A/N: I don't even know how this happened, but it happened. Consider this to take place sometime after season one, so spoilers for the whole season.


"Ouch."

Hooten looked up at Alex and arched an eyebrow at her grimace. "Woman up, Lady Alex. You really don't want these to get infected."

"Yes, thank you, I had presumed as much," she said while he cleaned and disinfected her hands which were nearly raw from holding onto a very ancient rope that he'd dangled from not two hours ago, before pulling them both into extremely rank swamp water. Her hair smelled like a sewer and something else rancid that she didn't really wish to contemplate. He poured rubbing alcohol over her hands and she yelped. "Hooten!"

"What?" he asked innocently, which wasn't very successful as the man couldn't pull off innocent even if his life depended on it.

"Do you have to be quite so liberal with the rubbing alcohol?" she asked, cringing as her hands stung.

"Probably not," he said grinning. "But you'll be thanking me later. You like your hands, right? You still want to be able to hold the lapis lazuli lotus flower in your hands, right?"

"Yes, yes, thank you for your assistance," she said. "Even if I still think we're chasing after a myth. Again."

"And how many times have those myths turned out to be fact? Yeah? Okay, then," he said when she rolled her eyes. "Now, hold still while I give your hands the mummy treatment."

"Well, not the literal mummy treatment," she said watching him bind her hands with clean gauze. "I assume you aren't planning to remove any of my internal organs."

"Depends on how nice you are to me," he said winking at her. "The night's still young."

She sighed but with more amusement than anything else. His hands were steady as they wrapped hers with practiced ease and she noted the split knuckles and the odd scars dotted about his hands. She ducked her head slightly and a hunk of her swamp-mucky hair slid out of her bun to rest against her face and she caught a whiff of something deeply unpleasant.

"Ugh," she said flipping her hair out of her face. "Shower next, I think."

"Well, only if you let me wash your back," he said tying off the gauze.

"Funny," she said. "My hair smells like something died in it."

"Is that what that is?" he asked lifting his arm to sniff his armpit and his face went blank. "No, it's both of us. Shower, it is. Let's go."

He cupped her elbows and pulled her to her feet. Surprised, she let him pull her to the bathroom before coming back to herself. She slipped out of his grip. "Hooten! Very funny, but we're not showering together."

He looked at her and smirked that infernal smirk that said he knew precisely what she was thinking and that he was happy about it.

"You're right," he said. "We're not."

"Oh," she said telling herself it wasn't disappointment she was feeling.

"I'm showering and then you're going in the bath," he said. "You can't get those hands wet. Not after all the trouble I took to patch them up."

"Oh, yes," she said. "Um, what about my hair?"

"Did I ever tell you about the time I hid out in a hair salon in Berlin?" he asked grinning as he started to take his clothes off.

Alex spun around. "You have no sense of modesty whatsoever, do you?"

"Why bother? You've already seen it all," he said, his voice muffled by his shirt.

"Not exactly the point," she muttered.

He chuckled and she stood there while he turned the shower on and pulled the curtain closed. She fidgeted while she listened to him bathe and finally just muttered, "Fine. Just. Fine."

Carefully, with the tips of her fingers which were the only parts of her hands not covered by gauze, she took her hair out of it's clips and took her shoes off. Then she gingerly unbuttoned her shirt and trousers. She hesitated, but left her bra and knickers on. She was willing to bare herself to some degree, but not to the extent that Hooten was. Which perhaps was reflective of their entire partnership, but she didn't really wish to dwell on that.

Therefore when Hooten finished his shower and flipped the taps to run into the bath, Alex was standing against the counter, her arms crossed over her chest, waiting and holding a towel in her outstretched hand.

He stared at her for a moment and she stared back. At his face. Nowhere else.

The smile he flashed her was genuinely cheerful as he stepped out of the bath and took the towel she offered.

"Need a hand?" he asked rubbing his wet hair with the towel.

"I'll be fine," she said.

"Yeah," he said chuckling and leaving the bathroom. "Keep those hands dry!"

She rolled her eyes and gingerly lowered herself into the bath, sighing as the hot water eased her muscles and stung some of her other cuts and scratches. She kept her hands out of the water and thought for a moment, then simply slipped under the water and moved her head from side to side, getting her hair wet and hopefully getting most of the muck rinsed away. She remained under the water until her lungs burned and then she sat up with a gasp.

