A/N - Written entirely by Friday. Story title from the Features song.
From now on, you and me
She's getting married.
Alex still doesn't know what on earth possessed her to go through this again. It might have had something to do with the way Matt had planned the whole proposal out with the help of her eleven-year-old daughter and even took her out with them when he popped the question. It might have had something to do with how he'd gotten down on one knee in the middle of the restaurant and the way he'd met her eyes when he told her how much he loved her. It might have something to do with how very much she loves him in return. She'd thrown herself into his arms and cried, whispering yes into his ear over and over as Salome whooped and the crowd applauded. She can still remember the look in his eyes when he slipped the ring on her finger.
Now, six months later, she's in the little church situated in the English countryside, staring at her reflection in the full-length mirror while Matt and all their friends and family wait outside.
Alex smoothes her hands over her ivory gown and wonders if it's normal not to feel nervous. With Ralph and Florian, her stomach had been so knotted before the ceremony that she'd been sick. Alex hopes it's a good sign that she only feels little butterflies of anticipation.
She and Matt hadn't spent the traditional night apart – it had seemed a bit silly – and he'd held her right before they drifted off to sleep last night and whispered in her ear, "I can't wait to marry you." And then, just before she lost herself to dreams, she'd heard the soft words, "I'm going to make you so happy, Kingston."
Smiling at her reflection, Alex knows the reason she isn't afraid is because this is right. Matt is right. Everything about her life with him is right and it has been since the beginning. He's her soul mate, born twenty years too late. Not that it stopped them.
Fluffing her curls – she'd left her hair down because Matt liked it best that way – Alex turns to pick up her bouquet. Matt had helped with planning the wedding and she can't help but remember the way he'd beamed when she decided on a bouquet of peonies interspersed with orchids – pink and crème, like the springtime.
"What?" She'd asked, laughing at his expression as she picked up an orchid to sniff.
Matt had shaken his head, plucking a peony from the bunch and tucking it behind her ear. "Nothing," he'd said. "I just love peonies."
The door opens behind Alex and she turns to find Salome peeking in the doorway, beaming at her. "You look really pretty, mom."
"Thank you, darling," she says, turning back to the mirror as Salome shuts the door behind her.
The dress is stupid with lace. She doesn't know why she let Matt talk her into such an elaborate gown. She'd planned on something simple but he'd just been so excited and he's never actually been married before – though he'd come scarily close – and well, Alex is hoping it's the last time she ever gets married, so she'd consented and gone all out - the little church Matt had gone to as a child, a ridiculous dress with a train (secretly, she's rather fond of it), flowers and a reception hall. And a two-week honeymoon in Fiji while Salome stays with Florian.
Her daughter comes to stand next to her and Alex smiles at her in the mirror, wrapping an arm around her shoulders and pulling her close. "You look precious."
Salome shrugs, smiling a little. "I can't believe you're marrying Matty."
Alex laughs and tears spring to her eyes unbidden. "Neither can I." After everything – all the tears, the sleepless nights, the times when loving him scared her to death…If only she'd known she would end up here. Alex dashes the tears away hurriedly before they ruin her makeup. "Sure you're ready to have him as a stepfather?"
Salome laughs. "He's already like a dad. Might as well make it official."
"Yes," Alex breathes, warmth filling her at her daughter's words. "Let's."
"You ready then?"
"I think so."
Salome straightens the basket of flowers on her arm and heads to the door, letting it shut gently behind her. The music starts to play and Alex closes her eyes, the butterflies in her stomach fluttering madly. She pictures her daughter littering the aisle with flowers and all their friends and family turning in their seats to look toward the door. She pictures Matt waiting restlessly for her to appear, bouncing on the balls of his feet because he can never just stand still. Grinning, Alex finds the butterflies dissipating. She just wants to get down that aisle and make that ridiculous man hers.
When she opens the door to the bridal room and steps into the vestry, the music from the other side of the doors swells and Alex takes a deep breath, smoothing her dress with shaking fingers.
An elderly man in a blue suit is waiting at the doors to open them for her, and at her nod, he grasps the door handles and pulls, bowing out of the way with a wink.
