“Please?” the hero cut him off, looking up at him in the dim light of his room. “I’ve always wanted to hear it.”
“I… well…” Nino hesitated again, but he was useless against her. She was curled into him and he could never deny her anything when they were like this, wrapped together on the covers of his bed. They were sitting up, Nino’s back to the wall and his arms wrapped around the visiting fox, as if to make sure she didn’t run off, but it was clear she wasn’t going anywhere. Even when she had been exhausted from the fight only a short time earlier she still came by, and it was a pretty simple request.
He didn’t finish his sentence, letting silence lap over them in the dark. He stared over her and set one hand absently on her hair, stroking his fingers on it before eventually, quietly…
He started to sing.
It was gentle and soft, but his voice was deep. He managed not to falter when he felt her curl into his chest, unsure of what she was doing but determined continue his song.
It took him awhile to realize she had one ear pressed against his chest, listening to the vibration of it.
It was the combination of a lot of things that made the moment so… incredible. It was the sensation of his hand stroking her hair, the feeling of having him hold her against him, the warmth of his room, the sound of his voice.
It was a short while later that he felt her start to relax, leaning into him so that the sound of his heart and the vibration of his voice in his chest would be all that she could hear. Her hands slowly went limp and before too long at all, she let his voice carry her to sleep.
He looked down at the gently sleeping hero and kept his voice quiet, but did not stop, knowing it might disturb her should it suddenly fall silent. He sang what he knew and caught her curls in his fingers, waiting until he knew absolutely that she was asleep before venturing into the more daring songs he had always saved for her but never knew how to say.
“I don’t know you But I want you All the more for that… Words fall through me And always fool me And I can’t react And games that never amount To more than they’re meant Will play themselves out
Take this sinking boat and point it home We’ve still got time Raise your hopeful voice you have a choice You’ll make it now
Falling slowly, eyes that know me And I can’t go back…”
He hesitated, his hand slowly trailing through her hair, and with only the light of his window he looked down at her sleeping face… realizing how true it was.
Jamie and Claire one-shot, adapted from a previous work of mine. My first foray into JC fanfic, maybe not the last.
x X x
The Glasgow karaoke bar is packed. Laughter mingles with loud songs and clinking glasses. One particularly shrill peal of laughter turns my head, and that’s when I see her.
Her curly brown hair crimps over her shoulders, and she leans into a medium-built man, straining to hear his words over the music. They are clearly together together, even though they are sitting with two other girls, one gorgeous and brunette, the other short and spiky-haired.
My eyes are riveted, and only when Rupert pokes me in the ribs do I stop staring. He smirks, and I roll my eyes. “She has a boyfriend, Rupe. Drop it.”
“I didn’t say anything,” he says, but he looks otherwise. Soon, he is distracted by our friend Angus as they pore over the thick white ring binder that holds the bar’s song selections. Then, I am free to return to my shameless staring.
I watch as a server stops by the girls’ table, depositing plates of potato skins with black pudding and a few pints. My eyes follow the brunette and the short one as they get up to sing “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.”
They are obviously having the time of their lives, strutting and making these choreographed dance moves, like they’ve been practicing for months. This time, I notice it’s Rupert and Angus who are entranced, unable to keep their eyes off these girls. I grin, smacking each of them upside the head as I stand to get us more pints.
I tell myself it’s unavoidable - I have to walk past her table to place my order at the bar. I sidle close, gesturing to the bartender for three lagers. And then I hear the girl’s voice. I know it’s hers, posh and English, because it couldn’t belong to anybody else.
“Come on, get up there with me!”
“No, Cee, it’s not really my thing.” The man’s tone is cutting.
“Just one song. Frank, no one cares if you’re good or not. I mean, listen to these blokes!”
I turn my head casually towards the stage. I notice that Rupert and Angus finally grew a pair and were singing “Livin’ on a Prayer.” Actually, they were butchering it, what with Rupert’s high-pitched wails and Angus attempting the robot sound effect. They are head-banging and air-guitaring the shite out of the song. I duck my head away, laughing and embarrassed.
This Frank man shakes his head, distracted by his phone. The girl - Cee - Is still looking through the song book. I still don’t know why I can’t stop looking at her; I wonder at her name, Cee. It has to be a nickname, and I wish I knew what it stood for.
“Hey, here ye go. That’s £12, please.” The bartender nudges my hand with the cold pint glasses. I hand over fifteen, and tell him to keep the change. As I head back to my table where Rupe and Angus are now waiting, I catch Cee’s eye. She smiles shyly, and looks down at the table.
Her whiskey eyes are luminous, even in the dark.
o O o
His eyes are still on me. I meet his azure gaze, and I swear my breath hitches. It should creep me out, but it doesn’t. It’s electrifying.
