Jamie pulled up in front of the Beauchamp apartment, his heart hammering. For some reason, he was even more nervous than their first date. And for some reason, even though he’d eaten dinner with both Claire and Faith in that very kitchen once before, it still felt brand new and very frightening.
Claire had texted him on Monday afternoon that her shift ended at five on Wednesday, followed by:
So how’d you like to make good on that promise of homemade lasagna?
He got out of the car and wiped his sweaty palms on his cargo shorts, then opened the back seat to retrieve the prepped ingredients that he’d taken care of last night. He’d already browned the beef and onions and portioned out all the cheeses so all they had to do was layer the ingredients and pop it in the oven.
By the time he’d finished with his last client at the stables, got home, and showered the smell of horses off of him, it was already almost six. He jogged up the driveway, bags in hand, and his heart immediately felt lighter to see Faith in the front window, nose pressed against the glass, flapping her hands. Claire pushed aside the curtain and firmly grasped one of her daughter’s hands before opening the front door before Jamie even reached the top step.
“Hallo there, Princess Faith,” Jamie said fondly, his cheeks already sore from smiling. She was humming loudly, on the verge of even yelling.
“Hey, hey…” Claire bent down and hoisted Faith up despite her protestations, holding her close and rubbing her back. “Yes, I know…we are very excited to cook with Jamie…”
They shuffled out of the doorway and Jamie closed the front door, locking it again behind him.
“Shh…easy, baby…” Claire bounced her gently and stroked her back. “I know, I know…”
She tried launching herself forward toward Jamie, nearly toppling headfirst out of Claire’s arms, and Jamie leapt forward to catch her.
“I got her,” Claire assured. “Hey, hey, it’s okay…I know…”
Her shouting quieted to a constant buzz of hums, and she rocked forward and back in Claire’s arms. “There you go. Good girl.”
“Aye, there ya go, lass. Good job.” Jamie offered a thumbs up, which Faith returned, still rocking.
“Okay, time to wash up. Can’t cook with dirty doggie hands.” Claire scrunched her nose up and leaned close to Faith’s face, and Faith giggled, shaking her curly head.
“Say hello to Angus and then wash your hands as well,” Claire said, putting Faith down. “No dirty doggie hands for you either.”
Jamie chuckled. “Aye, aye, captain.”
He put the bags down in the kitchen then knelt down to scruff up Angus’s neck. He heard Claire’s lilting voice from the bathroom, saying some sing-song little rhyme to help Faith wash her hands, and he sighed with contentment. What a gift it was to be privy to hear something so intimately beautiful that mother and daughter shared.
Claire and Faith emerged from the hallway, Claire holding both of Faith’s hands and waddling awkwardly, and then Jamie noticed that Faith was standing on her feet.
“Can’t have her touching anything,” Claire explained.
“Ye keep her sterile like a surgeon before dinner?”
Claire gave him a look, rolling her eyes. “Go on, Fraser. Sanitize.”
He saluted her before making his way to the bathroom to follow orders. As the water ran over his hands, he heard music coming from the kitchen, followed by little hands clapping. He smiled again, drying his hands, then made his way back to the kitchen. Claire had taken everything out of the bags and created a spread on the table for them to work with, and Faith was sitting dutifully in her chair, rocking back and forth to “Heigh-Ho,” that sweet, absent smile on her face. She was wearing a little yellow apron with bumblebees on it.
“Almost forgot,” Jamie said. “Cooking time is music time.”
“That’s right,” Claire said, taking the phone off the table. Faith moaned, reaching up to take it back. “I’m not turning it off, I’m just moving it. Look. See?” She put the phone on the counter and raised the volume a bit. “See? We need room to cook on the table. Yes?”
Faith leaned heavily on the table to hoist herself onto her knees in her chair.
“Alright. Are we ready?” Claire sat down, and Jamie sat down across from her so that Faith was in between them. Faith slapped the table excitedly. “Quiet hands, Faith. Thank you.”
“Alright,” Jamie said. “Let me show ye, now — oh! Did ye heat the oven?”
“Started when you were washing your hands.”
He nodded curtly. “Bonny.”
He spread a thin layer of sauce in the pan, then dumped the beef and the remaining sauce into a large stirring bowl. He gave Faith the wooden spoon and instructed her to stir.
“Watch, a leannan .” He made big stirring motions with his hands, and Faith began copying him with two hands, causing the bowl to spin.
“Woah!” Claire cried, seizing the bowl before it could spin out of control and create a disaster. Faith squealed at the commotion, but she resumed her task, clumsily trudging the spoon through the bowl.
“Good job, lass. Fine stirring,” Jamie encouraged her. “Let me finish it off, now, so it’s all ready. May I have the spoon?”
Faith yanked the spoon out of the bowl, splashing sauce and beef onto the table and Jamie’s shirt, which was thankfully black, him having anticipated a possible mess. Claire, to her credit, was wearing black shorts, but a lavender t-shirt. The adults laughed off the little mess, and Jamie took over stirring, getting it evenly mixed.
Next, they began layering. Jamie would put in the liquid ingredients while Claire counted out loud with Faith, one through five lasagna noodles, and then they placed them inside. They repeated this until the ingredients were depleted and the dish was full.
“And look at that! All ready fer the oven!” Jamie said.
