, binning the trash and putting their plates in the dishwasher, making a mental note to start it before bed. While she was occupied, Matt's cell phone went off indicating a text message.
On Alex's coffee table:
Sculpture of leaping horse "Secretariat"
Chapter 5: News from Home
News from home...Matt hears from his sister, and realizes something important
Chapter 5~News from home
Matt opened his phone, and read the message from his sister Laura. Turning to Alex he said "It's Lor, I need to call her back but I can help clean up first if you need me to."
Alex said, "No, you go call her, I'm done. I'm going out to get the mail." They walked into the living room, Matt flopped onto the 'comfy' sofa and Alex stepped out of the front door to walk to her mailbox at the end of the driveway. By the time she returned and locked the front door while absentmindedly flipping through the mail, he was talking animatedly to his sister. "No, no, of COURSE you can use my flat in London, it's just sitting there costing me money anyway! I haven't even been there more than a few days all year, and probably won't spend much time there in the near future either, not while I'm here in LA, or when I go back to Cardiff for Who....I was thinking about giving it up, actually." Clearly he was listening to her, then responded "Alright, I'll text you the agent's info, you're already on the contact list, they'll give you a key. The utilities should be on, but you'll need to organize internet....yes, yes the furniture is still there, you'll probably want to wash all the linens, just box up my clothes and stuff and shove them in the guest room." He paused again, waiting, then continuing "Suit yourself, the guest room is bare minimum, but if you want to use it, fine." Then, "Yes, I'd better let you get going, must be early there, eh?" Finally, "Yes, Alex is fine, I just got in early this morning.....no I haven't seen any celebrities yet, well, except her of course! We're going to the beach tomorrow, and Salome gets here Friday...yes, I'll Skype you as soon as I can, send my love to Mum and Dad...bye, Lor, love you!" Alex watched him relax into the sofa, scrolling on his phone. She asked him "What's this about Laura?"
Matt jumped, not realizing Alex was standing there, then put up his hand, "Just give me a mo, have to text this info to Lor before I forget." Then he thumbed off his cell and turning to Alex, he explained "Lor got a dance roll on stage in London and needed living arrangements fast...I told her my flat was going to waste there and she should use it...she's so excited!"
Alex knew Matt and his sister Laura were close, and clearly he was happy for her. "That's wonderful Matt! We should go see her later this year!" He just laughed, asking her "Did I ever tell you I went to see her in "Saturday Night Fever" in the West End FIFTY-SEVEN times? She was 18, and I was just 16, right after I hurt my back. My dream of playing professional football was over, but it was a thrill to see her on stage, doing what she wanted to do her whole life. She encouraged me toward acting after that. I have her to thank for SO much!"
Alex thought about what he had said. "Do you realize darling, that we BOTH have Laura to thank? What would you be doing if she hadn't pushed you toward the stage? Would you be the Doctor today?" Matt looked at her, wide eyed, groaning... "Oh, I'd probably be teaching English lit to post-secondary school kids and running the chess club. Maybe coaching. And I'd likely never have met you." He looked up at her. "My life would be so boring! No NYT, no drama at uni, no Doctor, no YOU." He stood, reaching for her and pulling her in for a full-body hug. "I never really thought about it before. Lor is definitely getting an extra special Christmas gift this year!"
"Make sure it's from both of us sweetie!" Alex replied. They stood there for a long moment, just holding each other, mulling over the implications. "So, literature and chess huh?" Alex said cheekily. "Hidden talents! Will you put your sexy glasses on and read love poetry to me in bed dear?"
"Most definitely!" He replied with a flirty wink. "I could be Robert Browning to your Elizabeth"...huffing, he added "coincidence those are our middle names, don't you think?" Alex leaned back in his arms, looking up and replying thoughtfully "Coincidence, or destiny...I'm just happy we are HERE now. Let's go find you some poetry to read to me!"
Alex took Matt's hand and pulled him toward the kitchen, stopping to take out the wine she'd bought earlier, handing Matt two glasses and deftly opening the bottle before leading him up the back stairs to her studio. Matt was amazed at the room he found himself in. It was a warm and sunny artist's studio, a large bay window in the back overlooking the garden, with a covered canvas on an easel and several more leaning against the side wall, in various states of completion. Flanking the dormer windows over the garage were bookcases full of books, including what looked like the complete works of the Bard, and even some serious looking tomes and biographies, along with an impressive section of art books, and a shelf stacked with scripts. There was a small desk in one corner, with her laptop and more scripts cluttering it's surface. A work table sat in front of a double window, a futon was pushed against the stair railing, and a large basket full of balls of wool, stabbed through by knitting needles, sat next to it. "Wow Alex, I didn't know you were so artistic! I can see why you call this your inner sanctum."
"Well, yes." Alex replied "It's how I cope when I get too busy, or too stressed, at least when I'm here." She gestured for him to set down the wine glasses and she poured them a generous amount, each savoring the taste for a long moment, then she turned to the book shelves and scanning for the book of poems she wanted. A second book caught her eye, and she smirked, collecting it as well. In the scant few minutes she was preoccupied, Matt had flopped on the futon, sipping the wine and watching her, somewhat glassy-eyed from fatigue, jet lag finally catching up with him. Alex turned to him, saw the drowsy state he was in and smiled fondly, saying "Matt darling, you're practically asleep sitting there. Come on, it's late enough, time to get you to bed."
Raising his sleep deprived face to hers, he still managed to flirt "Oh, so you want your way with me eh Alex? Thought you wanted me to read you love poems....."
"Sweetie, you're barely awake now, we can save the poetry for tomorrow night, okay?" She pulled him to his feet, plucked the nearly empty wine glass from his hand and guided him down the hall to her bedroom, somehow managing to carry both glasses AND the wine bottle with her.
Matt barely managed to stumble along behind her saying " 'kay 'lex, whatever you say"....she shoved him toward the en-suite bath, reminding him to clean his teeth, finishing her own wine in the meantime. While he was occupied, Alex took the bottle and glasses downstairs to the kitchen, adding the two glasses to the dishwasher and starting it, returning quickly to her room. When he appeared in only his pants, sans joggers or t-shirt, she guided him to the bed, and went to complete her own bedtime routine, pulling on her nightclothes and joining him. All he could manage was a gentle snog before he slipped into sleep. Alex watched him for a while, noting how relaxed he looked as he slept, the lines of fatigue from the months of filming and promo tours nearly gone. She was not ready to join him yet, so she read from the book of poetry for a while, marking a couple, then finally drowsy enough, she snuggled up to him and smiled, drifting off herself in minutes, content.
Chapter 6: Out and About
Matt gets to see another side of Alex, and they get to the beach!
Chapter 6~Out and About
A good night's sleep for both of them, they woke ravenous. And hungry as well. The first was consummated with a morning romp, which led to round two in the shower (or was it round three?) before they finally dressed in cut-off shorts and tees and headed downstairs to feed their other hunger...for food!
They worked together to pull off a 'Full English' breakfast fry-up of turkey sausage, lean bacon, cherry tomatoes, baked beans and toast, fried eggs, the last of the scones covered in jam, and proper English tea, with cream and sugar. Finally sated, they sat sipping their second cup of tea and looked around at the kitchen disarray. "Well, we were thorough in our work here...managed to make a complete mess, didn't we?" Matt exclaimed.
Alex just laughed, saying "Just wait till Sal gets here! She will insist on pancakes Sunday, and afters at every meal! It's a good thing I love to bake!" she added. "We should probably make biscuits for her return tomorrow..."
"Ooh! Biscuits? Can I help?" Matt put on his best pleading puppy dog eyes, and jumped excitedly. "Can we make jammie dodgers? Please?" Alex was reminded of the Doctor at his zaniest, or just Matt being Matt. Take your pick.
Alex snorted, laughing at him and saying "Darling, you're worse that Salome! We don't get the real thing here in the States, but I have a recipe for something similar they call 'Thumbprint Shortbread Cookies'. We can make them later if you like...Sal loves them, but first we have to clean up here, and then get out and about, unless you forgot the day we have planned?"
"No, no, of course I remember! Gardening, flowers, lunch, beach....see, I was paying attention!" Matt insisted with a grin.
"Cheeky!" Alex replied with a laugh, thinking how much she enjoyed his youthful enthusiasm for everything. She felt younger for it, and that was a blessing. "Let's clean up! I'll clear the dishwasher, and you can fill it again while I remove the evidence currently adorning every surface in the room!" She gave him a cheeky wink of her own, and they made short work of the clean up, moving on to the garden through the garage side door, stopping to put on their trainers.
It was very sunny as they stepped out the door and followed the stone path through a gate to the back of the house. Matt thought it warm, but Alex knew it would get warmer later in the day. LA's temp was normally not baking hot thanks to the nearby Pacific ocean, but she thought it would feel hot to him. Checking the thermometer on the doorframe, it read 70F (or about 22C she translated mentally) before steering him around the corner to proudly show off her garden, which, despite it's neglect since she was last here with Sal over Easter break, still looked pretty good. For once the rain was adequate in the spring, but she knew that it would get dryer as summer progressed. She shook her head, recalling the 7.2 magnitude earthquake south of LA near the border that Sunday afternoon in April. The effects were light in LA but it lasted several seconds. She was hoping there would be no aftershocks any time soon.
"Alex, you never cease to amaze me!" Matt exclaimed. "Your garden is beautiful!" There were several rectangular flower beds with stonework edging surrounding an open grassy area, shrubs lined the privacy fence and along the deck which led into the kitchen, and there was a modestly sized pool with a patio tile surround and a brolly table off to the side in the shade of what appeared to be an oak tree. There were even a couple of fruit trees beyond the deck. He recalled a large palm tree in the front of the house and some flowering crepe myrtle. "Your own little oasis in the city, eh Alex?" Matt added quietly. "It suits you, all this beauty." He looked at her and smiled shyly. "Of course, you'd have a lovely home, to match your personality."
Alex just smiled at him, blushing slightly at the warm tone of his words. Taking his hand, she pulled him into a kiss of thanks, squeezing his hand, she said "Sweetie, thank you. It means a lot that you feel that way. I do try to have beautiful things around me, to remind myself how fragile our lives are, and our world too." He draped his arm around her shoulder, pulling her in for a hug, leaving it there as they continued to stroll across the grass.
They wandered around the flower beds, while Alex made note of where repairs or replacement plants were needed. She also needed more bird seed for her feeders. Turning to Matt she said "I think I've seen what's needed here, shall we head to the flower market? Matt grinned down at her saying "Geronimo!"
They made good time to the garden center on a Thursday morning, getting in and out quickly, picking up the birdseed and flats of replacement flowers, plus some cut flowers from the market for inside, explaining to Matt that she liked having fresh flowers around to make the house feel more homey. When they got back to the house, Alex put the flats of flowers in the deep sink and gave them some water. Matt waited while she finished, and they took the cut flowers inside where she she quickly arranged them in two vases, one for the living room, the other for her studio. She would return to the garden the next morning to plant the new flowers, when the sun was less intense.
"Ready to get changed for lunch and the beach darling? Alex asked as they climbed the back stairs and walked down the hall past Salome's room, neat as a pin as she had been away since Easter. Changing into beach wear, Alex pulled a sundress over her one piece blue swimsuit while Matt put on swim trunks with neon green and blue stripes, a nicely stretched out band t-shirt, and flip flops. Alex retrieved beach towels from the linen closet, and a plaid blanket. Downstairs she grabbed a large beach tote from the guest room closet, filling it with sunscreen, water bottles and her wallet and phone. A book and her sunglasses also found their way in the tote and she slipped her own flip flops on at the door. Matt laughed and said "Is your bag larger on the inside like the TARDIS Alex? Can I put my stuff in there too, seeing as I have no pockets?" She smirked at him and said "Only if you carry it sweetie!" laughing.
"Sure, I'm a gentleman after all dear! Matt replied, dropping his cell phone and wallet in the ever expanding tote, and retrieving his iPod and a book from his satchel to add as well. Putting the tote bag in the boot of Alex's Prius, along with the blanket and towels, they headed off for a seafood lunch and an afternoon at the beach. Matt insisted on paying for their meal, which was delicious and very fresh! They returned to the car and Alex drove them up the Pacific Coast Highway past Santa Monica to El Madator State Beach. It had a rugged path down to the rocky shore, but once they got there, it was sparsely populated and picturesque, just what they wanted.
Alex made sure Matt's pale English skin was suitably swathed in waterproof sunscreen, from nose to toes, so he returned the favor, enjoying all the lovely exposed skin in need of lotion that Alex provided. They spread the blanket and settled in to soak up some California rays, Alex reading, and Matt listening to music while watching the waves break over the rocks contemplatively. Part of him wished it was a little MORE secluded, but that was okay. He was so relaxed he even fell asleep, but Alex woke him after a while to remind him to turn over. Matt, at that point, decided to test the water, so they bundled up the tote inside the blanket, piled the towels on top and wandered down the shore to stick their toes in the water. It was surprisingly cold, but they waded in for a bit, splashing each other, then Matt stepped in a sandy underwater hole and fell backwards into the waist deep water, which set Alex to laughing when he came up spurting salt water after his sudden cold dunking. "Oi Alex! Laugh at me when I'm down!" Matt huffed, and promptly pulled her down with him as she warned "My HAIR!" but let herself submerge anyway, grabbing him around the chest and pulling him back under with her. They came up again giggling, and exchanged a few kisses before giving in to an extended snog, forgetting they weren't completely alone on the beach. Luckily the other folks on the secluded beach weren't paying them any attention and Matt was saved from any embarrassment their activities might have engendered. They spread the blanket out again and Matt huffed before laying down on his stomach to hide the 'evidence' of said activities, blushing while Alex cooed at him "Later darling..." and giggled again. He did love her giggles.
Alex picked up her towel and squeezed the excess salt water out of her hair, then sat down and rubbed more sunscreen on Matt's back as he sighed contentedly and pulled out his book and glasses. They dried as the sun beat down, slowly dropping toward the horizon as the afternoon turned to early evening. Matt took his cell phone out and took a few pictures of the rock strewn beach, the setting sun and Alex, sitting up cross-legged, glasses on, reading her book. She was adorable, biting her lip as she read, with the glasses sliding down her nose. "Hey there beautiful...should we be heading back?" he said, "The sun is setting, never seen a sunset over the ocean before.....it's stunning...." Alex looked up from her book, enraptured by his face, lit by the sinking sun, all planes and angles, and she was overcome by his quirky beauty as he smiled at her. Her heart felt squeezed...."You're pretty stunning yourself darling....yes, let's go home!" Alex replied, slipping her book in the tote and standing to fold up the towels and blanket while Matt picked up the now lighter tote after they finished off the reusable water bottles, putting the empties back in for washing later. They returned to the car, driving along the coast toward LA as the sun sank into the Pacific Ocean.
Earthquake! The quake Alex recalls was April 4th, 3:40 pm, Easter Sunday, 7.2 magnitude, on the Mexico border, felt in LA for several seconds. FYI, that was my ^(^ birthday!
Chapter 7: Poetry Reading
Naughty limericks and deeply felt emotions.....
Chapter 7~Poetry reading
Back home, they put together a light dinner of sandwiches and fruit, deciding they'd wait for Salome's return to make the biscuits Friday afternoon, then went upstairs to rinse off the sand and salt. After quickly clearing the sticky residue of their beach visit, Matt took it upon himself to wash and condition Alex's unruly curls until they were soft and twisty. He took his time, which left little hot water for washing further, so once sand and salt free, and Alex's hair tamed somewhat, they retired to the bedroom wrapped in their towels. Alex grabbed the two books on her nightstand, handing them to Matt saying "Here's your chance to impress me sweetie, read me poetry!" with a mischievous grin.
Matt took the books from her, putting on his reading glasses and looked at her over the tops before glancing down and realizing that while one was a book of love poems, the other was limericks, causing him to exclaim, laughing "Limericks Alex? Really?"
"If you want we can take turns reading them darling...some are quite naughty!" she said with a wink, donning her own readers. "I'll start!" She snatched the limerick book back and opened the pages randomly, finding one and giggling before adding "This one's called 'Dessert' and it's by Isaac Asimov, you know, the sci-fi writer. Ha! Who knew?" She began to read...
"There was a young woman named Rhoda
As sweet as a chocolate soda.
It was such a delight
To screw her at night
Then once more at dawn as a coda."
Then both broke up laughing with glee...."Dessert! You're mine Alex!" Matt exclaimed, one pale eyebrow raised, flirting shamelessly. He grabbed the book from her, flipping a few pages and began to read another limerick. They continued, taking turns while laughing uproariously, sitting cross-legged on the bed in their towels. Matt came across one limerick..."This one says 'Anonymous', but I have some ideas on THAT!" and began reading...
"There was a young lady named Bright
who traveled much faster than light.
She set out one day
in a relative way,
and came back the previous night."
"Sounds like River Song wrote this one, eh Alex?" he laughed. Alex replied "Spoilers!" then collapsed into giggles as Matt began to tickle her for her cheek, causing her towel to fall away, which led to further 'undercover' explorations before they settled into a comfortable tangle and Matt reached for the other book, the one of love poems, noting the pages Alex had bookmarked.
Thoughtful now, he pulled her closer, sitting up. "Robert and Elizabeth, eh?" he said to her before he picked up his glasses, thumbing through the pages, reading to himself first, as Alex watched him, wondering what he would do. He came to one with a marker, paused for a moment then read it out loud, a verse by Robert Browning...
“Life with all it yields of joy and woe,
And hope and fear,
Is just our chance o’ the prize of learning love,
How love might be, hath been indeed, and is.”
Alex looked at him, touched when she saw the sheen of tears filling his hazel eyes. "I can see why you like this one Alex, that says it all, eh? Life, and everything really, the future and the past. You've seen it all haven't you? Do you have hope for the future love?" He reached to brush back a curl from her face. "I know I do." They were heavy words, deep with meaning.
"Oh sweetie, of course I do...but sometimes it scares me...the future. I've lived that 'joy and woe', had my heart broken, struggled through self-doubt. I spent hours in therapy, and that led to new hope, and my darling Salome, but I felt failure again when her father and I couldn't keep it going together. We tried so hard for her, and then it was all too much for him to try again. It's been 3 years, and I've found my footing, finally. I hope I can learn to love again. I'm willing to take the chance at least." She looked up at him, baring her soul for him to see, and all she saw was the love in his eyes, looking back. Taking the book from him and turning a few pages, she came to her favorite poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning and began to read....
"We cannot live, except thus mutually
We alternate, aware or unaware,
The reflex act of life: and when we bear
Our virtue onward most impulsively,
Most full of invocation, and to be
Most instantly compellant, certes, there
We live most life, whoever breathes most air
And counts his dying years by sun and sea.
But when a soul, by choice and conscience, doth
Throw out her full force on another soul,
And aim consummated, is Love in sooth,
As nature’s magnet-heat rounds pole with pole."
Matt looked into her eyes, blue green and watery with unshed tears, and his reply was to cradle her face in his hands, thumbs catching the first tears to escape as they ran down her rosy cheeks, fingers meshing with her curls as he tilted her head up and kissed her lips ever so gently, seeing the trepidation, but also seeing the hope there as he pulled back, meeting her eyes and descending once again as she welcomed him with willing joy, their kiss at once full of passion shared.
There were no more words that night.
Seven chapters in, this is quite the adventure in writing for me. I hope readers are enjoying my story so far. Every writer worries that no one will read their words, so I hope if you are still with me you'll leave some comments, or at least kudos. It's hard to write in a vacuum! I promise I'm going somewhere with all of this, and I hope if you are still here, you'll keep coming back.
I'm going to be introducing a new 'character', a mare called Royal Secret, who's foal is coming soon, and I'd like some suggestions on a name for the gangling baby to come! I hope he's gonna be as cute as Matty, our baby giraffe!
Chapter 8: Growing Things
Several things are growing...including hope.
Chapter 8~Growing things
Matt woke first Friday morning, laying beside Alex, watching as she slept. Last night was profound, and he found it both exciting and frightening how strong his feelings were, looking back. So this is what real love feels like....he's sure now every other time he thought he was is love, it was nothing but a pale delusion. What passed between them was intensely emotional. This was far more than physical attraction, he knew that now. His heart was fully engaged, he could see no future that didn't include Alex, and he wasn't sure what would happen if he lost her. But could she, WOULD she be able to return his feelings with equal surety? He had hope and fear in equal parts. All he could do was wait for her to be as sure as him, and do his best to show her he was in it for the whole package, her and Salome together. Today is when it starts. Can the three of them coalesce into a family? Will they want to? Alex was past the point now where having another child naturally was even possible, at least she'd told him she could not get pregnant, and he knew being with her meant he'd have no biological children of his own. How would that make her feel? He can SAY he's fine with it, but will she believe him? IS he fine with it? He's not sure, but at least he knows he needs HER, that anything else is a bonus, including Salome. They needed to talk about it all, with total honesty, but for now he would do his best to be someone Salome would want in her and her mother's life. He rose quietly, pulling on clean clothes and headed downstairs to make tea.
Alex woke not long after Matt had gone downstairs, the bed was still warm, and he had left the bedroom door open. He's probably making tea she thought. She was still not sure what exactly happened last night, after she read Elizabeth's poem to him. Their unspoken words were hanging there, waiting for clarity. The strength of their shared emotion was more than anything she had ever experienced before. She knew what love felt like, and this was so much more. It was like their very lives depended on the love they made together. But could they hold onto what they experienced, or would it flare and die once everyday life with her and her 9 year old daughter proved more than he could handle? He seemed willing enough to make a go of it now, but after the next few weeks? She thought about the untapped potential frozen in an egg bank across the city, the babies she never got to have, left undeveloped when Florian refused to participate in any further IVF. She had not shared this with Matt yet. Would they make a difference for him? He's turning 28 in October, and bound to want children someday, even if he's not there yet. It's the one thing that keeps her going, that he could, if they both wanted it, and were open to surrogacy, THEY could have a child together. She can't do it, her body cannot sustain a baby, it was a miracle that she got Salome at 38, now she's 47, the clock has run out, except for those precious eggs. At some point they would have to talk about all of this, but for now....it's time for reality. Today is when it starts. Salome will be back today! They will have to ride this one out, the three of them, and see what happens. She wants Matt, she wants the whole family thing, the three of them, maybe more. She pulls on her dressing gown to go downstairs to join him when he suddenly arrives in the doorway with tea and toast and some juice too, all on a bed tray, and surprisingly he manages to place the tray safely in her lap as she sits down, pillows at her back. Matt plops rather gracefully beside her on the bed, pronouncing her the most beautiful sight he's ever seen, and plants a sloppy kiss on her lips before grabbing some toast with jam for himself, beaming at her and saying "When does Salome get here?"
Her eyes bright at his declaration, AND his question, Alex replied "Thank you darling! Sal should get here about one this afternoon, I think. She has a last half-day of the school term today, Florian will bring her over after lunch." She was unsure how he'd react to meeting her ex so soon. She is not in the habit of sharing her love life with Flo, so Matt being there might be awkward for all concerned. She added before he could respond to the information..."You don't have to meet him yet, if you're not comfortable Matt."
Matt studied her face for a moment before replying "I'll do whatever you want Alex, whatever makes YOU comfortable, and Sal as well. If you want me to make myself scarce when they arrive, I'll do it. This is your home."
"Let's see, darling." Alex replied. "I don't share my personal life with him, and Salome doesn't know you're here yet. It might be better for all concerned if we postponed THAT interaction for a while....not that I'm worried about YOU, but I don't want Sal in the middle if Flo decides to be difficult. On the other hand, he could get mad if he thinks we are trying to hide something."
"Okay, Alex. Like you said, let's just see how it all plays out? If it seems like a problem, I'll distract Salome for you and take her outside for some footie or help her with her stuff, or something." Matt smiled at her reassuringly. "It'll be fine love."
"Well, then." Alex replied, "I'm not going to let it ruin my good mood worrying! Tea and toast was nice, but I'm in need of some protein! How about omelets?" She handed him the bed tray, stood and wrapped her dressing gown around herself and led him down the stairs to the kitchen. There she dug through the fridge for the necessary items and set Matt to the task of getting out the tableware and plates. Very soon they were sitting down to eat and enjoy a second cup of tea.
When they were finished, Alex asked "Can you clean up here Matt? I need to throw some gardening clothes on and get out and plant those flowers we got yesterday. It won't take long, then we can get cleaned up before Sal gets here. I'll need some help with the bird feeders too, if you don't mind?"
"Not a problem Alex, I think I can manage here. I feel like you've done all the work, time to do my fair share." Matt exclaimed with a grin. "Scoot! Go get changed. Then we can get down in the dirt, so to speak." he said with a cheeky grin before starting in on the breakfast dishes, rinsing everything and loading the dishwasher while she made her way upstairs to don shorts and a tank-top, returning to find him waiting by the garage door, having just pulled on his trainers.
Alex led as they cut through the garage again, stopping to gather some tools, a partial bag of potting soil and the flats of flowering plants they had gotten Thursday. Passing through the gate into the back yard, Matt followed Alex to the first flower bed, asking "Alex, where do you want this soil?"
She replied, "Here for now, it's just in case I need some extra while I transplant these flowers....can you go unwind the garden hose for me?" pointing toward the deck, where he saw a coiled hose hanging on the outside wall of the house above a faucet. He dutifully went and connected it, then unwound the hose and pulled it in her direction. He was surprised to see she had already dug out some dead plants and replaced them with the living flowers, marigolds he thinks. Alex was all business when it came to her garden. She had him return to the garage for the bag of birdseed, and showed him where the feeders were, while she moved to another bed and started planting pansies along the edge. The last bed needed more work, so she picked up her trowel and began digging to loosen the soil, mixing in some from the bag as she went. By this time Matt was done filling the feeders, and already there were customers at the one in the back, near the fence. He came over to watch her as she gently removed the unusual plants, dusty green and somewhat 'furry' looking (?) with spiky lavender flowers, and dug in with her trowel to make a small hole for each plant.
"What kind of plants are those Alex?" Matt asked, while watching her work gently with the fragile stems. Another side of Alex he's been privileged to witness this week.
"Oh, these are Salome's favorites, they're called 'Lamb's-ear'....here, feel them...but gently!" Alex replied. Matt knelt next to her and tentatively put out a finger to brush a leaf...it FELT furry!
Matt chuckled fondly saying "I can imagine why Sal would like them...hey Alex, you're pretty good with that trowel. Just like River Song I imagine!"
