Title: "Heroes, Tights, and Archetypes"
Author: Little Red
Fandom: CUPID, omfg.
Pairing: Claire/Alex (in which Alex is played by Joe Flanigan and he takes his shirt off, yay.)
Spoilers: All the Alex episodes. Set between The One Where Everybody Says I Love You and "End of an Eros"
Summary: Alex may be a goober, but he doesn't have to like it.
It occurs to Claire only after she says it that she really, really should know better.
She does know better, actually. It's her job to know, predict, and deal with all the strange issues that men (and women) can bring to a relationship. She's very good at that, actually.
There's just something about Alex that, occasionally, puts her brain on hold.
It's not entirely her fault, she insists. He wrapped her in a hug after her long, hard day at work, made her soup while she sat in the kitchen and complained for half an hour straight, and then even consented to watch a romantic movie on TV although she knows there's a game on somewhere.
He's massaging her shoulders, for God's sake. She'd be inhuman if her brain didn't take a little vacation.
Which is why she blissfully babbled that she's so lucky to have a boyfriend who's so...
"Sensitive?" The massage stops. "You really think that?"
She turns around to be able to see him. He looks like she just slapped him in the face. "What?" She giggles, nudging him. "It's a compliment, Alex."
He might be joking, she thinks. Sure, a lot of the Manly Manly Man crowd wouldn't take kindly to being considered sensitive, but Alex... "You have to know this about yourself," she argues before her years of psychology can make an appearance and inform her to just let this one go. "I mean, just look at tonight! I call you, you come over, you make me dinner..."
"Come on, Claire, that isn't fair. A guy's supposed to do that for his girlfriend."
She'd take offense at the supposed to, like she's somehow inconveniencing him by wanting him around, but she's still on a different tear. "You're watching The Bridges of Madison County!"
"Clint Eastwood!" Alex points to the TV as evidence, even though it's currently blaring a commercial.
Claire rolls her eyes. The man writes feel-good newspaper articles about blind old women, little league teams, and heroic neighborhood dogs. This cannot be news to him. "I don't understand why you're acting like I just accused you of leprosy. This is exactly what women want in a man." She leans in toward his lips. "You're a very-" kiss "-valuable-" kiss "-commodity."
She kisses him for real, but he doesn't really return it.
Alex finally pecks her on the lips and sighs. "All right, fine. Never mind." When she doesn't immediately turn back to the movie, he adds, "Can we drop this now?"
Maybe his brain is on vacation, too, she considers, because he definitely already knows that those words are the exact ones that will make sure she doesn't drop it. "No, we can't. I want you to explain it to me. I've never understood why there's this lasting idea that men like you shouldn't be 'sensitive,' even when you know that's what women are after these days and when you wouldn't be interested in the sort of women a He-Man approach attracts anyway." She really can't imagine him with the adult equivalent of a high school cheerleader.
"Don't you write books about this stuff?"
"All right. I understand in general. I want to know about you."
Alex frowns. He looks completely adorable, but she's pretty sure that calling him that right now won't end up in her favor. "It's..." he squirms on the couch. "I mean, I know that's what you -- women -- say you want, but you don't really need a guy for that."
"You've got girlfriends who will appreciate Clint Eastwood acting his heart out in a romantic role a lot better than I will."
"Alex, you do realize that a large proportion of the things I do with you I'd never do with a girlfriend, right?"
He shoots her a frustrated glare. It's one of her favorite expressions of his, and she bites her tongue to keep from grinning. "It's just... a guy's supposed to be able to wrestle the bear for you, you know?"
If it wasn't contributing to a totally frustrating macho personality quirk, Claire might find that the sweetest thing she has ever heard. "What are the chances I'm going to need you to wrestle a bear for me in Chicago?"
"A burglar, then."
It might grate against her feminism to say so, but she does feel a lot safer, even in her neighborhood, having a man in the house for as much of the time as he's there (which is a lot, lately -- it's been two weeks since he's been home for anything more than a change of clothes). She always insists that he doesn't have to, but she loves that Alex worries enough about her safety to find parking and walk her to or from her office whenever it's late at night.
So maybe she doesn't hate his lingering bear-wrestling macho side.
"So why can't you be both?"
"Mild-mannered reporter by day..."
He rolls his eyes and tries to push her away with a finger to her shoulder.
"I've always thought capes were sexy," she continues.
"And spandex underwear!"
"Tights. You'd definitely look good in tights."
He frowns again, settling into the couch cushions in what she supposes is the fully grown macho-man version of a sulk. "Oh, fine. Make fun of me."
She stops teasing, feeling only a little bit guilty at the look on his face. "What?"
"I'm serious," he says.
"About wrestling bears?"
"About..." he waves a hand. "Yeah, I guess."
It floors her a bit, unexpectedly, and it takes her a moment to fully process it. Yes, Alex in a suit jacket defending her from a wild animal with his bare hands is a ridiculous image, but there's something primitive and feminine in her -- something from before the invention of burglar alarms and women's self-defense classes -- that thrills at the idea that he wants to protect her.
"I know." She reaches out a hand to rub his chest, fingers getting lost tracing the soft wool of his sweater collar. "I know you would, but that's not why I love you."
His eyes widen just a little and he smiles the soft smile he always does whenever she says she loves him. He doesn't say it back as much as she would like, maybe, but that look of awe on his face shoots right to her heart every time and she knows, knows he means it.
"I guess I can live with that," he agrees, laying a large warm hand on her knee.
"You'd better." She closes the gap and kisses him. She doesn't even recognize that time is passing until the soundtrack of an obnoxious car commercial bursts their bubble.
She ended up mostly underneath him on the couch, gasping for air, not caring in the least that her dry-clean-only skirt is wrinkling. One of his hands has worked its way inside her blouse and she hums happily when he moves his thumb. Oh, yes. Having a man in the house all the time is a very good thing.
"So," she says, licking her lips. "What would Superman do in this situation?"
Alex smirks. His eyes are dark and hungry, and she thinks that look could melt her anytime, anywhere. That look got her naked in a coffee shop. Since then -- with, well, one or two exceptions -- he's restricted use of that look to the home front only. She's imminently grateful for that, but if he doesn't tear her clothes off in the next five minutes, she thinks she might have to take hostages.
"I don't think I can carry you up the stairs without hurting you," Alex admits.
Claire does a quick visual sweep around the living room. They're already on a couch, of course, and there's a kitchen table and counters and even a window seat with frosted windows all in easy reach. She smiles her own version of that look. "That's okay."
Her chick flick continues to play in the background, but Claire doesn't pay any attention to it. It's official: She doesn't need Clint Eastwood to make her feel better after a long day at the office. She only needs this.