“Yay!” Claire said, waving her hands in applause. “Good job, little chef.”
Faith jiggled her hands as well, and then looked back at Jamie to be sure he was applauding her as well, and he was, of course.
“Alright, lovie, sit with Mummy while Jamie opens the oven.” Claire pulled Faith into her lap and held on tight, nodding to Jamie when she was secure. He popped the dish in and set the microwave timer for an hour. Claire tried to take Faith’s apron off, but she groaned in annoyance, and pawed Claire’s hands away.
“Suppose she’s no’ done being a chef until it’s cooked, aye?” Jamie smirked, crossing his arms and leaning against the counter.
“I suppose not,” Claire said, releasing Faith to scramble off her lap. She pattered over to the counter where Claire had put her phone down and picked it up again, wanting to hear the music more clearly. The song changed and Faith hummed excitedly. From the French in the opening lines, Jamie deduced that “Be Our Guest” was about to play.
“Ah! They're making dinner in this song, aye? Like you, wee Faith,” he said.
Faith put the phone back on the table and threw her hands up, then proceeded to skip around the kitchen in time with the music, flapping her hands all the while.
“Sings and dances?” Jamie said, sidestepping her path to make his way back to the table.
Jamie sat down in Faith’s seat, closer to Claire, and he gingerly reached out for her hand. She looked up at him, and then they both leaned in for a brief, sweet kiss.
“Hi,” Claire said, stroking his stubbled chin.
“Hi,” he returned, tucking a curl back that had slipped loose from her ponytail.
Claire opened her mouth to say something else, but before she could, two little hands slapped one of each of their knees. Faith looked up at Claire expectantly, and then Claire turned to look sheepishly at Jamie.
“She wants me to dance with her.”
Jamie’s grin widened. “Then who am I to stop ye?”
Claire blushed and got out of her chair, taking Faith’s hands in hers. The grand finale of the song was nearing, and Faith kept insisting on being twirled. Jamie noticed that she was entranced by the way her apron swished about when she twirled. The song ended, and Jamie applauded from his seat.
“Bonny dancers, both of ye,” he said. Faith gave a dramatic, silly little curtsy, holding the edges of her apron.
A familiar drum riff came from the phone, and Faith began jumping up and down.
“Oh no…” Claire said, blushing at Jamie again.
“I only have myself to blame for always getting so into it…but she expects a full performance of this one whenever it comes on. Every time.”
Jamie tossed his head back in a barking laugh, and Faith continued tugging on Claire’s hands. Claire did not look ready to give a full performance; she looked like she wanted to melt into the floor.
Well, James, looks like there’s only one choice.
He jumped to his feet with a flourish, and jumped in with the singer:
“Let’s get down to business to defeat the Huns!”
He watched as Claire’s jaw fell slack and Faith whipped around, abandoning all hope for Claire’s performance and focusing on Jamie’s instead. They’d discussed Jamie’s lack of pitch before, so it was no surprise to him that Claire was soon doubled over in her chair, tears of laughter leaking out of her eyes. It sounded just fine to him , and to Faith as well, he supposed. Though he wasn’t sure if Faith laughed her head off when Claire sang.
By the end of the song, Faith was tugging on his hands, insisting he dance with her. And Claire was still howling with laughter.
Those three-and-a-half minutes would burn themselves into Jamie’s permanent memory, never to be forgotten or replaced.
“Alright, alright,” Jamie said at the end, trying to stop Claire from fully falling over. “I’ll stop before ye die of secondhand embarrassment.”
“I’m sorry! It’s just…” she wheezed, wiping her eyes again. “I had no idea you knew all the words…”
“Jen’s favorite movie. Warrior woman and all that,” he explained. “Plus Mam was a big Donny fan.”
She shook her head, finally calming herself down. “Well, you did splendidly.”
“Aye, sure I did.”
But he was apparently not done yet.
The entire rest of the hour the lasagna was baking, Faith did not let Jamie sit down. He didn’t know the words to every song, especially not the newer ones, but he didn’t do too poorly if he said so himself. The bairn seemed happy enough.
At some point in the proceedings, Faith took the phone in her hands and scrolled through the songs on the playlist, the corner of her tongue sticking out between pursed lips. Jamie waited patiently to see what she wanted to play next. She usually let the music play in whatever order shuffle chose, but sometimes she wanted to repeat a particular favorite. A gentle, lilting intro began, and Faith gave Claire the phone instead of putting it on the counter. Jamie was able to place the song when the lyrics began discussing the hundred-acre wood , and Faith approached him with eager hands.
“D’ye want to dance?”
Before he could even begin swaying her arms, she started yanking on his hands, pulling him out of the kitchen. Jamie looked up to Claire for an explanation, and she was already standing up, a knowing smile on her face.
“She wants to show you something.”
Jamie allowed her to lead them both through the living room and into Faith’s room. She let go of his hands when she opened the door, and she scampered right over to the giant yellow bear that was exactly where Jamie had left it on Saturday night, right next to her bed. She giggled as she threw her arms around it’s neck, barely having to crouch in order to do so.
Something had changed, though: it was now wearing a red shirt.
Jamie felt a lopsided grin melt into his features, and he turned around to see Claire holding up the phone as the Winnie the Pooh theme song continued.
“It was the first thing she did when she woke up to see it there,” she said. “I took a picture to send you, but I figured she’d want to show you, and you’d rather be surprised.”