She laughed, standing and pulling him up with her, saying "River's trowel would be a 'sonic' one don't you think? Much more useful to an archaeologist than a screwdriver!"
"Maybe you should mention that to the Moff....he'd no doubt LOVE the idea!" Matt replied.
"Maybe I will!" Alex said, continuing "I think I'm done here, can you help me water now?" to which Matt replied, "Yes mam, I am at your service today!" grinning at her.
Clearly she loved her garden. She was single-minded in the task at hand and he was enjoying how she worked so easily, but also wanted him to join in, wanted to share it with him. He realized they'd never really talked about the things he enjoyed until this week, what with the discussion about what he'd be doing if not acting. He loved to read just about anything, dabbled in writing, and wanted to direct more someday. Music was very important to him as well. He played guitar, was a passable singer, and collected his favorite band albums. He wanted to stay fit, not just for his job as the Doctor (all that running!) but because he just liked being active. He loved football, playing and watching. He wanted to come up with some ideas of things they could do, that Salome would also enjoy....and an idea or two were already forming in his mind. He'd ask her later. For now, time to finish their gardening adventure.
Alex picked up the hose, adjusting the handle to light spray, and asked Matt to turn on the water. She gently sprayed the new flowers, then gave all the beds a few minutes of artificial rain, stopping to rinse and re-fill the birdbath with fresh water. They turned the water off, and re-coiled the hose, disconnecting it as well. Collecting the empty flats and the tools, they returned to the house.
As they walked into the kitchen, Matt's cell phone buzzed. Before he answered, Alex said "I'm going up to shower darling." and she headed up the back stairs. Matt unlocked his phone, seeing it was a call from Karen. Smiling and punching the button, he exclaimed "Kaz! How's it going?"
"Oi numpty! Why haven't you called? How are things with Alex?" Karen, gone all Scottish on him, was yelling in his ear, so he waited her out and responded "Hello to you too Kaz...where are you?"
"London! I came down to see Arthur's new play, and ran into your sister. You didn't tell me she was moving into your flat!" groused Karen. She hated being uninformed when it came to her friends.
Matt rolled his eyes, replying "Seeing as she just asked me this week, I didn't really have a chance...she's dancing in a new musical that's started rehearsal and needed something on short notice. The place is hardly lived in, so it seemed a no-brainer. I'm supposed to Skype her this weekend." Matt began climbing the stairs as he talked. "Karen, we're kind of busy today..." he tried to explain.
"Ha! Busy, or 'Busy' there Smithers?" He could hear the 'air quotes' in her teasing voice. He huffed and rolled his eyes as he walked down the hall toward Alex's bedroom. "We've been out working in the garden, and Salome is coming home after lunch so yeah, BUSY. Look, I have to go, I'll call you back this weekend, 'kay?"
"So, you two are all domestic now, eh? Gardening, really?" Karen could be like a dog with a bone. Matt replied in frustration "KAZ!"
"Okay, okay...you'd better call soon, ya daft loon! Bye!" and she hung up. Matt shook his head in exasperation, dropping his cell on the table by the bed as he crossed the room. He heard the en-suite shower turn on, and smirked.
Putting Karen firmly OUT of his mind and stripping quickly, he knocked, then quietly opened the door, seeing she was already standing under the spray inside the shower stall. "Alright in there Alex?" he flirted. She slid open the shower door, grinning, and pulled him inside, replying "I am now darling..."
"Good" Matt murmured, pulling her into a kiss that quickly turned into something more...
Chapter 9: Salome's Return
Salome's home, a surprise and some baking, later it's time for pizza and a movie.
Chapter 9~Salome's return
Later, over a lunch of egg and cress sandwiches and fruit salad, Matt told her about Karen's call. "I'm gonna have to call her, and Lor, this weekend or I'll never hear the end of it. I think Kaz just likes to annoy me, I know something is up!"
Alex laughed at him. "Oh sweetie, Karen...well, you know how she gets, she NEEDS to know everything. She's so Scottish! You can call on Sunday, both of them."
She got up, meaning to tidy the kitchen, when she heard a car door slam out front. "Salome! She's here!" Alex exclaimed and headed for the front door, flinging it open and finding herself with an armful of her darling daughter. "Mummy! Oh, Mum, I've missed you so much!"
Alex held her in a hug for a long moment, before setting her down and remarking "I do believe you've grown since Easter Salome!" The two stood, oblivious to everything around them, Sal chattering away, before Alex looked up to see her ex-husband Florian standing by Sal's backpack and riding duffel bag on the front porch, with a young woman close at his side.
Matt had been hanging back, but this additional person seemed to surprise Alex, so he stepped behind her and placed his hand at her back, so she would know he was there. Salome seemed oblivious to the tableau, until she noticed Matt. Screeching "Matty!" so loud that Karen would have approved, she proceeded to leap into his arms. He spun her around, surprisingly gracefully for someone usually rather clumsy, and set her down softly, ruffling her hair and greeting her, saying "How's me poppet doing? School's out for summer, eh?" and laughing warmly when she replied "Finally!"
At that point Alex found her voice and turned to Florian and the young woman and introduced Matt, saying "This is my friend Matt Smith, from back home in England, and I'm Alex." to which Sal added, "He's the new Doctor!" Matt reached out to shake hands, which was a bit awkward before Florian introduced himself and his companion, Lisa Martin, explaining that they were about to head off on a work assignment across town, and could not stay. So, Alex thought to herself, a colleague. A young colleague who was standing rather familiarly near him, her hand on his arm. Well, this was an interesting development. She reached out to shake the woman's hand graciously, and casually put one arm around Matt's waist, and the other over Sal's shoulders. Florian raised an eyebrow, and Alex volleyed it back with a glance at the hand on his arm. I see your young co-star, and I raise you an equally young and familiar 'colleague'. Matt, looking between them, caught the spark in Alex's eye that dared her ex to say anything critical, which he wisely did not.
Matt asked Sal if she needed help with her stuff and politely excused himself while Sal said goodbye to her father with a hug, and a wave at Lisa. He followed her up the stairs as she chattered on about the last day of school and how she was so GLAD he was visiting and how long would he be here, and on and on, oblivious to the parental drama.
"So, 'Lex. Matt's here..." Florian started. Alex interrupted saying "Yes Flo, we both have work in LA this month, and Sal loves him, they get on so well, so an extended visit seemed like a good idea." Lisa seemed uncomfortable, so Alex took pity on the poor woman. "We're happy." she directed toward him. Underneath her words he heard "Don't go there" so he replied "That's great Alex. Take care of our daughter, and enjoy your summer." Lisa squeezed his arm, saying "We really need to go or we'll be late Flo" then turned to Alex with a "Thank you, it was nice meeting you." before they returned to their car and left.
Meanwhile Matt dropped Sal's riding duffel bag by her bed. Alex had explained to him that since they lived only a few miles away from Flo, she didn't need to pack before every house changeover. She had the basics at both houses, and just carried a few items back and forth, like her school backpack, and any sports equipment or riding clothes. Alex walked into Salome's room, giving her daughter another big hug before helping her unpack her duffel, finding that her jodhpurs and white shirt needed washing, so she took them across the hall to the laundry room next to Sal's bathroom and started a load with her own clothes and some of Matt's as well. No point in wasting water, she explained to him when he insisted he could do his own laundry.
Matt left them to catch up, and slipped in Alex's room to retrieve a gift he'd brought for the girl. They were just heading down the stairs with Sal's boots, still chatting excitedly about school friends, so he tagged along to the kitchen with them. Alex sent Sal into the garage to clean her boots, and Matt slid up behind her for a quick kiss below her ear, then asked "You okay Alex? What did Florian say?"
"Not much, darling...what could he really say, with his girlfriend hanging on his arm?" Alex said, laughing. "By the way, thank you for the timely arrival, I was pretty surprised...he's never brought anyone with him before, and in a way it's kinda funny, after all my worries that he'd find some reason to be difficult about you being here, he shows up with someone that looks even younger!"
"Are you still worried about the age difference between us Alex?" Matt turned her toward him and looked into her eyes, concerned. Alex replied "No Matt, I'm not, but people do notice, and there will be talk, especially if it gets out back in England. When we first met, I thought we might not be a good fit on Who, but you play the Doctor so well...young and flirty, but also old and lonely, and River..., she'd always prefer her man young looking and smart...and hot, of course!" She smirked and added "Steven will be cackling with glee and taking all the credit when he finds out about us...if he doesn't know already!" Matt gave her a flirty look and laughed in agreement as she continued, saying "I stopped thinking about the age difference months ago, and only thought about how we seemed so much alike in some ways, despite the years between us. Plus, there are certain 'benefits' to having a younger lover that I rather enjoy." Alex added as she put her arms around his neck and pulled him closer.
Salome of course returned at that moment, clean paddock boots in hand, to ask "Mum, are you guys going to be doing all that mushy stuff all the time?"
"Of course not darling daughter, only when it embarrasses you the most!" Alex replied with a bow and a flourish, then broke into laughter. Matt and Sal looked at each other, rolled their eyes, turned and began to tickle Alex until she squealed, then they all collapsed into giggles at the kitchen table to catch their collective breath before Matt remembered the gift he'd set on the counter. But first he turned again to Sal and told her seriously "Sal, your Mum and I ARE close, and I'm gonna be here for a few weeks, getting to know her, and YOU, better before we tell the world. I want both of you to be comfortable with me around, and happy, so feel free to tell me if I do something wrong or something that bothers you, okay?"
The nine year old, going on 22, looked at him, then at her Mum before saying "As long as you're happy, I'm happy, okay? Dad goes on dates, why shouldn't you?"
"Well sweetie, Matt and I, we think it's more than just dating, we might even share a flat when I'm in England for Who, and some people might not like it over there, 'cause we are different ages." Alex looked at her daughter seriously, adding. "We don't want you to get hurt by what others say, just talk to us if you're not comfortable, okay?"
Salome smiled and said "Okay" then the 9 year old resurfaced and added "Are there any cookies? I'm starving!"
Matt scooted over to the girl, looking back at Alex with a bemused look saying "What is this 'cookie' thing she's talking of?" causing Sal to giggle and say, "We're in America, so they're cookies, not biscuits! Silly Matty!"
"Oi! And to think I brought you something really great that NO ONE else has yet!" replied Matt, making a face at her before sliding the flat case across the table. Sal's eyes lit up and she squealed "Is that a Who game Matty? Where did you get it? We thought we'd only find them back in England!"
Matt grinned and said "Well poppet, earlier this year Karen and I did voices for a new computer game where you can go on adventures with the Doctor and Amy. The first game comes out tomorrow back home, BUT this is one they made with the first and second stories that will be coming out here in the US at the end of the month, and I got a copy for you EARLY! If your Mum says it's okay I can help you load in on your computer and we can play sometime soon!"
While Matt and Sal were talking excitedly, Alex was pulling out the ingredients, mixer and pans to make the thumbprint cookies Sal loved. She made a bit more noise than necessary to get their attention, asking "Who wants to help me make the thumbprints?" and was greeted with enthusiasm from both of them. They proceeded to make a huge mess, while laughing and sliding in their socks around the kitchen, arguing what flavors to put in the 'jammy' centers, Matt and Alex going for fruit jams, apricot and raspberry, and Salome asking for Nutella. While the treats were baking they cleaned up, then had cookies and milk, OR biscuits and tea, depending on country of birth. Matt took Sal outside with her neon football/soccer ball, and with an admonition from Alex to stay away from the flowers while Alex took the opportunity to go upstairs and finish the laundry.
When she returned a little while later she found them flopped on the 'comfy' sofa watching cartoons after running around in a massive sugar rush from the sweet treats earlier. Sal looked up at her mother and asked "Are we still doing Friday movie night with pizza Mum?"
Alex nodded in affirmation and Matt perked up a bit, saying "Pizza and a movie? Cool! What movie?" Alex just laughed, then said "Sal picks them, so be prepared for anything, as long as it has horses!" Pausing she added "It's almost half seven, I'll call for the pizza while Salome picks a movie, and Matt, you can make the microwave popcorn later." Turning back to her daughter Alex added "After you pick the movie Sal, go on up and shower and put on your pajamas. By the time you're done the pizza will be here."
A short time later Alex's prediction proved accurate, as the pizza and Sal arrived in the living room simultaneously. Matt and Alex had brought in paper plates, napkins, juice for Salome, wine for Alex and a brew for Matt, plus a large bowl of freshly popped and buttered popcorn. "So darling, what movie did you pick?" Alex asked, and Sal presented her with "National Velvet" starring a very young Elizabeth Taylor as Velvet, alongside Mickey Rooney as Mi.
"Ooh Sal! I loved this movie as a child! I think every girl does at some point....great choice!" Alex smiled and turned to Matt saying "Ever seen it Matt?"
"Well, having an older sister, no doubt she subjected me to it at some point, but I don't remember....guess I'll find out, eh?" Matt smiled sheepishly, adding "It will be interesting to see Liz Taylor so young, eh?" to which Alex replied, "It was her breakout role, at age 12." They dug into the pizza while Alex cued up the DVD player and started the movie.
As the credits were rolling after the movie, Salome turned to her mum and asked "Why did they take the prize away when Velvet and Pi won the race? I mean, she was so brave and they won and it doesn't seem fair!"
Alex brushed a stray lock from Sal's face and replied "Well Sal, the movie was set in the 1920's, almost a hundred years ago now, and girls were not allowed to do dangerous things like horse racing. Even in 1944 when the movie came out, it was not allowed, but things are different now. There ARE girl jockeys, not many, but they are around and they do win. So times change for the better, but sometimes it takes a while. Did you like the movie?" she asked.
"Oh yes, very much Mum! It was great how she was brave like her mum that swam the Channel, and I was glad she told Mi about his father at the end. And the Pi was beautiful! It was funny when her sister asked her how it felt to love a horse! Velvet was a really good rider too, don't you think?" Alex spoke up, saying "The girl, the actress that played Velvet, Elizabeth, she was a good rider herself, so that helped. I read somewhere that after the movie the horse was given to her as a birthday gift! His real name was King Charles, and he was a grandson of Man O' War, a famous American racehorse, who was also a bright red chestnut." Alex murmured to herself "Gotta love a big red horse..." Sal was bubbling over with excitement and didn't hear her, instead she turned to ask Matt "Did you like it Matty?"
Matt smiled, glancing at Alex before answering, having heard her muttering "Yes I did Sal, you made a good choice! It was definitely a classic! I learned some things I didn't know about horses too, and the racing was exciting!" I've never ridden a horse before, a real one I mean. I'd like to try it someday."
Alex took the opportunity to add "Speaking of which, Sal, you have your lesson in the morning, and it's been a busy day, so shall we go to the kitchen for milk and cookies before bed?" Both Sal and Matt looked at her. "Need you ask, Alex?" replied Matt as Salome ran off to the kitchen, Alex yelling behind her "Only ONE cookie Sal! It's late!"
Matt reached out to pull Alex up from the sofa where all three had been curled up while watching the movie. He asked her "What was that you were muttering about a big red horse Alex?" to which she responded with a gesture to the small statue on the coffee table, saying "When I was just a little older than Sal, I fell in love with a big red horse I saw on TV. That's him, that's Secretariat" she said, pointing toward the table. She paused before adding "It was a long distance love affair, I never actually got to see him in person, but I followed his career, even kept a scrapbook. I was 10 when he won the Triple Crown, here in America. But he was famous all over the world in 1973...so many bad things were happening in the world, and he was a beautiful distraction." Matt squeezed her shoulder as they walked toward the kitchen to join Sal.
"Disney's making a movie about him, his owner, trainer and jockey." Alex added. "It's due out in October. I've been following it online."
"What, you mean like the Seabiscuit movie a few years back? That was pretty good." Matt replied. "Great acting." To himself Matt thought, this is another side of Alex I never really knew about. It warmed his heart that she was sharing something so special from her childhood. "We should go see it when it comes out Alex, take Sal." he said. Alex looked at him and replied "It's a date sweetie! Now, where are the cookies? I'm hungry!"
Alex's biscuit (aka cookie) recipe found via Google.
Doctor Who-The Adventure Games for the computer were released beginning June 5, 2010--Matt gifts Sal with a pre-release of the first two stories. ("To coincide with the airing of "The Big Bang" in the US on 24 July on BBC America and Space, the Windows versions of the first two episodes were made available to purchase outside the UK" -Wikipedia) Sadly, these games appear to be no longer available anywhere on the planet.
Movie review: National Velvet, 1944.
Movie review: Secretariat, 2010.
Based in part on the definitive book about the great horse by Bill Nack. God, can that man write.
Chapter 10: Lessons and Life
Wherein it's revealed just how compassionate Alex is and how much like her mother Salome is. Matt falls a little bit more in love, if that's possible!
Also, there's a mystery mare, in foal and due any week now. That foal will need a name, so suggestions are welcome!
I hope, dear readers, that you aren't too bored. They say you should write about what you know, so this is what you get!
Comments are nice to get! Also kudos.
Chapter 10~Lessons and Life
They had an early wake up call on Saturday morning, Sal needed to be at the barn a half hour early to groom and tack her horse before the lesson. Alex told Matt when they woke "You don't need to go, sleep in if you want Matt." to which he huffed good-naturedly, saying "Kingston, I WANT to go, see how Salome is doing with her gift lessons from me."
Alex smiled at him, happy that he wanted to join them. She had too few opportunities to take Sal to her lessons, she wanted them to share this experience. She was actually really excited herself and told him so, saying "I'm so excited to go and see her progress since the last time I got to take her earlier this year. You'll be surprised I hope!" They dressed in jeans and tees, and Alex told him to wear his boots if he had them.
"Actually, they're the Doctor's boots!" he replied as he fetched them from his duffel bag in the closet, carrying them downstairs with him. Alex got Sal moving, bringing her the clean jodhpurs and directing her to hurry and dress, before following Matt, who had already turned on the tea kettle, and was getting out milk, jam, and bowls for a quick breakfast of tea, toast and cereal with blueberries. They all ate quickly, pulled on their boots, Matt grabbed Sal's duffel, and they all piled into Alex's car for the drive to the stable.
Once they got away from the city, the trip was pleasant, watching endless buildings turn toward fields and trees and white fences. Turning down a long drive bordered by pastures dotted with a variety of horses, and a couple of shaggy gray burros alongside sleek ponies, they passed a large covered arena with open sides, pulling up to a long low barn. Cars were arriving, children pouring out, with parents carrying cups of coffee, bleary eyed, following along. The kids were primarily girls, with a couple of gangling boys elbowing each other, all between 8 and 12, or there abouts. Most headed for a large whiteboard to see which horse or pony they were assigned, squealing or moaning depending on what they found.
Salome wasted no time, apparently happy with her assignment. She darted into a side room festooned with riding equipment, saddles laid on racks in tiers. Sal collected a bridle and girth, and asked Matt to lift down a saddle and pad for her, stirrups attached but pushed up. Alex had picked up a grooming bucket, clearly having been there before. They dodged a few latecomers and retrieved Sal's horse from her stall, snapping wall mounted leads to her halter so she was held in place with room for Salome to work around her. Sal had Matt hang the saddle on a fold down bar, then began to groom her mare, waving Matt away saying "Supposed to do this myself Matty...but thanks for carrying the saddle for me." She added "This is Cinnamon, I ride her most weeks. She's really sweet."
Matt could see why she was named that way, she was indeed the color of cinnamon, sprinkled with white flecks. "She's not very big is she Sal?" Matt said, watching the girl brush the dust off the mare's back and sides, then down her legs. She picked up a different brush to clean her head.
Salome looked over at him and replied matter-of-factly "She's a large pony, a snowflake Appaloosa...those are spotted horses Matty." She finished her grooming and bent to pick up one hoof, the mare obligingly curling her foreleg up so Sal could clean it of muck, then Sal proceeded to clean the other three hooves with her hoof pick as well.
Alex had spent the entire time standing near Cinnamon's head, whispering in her ear and stroking her cheek. Matt was struck by the calm expression on Alex's face as she communed with the mare. She looked up to see Matt looking at her and called him over to stroke the horse's long nose, slipping him a piece of carrot she had been hiding in her pocket. "Here sweetie, lay your hand flat like this, palm up." which she demonstrated. Cinnamon carefully took the carrot from her hand and crunched it happily. Matt did as Alex had showed, the mare eagerly picking up the new treat with her lips, tickling his palm. "Cool." Matt managed to mutter, stroking her nose, which was very soft.
While the two adults petted her charge, Salome smoothed out the saddle pad on her back and placed the saddle on gently, from the horse's left side, then circled around, keeping her hand on the mare so as not to startle her, she buckled on the girth on the off side and returned to pull it up and fasten it tightly on the near side. She picked up each of the mare's front legs to make sure her skin was not pinched by the girth, then picked up the bridle and moved to her head. "Excuse me Mum, Matty. Need to bridle her." Matt was amazed by her cool demeanor, she seemed to know exactly what she was doing and was single-minded in her movements. He was dutifully impressed. All around them other kids were finishing up, and leading their horses out. Sal expertly put the reins over Cinnamon's head then un-clipped the halter and removed it, pulling the bridle up and over her ears and slipping the plain snaffle bit in her mouth gently, buckling all the straps. She stopped to check the girth, pulling it a notch tighter, as most horses knew the trick to expand their chest when the girth was fastened. Humans knew of this trick, and were not fooled. Most of the time.
Alex handed her daughter the hard schooling helmet that was required by the stable, and by Alex, snapping the buckle under her chin. She mounted easily and walked her horse into the ring and lined up down the center with the other students.
Matt and Alex followed Sal and Cinnamon out, then sat with a few other adults on a small bleacher to watch the lesson, which started with stretching for the riders, followed by a sedate walk forward to the rail where most of the horses turned left and followed in a line, with one or two who managed to turn the wrong way and had to circle to the end. They walked in a large circle around the covered arena, limbering up horses and riders and then the real lesson began.
After about 45 minutes, the instructor Sandy had them all return to walking the ring, to cool down their horses and relax a bit. Alex was proud of Salome's progress, she'd managed several smooth transitions on the gaits, posted at the trot correctly and had her heels down and feet firmly in the stirrups most of the time. Sandy had them do some trotting over fence rails laid out down the center of the ring, so they could feel their horses extend their trot to clear each one without tripping. A few of the kids got to take small cross-bar jumps of about a foot each, really only hops for the animals, but useful for teaching the proper position for the riders, standing slightly in their stirrups, flexing at the knees upon landing. Matt was impressed at the skill needed to properly ride a horse or pony. He was certainly no expert, but Salome appeared confident and relaxed as she rode, and spoke frequently to her mare who cocked her ears back to listen. There was a lot more to this horse riding than he had realized.
The kids walked for a few more minutes and the instructor released them to un-tack, wash the sweat off their charges and return them to their stalls. After a hay and water break some of the horses would be returning to the ring for the more advanced evening class.
Sal took her time over Cinnamon in the washing area, making sure the dried sweat was sluiced away and would not become itchy. While she was occupied with the mare, an older woman walked into the barn to converse with the instructor for a few minutes, then she spotted Alex and greeted her warmly saying "Alex! Glad to see you here! Back in LA for the summer are you?" Her familiar 'English' accent told Matt she was a fellow Brit.
"Jo! It's great to see you too!" Alex replied, giving the woman a hug before turning to Matt and introducing them saying "Matt, this is JoAnne, the owner of this facility, she's from Suffolk!"
Matt greeted her with an extended hand, introducing himself, but before he got much else out, Jo replied "Oh, I know who you are!" turning to Alex with a smile and saying "You brought the Doctor with you!" an amused glint in her eye that Matt caught.
"A fan of the show are you?" Matt said, laughing at her phrasing of a familiar line from the Tenth Doctor era. Trust a fellow Brit to keep up with the show even all the way in LA!
"Oh, I'm a fan from way back, Tom Baker is MY Doctor." Jo replied, adding "I've followed the show, difficult from here until the reboot in 2005. We get BBC America now, so it's easier at least!"
Alex turned to Matt, saying "You should have seen her when I brought Sal out to sign her up for lessons after Christmas! Can you imagine? All she could say was "You're River Song!" and I knew right then we were in the right place...a fellow Brit, a fan of the Doctor, AND horses! What could be better?"
Matt grinned at them both before asking "So, how do you like our series so far Jo?"
"It's brilliant Matt!" Jo replied. "At first I was sad that Tennant was leaving, then I met Alex and she told me all about you, how good you were as the Doctor, and the return of River Song. It was hard waiting until April for the "Eleventh Hour" at my house, let me tell you, and the Weeping Angels story, that was excellent!"
Matt replied "Yeah, Alex was great in that, she kept me and Kaz, um, Karen Gillan, she plays Amy...well, Alex kept us sane through that block, it being our first on Who and all. Couldn't have done half as well without her as River!" smiling warmly at Alex.
Alex put her arm around his waist and pulled him into a one-armed hug, blushing at the praise a bit and releasing him, taking his hand instead and squeezing it gently without letting it go. Jo noticed this little exchange, and smiled inwardly...more than just friends here, she surmised as Salome joined them in the barn aisle, having returned Cinnamon to her stall, filling her hay net before giving the tack, both saddle and bridle, a good cleaning. Jo turned to Sal, saying "How was your lesson today Salome? Sandy tells me you're doing really well!"
Smiling shyly, Sal replied "Well, it was fun! I love riding Cinnamon, cause she's so good. She listens to me and takes care of me when I make a mistake."
"That's why I know you'll make a fine horsewoman Salome, you give the horse credit!" Jo replied before continuing "Are you excited for camp starting a week from Monday?"
Sal lit up and replied "Oh yes! It's going to be so much fun, spending all day here, 5 days in a row for 3 weeks!" Turning to Matt she explained "We get to sleep in cabins during the week, take care of our own horses every day, and get to learn about them and ride in lessons and on the trail, and help with the therapy horses....I can't wait!"
Matt looked bemused and Jo explained "The camp will be overnight during the three weekly sessions, the horses are given the weekends off from riding, as is only fair, them getting ridden so much during the week. Each week there are about a dozen kids, so there will be a lot more teaching going on, and the children will also be learning how to take care of horses, and how the farm works. Our grooms are serving as counselors. The kids will also help with the horses used for the therapeutic riding center, acting as handlers for the horses that children with disabilities are paired with for their sessions." Jo paused before adding "We are currently planning to add adult therapeutic riding sessions for accident victims and wounded warriors, but need a couple more large horses to be able to accommodate bigger riders."
