Matt brings out the box with a flourish; Karen and Arthur both groan.
"This can only end badly," says Arthur.
"What? No! It'll be fun! C'mon, I'm sick to death of cards."
"Every time we play that game at home, it all ends in tears," Karen says. "If you two get all bickery and competitive, I'm out of here."
Matt pouts at them. He's so sure that this is a great idea, and their lack of enthusiasm is disheartening. "Go on, one game. Please. We've got at least an hour before the next take, plenty of time to get started."
Arthur looks sceptical, and Karen looks concerned, but they both sit down at the table and help him unwrap his brand new Monopoly set. There's a brief scuffle over tokens before Matt claims the top hat, Arthur grabs the boot, and Karen settles on the dog.
They play sedately enough at first. Arthur sets up a low-rent empire on Euston Road while Matt lands himself in jail three goes in. Karen seems to be playing fairly aimlessly, so it really takes Matt by surprise when she puts a house on Mayfair.
"What?! Where did that come from?" he splutters.
Karen looks extremely smug. Arthur glares at her. "When you say your family also argues over this, might that be by any chance because of you?"
"I don't know what you mean," Karen says, picking up a card. "Ooh, apparently it's my birthday. I collect £10 from each player."
"You're right," Matt grouses, handing the money over, "this was a terrible idea."
Karen beams at him.
After a week, the board's still out. Three games later and Karen's won each one. Matt feels an absurd amount of determination to beat her, almost to the point of considering asking Arthur to team up with him, were it not for the fact he was sure Arthur would stab him in the back, the devious bastard.
Sometimes they run lines while they play, racing through technobabble and banter as fast as they can while the game takes shape. Matt won't admit it, but he's started dreaming of little plastic houses and colourful money. The board stays up in his trailer, with Arthur insisting on photographing everything each time they pause so as to dissuade cheats.
As with more or less everything the three of them do, it rapidly starts becoming more and more ridiculous. New rules get added as Karen starts demanding forfeits as well as money whenever someone lands on one of her squares, and so this how Matt turns up on set every day for a week in.txtreasingly ridiculous hats until the entire production team looks ready to throttle him.
"I wear a beanie now. Beanies are cool," he says with a straight face as people start shouting at him. Behind him, he can hear Karen and Arthur both injuring themselves laughing.
"I swear to god, Matt, I'm about thirty seconds away from calling the Moff down here if you don't take that wretched thing off," says Dan from costumes.
Matt does as he told, removing the beanie and chucking it over with the rest of his stuff. "Happy now, Karen?" he asks.
"Very," she says, nodding.
Dan rolls his eyes and glares at her. "Should have known this was your doing."
"Sorry, Dan," Karen says sweetly. "You love me really."
"Yeah, yeah," Dan grumbles. "Just keep your clothes in one piece today, guys, I don't want to spend another afternoon mending.
"Yes, Dan," they chorus like shame-faced schoolchildren.
"Right then, gang," Matt says, slinging his arms around Karen and Arthur's shoulders and walking them over towards the set. "Let's go shoot some scenes."
He's well aware that everyone they work with thinks that all three of them are ridiculous oddballs. They seem to think it lovingly, though, so that's all right. Besides, truth be told, Matt's always been a ridiculous oddball, and it is terribly nice to have some company.
Arthur comes in on Monday morning with a bag in hand.
"If we're going to play overly long board games that have tendencies to fuel bitter feuds, let's really commit," he says, and pulls out Risk.
"Dear god," says Matt.
They spend half an hour just going over the rules - Karen's still shaky on a few of the finer points but Arthur makes them start anyway, divvying out cards and infantry soldiers and the rest.
The first game goes well - Arthur busies himself building up a strong foothold in Australia and South America while Matt and Karen fight back and forth across Asia, leaving them both vulnerable to his attacks. He takes out Matt with almost embarrassing ease, which leaves Karen howling with laughter until it's her turn. She puts up a good fight, but Arthur's been playing Risk for years and she's got no chance.
She pouts horribly when he finally takes over her last territory and she has to admit defeat.
"This game sucks."
"Ooooh," says Matt, in full primary school pupil mode, "who's a sore loser?!"
"Shut up." Karen narrows her eyes and glares at them both. "Again."
"Oh fuck you, Darvill! Again!"
Arthur looks at Matt. Matt shrugs. "You heard her."
Matt makes a surprising late surge in the third game, two days later, and knocks both Arthur and Karen off the board or less together.
"No!" Karen yells, though she's laughing too. "Impossible!"
"You keep using that word," says Arthur. "I do not think it means what you think it means."
Karen throws a die at his chest.
Matt sits back and laughs, the bastard.
There's a knock on the trailer door. "Karen, Arthur, you're due on set in five!"
"Coming!" Karen sing-songs back sweetly, then glares daggers at Arthur. "You're in so much trouble in this next scene, boy."
They're shooting a kissing scene. Arthur suddenly has a very bad feeling about it.
They're in the TARDIS, shooting one of the scenes that's going to finish off the opening two-parter of series six when it goes out.
"Right, okay," says the director, drawing Karen and Arthur to one side, "so if you could just give us a tech run first while we set up the lighting and camera, that's be great."
They dutifully run through their cues, topping and tailing their lines as the crew do actual work around them.
"Blah blah blah," Arthur intones in a terrible impression of Rory, "Amyyyy I am feeling needy and insecure because the Doctor is soooo wonderful and soooo handsome."
Karen giggles. "Oh go marry him yourself then, idiot." She rests her hands on Arthur's shoulders, pulling him in so they can get the lighting fixed for the close up. "Oh, Rory, my darling husband, you have a stupid face but it is my stupid face." She makes a disturbing fish face with her mouth.