“Would ye look at that,” Jamie said, walking over to Faith and her bear and crouching down beside them. “It would appear I didna bring home any ordinary bear from the carnival. It was Pooh Bear all along, aye?” Jamie poked his squishy tummy, and Faith giggled.
“I didn’t even think of that when I told you to ask for the yellow one,” Claire said, joining them by sitting on Faith’s bed. “She woke up, freaked out to see it, and then ran right to her dresser to pull out one of her red shirts. She turned it inside out so you can’t see the print, because then it wouldn’t be plain red like Pooh’s. She made me cut the tag off the back, too.”
“Ye’re a clever lass, a leannan .” He signed smart . “Smart girl, Faith.”
Faith swayed with her giant Pooh Bear, and then took Claire’s phone back from her again to restart the song.
“What does that mean?” Claire asked.
“ Leannan ?” Jamie said, sitting back on the floor and leaning on the bed. “Means my darling, sweetheart. That sort of thing.”
He felt fingers thread through his hair, and eagerly leaned into her touch.
“That’s…very sweet, Jamie.”
He took one of her hands and kissed it, holding it against his cheek as she continued to play with his hair.
“You said it at her birthday,” Claire said thoughtfully. “And a little before that, too.”
“Aye, well…she was my little darling long before I had the guts to tell ye.”
He heard her shifting behind him, and then she was on the ground beside him, nuzzling into him and kissing his cheek.
“I am one lucky lass,” she said softly. “And so is Faith.”
For the rest of the baking time, Faith gradually lost interest in dancing, and she began puttering around her room. She pulled out toys to hand to Jamie and Claire, she sat at her little table and colored, she sat cross-legged on the floor with one of her little toys that lit up and made sounds, this one in the shape of a guitar, playing the same sound over and over before switching to the next. When the timer went off, she was out of her room like a shot, leaving Jamie and Claire to scramble after her lest she try and open the oven, Claire crying “wait for Mummy!” after her.
By the time they got there, the timer had stopped, and Jamie had to hide his grin to see that Faith had dragged over a chair to reach the microwave to stop the timer herself.
“No climbing, Faith!” Claire scolded. “Get down at once, and put the chair back.”
Faith obeyed with clomping feet.
“If you want to push the buttons, you ask Mummy or Jamie for help. Do you understand?”
Claire put on a timer for a few seconds just so it would go off again. “Come here,” she said, picking up Faith and holding her up to the microwave. “See? Mummy can lift you, no climbing. Press the button. There. Good girl.” She walked a safe distance away from the oven. “Jamie is going to take the lasagna out of the oven now. Almost time for dinner, lovie.”
Jamie set it to cool on a hot plate, and then enlisted Faith’s help to set the table while Claire prepared the scooper and water for Angus’s dinner. By the time all of that was settled, and Faith fed Angus, Claire was cutting up the lasagna.
“I can already tell you it smells better than the microwave one,” she said over her shoulder.
“Aye. That it does, Sassenach.”
“You’re going to have her spoiled,” Claire said, putting Faith’s plate in front of her. “She’ll never eat my microwave cooking again.”
“Och, would be a shame if I’d have to come over just to cook fer the lass every night.” Claire paused to raise a brow at him, and he smirked and winked. She rolled her eyes with a giggle as she returned to the counter to serve Jamie, and then herself.
The meal was quite delicious, if Jamie did say so himself. He’d always been a moderately good cook; at least he was always satisfied with what he made, living alone and all. But to see Claire enjoying it so thoroughly, and Faith devouring it without a thought, was satisfying beyond words.
Faith’s dessert of choice hadn’t been Oreos as Jamie had thought it would be. The last time he was here had been during the winter, so it would only make sense that now Faith would request ice cream regularly.
“I hope you like chocolate,” Claire said, retrieving the tub from the freezer. “It’s the only flavor she’ll touch.”
“Of course I like chocolate,” Jamie said with feigned offense that she would even need to ask such a question.
“Just making sure! Here lovie, sit down.” Faith took the bowl and spoon handed to her and got back into her chair. Claire sat down with her own bowl and handed Jamie his. Claire took the longest to eat, being that she constantly had to stop to wipe Faith’s mouth or the table from her dripping. Claire had to raise her voice to stop Faith from digging through her movies without washing her hands clean of sticky ice cream, and then eventually had to hold her hands still under the running water in the kitchen while the lass squirmed and moaned in protest.
Claire sighed as Faith finally escaped the kitchen, clean as she was going to get. Jamie chuckled as he stood to help her clean up. Claire bent to retrieve a container to give Jamie some lasagna to take home, but he waved her off.
“Keep it all, Sassenach. Save ye some trouble later.”
She tried to protest, but Jamie wasn’t having it. She relented and put the entire covered dish in the fridge.
“Did you mean it? You’d come over to cook again? Not every night, I mean,” she added quickly. “I just mean…well…I’m a terrible cook. And Faith had fun tonight.”
“Ye can say it, Sassenach. Ye like my cooking.” He crossed his arms, leaning against the counter with a smirk.
“Well! Yes! It was very good!”
“And ye can say that ye enjoy a home cooked meal. Since ye never get to have such a thing.”