Matt was impressed. "That's pretty cool. I had no idea horses were used in therapy, for kids or adults" He made a mental note to Google it, find out more when they got back to Alex's. He had experience with physical therapy after his back injury. He looked down at Salome, saying "Sal, you really are into all this horse stuff aren't you?"
"Oh yes Matty, I love everything...even cleaning up!"
Alex snorted and turned to Jo "How did you manage that Jo, I could use some hints on how to get her to clean her room!"
"Mum!" whinged Sal, blushing. Matt nudged her, grinning, and said "My Mum still bugs me about cleaning and I don't even live at home any more! It's a Mum's job to keep on you Sal."
"Oh honey, you do fine, I'm just teasing, you know that!" Alex gave Salome a hug in apology. At that point Jo intervened asking them if they'd like to meet some of the therapy horses. They all walked across the covered arena to another barn where the therapeutic riding horses were stabled. Jo explained "These horses have to be very calm and sedate, so they're usually older. We have a couple new ones that are in training for the adult program and we're looking for more like them."
They walked down the aisle, stopping to pat a few faces of small ponies and large horses and everything in between. They came to the end of the center aisle, and Jo opened the door to the last stall, slipping inside to check on the horse, who was standing hip-shot at the back of the stall. "This is our newest mare, and she's got quite the story." Jo explained. "I have someone watching the livestock lots for larger horses, mostly half-drafts, that large men can ride safely. She turned up at one lot, not in the best of shape, but he liked her size and attitude, so he bought her and sent her back here. She had all the correct vaccines and tests, but we wanted our vet to check her out, and we were surprised to find out she was pregnant!"
Alex slipped in the stall as well, and went to the chestnut mare's head to scratch her chin, murmuring "Hello sweetie" as she gave her a good little scritch and offered her a piece of carrot. Jo continues saying "That's not the half of her story though....turns out she has a lip tattoo that had been altered...it was for a horse long dead. The vet was able to identify the original number so we could look her up."
Matt interrupted asking "Why do horses have tattoos?"
"Well," Jo answered, "All thoroughbreds, and some other breeds, have registry numbers, mainly because it would be possible to put a "ringer" horse in a race and try and cheat the bettors, so when foals are old enough, they tattoo the number under their upper lip and they're tracked with that number all their lives. This girl had an altered number, we don't know why. Like I said, the vet was able to ID the original number and we found out who she really is!" Jo's voice rose, clearly excited to share her news.
Jo left the stall, and walked to the feed bin, pulling a flake of hay off the half bale beside it and tossed it up into the mare's hay net hanging near the stall door. As she completed her task, Alex touched her arm and said "Don't leave us hanging Jo! Is she a registered thoroughbred?" "What's her name?" Salome asked. Matt laughed at their curious questions.
"Well," Jo began, "that's the cool part! Her registered name is "Royal Secret"...AND she's a grand-daughter of Secretariat!"
Matt looked at Alex, wide-eyed, Sal too. She was staring at Jo, dumbfounded, unable to speak, so Matt jumped in, saying "You're kidding?" He then turned to Alex, "That's the racehorse you were telling me about, from when you were a kid...what are the chances you'd meet his grand-daughter?"
Alex found her voice, asking Jo quietly "What's her history then, when is the foal due?"
Jo could tell Alex was emotional about the mare, and she could understand. To have a descendant of possibly the greatest thoroughbred ever, here in her barn, was pretty amazing to her too. "Alex, that's the strange thing...we know her pedigree, but there's no record of her racing, no sales record, no offspring that were recorded anywhere. It's like she never existed, except she has the tattoo. It's pretty obvious with it being altered that something illegal happened somewhere, but it's really a mystery! My buyer was able to find out where she came from before he bought her. The lot told him she came from a Premarin farm somewhere nearby, so that explains her being pregnant. She's fairly big for a mare, large ones are preferred for greater 'production', but for some reason they sent her to the sales lot, no reason given. The 'donor' stallion was probably some sort of draft breed, probably a Clydesdale. We'll know more once she gives birth."
"Oh, that's terrible!" Alex replied. "I HATE those places!"
Matt had to interject, "What exactly is that sort of farm Alex?"
Alex glanced at Sal, editing her anger by simply stating "Hormone replacement...they keep the mares pregnant, hooked up to collect urine for making hormone replacement drugs, standing in a stall for hours on end." Alex looked stricken, Sal just confused.
Jo stepped in to reassure her, saying "Alex, she's fine now. Putting on weight and the foal in there seems to be healthy...she's about 10 months in, so the foal could come at any time this month! It's very exciting, but with camp starting in a week, the staff is going to be super busy, so I'm not sure how we are going to keep and eye on her all the time, and she can't be ridden right now. I'll think of something though, because this mare has had a very strange life, she deserves to be treated better, and her foal deserves a chance!"
Matt looked as Sal, standing beside her mother, who was trying to keep her anger and emotions in check, so he tried to lighten the mood by stating "So the dad is Scottish, eh? Kaz is going to be insufferable!" That got a giggle out of Salome and Alex looked at him with gratitude and gave him a big smile. Sal piped up, saying "A foal! That's so exciting!"
Alex turned to Jo, asking "Keep me informed about the mare will you Jo? I want to help if I can." Putting her arms around both Sal and Matt, she said "Let's head home darlings, I'm starving!"
Making sure Salome's belongings were in the car, they headed out, Matt and Sal chattering on about the day, while Alex remained thoughtful. They arrived home in time to clean up and have afternoon tea and biscuits. Getting a little quiet time before making dinner, Alex found herself in her studio, sketching pictures of Sal on Cinnamon, and the mystery mare, a white star and a thin stripe on her pretty chestnut face. She tucked away her sketch pad and went downstairs to start dinner, finding Matt and Sal watching TV. She slipped into the kitchen and began preparing the meal, a lemon chicken piccata with rice pilaf and a tossed salad. While everything was cooking she made pudding for afters on the stove-top. Matt wandered in to offer to help, so she put him to work setting the table and pouring their drinks. He made fresh tea as well, then collected Salome from the living room and before long they were tucking into dinner with gusto. After cleaning up they settled in to watch the new Who episode on TV that night.
I swear I did not look up the name of "Royal Secret" on the pedigree site before I wrote this! I made her up, using a name that would be a possible choice for a descendant of Secretariat. Heck, there are 11 horses with the name on the registry! It just so happens that the 10th one, a mare born in 2000, was a grand-daughter of the legend AND she's a mystery mare with no races, or offspring, potentially 10 years old in 2010. Kismet!
Just to prove how much reality there can be in fiction...at the 2016 Rio Olympics the British eventer William Fox-Pitt rides a chestnut stallion called Chilli Morning, who's sire Phantomic was a thoroughbred, a great-grandson of...you guessed it! Secretariat! Did I mention ya gotta love a big red horse?
Chapter 11: Vincent and the Doctor, Good Things and Bad
A short chapter, in which they watch Vincent and the Doctor with Salome, and Matt tries to help Alex's mood.
Chapter 11~Vincent and the Doctor, Good Things and Bad
Saturday night is for watching Doctor Who, even if it's you on the TV screen. Matt had not actually seen the entire episode himself, so he was prepared to grouse and complain about his performance. He knew Tony Curran had done a masterful job portraying the tragic Vincent Van Gogh, and Bill Nighy was a hoot to play off. He'd been impressed by Kaz's sad Amy performance, forgetting poor Rory. He didn't know what the final edit would look like and he'd be watching with Alex and Sal...the subject matter of Vincent's suicide that is implied in the future was concerning, but he was sure Alex would answer any of Sal's questions. The girl had already told him how sad she was that Rory had died in the Silurian episode the week before. They curled up on the 'comfy' sofa to watch as the familiar music began to play.
Once it was over, Sal had questions, of course. Alex was quite familiar with the Van Gogh backstory, and gave her a brief explanation of his mental illness, but mostly they talked about why Amy didn't remember Rory. It was difficult because "Spoilers" was about all he could say without giving away upcoming shows, so he didn't really answer her, letting Alex lead. Alex herself said it was an incredible episode, maybe the best yet that year, and talked about how the Krafyis was a metaphor for Vincent's mental state, invisible to all but him. And of course she talked about all the famous works of art and how well the set folks had recreated the cafe, and Vincent's bedroom, and the fields of corn, and especially the beautiful part where they lay in the grass, looking up as Vincent described the night sky, which morphed into the Starry Night painting. Sal liked when they took Vincent to his future and showed him the museum and all the people there for HIS paintings. Matt's speech to Amy about the piles of good things and bad things was surprisingly emotional for him, and he was surprised because it was him saying it, but hearing it said was different somehow. It was a brilliant speech, and it occurred to him that maybe it might mean more now.
After a while Alex sent Salome up to bed, telling her she'd be up shortly. Rising to collect their cups and the empty popcorn bowl and take them to the kitchen, Alex was still quiet and thoughtful. Matt followed her and stopped her in the doorway saying "You know Alex, that thing that the Doctor said to Amy, that speech at the end...." (and he recited it, from memory)
"The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and… bad things. The good things don’t always soften the bad things, but vice versa, the bad things don’t necessarily spoil the good things or make them unimportant. And we definitely added to his pile of good things."
"That speech might be something to remember today." he continued. "That horse, she has had a different life than most horses, a difficult life it seems, but she's still gentle. Now she has a chance to have good things in her life, don't you think?"
Alex studied his face for a moment, appreciating his attempt to cheer her up. "Yes, dear, I suppose that's true..." she replied. "But, how many months did she stand in a stall, no chance to graze, or roll in the grass. How many babies did she have taken from her, only to be inseminated again only a few weeks later? It's horrible what humans do to animals sometimes...it's just so sad." She paused, then turned to make herself busy putting the teacups in the dishwasher and tidying needlessly to cover her mood. Matt pulled her into a comforting hug for a long moment, then they climbed the stairs to find Salome in bed reading. They went in to give her a hug, reminding her to not read too long, and slipped out, Alex following Matt to her bedroom.
As they were getting ready for bed, Alex thought about what Matt has said downstairs, and how hard he was trying just to comfort her, although she was sure he didn't understand completely WHY she was so emotional about a horse. She wasn't really sure herself. What she did know was that she wanted to do SOMETHING to help Jo with the mare. She'd think of something. The coming week was going to be a busy one, both she and Matt had WORK to get to, her's thankfully would only take a couple of days. Her guest appearance was a brief one, only a few scenes on set and no location work, thank goodness. Sal could come with her if necessary. Matt, on the other hand, had lots of location shots outside and a few on set, with new people to get used to. His first day would be for costume fitting and table-read sessions. He had already received the rough draft of the script, which was still in flux. It was called 'The Doctors of Disorder.' She had a feeling he would be brilliant in his double role on Big Bang Theory. She slipped out to check on Salome...her light was off, so she's done reading and probably asleep.
Alex wanted to thank Matt for his understanding, and she knew just how to do it. She returned to her room just as Matt came out of the bathroom. She stopped him, encircling his waist with her arms, then rose up on tip-toes and pulled him in for a far from chaste kiss. After a moment Matt pulled away, murmuring "Sal asleep?" to which Alex replied "Probably, but don't worry, no 9 year old wants to know what her mother is up to with her boyfriend in her bedroom...." She smirked and danced away to the bath to clean her teeth, tossing her dressing gown on the chair beside the bed and winking at him as she did. She was totally naked. Matt grinned broadly, or leered really, saying "Kingston, you naughty girl......"
The air dates for the Series 5 episodes are the original BBC air dates, not the dates on BBC America. Sorry, it was just too complicated to adjust! This story is also becoming more AU as it develops, in case no one noticed.
Chapter 12: Sunday morning confessions
Insights are shared, a call is made and more fun at the beach in sunny LA, with Sal this time!
Special Note: I hope there are still people reading out there. I know my story is not your typical Mattex fare, that said, I'm enjoying writing the movie playing in my head. Suggestions are always welcome, comments even more so. The sound of crickets, not so much.
Chapter 12~Sunday morning confessions
Waking early as the sun rose, Matt slowly became aware of his surroundings...Alex was curled into his side, still sleeping. He'd only been here a few days, and already so much was different, in a good way. He was learning more about Salome, and he was happy that she seemed to love having him around. Even more importantly, he was realizing that Alex was more than just a flirty, sexy co-star...she had layers of personality previously unknown to him, rarely shown in their early days together, when it was all stress and work, late shoots and, well....sex. She was creative, sensitive, empathetic, caring about the world and life, and she wore her heart on her sleeve, at least around people she trusted. He felt privileged that he was allowed to see inside her heart. He worried that Alex would be disappointed he had nothing in response, that he had no depth, no qualities inside to match hers. He felt just like he did on that beach in Wales, inadequate. Yes, he could match her flirt for flirt, he could turn on the charm, the sex appeal. He could be funny, goofy even, gangling about (not nearly as clumsy as his rep), and making people laugh. But what else was he? Deep down? His love of the written word was one thing, his ability to BE anyone, to ACT out any emotion, to COMMAND a room with his so called charisma...but was that really all there was to him? Who was he, really? Was he worthy of Alex's love? Staring at the ceiling, he thought to himself, 'Well Smith, time to step up your game. Time to open your heart.' Sighing heavily, he closed his eyes and relaxed into the pillows, hoping not to wake Alex. Instead he heard her sleepily ask "What's wrong darling? That was a mighty big sigh...are you still tired?"
"It's nothing 'lex, really. At least I'm not sure...a lot has happened in just a few days." Matt turned to her, kissing her lightly on the forehead. "A few very emotional days, being apart and then reuniting here with you, our lovemaking, the poetry, seeing your home, your studio, your garden, and Salome...what an amazing girl, with an even more amazing Mum! I feel like you've opened yourself up...but have I?" She looked at him quizzically. Not the time to give mixed signals, Smith, he thought, saying "I mean, I've learned so much about you I didn't know, and I've loved every minute I've been here, but I can't help feeling I'm not up to the task. What if I'm just not enough, what's in me, deep inside...what if you open me up and don't find anything of any value inside, nothing but dull, boring Matt?" His face was revealing his insecurity, worry lines creased his forehead. Alex reached up to brush back his fringe.
"Oh sweetie....there is SO much in you to love, so much more than you think..." Alex gave him a very warm, caring look. "It's why you've never met a stranger. You're kind and friendly, everyone likes you......well, maybe not the hard-core Ten/Rose shippers." she said laughing, his eyes lighting up at the joke. "But really, you have nothing to feel inadequate about, from me, or anyone. it's only been 4 days, and we're in MY home. Of course you're seeing parts of me you've never encountered in Cardiff." She reached out and brushed the fringe from his eyes. "I already know more about you, like you're always willing to try new things, nothing we do is ever too dull, and neither are YOU! Plus, you're smart and very well read, curious about everything. I even like some of the same music you do! Oh, and I didn't know you played chess! That's new!" Alex got a glint in her eye, then added "I wonder if 'strip chess' is a thing?" which got Matt laughing out loud. "See? You even laugh at my jokes! What woman doesn't love that in a man?" His floppy sable brown hair had fallen in his eyes again, and he was looking at her from underneath his fringe with such a look of love it took her breath away. Somehow she managed to find it again, breaking the intensity of their confessions, and said to him "It's early, Sal's probably still asleep, let's see if we can manage a shower before she wakes up, and then it will be time for Sunday pancakes!"
Alex wriggled away from him, gave him a flirty wink and sashayed toward the bath with glint in her eye and a sway to her hips that he found irresistible, so he scrambled after her, and she managed to prove to him just how 'adequate' he was, and more.
Later Sunday morning Matt and Alex managed to find their way downstairs and had made tea when Salome appeared in her pyjamas, still drowsy and rubbing the sleep from her eyes. Alex swept her into a hug, asking "Want some pancakes sweetie? We were just about to start cooking!" Sal lit up at the word 'pancakes' and they all pitched in to make it fun, using blueberries to make silly faces on them as they cooked. Alex also made a fry-up of sausage with scrambled eggs, and poured the orange juice before they all set into their breakfast, adding maple syrup or jam to their stacks.
After cleaning up, Alex sent Sal up to shower while Matt pulled out his laptop, setting up on the kitchen table to Skype with his sister. Alex made a quick time translation in her head, being experienced at that, and told him it was early evening in London. Luckily, Laura had her own laptop on and picked up the call right away.
"Well, little brother, 'bout time you called!" Lor responded once the signal stabilized. "You're up early for a Sunday morn! Lucky you caught us." She could hear kitchen noises in the background but before she could ask about Alex, Matt blurted out "US? Lor, who's there with you?" There was a loud screech and Kaz popped onto the screen shouting "ME you numpty! We're about to go out!" All Matt could do was groan, Kaz and Lor, together? He was instantly TIRED just thinking about it! Alex smirked from across the room and walked over to join in the conversation, at which point Karen exclaimed even louder "ALEX!" How's it going with the baby giraffe there?"
"Good, he's good...well as much as he can be when he's not gangling about, nothing broken...yet, knock on wood!" Alex smirked, laughing, to which Matt responded "Oi! Kingston! Sitting right here! Whose call is this anyway?" Matt whinged and continued "What's going on Laura?"
"Oh Matty, nothing's going on! I figured you wouldn't mind if Karen stayed here while she's in London...in fact, she's taking me to see Arthur in his play...he sent us tickets...then we're going out after!" Laura explained. Alex was cackling in the background, then commented "Should we call in an alert to the London Police darling? I can only imagine the headlines...'Doctor Who Companion and Sister Paint London red!'....It will be epic!"
Laughing, Matt added "Lor, you're playing with ginger fire there, brace yourself! Kaz is a Force Of Nature when she's out on the town!" Privately he was wondering why Karen was still there, and going to the play...again. Perhaps she has been missing her TV 'husband' a bit? He'd have to quiz his big sis later, but for now he just added "We'll let you two go then..." only to have Laura interrupt saying "Not so fast Matty, I have a mo...how's your visit going in sunny LA?"
"Couldn't be better Lor!", and he pulled Alex over to his side. "We've been to the beach, planted flowers, and took Salome to her horse riding lesson yesterday. Have to work this week, but then we'll have more time to explore LA later. I could get used to the place, the weather...it hasn't rained ONCE since I got here!"
Laura looked to Alex, asking "Has Matty been good for you Alex? He's known to have trouble staying upright!" to which Alex replied with a smirk "Yes Lor, he's been very GOOD, upright or horizontal!" Laura, and Karen, who'd been listening in from the sidelines, both hooted, while Matt blushed and said "KINGSTON! TMI!" He was saved by Salome coming into the room, fresh from her shower. She joined the conversation for a few minutes before they let the girls go off on their evening of fun, telling Karen to say hello to Arthur from the three of them.
Before Matt shut down his laptop, he checked his email. A few needed quick attention, confirmation of a meeting he had about a movie project being the most important one. While he was online he checked the World Cup schedule, his eyes lighting up, but after clicking through a couple of sites found everything was sold out. Disappointed, he made a mental note to ask Alex about setting the DVR Saturday night. He also received an updated script for BBT, and Alex quickly showed him how to connect to her printer upstairs so he could start preparing for his week.
While he was occupied, Alex and Salome slipped out of the kitchen, returning whispering and giggling, pulling out food and supplies, collecting towels, and the blanket, filling a picnic basket, and collecting buckets, shovels and beach toys. By the time Matt finished with his email and shut down the computer, they had gone quiet, waiting for him to notice. Standing up, with the thought of collecting his printed script, he turned around to find them both standing there, big grins on their faces, with Alex saying "Aren't you going to change?"
"What?" Matt was confused, then he realized both Sal and Alex were dressed for the beach. He broke out in a big grin saying "Beach?" Salome jumped up and down and shouted "Yes!"
"Well then, what are we waiting for?" Matt responded. "You, silly!" Sal and Alex said in unison. So Matt went up to change while the 'ladies' packed the car boot and off they went to the same state beach that Alex had taken him before, somewhat more peopled this trip as it was a sunny Sunday afternoon.
By the time they arrived and staked out a spot, it was mid-afternoon, so they pulled out the food, including sandwiches, fresh fruit, juice, boiled eggs and the last of the thumbprint 'biscuit cookies' as Sal dubbed them, in the spirit of compromise. Once sated, and slathered with sunscreen, Sal and Matt began a sand castle, complete with turrets and a moat, while Alex took a few cell phone pictures, unbeknownst to them. Sadly, after a while the tide turned and the castle was collapsed by the waves. Alex was drawn from her book to wade in the water while Matt and Sal swam for a little while. They all relaxed on the blanket for the rest of the afternoon as the sun made it's descent into the Pacific Ocean. At that point they left for home, picking up take-out on the way back.
Alex sent Salome up to shower after dinner. She was tired from a very busy two days, informing her Mum that she was going to bed, and was asleep in minutes. Not long after that Matt and Alex were also washing off the sea and sand, then took the time to go over their scripts for the week. An alarm was set for the first time since Matt had arrived, as he had a costume call first thing in the morning at the studio. They curled up together and drifted off to sleep.
Chapter 13: Working for a living
Matt's first day on the set of 'Big Bang Theory'. This chapter is setting up the week to come.
Author's Note: Anyone still reading? Please comment if you are enjoying my first Mattex so far!
Chapter 13~Working for a living
The alarm rudely awakened Matt and Alex the next day, Monday morning. Alex sent him off to shower and dress while she went down to make breakfast. By the time she made tea, toast with jam and bacon with eggs over easy, Matt appeared dressed in black jeans, a dark band tee, boots and the tweed jacket he famously wore to his audition for Doctor Who. In other words, normal Matt. Alex looked at him and smirked. "What?" he asked. Alex just laughed and said "Can't go without the tweed, eh?" to which he could only say "I AM playing 'myself' after all."
"Sometimes I think you really ARE the Doctor, playing at being the human 'Matt Smith', you know." Alex smiled and pushed him toward the kitchen table, adding "Eat something! Oh, and the studio called to say they're sending a car to pick you up. It should be here in about half an hour."
Matt was already shoveling food in his mouth, pausing to say "Cool" before sipping at his tea and adding "Come and join me, eat please. You didn't have to do this you know."
"I know darling," Alex replied, "but I want to. Besides, you've done the same for me before, remember last week?" Alex brought her tea over, stealing a slice of toast before sitting down. She added "I'll eat with Sal when she wakes up anyway."
What are the two of you going to do today, eh? I mean since you're not due on set 'til later this week?" Matt rose, collecting his empty plate and taking it to the sink to rinse. Finishing his tea, he added his dirty dishes to the dishwasher, turning to Alex and listening as she replied "Well dear, I need to go for groceries, and I need to go over my lines for Thursday.....not much else planned at this point."
Matt pulled her into a hug, then cradled her face and kissed her thoroughly. "I'm pretty sure the Doctor would be flailing about now if our roles were reversed." he murmured.
Alex laughed warmly, and proceeded to kiss him back when they heard the doorbell, so she gave him a quick peck instead. He collected his satchel, pocketed his phone, and went to the door to greet the studio driver. "I'll call you once I'm done love, have a great day!"
Alex went upstairs to shower before Salome woke. After they had breakfast, she thought she'd take her daughter to the saddle shop for some new riding jodhpurs...Sal HAD grown since they purchased her kit at Christmas, and they'd make a stop for groceries as well. They had a lot of catching up to do, and she really needed some quality time with her daughter!
Meanwhile Matt had arrived at the studio, met by the producer himself, Steven Molaro, who laughed at his choice of attire, saying "Welcome Doctor!" Matt listened while the man explained what they needed from him, and sent him off to Costumes to get fitted.
Once they were done with him, he was taken to the set for a walk-through just to familiarize him with the various areas they'd be using, then the producer brought him along to the read-through where he was introduced to the cast of the popular sit-com Big Bang Theory, about a group of theoretical physicists, their friends and neighbors. Most of them had heard of Doctor Who, but none had seen any of Series 5...the life of a actor in California didn't leave much time for TV watching, ironically.
As a way of introducing Matt to the cast, the production assistant had prepared to screen the "Eleventh Hour" for them, and talked about the differences in the way the BBC handled filming vs the way they worked in Hollywood. Now that everyone had been given a crash course in who the Eleventh Doctor was, it made more sense that Matt playing himself, meeting "The Doctor" would be comedy gold.
There was a scene involving Matt doing a 'signing' at the comic book store set (where he discovered they had a full size mock-up of HIS TARDIS!), and further scenes at a staged ComicCon style panel event and cosplay contest. The script called for the character 'Penny' to try to make 'Leonard' jealous by coming on to Matt....or maybe he was the Doctor, lost from his own universe and in search of the TARDIS?
The read-through went well, Matt made a suggestion or two that would correct some Doctor Who canon errors and volunteered an idea about having some of the BBT cast dressing as previous Doctors for the Q&A panel scene. They brainstormed some outlandish questions their characters might 'ask' Matt, and came up with a way for Matt and Eleven to both flail about in the same way when 'Penny' kept running into BOTH of him, trying to kiss him so 'Leonard' would see, not knowing there were two of him.
'SNOG' was a word that quickly became part of the dialogue as well, Kaley Cuoco (who played 'Penny') thought it particularly hilarious and kept repeating the word and laughing. Matt had to admit the cast were all very funny, and he was more excited than ever to get to work that week.
They tried to get him to join them after work for some 'bonding', and he thought about it since it wasn't late, but he explained he was staying with a friend and had to get back. At this point, the producer mentioned Alex by name, and Matt groaned to himself, knowing that where he was staying wasn't something Alex wanted as common knowledge, so he tried to cover it by telling them about her prior guest appearances on Doctor Who, and her returning for Series 5 with him.
He promised he'd join them another day, since she was also filming later that week herself. As he was following the driver out he pulled out his cell phone to call Alex. Unbeknownst to Matt, the Whovian producer of BBT got a glint in his eye, because of course HE knew about 'River Song' AND he knew where Alex was filming.....hmmmm. An idea was forming, one that he knew that Steven Moffat (the OTHER Steven) would appreciate! As he was leaving he pulled out his phone to make a call.
Meanwhile Alex and Salome were returning home after a day of shopping. Sal was taller and not only did she need new jodhpurs, but a few other things as well. Alex debated before buying herself a pair of riding jodhpurs, justifying it by saying to herself that they were a fashion statement and she'd be able to wear them plenty of times. They had time to stop for a late lunch before grocery shopping. It was a happy pair that returned home after spending quality 'mum' time together. Matt's call came just as they were unloading the car, letting her know he was on the way home. "See you soon dear, hope you're hungry!"
