The Christmas Spent Alone: Part 3 of 3

TITLE: The Christmas Spent Alone


AUTHOR tomcuddlesfic


GENRE:  romance / angst / fluff

FIC SUMMARY: Clara is spending Christmas alone until her neighbor shows up at her front door and her holidays suddenly become more interesting.


AUTHORS NOTES/WARNINGS: Merry Christmas my lovely readers. This is the final part in the series and it was extremely fun to write. This is also the longest part yet. I hope everyone is having a fun time today <333 Feedback would be amazing!

Part one / Part two

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More Than Once

Title: The Haven

Chapter 24: More Than Once

Genre: Romance

Rating: T

Written from Tom and the OFC’s POV

More Than Once


“You are the single most infuriating man I’ve ever met!  Here, name the dog whatever you want!  I’m past caring!  This was a terrible idea, I should have known it wouldn’t work!” 

She shoved the puppy into my arms and promptly burst into tears, turning hastily to flee the room.

Completely bewildered by her actions, I immediately released the furry bundle and he scampered off to chase after an indignant Wharton who was already slinking out of the room.  I started to stand with the intent of trying to catch her arm, but my better judgment won out and I remained seated. 

Words, Hiddleston.

“Don’t run away from me, prickly pear.  We’ve come too far for that.  Don’t leave.  Please.”

She halted for a moment while I was speaking.  Although her back was to me, I was imagining the struggle that was playing out across her face.  Disappointment coursed through me as I watched her swift retreat, the dark waves of hair that cascaded down her back bouncing up and down with the force of her movement.

Well, you’ve done it now.  Nice work.  Go after her. 

I frantically tried to replay the last hour or so at lightning speed through my mind, hoping to find the point where it all went to pieces. 

The sound of the door swinging open broke my concentration and she rushed into the room.


It came out as a sob.  She practically threw herself down on the couch where I was still seated, wrapping her arms around me and weeping into my shirt.

Perhaps it was because I grew up in a house with women and wasn’t afraid of tears myself, or perhaps it was because she was at her most vulnerable in times like this and I liked it when she clung to me so desperately; whatever it was, I had learned to let her simply cry for a while.

Truthfully, I loved these moments.  I loved having her tears on my chest.  I loved feeling her arms around me so tightly.  I loved breathing in the scent of her perfume.  I loved letting my hand drift over the soft dark locks that framed her face. 

“Angel face, please?”

And I loved that, when she asked to be soothed and offered me a delicate wrist.

“Of course, darling.  Always.”

She moved her face up a bit to nuzzle the nape of my neck and her weeping lessened as I gently drew my fingertips back and forth across her skin.

“I’m sorry, England.  Are you angry with me?  Please don’t be angry with me.  Please forgive me.”

How I loved the sweet childlike plea in her voice, knowing that she found it rather difficult to speak when she was upset. 

“I forgive you.  I’m not angry.  I’m disappointed.”

She gasped and a breathy horrified “No!” fell from her trembling lips.

“Sshhh, my love. I’m disappointed that we let the situation get to this place, that I let it get to this place.  I promised myself it wouldn’t happen again, more than once, and I’ve failed.  Forgive me?”

A nod of her head and a soft hum of affirmation informed me that she was still not fully capable of regular speech.  I still had her hand in mine and moved the other to rub circles on her back while I whispered comforting words into her ear.

“I love you, sweet girl.  I wish you hadn’t left the room and I’m so sorry that my behavior caused you to do that, but I’m so proud that you came back to me quickly.  My brave prickly pear.”

My words inspired a deep sigh and she snuggled closer to me, rubbing her cheek against my shirt.

I also loved it when she was like this, recovering from her tears and quieting against me.  I loved feeling her pulse slow beneath my fingertips.

The puppy galloped back into the room and jumped up in my lap.  His wet nose was snuffling up between where our bodies were pressed to each other, the pink tongue flicking out to lick at my neck.

“Already taking after your mummy, I see.”

My comment brought a little giggle that I felt more than I heard. 

“Feeling better, darling?”