“And I can say that I enjoy cooking for ye, lass.” He pushed himself off the counter and crossed to the fridge to take her in his arms. “Does my heart good to give ye something nice after a long day. I ken ye dinna get that much.”
Claire hummed sweetly, then kissed him lightly. “You’re too good to me.”
“Ye deserve it, mo nighean donn .”
Before Jamie could kiss her back, the pitter-patter of Faith’s bare feet reentered the kitchen. They separated just a bit, but remained in each other’s embrace. Faith patted Claire’s thigh and reached up with a DVD box in hand.
“Ah! Tangled , tonight!” Claire held the box up to show Jamie. “Have you seen this one?”
“I havena actually,” Jamie said. “It came out before Jenny had any of her bairns, and I dinna exactly know any other wee lasses or laddies.”
“Ah, I see,” Claire said. “Well, you’ll love it. I know I do; it’s very funny. It came out the year Faith was born. Right, darling?”
In response, Faith tugged on her hands, and the adults followed her into the living room. It was familiar for Jamie, sitting in this living room in the fading light with the tellie flashing. Faith was wedged between he and Claire, just like last time; Claire held onto his hand the whole movie, just like last time; they laughed and swayed together, and Faith hummed the melody of the songs, just like last time. The scene in the tavern had Jamie wiping his eyes from tears of laughter, and the rousing love duet in the boat had his heart swelling and his hand squeezing Claire’s, bringing it to his lips and kissing it behind Faith’s head.
Christ, am I glad we see the light.
The ending had him tearing up again, even though he knew Eugene couldn't really be dead. He still cried every time he watched Beauty and the Beast , even knowing that the Beast would be fine soon, so of course this movie couldn't be any different. He could feel Claire’s eyes on him, inwardly chuckling at him in this emotional state. When the movie ended, Faith jumped up to dance to the ending-credits-music, and Claire scooted into Jamie, sitting on her hip with her legs curled next to her.
“Alright there, Soldier?” she asked, kissing his cheek. “Relieved that everything turned out alright?”
“Och, leave me be.” He lightly swatted her arse, but then tenderly kissed the top of her head. “Ye were right, I enjoyed it. Dare I say I like it better than Frozen .”
Claire pushed herself off of him and looked at him, gravely serious. “That is a heavy statement in this home.”
He laughed. “Oh, aye, dinna tell Faith I said so.”
Upon hearing her name, Faith momentarily paused her dancing to look at them. Jamie laughed sheepishly and waved at her, and she waved back, blissfully unaware, before resuming her dancing. Jamie and Claire shared another loud laugh that ended with their lips together.
After the music ended, Faith ejected the DVD and put it away. She scrambled onto the couch to plant herself in Claire’s lap, wedging her little body between the adults. They both chuckled, and Claire squeezed her daughter, kissing her head.
“You like watching movies with Jamie, don’t you?” she said. “Was that fun? Yes?”
Faith was smiling absently as Claire rocked her, playing with Jamie’s fingers in her small hands.
“You…don’t have to leave, you know,” Claire said hesitantly. “You can hang around while we get through bedtime routine, and then I can join you right back on the couch for another movie. I’ve got drinks, too. If you want.”
Faith began rhythmically patting the back of Jamie’s hand, and he felt warmth spreading from head to toe.
“Aye. That sounds great, Sassenach.”
Her nervousness melted away, and she broke into a wide grin. “Okay. Just wait here while I get her settled. Should only be twenty minutes.” Jamie nodded. “Faithie, say goodnight to Jamie. It’s time for bed. Say goodnight.”
Faith patted his cheek and then slid off of Claire’s lap, tugging on her hand.
“Goodnight, Faith. Sweet dreams,” Jamie said, and the lass waved over her shoulder as she pulled Claire into the bathroom.
He stretched out on the couch, contentment filling him to the brim as he listened to Claire coax Faith into swallowing her medicine, then talk through their teeth brushing routine.
“Open wide, Faith. Let me get the back— I said open…”
“Now rinse and spit, lovie. Rinse and spit. Good girl.”
It was so domestic, so normal . And yet it was music to his ears.
He heard them shuffle from the bathroom to Faith’s bedroom, and Claire called Angus. He shot up off the floor where Jamie had been occasionally reaching down to pet him, and he trotted into Faith’s room. A few minutes later, Claire returned to the living room and leaned over the back of the couch.
“Alright. She’s not asleep just yet, but she will be soon. She sleeps much better now that we have Angus.”
“Glad to hear it,” Jamie said. “What’s this about drinks, then?”
“Come on.” She grabbed his hands and he hoisted off the couch, following her into the kitchen. “Faith can’t reach this, not even with a chair,” she said, indicating the cabinet above the microwave. Claire reached up on her toes to stretch into the cabinet, sighing triumphantly when she emerged with the bottle.
“This is what we call big-girl-juice,” she said, smiling crookedly, waving the bottle around. “Though you don’t seem like a red-wine kind of lad.”
“I’ll drink whatever ye give me, Sassenach.”
“Good. Because I also have…” She stretched back up, and the bottom of her shirt inched up, exposing the smooth expanse of her back. He could focus on nothing else until he heard her sigh, and the shirt slid back into place. His eyes flicked back to her beaming face, slightly flushed with exertion.
“This!” she finished, holding up a bottle of whisky.
“Ye didna trouble yerself to get that fer me,” he said, though he couldn’t help but smile.