No sooner did she hang up with Matt, she received a second call. Listening, she grinned widely, then said "I think it could be done, email me the details and I'll let you know...no, I won't say anything...okay. Talk to you soon!"
Alex and Sal finished unloading the groceries and put them away, then Sal went upstairs to change into one of her new outfits. Alex made tea and looked through the mail, then decided to make some more scones for breakfast tomorrow. Sal wandered back down to the kitchen and helped her, then went into the living room to watch TV. While the scones baked, Alex started dinner. She was surprised when the doorbell rang, going to answer and finding Matt at the door, grinning sheepishly. "Did I forget to give you a key Matt? I'm so sorry! How was your day?"
"Oh, you know how it is Alex, new sets, new people, different ways of doing things....but it was fun, and everyone was nice, very professional. We worked out some details that are going to be fun to film, starting tomorrow." Matt ran his hand through his hair then dropped into a kitchen chair, asking "Where's Sal?"
"She was in the living room, watching TV...Sal?" Alex walked into the room, and saw Salome curled up on the sofa, asleep. Matt joined her, saying "Tired her out shopping, eh Alex?"
Alex smiled fondly, responding "I guess so...let her sleep, we'll wake her for dinner."
Matt turned toward Alex, pulling her into a hug. "Do you need any help Alex?" he asked.
"No, not really, garlic bread is warming in the oven, we're just having salad and spaghetti bolognese." Alex replied, walking back through to the kitchen and starting the water to boil the noodles, then finishing up the tossed salad as Matt plopped down at the table again, making himself a cup of tea, trying to sneak a scone but getting a light smack on the arm from Alex, tempered with a smile. "Wait Matt! Those are for breakfast tomorrow!"
He gave her a cheeky grin, stole one anyway and slipped out, saying "I'm going to get my script, want to run lines with me later?"
"Sure darling, after Salome goes to bed. Will you wake her please? Dinner will be on in 15 minutes...." Alex said distractedly as she heated up the tomato sauce on the stove. Matt realized how preoccupied she was so he pulled out plates and silverware and set the table before going to rouse Sal from her nap on the sofa. The girl followed him back into the kitchen, still sleepy, but perked up when she smelled the spaghetti. It wasn't long before they all sat down to eat, Salome told Matt all about the shopping trip and Alex smiled indulgently at their silly banter, happy that her favorite people were here with her.
Later that evening, Matt and Sal loaded her new Doctor Who game on Alex's laptop upstairs and played for a while, Alex sat on the futon sipping some wine and reading. Once the game was played out to a satisfactory universe-saving conclusion, Alex sent Salome off to get ready for bed. After she got Sal tucked in with her book and instructions to go lights out in thirty minutes, she and Matt went downstairs, Alex re-filling her wine glass and Matt grabbing a brew. They settled in front of the TV, but found little of interest, so Matt pulled out his script and they sat cross-legged facing each other as he ran his lines for the scenes scheduled for tomorrow. It was nothing really complicated as he was only playing 'Matt' initially. The dual scenes opposite 'The Doctor' would be done with his double later, as would the group scenes. Alex read for the other actors, and he had his lines down cold quickly, although he knew that there would be changes as the blocking was worked out.
As they finished up, Matt settled, his head in Alex's lap, as she finger-combed his hair, then began to rub circles on his back lightly with the other hand. He hummed with pleasure as she stroked up and down his back, which Alex felt in her fingertips as a light vibration. Purring like a contented cat, Matt stretched, arching his back and Alex scooted down into his arms for a languid snog. Eventually they found their way upstairs to her bedroom to continue their tender lovemaking, finally falling asleep listening to each other's beating hearts.
I'm assuming that the BBC has a procedure for their actors that starts the paperwork that would allow them to work in the US, so that Matt was already approved by the time he was offered the job on Big Bang Theory. Let's just figure also that it's taken care of by his agent from that point and leave it at that. I don't know why I obsess over details like this. OCD?
Chapter 14: A Week of Living...Normally?
So sorry, I mistakenly published the wrong chapter? This is the REAL Chapter 14!
Chapter 14~A Week of Living...Normally?
For the next two days, they lived a somewhat 'normal' life...as normal as an actor's life gets at any rate. Since Alex was still on free time, she rose to make breakfast for the three of them, Matt left for the studio and filming, and Salome spent some real quality time with her Mum, catching up on what was happening in their lives since Easter in early April.
Filming for American TV was different that their work in Cardiff for the BBC, but not so much that Matt had any trouble, other than a couple of broken props, one of which was done on purpose as he played his notoriously 'clumsy' self on screen. He got on well with everyone there, two regular cast members being absent as their characters were scripted to be out of town visiting family. The primary scenes for Matt were done except for the Q&A panel scene and the cosplay contest, which had lots of extras in a lot of different costumes, almost like the real thing. His last day would be Friday when his alter ego, 'The Doctor' would make his appearance and he would be shooting with his double, who would be replaced by him as they stitched the film together so he could come face to face with HIMSELF, sort of.
Going home (he liked the sound of that!) to Alex and Sal in the evenings was a pleasure. They took no time settling into domestic bliss, spending time in the back yard, Alex puttering about in the garden while Matt played footie or swam with Salome, or all of them watching TV after dinner, relaxing before sending Sal off to bed and having some quiet alone time to cement their feelings for one another.
Thursday Alex was due on set for her recurring guest appearance on the crime drama, her scenes being knocked out in one day, except for a full cast scene scheduled for Friday morning. Salome would go with her both days, content to read or draw in her mum's dressing room. Matt had arranged to go for a drink Thursday with Kaley Cuoco and Johnny Galecki, who played 'Penny' and 'Leonard' on the show, and Simon Helberg, who played 'Howard' after they finished filming. Alex and Salome met them at the restaurant near the studio for dinner a little later. While getting to know each other at dinner, Alex discovered that Kaley kept her horse at the same riding facility where Salome rode, but in the private barn across the pasture from the arena. Matt didn't know it, but Alex had been conversing via email with the Big Bang Theory producer about a 'surprise' that was planned for the last day of filming on the 'The Doctors of Disorder' episode on Friday. She couldn't wait!
Friday started as the other days that work week had, with Matt being picked up by the studio driver for his last day of filming, and Alex and Salome leaving for her morning on set not far away. Wrapping up before lunch they headed over to the BBT studio, on the way Alex filled Sal in on the 'surprise' for Matt. They managed a quick bite to eat on the way over, arriving on the back lot where they were spirited away to Costumes. Sal even got to put on a Harry Potter Gryffindor school uniform and blend in with the extras for the Costume Contest scene. Alex had brought her new riding jodhpurs and they found her something suitably 'River' to wear as well, and a prop space gun. She then waited out of sight as the contest parade began. Jim Parsons as 'Sheldon' was dressed as the 4th Doctor with 'Amy' played by Mayim Bialik, in a long white flowing dress as Sarah Jane Smith. 'Leonard' was dressed as the (much shorter!) 11th Doctor in tweed and a bow tie. He supposedly convinced 'Penny' to dress as Amy Pond in her Kiss 'O Gram outfit, with a ginger wig. 'Howard' and his girlfriend 'Bernadette' played by Melissa Rauch, appeared as the 10th Doctor and Rose Tyler from the series 2 episode "The Idiot's Lantern" in motorcycle helmets and with 'Rose' wearing the pink skirt and denim jacket.
Matt, as himself, was supposed to judge the contest, at which point the REAL 11th Doctor was to appear and challenge him, only to have 'River' (ALEX!) arrive in the TARDIS to fetch him, smiling and saying "Hello Sweetie!" at which point Matt was supposed to award THEM the first prize. Matt was so surprised to see HIS own personal 'River' there, and not the be-wigged extra he was expecting, he flailed rather convincingly as the 11th Doctor, while his double playing 'Matt' ran out the back in confusion. The whole scene devolved into a riot as the TARDIS disappeared with a little TV magic and 'Matt' was found handcuffed and rather disheveled inside the model TARDIS back at the comic book store by the BBT regulars. Why was he there? The mind races!
Once they were done filming the last scene, everyone surrounded them and clapped in appreciation. Matt was surprised again by Salome, who, dressed in her Griffindor outfit, came up to give him a hug. He swept both Alex and Sal into a warm embrace and thanked everyone else on set for making him feel so welcome that week, saying how much fun he had. Alex had another surprise for everyone when she invited the cast of BBT to come to her home for a screening of the televised Doctor Who season finale entitled (coincidentally!) "The Big Bang" in a few weeks on June 26th. Alex told everyone they would receive official invites via email, and hoped they could all attend. Matt was a little surprised at her initiative, but appreciated it all the same. Being on good terms with folks in the industry in LA was a good idea, and Alex was a pro.
After the excitement died down, they all retreated to change back to their everyday clothes, then Matt, followed by Alex and Sal, went to thank the producer Steven before heading home for a well deserved rest, pizza and Friday movie night.
The movie Salome chose was Disney's 'Miracle of the White Stallions', about the WW II rescue of the Lipizzaner 'dancing' horses of the Spanish Riding School of Vienna. The three of them settled in to watch, Sal was entranced by the horses and their complex skills, and Alex was relieved the breed was rescued (in real life) from the hungry Russian army.
Matt was more tired than he realized, working all week with new people, and he fell asleep half-way in, much to Alex and Sal's amusement. After Alex saw her daughter off to bed (since she did have another riding lesson in the morning), she returned to Matt's side, waking him with a kiss. "Hello sleeping beauty, time for bed" Alex whispered.
"Wha'? Um, 'lo 'Lex...." an inarticulate Matt woke enough for Alex to guide him upstairs, into the bathroom, and then to bed, where he returned to sleep at once. She curled into his side, slipping into a dream state where horses danced and a lanky giraffe calf turned into a floppy haired wobbly red bay foal with deep set hazel eyes.
Obviously, there was no episode of Big Bang Theory called "The Doctors of Disorder." I made it up to fit my story. Wouldn't it be fun if it really did happen though?
Friday Movie Night: Miracle of the White Stallions https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miracle_of_the_White_Stallions
More about the Lipizzaner horses: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/legendary-white-stallions-video-the-world-famous-lipizzaner-stallions/8286/
Chapter 15: Big Plans
Last update I mistakenly put up a future chapter, so dear readers, you should read Chapter 14 again, now that it's the correct one!
Hopefully no one was too confused!
Chapter 15~Big Plans
Saturday morning they all awoke to an overcast day, the first since Matt had arrived from London. Matt and Salome were well rested and energetic, already fully dressed, while Alex was still shedding the last dregs of her dream state. She sat with her cup of tea, willing herself awake while Matt and Sal prepared a quick breakfast of cereal with blueberries, scones and orange juice. By the time they finished and cleaned up, Alex had dressed, deciding to wear her new jodhpurs, and was now wide awake, smiling fondly at her two favorite people as they collected Sal's riding gear and headed out for the stable.
They arrived early to find both Sandy and JoAnne leading horses into their stalls from their overnight pasture, and pitched in to feed and water everyone before the other students arrived. Two grooms were already nearly done mucking out stalls, and drove off on the tractor to spread manure on an unused, over-grazed pasture behind the barn. Alex stood for a moment, drinking in the scene and the scents of horses, grain and leather mingled together. Jo offered Matt and Alex coffee from the tiny kitchenette tucked in between the wash rack and the human loo, and they all stood around waiting for the other kids to arrive while Salome collected Cinnamon's tack and a grooming kit.
Jo asked after their work week and Sal told her all about their Friday adventure taking part in the filming of the 'big scene' on BBT, and her getting to meet the cast of the show. "I know Kaley" Jo told them, "she boards her horse in our private barn."
Alex spoke up, asking "So, Jo, how is the mystery mare doing?" Matt was helping Salome carry her tack over to the cross-ties and turned to listen. "She's doing well Alex, eating a lot, of course...I've moved her over to the private barn since we have an empty stall. The staff there can keep an eye on her for now, but I'm not sure what we are going to do with her once the foal arrives. We're working with her now, but that will be harder once the little one gets underfoot. Plus, we will have to fill that stall with a paying customer before too long. "
Alex listened and appeared to be thinking deeply, at least to Matt's mind as he watched. Sal was busy getting her mare cleaned up and tacked, so he walked over to Alex's side as she spoke to Jo, saying "Is there anything I can do to help?"
"Why don't we talk about it after class Alex?" Jo replied, as more students began to arrive and the barn was becoming busy with the sounds of clopping horses and chattering kids. "We're doing something a bit different in class today. Sandy is going to take some of the kids to the far end of the arena to work on their seats, and I'm going to give our future campers a preview of what they are going to be doing next week!" She donned her own safety helmet before following the riders out of the barn toward the covered arena.
"Right, okay..." Alex responded. "We're sticking around to watch again, of course." Matt led her over to the small bleachers, asking "What are you thinking about Alex?" She turned to him, still distracted, saying "I'm not sure, but I want to do something." She looked up at him, his eyes searching her's and she realized he was concerned about her.
"No worries darling, we can talk to Jo later, let's watch what she's up to now!" Matt decided to let it go for the time being. "Okay Kingston!" Matt replied, with a flirty wink back at her. She laughed and squeezed his hand as they sat down.
As the kids all mounted and moved into the arena, Jo called over Salome and three other riders, sending the rest down to join Sandy, who soon had them walking in a circle in the far end, cutting between jumps across the middle. They did their warm ups and she sent them off at a trot, watching each of them carefully, making suggestions as they circled. Alex explained they were working to correct their 'seat' on the horse, to have better communication and to relax but be actively working with the horse.
Meanwhile Jo collected her charges in a circle, explaining what they were going to be doing, then asked Salome to dismount so she could give a brief demonstration with Cinnamon. Sal walked over to the gate to watch and the other riders moved their horses to the center.
Jo buckled her helmet, mounted smoothly and walked Cinnamon to the rail, turning and urging the mare to walk on. She sat perfectly erect, with her elbows bent so a straight line could be seen from her elbow to her hands, down the reins to the bit in the horse's mouth. Cinnamon was alert, listening to her rider as they circled to the gate, turning to cross the ring away from where Alex and Matt were sitting. Jo shifted her weight, moved her hands slightly and the mare began a slow trot, moving forward and sideways for several steps, while Jo sat deeply in the saddle. She then shifted and reversed her mount's sideways movement, still moving forward, front legs crossing, then crossing back as she zig-zagged across the arena before circling and returning the same way to the gate, where she dismounted and gave Sal a boost back into the saddle.
The four riders were given instructions and sent through their paces one at a time, practicing what Jo had shown them, some with more success than others. She went to each rider, adjusting their positions, hands, and legs, and even Matt could see that they were improving. Gathering the four students, she talked to them about what they were learning, a movement called a half pass, a basic dressage movement that any horse can be taught. At camp they would be learning more, and would have a 'test' ride at the end. She then sent them to join the rest of the class, now practicing transitions from trot to canter and back to a trot, concentrating on posting correctly.
The class was nearing the end, and Jo walked over to the gate, slipping out to join Alex and Matt on the bleachers. All the riders were walking their horses to cool down. She had noticed Alex's jodhpurs, and that she had been watching intently while she had worked with Salome and the other three riders. She recognized the faraway look in her friend's eyes, and asked "Alex, would you like to take a turn around the ring on Cinnamon?"
"What? Really?" Alex exclaimed. Matt couldn't help but notice the light in her eyes at the suggestion. "But I haven't really ridden in a while, at least not really, just..........oops! Spoilers!" Alex stuttered. She almost said something she shouldn't about the Pandorica episode!
Matt snorted out a laugh, waggling his pale eyebrows at her. This was a spoiler he knew! He winked at her in a cheeky manner, "Go for it Kingston!" Matt exclaimed, encouraging her. Jo added, "Just around the ring a couple of times...see what you remember!"
"Well, okay. Maybe just a bit..." Alex said as Salome rode up to the gate. Jo met her there and said "Sal, your Mum is going to take Cinnamon for a spin, come watch with us!" Salome was wide-eyed at the idea, dismounting and holding the reins out to Jo, who handed Alex the safety helmet she was still wearing and gave her a leg up, helping her to adjust the stirrups. Sal stepped out and joined Matt to watch, as by now the other riders were heading to the barn to care for their mounts.
Once Alex was settled on Cinnamon's back, she sent the mare walking. Her back was straight, and she pushed her heels down, the balls of her feet set in the stirrups. Making a concerted effort to relax, she continued to walk for a couple of minutes before urging the mare into a trot, squeezing with her heels. Catching the rhythm of the trot she began rising to post, circling around to the gate, where Matt and Sal could see her face lit with joy. As she reached the corner, she slid her outside foot back behind the girth. squeezing her heels, and her horse dropped into a perfect canter on the inside lead. They rocked around the ring for half a lap, dropping back to a slow trot, and then a walk, circling one last time before coming to a stop at the gate, Alex sighing happily.
"Mum! That was fantastic! You had the biggest grin on your face!" Salome exclaimed, holding Cinnamon's head while Alex dismounted. The two hugged and Alex draped her arm around Sal's shoulder, walking with her toward the barn while the mare followed along behind. Matt shared a look with Jo, knowing that the experience for Alex was obviously a good one. They followed along toward the barn, most of the other riders already finished with their mounts while Alex was enjoying her spin around the ring on Cinnamon, now climbing into cars to leave.
Mum and daughter set to making Cinnamon comfortable, stripping off her tack and feeding her bits of carrot before Sal took her to the wash rack for a bath. Alex took the saddle and bridle to the tack room, and recruited Matt to help her clean the tack with saddle soap. Jo fetched a flake of hay for Cinnamon, tossing it into her hay net before joining Matt and Alex.
As Jo came in, Alex turned to her and broke into a big grin. "Thank you Jo! It felt so good to be back in the saddle again, for real this time!" Matt had to laugh at her exuberance, saying "You really did have the most amazing look on your face out there Kingston!"
"Oh my gosh, it was so much fun!" I'd forgotten how much I loved a good canter!" She turned to Jo adding "I really have to do that again sometime soon."
"Anytime Alex!...there are classes, trail rides, leasing...any number of ways to ride here...I could see you know what you're doing, even if it's been a while." Jo went on to add, "You said you wanted to help with our mystery mare 'Royal Secret'"....Alex nodded in interest. "I've been wanting to do a fundraiser for our therapeutic riding program, so more people can participate that normally couldn't, and so we could expand. Would you be willing to help promote it? I'm thinking of asking Kaley Cuoco too."
Alex's eyes went wide, and she exclaimed "What a brilliant idea! Of course, I'd love to help! As it turns out, I'm not busy this month, so it would be no problem at all. What did you have in mind?"
Matt, realizing how excited Alex was, spoke up "Can I help too? I take direction very well!" to which Alex gave him a grateful look before smirking at him and responding "Yes you do sweetie!" giving his hand a squeeze in reassurance.
"Well," Jo responded, "I'm thinking about having a horse show at the end of camp, with all the kids and the patients in the therapeutic program that want to participate, and some 'celebrity' appearances as well. We'll also tell the mystery mare story, so if you could help with photo ops and maybe a radio spot.....well, anything you can do to bring out paying customers and kick start our adult program as well....that would be a huge help!"
Salome appeared at this point, after taking Cinnamon to her stall, wondering what all the excitement was about. "What's going on Mum?" she asked. "Oh, Jo has some ideas for promoting the therapy program and asked us to help out!" Jo added "You'll hear all about it during camp Sal, and I know you'll like it!" to which the girl responded with a big grin, bouncing up and down and giving her Mum a hug.
Alex turned to Jo and asked "Let me know all the details when you get them pinned down, I know a couple of people to ask after, and I'll check with Steven Moffat to see if we can get the BBC to okay us both to participate." pulling Matt over for a one-armed hug around his waist. "Yeah," Matt added, "the Doctor has been known to ride a bit!" Well, the last incarnation at least.
"Will do Alex, I'll keep in touch!" Jo replied with a big grin. Turning to Sal she added, "See you Monday Salome!" and strode out of the tack room to catch Sandy and start planning.
Alex and Matt helped Sal collect her belongings and they climbed in the car to head home, deciding to stop and get burgers for lunch first. Once they got home and showered, they had some down time to relax, which Alex used to make some phone calls and send out email invites.
One person she contacted with an idea was her BBT producer friend Steven, who had a surprise for her and Matt, which he was sending via messenger at that moment. She knew Matt would be ecstatic but they'd have to hustle. She went downstairs, finding Salome watching a recorded nature show. Asking her to pause the DVR she checked to make sure Doctor Who would be recorded later that evening, then she turned to Sal excitedly and said "Save your show, I've got some good news! Then she sought out Matt, towing her daughter along while being quizzed about what sort of news it was.
She found him at the kitchen table again, where he'd gotten out his laptop and took it upon himself to Google info on equine therapy programs, having already sent a couple of links to Alex that he thought were interesting. He learned a lot, and couldn't help but think how eye-opening it was that there were so many dedicated people out there spending time and energy to help others in such a meaningful way. Having been on the receiving end as a physical therapy patient after his football injury, he really could relate. Therapy was more than just physical rehabilitation, it was mental too, as he learned when he had to come to terms with the end of his dream to play professionally and find a new goal for his life, which led him to this very moment in time.
He looked up when Alex came into the room, Sal following behind, chattering. Noticing that she had a massive grin plastered on her face, he started to ask what was up, but before either of them could utter a word, the doorbell rang.
Kaley Cuoco really is a rider!
In October of 2010, (the same year as this story takes place) she had an accident while riding that put her in a cast during filming of Big Bang Theory, thus they made her a bartender in the Cheesecake Factory where her character 'Penny' worked, to hide the cast on her foot! She fully recovered and still rides in horse shows!
Chapter 16: Saturday Night Footie!
Sorry it took so long to update, now you get to know what the surprise is for Matt! I might even add another chapter to make up for the lack of updates recently. While I was busy, there have been a few NEW (at least to me) Mattex stories posted (and I got a fluffy gift I didn't know I needed!) and some inspiration for other stories. Watch for those later, and enjoy!
(Please leave comments, I live for them!)
Chapter 16~Saturday Night Footie!
"Who's that?" Matt exclaimed as Sal asked again "What's going on Mum?" Alex just grinned even wider and strode toward the front door, opening it to find a studio messenger standing on the front porch, packet in hand. Alex quickly signed his pad and, closing the door, turned to them and began ripping open the envelope, albeit carefully.
"What is it Alex?" Matt asked curiously as Alex began to explain.
"You know my cameo on Big Bang was done gratis right? As a favor to the producer..." Alex said.
"Yeah, just one short scene....so?" was Matt's response.
"Well, Steven, the one here in LA that is, sent these over. The studio bigwigs have a box at the arena were the LA Galaxy play. He sent me three tickets to tonight's World Cup game between..."
Matt interrupted her, his eyes lit up, saying "The game between the US and England?! Tonight?" He swept her into a massive hug, spinning around and barely keeping his feet under him before planting a smacking kiss on her cheek while simultaneously turning to Salome and grinning in excitement. "We're going to a World Cup match!"
Sal was laughing at him, gone all baby giraffe in his excitement, then she suddenly stopped, saying "But what about Doctor Who?" Alex turned to her, reminding her they had the DVR set to record it, that they could watch it on Sunday, no problem, which seemed to appease her. Matt knew the episode was 'The Lodger', his favorite one to shoot all season (besides the blocks with River, of course) because it was the one where he got to play footie as the Doctor! Funny how things lined up sometimes.
Matt assured Salome that they would watch Doctor Who Sunday morning, and he would cook breakfast too, just because. Alex and Sal looked at each other, laughing at his excitement. Alex opened the letter that was wrapped around the tickets, reading it and then exclaiming "Oh my god! They're sending a LIMO! In an HOUR! We have to get changed!"
Turning to Matt, she explained luxury box attire was smart casual. Slacks and jacket, no trainers or t-shirts please! She and Sal would wear summer dresses. The all rushed upstairs to get changed. Alex sent Salome to pick out a couple of dresses and she'd come to approve the final choice.
Once they reached her room, Matt took the opportunity to give her a much more thorough kiss before they both changed. Alex was happy to see Matt had another jacket besides his tweed, a conservative navy blue, with a white polo shirt and khaki slacks. She let his garish socks pass, rolling her eyes. He donned the Doctor's boots, which thankfully he had cleaned when they returned from the stable earlier that day. Strappy flat sandals and a floral sleeveless dress completed Alex's attire before she touched up her minimal make-up and went to Sal's room to give her approve on the dress.
Once back downstairs, she set the kettle boiling to make tea as they all needed to calm down a bit. While waiting she reminded Matt they'd have to go through Security at the stadium, and she pared her giant purse down to bare minimum while Matt emptied his pockets of everything but wallet and phone. After making their tea, turning off the kettle and pouring a juice for Sal, they sat down to wait, munching on biscuits, Matt still buzzing with excitement.
Only a few minutes later the doorbell rang again, and they were off, Matt helping both Alex and Sal into the limo for the drive to the stadium across the city and past LAX airport. They never would have made it in time on their own, the driver seemed to know all the 'back ways', but it still took nearly an hour to arrive. The limo took them to a special gated entrance for box owners, so they found themselves whisked inside, through security and to the studio's luxury box in no time, where Steven greeted them, making introductions all around. Alex seemed to know a few, stopping to chat, so Matt and Sal looked around excitedly, taking in the game atmosphere, and gaping at the spread of food and drinks laid out for the bigwigs and their guests. Alex was used to celebrity status in LA, but it was something Matt had not had much experience with in the States.
Steven watched the interplay between Alex, her daughter, and Matt, and couldn't help noticing there was a much more familiar closeness with both mum and child than that of 'just' a colleague. He, like everyone else, noticed the chemistry between the co-stars, the constant flirting, little touches, and the real affection shown to young Salome by Matt. He'd never mention it, but it had triggered an idea he would broach with the bigwigs that had to do with a series reboot that was in the early planning stages, still at least a couple of years down the road. That was something for later...now it was time to enjoy the game.