Everyone in the church turns to look and her breath hitches.
This is it.
She steps into the room clutching her bouquet and while she's aware that cameras are snapping and that her sisters are beaming at her, that Arthur and Karen look so happy they could burst, it isn't them she's paying attention to as she treads on rose petals down the aisle. Every single person in that room is a blur but the man standing at the altar, hands behind his back and smile so wide and bright that it's blinding.
Their eyes meet and everything else disappears. Alex has to fight to keep her steps slow and measured. She wants to run down the aisle and throw herself into his waiting arms. Instead, she walks carefully in her heels and tries not to step on her dress, never taking her eyes from his. Her hands shake as they grip her bouquet and she feels tears blur her eyes.
When she reaches Matt, he takes her hand and this close she can see the tears in his eyes as well. They've been through so much to get here and now that they're standing at the altar, it feels like a dream. Some wonderful, bizarre dream. For a moment, she feels real fear that she's going to wake up alone and curled around empty space in her bed but then she feels Matt's warm fingers squeeze her own and she knows – this is real. It's happening. She's going to marry him.
"You look radiant," he whispers, and she smiles brightly.
As the minister opens his Bible, she murmurs, "You don't look so bad yourself."
Matt winks. "Brushed my hair."
Stifling a giggle as the minister begins to read, Alex shakes her head and purses her lips. They're facing each other as the minister speaks and she really hopes Matt can behave himself until it's time to say their vows because if he makes one silly face at her, she's going to burst into laughter right at the altar.
It would be so like him to make her embarrass herself.
She needn't have worried though because Matt seems entirely too focused on studying her face with reverence to bother trying to make her laugh. He's looking at her like he's never seen her before. His thumb caresses the soft skin at the back of her hand and he just stares, drinking her in with his eyes.
Alex stares back, looking fondly on the face she loves best. His hazel eyes that are always so sincere when looking back at her; playful and loving with her daughter, and tender and so full of fire with her. Cheekbones that color so becomingly when he breaks something or when Salome asks him a question he doesn't want to answer. A nose that nuzzles into her hair when he's tired. That chin Arthur teases him about but she loves it so dearly; lips that press against her naked skin in the dark and brush across her knuckles when he's feeling gallant. Lips that kiss her breathless and send her reeling, that speak sweet caresses and teasing words.
Lips that are smiling now, as she looks at him with adoration written all over every inch of her face.
"Now," the minister's voice suddenly reaches her ears and she forces herself to focus on something other than Matt. "Matt and Alex have chosen to write their own vows. Alex, would you like to go first?"
She offers the elderly minister a soft smile and nods, glancing back at Matt and releasing a trembling breath. She's been preparing for this moment for months now, wondering how to make him and everyone else understand that he is truly the one and only. Before, she has opted for traditional vows but this time she feels like more is required. Traditional isn't good enough. She isn't comfortable with this sort of thing, speaking her feelings as eloquently and openly as Matt does. She's never had to before, but things are different with him. He's always so open and romantic with her, and knowing how amazing it feels when he tells her how much he loves her, she wants him to have that too.
Ever since they found each other again, she's been trying to do what seems to come so easily to him – be romantic. It's been slow going, but she hadn't expected miracles. It's been a lot easier since their engagement, and she slips in little comments every now and then. Her favorite thing to do is scrawl brief little love notes on post-its and stick them to his forehead when he falls asleep on the sofa, or on the bathroom mirror for him to find in the morning. He always searches her out afterwards with a wide grin on his face, kissing her breathless.
Now, though, is the ultimate test. Pouring her heart out in front of all these people. Matt gives her an encouraging smile and hoping her voice doesn't fail her, Alex begins.
"I told you once that you were rather wonderful," she says, and Matt smiles at her. "But I don't think you understand why. You don't understand the way my heart swells when I watch you with Salome – the way you've been so patient and understanding with her from the beginning. I love the way you never take anything too seriously because you think life is too short to be worried over all the time. I love the way you smile at me in the morning when we wake up, like you can't wait to start a new adventure with me."