“No trouble at all. I just had a feeling when I was out buying the wine, so I grabbed this, too. Mostly for you, but I drink it too.”
He chuckled, closing the space between them and kissing her softly, cupping her waist with one hand. He laughed again, breathing it into her mouth.
“What?” she said coyly, peering up at him through her lashes.
“Jest imagining what ye’ll taste like after a drink,” he mused, snaking both arms around her waist. “Fruity, sweet, tangy, the crisp alcohol taste, of course.” He gave her a small peck. “Sticky, perhaps?” He flicked his tongue briefly over her bottom lip, and she squealed, swatting at his shoulder.
“Oh, enough,” she giggled, squirming out of his grasp. “I need to get us some glasses, unless you prefer to drink out of the bottle.”
“D’ye take me fer a heathen?” he said, aghast.
“What? I’ve had plenty a wine-night with Gi where we just pass the bottle back and forth. Glasses can be overrated.”
“Good whisky should be savored, treated wi’ respect.”
She shot him a look from the cabinet as she pulled out the glasses. “You’re serious?”
“Aye, I am.” He nodded.
She sputtered with laughter again as she put the glasses on the counter. “You really are a Scot.”
“Ye doubted me, then?” He arched an eyebrow, coming up behind her as she uncorked the wine bottle, snaking his arms under hers and clasping his hands over her stomach, bending to rest his chin on her shoulder.
“Of course not,” she said with a laugh. “You’d have to be one hell of an actor to fake a dialect that authentic.”
“Ye say that as if I couldna be a hell of an actor.” He pressed a kiss to her jawline, and she gave him the most attractive side-eye he’d ever seen.
“I’m sorry, darling, but I’d have to say you couldn’t.” She turned her head and closed her eyes, pursing her lips adorably, waiting for him to kiss her. And who was he to deny her? He obliged, kissing her slowly and sweetly, his heart straining as he felt her smile against his lips.
“I can always see right through you,” she finished, a devilish glint in her eye. He went to kiss her again, but she turned her head, and his lips landed on her temple instead. She giggled, and the sound made his stomach flip. She took the uncorked wine bottle in one hand and her glass in the other, and Jamie grinned. He unwound his arms from around her waist, circling around her shoulders instead, then closed his hands around hers.
“Allow me, Milady.” She slid her hands away, resting them on the countertop as he poured the deep red liquid, keeping his lips buried in her curls all the while. Wine glass full, he moved to the whisky bottle, opening it and pouring his own glass, keeping her pressed against him. She innocently wiggled against him, just a bit, and his hands jerked, causing a small splash of whisky to land on the counter.
He didn’t think she realized, not at first anyway. But now, there was no way she didn’t.
He was hard as rock with her bonny round arse wedged right against him.
Claire immediately felt liquid heat rushing to her stomach as soon as she felt it. She felt paralyzed, completely unaware of what she should do .
Her mind immediately went to the incident in the car, how she’d almost ruined the entire evening. She could tell easily enough that he was not the type of guy to put out on the first date, and she’d been painfully ashamed when she’d pushed that boundary too far and crossed a line.
Did this even count as a second date? They’d just finished watching a princess movie with her five year old daughter, who was now asleep right off the living room.
His whisky was poured, and he managed to close the bottle with surprising ease given the state she knew he was in. She knew she should just ignore it, not embarrass him further…but God, the urge to rub her arse up and down over it, just to hear him groan, maybe even grab her hips…
Thank God she didn’t have any more time to contemplate that, as he left her side to grab a paper towel to clean the little spill.
“Sorry ’bout that,” he said, quickly swiping at the counter.
“Oh, it’s fine. You’ve no idea how many spills these counters have seen.” She forced a small laugh, and he chuckled as well. After tossing the paper towel in the bin, he returned to pick up his glass, and he smirked down at her.
“ Slaínte ,” he said, clinking his glass into hers.
They took a small sip, and then Claire snatched her wine bottle off the counter and made her way out of the kitchen. She looked over her shoulder to catch him staring at her arse, and she blushed from head to toe. He cleared his throat before grabbing the rest of the whisky and following after her.
Claire put her glass and the bottle on the coffee table before plopping down on the couch with a contented sigh. “So, what’ll it be tonight, then?”
“I figured I’d let you choose,” Jamie said, sitting down beside her. “Since it’s your home and all. If ye’re ever at my place, we’ll pick my favorite princess.”
Claire guffawed and swatted at his arm. “We are not watching another princess movie, thank you very much.”
“A right shame,” Jamie said, smirking behind his glass.
Claire rolled her eyes, flicking on the tellie with the remote. “I’m terrible at making decisions. What are you in the mood for?”
She couldn’t stop herself from flicking her eyes downward to his lap.
Well…I know what he’s in the mood for.
“Ye have Hulu?” Jamie said excitedly. “I’ve only got Netflix and I’ve seen just about everything on there. Though I wouldna mind watching something again if ye havena seen it.”
“No, that’s okay. Peruse Hulu all you want.” She opened the application and handed him the remote, taking another sip of her wine.
Jamie scrolled for a while through various titles that either one or both of them had seen. He stopped, though, tensing with excitement.
“Ah! I haven’t seen this one in ages,” he laughed. He was stopped on The Godfather . “A classic.”
Claire cringed a bit. “How many brownie points do I lose if I tell you I’ve never seen it…?”