Matt watched the match intently, Sal was distracted by the goodies on the buffet, and Alex watched Matt, which was more entertaining than the game. It's not like she didn't grow up in football crazy England, she knew enough to follow the action, and the three of them cheered when England scored early, only four minutes into the match. Steven came to sit with them, chatting with Alex while enjoying watching the madman from the blue box totally wrapped up in every play, clearly enjoying every second of the match. "Is he always like this Alex?" he asked, "Always so immersed in the moment?" At that very moment Matt was attempting to put 'body English' on the defensive player for England, grousing that he needed to run faster, leaning so far over that he nearly fell out of his chair. All Alex could do was laugh, saying "Oh, yes! Always! It's how he plays the Doctor too, like he really IS a madman in a box!" More quietly she added, "He still misses playing footie I think. Did you know he hoped to play professionally until he got hurt when he was 15? Acting was his second choice."
Steven continued to watch, answering her question. "Yeah, I've read the stories. But soccer's loss is the BBC's AND Hollywood's gain, I'd say! " Alex agreed, her gain too, she thought.
"Steven, thank you for inviting us tonight. This means a lot to him." Alex squeezed his arm. "I hope you are recording 'Doctor Who' tonight! There's more footie involved!"
"Oh, I might have had an ulterior motive, putting you both in here with the studio honchos, planting a few seeds!" She gave him a quizzical look, but let it go. "Don't worry though, I'll be watching Who first thing tomorrow, the family wouldn't let me get away with missing it! It's really a wonderful show, the whole cast is clearly in sync, I know what THAT looks like. Steven Moffat chose a great Doctor and Companions, or whatever they are calling you now. Come on Alex...got any hints for the rest of the season? The kids were torn up when Rory got erased!"
Alex just smirked at him, saying "Spoilers!" which of course Matt caught during a stoppage of play, turning around, his eyes still on the field, to say "She won't tell you anything Steven, believe me I've TRIED...she knows more than anyone but the Moff himself!"
At that moment there was a roar from the partisan crowd as the US midfielder Dempsy snuck one past the flailing English goalkeeper with minutes left in the first half. Matt groaned in frustration, muttering under his breath. The match was tied. A few minutes later the half ended and everyone moved toward the buffet, making small talk as they sipped their drinks.
Matt observed Alex working the room, doling out hugs, smiles, and laughter, but keeping him and Sal close. He heard her talking to Steven and another studio rep about the horse show promotion Jo was planning, trying to get some support by talking up the good work they were doing. She was such a pro when it came to playing the Hollywood game, he could learn a few things from her, he thought. When she introduced him to the rep, he made sure to praise Steven and the Big Bang cast for making him feel at home during his guest appearance, and turned up the charm factor, putting his 'actor' face on until someone asked him about the match, and he devolved into himself again, thanking those around them for the invitation. Before too long the second half commenced and most everyone returned to their seats. Salome went to sit with Matt as he boosted her up and pointed out several players she should watch.
Alex continued to chat with Steven, walking back toward their seats. He spoke quietly to her, saying "Alex, hang on to this one." She turned toward him, a shocked look on her face. He laughed, adding "Oh, don't deny it, it's clear to ME how you feel, AND how HE feels about you and Sal." Alex blushed as he continued "He's going places, I can tell. Reminds me of Tom Hanks when he was young, funny, but a serious actor too. Hollywood will love him once the BBC concedes to let him go."
"Oh Steven, I hope you're right. Having him here permanently, nothing would make me happier! It's just hard to predict the future, and right now it's Doctor Who and bouncing between home and here." She looked over her shoulder at Matt and Sal, cheering as the teams returned to the pitch, and smiled. "You are correct about one thing, he's going places, and I want to be there for him."
He squeezed her arm gently and said "I think you will be both be fine Alex. Enjoy the rest of the match. There are some projects I have down the road that you'll be hearing from me about soon! Both of you!" He winked at her and returned to the buffet for a drink before joining the other studio reps for a confab.
Alex joined her daughter at Matt's side, he couldn't help but notice her slight blush, wondering what Steven had said to her, he'd get her to share later. The three of them cheered together for the English team, which managed to hang on in the second half for the draw, 1-1 against the US. Matt thanked their hosts again, carrying a sleepy Salome back to the limo for the ride home. Home to him was where ever Alex was, he was certain of that. What a day this had been.
The FIFA World Cup game described really happened on June 12th, 2010, however it was actually played in South Africa, not in Los Angeles. So...poetic licence, I moved it! The actual timing was such that in GB the game started on TV directly after Doctor Who's episode "The Lodger". Coincidence? Who knows?
England vs USA, 8:30pm Sat. June 12, 2010 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2010_FIFA_World_Cup_Group_C
I should mention too, I have no idea what Steven, the Big Bang Theory producer in 2010, does outside the show, but here he's clearly in idea development and has a project in mind for Alex and Matt. More to come!
Chapter 17: More Footie, Doctor Style
Sunday is a busy day, the Doctor plays some footie, Sal is nervous about sleep-away camp, confiding with her Mum while packing, and Matt gets an education he didn't know he needed!
Chapter 17~More Footie, Doctor Style
Arriving home late Saturday evening after the World Cup match, and bundling a very tired Salome off to bed, Matt and Alex sat down for a soothing cup of tea while Matt basked in the afterglow of happiness from seeing his favorite sport played by some of the best in the world. Before retiring themselves, they sat together on the sofa, going over the events of the day while sipping the warm beverages, comfortable just being together. Alex rose to return the empty teacups to the kitchen, rinsing and leaving them in the sink until morning. She couldn't help thinking what a perfect day it was all around as she walked toward the stairs, finding Matt waiting to escort her.
Once behind the closed door, he turned to give her a proper snog, languid and arousing despite her fatigue. When they finally broke, Alex took Matt's navy blazer from him, hanging it up in her closet. They both continued to get undressed and prepare for bed. Hardly a word was spoken as they did, their glances and warm smiles were sufficient to encourage them further. Once cuddled under the duvet covers, the slow, gentle lovemaking continued, after which they spooned together, Matt snuggled up, his face nestled in Alex's curls as they slept.
Sunday morning found them rested and hungry, but first, feeling energized....for a morning shower romp! Alex felt better than she had in months, happy to have Matt there, in her home, with her and Salome. It was a dream she thought she'd never have again, this feeling of 'family life' with a man she loved, and her beloved daughter.
As she dressed while Matt finished shaving, she mulled over her conversation with Steven the night before. She wanted to talk to Matt about the coming months, as she wasn't sure what would happen with them going forward. One certainly couldn't predict the future, and they weren't really time travelers anyway, but she felt that she and Matt would need to sit down and have a serious talk about their future. Maybe while Sal was at camp they'd get some time. When she mentioned it to Matt while he was getting dressed, he agreed, but seemed nervous to her, so she reassured him. "No worries darling, we just need to talk about where we are going forward, what with you having to return to Cardiff in July. I don't want any surprises for either of us, just honest communication. I failed miserably at that in my two marriages, and I don't want to make those mistakes again!"
Matt, much relieved, responded, taking her hands in in his. "Oh Alex, you can't take all the blame...communication is a two way street, but I know what you're saying. I can be an open book for you love. I'm not going anywhere, mentally or emotionally, even if we have to be half way round the world from each other. We'll make it work, somehow, I promise. I love Salome, I love you. I love US." He was taking a big step, admitting out loud how he really felt about her.
Surprised, Alex's eyes filled with tears...happy ones. "Oh darling, I love you too, more than I ever imagined I would, despite all the obstacles and objections. None of that matters to me any more." She stretched up on tiptoe to kiss him softly while he cradled her face with his hands, fingers buried in her curls. They stood there heads together, gathering their composure, and became aware of a soft knocking on the bedroom door.
Alex wiped her eyes and took a deep breath. To give her time to gather herself, Matt went to the door, peeking out first to see Salome standing there, arms folded, giving him a stern look. Matt couldn't help smiling to himself as he slipped out of the door and crouched down to her level to tell her "Your Mum is gonna be ready in a mo, Sal. You want to help me with breakfast?"
"Matty, I've been waiting and waiting to watch Doctor Who! How can you guys sleep so long? The nine year old gave him a look that reminded him so much of Alex he couldn't help laughing as he tapped her on the nose affectionately before replying "Says the poppet that fell asleep in the limo on the way home last night!" He scooped the nine year old up, both of them giggling, and toted her down the stairs, putting her down only when they arrived in the kitchen.
"So, what shall we make for breakfast poppet?" Matt asked, eyes lit with humor.
"Cereal Matty, that's the fastest breakfast!" insisted Salome.
"But I said I'd cook!" replied Matt, putting on his sad puppy face, pouting at her. Coming into the room Alex interupted, smirking at the scene.
"Alright you two, I'll decide!" putting on her best bossy face, a glint in her eye. "Matt, you COOK some toast, Sal you get out the cereal. I will make tea and pour juice....WE will then eat quietly and clean up before anyone watches Doctor Who!"
"Guess we better do what your Mum says, eh poppet?" Matt responded, winking at Alex.
"Okay!" Salome said in triumph, and that was that. Cereal with fruit toppings, toast and jam, orange juice and tea....breakfast was finished and cleaned up while Alex calmly watched, sipping from her cup and nibbling on another slice of toast. It was mid-morning before she deemed the kitchen presentable, the dishwasher loaded to be run later. Time for Who, finally!
They settled in on the 'comfy' sofa to watch "The Lodger", Matt recalling how fun a shoot it was, especially with funnyman James Corden to play off. The best part was getting to have a blast playing footie again, scripted though it was. Alex and Sal laughed at his antics while the Doctor went around giving 'air kisses' and trying to act more human, and getting it all wrong. Alex got a kick out of Matt's scene falling out of the shower (nearly a 'wardrobe malfunction'!) and parading around in a towel, giving him a poke and teasing him about his pale English complexion, raising her eyebrow suggestively, then winking at him behind Sal's back. The scary but silly romantic ending put them all in a good mood, even if the mysterious crack in the wall was still there. When Amy found her ring in the Doctor's pocket back on the Tardis, Sal worried about her being sad and not remembering Rory. Alex just gave her a quick hug and reminded her that River would be showing up soon, and not to fret!
"Steven Moffat has a few surprises up his sleeve yet this series." Alex told her while Matt glared at her playfully, complaining again about how she knew too much, saying "It's not fair you know more than me Alex!" to which Salome piped up "Spoilers!" just like her mother would say it, which got her a round of tickling from Matt before he got up and coaxed the girl outside to play a little footie in the back yard. Alex yelled after him "Show off!" then decided to join them outside a little later, lounging by the pool with a book while he taught Sal a trick or two with the ball.
After a while Alex reminded Salome she needed to finish packing for horse camp. Her horse gear was already washed and packed, all she needed to do was pack her clothes and toiletries, plus her current book to read before bed and her stuffed giraffe. Alex left Matt in the kitchen on his laptop checking email again while she went up to help Sal, who was stalling at bit.
"What's wrong honey?" Alex asked, sitting on her daughter's bed as they began to sort clothes.
"I don't know Mum, I guess I'm just a little nervous....sleeping away from home in a cabin and all." Salome was biting her lip in a familiar habit.
"Well, that's not unusual Sal, I bet everyone will be nervous, but by the time you have to face that, you'll probably be tired from your daytime activities and fall asleep in no time. Plus, you know the other campers, and Jo and Sandy. Think of it as a giant sleepover, with horses!"
That set them both to giggling as they finished packing, imaging horses in pyjamas as they did, leaving the suitcase by the door for morning.
Heading back downstairs to find Matt, glasses perched on his nose, still engrossed in whatever he was reading on his computer screen. Alex couldn't help thinking about how sexy he looked, smiling to herself. "What's got you so fascinated there darling?" she asked, causing him to start, having not heard them come in the room. Sal giggled again, saying "Matty, you look silly!"
"Oi! Not silly! Studious!" he replied, looking affronted. "I'm reading up on horse therapy, it's really interesting! Did you know that horses walk just like humans? That's why riding helps people who are recovering from injury to learn to walk again, it sort of reminds their muscles what to do back on the ground."
Alex smiled, patting him on the shoulder. "I'm glad you find it interesting sweetie, but it's time for lunch. How do sandwiches sound?"
"Fine, fine...." he said as he closed down his open window and powered down the laptop. "Do you have any plans for this afternoon Kingston?" as he helped her pull out stuff for lunch.
"No plans darling, other than a lazy Sunday afternoon here at home." She handed him the bread, and started cutting up a tomato to go with the sliced turkey and cheese. "Sal, get out the fruit salad, would you?"
"Mum, I was watching my show yesterday about fossils and stuff...we haven't been to the La Brea Tar Pits in a long time, could we go there today?" Salome looked at Matt to see if she had an ally in her quest. "Matty it's so awesome, all the fossils they find there!"
"That's fine by me Poppet, fossils are cool!" he added, winking at her. "What kind of fossils are there Sal? Dinosaurs?" Alex just laughed, waiting for Sal to correct his mistaken belief about what was at La Brea, the famous landmark down in the heart of the city, near Beverly Hills.
"Matty! NOT dinosaurs! It's all mammoths and saber-tooth cats and camels, even horses!" Sal retorted, scandalized that he was so ill-informed. Alex burst out laughing at his surprised response to her daughter's outburst. "Salome! Be nice!" she admonished her daughter, even as she couldn't help laughing at Matt, patting him on the arm.
"Careful darling, she'll be sure to give you a lecture! I do think we HAVE to go now, just to educate you!" Sal squealed and hugged her mum, then Matt, saying "You'll love it Matty!"
Looking from mum to child, he realized he was caught out, smiled widely and shrugged his shoulders, replying "Well then, I guess you two 'experts' are going to have to correct my disastrous lack of fossil knowledge....AFTER we eat lunch, okay? Then you can educate me, eh Poppet?" He really wasn't put out by Sal's correcting him, she clearly was a smart kid and he wanted to encourage her interests, even if he had to laugh at himself while he did it.
After they finished lunch, they all went up to change clothes for their outing, putting on comfortable shoes and sunscreen since it was a sunny June day. Alex took the opportunity to make sure Matt was okay with everything and he laughed self-deprecatingly at himself, as usual, reassuring her. "You have a very smart kid there Kingston, far be it for me to stand in the way of her pursuit of knowledge!"
Driving into the city was thankfully uneventful, Matt took time to look around as they drove. LA was so sprawling, it was a little overwhelming sometimes, so different from where he grew up in England, or even from London. Alex was comfortable here, even though England was still 'home'. If she could do it, live half her time here, so could he. He certainly couldn't complain about the weather!
Beverly Hills was so posh, it seemed strange when they arrived at the La Brea Tar Pits museum. It seemed plonked down inside the city when in reality the city had grown up around the unusual geological feature. What looked like just a pond was actually hiding a bubbling tar pit of natural asphalt which had been trapping animals for 10,000 years.
Alex parked the car in the museum's lot and they went into the main building and bought their tickets. They were just in time for the 2 pm stage show "Ice Age Encounters" and Salome dragged them inside and to some seats, bouncing excitetly in her chair and chattering away to Matt about her favorite parts of the complex that she wanted to show him. As the show was about to start, Alex shushed her and they settled in to watch the short program which seemed an entertaining lecture until, without warning what appeared to be a REAL and very large sabretooth cat strode onto the stage, startling everyone! Matt found himself trying to determine if the cat was animatronic or if there was a human puppeteer inside her, thinking about how hard it would be to act inside such a realistic suit. Turns out it was both, according to the program, the head, the tufted ears, and the gaping mouth with it's impressive fangs was controlled from off stage, also including the vocalizations, but there was a human inside, like a fierce Muppet!
From there, they went on to explore the museum, watched some fossil excavations in various pits on the grounds, and walked around the central feature of the complex, a pond with a large mammoth model caught in the tar. Sal was a proper little tour guide, impressing Matt with how much she knew. On the way back to the car they stopped in the little gift shop (HA!) and Alex allowed Sal to pick a book on fossil horses, which she carried into the restaurant they stopped at, off the beaten path, and one Alex knew to be protective of celebrity patrons' privacy.
Once home, they settled in to watch the telly for a while, then Sal headed off to shower and get ready for bed. She gave Matt a hug first, then her mum. "Sleep well poppet" Matt told her. "Love you." Alex smiled to herself, her heart warmed hearing him. "Night, night sweetie. Big day tomorrow!"
Not much time later they called it a night as well, turning off the telly and tidying the living room before going upstairs together, and to bed. It had been quite a day, or quite a week, really.
Chapter 18: Sal goes to horse camp
Salome is off to horse camp, week 1 and things are about to get chaotic!
Might be late with the next chapter, I'm a bit busy with the hols coming up. Hope everyone has their own holiday fun!
PLEASE comment, just so I know people are still out there reading this! I might have a drabble or so for Christmas if I see lots of comments!
Chapter 18~Sal goes to horse camp
Monday June 14th, 2010 dawns, promising to be another sunny day in SoCal. Showered and dressed, the three of them, Salome, Alex and Matt go all out with a 'Full English' breakfast to send Sal off right to a week of horse camp, the first of three five-day sessions, with weekends off for the horses. Alex's Prius is loaded with Sal's gear, suitcase and one floppy giraffe of the stuffed variety. Excitement has overcome nerves for Salome, but Alex is getting her own set of nerves. Thank goodness Matt is there to keep her grounded. Any mother would be nervous about leaving her child somewhere for 5 days, 4 nights, regardless of the conditions, but she knew she was being ridiculous, it's not like she's across the country, or the planet for that matter!
As Alex drove through the rolling hills toward the stable complex, Sal chattered on to Matt about her friends that would sharing the cabin with her, along with Amy, the groom/counselor, a college girl working her summer job while studying to be a physical therapist. The boys whould have their own cabin with the other groom/counselor, also a college student named Dave. All the kids were between 9 and 12, and all were regular riders. This was an opportunity for them all to get more intensive instruction and horse experience, and also to learn some life lessons about other people, kids and adults, with challenges beyond their own experience. Alex knew it was an important life lesson that would serve her daughter well, and the bonus was it was in a horsey environment, where the horses themselves would serve as a bridge to interaction with the patients and their caregivers.
The cabins were originally used by ranch guests when the facility was utilized mostly by tourists and movie folks. Sandy, the lead instructor, lived in one. They were along the same driveway as Jo's main house. Her farm manager also lived nearby with his son.
The small gravel parking lot was filling up with cars, and kids and parents were milling around as Jo stood on the steps of one of the cabins. The counselors were with her, big smiles on their faces, greeting the kids they knew and introducing themselves to the parents. Jo got everyone's attention long enought to tell them to take their gear inside, girls in the green cabin, boys in the blue, then inviting all the parents into her home for coffee while the kids got settled. The last to arrive were two boys, a bit older, walking down the drive. Jo greeted them, then sent them to their cabin. Both boys were goggle-eyed when they recognized Matt and Alex. 'Ah, fans', Matt thought to himself, watching them whispering as they climbed the steps to their cabin.
"Looks like we've been outed, Alex." Matt said to her, waving toward the boys.
"Yes, I noticed. One of those boys is Jo's son Tom, so no surprise there!"
They followed everyone into the ranch house, with an open plan lounge area where the adults were gathering to chat while sipping coffee. Jo came over to join Alex and Matt as her son and his friend followed them in. Jo turned to the boys, winking at Alex and then saying to her son "Forget something?"
"Um, well, no.....um, we just....thought we could help?" Tom stammered, blushing. His friend hid behind him, trying to disappear.
At that point Jo broke out laughing and smacked him gently on the arm. "I know you want me to introduce you....you don't have to be so obvious!"
Alex and Matt grinned broadly at the boys and stepped forward to introduce themselves to the rather speechless pair, then a couple of the parents seemed to at least recognize Alex and nervously approached. As usual, she was gracious and polite, asking after their own kids and played proud Mum to Salome as the rest of the students filed in.
Jo spoke to the group, giving everyone an overview of what the kids would be doing all week. After speaking for a few minutes, and answering a few questions from the parents, everyone trickled out to settle their kids in and drive off.
Alex and Matt had returned to chat with Jo after saying goodbye to Salome when her son Tom and his friend Ryan came over to join the conversation. While chatting them up, they discovered that Ryan was the farm manager's son, and the boys were both 13. Ryan had been injured in a dirtbike accident, and went through the equine therapy program for the last year and a half, finally getting the all clear to return to most "normal" activities, including school in the fall. As a result of his injury, a broken pelvis, he was still a bit gimpy, and his doctor thought continuing to ride would help his further recovery, but was still barred from contact sports. Matt's heart went out to him, having been there himself, and told him so. He and Alex had to divert all their questions as to what the last two episodes of Doctor Who would be about, having seen the trailers. Alex's trademark "Spoilers!" seemed to work so they started quizzing Matt about the soccer (footie!) playing in the last episode...they got into a lively discussion about the LA Galaxy team without Beckham so Alex and Jo took their coffees to the sofa and relaxed.
"Alex, when would you like to get together to cut our publicity promo? We've got it all scripted and just need to schedule it for one afternoon this week since we're going to include some clips of the kids and the patients."
Alex replied "Any day is fine with me...do you have the material ready so I can go over it first?"
"Yes! Let me get it for you. The boys need to get to work, so we'll have to run them off from annoying Matt over there" she added, laughing. "You can call or email with questions tonight, and we'll try and set it up for Wednesday. Come early and I'll take you to visit with our mystery mare too!"
They walked over to the boys and while Jo went to retreive the script, Alex smiled at an animated Matt giving them the rundown on his own favorite team back home. Jo reminded the two of their barn duties, and they whinged before agreeing they needed to go....Ryan seemed pretty star-struck and asked Matt if he'd be there later that week. Matt looked to Alex, and she nodded, saying "We'll be here Wednesday to film the promo, so we'll see you then, okay?"
"Cool!" they both responded, smiling shyly at Alex before jogging off toward the school barn.
Jo told them that Ryan was nervous because he was going from patient to helper and wanted to prove to himself he could come all the way back. "I admit I'm a little nervous about him myself." she explained, adding "He and his dad John came down here from up north after his mother died, looking for a fresh start, and he and Tom hit it off right away. After all he's been through since his accident, including several months in hospital, I guess he's become like a son. I worry he's not ready to jump in the deep end riding just yet."
Alex patted her on the arm in support and said "We have to let them try, then help them up when necessary if they fall...that's what mums do Jo." Matt was struck by the worry he saw in Jo's eyes, deciding he would do what he could to make Ryan feel better about his future if he could.
After handing Alex the promo material she replied "I know....thanks Alex. Like I said, call you if you have any questions about the promo stuff," and she headed back to the house to clean up.
Walking down the drive to the car, they met the kids heading toward the school barn and waved at Sal (Alex blew her a kiss) before climbing in the Prius to head back home.
This chapter was getting way too long, so I've broken it in two, this first part is rather boring but serves to introduce some new faces that are important.
Chapter 19: Shake, Rattle and Roll
Finally updating after a bout of writer's block. I did write an Eleven/River story with the TARDIS POV in the interim if anyone is interested!
Things are about to get exciting for Mattex! Shut up! Not like that.....well, maybe a little, but really mostly not like that. ;-)
“If ever there is tomorrow when we're not together... there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we're apart... I'll always be with you.”
― A.A. Milne
“It's snowing still," said Eeyore gloomily.
"So it is."
"Yes," said Eeyore. "However," he said, brightening up a little, "we haven't had an earthquake lately.”
― A.A. Milne
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Chapter 19~Shake, Rattle and Roll
Alex had dropped her bottomless bag on the floor by Matt's feet before starting the car and backing out of the drive, heading to the front entrance of the riding center.
Matt pulled the promo packet out, leafing through it after putting on his reading glasses. Alex directed the car onto the highway toward home, glancing at him as he read and after several long minutes he said "This looks pretty straight-forward Alex. I might have a few suggestions though."
Smiling and looking at him briefly before taking their exit she replied "It should be, it's only a 30 second video, but I'm sure they will film several takes before editing, so if you see anything that doesn't make sense to you, a non-rider, please tell me. I'll read over it this afternoon."
"Yeah, that works." Matt replied. "What else do you have to do today?" he asked, rather too nonchalantly.
"Nothing really, check email, make sure the bills get paid. Cook dinner. Maybe work in my studio. My usual summer day while not on the job. Why, do you have something you want to do?" She was turning onto her neighborhood street, they were nearly home.
"Oh Alex, there's always something to do when I'm with you...." Matt laughed, winking.
Alex pulled in the driveway and waited for the garage door to roll up, saying "Flirt? Or.....?"
"Or what love?" Matt smirked before climbing out of the car and going round to open her door.
"Well, I don't know sweetie, what sort of energy do you have?" Alex accepted his hand as he reached to help her from the car, then pulled him down for a kiss before grabbing her bag and tugging him inside the house.
"Why, for you Kingston, I can take on monsters, save worlds, or fulfill your every wish..." he replied, his voice dropping, sounding like plush velvet, if velvet had a sound.
There he goes again, Alex thought. How does JUST his voice turn her on so much? She stammered a bit in reply...."Mmm, my every wish? Whatever do you mean darling?" then she gave him a flirty toss of her curls and led him into the the kitchen, leaving her massive bag by the door.
"Just that love, what would you wish for today?" He sounded suddenly very sincere, as if he really wanted to know what would be her greatest wish, not for just today, but for always.
"Just for today? Sweetie, I've already gotten my wish for today...you're here WITH me." She responded warmly, adding "What about you? Don't you have any wishes darling?"
Matt just looked at her for a minute, processing. "Oh, Alex. I've had all my wishes granted already. I'm here." Then he reached for her, pulling her close, threading his long fingers in her curly hair, framing her face with his hands, tilting her head and leaning in for a tender, soul baring kiss, then briefly pulling back before meeting her eyes, which had gone a dark swirling blue-green, then diving back in for a more passionate snog, which only served to make her sway, dizzy from the intensity before he steadied her, his hazel eyes gone wide and dark with want.
"Come with me." Alex managed to whisper, leading him up the back stairs to her studio and the futon sofa. "Bedroom too far. Need you NOW."
"Need you always, Alex." Matt muttered into her hair as he drew her closer, and deepened the kiss as both of them allowed their hands to roam and hearts to swell with what could only be described as a love so deep it scared them both, but at the same time filled them with such joy. No more words were needed, they were so wrapped in each other it was almost a mental linking. Everything around them stilled as they rode a wave of passion, and when it crashed, that wave, it left them sated and warm, glowing with love and contentment. They curled up together on the futon, a knitted afghan pulled down to cover them, like two contented cats they enjoyed the quiet time together.
A little bit later that day, after a light lunch, Matt suggested they go for a walk somewhere, to stretch their legs. Alex took him to Topanga State Park in the Santa Monica Mountains, not too crowded on a Monday afternoon. They had a pleasant hike, enjoying the views and holding hands. It was idyllic. Such a peaceful place, just birds singing, squirrels chattering, the occasional bark of a dog being walked.