Frank sits next to me, texting on the damn office phone. Suzette and Mary trip off to the ladies’ room after their performance, laughing hysterically and eliciting catcalls from a bearded dark blond and a man-bun sporting guy, who then proceeded to take the stage and pretty much massacre a Bon Jovi song.
Frank had reluctantly agreed to take my friends and me out for the night. I had promised them a girls’ night, a break from grueling nurse training. But he had insisted we see each other, and things are so strained between us lately that I don’t have the heart to say no. Suzette and Mary hadn’t minded, though they are subtly ignoring him at every turn.
“Come on,” I try to persuade him gently. “Here, you pick the song, anything. It doesn’t have to be a duet -”
“Cee, I told you, I don’t sing!” Frank cuts me off a little too loudly and too rudely. The man with the blue eyes and beautiful fiery hair has not moved far, and turns to us, nostrils flaring and jaw clenched at Frank’s outburst. I’m used to Frank’s bluntness, and not easily offended, so I shake my head slightly at Blue Eyes. He backs off with a nod.
“Fine,” I snap, picking up a potato skin and smothering it in sour cream.
Suzette and Mary bounce back, giggling and waving at the cute blokes. I notice that Blue Eyes is with them, as he sits at their table. I try to ignore the pull of his gaze and focus on my friends.
“So, what did you pick?” Mary asks brightly.
“Nothing. Frank won’t sing.” I try to keep the sullenness from my tone.
Frank’s phone rings, saving him from a reply. He looks at the display screen, inexplicably flushing red. He excuses himself, sprinting for the door. I roll my eyes, sighing after him.
“Well, we can do another one,” Suzette suggests in her French accent.
“Yeah, another awesome girl anthem!” Mary yells. “Maybe some Katy -”
“‘Firework’! Or 'I Kissed a Girl’!”
They go on and on about Katy Perry, spewing song title after song title. I interrupt once to ask them, “Maybe some Adele?” before I decide to give up.
“You know, this is rubbish, maybe we should just go home.” I move to gather my coat and purse, when Mary’s hand on my arm stops me.
“Claire, don’t let Frank get you down. Come on.”
“Things are strange between us right now. I don’t know.” I hesitate.
“You can sing, at any rate,” Suzette says. “You have a good voice, Claire. Let’s do it!” They pull me towards the stage, and we just have to walk past the handsome men’s table. I try to ignore the burn of Blue Eyes’ gaze on my back. While the girls talk to the DJ about cutting in front of the other song requests, I glance behind me towards the door. Frank still hasn’t returned.
Suddenly, I’m tired of being ignored all night, when I’m supposed to be having fun with my friends. I grab the thick song book from Mary’s hands.
“Yeah, I think I’ll sing something. Here.” I shut my eyes, and let my index finger travel down the page. I stop at random, and look at the song I’ve picked.
“Shit, it’s a duet. Suzette, can you - ”
“I’ll sing wi’ ye!”
The three of us turn, face to face with Blue Eyes.
x X x
I could smack myself. Blurting that out of nowhere? What the hell am I thinking, singing with another man’s girl? Even if I look like I could beat his arse.
“Excuse me?” The Cee girl asks politely, blinking at me in surprise.
“Sorry,” I stammer, “I just happened to overhear… not that I was listening in… but if ye really want to sing, I can - ”
“Yes, you can!” Her friends yank her arm, taking the book from her hands and practically shove her into my arms. The perky short one prances up to the DJ and whispers in his ear. Meanwhile, I glance around to make sure her boyfriend has really disappeared from the bar.
“Pushy bitches,” she mutters, and I notice that she is still clinging to me. I inhale deeply, the smell of verdant earth enveloping me. It’s heady and intoxicating and I don’t want to let her go. I glance down at her, and she blushes rosy red. Beautiful.
“I’m Jamie, by the way.” I release her gently, and we climb awkwardly onto the stage.
“I’m Claire. Claire Beauchamp.” She offers another shy smile, and I smile back - Cee didn’t seem to suit her.
The opening chords begin, a strumming guitar tune I vaguely recognize. I take the microphone off the stand, my hands sweaty with nerves. This seems like the best moment to remember that I can’t carry a tune in a basket. What the hell have I done…
She adjusts the mike stand to her height, much shorter than me. The male part lyrics flash across the screen, and I’m barely ready.
I don’t know you, but I want you All the more for that…
My voice shakes, pitch all over the place; I’m hit with bright lights and I can’t make out anything beyond the edge of the platform we stand on. I look at Claire, her hands trembling as she grasps the mike and joins my voice for the next part of the song.
Words fall through me, and always fool me And I can’t react…
She’s great. Nervous, like me, but she is surprising, a perfect soprano tone. Her voice overlaps mine and makes the song tolerable despite my horrible singing skills.
I catch some whooping from the general direction of my table, where her friends have perched themselves comfortably with Rupert and Angus. We glance at each other and smile as I continue solo.