“Never seen The Godfather ?” Jamie was aghast. “It’s a cinematic masterpiece, Sassenach!”
“Well, I’m sorry! If I’d known you were such a serious film critic I’d have brushed up on the classics!”
“Ye ken we have to watch it now, don’t ye?” He raised a brow at her, remote poised to hit play.
“Go ahead! I’d love to finally know what all the fuss is about.”
“Fuss!” he said haughtily, hitting play and putting the remote on the coffee table. “It’s certainly worth the high praise. The first one at least. The rest leave much to be desired.”
“How many are there?”
“Three. I willna subject ye to the rest.”
“Well, what if I want to be subjected to it?” She scooted a bit closer to him, leaning against his shoulder. “Needing to watch sequels is an excellent excuse to see somebody again.”
“Ye need excuses, then?” He was feigning shock and offense, but Claire could hear the soft, endearing undertones as the trumpet theme began, the lone chair occupying the screen.
“Hm. Perhaps.” She snuggled in tighter, and he draped his arm around her, then she placed a kiss on his pectoral.
He made one of those Scottish noises of his, but he kissed the top of her head and rubbed his hand up and down her arm.
“Much easier to cuddle without a child sitting between us,” Claire remarked with a smile, and Jamie chuckled softly.
“Aye, that it is. Though having the bairn between us is special for its own reason.”
That warmed Claire from head to toe.
The wedding sequence began, and the both of them began steadily intaking their respective drinks. Claire remarked that she’d love to go to an Italian wedding, and then Jamie held her at arms length to quirk his brow at her.
“No’ one filled wi’ mobsters, I should hope?”
“Not all Italians are mobsters, you bloody Scot!” She swatted at him again, but was laughing heartily. “I know quite a few Italians — ”
“Aye, we’re on Long Island — ”
“And none of them are in the Mafia.”
“Never seen a Scottish wedding, then?”
“No, I actually haven’t.”
“I think it could rival this. And no mobsters necessary.”
“Oh, stop that!”
They fell into more laughter and more drink, and they were both already refilling their glasses before Marlon Brando even stepped on the scene. When the scene inside began, Jamie leaned forward excitedly, and Claire almost teased that he looked like Faith watching Frozen . When the Godfather himself said his iconic line, Jamie felt compelled to repeat it:
“ I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse, ” he garbled, and Claire immediately doubled over in howling hysterics.
“That’s horrible !” Claire wheezed.
“Och, come on, now!” he said, his face bright red. “Da always said I got it spot on!”
That sent her howling again, and before long she was laying with her head in his lap, tears of laughter leaking out of her eyes.
“Your father has never lived outside of Scotland has he?”
“Oh, God…” She wiped her eyes, and then looked up at him from his lap. “Do it again! Please?”
“After the brutal treatment I just received? No chance.” He pointedly looked away from her, staring at the tellie. “You’re missing important stuff, ye ken.”
“Oh, come on…” Claire sat up, getting on her knees on the cushion. “I’m sorry, darling…I take it all back.”
He took a sip of his whisky, his face remaining stoic aside from a small twitch of his brow.
“Jamie…” Claire whined, putting her chin on his shoulder and pouting her lips right against his jaw. “I’m sorry for teasing…You make a smolderingly handsome mobster.”
She kissed his cheek, and he looked at her from the corner of his eye. “Do I?”
“Mhm.” She kissed his cheek again and threaded her arms around his neck. “With a silly voice.”
Before she could even blink, Jamie ducked his head and seized her around the waist, pulling her off of him and pinning her into the cushions. She squealed loudly, and he put a finger over her lips.
“Dinna wake the bairn, lass.”
She glowered up at him, feeling a blush creep all the way down her chest, more heat gathering in the pit of her stomach. Before she could do anything about it, he was leaning down himself to press their lips together, and Claire sighed contentedly, enjoying the feeling of being pressed into the couch cushion far too much. He pulled away by dragging his teeth against her bottom lip, causing another squeak. He then sat straight up and turned his attention back to the screen, taking another sip of whisky.
“You bloody tease…” Claire sat up, shaking her head and downing the rest of her wine.
“You started it.”
She snorted. “Who’s the bairn now, hm?”
“Mm…I like hearing ye say Scots words.”
“Do you?” She batted her lashes at him as she poured more wine.
“Aye…in yer silly Sassenach voice.” He flashed her a wicked side eye, and despite herself, her stomach flipped.
“What other Scot words do you want to hear, hm?” She inched closer on her knees.
“I’m trying to watch the movie.”
As usual, she could see right through him; could see how he was flushed red down to his chest, how his brow was sweating, and how the bulge in his pants had gotten all the larger.
“Mm…” She put her wine glass down, and then plucked his whisky out of his hands as well. “I’m…enjoying it so far.”
He quirked a brow at her. “The movie?”
She licked her lips and moved in closer. “Sure.”
She had no idea what was prompting her to be so bold — probably the wine. Had she not just finished telling herself that she’d crossed a boundary on their last date, and that it would be wrong to even come close to doing so again?
But then Jamie exhaled loudly, and she could swear it was a growl .
And she completely lost her senses.
She resumed her former position, arms around his neck and face buried in his shoulder, and began kissing his neck and jaw, humming softly as she did. He growled again, much more obvious this time, then captured her face with his hands and kissed her, hard. She groaned immediately at the contact, plunging her tongue between his lips right away.