They came to a stream and took off their trainers and waded across, then played like children in the shallow water. After a splash fest, they sat on a large boulder and tossed sticks into the stream, watching as they floated away, and chatting about nothing and everything. The birds went suddenly silent, a chipmunk scurried right over Alex's foot and dove down a crack in the rock. Alex squeaked, and then they felt it. The vibration of the ground, like driving on a bumpy road.
"Is that...?" Matt spoke quietly, like a secret was being shared.
"An earthquake...?" Alex responded. "Yes. Wait it out."
Several seconds went by, pebbles rolled off the boulder they were sitting on, and splashed in the stream. Another few seconds, maybe half a minute, and the vibration slowly abated.
"I think it's over now. Not much of a quake." Alex spoke quietly as well. Gradually the birds returned to their chatter.
"So, that's good...right?" Matt took her hand in his, somewhat unnerved.
"Yeah, good...for now. When there's one quake, there are bound to be more though."
"Great. Should we head back to the car?" Matt asked, looking around nervously, as if he thought somehow the ground would open up right there.
"Yeah, it's getting late." They put their trainers back on, and headed out the way they had come. Alex reached for Matt's hand again, reassuringly.
Back home, Alex went about preparing dinner, roasted chicken and potatoes in the oven for an hour, then sat down on the 'comfy' sofa with Matt. She went over the promo packet while he checked email on his laptop. She made a few notes on the margins and he suggested a change in the dialog to clarify a point. Matt cajoled her into making scones, while he threw a salad together before getting the table set and pouring wine to go with dinner. Chicken done, she popped in the scones while they ate, telling funny stories from past performances, laughing together.
Dinner done, kitchen cleaned, leftovers stored away, Alex made tea and they took buttered and jammed scones and teacups upstairs to the studio to relax. Alex pulled out the promo packet again, realizing it was coming up on half nine, and she put in a call to Jo before it got too late. Matt was engrossed in his book, so she kept her voice low as she conversed with her freind, who suddenly seemed distracted.
"Alex, have to go. John just came by to tell me the horses are restless, he could hear them neighing nervously and was going down to the private barn to check in after collecting the boys (Tom and Ryan, obviously) from their cabin to help check the other barns. My hubby Mike is out of town on business."
Alex replied "It's okay, I'll call back tomorrow. Camp kids all tucked in for the night?"
"Yeah, lights out is at ten." Jo replied, then paused...."Um, okay....hang on.....something....."
"Jo? What's......?" Alex paused herself....oh no, she thought.....
Matt, barely aware of Alex's conversation, was brought to attention by...vibrations? Rattles? "Alex? Is that....are we getting....another earthquake?"
Cell phone still in hand, Alex pulled Matt up, then tugged him toward the stairs and down, not speaking to him but to Jo on the phone...."Earthquake! Jo!"
"I'm here Alex, heading toward the cabins NOW!" Used to dealing with cantankerous horses, Jo remained calm, but suddenly exclaimed "Damn! The power just went out!"
The house continued to vibrate around them as they moved quickly through the house and out the door, Alex practically dragging Matt behind her. Matt noticed the tea things on the counter, the sugar bowl, the teapot...dancing a bit as they went through the kitchen. The floor seemed uneven, or tilted? Maybe it was him, balanced-challenged as usual? It seemed to stretch for hours, but by the time they reached the front yard, it had only been about a minute. The palm tree out front was swaying, but there was no breeze. It was eerie. Car alarms were going off. They stood, hand in hand, outside, and finally the rolling stopped. Alex still had her phone to her ear, listening to Jo.
"I'm at the cabins now Alex, the kids are all outside, safe and accounted for!" adding under her breath "A bit nervous thought, with the power out."
Both counselors had broken out the battery powered safety lights that were in every building on the property, and everyone was standing in a circle of light. Alex could hear the kids in the background. These were LA kids. They knew about earthquakes. Her heart was racing though, her baby was miles away from her. Her hand was clenching Matt's tightly. After the quake came to a shuttering stop, she heard Jo address the children calmly.
"Kids! We're okay! Now, I need you all to stay calm, because I want you all to go with Amy and Dave back to the cabins and get dressed, then go to the school barn to check the horses! You are NOT to go in the stalls AT ALL, nor in the pastures with the outside horses. They will be nervous and that could get someone hurt. Check every horse in the barn, eyes only. Make sure none are cast, or injured. Talk to them, but be calm. They will settle down eventually."
Alex listened, then realized Jo was speaking to her now...."Alex, gotta go. Still have two more barns to check!" Then, as an aside "Sandy! Can you grab one of the grooms and check on the therapy horses? I'm off to check the private barn horses myself!"
"Jo, we're driving up! With Mike gone, you're gonna need some help!" Alex practically shouted into the phone. "We'll be there as fast as we can!"
Jo replied "Be careful Alex! The roads could be damaged!" before adding "Oh, and call the phone tree, let the other parents know everyone's okay please!" and she rang off, pocketing her cell phone, too busy to notice Alex's gasp.
'Oh yeah. Parents, like me,' Alex thought. She quickly called up the number. Every parent subscribed to the farm phone tree, for quick passage of info, and Alex thanked the Universe that this was going to make her task easier. She clicked into the "Camp" tree and recorded a message to eveyone at once, using all her acting skills to remain calm while she spoke. While she was recording, Matt had already gone inside to get ready to leave, Alex not far behind. He saw the box of scones on the counter. Eleven kids, there would be plenty, he thought as he grabbed the container. They pulled on trainers, Alex grabbed her bag and they locked up.
Alex went toward the driver's door and Matt stopped her. "Let me drive Kingston, you're too wound up." She knew he was right, she was a nervous wreck, so she nodded in agreement, shooting off a text to her ex letting him know Salome was fine at camp, no worries, everyone safe as they pulled onto the highway. Riding in the car instead of driving allowed her to observe the area, she noticed a couple of neighborhoods dark, probably trees down on lines. She heard a fire engine siren or two as well, anything could break at the worst time. At least it wasn't the middle of the night with everyone asleep! She was fidgeting in her seat, tapping into her phone news feed and getting the latest reports on the earthquake, a nervous wreck.
"Sal will be fine Alex, she's used to this in LA, right?" Matt glanced over at her, her face etched with concern.
"Yes, yes she is, but it's a mum's perogative to worry dear." Alex replied, sighing. "At least this wasn't a big quake, less than the Easter Sunday quake earlier this year. It's just...you know...the 'Big One', it's still out there, in the future. What if I wasn't here and she had to go through THAT?" Her voice rose, anxiety clearly growing.
"Love, you can't 'What if?' too much, it will drive you mad." Matt's voice soothed her, god she was glad he was here with her. She's over-reacting, she knows. Par for the course when you live in LA, becoming blasé about earthquakes...until it's your child miles away and you aren't there.
"In April, Sal and I were together when the 7.2 quake hit, and the epicenter was far away, over the border in Mexico. This one was probably an aftershock. Only 5.7 mag, according to the reports. I know FAR too much about earthquakes since I moved here! This was.....well, different, with her even just a few miles away....it's so easy to feel guilty I might not be here IF something bad was to happen!" She motioned to the upcoming exit, indicating he should take it.
"Alex, I know mums worry, feel guilty even, but YOU are obviously a GREAT mum! Just don't let it get to you, you have to be strong, for her, for YOURSELF. I know you can, you're a great mum!"
He reached to squeeze her hand, wishing he could take her in his arms, content that she seemed to be calmer now.
Alex brought his hand to her lips, kissing his fingers curled around her own hand, muttering "Thank you. That means a lot to me, hearing it. Did I mention how much I love you lately? What would I do if you weren't here now?"
"You would be fine Alex, you're stronger than you know." Matt replied, smiling at a thought. "Did you every read to Sal from Winnie the Pooh?"
"Of course Matthew...why?" Alex replied, wondering what prompted that particular question.
"Remember the bit about being 'braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think'?" Matt asked before adding "Me Mum used to read that to me, and it kinda stuck."
"Yeah, Christopher Robin said it to Pooh. Sal liked that part." Alex mused.
"Alex, you will always be there for Sal, in heart and mind. And I will be there for you. Never forget that." He pulled his hand gently from her's in order to turn into the long drive toward the school barn. Alex's heart melted at his words, tears threatened to brim over, but she wiped them away with her sleeve.
They pulled up to the barn, a bright glow in the main doorway, the battery powered lantern casting a wide glow, while flashlights bobbed in the aisle. As soon as Alex climbed from the car, Salome pounced on her with a powerful hug as the other kids gathered, full of questions. She filled them in on what she knew and that she had left a message for all their parents, then Sal took the box of scones and shared them around with the other kids.
Amy had rounded up the few cell phones they had and each kid called home for a reassuring voice, Tom and Ryan being noticably absent. Up at the private barn no doubt. Alex was reluctant to leave Sal, but she knew the children were in good hands and after all the excitement (it was now half ten) they would sleep well, so accepting another hug from her daughter, who also hugged Matt (much to his delight), she explained they were off to help Jo with the horses in the private barn, much more high-strung and skittish than their charges, already munching on their extra feed ration and carrot treats from the kids. The therapy horses were settling down as well they were told, one or two laying down like big dogs, relaxed now that the tension of the earthquake had receded.
Alex and Matt returned to the car and drove up the road a bit further to Jo's house and walked the rest of the way to the palatial private barn. They were not prepared for what they saw when they walking through the sliding barn door.
~Earthquake! 9:27pm local LA time, Monday June 14, 5.7 mag south of LA, closer to LA and less intense than the one before on April 4th that year, but enough to scare one very pregnant mare!
14 June 2010 5.7 mag. Earthquake
Chapter 20: About a Boy
Surprise coming for everyone!
Chapter 20~About a Boy
"Oh my god Jo, what happened?" Alex exclaimed as she and Matt walking into the barn. The scene before them looked like a small whirlwind had blown through. A man, Ryan's dad John no doubt, was slouched against the outside of a large box stall, sitting on a bale of hay. Ryan was hovering, clearly worried, looking up in surprise when they arrived. There was more hay strewn about, a broken bale in a wheelbarrow was halfway down the aisle between the stalls. Jo's son Tom was beyond, throwing flakes of hay into the feed racks of several pampered privately owned horses still nervously whickering and snorting. The hay was a distraction, to take their minds off the earthquake. Being indoors was making them nervous, as anyone would be...best to be out in the open when the ground was rolling.
Jo was bending over John, adjusting a sling for his right arm, as Ryan handed him a bottle of water and some tablets, pain meds no doubt, if you could go by the man's face. Behind them in the stall was the mystery mare Royal Secret, swaying back and forth and pacing the stall in agitation, nickering and whuffing. Alex knew she was unsettled about something.
Jo looked up when she heard Alex's surprised question, and smiled tightly. "I'm glad you got here Alex, did you see Salome?"
"Yes, yes. We stopped at the school barn first. Everyone was settling down, kids and horses...but what happened here?" Alex asked as Tom joined them, finished with his haying task.
John looked up, a flicker of recognition in his eyes when he saw Alex and Matt. By now Ryan was grinning nervously at them, looking at Matt who smiled in encouragement, then introduced them to his dad. John grunted in pain as he tried to stand up, but Alex stepped forward to stop him, saying "No don't get up John."
Matt, no stranger to injury, asked him "What happened? Is it your shoulder? Do you need to get to hospital?"
The man replied "Probably...but not now. Too busy." John was grimacing and trying to smile at them, adding "Thanks for asking."
"What happened?" Alex asked again, and John looked at Jo before answering "I was in the mare's stall, checking on her when the earthquake hit. All the horses were nervous, neighing and pacing and I knew something was up. Stupid of me to go in the stall.....she was already antsy and when the ground started rolling she spun around and knocked me into the wall. Didn't mean to do it, she just freaked out for a bit."
"She's still pretty amped up" Jo exclaimed. "Everyone else is settling." she gestured toward the other stalls and their occupants.
"Yeah, well...that's because she's likely going into labor. The foal is coming tonight if I'm reading her right." John replied.
"Tonight?" Jo and Alex said in unison, sharing an ironic smile. "Babies do pick the strangest times to decide to make an entrance, don't they?" Alex said.
"I'd better call the vet then." Jo exclaimed, pulling out her cell phone and placing the call, wandering down the aisle to get away from the noise the mare was making.
While Jo was occupied, Alex told John they'd take him to hospital once the vet was on the way, then she went over to the stall to talk to the mare through the bars. Royal Secret seemed to like her voice and came to her, so she stroked her muzzle and murmered sweet nothings. The mare circled the stall, but came back to Alex for attention, and seemed less aggitated. John watched Alex and was impressed at her calm demeanor. So was Matt.
At that point Jo returned looking worried. "Bad news guys. Took me a bit to get ahold of the vet, she's super busy at Santa Anita...apparently a couple of race horses got loose during the earthquake and she's in damage control. She said she'd get here as soon as she could."
John sighed, resigned to relying on pain meds a bit longer and took control. "Guess I'm not going anywhere yet." He stated and began issuing instructions. "We'd better start prepping the mare...maybe she'll settle down and we'll get lucky. Boys, scrub a couple of buckets really clean and fill them, one hot, one cold and leave them outside the stall with the foaling kit. Jo, we need to clean her up and wrap her tail and strip out the stall, put down fresh bedding." Then he turned to Alex. "Ms. Kingston, Royal Secret seems to like you...do you think you could walk her up and down the aisle while we get her stall ready? She might relax if she can get moving a bit."
"Sure John...and call me Alex please. We're about to deliver a baby!" she replied with a grin.
"Can I do anything?" Matt asked, feeling a bit like a fish out of water. The boys Tom and Ryan were already beginning to strip the stall as Alex lead the mare down the aisle away from the activity. He watched her nervously. John sized up the situation and decided that Matt could handle the boys, who were still star struck by the two actors.
"Ride herd on the boys will you?" John asked. "They need to strip out the old bedding, spray disinfectant and replace it all with clean straw. The straw bales are in a shed outside, so grab the wheeled cart Tom was using and bring us a few bales, six or so should do it. Then make sure they spread it nice and thick. Pitchforks are in the feed room." Matt nodded, glad to have something to do, and got to work. Before long, everything was ready in the stall, and the mare was in the wash rack getting her nether regions soaped and washed, and her flowing chestnut tail wrapped by Jo.
After prepping the mare and returning her to the clean stall, Jo and Alex walked to the ranch house and came back with snacks for everyone, including a big pot of coffee, as well as some folding camp chairs. This was going to be an all-nighter. Royal Secret whinnied when Alex returned and she went to her stall door to scratch the mare's chin and talk to her. When the mare got too restless, Alex and Jo took turns walking her up and down the aisle of the barn. The other horses were mostly dozing, hip shot and standing. Another mare across the way was watching the activity with interest, whuffing what sounded to Matt like reassurances to their charge. He walked with Alex when she was leading the mare, and chatted with the boys about school and sports, distracting them. Eventually the two kids dozed off in their chairs and Matt wasn't far behind, keeping an eye on Alex and trying not to nod off. Dawn was approaching.
Royal Secret had been returned to her stall and seemed to be more settled, then she began to shake her head, whickering and huffing. She dropped to her knees and lowered her body to the straw bedding and rolled onto her side. She was in full on labor now, and contractions could be seen rippling up her belly. She was becoming agitated again. Alex could only imagine how she must be feeling, all the times she'd gone through labor only to have her foal taken away after a few weeks. Alex opened the sliding stall door and spoke quietly to her, which seemed to help, so John directed her to sit in the straw by the mare's head while he knelt to check on her. Not being able to use his right arm, he called a still sleepy Ryan to come and help him. John had been present for several horse births, and Ryan had helped in the past. So far, so good John thought, hoping the birth would be routine.
Matt slipped into the stall and sat beside Alex in the straw, bringing her a paper cup of coffee. "You look knackered Alex" he said, adding "You should rest a bit."
"Thank you darling" Alex said, taking the coffee and sipping at it carefully while continuing to stroke the mare's soft nose as she whuffed out her nostrils between contractions. "I'll rest later, she needs me here."
Matt sighed, knowing that would be Alex's response, so he settled in beside her, letting her lean on him. Everyone sat and waited while the mare labored.
Matt must have dozed off because he was startled awake by Ryan exclaiming "A hoof, I see a hoof!" The sun had risen and the other horses in the barn were awake, moving around and nickering in hopes of breakfast. The grooms would be arriving soon and would take care of feeding them all. Suddenly the group was fully awake, things were finally starting to happen. The foal was coming!
One small hoof had indeed appeared from the mare's vulva, but neither Alex or Matt could see from their vantage point near her head. Alex didn't want to move and disturb her so they stayed put while John watched the mare and Ryan and Jo hovered in the stall door. Tom had been sent for more hot water, and Jo had opened the foaling kit and made towels and surgical gloves ready if needed. Suddenly her phone began to buzz, so she backed out of the stall and turned away to answer it, returning in a few minutes to announce that the vet was on her way, but it would be a while, Tuesday morning rush hour in LA to blame.
With each contraction, the hoof made an appearance, then finally they saw another sign. John mentally groaned. It wasn't the other front hoof, it was the foal's nose. He watched for a few more minutes and still no second hoof. Worried now, he urged on the vet with his thoughts and turned to Jo, pulling her aside in the aisle. "We might have a problem Jo, the second hoof is bent somehow. The foal could get stuck."
"What do we do?" Jo replied nervously.
"Well, normally I'd just put on gloves and try and reach it, straighten it, but without the use of both hands....." John said, trailing off.
"So show me how." Jo replied, not without some fear. She didn't want to hurt the mare or the foal by making a mistake.
"Okay, but first wash up, and get Tom to help you put on the long surgical gloves, but don't let him touch the hands, just the sleeve of the gloves." John replied, hoping he could talk her through this. He turned to his son Ryan, standing by the stall door and listening intently, and asked him "Do you want to help Jo son?"
"Help her with what?" Ryan responded.
"Well, the foal has a hoof stuck, and we need to try and straighten it out. Jo's getting washed up, and you should too. I want you both wearing gloves, just in case. Hopefully the vet will get here before it gets to that point." John explained.
"Okay, if you're sure." Ryan replied and went to wash up. Matt had quitely risen from Alex's side and heard the conversation, so he went after Ryan to help.
Jo was already washed and gloved when Ryan and Matt walked into the tiny barn kitchenette, so the two of them got to work. Matt could tell Ryan was nervous and reminded him "Your dad wouldn't have asked you if he didn't think you could help, you know."
"Yeah, I do, but when I've helped before, it was always a normal birth. I don't want to make a mistake and hurt the foal." he answered. "I'd feel awful!"
"It's always hard to take risks like this, but if it comes to it, I know you can do it. Look how far you've come since your accident...that took guts!" Matt might have been channeling the Doctor just a bit, but he was trying encourage the boy, and it seemed to be working as Ryan took a deep breath and said "Okay" before returning to the stall door.
Still no sight of the second hoof, and time was passing, the mare was getting tired. Alex dribbled water from a bottle into her hands and let the mare lick up the liquid as Matt returned to her side, handing her a second bottle and a towel. "What's going on?" Alex asked him. "Is something wrong?"
"John says the foal has a hoof bent, and it's stuck. Jo and Ryan are going to try and straighten it if the vet doesn't get here soon." Matt explained.
Alex's eyes widened and she gasped. "No, the poor mare....she doesn't deserve this."
"He seems to think it won't be hard, just has to coach them through it. We should stay here and keep her calm I think." Matt replied. "You're doing great, by the way." he added, kissing her on the forehead. "I never knew you were a horse whisperer, Kingston. You're brilliant."
Alex smiled fondly at him. "You're putting up with a lot you didn't know darling, thank you."
"Wouldn't have it any other way love." Matt replied quietly. "It's who you are and why I love you."
Before she could respond John spoke up. "Okay, it's been too long, we have to get that hoof straightened. No more waiting." He spoke with authority and his helpers listened. He'd been timing the contractions and once the latest one finished he had Jo reach under the chin of the foal with her fingers, trying to find the other hoof. She pushed in as far as she could, up to her wrist, and the tips of her fingers touched something hard.
"I think I've touched the hoof!" she exclaimed. "And I can feel the foal's pulse in it's throat!"
"Okay, another contraction coming, brace yourself Jo!" John replied. "Pull your hand out if you can."
"I'm so close...." Jo replied, trying to push in a little further when the contraction came. She tried to relax her hand, but it felt like it was in a clamp and now she couldn't pull out until the contraction eased. Her eyes went wide with the pain until she was able to pull her hand out, shaking it to get the blood to return to her hand. The foal's nose and hoof again reappeared, but the second hoof had not. Jo tried again after the next contraction, but couldn't get her hand in far enough to wrap her fingers around the fetlock above the hoof to uncurl it. The foal's pulse felt strong, it wasn't in distress yet, but the mare was breathing hard between contractions. They needed to get the foal born soon, and there was still no sight of the vet, it had been over an hour since her call.
John decided that he needed to let Ryan try. His hands were smaller, and his arms still scrawny from his long recovery after the dirtbike accident. He turned to Ryan and said "You're up son. You saw what Jo did, I want you to try because maybe you can push in further with those skinny arms of yours."
Matt chuckled from the other side of the mare, and Ryan looked over at him. "Hey Ryan, never thought being a gangly kid would be an advantage huh?"
Alex laughed and smacked his arm. "Like you wouldn't know that Matthew!"
Everyone smiled and Ryan relaxed, smiling shyly toward Alex and Matt. Alex knew Matt had done it on purpose, taking out the tension for a while. She patted his knee and whispered "Good work" before stroking the mare's pretty head again and talking to her as the contraction eased and Ryan approached the horse's side as Jo kept her tail from smacking him. All this time, Jo's son Tom had been taking pictures with his cell phone camera, knowing his mom would want this foal's first moments recorded, plus he'd have evidence of his friend's role in the birth. Bragging rights.
Ryan copied Jo's actions, sliding his hand under the foal's chin. The membrane had torn and the foal's mouth was moving, the tongue was even sticking out. Ryan smiled and said "Rude!" then, with more confindence, he pushed his hand slowly in under the jaw until he got to the hoof. His arm was inside the mare nearly to the elbow, and he was able to feel the hoof trying to move. As best he could with one hand, he tried to make a tiny bit of room to let the foal straighten it's fetlock, helping with his fingers until he felt the hoof go into it's natural position. A big grin broke out on his face and he carefully pulled out just as the next contraction started.
"I think he's about ready to make his entrance now, in perfect diving position!" Ryan exclaimed, as the mare grunted and both hooves and mouth made an appearance together. John clapped his son on the back and Jo grinned at him. Suddenly someone in the stall door started clapping, and everyone turned around to see the farm's vet, a woman named Vickie, standing there.
"So guess you don't need me now Jo?" she exclaimed, laughing. About that time everything started to happen all at once. One more hard contraction and the foal's front legs, head, neck and shoulders burst out, along with a gush of fluid. Ryan and Jo bent to pull the baby all the way out slowly, laying him on clean straw, and clearing his nostrils. He was already trying to lift his head.
"Mark the time Jo, it's 7:11 am on June 15th, 2010. Time of birth. Let me do my standard checkup on the foal, then we'll take care of mom." Vickie stated before bending down, taking a towel and rubbing the foal's muzzle to dry it off a bit. Not long after, the placenta was delivered and she went to examine it as well, having Jo help her move it to a bucket for later disposal. "Looks like everything is out that's coming out!" she said. She used her surgical scissors to cut the cord and painted the stump with antibacterial fluid. Royal Secret decided she was ready to see what her foal was up to and rolled onto her chest, tucking her front legs under her, resting a bit. Alex and Matt got out of her way as once she was ready she stood up, shaking her body like a dog, swaying just a moment as she got her balance before turning to inspect her foal, now resting. She began to lick his face vigorously, and the foal bleated a bit, tongue still sticking out comically.
After her inspection, Vickie stated "Congratulations! It's a boy!" as everyone stood and watched mother and son bond. He was no small foal, and it was hard to tell what color he was since he was still dark and damp from the womb. When Alec and Matt moved toward the door, the foal turned it's head to look at them, already alert to motion. Vickie had finished drying off his head as the mare worked her way down his body, an instinct every horse mum has, to get the foal up and moving ASAP. When they saw his face, they looked at each other in shock, as did everyone when they saw the white blaze on his red bay face...a perfect question mark!
"Oh my, look at you..." Alex exclaimed softly. "Long legs, long neck, all gangly. Looks just like you Matthew, and he's got the mark of the Doctor!"
"Oi Alex! I'm not that gangly!" Matt retorted, laughing.
"Yes dear, you are, but, I still love you. Just don't scare Mum, with that loud voice, okay?" Alex warned him with a chuckle.
The colt bleated again, then made his first attempt to stand up, collapsing back on his hindquarters and sitting there, propped by his front legs, like a dog. Everyone smiled at his adorable expression, his pink tongue still sticking out of the corner of his mouth, daring them to laugh. Royal Secret gave him a bit of a nudge with her nose, whickering gently and blowing air in his face. Once again he made the monumental effort to stand, only minutes old.
Once he reached his feet, he wobbled a bit then braced his legs and stood firm briefly. The minute he tried to walk his hooves caught in the straw and he toppled over to land at Matt's feet, nose first.
Matt instinctivly knelt, letting the foal sniff his hand and helped him get comfortable. Alex was surprised the mare was so tolerant, but they had just spend hours in her stall, so maybe she was trusting them. Stepping back, they let the foal try again, and this time he was able to make the short walk to his mother's side and eagerly began nursing, at which point the vet cleared everyone out to leave the mom and son to themselves after their long night.
Ryan and Tom stayed behind in the barn with the vet, helping her clean up. The two grooms had arrived and were feeding the rest of the horses, many were curious about the noises coming from the mare's stall and were peering out of their doors, nickering. Tom showed Ryan the photos he had taken with his cell phone. Among all the pictures were ones of his mom Jo, Ryan and the mare, and Alex and Matt sitting next to her. Tom had gotten a picture of Matt and the foal that he showed to Ryan. The foal's question mark blaze was clear in the photo.
"What do you think?" Tom asked. "Good enough to post?"
"It's good, but you should ask him first." Ryan replied, annoyed at his friend. He was worried Matt and Alex would be mad if pictures of them got out. "Being famous can be a pain sometimes, you know?"