She laughs, blinking back tears and watching Matt's own eyes fill up as he stares at her, lips parted. From their gathered guests, she hears someone sniffle.
"Every day is an adventure with you, though, darling. You make even going to the corner Tesco exciting." Matt grins through red-rimmed eyes and Alex squeezes his hand. "Nothing's dull when your hand is in mine. You can make me feel more beautiful than any woman half my age just by taking my hand and smiling at me." The tremble in her voice is definitely evident now but she keeps speaking, even as tears begin to slip down her cheeks. "You hold me and I feel safe. All you have to do is look at me and I've never felt so loved. I know I don't tell you nearly enough but you really are everything." She stops; swallowing, and watches Matt stare at her in wide-eyed wonder. "And I can't wait to spend the rest of our lives helping you understanding how much better you make mine just by being in it."
With shaking hands, she slips the ring onto Matt's finger and beams because she quite likes the look of it there. Sniffles are definitely coming from the audience now but Alex doesn't dare look for fear of seeing her sisters in tears or Karen and Arthur sharing tissues. Besides, she doesn't think she could tear her eyes from Matt's for all the world.
Watching tears slip down his cheeks as he smiles at her, Alex knows. She's going to say things like that all the time. Every chance she gets, she's going to let him know how much she loves him and how much he means to her because he should never be so surprised by the intensity of it. The post-it notes will remain, but there will be spoken words now too. It doesn't scare her anymore. Not when she knows how happy it makes him to hear it.
There will be sweet whispers in the night, loving words murmured into his skin and tender confessions declared as she looks into his hazel eyes. There will be the sappiest anniversary speeches she can come up with, letters pages long on his birthday and special occasions. His life with her will be one lengthy love letter written in permanent marker and with a tender hand. He will never ever doubt how much she loves him.
The minister clears his throat and Alex tears her gaze from Matt's eyes long enough to see the man hurriedly wiping under his eyes and trying to pretend that he isn't. She smiles, turning to Matt again with a slight shrug. He looks back at her with such intensity that she knows without a doubt that he wants to throw all protocol aside and kiss her now. She shivers, curling her hand tighter around his and licking her lips.
"You are magnificent," Matt breathes, tears still in his eyes, and Alex smiles, blinking and sending tears sliding down her cheeks again. "Your smile makes my heart stop; your eyes make me want to fall to my knees and lay the world at your feet. Your hair is endlessly distracting."
Alex gives a choked laugh and he smiles.
"And that. That laugh. I'd do anything to hear you laugh, Alex…I love you so much that sometimes I ache with it. My life didn't make sense until you walked into it and turned it on its head with a toss of that hair." Matt's voice is thick with tears and Alex can't stop herself from stepping close and reaching out a hand to swipe her thumb tenderly across his tear-stained cheek. She sniffles, trying to meet his eyes through blurred vision. She used to scoff at people who cried during their vows but if they felt anything like this – so full to brimming with love and joy, then she finally understands why they did. "I know you doubt me sometimes but I promise you, love, I'm not going anywhere." Matt takes her hand from his cheek and presses his lips to her open palm. "At your side is where I belong and I'm going to spend the rest of my life trying to make you happy."
The ring slides onto her finger with ease and she stares down at the glimmering band of gold like it's the key to all her life's happiness. And in a way, it is. There are tears streaming down both their faces now and Alex is incredibly grateful she'd let her sister talk her into waterproof mascara because otherwise she might look a mess. Bringing Matt's hand to her lips, she kisses his knuckles and meets his eyes with love shining in her own. And then she turns to the minister because she would very much like to kiss Matt now, but it seems she needs his permission first.
The elderly minister regards them with watery eyes, smiling at them like he's never seen anything quite like it in his life. "Matthew Smith and Alexandra Kingston, I now pronounce you husband and wife." He looks at Matt with a fond smile. "You may kiss your bride."