Arthur's shaking a bit with the effort of trying not to laugh so hard he loses the position, and Karen's making huge doe eyes at him and leaning in, lips puckered.
"Please tell me this is not how you're planning on actually doing it," says Arthur, "because that is the most unattractive thing I have ever seen."
"Oh shut up and kiss me," Karen says with a terrible approximation of some 50s film star
Arthur lets out an extremely put-upon sigh and shuts his eyes, standing there limply and letting Karen do all the work.
He'll only admit it on pain on death, but truthfully, Karen is quite a nice person to kiss. She's soft and warm and she smells nice, and he secretly sort of looks forward to these scenes, for all that he makes a fuss about having to shoot them.
It is weird, though, the moments where they're rehearsing like this and not really in character yet. If the cameras are rolling then he's immersed in what he's doing, and he's Rory and she's Amy and it all feels relatively normal. But he can't even remember his lines right now, he's just snogging one of his best mates while dozens of people run around them or stand about watching.
"Okay, great, thanks guys!" someone calls, and they break apart.
"Eugh," Arthur says, making a point of wiping his mouth on the back of his hand.
Karen scowls at him. "You're horrible. I bet there's loads of blokes who would love to trade places with you and have the great honour of kissing me."
"Tragically, you're stuck with me instead."
"Yeah, you are a tragedy."
"And so's your mum!" Matt yells from somewhere in the darkness behind the cameras.
"You shut up about my mother, Smith," Arthur yells back.
"Okay," says the director, "this time let's do a proper take. Matt, keep that witty banter of yours to yourself or I'm banning you from set. Karen, Arthur, from the top."
"Oh, if I must," says Arthur, and winks at Karen. She waggles her eyebrows.
"My turn," Karen announces, bursting into Matt's trailer with a shopping bag. "Thought we could do with bringing the tone down a bit."
"If this is strip poker, I'm out of here," Arthur says, making as if to leave.
Karen scoffs. "Don't be daft, who on earth would want to see that? No. This, my boys, is Twister."
"Oh god," says Matt, looking a bit worried. "I, um. It may surprise you to learn that I am not very good at this game."
"Really?" Karen asks, all politeness. "You shock me, Matt."
"Oh, you are going down," says Arthur, rubbing his hands together.
Matt gives him a look. "That a promise? You know, Kaz, if you want to watch the two of us roll around on the floor together, you only had to ask."
Karen rolls her eyes, because she's not admitting anything. "Give over and spread the mat out."
Matt gives her a sardonic salute and does as he's told. She picks up the spinner and sits back as they get into position.
"Ready?" she asks.
"Bring it on," says Matt.
She spins the spinner. "Okay. Right foot yellow."
They start off well enough. Arthur's got his hand caught between Matt's arms, and Matt's legs are bending in an improbable manner -- nothing new there, then. There's a bit of a wobble when they both lunge forward for the same blue circle but Arthur makes an impressively graceful recovery and retreats to the other end of the mat, legs crossing over themselves while his hands splay out on the circle.
Karen laughs as she watches them, feeling like an evil puppetmaster. They're both long, lanky lines of flailing limbs and ridiculous faces, and it's not like she's any better. The fact that so many people like watching their show is a bit of a miracle, really.
She spins again. "Left hand red," she says.
Matt and Arthur both groan. It's not an easy move for either of them. They both eye a red circle by Matt's left foot, and they lunge for it at the same time.
Arthur gets there first, his palm thudding onto the mat triumphantly, but Matt's too much in motion to stop himself, and they collide, shoulders crashing together, and Arthur goes sprawling to one side, rolling onto his back and letting out a great howl of defeat.
Matt's arms shoot up victorious, but he's not quite balanced and so he tumbles over too, landing on top of Arthur.
"... ow," Arthur says.
Karen knows an opportunity when she sees one. She sets down the spinner and launches herself at them both, sliding in beside them. She rests her head on Arthur's shoulder, grinning up at him while she pins Matt down with an arm.
"Well then," says Arthur, like he's considered trying to move and decided it's not worth the effort.
Karen likes his approach, but she's a bit too uncomfortable to stay like this for too long and starts rearranging them, tugging Matt down next to her so that he's on the floor properly and not crushing anyone. Matt's all loose, floppy limbs, and seems happy to let her move him around, so she holds his hand and tugs him onto his side, his arm crossing over her while she curls into close against Arthur.
The two of them do make excellent blankets, she's happy to note. Matt folds himself up next to her, his hand warm in hers while he presses his face into her shoulder, and on the other side, Arthur's warm too.
She looks at Arthur, and he looks at her, smiling a smile that's unusually soft, for him. The world's gone silent apart from their slow, quiet breathing, and she reaches out to touch his face like it's the most natural thing in the world. He matches her, cupping his hand over hers, and so she kisses him, answering a question she's never put into words.
Arthur looks surprised and pleased, and he doesn't move, and his eyes don't leave her, but she feels Matt tense up behind her. So she holds his hand a little tighter and turns back so she can face him, and so she can kiss him too. She watches him carefully. To her, this seems obvious. She's not sure they'll agree.
Matt breaks out a lopsided smile, his eyes crinkling, and he kisses her back - first her temple, then her mouth. He slides his hand along her arm to where she's still touching Arthur, and he leans forward to kiss him too, swallowing Arthur's soft huff of surprise.
Karen keeps waiting for someone to speak, afraid that they'll break the moment, but they don't. Matt subsides, comes to rest against Karen again, but closer this time, kissing her hair.
Arthur looks a little shocked still, but he slowly wraps his arm around Karen, his hand splaying out along her back in what little space there is between her and Matt. He leans his forehead against hers and smiles at her, his eyes half-shut.
I win, Karen thinks, and closes her eyes too, feeling warm and fond and loved. They can talk about it later. Right now, this is perfect.