"Yeah, I guess you're right. Mom might get mad too. Let's go show everyone...see what they say." Tom replied, and the two boys headed toward the ranch house, leaving the vet to finish her check up on the mare in peace.
Back at the house, they had briefly collapsed in the lounge, then Jo went off to find someone to take John to the Urgent Care to get his shoulder x-rayed and Alex managed to make coffee, getting Matt into help. Tom and Ryan came bounding in, full of energy after the excitement of the birth, but then again, they'd napped during the night. The were eager to show off the pictures Tom took, passing around his phone. Alex smiled at the picture of Matt helping the colt after he fell, and asked Tom to have his mum send it to her in an email. Before he could ask she reminded him not to share it on social media, explaining to the two boys that their time here in LA was private time. "Over in England it would be front page news, us over here together. Can we trust you two to keep it quiet?"
"Um, sure. We wouldn't want to get you in trouble." Tom replied, feeling guilty. "I'll put the ones with you guys on Mom's laptop and delete them off the phone."
"Why don't you get some more pictures later today of Mum and colt, maybe we can use them in the adverts for the charity show?" Alex suggested. Just then Jo returned with a therapy volunteer who'd just arrived and agreed to take John to the doctor.
Jo turned to them and said "Alex, and you too Matt, thank you for helping with the mare all night...you're probably both tired, so rest here as long as you like. The camp kids will be arriving soon for breakfast though, so it might not be quiet for long! The kids are going to be so excited about the foal....we need to think of a name for him too!"
Ryan, who'd been standing by listening, spoke up. "I've thought of a barn name for him...if that's alright?"
Jo smiled at him and said "I think you earned the right to give him his barn name Ryan, you helped deliver him after all! What name have you thought of?"
"Well, with the way his tongue was sticking out, I called him rude, as a joke, you know...what about calling him Rudy?" Ryan asked.
"Sounds good to me Ryan! Rudy it is...but we have to start a list of names to register him, so we should start thinking about that too." Jo replied.
Alex spoke up then, asking "Are you registering him as Half-Thoroughbred Jo?"
"Yes I am, with his mother's pedigree, he's going to be special. The mystery mare deserves some respect for her son, don't you think?" Jo replied.
Matt chuckled at that, then with a smirk on his face, he said "Why not call him Mystery Man? He does have the Doctor Who question mark on his face!"
"I like that!" Jo exclaimed while Alex smacked his arm gently, laughing. "Put it on the list!" Then she was off to get breakfast for the kids started, reminding Alex about the promo filming the next day as she disappeared into the kitchen.
Alex and Matt decided it was time to leave, before the kids arrived and the questions started. They needed to get something to eat, and were desperate for a shower after sitting in the straw most of the night. It had been a busy 24 hours! Life with Alex was never going to be boring Matt thought to himself as they climbed into the car to go home.
Rudy might look like this fine fellow!
If anyone has any clever ideas for a name for the colt, please post them!
Chapter 21: Revelations
After the excitement of the foal's birth, Matt and Alex return to the stable mid-week so Alex can film the promo for the charity horse show, when something else unexpected happens.
It's Memorial Day in the US, please remember the fallen, and thank those that now serve.
Comments on my fic are always appreciated. Sorry it took so long to update, I've been writing another River/11 story and it's taken over.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
After their all-nighter in the barn, witnessing the birth of Royal Secret's foal, Matt and Alex slept through much of Tuesday, having a quiet dinner in and some cuddle time while they had the house to themselves.
Wednesday found them back at the stable facility so Alex could film the promotional commercial for Jo's planned charity horse show. Alex headed straight for the mare's stall, where they found Ryan and Tom preparing her and her foal for their first outing to a small paddock nearby. They greeted the two boys while the foal, dubbed Rudy, was peeking under his mother's neck at the new arrivals, his nostrils flared to catch their scent. Tom led Royal Secret down the barn aisle to the wide open door, and Ryan followed behind, his hand on the tiny halter the foal wore. Rudy walked much more surely, looking around with curiosity. He saw other horses, heads over their stall doors wickering at the newcomer, and he took a little hop when he saw an unfamiliar grooming bucket on the floor by the door. Alex couldn't help but giggle at his gangly gait.
When they arrived at the door, the foal paused, blinking at the sunlight. He minced across the driveway gravel, sniffing the air and rushing forward to his mother's side as Ryan sought to guide him. The two boys walked the duo through the paddock gate, closing it behind them before unclipping the lead ropes. While the two boys slipped back throught the gate, Alex and Matt stood by the fence and Royal Secret made her way straight to Alex, nuzzling her and accepting a piece of carrot from her palm. The foal hung back at first, but his curiosity got the better of him and he zeroed in on the taller human, his nose twitching comically at the familiar smell. He pushed his nose under the top rail, and licked the back of Matt's hand, surprising him. He knelt down and reached through the fence rails, scritching Rudy under the chin, feeling the tickle of his whiskers and smiling.
When Rudy's mum moved away to graze, he nuzzled Alex as well, then bent to sniff at the taller grass along the fence row, jumping back when the grass stems brushed his face. He hopped and bucked awkwardly, and his back end plopped down on the grass, his front legs propping him up as he looked at the humans, bemused. This time all four humans chuckled at his expression, his tongue lolling out again comically.
Soon the foal sought his mother and began to nurse, so they all left the pair and Alex and Matt went looking for Jo. They found her in the barn office with the video crew. The young cameraman clearly recognized both of them when his eyes went wide as Jo introduced them. While the director talked to Alex about how they were going to film, Matt chatted with the guy, then they followed Jo back toward the barn. When the director saw the mare and foal, he decided to set up right there and do a few runthroughs with them in the background. Matt backed away to watch, not wanting to get in the way and was joined by Tom and Ryan, done with their chores and heading toward the school barn. Matt decided to go with them and say hello to Salome, so he waved at Alex and pointed to the boys, then off toward the barn and she waved back, smiling and nodding her understanding.
Salome rushed over to give Matt a hug when she spotted him, chattering on about the new foal. Ryan had showed her the pictures Tom took and she wanted to know all about the birth, but Sandy came along and reminded her of her duties. Matt promised to give her all the details later, and sat in the bleachers to watch their lesson while Alex was busy filming. After a while Alex joined him and the photographer filmed the kids in their lesson. They didn't notice his surreptitious recording of them sitting close together, chatting and hand holding while they watched the lesson, nor did they notice him on his phone as he left.
Alex greeted her daughter after she dismounted at the end of the lesson, and they all entered the barn as Sal led Cinnamon in and began to untack her. Alex put her halter on after Salome removed the bridle and then she slipped the mare a few pieces of carrot while her daughter hung the saddle and bridle on the stall door to be cleaned later.
As she fussed over her horse, Sal asked "Mum, did Jo tell you about the trail ride on the 4th of July?"
"Sal, I hardly talked to her at all, the photo shoot took a while and she was busy. How is camp going?" Alex replied, as they unhooked Cinnamon and walked her over to the wash rack for her bath.
"Fine Mum! Don't change the subject!" Salome replied with a laugh. "Jo said we could invite our parents for the annual 4th of July trail ride, and I wondered if you....and Matty...might want to go?"
Alex was surprised. Was Sal starting to think of Matt being a permanent fixture in their lives? "You don't want your father to come Sal?" she replied.
The girl snorted, exclaiming "All Dad ever did when he had to bring me to lessons was to complain about the smell and sit in the car with his laptop, working. I'm pretty sure he won't want to get ON a horse, much less ride one for a couple of hours!"
Matt was trying to stay out of the way while at the same time watching as the kids went about the business of caring for their charges. He supposed it took a lot of practice to work with such large animals with ease, but the kids, all 13 or younger, appeared to be born to this. He watched Alex and Salome fuss over Cinnamon, who had been led to the wash rack for a bath, and currently stood, eyes closed in apparent pleasure as they soaped her down and rinsed her. Riding horses had lots of responsibilities. Horses were not motorbikes to be parked and left to sit when not being used. They all had personality, and the kids clearly cared about them. He heard Sal mention his name and walked toward them saying "Talking about me are you?" to Alex and Salome just as Sal finished her reply.
Alex turned around when he spoke, laughing. "Were your ears burning darling?"
"Ha! Funny Kingston!" Matt replied with a grin. "I heard Sal say my name, that's all. What were you talking about poppet?" he asked the girl.
Salome was scraping the excess water off of Cinnamon as she spoke. "Matty, I was just telling Mum that Jo said we could invite parents to go on the 4th of July trail ride, and since Dad won't go near a horse, I thought you'd like to come with Mum? Will you still be here then?"
Matt had to stomp down an emotional response to Sal's question, touched that she'd think of him in such a situation, and happy that she saw him in such a role. He looked over at Alex, who was beaming at him, then back to Salome, saying "Yeah, poppet, I don't leave for a couple of days after that, and yes, I'd LOVE to go, but I'm afraid I won't be much of a rider. It could get embarrassing!"
"Oh Matty, it's not hard, only a trail ride, not a horse SHOW where everything has to be perfect!" Sal exclaimed, adding "I bet Jo would give you a couple of lessons before then, it's still 2 weeks off."
"Alright then!" Alex exclaimed. "We'll talk to her later, best leave you to it Sal, your mare is wanting her itchy spots brushed, and we need to get out of the way here."
Matt slid around to the other side of the mare to give Salome a hug goodbye, thanking her for asking him, then Alex got a hug from her daughter before they left, returning to the car.
As they were getting in the Prius Alex said "Matt, if you don't want to try the trail ride, Sal will understand you know."
Matt looked at her, seeing her worried look, and replied "Of course I do love, I'm just touched she asked me, and frankly a little worried I'll embarrass her. Never ridden a REAL horse before."
Alex, sensing his concern, reassured him, "You'll be fine darling. You already have the gangly colt, cowboy Bob thing going on." she said, raking his body with her eyes appreciatively. "I'll ask Jo if we can get a couple of lessons in before the 4th. You won't regret it! You never know if you'll be cast to play some member of the royal family going off on safari, or for a gallop on the beach or something. Think of it as professoinal development!"
Matt laughed at that image, wondering which royal she was casting him as in her imagination. "If you say so Kingston. Maybe the Moff will put me on a real horse in an episode someday! Won't he be surprised!"
"Well dear, he already said you walk like a cowboy." Alex replied, laughing as she started the car and began to back out to leave the farm. "I'll call Jo tomorrow. Meanwhile, what do you say to lunch? I'm starving!"
"Sounds perfect Kingston!" Matt replied. Neither of them noticed the small gray sedan that followed them as they turned onto the highway.
When they stopped for lunch, so did the sedan. They parked and shared a kiss before exiting Alex's car and held hands walking inside, heads together, laughing.
Arriving back at Alex's house later, she had to navigate around a cable TV repair truck parked across the street from her driveway, thinking nothing of it as she pulled into the garage. Matt bounced out of the car and around to open her door, making a show of it, taking her hand and helping her out of the car as she grabbed her bag and closed the driver's side door behind her. He then pressed her against the car, cupping her face and snogging her breathless.
Unbeknownst to them, the 'repairman' at the end of the drive was snapping pictures as fast as he could. As he watched, the couple broke finally, and Alex took Matt's hand, pulling him toward the door, pushing the button to close the garage door as she went, shutting them in and out of sight of the pap who'd just gotten the juicy pictures his friend in the gray sedan had sent him on stake-out to get.
Alex and Matt spent the rest of that day (besides the usual activities the snog against the car led to) laying by the pool, soaking up some sun and getting a little frisky. Later they cooked dinner together, drinking wine and eating in front of the TV, watching a replay of the movie "Grease" and singing along with John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, Alex fluffing up her curls and Matt slicking back his hair as they played out the finale, collapsing in laughter on the sofa. They cleaned up the kitchen, then found their way to the bedroom, still humming the music, and fell into bed, calling each other 'Sandy' and 'Danny' and enjoying wine fueled role-play shagging that resulted. By the time they fell asleep around midnight it was well past dawn in London and the tabloids were hitting the newstands.
Matt woke mid-morning to his cell phone buzzing where it lay on the nightstand. He reached out to thumb it off, only to hear Alex's repeat the insistent noise, waking her as well. Sharing a worried glance, they groggily sat up, checking to see what had set both phones off.
Alex got her phone unlocked first, to find a string of text messages left for her overnight, the last one from her sister Nic, with a photo attached. "Scheisse!" she exclaimed.
At the same time, Matt was reading a text from Kazza, giving him a link to a website. It was still loading when he heard Alex curse in German. This was not good. She showed him the picture and he just groaned....it was taken just yesterday, the two of them, snogging against the car in the garage. "Damn." he muttered. "We've been outed."
"Must have been the cable guy...damn it!" Alex exclaimed. "At least Sal's at camp. GOD I hate paps!" She was continuing to read her texts, stopping to answer one or two, frowning.
"How did they know?" Matt wondered out loud, checking his phone...the page had loaded but it was difficult to read so he reached under the bed, pulling out his laptop and opening it to turn it on. His email inbox was as full as his phone text messages. Kaz had sent him several emails, all with links, he skipped the Scottish swearing and opened the first link, a full page spread...not only the picture of them in the garage, but also walking hand in hand toward the restaurant yesterday. The headlines were worse though. He looked over at Alex, frowning over her phone, typing, but still stark naked, cross-legged among the sheets. She didn't deserve the names they were calling her. He'd thought being in LA, where few knew HIM, it would be safe to be out in public, but somehow the London tabloids had gotten these pictures and typically plastered scandalous headlines questioning the 'affair' and laying the blame on HER. Matt was quickly going from worry to anger as he read further, scrolling down. The last picture shocked him, as it was clearly taken at the stable while the two of them were watching Sal's lesson, but he stopped Alex's texting to say "Look at this Kingston...stupid paps, gave themselved away!"
Peering over at the computer screen, she exclaimed "The camera guy from the promo? He must have followed us, and sent someone here to stake out my house!"
"Alex, what should we do?" Matt asked. "I mean, I don't care about me, but they are saying some nasty things about you, and I won't have you slandered, it's not fair!"
Alex heard his angry tone, realizing this had hardly ever happened to him, while she'd been lambasted more than once during her career. She realized too, how worried he was that she might spook, and she needed to reassure him, so she spoke quietly to him saying "Matthew, darling, no worries. I'm not kicking you out, nor am I going to overreact. It's part of the price we pay for being actors on a world stage."
"I know Alex, but none of what they are saying is true! There was no 'scandalous' behaviour, we've not been having an 'affair' or cheating on anyone. Why do they make up stuff?" Matt asked.
"To sell their rags dear. That's all." she replied. "I'm mostly mad they came to my house, thank god it seems they didn't try to sneak into the yard and take pictures!"
Matt thought about their time by the pool yesterday, not that they went too far, but there was more than a little foreplay going on, and he blushed to think if there were shots like that, which sent him to check some of the other links Kazza had sent to see if there were more pictures. "I'm checking to see what else there is Alex, just in case, but this is bad enough since you wanted to keep us under the radar...guess that's not possible any more." he said despondently.
Alex scooted closer to him on the bed, then brushed back his unruly fringe gently before saying "Darling, I love you. Maybe it's time we told the world."
His eyes wide, Matt whispered "Are you sure? I mean, we've got nothing to be ashamed of, two adults who happen to love each other, but are you sure?"
"Positive darling." Alex replied as she leaned in to kiss him slowly. Her phone chose that moment to buzz again with another text message, and they pulled apart slightly, heads together, smiling.
"I think we'd better deal with all our friends and relatives...and call our managers." Alex said.
"Yeah, I guess so. Who should we call first?" Matt replied, picking up his cell phone.
Alex took his phone and laid it down, saying "I think we need to get some food in us, and check all the reports so we know how to respond." She gave him another quick kiss and rose, wrapped her robe around herself, pocketed her cell phone and headed downstairs. Matt followed her after pulling on his joggers and a t-shirt, and grabbing his laptop and phone.
Alex began by making tea, of course. Then she pulled a few things out of the fridge and made them a quick breakfast of toast and cereal with fresh blueberries which they ate while Matt checked every link Karen sent, satisfied there were no further (and more racy) pictures, which was a relief. Then they both began to wade through all the emails and texts from friends and relatives, some surprised, all supportive. Kazza got emails back from both of them. There were some more from people who wanted interviews, which they decided to leave to their managers, but before calling them, it was time for a call to Steven Moffat.
They thought it would be wise to get dressed and call him on Skype before it got any later over there in in the homeland, so they went to take showers...separately...and talk about how they would handle the Moff, depending on his reaction to the news.
Alex sent him a text, to make sure he was free to take their Skype call. She was worried that there had been no message from him, so she just typed "Steven, we need to talk. Skype?"
It was roughly 8 p.m. back home, so they hoped they weren't interrupting family time. It wasn't long before they got a response, Steven texted "No kidding. Give me 5."
"Well then," Matt said. "You want to talk to him alone first?"
"No Matthew. He needs to know this is a mutual thing." she replied, patting his hand. They were in the living room, Matt's laptop open in front of them as they sat on the 'comfy' sofa.
Opening the Skype ap, Matt nervously made the connection to Steven after the alloted 5 minutes and when the connection stabilized they could see he was in his home office, and he was grinning broadly, to their great relief.
"Well, congratulations are in order I suppose?" the Moff said cheekily. "Can't say I'm surprised though, but really Alex...the baby giraffe?"
Matt pulled his best affronted face, saying "Oi!" while Alex laughed, then she replied "Steven, you wrote River, who else was I going to fall in love with?"
At that, Matt looked very smug and grinned at her before adding "Yeah Moff...your fault!"
"Thank you Smith, I'll take the credit, and the blame." he replied before speaking more seriously. "So this is 'a thing' and not just you two unable to resist the on screen chemistry?"
"Yes Steven, it's 'a thing' as you say." Alex replied as Matt nodded.
"How long?" Moffat asked, still grinning.
Matt responded "Since my birthday, last October."
The Moff's eyes widened, and he replied "That long? I had no idea! Who else knew and didn't rat on you?"
"Well, Karen and Arthur figured it out." Alex responded. "We all spent lots of time together during filming when I was there."
"And of course, we let our families in on the secret, but told no one else, we promise!" Matt added.
"Ah, life imitates art, is it ? And now you're together, in LA I presume?" Steven asked.
Alex nodded and said "Almost 3 weeks."
"Best 3 weeks of my life!" Matt added.
Moffat's eyes danced with laughter and he responded "I bet!" before asking "What about Salome? How is she doing with your relationship?"
Alex's eyes lit up, and she replied "Steven, she loves Matt, always has. She wasn't even that surprised when we told her last year."
"That's good, that's good." Moffat replied, going on to add more directly "And where is this going, or have you not gotten that far? Don't forget Smith, you've got to be here July 8th for read through on the Christmas special."
Alex spoke up quickly saying "Well, Salome has horse camp until the end of the month, and Matt still has a couple of meetings before July, but I don't have anything here right away, and I haven't heard from the Vancouver folks, so I thought I'd head over the pond once Sal's school starts and she's back with her father in mid-August. I've got feelers out for work over there. I guess we'll be at the Cardiff flats together for series 6, and see what happens?"
"Really?" Matt exclaimed, turning to look at Alex. "You'd come live in Cardiff with me?"
"Of course, silly man. Where else would I be? Sal can come visit on school holidays, and Florian will just have to get used to it!"
The Moff chuckled, and wiped his brow in faux relief saying "Whew! Good thing, I'm not ready to write your regeneration any time soon Smith!"
"Wha'?" Matt blurted out. "Did you think I was quitting Who and running off to Hollywood Moff? I LOVE being the Doctor, especially when River Song is involved!"
"Well that's good news, cause I've got a little surprise for all four of 'Team TARDIS'...we'll be filming much of Block 2 in the States this fall...in Utah! Keep that under your hat though guys!"
At that Alex had to smirk "You know me Steven...I can keep a secret!"
"Oi! There are still spoilers?" Matt whinged, causing Alex and the Moff to exclaim "Yes!" simultaneously.
After they all had a good laugh at Matt's expense, Steven reminded them that they still had to deal with the fallout of their accidental 'outing' at the hands of the tabloids. "Really, I don't mind the show getting some publicity, but it needs to be kept under control guys." to which both Matt and Alex agreed. "How did it happen anyway?" he asked. "You tend to keep a low profile in LA Alex."
"I was filming a promo for a charity event at Sal's stable, where she's at camp, and apparently the cameraman does pap work on the side. He took pictures of us watching Sal's lesson Wednesday after the promo work was finished, and must have followed us to the place where we had lunch before he called a buddy to stake out my house, pretending to be a cable guy! He's the one that got the 'scandalous' pictures in my garage...I'm still angry about that." Alex explained.
"What's done is done Alex." the Moff replied. "I assume you both have your managers on duty for this?"
"We're calling them next, to release a statement." Matt answered, before adding as an aside to Alex. "Maybe we should warn Jo about this, before more paps start showing up at the farm? As soon as people put two and two together it could get uncomfortable for her and the stable once she puts the promo out on TV."
"Who's Jo?" Moffat asked curiously.
Alex replied "She owns the stable facility where Salome rides, where she's at camp right now, and she's my friend, a fellow Brit, and a Doctor Who fan as well! The promo I was shooting was for a charity horse show at the end of camp. Jo also runs the local therapeutic horseback riding program, for kids with disabilities or injuries, and she's wanting to expand to add adult therapy patients, like wounded warriors."
At that point Matt spoke up, saying "I was looking at information on the web about equine therapy Moff, and it's really a worthy cause. When I was a kid in therapy after my back injury, I remember how hard it was to muster up the will to work on it. And she wants to help adults too. I've been totally impressed at how well she runs the whole farm, not just the therapy horses, but the horses for the kids, and they have a private barn as well. We spent Monday night there, after the earthquake, waiting for a foal to be born, boy, what an experience!" He took out his cell phone and called up the picture of himself with the newborn colt that Jo's son Tom had taken and held it up for his boss to see on the screen.
Steven Moffat burst out laughing at the comical look on the colt's face as his pink tongue stuck out and Matt was helping him to recover from his nose-plant. Then it registered on him that the little fellow had a near perfect question mark on his long face, and he couldn't stop laughing for some time. When he caught his breath he managed to squeak out "Wow, guys. You've had a busy week. Earthquake, horse birth and a run-in with the paparazzi... LA is REALLY a whole different world from quiet Cardiff! I bet that photo of the Doctor and the colt with the question mark on his face would drive everything else off the front pages of every paper in the country here!"
Alex's eyes squinted deviously and she spoke up, saying "Steven, what a brilliant idea....if it's okay with you, and the BBC?"
"What do you mean Alex? You've got your scheming River Song face on!" Matt asked.
"Well, if the BBC will let us, we could release the pictures that Jo's son took, of the birth, play up the 'mystery mare' aspect and encourage people to support the charity and have fun with the Doctor Who connection." Alex replied, adding "If Jo is okay with it, that is."
"That could work Alex, and it will take any facade of 'scandal' off your backs." Steven said with a grin. "It's fine with me, I'll ask the front office and have them get in touch with your managers tomorrow. If they okay it and your friend Jo does too, I say go for it!"
"We'll be in touch then Moff." Matt said. "Thanks. Thanks for everything."
"Yeah well, don't let it out. I have a reputation to uphold." Moffat replied with a grin, adding "Good luck, my friends." and then he signed off.
Alex and Matt sat there for a moment, just looking at each other, then they each took a deep breath, and Matt said "Let's do this."
The next day, Friday, a statement was released which included pictures of Matt and Alex the night the colt was born, featuring the striking one Tom had taken, the question mark blaze on the little fellow's face clear to see. The drove out to the stable facility to pick up Sal that afternoon, as the horses had the weekend off. While there, they filled Jo in on the situation with the tabloid photos and she attempted to apologise but they brushed it off, saying it was for the best, and not to worry.
Alex called in a favor and a new promo was scheduled to be shot on Monday with her and Kaley Cuoco from Big Bang Theory, and in the background Tom, Ryan and Matt, with the foal Rudy and his mum Royal Secret. In a way it was a relief to not have to keep any secrets now, so it was somehow fitting.
I thought this appropriate for Memorial Day. If interested, just Google, there's a ton of good info out there.
Chapter 22: What a week!
Things are sorted after the surprise 'outing' of Matt and Alex's relationship. Just a bit of fluff before things get busy again.
Thanks to Sandbar for the gentle nudge!
I'm trying to update both my stories once a week from now on.
At DragonCon hubby and I went to some author panels and I got to meet Todd McCaffrey, the DragonLady's son! (That is, of course, the amazing Anne McCaffrey of Dragonriders of Pern fame...wouldn't our Matt make a great Dragonrider if WB ever gets its act together and makes the movies they bought the rights for?)
There is a Writers of the Future novella/ss contest every year, and some of the greats of SF are on the panel of judges. It was great hearing from them about how they develop ideas and make sure to find time to write every day! Inspiration!
Salome quizzed them all the way home in the car, about the foal mostly, but she also wanted to know what was up with their conversation with Jo. Matt was happy to fill her in on the birth and how everyone pitched in to deliver the colt and distracted her with how cute he was, passing her his phone so she could see the pictures that Tom had taken and shared with him.
Alex finally pulled into her garage and hit the button to close the door as she shut off the Prius. They collected Sal's gear and proceded inside, and knowing they'd have to explain to her daughter the outing of the relationship between her and Matt, she made the call for their Friday night pizza and they all gathered in the living room to wait on the delivery and talk. Salome started up right away with the questions.
"Mum, I know you're trying to protect me, but why was Jo apologizing, what happened?"
Alex glanced at Matt and saw his helpless look, not knowing how to explain to a nine-year-old the realities of living in the public eye. She took his hand and squeezed it softly in reassurance before turning to her daughter and sighing. "Sal, it's not easy to explain, but remember when we were at the stable Wednesday, filming the promo for the horse show?"
Salome nodded, confused as to what that had to do with Jo's heartfelt apology. Alex continued, "Well, the photographer that did the shoot hung around and was filming part of your lesson, we assumed for the ad. We didn't know he also was filming us watching you. That's what had Jo upset, that it happened here when we were doing her a favor."
"So? Why is that so bad? Other parents stay and watch. I don't understand." Sal replied, still confused.
"That's not the problem really, it's what he did after that caused the problem...he followed us to the restaurant where we stopped for lunch, took more pictures, and apparently called a friend to come here, to our house, and wait for us. That guy was parked out front when we got back, pretending to be a cable repairman, and he took pictures of Matt and me in the garage....kissing."
