Chapter 18 - Double Date
Ellen & Brian and Jamie & Claire
Ellen finding Jamie and Claire making out in the kitchen was the hilarious origin story they would tell their grandchildren. The way Ellen told it, it was one of the happier, more shocked moments of her life. Sure she could have been smug, saying I told you so, but instead she was overwhelmed with love and joy. Jamie had finally found his match, and she got to have the daughter of her heart. She was thrilled for both of them and for the whole family. Being in the midst of true love is a blessing that not all receive, and Ellen was well aware of that fact. She never took it for granted.
A few weeks after Brian welcomed Claire to the family at dinner with his over the top welcome that made Jamie blush, Ellen called the newer couple on speaker phone and asked them on a double date. Jamie was hesitant, for obvious reasons, but Claire was elated and said yes before Jamie could get a word out.
Ellen and Brian invited them up to the distillery to taste some of the new concoctions of whisky. Claire had yet to visit the little distillery at the edge of the property close to town, so it seemed like the perfect way to spend time with Jamie’s parents.
They ate a late lunch at one of the two pubs in Broch Mordha, fortifying their bellies for the whisky tasting afternoon ahead of them. Jamie was regaling his parents with one his latest editor meetings with John. As Jamie told the story, Claire watched intently with a casual, endearing smile on her face, having heard the story twice already. Ellen was engaged with her son, but Brian, Brian watched Claire’s face, giving his wife’s thigh a squeeze under the table. Ellen glanced at Claire briefly, noted the heart eyes look about her, and squeezed Brian’s hand under the table, communicating silently with her love.
The conversation between the four of them was easy and comfortable. Claire’s parents had been gone so long, it was disorienting and blissful to be with Jamie’s parents in such an easeful situation. She silently hoped that they would do this more often. She knew there was so much she and Jamie could learn from both of them. The wisdom and guidance of a long married couple can often be discounted by those early in relationship or in their younger years, but Claire knew the value of experience. She relished it in her already strong personal relationship with Ellen, and knew that her insight into being with a Fraser would be invaluable in years to come.
By the end of the meal Brian had eyes only for Ellen. As he fed Ellen chips, they both seemed oblivious to everything around them, and they hadn’t even had any whisky yet. Claire couldn’t help but notice that Jamie didn’t even flinch at his parents feeding each other. Jamie’s right thumb slid over the Claire’s left palm as he made loving shapes on it throughout dinner. Over the few months they had been together, they learned that their skin longed to be in contact. Everything was better when their dermis danced in conversation. Sensations whispered back and forth in the telepathic exchange of two people who don’t need to translate their souls to each other.
Satiated, carbed up, and ready for drink, the four drove to the distillery. It was smaller than Claire expected, but seemingly delightfully Fraser. Emblazoned above the entrance, in emerald, read the Fraser motto, je suis prest. Two buildings rested behind the dirt car park. One, a converted stone building, similar in construction to the main house that was an obvious office and small shop. The other was more akin to a long wooden warehouse.
Brian let them into the wooden building, unlocking a comically oversized lock with what Claire swore was a skeleton key. Ellen trickled in behind him to help turn on the lights and make it ready for their private tour. Jamie was slow to follow. Claire went to walk ahead of him when he pulled her back by the hand, squeezing her in for a kiss.
Licking her lips as she opened her eyes, Claire asked, “What was that for?” Still feeling the emotion of his kiss resting on her lips.
“I’m so happy Sassenach…I love ye,” he said brushing her curls behind her ear.
The words, still so newly released into their relationship, made her breathless, “I love you too, Jamie.”
Eyes locked, Claire went in for another kiss, as Jamie’s hand wandered down her back to the flowing, knee-length patterned skirt that had been taunting him all day. The swishing of the skirt this way and that as she walked had hypnotized him. His hand tucked under the hem and he daintily dragged his fingers up the back of her leg, until he could get a firm grab on her arse. When he was met only with flesh, his breath hitched. Had the wee vixen gone commando on a double date with his parents, he wondered so loud in his head, he thought she had heard him thinking. His hand floated higher and he found the waistband of her thong. He wasn’t sure if he was disappointed or relieved, but he knew he couldn’t wait to get her in bed later.
Claire seemingly aware of where things were headed if they stood there much longer, took his hand out from under her skirt. She kissed it mouth open with a knowing gaze, that said later. Hands twined, she pulled him into the building to join his parents.
