Her office was tucked away in the corner of the morgue; it was easy enough for anyone to think that the morgue was unoccupied - leading to Alice overhearing a lot of things that she necessarily didn't enjoy - and thus available for quiet conversations (or "conversations").
Alice was used to all of this; so when she heard the tell tale sound of the morgue door opening while she worked on pathology paperwork, she initially tuned it out like normal. The pen in her hand screeched to a stop when the familiar tones of Lucien echoed through the morgue and into her office via the ajar door. When the voice of one Matthew Lawson joined her friend, Alice stopped paying attention to her work all together and strained to hear what they were talking about.
(Contrary to her frequent opportunities to overhear things in her office, Alice didn't actually enjoy eavesdropping. This was Lucien and Matthew, however, and Alice had to admit her curiosity was piqued.)
"What's the matter, Matthew, you look more nervous than Jean when she's about to go to confession even though she's done nothing wrong."
Lucien's tone was light and teasing, the usual way he spoke to Matthew in at the dinners Alice had attended at the Blake household prior to his and Jean's wedding and after their honeymoon. It was familiar in the way that it differed from how Lucien teased her while they worked together. With her, Lucien still remained respectful, his tone deepening whenever a case was discussed, but his dry humor lifted his voice whenever he bantered with her over the personal parts of their rapport over a body. With Matthew, Alice noticed that Lucien ribbed him more than he did with her - they had known each other since childhood - and Matthew put up with it, that much she knew.
Judging by the soft grunt that was Matthew's answer, he was putting up with it right now.
"I'm only going to keep bothering you about it, you'll have to tell me sooner or later."
"Oh for the love of-" Matthew bit out, cutting off his own reply with a heavy sigh. "I knew I should have gone to Jean about this instead of you."
"She would have told me anyways, now out with it."
Another sigh from Matthew and when Alice heard the squeak of her stool out in the morgue, she figured he must have sat down to give his leg a rest. Putting down her pen and quietly getting up out of her chair, Alice inched closer to the open door just in time to hear Matthew's response.
"I doubt it, but alright. I… need your advice, Lucien."
"On… well, on asking someone out… on a date."
"You want advice on wooing a girl?"
Alice could practically see the grin on Lucien's face and hid a smile behind her own hand.
"Not if you're going to be like that, I don't."
Lucien chuckled, "Alright, alright, I'll stop teasing. Have you let her know how you feel?"
"How do you mean?"
"I mean, is she aware that you want to ask her out?"
"I don't know… I think so, but she's just so hard to read sometimes… Oddly enough that's one of the reasons I like her."
"What else do you like about her?"
"She's smart, honest, and has a wicked sense of humor."
"I see, and what else?"
Fabric shifted and Alice pictured Matthew giving the one-shoulder shrug she'd seen him do frequently at the Blakes for dinner.
"She's pretty and doesn't think she is, but she's pretty to me. She always asks questions because she's genuinely curious, not because she wants something out of it. I haven't heard her laugh yet, but I'd like to."
"You've got it bad, my friend."
The non-committal hum from Matthew made Alice smile. It slipped from her face when she wondered who Matthew was talking about (a part of her hoped it was her - they'd shared more and more quiet conversations since the Blake wedding and they worked well together during the four months Jean and Lucien were traveling. She liked talking to him - but she felt her heart plummet as Matthew went on about his new infatuation; he had evidently met someone else). Gripping the edge of her white coat in her hands, Alice leaned in closer to listen.
"I do, Lucien. I really enjoy her company and I'd like to enjoy more of it, to spend more time with her… I just, I don't know how to actually ask her out."
"Are you afraid she'd reject you?"
Matthew sighed, "Yeah… She's so peculiar and independent that I'm afraid she'd not want anything to do with me romantically."
"Nonsense, she'd be a fool to pass you up."
"Maybe I'm the fool for pursuing this."
"Matthew," Lucien chided, his voice gentle as he clapped Matthew on the shoulder (or at least, Alice thought it was Matthew's shoulder, who actually knew with Lucien). "She obviously makes you happy; I have no doubt that you make her happy as well. Now… Who's the lucky girl? Do I know her?"
"Yes… actually you do," came Matthew's hesitant answer. He cleared his throat, "It's… It's Alice."
She gasped and backed into a chair behind her, sending the pile of books and files tumbling to the floor as well as announcing her presence. Her cheeks flooded with heat as she hurriedly tried to pick up the mess before they realized that she'd been listening in on their conversation. A cleared throat and polite tapping on her office door dashed those hopes.
"Damn," Alice muttered as she abandoned the mess and went to the door. Answering it with as much confidence as she could (her cheeks were surely as red as her hair at this point), Alice met Lucien's bright eyes and felt her face heat up even more.
"Alice, lovely day isn't it?"
"Lucien," she gave him a small smile before looking over his shoulder at an equally embarrassed Matthew. "I, uh, I think Matthew and I need to talk."
"Absolutely," Lucien agreed, fighting to conceal the grin on his face.
Alice leveled him with a narrowed look, "Alone, Lucien."
The smile slipped briefly from his face and he gave her a slightly pleading look. Alice raised an eyebrow, not falling for his wounded puppy look that sometimes worked on Jean. Sensing he'd never get Alice to relent, Lucien cleared his throat again and smiled at both of them, "Right, I'll just be upstairs in the hospital then. Have fun, you two!"
Alice waited until she was sure Lucien had gone before she opened the door further to her office and wordlessly invited Matthew in.
He edged in around her, his cane tapping on the tiled floor as she closed the door behind him.