Sal made a face, but smirked a bit too, saying "You guys do that a lot Mum."
Matt chuckled at her and Alex glanced his way, exasperated, saying "Matthew....not funny."
"Yeah, right. Sorry." Matt replied sheepishly.
"Anyway...." Alex continued. "We had no idea of course, and it was just a kiss, but apparently he was paparazzi and the next day we found out it made all the papers back home, and they were not saying nice things about us, me in particular. "I'm sorry but you're gonna see it all over the internet. We had our agents release a statement today, and also put out pictures of the colt and Matt, to deflect attention..."
"But Mum..." Salome began. "Why does it matter to anyone that you and Matty are together?"
Matt jumped in at that moment, trying to explain. "Poppet, I'm younger than your Mum, and some people think that's not right. The media, some of them use this sort of thing to sell their papers, and they make up things too, and it can be really hurtful, especially to her. I want you to know that nothing that's been said about your mum it true, there's nothing bad happening. I love your mum, and you, very much. We just want you to know that you shouldn't pay any attention to what people say about her, or us."
Salome got up from her chair and went to hug Matt and then her mum, whispering "I love you guys, it doesn't matter what they say. They don't know you."
Alex pulled them both into a hug, getting teary-eyed at putting her daughter through this. "I'm sorry Sal, we never wanted to hurt you." she tried to explain.
"Mum! You didn't do anything to hurt me!" Salome exclaimed. "Stop worrying!"
Of course, the pizza delivery guy chose that moment to ring the doorbell, so Matt went to pay while Sal and Alex had a private moment, then Alex sent Salome to shower and change clothes and pick out a movie to watch while she and Matt gathered drinks and plates for the pizza.
Shortly Sal returned, hair wet still, but with a brush in one hand, and a video in the other. "Here Mum, I know this one's a favorite of your's." as she handed off the DVD, the 1979 movie 'The Black Stallion'.
"Oh, yes honey, just what we need...a beautiful distraction!" Alex replied, moving over to pop the DVD in the player and turn on the TV. She joined Matt on the sofa and Sal sat on the floor as they shared out slices of pizza and settled in to watch the award-winning movie. After finishing eating, Sal scooted over to sit in front of her mother and give her the brush, knowing her Mum loved to brush out her daughter's hair, and that she'd relax and de-stress.
Matt observed this mother-daughter interaction and marveled at Sal's mature decision to help her mum cope with stress. His heart swelled with emotion, and love for the both of them. He surreptitiously wiped his eyes, letting them believe he was emoting over the movie's action as the boy and the horse were rescued from the remote island.
After the movie finished, happy ending for all concerned, Alex and Sal were both in a better mood. They cleaned up the pizza boxes and carried everything to the kitchen. Sal begged for ice cream and biscuits for afters and they sat at the kitchen table talking about the movie and enjoying their treats.
It was getting late and Alex sent Salome off to bed with little argument...she'd had a busy day at camp after all. Sal hugged her mum and then went to Matt and hugged him too, saying "Love you, Matty. I'm glad you're here cause you make Mum happy. It will be okay."
"Thanks, Poppet. Love you." Matt responded. "Sleep well." As she left to climb the stairs to her room, he looked at Alex and said: "Alex, you've raised a wonderful girl there..."
"Yeah, she is. Thank you, sweetie." Alex replied, getting up to put the ice cream away and load the dishwasher.
"Come on love, leave that for now. Not going to let the rest of the world get to us, okay?" Matt replied. He retrieved a couple of glasses and a bottle of wine and ushered Alex into the living room, where he dug into Alex's cabinet of DVDs finding a rom-com and popping it in. They snuggled up on the sofa with their wine and just let the outside world fade away watching Richard Gere and Julia Roberts fall in love in 'Pretty Woman'.
By the time the movie ended they were both sleepy from the wine, and the day of stress, so they headed upstairs. They were content to get ready for bed and curl up together, not for passion but for comfort, drifting off to sleep together.
Saturday morning they slept in for a while, then headed down to make breakfast, finding Salome watching cartoons. "Pancakes anyone?" Alex asked and got the results she expected from both Matt and Sal, a resounding "YES!"
"Come on then, you can both help!" she insisted. Alex put Matt to making tea for them and had Sal get out the ingredients for the pancakes. While she and Sal mixed up the batter, Matt started on the bacon. Then the pancake production line started. Matt let the mum and daughter enjoy the process while he got out plates and glasses and poured juice, then warmed up the maple syrup in the microwave. It was a great team effort and they soon were stuffing their faces with pancakes and crispy bacon dipped in syrup while Sal told them funny stories from her week at camp...it really was a busy week!
Matt volunteered to clean up while Alex went to shower, then he joined Salome to watch cartoons, telling her how he and his sister Laura used to get up early every Saturday to do just that when they were kids.
When Alex was done, she sent Sal up to get dressed and Matt to the shower for his turn. Several minutes later while they were upstairs the phone rang, and she warily answered it, not knowing who might be calling on a Saturday. "Hello?" she said carefully, bracing herself in case it was Florian.
"Hey Alex, it's Jo. How are you guys doing?" her friend asked.
"Oh, hey Jo. We're good." Alex answered, relieved. "No more tabloid stories...just the picture of Matt and the colt, which is trending I'm told. Anyone bothering you at the farm?"
Jo laughed and said, "Not bothering, but I have been getting calls about the little guy."
"Oh really?" Alex asked.
"Yeah, a local sports reporter looked up the mare and found out about the link to Secretariat. She wants to do a feature story on the colt if you can believe it!" Jo exclaimed.
"Wow! Are you going to give her the story? That would certainly turn out the people for the charity show!" Alex said animatedly.
"That's the thing Alex, she wants to talk to you and Matt too." Jo began. "I didn't want to agree before talking to you first. I can tell her no if you're not comfortable talking to her."
"Thank you, Jo. I'll talk to Matt and let you know, okay? If she only wants to talk about the colt's birth and not about us personally, that would be okay. It really would help turn out people for the show if they wanted to see the colt, I think. In fact, why don't you guys come down and watch Doctor Who with us tonight, and we can discuss it, okay? Maybe we can turn this fiasco into something good for your fundraising!"
"Alright Alex, but only if you let us pick up dinner! We'll talk about it, and the new promo, then watch you and Matt do your stuff. Maybe we do need to be proactive. I don't want you guys to suffer from the unwanted attention on account of me asking for a favor."
Matt arrived in the kitchen behind her at this point, to hear Alex's response when she said "It's okay Jo. Matt and I will be fine. I'll text you my address. See you around 7:00 if that's alright?"
Jo answered in the affirmative and Alex used her cell phone to text her the address, so when Matt spoke, she was startled. He asked, "What's up Kingston?"
"Oh! Matthew! You surprised me!" she responded, batting his arm playfully. "That was Jo. She's gotten a request for an interview with all of us about the colt's birth and background. I told her I'd talk to you, then it occurred to me to invite them down to watch Doctor Who and talk about it."
"Did she say why us Alex? Not like we know much about the horses, and I'm not sure it's a good idea to remind people when we just had to deal with the paps."
Alex replied, "Well, Jo said this was a sports reporter who looked up the mare and found out about the connection to Secretariat, so she wants to find out more about the colt, and she must have seen the pictures, wants to know about the birth as well, since we were there."
"I guess we can talk about that, so long as she doesn't ask us personal stuff," Matt replied.
"Yeah, that's what I told Jo. Might as well get more publicity for the charity show, turn the negative into a positive, right?" she responded. Sal wandered in at that point and was informed that Jo and the boys would be coming to watch Doctor Who with them that night and talk about the horse show promotion and the new commercial they'd shoot Monday.
"Hey Matty, you could ask her about giving you some lessons before the trail ride!" Sal exclaimed.
"True, good idea Poppet," Matt replied, still unsure. "Don't want to be an embarrassment."
Alex snorted, and Matt gave her an affronted look before she went over to give him a peck on the lips, saying "You'll be fine sweetie. Now, if we have friends coming over, we need to straighten up down here, then I'm going to relax by the pool...who's going to help and then join me?"
After that, they spent a relaxing afternoon, Matt and Salome played in the pool while Alex enjoyed watching the scene and feeling a little overwhelmed at how lucky she was. Then they got cleaned up and made the patio ready by setting up chairs and getting paper plates out, as well as putting cans of soda on ice. Promptly at 7:00 they welcomed their guests, who were bearing bags and bags of Chinese food. Jo introduced her husband Mike and explained that Ryan's dad was still recovering from his shoulder injury and stayed home to 'keep an eye on things', of course. They gathered in the backyard to pass around the containers and share all the different dishes, then Salome took the boys inside to play on the Wii, leaving the adults to sip tea prepared by Alex and talk about the new promo and the interview the reporter wanted.
Lessons for Matt were arranged for Sunday, Jo explaining that some of the therapy horses needed some training exercises and Matt would be a big help in getting them used to carrying adults. "You too Alex, if you'd like to get a little work in." Jo offered. "It's the least I can do for all your help!" Alex grinned in response.
Finally it was time for Doctor Who and 'The Pandorica Opens' so the lights were dimmed and everyone got comfy.
The crazy week was nearly over and they closed it out watching the show with friends and family, as every Doctor Who fan, even the ones actually playing the characters, often do.
Chapter 23: Rejuvination
A chapter in which Florian is decent, Alex is surprised and Matt is schooled in 'riding'.
I'm so sorry it's taken me so long to update this fic. I promise I will finish it, only 4 more chapters to write.
Life got in the way, as my mum passed on May 8th and I found it hard to write while she was in hospice and after. She was a remarkable woman, I hope I'll live up to her example.
As luck would have it, we had a long-planned vacation to look forward to, which helped. I'm posting from Down Under, visiting family in New Zealand!
Sunday morning Alex woke to her cell phone ringing. She grumbled and reached out to cut it off, hoping Matt wouldn't wake. When she picked it up, her heart sank. It was Florian.
She answered the call and rose quietly, heading into the ensuite bath, hearing Matt stirring but hoping he'd fall back asleep.
"Florian, it's Sunday morning." she snapped, hoping this wasn't about the tabloid pictures.
Huffing, her ex-husband responded, "Hello to you too 'Lex."
"Why are you calling at this ungodly hour Flo?" Alex replied.
"Ten o'clock is hardly early, and I'm calling about Sal. What has you all wound up?" Flo replied, sounding confused.
He must not know, Alex thought to herself, remembering he'd been away on assignment, so she softened her tone. "Sorry, Flo. What about Sal?"
"I'm in town for a couple of days and wanted to see her this afternoon if that's okay. Have to leave again Monday," he explained. "I thought I'd take her to lunch, maybe a matinee movie. I'd have her back for dinner."
He really sounded contrite, and hopeful. Alex felt guilty for snapping at him. The man just wanted to see his daughter for a little while. She could certainly understand that. She replied "I guess that's okay. She'd love to see you I'm sure. Be prepared for a non-stop commentary on her first week at horse camp!" She chuckled, knowing how Flo felt about that.
"So she's having fun then?" he replied, relieved. "No worries after the earthquake?"
"Not really, no. Too much else going on I guess." Alex responded. "What time will you be wanting her ready?"
"Half past twelve okay?" he asked.
"Sure, I heard the tv on downstairs so she's probably up," she answered.
"Okay, thanks." he replied, pausing to add "Alex, I heard about the paps at your house. I'm sorry that happened."
Alex was too surprised to talk for a moment, managing to answer "Yeah, me too. It was kind of a rude awakening. Thanks?" She didn't quite understand why he didn't seem upset that Sal was in the middle of it all.
"Yeah, well...you seem so much happier with Matt there. When I talk to Sal on the phone she always has glowing things to say about him. Try not to let the tabloids get to you." he said sincerely.
Alex could only reply "Um, thanks Flo. That means a lot to me. See you in a couple of hours."
She disconnected the call and stared at herself in the bathroom mirror for a minute, processing. Flo being understanding. Will wonders never cease? she thought to herself.
Hoping not to wake Matt she quietly opened the door, planning to grab her robe and go downstairs to fill Salome in on her afternoon with her dad. No such luck, he was awake.
"What's going on love?" Matt asked. "Another reporter?"
Alex laughed, dropping her phone on the nightstand and sitting down next to him on the bed. "Nope, it was Florian. Wants to see Sal this afternoon."
"Well, that's okay, right? It's been a couple of weeks." Matt replied.
"Yeah, he's only in town for today, wants to take her to lunch and a movie. I said fine, of course." she explained, adding "That's not the strange part. He said he was sorry we had to deal with the paps last week. I thought he'd be livid because of Salome, and the paps being at the house, but he was actually...sympathetic."
"Sal will be happy to see him, I'm sure. Maybe he's just got a different perspective now." Matt said lightly.
"Apparently Sal's been giving you glowing reports when she talks to him on the phone. Guess he decided if she's okay with you, he will be too. It's actually kind of refreshing." Alex replied, laughing. "I was just going to head down and tell her, he's picking her up at half noon."
Alex had been twisting her fingers as she talked, Matt reached out and took her hand, squeezing it. "Go on then. I'll get my shower," he said. "Unless you want me to wait for you?" he added, smirking.
"I won't be long then sweetie!" she flirted, giving him a quick kiss and pulling on her robe to go in search of Salome.
When Florian showed up later to collect Sal, she was all ready, wearing her favorite summer dress and chattering excitedly about the movie. Toy Story 3 had just come out and she'd been looking forward to seeing it, so they left on their Daddy/Daughter afternoon, with a promise to have the girl home by 6 pm.
Sal had fed herself breakfast, so while she was getting ready, Matt and Alex had their own brunch, tea, scones and cold cereal. They left shortly after Flo and Sal, on their way to the stable for Matt's lesson.
The drive was pleasant, and familiar now as they chatted about nothing important, comfortable together. Matt was a little nervous about his riding lesson but decided it was no different than preparing for a role and was determined to remain calm. Alex had shown how being calm around the horses tended to earn their respect. Again he was learning by her example. He was a very lucky man.
When they pulled up outside Jo's house, closest to the private barn, they spotted the boys leading Royal Secret and her colt back to the barn and stopped to pet them. The mare nuzzled Alex as if saying 'hello friend' and Rudy thrust his long nose in for some attention from Matt. Ryan explained that they were taking the pair inside to avoid the heat of the day. Waving, they left for the barn and Matt and Alex headed toward Jo's front door, only to have her meet them on the steps saying "I see you saw the colt, he's gotten bigger I think! Come on, we'll go inside the covered arena. It's too hot out here."
The three of them walked into the open-air arena, where the roof protected them from the California sun and crossed over to the barn where two grooms had horses ready for them. Jo handed the reins of a red roan gelding to Alex. "This is Tango." she said, "He needs some work to keep from getting fat, so after you warm him up, feel free to trot and canter all you want, and ask if you need a refresher on anything."
"Sure," Alex replied. I think I'd better stretch first, don't want to be sore later." She stepped out and lead Tango to the side of the arena and clipped him to a hitching post while she used some yoga moves to stretch out her back and legs while Matt listened to Jo's instructions.
"Matt, this is Aspen. She's a bit lazy so I thought you'd give her a wake up since she's going to have adults riding her and she needs to pay attention." Aspen was a tall rangy mare, with a salt and pepper coat. "You can go stretch out too...like you would for any exercise. You'll be surprised how many muscles you never knew you had that will complain later!" Jo added with a laugh.
Alex cackled from her side of the arena as Matt joined her. She made him stretch out his Achilles tendons and back and when she decided they were ready, she checked Tango's girth, tightening it by a notch and then made sure both stirrups were adjusted correctly before accepting a leg up from Matt, talking the whole while about what she was doing and why.
"You sure know your stuff Alex, you must have done this all before," Matt observed.
"When I was a kid, yeah. And for some of my movie roles. Riding is a useful skill for an actor, even if you don't get to do all the fun stuff!" Alex replied, sounding annoyed.
Jo led Aspen over for Matt to mount, saying "Left foot in the stirrup Matt. We always mount from the left side of the horse." She handed him the reins then stepped back to the center of the area. For once his long legs were useful as he mimicked Alex, checking the girth before putting his left foot in the stirrup and grabbing the horse's mane and the back of the saddle, bouncing once or twice and stepping up while swinging his right leg over the horse and finding the other stirrup with his foot as he settled into the saddle.
"Just walk around the ring and warm her up," Jo told Matt as he urged the mare forward. Aspen sauntered along, ears flopped and head low, seemingly barely awake. Matt squirmed in the saddle, trying to find a comfortable position while peeking around to see what Alex was up to. As she passed him, her horse walking at a more energetic pace, she smirked.
"Matt, try to sit up straight. Put your toes in the stirrups, don't let your feet go through them." Jo instructed. "Your back should be vertical. When you slouch, your horse gets lazy. Try to urge her forward with a squeeze of your heels."
Matt followed her instructions and felt Aspen walk out a bit faster, with her ears perked. He tried to relax and keep his back straight at the same time and after a lap around the ring, he got the hang of walking. He could feel the sway of the mare's walk, steady and familiar. Jo was striding along beside him, explaining that each patient has walkers to guide them and give confidence to the injured or disabled rider that someone was there to catch them if they fell. "I can see how this would benefit someone who was going through physical therapy," Matt told her.
"Are you ready to try a trot?" Jo asked. "Since you're in a western saddle, which is what we'll be using on the trail ride, you don't post like Alex is doing, gesturing to her friend as she trotted by on Tango.
Alex made a comment passing by "This guy sure has a choppy trot!" as she rose and fell in the saddle to skip the bounces.
"Try slowing him down a bit Alex. Sit in the saddle and squeeze the reins to tell him to collect his trot. He likes to go fast in the ring so he's always in front!"
Matt got distracted watching Alex (get your mind out of the gutter Smith!) and turned back to Jo, listening as she gave him instructions on how to get Aspen to trot on. After a few strides (and Jo beside her) she began a jog trot, causing him to bounce a bit before relaxing into the saddle. "Keep your back straight Matt. That's it!" Jo exclaimed. He circled the ring, trying to remain deep in the saddle, happy to only bounce a little bit. While he was trotting, Alex passed him again, relaxed into a canter, a wide grin on her face. She looked like she was really having fun! Jo had him slow to a walk again, then had him do some calisthenics, arms out and rotating at the waist, then leaning forward to touch Aspen's head, which stretched out his back. "Our students usually do the exercises first to loosen up," Jo explained. "I think you've had enough for today. Next time I'll let you canter!" she said, laughing.
Alex had brought Tango back to a walk and was ambling along beside him now, cooling the gelding off. They continued around the ring a couple more times and met Jo in the center, where she told Matt the best way to dismount. His legs felt a bit rubbery when he landed but the feeling went away quickly. He was amazed to discover they'd been riding for nearly an hour.
"We can let the grooms cool the horses down and give them a bath on this hot day!" Jo said as they handed the two waiting workers the reins. "Come on up to the house for some lemonade. We can talk about the reporter and her story."
While they drank the cold lemonade, Jo filled them in on the reporter. She explained how the young woman had gone to the effort of looking up the mare's pedigree and wanted to do a story on her and the mystery colt. "I gave her as much info as I had," Jo explained. "I think she saw the picture of Matt and the foal and asked if she could interview the two of you. I told her I'd give you her contact information and let you decide." Alex took the business card Jo handed her and pocketed it, saying "I'll give her a call, see exactly what she wants to know."
"She may just be a fan," Matt said. "We have to avoid being rude. I don't mind answering a few questions about the horses, but we should steer clear of anything personal. Things are just starting to calm down."
"Whatever you think is best," Jo replied. "See you tomorrow morning!"
Matt and Alex headed home for a much-needed shower before Sal returned from her day with Florian. It was going to be another busy week. Matt had a meeting with some movie types and Alex needed to arrange their little party for the folks from the Big Bang TV show to screen the Who two-parter 'The Pandorica Opens/Big Bang'.
Steven, the producer who'd gotten them passes for the World Cup game, had sent her an email asking if he could arrive early and talk to both of them about a project he was shopping around the studio, which they readily agreed to.
On top of that, Matt had a message from Karen that she and Darvill would be coming into LA later in the week, as Arthur had a meeting with some CW producers about a superhero TV series they were thinking about, and Karen invited herself along, of course!
As they were negotiating LA traffic back to Alex's house and talking about the week, Matt realized just how normal everything felt. He'd fallen into the LA routine with Alex so easily. Only two weeks left for his 'vacation' and he never wanted to leave. He'd stopped holding up his end of the conversation, lost in thought.
Alex snuck a quick look at his face, before returning her attention to the traffic. "Something wrong darling?" she asked.
Matt shook his head, breaking out of his daze and turning to her with a grin. "Did I tell you today that I love you Kingston?"
"More than once my love...but you can say it again as many times as you like!" Alex replied, giving him a saucy grin.
"I don't want to distract you from driving, but when we get home....." Matt responded, smirking.
"Home, is it?" Alex laughed, taking her exit and merging into the flow of traffic there.
"Yeah, feels like home, being there with you and Sal."
Alex made a turn and pulled to a stop at a red light, turning to Matt and saying softly "Oh sweetie...home is wherever you are with the ones you love. Even if they have to be away, or you do."
"I know love. I want you to remember that I will always love you, no matter where we are, or when." Matt replied sincerely.
"Now you're starting to sound like the Doctor sweetie! We're nearly home, and I'm wondering what brought this on?"
"Don't know Alex, I guess I just realized we've only got two more weeks together before I have to go back and shoot the Christmas special, and we have lots to do, with Kaz and Darvill coming on Friday, the viewing party Saturday...I'm jealous of my time, I want to spend it all with you. I know I'm being silly..."
She continued driving when the light changed, nearing her neighborhood. "Not silly darling, but it is something we have to accept, or we won't survive. The life of an actor is all about the jobs, and that means sacrifices. It won't be so long this time...I'll join you in Cardiff in August remember?"
"Yeah, I know," Matt replied as Alex turned onto her street and in no time was pulling into the garage, punching the button clipped on her car visor to close the overhead door, now more mindful of watchful eyes.
He clambered out of the car and rushed around to help her, and she let him give her a hand, rolling her eyes with affection and kissing him on the cheek in thanks. He pulled her into a proper snog, cradling her face with his hands.
When they broke for air, Alex was reminded of their afternoon activities by the heady aroma of 'Eau de horse' surrounding them and exclaimed: "Matthew, we need to clean up going by the smell...sweat, leather, and horse!" Matt wrinkled his nose, but grinned and waggled his pale eyebrows at her.
"Are you insulting me or propositioning me Kingston?" he replied, laughing.
Alex unlocked the garage door and they went inside, kicking off their boots and leaving them in the garage to clean later. Glancing over her shoulder at him, she smirked and said: "What do you think darling?"
"I'm going with the proposition, cause we both need a proper washing, and I know the best way to do that, AND get my 'Kingston' fix for the day...last one in the shower has to wash the other's hair!" Matt replied, taking off running up the back stairs, Alex not far behind.
"No fair! You have longer legs!" she shouted, rounding the corner from the hall into the master suite. Matt had his feet tangled in his jeans and Alex made up time, stripping off her jodphers and shirt, down to her undergarments, which melted away as Matt struggled with his garish socks, distracted by the view she was giving him. She slipped into the shower and turned on the water, cackling with glee as she handed him the bottle of shampoo once he managed to finally join her.
He just smirked at her and said "First we need to get you wet 'Lex," as he gently pushed her under the warm shower spray, letting the water stream over both of them as he met her lips with his own, while his hands were roaming. Taking a breath, he whispered "At the farm, your bum was very distracting, going 'up, down, up, down' as you trotted past me in those tight jodphers Kingston. I doubt anything Jo told me sunk in."
Alex giggled, which turned into a moan as his long fingers reached their destination and stroked her slowly as he repeated 'up, down, up, down'. "You're incorrigible Matthew." she managed to squeak out between kisses.
"And you like that, don't you love?" he responded, smirking again.
"Only if you get on with it..." she whinged...until his hands began to really work their magic on her, and his talented mouth descended down her neck, nibbling and sucking until he got her off and he had to support her as she shuttered through her climax, moaning loudly.
Matt retrieved the shampoo bottle and began the process of washing Alex's volumulus curls. "You're a full-service establishment today Matthew," she commented, enjoying the head massage almost as much as his previous ministrations.
"Yes ma'am, 'full service' it is!" he replied as he helped her rinse her hair and apply conditioner, then it was his turn.
Alex could feel his arousal against her back, but prefered a more 'comfortable' location, so she used her favorite honeysuckle body wash, lathering up a washcloth and giving both herself and Matt a good going over while he quickly washed his own hair. Standing on her tiptoes, she pulled him in for a heated kiss as her hands roamed and the soap was rinsed away. "Come on darling," she purred as she led him from the shower, grabbing towels to dry themselves as they made for her bed.
"I enjoyed my ride so much, I want another." she joked as she pushed him onto his back on the bed and climbed up him, leaving warm wet kisses as she went. "Gotta keep the thigh muscles in shape sweetie...giddy up!" she exclaimed as she lined herself up and felt him fill her perfectly.
"Ride 'em cowgirl." Matt murmured as she began to move, a look of pure bliss on his face. He put his hands to good use again on her breasts, so very near his talented mouth. They both moaned at all the sensations, fuel for the fire they kindled. Alex rode him as he bucked under her, eyes locked, giving permission to let go in unison, shuttering through their shared climax before Alex rolled off him and they both lay panting.
"You are one talented woman Kingston! I shouldn't be surprised by now, but that was amazing!
"Likewise darling. I'm not sure I can do it again though, not without a long soak in a hot bath!"
"Maybe before bed then? A bubble bath and then we can 'ride' off to sleep?"
Alex burst out laughing at that. "After Sal's asleep maybe...best get up and dressed before she's home from her Daddy/Daughter date."
They fetched warm washcloths and cleaned up from their post-shower romp, putting on clean clothes and taking smelly ones to the laundry room to be washed.
Sal returned shortly, chattering about the movie and they fixed dinner together, after which Sal's riding gear was readied for another week and they settled in to watch a movie before she had to go to bed.
Alex spoke to the reporter on her cell phone and they arranged to meet her at the farm in the morning after they settled Salome.
Matt confirmed his meeting on Tuesday about a movie he'd been invited to audition for, then they did indeed take a long hot bubble bath for sore muscles...and more 'riding' exercises.
Let's just say they slept well that night!