Matt needs no further encouragement before he pulls her close and bends his head, pressing his lips eagerly to hers. Alex melts against him, wrapping her arms around his neck and feeling his own slide around her waist and tug her ever nearer. The crowd erupts into applause and whistles, and someone even shouts, 'Atta boy, Matt!' Alex smiles into his mouth and not even the salt of their tears on her tongue can stop this from being the happiest kiss of her life. Matt buries his hand in her curls and briefly kisses her just a little harder before pulling away, his lips lingering against her mouth, reluctant to leave her entirely.
He meets her eyes over the sound of cheering and whooping, and his smile renders her momentarily breathless. "It's you and me, wife. From now on."
Nuzzling her nose against his, Alex whispers, "For better or for worse."
And then she kisses her new husband.
Your love is my turning page…
It's strange, looking up into Matt's face on the dance floor and thinking the word 'husband'. He's her husband now – a stepfather to her daughter. Matt has been her family for a while now, but it's nice to smile up at him and know that it's official.
As long as they both shall live.
In the comforting circle of his arms, swaying together on the darkened dance floor sparkling with twinkle lights, Alex grins into his jacket. "We just got married."
"Mr. and Mrs. Smith," Matt says, laughing into her hair.
Alex snorts, pulling away just a bit to look up at him. "Who said anything about Mrs. Smith?"
"Well," he says, smiling that amused little smile of his that she loves so much. "You're Mrs. Smith to me. In fact, I think that's what I shall call you when I'm cross with you."
"No," she says softly, meeting his eyes. "Not when you're cross. I want it to be special."
Matt's arms tighten around her waist and he pulls her closer into him, bringing his hand up to cup her cheek. "It will be," he says, voice hoarse as he looks into her eyes. "My special name for you when you make me feel so happy I could float away with it."
Tears blurring her eyes again, Alex leans up and captures his lips with hers, sighing into his mouth and mapping the contours of his face with gentle hands. She wants to take this moment and secret it away somewhere safe, a keepsake that she can come back to over and over again, reliving it fondly. "Matt," she whispers when she pulls away, resting her forehead against his chin.
Matt touches his lips to her hairline, a feather-light touch that feels like the most tender of kisses. "Mrs. Smith," he breathes.
Alex closes her eyes and smiles.
I've got sunshine on a cloudy day with my girl…
When the Temptations begin playing, Matt leaps from the wedding party table and takes Salome by the hand, dragging her onto the dance floor while she giggles and tries to keep up. "Come on, poppet," he says. "This is our song."
"We don't have a song, Matty," she says, still laughing as they stand in the middle of the dance floor. Alex is dancing with his father on the other side of the room, but she waves at them with a brilliant smile that makes his knees a little weak.
"Well we do now," he says, twirling Salome on the spot. Her ruffled crème dress spins out around her like a ballerina's tutu and she smiles in delight as she looks down at her feet. "This song is perfect for us."
"It is?" She asks, moving to stand on his shoes.
Matt allows this insubordination with a fond smile and nods. "Course it is. They're talking about you and me – listen."
For a few moments, Salome does as he asks, letting him twirl them wildly around the room as she furrows her brow and listens to the words. After a while, she grins, her whole face lighting up as she stares up at him. She's beautiful and growing up so fast – he can only imagine how much it must scare Alex when it terrifies him so.
"You're right," she says, beaming. "It is about us."
"Told you," he says smugly.
"Hey Matty," she says, looking up at him and biting her lip.
Uh oh. Not good.
"This is forever, right?"
Oh, his precious girl.
Feeling his heart leap into his throat, Matt suddenly scoops her up and holds her to him as they continue to sway together. She's getting too big for this, but he plans on continuing to do it as long as she'll let him. One day, him lifting her off her feet won't make her smile like it does now. "Longer than forever, pet," he says, kissing her forehead. Salome wrinkles her nose, wrapping her arms around his neck. "Your mum, me, and you. Always."
She bops him on the nose with one finger. "We're like a family, huh?"
Matt grins. "Most definitely."
Salome kisses his cheek and pulls away with a shy smile. "Love you, Matty."
"Oh, I love you too, poppet. More than you know," he says and lets her slide from his arms and back to the floor.
