A/N: This was totally based on a prompt by rachel-bailey 'Who knew you could be so gentle' and things got out of hand. I hope you enjoy!
"I had no idea you could be this gentle."
Alex paused mid-tweeze and looked up at Hooten. "I think I'm insulted."
"Don't be," he said making a face as she went back to extracting the tiny slivers of crystal from his arm. "You have a very soft touch. You used to be all frantic and panicky about this stuff."
"I beg your pardon," she said calmly. "I never panic."
He snorted and she took the opportunity to pour more rubbing alcohol on his scrape and his snort turned into a garbled groan. "Okay, okay, uncle! I take it all back. You, Lady Alex, are the most ministering of angels, your hands are like delicate, gossamer butterfly wings."
"Oh, shut it," she said snickering. "Although, you get some points for using the word 'gossamer' in a sentence."
"Thanks," he said reaching for his bottle of whatever he'd managed to find in the bar downstairs.
They'd spent so long in the tiny village in Peru, the locals were becoming so used to them, the bartender, Hector, just gave Hooten bottles at random. And that afternoon, Hector'd taken one look at them, bedraggled, dusty, and covered with scrapes from a slide down a cliff, he'd handed Hooten two bottles and Alex his first aid kit.
Alex had immediately showered, then shoved Hooten in the shower, and afterwards, she got to work on the worst of his scrapes, namely a broad one with shards of crystal and mica embedded in his shoulder.
"There is a bright side," she said as she removed another shard. "This crystal is only found in very specific localities."
"Meaning I'll get a very rare form of lockjaw?" he asked.
"That's rust," she said rolling her eyes. "It means that we're close. The artefact is close."
"That'll make the museum happy."
"Will it make you happy?"
Alex's eyes flickered to Hooten but he was staring at the wall. "It might," she said slowly.
Alex frowned at Hooten's arm as she finished up. "You're being abnormally kind this evening."
"Yes," she said with a huff tying off the bandage. Hooten flexed his upper arm and met her gaze. "You complimented me, for heaven's sake."
"What? A guy can't compliment his friend?" he asked looking seven kinds of innocent that she didn't buy for a second. "It's true. You're much better at the tending thing. You used to get all flustered."
"I suppose I've just gotten used to it," she said standing and putting the first aid kit back together. She paused. "Oh, God. I've gotten used to it. How did that happen? How did I get used to injuries and, and, and violence? To pain?" She whirled to look at him with wide eyes. "Am I insensitive to people being in pain?"
"No," he said slowly looking at her like she was mental. "You're not used to pain. I've met people who are 'used' to pain and you are not one of them. You're just…used to all this." He waved his hand, indicating the small motel room and their small backpacks. "And maybe…"
He trailed off and Alex leaned forward. "And maybe…? Maybe what?"
"Maybe you're just used to me," Hooten said with a shrug before meeting her eyes and taking a sip of his beer.
She blinked. "Oh. Well. I suppose I am."
He winked at her and handed her the other beer bottle.
Two hours later, one beer down and another well on it's way to being finished, Alex yawned and stretched as she stared at the map.
"Take a break," Hooten said from his place sprawled on his bed watching a football match on a very tiny television.
"I'm close," she said. "We're close."
"You're going to miss something," he sing-songed. "Take a break."
She sighed and leaned back against the headboard of her own single bed. Squinting at the telly, she asked, "That image is atrocious. How can you keep the players straight?"
"I can't," he said chuckling. "But it beats staring at a map."
She threw her pillow at him and then, absently, played with the ring on her index finger. Hooten threw her pillow back to her. "You all right?"
"Yes, fine," she said. "Why wouldn't I be?"
She glared at him. "Seriously, what is going on with you? Compliments? Moments of insight and compassion? Hooten!" She gasped. "Hooten, are you dying?"
He burst out laughing. As in, doubled over, laughing. "No, I'm not freaking dying, Jesus, Alex!"
"Well, you're acting weird," she said laughing a little. "I mean, weirder than usual."
"I just," he shrugged. "Look, I know how hard days like today can be."
She stared at him, going through the calendar in her head. Oh. She went back a few days. Then a few months.