I pulled away from her slightly and brought my hands up to cup her cheeks, searching her face for signs of distress; but she wouldn’t meet my eyes and I could feel that my hands were the only thing keeping her from turning her head away from me.

“Will you let me look at you?  I need to see that you are okay.  Show me.  Please, show me.”

The gentle nudge of two fingers under her chin was all it took.  She smiled up at me.

“There’s my prickly pear.  Can we talk about this?  Will you tell me why you are so frustrated with me?”



We had finished opening gifts a couple of hours earlier.  My parents and Auntie Joan had gone out to help serve at the annual community breakfast that our church sponsored, giving Tom and me some time alone on our first Christmas.  I usually went with them, but Dad had insisted that I stay home. 

“Making this memory is important, slugger.  I’ll give everyone your best wishes.”

He kissed me on the cheek and winked at Tom, who blushed like a schoolboy and gave Mom and Auntie bear hugs before they all piled into the car.

I was grinning at him when he turned to face me.

He grinned back and shoved his hands in his pockets.

“Well, darling, there’s some mistletoe downstairs that Marie has been saving for us.  Shall we go test it out?”

He was speaking in That Voice and now I was the one who was blushing.

“I don’t think that’s wise, Tom.”

That made him grin even wider.

“Afraid to be alone with me?  Worried that you can’t keep your hands to yourself?  There’s a way to take care of that, you know.”

Oh, bollocks.

Already moving towards me slowly, I put my hands up in a gesture of self-defense that halted his advance.

“I have something for us to do, something that won’t require physical contact.”

A frown settled on his face.

“Those are not the words to inspire cooperation in a man.”

I gulped and was irritated to feel tears stinging my eyes.  How could I explain what I was feeling? 

“Tom, please, I…I’m feeling weak today.”

The frown morphed into slightly raised eyebrows.

“Your gift, being with you on this day…I’m trying to wade through so much…so much…”

Struggling to accurately describe what I was feeling, I opted to take a different approach.

“I don’t want to do anything I will regret.  I love you.  Please, help me.”

There was a sweet expression on his face that perfectly matched the affection in his voice.

“I’m sorry, forgive me.  Forgive me.  I’ll be good.”

A slender pale hand was extended to me with the palm facing up.  I lifted one of my hands without hesitation.  He simply raised it up to his mouth and kissed it softly, barely letting his lips brush across my knuckles before releasing it.

“Now, what do you have for us to do?  I will do whatever you want, I promise, even if it’s building another Lego fort.”

“I want us to name the puppy together.”

He smiled slowly at me.

“What a delightful prospect.  I would love for us to do that.”

I moved to sit on the couch, feeling the blend of irritation and amusement that he was so skilled at inspiring, at how he obviously and deliberately took a seat in one of the armchairs rather than next to me.

“I don’t have the plague, England.”

My punchhug level went up a notch when he simply said my name in that particular timbre and gave me a Look.

“Don’t blow hot and cold, little prickly pear.”

“I’m not little,” I grumbled at him, growing slightly frustrated when he grinned and raised an eyebrow in that infuriating manner.

“Let’s get on with this, grumpy girl.”

I huffed slightly, but reached over to the coffee table and grabbed a notepad and a pen.

“How do you normally name the animals?”

I drew a line down the middle of the paper and wrote my name on one side and his on the other.

“Well, I usually let them name themselves.  I look at them and watch them and the name just comes to me.”

He smiled at me.

Sometimes I had to look away when he smiled like that. 

I couldn’t take it.

Today was one of those days.

“Stop looking at me, Tom.”

“Where would you like me to look, darling?”

Deep breaths, deep breaths.

Ignoring his comment, I started writing some ideas on my column.  When I glanced up at him, he had his head tilted up and was staring at the ceiling.

He must have heard my exasperated sigh, because a silent giggle shook his upper body and he said “Just trying to obey your edict and be a good boy.  May I look at you?”

A grunt was his reaction to the notebook being tossed into his lap.

“No.  Look at the list.”

“You and your lists. If I didn’t love and adore you so utterly and completely, your lists and planning would make me quite batty.”

“One of us has to be thinking logically, you bossy man.”