And games that never amount To more than they’re meant Will always play out…
Claire is gesturing towards her friends at this point, some sort of shushing motion before she gives them a covert finger. I grin and touch her arm briefly, indicating the duet continues. I swear I feel a shock coursing through my hand at the contact.
Take this sinking boat, and point it home We’ve still got time Raise your hopeful voice You have a choice You make it now…
We are aware of the people whistling and clapping as our voices join and meld into one another, rising and falling, hers in harmony - mine in deplorable intent.
Falling slowly Eyes that know me And I can’t go back…
o O o
As the song ends, there’s cheering and hollering - despite the fact Jamie is completely tone-deaf. I catch Suzette and Mary waving their lit mobiles around like at a concert. Idiots.
People clap and whistle as we descend from the stage. My heart pounds and I blush furiously, and lean in to whisper a quick, “Cheers for doing this,” to Jamie. His scent permeates the air, citrus and spice and him. I am stunned for a second, and he flashes a smile in my direction with a soft, shy, “Och, anytime.”
There are introductions all around. I learn that Beard and Man-Bun are Angus and Rupert, newly infatuated with Suzette and Mary respectively. I insist that we go back to our table, much to everyone’s disappointment. I stumble as I sit on the banquette, drunk on something other than alcohol. The high from the performance is wearing off. Frank is nowhere to be found, as my friends gush endlessly. I cannot stop grinning stupidly until Mary’s comment grounds me again.
“You looked so good together!”
I am instantly sobered, and with a murmured, “Yeah, so did Frank and I,” I look around for the exit and make my way to it, rushing past Jamie’s table. I can feel his eyes on me still, his Scottish burr honey in my head.
The chill November air hits me hard, after the warm smokiness of the bar’s interior. I spy Frank leaning against the wall, still on his mobile.
“Hey, you missed - ” But Frank’s not listening; he hasn’t even noticed me beside him.
I catch the end of his whispered conversation.
“Love you too. Bye.”
I freeze, my heart pounding with surprise, anger, hurt… I’m not even sure.
“Love who, Frank?” I say quietly. He jumps, startled, but the guilt on his face is answer enough.
“Hey Cee, I - ”
“Was that your research assistant? The dean’s secretary?” I cut him off, but I refuse to raise my voice. I hold his gaze, and he sighs. Frank pushes himself off the wall, and faces me.
“Cee, things haven’t been working out lately between us, and I think you feel it too…”
o O o
I slump against the pub’s brick façade, hands behind my back. A lone tear had escaped during Frank’s rendition of, “It’s not you, it’s me,” culminating in his admission of a dalliance with a girl called Laoghaire. It drives the point home - it definitely wasn’t me.
I am surprised at how well I take it, probably indicating that the relationship was nearing its natural end. I manage to forgive him a little, and we hug. Frank even gives me his car keys, telling me he will come by tomorrow for it, and to pick up his things from my apartment. With a goodbye peck on the cheek, I was left to ponder the whys and hows of our relationship, and I can’t even find it in me to stay angry at Frank. I hated the nickname Cee anyway.
I hear the pub door open and a failed performance of “My Heart Will Go On” streams out. Jesus H. Christ.
My head shoots up. It’s Jamie.
I wipe my hand under my eyes for any telltale traces of tears. “Nothing. I’m alright.”
“So, did ye find Frank?”
“How do you know about him?” I ask, confused.
“Yer friends told me. I saw ye run out o’ the pub… I was worried about ye.”
“Yes,” I say. “I found him. He already left.” I gesture weakly down the street packed with weekend revelers and cars.
“Did he hurt ye?” Jamie’s voice is concerned, low and bordering on anger on my behalf.
“No, it’s not like that. We just - he broke up with me.” I don’t know where to look so I examine my shoes intently. He is practically a stranger, but singing with him had been so intimate, I can’t help but share this bit of me.
“A Dhia, I’m sorry.” I recognize the Gaidhlig as he puts a comforting hand on my shoulder. I feel it again, that electric tingle, like I felt when we sang together. So it hadn’t been my imagination.
“Thank you. It was time, I suppose. It’s over.” I straighten up, combing my fingers through my hair as the curls whip around my face.
“D'you want me to get yer friends?” Jamie offers with a lopsided grin.
“No, I’m going back in. Have a few drinks, maybe. Care to join us?” The words spill out before I can think.
“Aye, sure,” he says, visibly pleased. “Mind if Rupert and Angus join us? They’re quite… taken… with Suzette and Mary. They have a thing fer 80s tributes, as ye already saw.” He laughs, deep and rich.
“Yes,” I smile. “I think they’ll enjoy that.”
Jamie leans in suddenly, and whispers in my ear, soft, close, and perfect.
“You have suffered enough, and warred with yourself… it’s time that you won.”