"Oh," she breathed, slumping back down to stare at the wall. "Oh, I hadn't quite realized."
"Yeah," he said. "But you would have. They tend to hit you out of no where."
"So, you've been uncommonly solicitous because today is the six-month anniversary of my divorce from Edward?" she asked.
"Something like that."
"Well." Alex found herself at a loss for words. "Well, that's very kind of you. I'm fine."
They both stared at the telly.
"He's seeing someone, actually," she said before taking a long swallow of her lukewarm beer.
"Really?" Hooten looked over at her, his eyes wide.
She nodded. "A mutual acquaintance of ours. She's an events organiser. Very nice. Sweet, even."
"Gross," he said. "Who wants sweet?"
"Well, Edward, apparently," she muttered, before she winced. "God, no, sorry. That was catty."
"You can be catty, Alex."
"I'm the one who broke things off," she said. "I'm the one who had doubts but didn't say anything. I instigated the whole thing. So, no, I can't be catty."
Hooten grinned at her and leaned towards. "Who the hell am I going to tell, Alex? Be catty."
Alex narrowed her eyes at him. "I don't want to be catty. I just want…"
"What?" he asked jerking his chin up a little. "To not feel guilty about divorcing your very nice and understanding husband?"
She blinked. "Ouch. What happened to solicitous Hooten?"
"It's after midnight," he said smirking a little but not unkindly. "Back to regular Hooten, I'm afraid."
"Well, it's fine," she said finishing off her beer. "I wasn't sure what to do with nice Hooten anyways."
"And you didn't answer my question," he said, sitting up more and ignoring the match in favour of looking at Alex.
"That wasn't an interrogative question," she said running her hand across her forehead, under her bangs. "It was rhetorical, which means you didn't expect a reply."
"Yeah, but I kinda expected a retort, or a huff, or a 'God! Mind your own business, sheesh!'" he finished in a terrible accent that was no where close to hers.
"I don't think that I have ever used the word 'sheesh' in my life," she said. "You're dreadful, you know that?"
"And you, Lady Alex," he said sitting up fully and swinging his legs off his bed to plant them on the floor, in the space between their beds, "are really dodging the issue."
"I'm not dodging anything," she said. "I'm…happy for Edward. I truly am. I still love him, you know? I really do. And if he's found someone who can make him happy in all the ways," she swallowed hard and blinked back tears, "in all the ways that I couldn't, then I'm glad. Beyond glad, even."
Hooten stared at her for a moment, then shook his head. "You really mean that, don't you?"
"I do," she said, looking down at her hands. "I mean, you were right earlier. About me being used to all this." She waved her hand at the room. "But it's more than that. I'm…thriving? I suppose that's the word. I'm doing incredible things, seeing incredible artefacts, meeting incredible people and I…don't want to give that up. I don't want to give any of it up."
She glanced at him, but he just kept his gaze steady on her face.
"Am I a terrible person for wanting to live my life?" she asked, her voice small as she plucked at a tear in her trousers.
"You're not a terrible person, Alex," he said rolling his eyes. "And I get it, you know. This kind of life, it's addictive. Believe me. Just…" He winced and scrubbed a hand over his face. "And I cannot believe I'm about to give advice here, just don't miss out on all the other important stuff, too."
"Such as?" she asked tilting her head as she looked at him.
He shrugged. "Love. Babies. Family. All that stuff."
"Am I allowed to turn that advice around and point it in your direction, too?" she asked, smiling a little sadly.
"Sure," he said. "Just probably won't take any of it." He shook his head. "It's too late for me, Alex. I had my chance."
She felt her eyes water as she looked at him and he cleared his throat before he said, "And don't get all maudlin on me, missy. It's a pretty damn good life most of the time. Like you said, interesting places, interesting things."
"And the people?" she asked.
His eyes met hers and a small smile crept across his face. "Yeah, some of them are all right."
Alex felt something inside of her shift and before she could talk herself out of it, she swung her legs off the bed and stood up in front of him. His head tilted back and a wary look came across his face, but he didn't say a word.
She rubbed her lips together, then placed one hand on his shoulder, one knee on the bed next to his hip, then straddled his lap, settling in so close she could feel the warmth of his body against hers.
