Author's Note: The first Emma Approved hiatus brought forward my first Emma/Alex fic, so I suppose it's only fitting the second one brings another on as well. This one is much more fluffy and sweet than the first, but you can probably contribute that to the fact I wrote most of it past midnight last night when I needed something a bit more adorable to focus on. Also, the fact that I had this image of him looking all disheveled and Emma sitting there looking all sympathetic beside him stuck in my head, so I decided to write a scenario around that.
Anyway, I hope you enjoy reading! I just hope my next one for them won't be spurned from yet another hiatus. We've had enough of those.
Disclaimer: I don't own the characters. I just like to take them out to play.
Neither of them realizes Emma's moved in until after it's actually happened.
It starts with small things; her toothbrush in the bathroom, a carton of her favorite almond milk in the fridge. It grows bigger when Alex spots a shirt he won't admit he loves seeing her in among his things on laundry day. Though he considers talking to her about it then, he shelves the idea for later, acting as if the shirt is a remnant from the day they'd gotten drenched during a freak thunderstorm.
The evidence piles up when he sees more proof not just of the fact Emma's been there, but of just how much time she spends at his place. Alex discovers the exfoliating body wash she uses sitting right next to the shampoo he does (and no, he doesn't bring it to his nose to see if it smells just like her, although the thought crosses his mind). While cleaning up before she comes over a few days later, he lifts a candle off of the coffee table, only realizing she's the one who put it there after setting it down.
"It's aromatherapy," Emma says, smiling when he asks her about it later. "I'm considering it for a client. I wouldn't be myself if I didn't at least try a product before recommending it, correct?" she asks. She looks over at Alex, his eyes drifting back to the financial documents on his lap, and she puts a hand on his arm. It had been a business meeting of sorts, despite the take out containers on the table, before Alex brought the candle up. With the shift in both tone and direction, she's worried she's said or done something wrong. "I would've tested it at home, but I came straight here after work the other night and already had it with me. If it bothers you, I can take it—"
"No," he interrupts. He reaches for her hand, offering her a smile. "It's perfect" He looks back at the documents in his lap before returning his gaze to her. "I could file these away for later and we could relax? Pick a movie?"
They decide to do so, bickering over things he has saved in his DVR. There are a few movies and TV episodes saved, and a few History channel related shows. It's something on the more—Alex cringes even as he thinks it—"boring, businessy side" of things, that makes him pause. "Emma? I didn't record this."
She shrugs, pulling her hair free from the ponytail it had been in while they were talking over reports for the business. "Maybe it's gotten so smart it just predicts when you'd be interested in something?"
Alex laughs, casually wrapping an arm around her shoulders, smiling as he watches her curl her legs up onto the couch. He likes seeing this side of her, so much more relaxed than she is throughout the day. "Or maybe someone saw it would be playing and set it to record for me."
Emma shrugs it off. "Maybe. Maybe you were in the shower while they were going through the guide, and they thought it might be something you would want to see."
He grins, pulling her in for a quick kiss. When he pulls back, resting his forehead against hers, he finds himself wondering if he'll ever get used to having the ability to do this. "Well, then I might be tempted to thank that person. If they were here."
This time, it's Emma who leans in first, clutching the fabric of his shirt in one hand when their lips connect. "Just as long as you know they don't intend on watching it with you."
"I think I'm okay that."
So, time passes. More of Emma's clothes wind up mixed in with his. She records shows he thinks he likes, and Alex even catches himself watching a program from OWN when she isn't in the room. On a Saturday morning they both have free, they go shopping, and he catches himself putting things in the cart simply because he knows she likes them.
"I'm capable of buying things for myself, you know. And besides, I don't think I've even seen you eat anything with tofu."
"Maybe not," he says, steering the cart towards the produce aisle. He carefully weighs two of the apples—both organic, of course—before looking back at her. "But you do."
She saves it to dissect later, once she's home alone. Except as they stand in line for the cashier, she realizes the plan was for her to stay the night at his place. That, and she can't remember the last time she's actually shopped for groceries for her own apartment. There are take out containers sitting in the fridge, and a carton of vegan ice cream, but besides that she figures there can't be much that's edible.
But it's none of those things that cause the realization to happen. Instead, it's a day when Alex doesn't come into work. Emma's too caught up in dealing with a client to realize it, but when she drops by his office to see if he wants to grab lunch, only for Harriet to say he hasn't been in all day, she becomes worried.
After several unanswered calls and text messages, she grabs the spare key he keeps in his desk, and heads over. In retrospect, she guesses she should've seen him curled up in a ball on his bed, half a box of tissues surrounding him in crumpled pieces, coming before freaking out and heading over. The flu had spread through the offices at Highbury, so it was bound to happen sooner or later.
"Hey," she whispers, pressing a hand to his forehead. She watches as his eyelids flutter open, his normally tanned skin much paler now, making it clear he was sick. "Can I get you anything? Some water maybe? Or cold medicine?"
Alex shakes his head before turning away and coughing. He takes a minute to rearrange himself underneath the covers. "I'm fine. I should have called though, I didn't want you to worry. But when I woke up this morning, I just—"
Emma shushes him, this time cupping his cheek with her hand. "Alex, it's fine. You worried me, yes. But I'm here now, and I want to help. Now, when's the last time you ate something? Or drank water?" she asks, eyeing the empty bottle on his nightstand. "It's important to remain hydrated when you're sick."