"How much did you hear?" Matthew asked quietly when she didn't turn around.
Alice rested her forehead against her door briefly, collecting her thoughts before she faced Matthew, "All of it." He leaned on his cane heavily and she gestured to the chair in front of her desk, "Matthew, please sit, this can't be good for your leg."
He huffed a sigh, still touchy about his leg, but took her invitation to sit in the form of resting on an empty corner of her desk instead of the chair. He twirled the cane in his hands, his fingers restless as they stood apart from each other.
"I meant it," Matthew finally broke the silence and Alice looked up in surprise. He gave her a small smile, "What I said, what you overheard… I meant it."
"You enjoy spending time with me?"
"Of course I do, sweetheart," the term of endearment slipped out and she bit her lip to hide the grin at his embarrassed blush. Matthew cleared his throat and shifted on the desk, "You're funny and smart and I love hearing about your day and the new theories you read about even though I don't always understand them. You… you make me laugh and I'd love to return the favor. If you'll let me, that is."
Taking a few steps forward, Alice came to a halt in front of him. She heard the sudden intake of breath from him as she inched closer, standing just inside the proper distance between a man and a woman.
"I'd… I'd like that," she admitted quietly, her eyes roving over the cane in his hands and his uniformed chest before she met his gaze. "I like spending time with you, Matthew, you're unlike any other man I've talked to."
"You actually listen and your eyes don't glaze over when I talk about pathology," Alice smiled when he chuckled. "You care, even if you don't always show it. And," she reached out to cover his hand with hers, feeling the warm, rough skin beneath her cool fingers, "you make me feel important."
"I'm glad," he flipped his hand over to grasp hers, his thumb gently caressing her knuckles.
An involuntary shiver ran up her spine at the sensation. It was nice, to hold someone's hand, she thought, and she knew her cheeks were turning pink even as the thought crossed her mind.
"You're pretty when you blush," he told her quietly, grinning when she let out a girlish giggle and ducked her head. Her cheeks burned brighter and he tugged on her hand to get her attention, "I mean it, sweetheart, you're pretty."
Alice's free hand came up and gently cupped his cheek, her fingers tracing the sharp lines of his cheekbone and jaw. She bit on her lower lip as he leaned into the caress, "No one's ever said that to me."
"I'll say it every day if I have to," Matthew smiled, his eyes warm and welcoming.
Alice liked the thought of that. She liked the thought of seeing Matthew everyday and hearing him call her pretty, smart, and witty. She wanted to hear it - she wanted to hear him call her "sweetheart".
"Isn't there something else you should ask me first before we get to that, Chief Superintendent?" She asked, her voice light and teasing.
"Can I kiss you, Doctor Harvey?"
Alice laughed, bright and clear, even as she leaned in closer, "That's not what I meant, Matthew."
"It's something that I wanted to ask you," he grinned right back. "No worries, I'll ask you out too, sweetheart, but you haven't answered my first question."
She smiled, "Yes, you can."
Matthew tugged on her hand again, pulling her closer as her hand on his cheek slid to the back of his neck. Their lips met tentatively, both still a little unsure of the intimacy between them, both a little out of practice, but as the kiss deepened, Alice grew more confident.
His hands grasped her hips under her white coat and pulled her closer to him, using Alice's surprised gasp to slot his mouth more firmly against hers, gently nibbling on her lower lip.
Alice was very glad Matthew was sitting down as she leaned further into his arms, her own winding around his neck and shoulders as his tongue soothed where his teeth had been. When she drew back from the kiss, she could feel his rapid heartbeat that matched her own as she lightly traced the lines and wrinkles around his eyes.
Matthew smiled, traces of her lipstick smeared onto his mouth and Alice had to smile back. They were no better than the young nurses and doctors who snuck down here for some "quality time" together.
"You still haven't asked me the other thing," she gently prodded, laughing quietly when he gave her a theatrical sigh in reply.
"Impatient, are we?"
"Yes, we are."
He smiled again, gently pressing a kiss to the pad of her thumb as she wiped away her lipstick and then a light kiss to her lips. "Alright, I can see when I'm defeated." Matthew winked at her and wrapped his arms more fully around her, "Alice Harvey, will you kindly go out with me on a date sometime this week?"
They went on many dates after that, usually ending up back at her flat for a nightcap and hours of conversation afterwards that Alice cherished more than anything (well, besides Matthew himself). More and more, Matthew didn't leave after their nightcap, instead she woke to his comforting warmth behind her and a gravelly, "Good morning, sweetheart." rumbling in her ear.
This morning, however, Alice woke before Matthew and she turned in his arms quietly and looked at her lover in the early morning light. Reaching out, Alice traced the line of his cheek with her fingertips, giggling softly when he frowned in his sleep.
"Having fun?" He asked, his voice rough with sleep.
Alice moved closer, half laying on his chest as she dragged one finger down the length of his nose, "I am."
Matthew chuckled and finally opened his eyes. One of his hands ran up the arm on his chest, his fingers tracing a circuit up and down her skin. His other hand carded through her short hair, gently brushing through the tangled strands as Alice pressed a kiss to his chest. "Have I told you how thankful I am you overheard that conversation between me and Lucien?"
"You have, dearest," Alice pressed another kiss to his chest and another on his lips as his hands smoothed over her bare back. "I'm glad I listened in, even if I don't like eavesdropping."
He laughed and rolled her until she lay underneath him, "Maybe you should do it more often, sweetheart, you never know what you might overhear."
Alice just laughed as she wrapped her arms around him, thankful that the one time she listened brought her to this. She didn't need to eavesdrop anymore, she got what she wanted.