“ Christ …” Jamie breathed out, before plunging his tongue in her mouth as well. They remained in this position for a while, Claire on her knees and Jamie awkwardly twisting his torso to reach her properly, until Jamie’s hands wandered lower and lower to try and find that arse that she knew he was admiring earlier.
Well, she knew of one position for him to hold it easier.
She pushed his shoulders back and straddled him on her knees, and Jamie groaned again when he could finally properly squeeze that soft flesh that he so desperately needed in his hands.
“You like that, don’t you?” Claire teased, running her own hands up and down the rippling muscles of his chest.
“Christ, Sassenach…” he gasped against her mouth. “Ye’ve the roundest arse I’ve ever seen.”
Just those words had her moaning again, and she sealed her lips to his once more as he squeezed and pressed and released. He occasionally ran his hands up her back, grasped her shoulders from behind, even tugged on her hair, but they always found their way back to her arse. The more he pressed on it, the more he was pressing her heat into his rock solid erection.
She didn’t mean to start rocking against him. She really didn’t. But then his lips latched onto that spot on her neck, just as his cock pressed right where she needed it . And she couldn’t help it.
She cried out and started moving, and he sighed with what she could only perceive as relief.
It’s different this time. We’re not in the car, it’s not the first date.
“Fuck…” she groaned, gritting her teeth as his hands moved from her soft flesh to the sides of her hips so he could help control the pace.
He wants this.
She ground down harder, undulating her hips erratically, their mouths clashing messily. Jamie muttered something unintelligible, perhaps in Gaelic, and he arched up into her, pushing and pulling her hips at a faster pace.
His hands suddenly left her hips and she cried out as they gripped both of her breasts just as firmly as they’d been gripping her arse. She braced her hands on the back of the couch behind his head, throwing her own head back as Jamie pushed her breasts together and apart, buried his face in them, dipped his tongue between them.
“God, Jamie…I’m going to come like this…”
The question was…did she want to?
His hands moved back to her hips, and she threw her arms around his neck, locking their lips together again.
It would be so easy…just a little faster, a few small circles of her hips…
But she could have him . He seemed eager enough. And God…did she want him.
It’s different. We’re not in the car. My bedroom is right there.
“Will you…” Claire panted, unable to stop herself from kissing him again before finishing her sentence. “Do you want to…”
She cut herself off again, inhaling sharply through her nose as their tongues clashed, her teeth sinking into his bottom lip.
“Claire…” he groaned out, and the sound of her name coming out of him like that was enough to send her hips pumping harder. His grip on her hips tightened almost painfully, and she moaned loudly into his mouth.
“Claire,” he said again, and she suddenly couldn’t move her hips anymore. He was holding her…stopping her.
Breathless, Claire stopped fighting against his grip and tried to focus her bleary vision on his face. Her hands slid from his neck to rest on his shoulders, and she wet her swollen lips nervously.
“I’m sorry,” Jamie stammered, his face red and hot. “I should've stopped ye sooner…I’m…It’s no’ that I dinna want to. Please dinna think that.”
Her word processing was admittedly quite slow at the moment — arousal and now confusion closing her mind — so it took her a while to actually register what he was saying.
“It’s jest that…” He went on before her fevered brain could catch up, and she could feel her heartbeat in her throat.
“You don’t have to explain yourself, Jamie,” Claire said quickly, feeling his discomfort, and wanting to bury herself alive yet again. She chuckled uncomfortably, then awkwardly slid off his lap, sitting beside him. She could not help but feel some sort of loss at no longer having him pressed against her.
“It’s…been a while. Since I’ve felt…this way,” Claire continued, avoiding his eyes. “I just got…excited.”
“Dinna be sorry fer it,” Jamie said, taking her chin in his fingers and forcing her to look at him. “Please. Don’t.” As if to prove to her that he was alright, he closed the small distance to kiss her sweetly. “Have I upset ye, Sassenach?”
“No, no, Jamie.” She took his hands in hers. “It’s alright.”
They spent a few seconds in uncomfortable silence, shoulder to shoulder, fingers laced together, both of their eyes fixed on the colorful images on the television that were largely going ignored.
“I, uh. Haven’t. Since Frank,” Claire said, finally breaking the silence. “So it’s been a while for me.”
She cringed even as she said it, feeling like a teenager and an old maid all at once. A divorcee at twenty-seven, randy as a sixteen year old and yet starved for attention as an old widow. The man beside her was a young bachelor, handsome as all hell, and childless to boot. She cringed even harder to think of all the women he’d had while she was crying herself to sleep after cutting her ex-husband out of yet another photograph, an ex-husband that hadn’t even touched her for years before they finally cut the cord.
She heard Jamie swallow, and she tensed, anticipating hearing that he’d gotten some just last month.
Her brow furrowed. It had been a while for him, too? Had he really not seen anyone in the time they’d met? Were his feelings that strong all along?
Claire felt like she’d been smacked in the face.
“You…you’re…” She looked up at him for the first time in several minutes.
“A virgin. Aye.” He was redder in the face than he’d been when she was straddling him.
Claire must have looked as gobsmacked as she felt, because he actually laughed.
“Does that surprise ye, Sassenach?”
