Her costar Matt is blazing ahead towards her trailer on their lunch break, on her invitation to show him the script to a new Macmillan play that she’s considering doing after season 2 of The Crown wraps, because this production has wowed her Canadian friends in Toronto.
A very secret part of her likes that he’s so interested in the script. Because a not-so-secret part of her likes the idea of the two of them spending more time together after this. Not wanting to say goodbye to him just yet. They’ve become such fast friends and what’s better than having your best mate around every day? And the thought of him being interested in spending more time with her , too? It tickles her more than she cares to admit.
Apparently anxious to learn more of this possible future opportunity, his long legs are hoofing it with huge strides across the gravel driveway and around the corner to Claire’s door, only half aware that she is barely keeping up.
At the sound of gravel screeching, a gasp and a whimper of pain behind him, he suddenly whirls around to find her down on the ground.
Nose-dive. Toppled. Plunked on her ass. Well, knee, technically. Shit. She watches in horror as blood from her scraped knee begins to ooze from her stocking to colour the gravel bright red.
Apparently, her dainty royal footwear had been no match for the slippery gravel at this brisk walking pace. At least the gloves seem to have offered her hands some protection against the rough surface as she’s tried to catch herself, she observes. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for her knee.
“Oh Christ Clairebear...” Matt sympathizes at the sight of her bloody knee and the beginnings of an unmistakable pout, and she’s a little embarrassed to find that the burning sensation in her knee is enough to make her eyes water. He’s by her side like a shot, arms protectively encircling her to help her up. “Come on, have you got a plaster and antiseptic inside?”
It must be said, he takes care of her, as he always grandstands he should as a leading man: You take care of your leading lady. Ever cavalier and cool, Matt is now unusually careful and dare she say: fussy.
First, he gingerly helps her hobble up the steps and inside, then onto the bed, with a thoughtful glass of water, before he sets off digging around in her drawers and cabinets for what 'doctor Matt’ (not ‘Who’ she thinks, flippantly) needs to tend to his ‘patient’. She directs the search from her perch on the bed with the same succinct and brusque wherewithal as her character: Plasters. Antiseptic. Tissues. There. There. No not in there! Fuck... In THERE! No the other left!
It’s the way his eyes are glued to her bare skin as he turns to find her peeling off her destroyed stockings, with her shirtdress pulled halfway up her thighs, that make her realise it’s not the broken skin he’s focused on but the pale, freckled skin of her bare legs that she’s, well, suddenly exposed quite a lot of now, actually.
He just stands there like a dolt, plasters in hand, for a long moment. Until he suddenly notices the weighted silence, his inappropriate stare, and lifts his eyes to stare at her face. She stares back, one eyebrow raised. Well...? And he seems to shake off a fog, finally.
What’s the matter, Matt? Never seen a queen’s knickers? She wants to tease, but doesn’t. Too puerile. And her throat is quite dry, but surely that has nothing to do with anything.
He gets down on one knee, ironically resembling her kneeling prince, and silently begins to carefully dab her wound clean with tissues and water, while underneath the skin an angry purple begins to blossom. She hisses through the sting, no matter how gentle he is, and he utters a muffled ‘sorry’ as he diligently works on her knee, his brow furrowed in intense concentration. There’s something strangely erotic about being the focus of such close and physical attention, she’s noticing for the first time. Or is it something to do with the touch of fingertips on bare skin in parts of the body that are usually off-limits between people who are not lovers?
“No gravel embedded in the wound, it looks like. You won’t need a doctor,” he concludes after thorough examination when he’s done cleaning and disinfecting. He won’t look her in the eye, she notices. Just as well, because she’d rather he didn’t see the confusing feelings he’d find swirling around in there at the moment.
Meanwhile, his thumb swirls lazy absentminded circles around her knee, without making a move to finish the job of bandaging it. As if he is about to say something more but hesitates. He lets out a long breath, the air tickling the inside of her thigh and it’s all she can do not to shiver.
“Good,” she nods, slow and bemused. Well, the loss of a few hours of production time for a principal actor would really...suck, it couldn’t be denied. Although that’s not the reason her mind is beginning to swim a little.
Come on, Doc. Get on with it. Put the plaster on it and be done with it. Crack a joke, to show me we’re mates, and don’t give a girl ideas that I really shouldn’t be entertaining.
Kneeling in front of her with his breath warm on her thigh and his hands gentle as if she were a child, her mind nonetheless inexorably takes a turn to a decidedly adult type of playing doctor.
It’s not that she hasn’t noticed any of— Anyway, there’s been enough shirtless and bare-assed action going on lately that she— They’re just mates, obviously, and, well— Look, he’s a male specimen that’s-- Fine. He’s attractive. Alright? Fine. There, she admits it.
She’s wondered sometimes, sure. The way he looks at her sometimes. The way he flirts shamelessly, touches her inappropriately. But there is no point in making assumptions about a man as naturally charming as Matt. Not to mention by now a close friend. And who is in a relationship. As is she, with a baby. And anyway, this is all the penultimate paroxysm of post-pregnancy hormones anyway, right? Nope. Nothing to see here.
FINALLY. He has mercy on her, peels the backing from the self-adhesive plaster and delicately positions it over the wound, pulling it taut until it’s firmly in place.
“And they probably won’t need to amputate,” he tries a lame joke to dispel the electricity crackling around them now, but it’s too late. As he looks up from his perch between her knees, he drags his eyes entirely too slowly past the vee of her shirtdress up to catch hers, and she’s instantly mesmerized by what she finds reflected in his gaze. Is it possible that this hasn’t all been a product of her overactive imagination?
Then his warm hand moves up to the edge of the fabric of her skirt, bunched up above the injured knee, coming to rest on her own hand where it holds up her skirt, and it’s like completing a circuit. The sexual energy is almost tangible now and she withdraws her hand a little too quickly, nonplussed, almost as if she’s been burned by it. Escaping her control, her hips shift just a fraction under his gaze, channelling an uncomfortable coiled tension begging for release. Her imagination rattles the bars of its cage as well, no longer accepting its confinement. The solution to the desperate need for release is so obvious. It would be so easy. If it were anyone other than Matt, any other situation...
She's mesmerized by the way he's looking at her. Just a few weeks ago he was looking at her with this same liquid dark come fuck me eyes that nearly made her quiver in her royal boots – only in that moment he was clearly Phillip and she was Elizabeth. Or she could get on her knees...
And there those eyes are again, now. Only he definitely isn’t Philip right now and she sure as fuck isn’t in character.
Jesus. Is he really...?
When he presses his lips ever so softly against the bare skin of her knee and positively leers at her, a rush of wetness surprises her so suddenly and so vehemently she fears he can almost feel it, too.
“So...” he husks with a shit-eating grin, barreling down this dangerous slippery road, “Short of kiss and make it better, what more can I do to help?”
And suddenly there’s no question in her mind anymore they’re both entertaining the lewdest images of his lips pressing a kiss against another part of her anatomy. And they’re about half a second away from giving into temptation.
Shit. They’re royally screwed.