Jamie watched as a distant bolt of lightning forked then rejoined, illuminating an entire cloud base in a spectacular pattern of white tinged with violet. He sighed. He was glad to be inside his warm home, with its thick window glass panes muting the rumble of thunder to a more pleasant series of booms. The safety of his wife was another matter.
He checked his phone for the third time, drawing comfort from her last message.
engineerjammf: Are you ok being with Hal? Do u need me to get u?
cbwetblanket: We’ll be fine! But U, my darling, hav a whole tribe 2 entertain.
engineerjammf: Brat pack gud & ready to go. Repeat, not a gud idea, but pray 4 me?
cbwetblanket: U can do it! 😍 L8er. Luv U!
Sighing, Jamie turned, surveying the room.
The setting was perfect as the heat from the fireplace staved off the chill of another dark, rainy day in Edinburgh. Mugs of steaming chocolate, with the distinctive milky sweet smell of melting marshmallows, were on the coffee table within easy reach of the children, tempting them with the promise of extra warmth. Well, they weren't exactly children anymore. Claire was right. It was the ideal time to pass on a bit of their story to the family, and though he’d have to edit out the more adult bits, he could make it up as he went along.
“This is a PG-15 story. Are you sure you’re ready for it?” Jamie asked the four teenagers who were watching him with anticipation and amusement.
“You know Ian’s only twelve,” 17-year-old William said.
“And Brianna’s fourteen,” added Faith.
“I’ll be fifteen next month, shrimp,” Brianna replied with dignity. “Besides, the way you act, sticking out your tongue in pictures, you might as well be ten.”
“I may be twelve, Will, but I’m almost as tall as Faith, though she’s sixteen,” Ian said. “And Mam said I could join you in everything. Just clap your hands over my ears so I won’t hear the erm. smutty bits.”
His older cousins laughed and jeered at him.
“In that case, why not stay out in the hallway the rest of the afternoon?” Will asked. “I’ve been told parts of how they met over the years. The whole thing’s a smut fest.”
Boos from his sisters and cousin met that last sally, even as Jamie glared at him.
“Will, that was disrespectful to yer Mam and me, and ye ken it!” Jamie could feel his face getting warm, and he tried his best to slow his breathing. “Ye may be too old fer a whipping, but there are other ways to deal with ye,” he hissed at his son.
“I’m sorry, Da.” Will blanched. “You’re right. I was out of line.” He glared at Ian and his sisters as they giggled at his volte-face.
Entertain them, she says. Tell them how we met. That should teach them some life lessons. You’re so going to pay for this tonight, Sassenach. Bloody hell, the things I do only for you.
He’d have a talk with Claire later. What on earth was she teaching the lad? But back to the matter at hand. “I accept your apology, William, but I’ll tell yer Mam. I don’t know where ye earned that word, but ...”
“You don’t have to, Da. Uncle Alex told me,” Will said, pre-empting anything Jamie would say.
Jamie stilled, surprised, and yet strangely not at this latest revelation. So it’s come to this, Sassenach when even family turn your children on you.
“I’ll be having a chat with yer Uncle Alex when I see him next week,” he said testily. “Now, all of ye, hold yer wheesht!”
“Uh, oh. Uncle Jamie’s speaking like a Highlander again. We’d all best run and take cover,” Ian sassed back.
Aye, and there’s another one with little sense between the ears. Sassenach, I’ll be insisting double tonight for all this trouble.
“And that includes ye, Ian Grey,” Jamie said.
Brianna punched Ian’s shoulder.
“Brianna, I saw that. There’s no call for ye to resort to hurting Ian, no matter the provocation.” Jamie shook his head at her. “Besides, he was talking to me, not to you.”
She promptly faced Ian saying, “I apologize for hitting you, Ian, no matter how much you deserve it.” Brianna turned back to Jamie, unrepentant.
And that was when Jamie confirmed they were all taking the piss out of him. He wanted to leave them to wreak havoc on the furniture or the board games, but he kept his promises to his wife. “So must I stop, or are ye lot settling down?”
Four voices assured him they would. Jamie’s breathing evened out, and he unclenched his fists. His audience rearranged and draped themselves over the leather couches and deep armchairs in the cozy living room.
And so, he began.