"Alex?" he said, his voice low, even as his hands came up to hold her hips. "Did Hector give you something other than beer?"
"For the next thirty seconds, could you just…let me do this?" she asked, surprising herself by how steady her voice sounded.
"Are you proving a point of some kind?" he asked, his fingers flexing on her hips.
"No," she said shaking her head. "I just wanted to try something."
"Okay," he said swallowing. "I'm going to regret this, but…okay."
Alex licked her lips and Hooten's attention fell straight to her mouth. She leaned in and pressed her lips to his.
He didn't move.
Mortification tapped her on the shoulder, but she ignored it and parted her lips to brush along his lower lip, sucking ever so slightly.
A groan rumbled in Hooten's throat and suddenly the hands on her hips tightened and his mouth opened under hers. She had barely a moment before he was kissing her back. She whimpered as his mouth moved against hers and she clutched at his shoulder while her other hand came to cup his jaw. The stubble against her palm tickled and she rocked her hips against him. His breathing stuttered as he pulled her even closer.
"Is this because I was nice to you earlier?" he asked against her mouth, breathing hard and Alex noticed that one of his hands had, at some point, slid around to her bum and was slowly kneading the flesh there.
Alex's eyes fluttered shut and her head fell back as he pressed an open-mouthed kiss to her throat.
"Not because you were nice," she said, her fingers tangling in his hair. "Because you came when I called and because you always call me when you're on to something. Because, oh right there, because I wanted to."
"It'll end in tears," he said, his nose nudging just beneath her ear before his lips closed around her earlobe. "We'll screw this up, Alex. You know it."
"Then we'll unscrew it up after we screw it up," she said rolling her hips on his lap and tugging at his hair to bring his face to hers, making sure to meet his eyes. "I know we'll mess this up, Hooten. But…we always mess things up and then we find our way out of it."
His eyes were dark and he studied her for a moment, before he asked, "Are you taking advantage of me?"
"No," she said frowning. "Do you feel taken advantage of?"
"I feel like when something amazing lands in my lap, I need to make sure that there's no trick behind it," he said, his voice only partially mocking.
She shook her head. "No trick. I just want you…Ulysses."
He snorted. "Okay. Now, I know you mean it. No one uses my first name unless they mean it."
With a slight grunt, he swung her off his lap to land on the bed, his body firmly atop hers and pressed his mouth to hers. Her legs immediately wrapped around his hips as his hands went to the buttons on her shirt, and he pressed kisses to her skin as it appeared.
"Promise me that even if we still screw this up past the point of unscrewing, you will let me know when you find Atlantis," he said plucking at the button of her trousers.
"Atlantis is a myth," she said rolling her eyes even as she tugged at his belt.. "But yes, I promise." He lowered his head to her bra-covered breast, but she held him up and said, "And the same goes for you."
"As if I would ever pass up the opportunity to see you in a swimsuit," he said pointedly looking down at her breasts.
"You're about to see me naked, Hooten," she said drily.
"Fair point," he said after thinking a moment. "We're making this work, Lady Alex. I have a feeling once I see you naked, it's not going to be something I'm going to want to give up seeing."
His head finally lowered to her breast as she smiled and said, "You're really not."
The next morning, Alex awoke to the feel of someone warm pressed up against her back and a hand curved around her body. She blinked for a moment, as she stared at her empty bed and then slowly turned around to face Hooten.
"First rule of whatever it is that we're doing," he said, once she'd turned fully in his arms. She noticed that his eyes were still closed. "The first person to wake up, gets the coffee."
"Rules already?" she asked tracing a finger along his nose. "What does the person who gets the coffee get?"
"What does she want?" he asked, his eyes popping open as a smirk curved around his lips.
"Hmm," she said smoothing her hands over his bare chest. She leaned in close to his ear as his hand slid up and down her back, then along her thigh. "She'd really, really, ireally/i like...to be the first one in the shower."
He groaned as she quickly kissed his nose and hopped out of bed. "Damn it, Alex! You know the hot water only lasts for five minutes."
"Well, then, you'd better get in here and help me make the most of those five minutes," she said sending him a grin over her shoulder.
He did and they barely noticed the cold water when the five minutes were up.