They found Brian and Ellen mercilessly flirting with each other as they set up the tasting. They had been gone maybe 3 minutes from their sides, but the older couple seemed to have had a strong shift in mood in those three minutes. They barely noticed Claire and Jamie walk in. Claire caught Ellen poking Brian’s side, before he grabbed her and pulled her in for a searing kiss. Jamie noticed Claire’s expression and brought her in close to his side. He whispered to her, “Dinna mind them, they’re always like that.” Claire looked up at him, taken aback. She had never met a couple that had been married for multiple decades that still liked each other that much, never mind how these two Frasers were interacting.
Claire observed Brian and Ellen like a hawk as they got increasingly touchy-feeley with each other. Brian even nibbled her neck for when he thought the younger couple was drinking and unawares. By the end of the tasting, something clicked for Claire. It was clear as day, she wanted that with Jamie, for the rest of her life. She wanted to be a Fraser through and through.
In fairness, Claire didn’t know many couples who has been married for decades, but their interaction seemed unique. Their level of connectedness was something she knew she shared with Jamie, and it made her want it forever, just like Brian and Ellen. Knowing Jamie grew up with them as a model, she was bolstered by the fact that it was a part of his makeup. Revving herself up inside, she hoped Jamie would want the same thing, forever.
Later that night, walking back to the main house, all with a slight sway in their step, Jamie fell in with his father while Claire walked with Ellen. Claire and Ellen giggled all the way back to the house like two school girls walking about 8 feet in front of Jamie and Brian.
“Da…can I ask ye a question?” Jamie said quietly, making sure to keep his speech out of reach from the ears ahead.
“Anything lad,” Brian said, squeezing Jamie in for side hug, his arm slung around his son’s shoulder.
“Do ye ken any good jewelers?” Jamie said nervously.
“Jewelers? I dinna ken, why would ye need a jeweler?” Brian asked daftly.
“Claire…I want te marry Claire,” Jamie said, as if it is obvious and tattooed on his face for all to see.
Brian’s head swung around to look at his son as he stopped dead in his tracks, stilling Jamie in the process, placing a hand on each of his lad’s broad muscled shoulders.
“Do ye mean it? Ye and Claire are the real deal?…I mean ye ken we hoped, but seeing ye together tonight, we knew and just wished and prayed that the two of ye did too,” Brian said, starting to ramble and slur in his whisky infused excitement.
Brian brought Jamie in for a bone crushing hug. The two men stood there, in the dark, rooted to the earth of their blood, and exchanged an embrace that spoke of the past, the present, and the future of love. A single, salty tear ran down each of their faces. Brian pulled back, and stared at his boy, his sweet, loving, tender, talented boy who had become an incredible man. He knew Jamie would make a wonderful husband and father, now that he had found his true match.
“Ye dinna need to go te a jeweler lad, I have a ring for ye,” Brian said, coming out of his emotional love haze.
“Ye do?” Jamie said shocked.
“Yes lad, the family engagement ring. For generations, the men of our family have proposed to their ladies with the same ring, and ye shall do the same,” Brian said, in the serious tone of someone who hadn’t just sampled whisky for hours.
Jamie stood shocked. He had never heard of such a thing, which he found odd. His parents were always so open with long running familial traditions. The Frasers were a proud clan and their history and heritage were instilled in all Fraser children almost from birth.
“How come ye never said anything about this before, Da?” Jamie asked, curiosity filling his body.
“Well it’s a coming of age thing ye see. I ken yer in yer mid 30s and all, but traditionally it was something that only came up when a Fraser man went te marry, which generally was much younger. So it was thought of as a coming of age “right of passage.” Around the time I would have told ye such a thing, ye had yer accident, and after that, well, it didna seem important to make a hoopla about an old tradition. Then when ye never really seemed to like yer girlfriends much, I didna see the point of mentioning it. But now, it’s plain to see, Claire is meant for ye, and ye for her. And I’d be thrilled if ye want to carry out the tradition.”
Jamie swallowed a hundred small lumps in his throat as he listened to his father’s emotional speech. It was all brand new information to him. His father continued.
“Tis a simple silver woven ring of two strands. It is said to date back to the Vikings. Each lass, wears it from the time of engagement until the wedding day when it is replaced with her wedding ring. It symbolizes a special time in a couple’s life where you are starting to weave together yer separate lives into one. At the wedding, the woven band is replaced by a band of a single strand instead of two, sealing the intention of your life together as one.”
Jamie gasped a sob, overwhelmed by the beauty of the ancient tradition. Disbelief coursed through him, he had no idea an ancestral lineage, so rife with romance was in his blood (Lairds, castles and land sure, but romance?). It appealed to the writer in him, and he knew it would call out to the secret romantic in Claire. He couldn’t wait to share it with her. Jamie knew it would mean as much to hear as it did to him.