“Well…it’s not that there’s anything wrong with it…” she stammered, studying the lines of his face, feeling his arm muscle against her, only one word echoing in her mind:
“You’re just…” She exhaled, flustered. “You’re…you’re a young man…” She had to give a conscious effort to not say out loud that he was a fucking Adonis.
He laughed again, blushing deeply.
“Think so?” He smirked at her.
She chuckled nervously. “Well, of course, but I don’t think I’m biased…what I mean is…it can't just be me.” She ran her thumb back and forth over his knuckles, almost subconsciously.
“I ken yer meaning, Sassenach,” he said sheepishly. “There were lasses with…interest, I suppose. But I ne’er felt right doing it unless she was my girlfriend. Didna matter what the lass thought, I jest couldna get past thinking I’d be dishonoring her. Jest the way I am.”
His face was impossibly more red than it had been before, and it made Claire’s heart feel strained. She could tell that he was embarrassed, that he felt like he should have some sort of explanation for why he was the way that he was.
“I think that’s very sweet, Jamie,” Claire assured him, threading her fingers in his curls and caressing his head.
“Ye dinna find me any less manly?” He was teasing, but she heard the underlying insecurity, his need to be reassured.
“Of course not,” Claire said, kissing him gently, massaging his scalp. “It’s part of what makes you you. And I quite like you. Very much.”
“And thank Heaven fer that,” he chuckled, giving her another light peck.
“So you…” Claire thought perhaps she should put a cork in it, but she was too curious, too eager to know what made him tick. “You didn't want to outside of a relationship. So you’ve never…”
“I’ve had girlfriends, Sassenach, if that’s what ye’re getting at,” he said casually. “I would wait until it felt right, and either we didn’t last that long, or it never felt right. That’s all.”
Claire nodded in understanding. “Thank you for telling me.”
“Dinna thank me. I’m only telling ye to spare my pride,” he joked. “Had to let ye know there was a reason, lest ye think I was some sort of prude.”
“Well, I do know that isn’t true, at least,” she teased, tracing her finger down the length of his arm and onto his hip bone. “But even if you were, I wouldn’t judge you at all. Though I can’t say I’m not glad.”
He cocked an eyebrow at her, a glint of something she couldn’t name in his eye. “Couldna keep chaste around me, Sassenach?”
“I could, if you really felt strongly about it. It would just be…” She bit her lip, feeling herself blushing again. “Very difficult.”
“Aye, I ken what ye mean.” He tightened his grip on her, pulling her into his side. She nuzzled her face into the crook of his neck, then rested her head on his shoulder. “Ye’re irresistible, mo ghraidh .”
That sent an electric shiver through Claire from head to toe.
“So, ye see, it’s no’ that I dinna want ye, Claire. Because I do. I verra…” She felt his throat muscles swallowing against the crown of her head. “I verra much do. And it’s no’ even that it doesna feel right. You… this feels more right than anything ever has.”
It was Claire’s turn to swallow thickly, anxiety clawing at her throat as he pressed a fervent kiss to the crown of her head.
He is so sure.
“I jest…I want it to be right, is all. I want tae honor ye the way ye deserve."
"Suppose my frantic clawing at you on the couch doesn't exactly create the perfect moment."
"It's alright, Claire," he insisted again, squeezing her shoulder. "I did...enjoy that."
She smirked against his neck, pressing a dangerous kiss there. "I could tell."
He made one of his Scottish noises, decidedly an amused one.
"I agree," Claire said. "That we should wait, I mean. I didn't realize...about you. And I think I need to, as well. For different reasons."
She'd been so wanton, so desperate to be physically closer to him, so frantic to forgo words and use her mouth to claim him rather than to open up to him, that she'd nearly ruined their first time. His first time, ever.
"I tend to..." Claire began, feeling the need to explain herself. "Avoid words, sometimes...a lot. I'm not as eloquent as you are. My body knows what to do when my brain doesn't. And that's not always a good thing.”
He gave her shoulder another squeeze, then began soothingly rubbing her upper arm. “Thank ye fer telling me that, Sassenach.”
Claire supposed that her body was ready for his, but her mind could not fully process how deeply everything ran, while Jamie had his mind more than made up about her, but he was not yet ready to give her that final piece of him.
They’d have to meet in the middle somehow.
“I trust you, Jamie.” Claire peered up at him and stroked his stubbled jawline. “It’s myself that I don’t trust quite yet. I’m trying.”
“I ken, mo ghraidh .” He kissed her head again. “It’s alright.”
“Can you…be patient with me?” She lifted her head off his shoulder so she could look into his eyes, keeping her one hand on his chin and the other on his shoulder.
Jamie smiled warmly, tenderly pushing some hair away from her face. “Of course.”
They shared a lingering, passionate kiss, and by the end, Jamie had pulled her into his lap, both legs draped over him, feet tucked between the cushion and the arm of the couch. They shimmied around a bit so they were both comfortable, Jamie nestled into the cushion and the arm, Claire’s legs curled up, and her arms draped around his neck. Heads resting together, they actually turned their attention to the television and restarted the movie they’d been ignoring.
“Is this alright?” Claire whispered, afraid of stirring something up again by sitting — however innocently — in his lap.
His massive hand moved soothingly up and down the expanse of her back.
“Aye, Sassenach. I like ye in my lap jest fine.”