He coughs again, this time wincing before settling back down again. "I know. Thank you. But really, I'm sure you have something more important to do."
"Nonsense. I can call Harriet and see if she can handle our afternoon meetings. Then, I can heat you up some soup. While I'm doing that, why don't you take a shower? The heat might help clear you up a bit."
His eyes are closed while she speaks, but he nods his head in agreement.
A little while later, he emerges from the shower feeling slightly better than he had before. He sees that not only has his room been tidied up, but that there's a hot bowl of soup and a fresh water bottle waiting for him.
"Better?" Emma asks, standing in the doorway. She smiles, feeling confident that she made the right choice. Until she sees the look that crosses his face. "What?"
"Emma, I have to ask you something. The door was locked. How did you get in here?"
"Well, apparently your mind's clearer now," she replies with a laugh. She thought joking might alter the way the mood of the room has shifted, but it doesn't. "I found the key you keep taped underneath the top drawer of your desk. You weren't answering your phone, so I grew concerned. Under different circumstances, you know I wouldn't take advantage. And I'd never tell anyone it was there. I just thought it was the best course of action to take."
Alex smiles, holding the soup bowl, allowing the warmth to soak into his hands. He sets the bowl aside upon seeing how uncertain she looks, standing there and wringing her hands together in the doorway. "Come here," he calls, waving her over.
She fishes into her pocket, holding the key out for him to take back whenever she sits down on the bed. "You can have it back. Or I'll return it to where it was when I go to the office tomorrow."
He nods, agreeing with her until the thought occurs to him. It seems so right he's not sure why he's never brought it up before. "Or you could keep it."
Emma's eyes widen. "Alex, what are you saying?"
"I'm saying you should keep it. I can have another made anyway," he replies. He'd laugh at how nervous she seems, every muscle suddenly tensed, if the situation weren't so serious. "Em, you spend most of your time here anyway. It's practical, right? You should be able to come and go whenever you want. Whether we're here working late and you just want to stay over, or if you're on your way in and need to pick something up—"
"Why would I need to pick something up? Hypothetically."
"Hypothetically, you'd need to pick it up because it was already here. Like most of your stuff. Seriously, I'm pretty sure you have more shoes here than I do."
She playfully punches his shoulder, quickly apologizing afterward for fear she'd hurt him. "That's because the only shoes you own are a couple pairs of old man loafers, a pair of tennis shoes, and some hiking boots."
"They're not old man loafers, Emma. Just because they're comfortable doesn't mean—" Alex stops upon hearing her laugh. "You're joking."
"Only partially," she replies with a wink. The key feels heavy in her hand, but in a different way than it did before. "So what are you really saying?"
Alex draws a deep breath, more difficult due to feeling so congested, and he wishes this conversation were had when he didn't feel so sick. But he also realizes now it was bound to happen sooner or later. "I'm saying that most of your things are already here. I'm also saying that this place is so much quieter without you around."
"And suddenly that's not a good thing?"
"No, it's not. Look..." Alex shifts on the bed, grabbing her hand currently holding the key with his, lacing their fingers together. "Whether you say yes or not, you can keep the key. It's yours. But I think you should move in here."
The air in the room grows still. "Because it's practical?" Emma asks, calling back to what he said a few moments before.
"That," Alex replies. He smiles, wanting the next words to sink in, because they're the root of why he's asking her to take such a big step in the first place. "And because I love you."
"I love you, too. You're my best friend, and you have been for a long time. A really long time. I don't want to jeopardize one of the most important relationships I have by taking that step too soon. We drive each other crazy. What do you think that would be like if we lived together full time?"
"I'm not saying it would always be easy. You think I'm not scared of hurting our friendship? You're important to me, too, Emma. Don't forget that." He feels his voice wavering at the end, struck by just how much he means what he's saying.
Her eyes become blurry, and she reaches up with her free hand, but ultimately fails at keeping the tears at bay.
"You can't not do something just because you're a little bit scared, Emma. Instead, you try to move forward. You do the best you can because you care so much about a person, seeing them happy makes you feel that way, too. Seeing things that remind you of them make you happy, even when they're not around. That's the way I see it."
"Wow," Emma replies, still trying to process everything he's saying. It's not often Alex Knightley makes big speeches about how he feels, but when he does, she's reminded of how it's always what she needs to hear. She kisses him, not caring in that moment that she might catch his cold, and pulls back with a grin on her face. "Yes."
It takes him a minute, due to the grogginess still surrounding his brain, to process what she's saying. "You're saying yes?"
She laughs in a way that has always driven him a little crazy, so full of life and amusement. "I'm saying yes."
He feels the grin spread across his face, and he's happier than he's felt in a long time.
Sure, Emma knows it won't always be perfect. They'll bicker over dinner options that are mutually beneficial, or over whose side of the bed it is, or even who emptied the dishwasher last. She'll keep her apartment for a few months, claiming it's merely for storage, even though she'll spend a whole weekend there after a fight they'll both say is so stupid in retrospect. But in the end, she's the one who tells him she's not renewing her lease, and the last of her things are either sold or find their place among his. They'll still have to try and make boundaries between where work ends and home life begins, and it won't always be easy. She knows these things—or at least suspects them—but as she slides the key onto the key ring with all of the others, she knows she's made the right choice.