He laughs. "Yes?"
"Race you to the chocolate strawberries!" And she's off, darting around dancing couples and heading right for the chocolate fountain.
Grinning, Matt takes off after her. He has the best stepdaughter ever.
Fathers be good to your daughters…
Sitting with Matt at the wedding party table, Alex is sipping her second glass of champagne and feeling pleasantly buzzed with Matt's hand on her thigh when Arthur finds her, smiling that self-deprecating smile of his that she's so fond of. It's so very Arthur.
He holds out a hand to her and asks, "Father-daughter dance?"
Beaming, she hands Matt her glass and kisses his cheek before taking Arthur's outstretched hand, gathering her skirts in her free hand. "Lead the way, dear."
Arthur escorts her out onto the dance floor and pulls her close, and Alex wraps her arms around his neck, resting her head on his shoulder.
"I'm really happy for you," he says after a while. "I'm so glad it all worked out for you two." Sensing that he isn't quite finished, Alex remains silent, letting him gather his thoughts. "I knew from the beginning, I think, even before you did, that this was something special. Matt's one of my best mates and I could see it every time he looked at you. And he's a great pillock but he seems to make you happy, so…"
"Are you trying to say you approve, father?" She asks, smiling into his shirt.
Arthur huffs a laugh into her neck. "I suppose so. Not that he asked my permission. Still feeling a bit miffed about that, by the way."
Alex giggles. "I'm sure he didn't mean to slight you."
"Even so," Arthur says and she can hear the smile in his voice.
He dips her dramatically and Alex laughs, clutching at his arm and hoping he doesn't drop her. Apparently she's been underestimating his strength under all those terrible jumpers because he pulls her up with a graceful move and before she knows it, she's resting her head on his shoulder again.
"Thank you," she says, looking at Matt over his shoulder. He's currently helping Salome build a rather impressive tower with empty champagne glasses and she's just waiting for one of his flailing limbs to catch the edge of it and send the whole thing tumbling. With Matt, it's an inevitability. "For being such a good friend to us. We're both so grateful to you, Arthur -"
"We're family, Alex," Arthur says, suddenly serious. "Me, you, Karen, and Matt. We're a family and I would do anything for any of you. You don't need to thank me for it."
Biting her lip because she's quite tired of crying on her wedding day, Alex kisses Arthur's cheek, smiling against the scruff she finds there. "I love you, dad."
Arthur chuckles, says, "I love you too" and dips her again.
Might as well face it…
The dance floor is packed now but Karen, Alex, Arthur and Matt stick close together in the center of the room, dancing like fools and having entirely too much fun doing so to care.
Arthur is singing along to the music, using his index fingers to play invisible drums with his eyes half closed, bobbing his head up and down. Alex thinks he might have had too much to drink but he's so funny to watch when he's drunk that she hadn't tried to stop him.
Karen is jumping up and down with her red mane wild around her face. She uses Alex's bouquet as a sort of conductor's instrument in a rock orchestra, waving it around frantically and occasionally using it as a microphone. When Alex had done the bouquet toss, Karen had caught it. Arthur has been teasing her endlessly all evening, always making sure to mention it within hearing range of Karen's boyfriend, who does nothing but look on in nervous horror.
Matt has a tight grip on her hand and he twirls her around while bobbing his head in time to the music, careful not to step on the train of her dress. Occasionally, he'll attempt a Robert Palmer impression, complete with lip-syncing, and it never fails to send her into gales of laughter at the expression on his face. He pretends to be offended but he never stops smiling.
While Karen and Arthur are distracted, bickering over the use of the bouquet as a microphone, Matt yanks Alex close and she falls against his chest with a yelp of surprise. He mouths at the spot just below her ear that drives her crazy and she whimpers, clutching at his shirt – he'd shed his jacket hours ago. "Mmm," he murmurs. "Can't wait to get you out of this - "
Startled, they both turn to see Arthur holding the bouquet and Karen still dancing frenetically but glaring at them.
"Save it for the honeymoon. No one wants to see that!"