He was going through the column of names and didn’t react at all except to say “Don’t be so prickly, darling.  I doubt logical thinking is what made you order me to not look at you.”

You got yourself into this, girl.  Don’t let it go sour.

 “Oh, Cassio, I like that.  Laurie, Pip, Archer…”

About 20 minutes later, I was at critical mass.

I had observed over the months that Tom was always reticent to offer any kind of negative critique, unless he was telling me that I was incorrect about something.  Our first conflict had occurred when he sat in on the auditions with me and I became frustrated at him for not supplying the applicants with constructive criticism.  I had chalked that up to his sweet natured personality and my not making it clear to him beforehand what exactly I was hoping that he would contribute.

After giving it consistent thought as our relationship developed, I saw more and more that his lack of speaking negatively was part of what made me listen to him when he chose to point things out to me, things that I should work on in order to improve my interaction with people.  The fact of the matter was that he was usually right on point and I although I still struggled now and then to accept his guidance because pride reared its ugly head, his patience always brought me to the place where I was learning to modify my behavior; I could whole-heartedly admit that I was seeing changes in myself, changes for the better that I wanted to continue working on.

But now, I realized that while I wasn’t asking him to offer negative criticism, he wasn’t even offering his own suggestions for names.  At all.  I would ask him about a name and he would reply with some comment of support such as “Yes, I like that one.” or “Do you like that one, darling?”

I remembered that this was exactly what he had done in those first couple of weeks he spent with me, when I was planning the new layout for the Children’s section and he was acting as a kind of peacekeeper when Peter and I were arguing about things.  He had simply supported my ideas, not inserting any of his own to the mix.  It hadn’t bothered me at the time, but now it was frustrating me to no end.

“Tom, what names do you like?”

“Oh, I like all of these.  I would be fine with any of them.”

I was so incredibly frustrated.  I couldn’t understand why he wouldn’t tell me what he was thinking.

Finally, I reached my limit.

The puppy had jumped up into my lap a few minutes earlier.

I stood abruptly and thrust the furry ball at Tom.

“You are the single most infuriating man I’ve ever met!  Here, name the dog whatever you want!  I’m past caring!  This was a terrible idea, I should have known it wouldn’t work!” 

His face was full of alarm and confusion, but I couldn’t look at him anymore.  I burst into tears and heard his soft voice behind me, pleading with me gently.

“Don’t run away from me, prickly pear.  We’ve come too far for that.  Don’t leave.  Please.”

He was right.

And that made me run away.

But before I could make it down the hall, I had one of those moments of perfect clarity that took my breath away.

I was upset. 

He was the cause.

And he was the person I wanted.

He was the person I wanted to comfort me.

He was the person whose voice I wanted to hear.

He was the person whose presence I wanted to soothe me.

He was the person whose hands I wanted to wipe away my tears.

He was the person whose arms I wanted to feel wrap around me.

He was the person I had run from.

And he was the person I wanted to run to.

So I did.



She was finally still against me and it seemed safe to ask her.

“Can we talk about this?  Will you tell me why you are so frustrated with me?”

It took a few seconds for her to answer me; I knew she was thinking of exactly what she wanted to say, searching for the preciseness of language that would help me understand what was happening.  Then I realized that she was also putting thought into explaining herself in a way that didn’t sound hurtful or blunt to the point of near rudeness. 

“Tom, I wanted to do this together because I want to know what you think.  I don’t want you to always just agree with what I say.  That isn’t what I need.  I keep asking you what you think, what names you like, and you keep agreeing with my ideas.  I want you to contribute, I want to know names YOU would choose if you were doing this on your own.  That’s why I wrote your name on one side of the paper.”

She picked up the discarded notebook and pointed to the column.

“This is empty, Tom.  Will you please write something?  He’s not my dog, he’s our dog.”

I understood perfectly now.

“I know you said you’re feeling weak and I’ve tried to help you, like you asked.  But, can I kiss you, sweet girl?  Please?  Just once?  I’ll be-“

She grabbed my cheeks and kissed me.

More than once.


Tom Hiddleston with a dog in his lap singing you Merry Christmas 🎄