Hooten backed away quickly, avoiding a collision with her face. She blinked at him and he blinked at her before raising his eyebrows. "What? I thought I'd have to dive in after you."

"I'm not going to drown myself," she said picking at her hair with the tips of her fingers while watching him hang up a towel. He was still bare-chested and only wore his underwear and she looked away when he looked back. "I can't quite get my hair clean."

"Yeah," he said kneeling beside the tub. "Scoot forward and turn around."

"What?" she asked even as she did as he asked.

He picked up the bottle of hotel shampoo and waved it at her. "How much should I use?"

"Oh, God, all of it," she said.

With her back to the taps, he turned on the extendable showerhead and rinsed her hair several times, running his fingers through her hair until the water ran clean. Then he poured a liberal amount of shampoo in his hand and rubbed them together. A shiver tripped up Alex's spine even before he put his hands on her head and then she had the devil of a time holding in her moan of pleasure.

Say what you would about Ulysses Hooten, the man could wash hair.

His fingers were gentle but firm and they massaged the shampoo into every inch of her head. Happy, satisfied tingles ran all over her skin and she sighed as he worked the shampoo over her scalp. Her eyes fluttered shut.

He even rubbed right behind her ears and along her forehead and she murmured, "I can't remember the last time someone touched me like this."

His hands froze and Alex froze, her eyes popped open.

"Oh, God," she said. "That was out loud, wasn't it?"

"Oh, it was," he said going back to washing her hair. "Things been that bad with Edward for that long?"

"Sort of," she muttered. "We could just never get our schedules to match up."

"Really?" he said, his voice as dry as the Sahara.

"Right, fine, I couldn't get my schedule to match up," she said through gritted teeth. "I..." She sighed, so tired of trying to defend herself. "It was my fault and I accept that."

"Yeah," he said, his voice quiet as he washed his hands off in the bathwater before turning the showerhead on to rinse her hair.

He rinsed her hair in silence and Alex pulled her legs up to her chest, resting her bound hands on her knees and staring at the soapy, muddy water as it swirled around her feet.

He switched the water off and went back to her hair with another handful of shampoo.

"Speaking of painful realities," he said once again working some kind of magic on her scalp. "How is the divorce going?"

"Finalised as of this past Thursday," she said, still staring at the water.

He paused, then said, "That was quick."

"The benefits of being a Lady are numerous," she said making a face. "And I just wanted Edward to be free to move on with his life."

"Well, and you too," he said.

"What do you mean?" she asked frowning.

"You wanted to be free, too," he said and she had to struggle to match the matter-of-fact, blunt tone with his extremely gentle hands.

"I suppose, yes, I did, I do," she stammered. "I want to be free. I just wish..."

"It didn't have to be so painful?" he asked.

"Oh, I wish," she said laughing and rolling her eyes. "It's been remarkably painless, actually. There's been hardly any trouble at all. I've just divorced a very good, a very decent man, and I have no regrets whatsoever and neither does he and..."

"And...what?" he asked, dropping his hands from her head and shifting to look at her.

"And shouldn't this hurt more?" she asked. "Shouldn't there be more pain?"

He stared at her and she closed her eyes and grimaced. "Oh, God, please, please, please ignore that I just said that. It was horribly selfish and terrible and I don't actually mean it. I'm sorry, Hooten."

She sat there in the cooling bath, shampoo bubbles trickling down her neck with her eyes closed until Hooten sighed and turned on the showerhead and sprayed her in the face.

She shrieked and spluttered and flailed before he caught her arms and steadied her, laughing his head off.

"Do you feel better now?" she asked glaring at him.

"Yeah," he said grinning before going very serious. "Don't go looking for pain, Alex. It'll show up soon enough. It always does."

She nodded. "I know. I'm sorry."

"Yeah, I know. Now, close your eyes and let me rinse you off," he said.

A few minutes later, Alex sat on her bed, her wet hair smelling like shampoo and not swamp muck while she read over her notes.

"Where to?" Hooten asked from where he lay sprawled on his bed, bottle of beer in one hand while he flipped through the channels on the very small tv in the corner.

"Well, if I'm reading this right," she said.

"Which you are," he added.

"Which I am," she said smirking. "Then it looks like we're off to the coast."

"Damn," he said taking a drink.

"Why?" she asked frowning at him. "The beach is far preferable to the swamp, don't you think?"

"Yeah, but when am I going to get a chance to shower with you next?" he asked, grinning at her.

Alex threw her pillow at him.