While Matt splutters indignantly, Arthur says, "I think they're adorable" and Alex knows he is thoroughly drunk.
"He's molesting her on the dance floor!" Karen protests.
Alex blushes and Matt laughs, but Arthur points the bouquet at Karen accusingly, squinting. "I think you're jealous because your boyfriend finds the idea of marrying you terrifying."
"Does not!" Karen says, reaching out to snatch back her flowers. "Give those back, you twat!"
"Nope," Arthur says. "I think I need them. My chances of getting married are far better than yours anyway. What would you do with a bouquet?"
"I hate you," Karen says, pouting.
Alex feels Matt wrap an arm around her waist from behind and she leans into him, smiling. Her mad little family. She wouldn't change them for the world.
Have I found you…?
The wedding guests have all gone home and the dance floor is empty save one couple – the only couple that matters.
Resting sleepily in the comfort of Matt's embrace, Alex lays her head against his chest and allows him to sway them both to the melody. She'd slipped out of her heels a while ago and Matt holds them in his grasp behind her back, leaving her barefoot in her wedding dress. Her skirts tickle her pink-painted toes and she smiles at the feeling.
At a table littered with empty champagne glasses and leftover wedding cake, Salome sleeps with her head on the shoulder of Matt's also sleeping grandfather. They're the only other two left in the reception hall and Alex watches as the lingering wedding photographer snaps a quick picture.
"Wore herself out today," she murmurs into Matt's shirt, reaching her hand up to toy with the light pink bowtie he'd insisted on.
"Hmm," Matt says, sounding just as subdued as she does. It's been a night of toasts, wedding cake, champagne and dancing. She wants nothing more now than to go to bed with her husband. Matt begins to rub slow, soothing circles on her back with the hand not holding her high heels and she sighs contentedly. "Are all weddings like this?"
"What?" She asks, blinking up at the twinkle lights over their heads, casting a romantic glow over the otherwise dark dance floor.
Alex beams into his chest, lifting her head to press a kiss to his chin. "Well I have some experience and I must say…happiest wedding day so far."
Matt laughs quietly, ducking his head to kiss her softly. "So far?"
She nods. "So wonderful I might consider never marrying again."
"I would appreciate it," he says, tightening his hold on her. "I'm rather attached to this wedding day. The bride in particular."
"Hmm," she hums her agreement, pursing her lips and closing her eyes expectantly. As requested, Matt gifts her with another kiss, parting her lips with his tongue and kissing her languidly. Alex slides her hand from his bowtie to the back of his head, toying with his hair.
"Can we go to Fiji now?" He asks against her lips and Alex shakes her head, smiling.
"Hotel first, remember? Florian's expecting Salome. He's flying to LA with her in the morning."
Matt twirls a curl of her hair around his finger. "And then the flight. And the drive to the hotel in Fiji." He sighs, looking forlorn. "As fetching as you look in this dress, love, I really just want to take it off you."
Breath leaving her in a rush at the sudden image of Matt unzipping her dress and all of this lace and silk pooling at her ankles as she stands before him, Alex tightens her grip on his hair. Pulling his head down to hers, she presses her mouth to his again, discarding gentle and putting everything she can muster into this one kiss. It leaves them both panting and breathless, gazing hungrily into each other's eyes.
"Hotel tonight, plane tomorrow?" She asks, biting her lip hopefully.
Matt groans, leaving wet kisses across her collarbone. "God, yes."
Alex brushes his hair from his eyes fondly, letting her fingers linger against his face. She traces her way around his eyes, down his nose and over his lips before veering off to map out his cheekbones, smiling when he closes his eyes and releases a happy sigh.
"My husband," she whispers and he shivers in her arms.
"Always," he says and when she outlines his lips again, he purses them and reverently kisses her fingertips.
"We're going to be happy," she says, and deep down in her heart, she knows it's true. Nothing, except holding Salome in her arms for the first time, has ever felt so perfect and so meant to be in her life.
Matt kisses her again, a soft and lingering brush of their lips as the song playing around them comes to a close, and breathes against her mouth, "Always."