“Not dancing, Jimmy?”
“Ach, no. I think I’ve fulfilled my quota for the year.” A short dance with Cassie followed by one with Tosh after she’d completed the first dance with her young fella – husband now – had been more than enough. He’ll leave that lark to those younger and more energetic.
Jimmy looks a question at Duncan, puzzled by the cryptic response. His dad dancing must have been painful to watch, unless someone wanted a laugh at his expense. If that someone is Duncan, the bastard is going to be walking home later.
Duncan shrugs, attempting nonchalance. “I was gonnae ask.”
“Ask me?” Thrown, Jimmy seeks clarification, sure he’s misunderstood. “To dance?”
“I’ve got two left feet.”
“Then we’re lucky this is a wedding, no’ Strictly.”
“There are a lot of people here,” Jimmy points out, still wondering why Duncan has set his sights on him. “Most of them prettier than me.”
Duncan opens his mouth to protest the gentle gibe hidden in the modesty, but he can’t deny he has a bit of a reputation. Neither is he looking for an argument, so he lets it slide, refocusing on his mission.
“Maybe that’s no’ what I want.”
“You saying I’m no’ pretty?”
Jimmy expects a joke, a quip about his kilt perhaps, but Duncan’s expression remains serious. His gaze darts away for a moment and Jimmy regrets his attempt at levity; there is clearly more to this than the playful request had at first suggested.
For a second Duncan considers taking the out, cracking a joke and laughing it off, but there’s an insistent pressure behind his ribs that he knows won’t ever fade if he lets this opportunity slip away. He takes a breath and leaps. “I won’t be offended if you say no, but I’d really like for you to say yes.”
“Duncan,” Jimmy says, gently, “you’re pished.”
“No, see, that’s where you’re wrong,” Duncan forges on, desperate for Jimmy to understand. “I’m drunk enough to have the courage tae ask, but not drunk enough that you need worry I’ll regret it later.”
That gives Jimmy pause. He knows Duncan, knows when he’s talking shite, knows when he’s lying, knows when he’s deadly serious. And this is Duncan at his most vulnerable, laying himself open and bracing for a response he might not like. Jimmy could let him down – perhaps should let him down – and he would do so gently, kindly. But something stops him, the echo of Duncan's words, the thought of regrets at opportunities missed.
His hesitation lasts long enough that Duncan winces, certain Jimmy’s trying to find the words to decline without wounding his pride. He jumps into the silence, saving him the trouble. Saving himself from having to hear it, the rejection. “Look, forget I said anything and let’s have a drink, eh?”
Duncan’s face falls, and Jimmy sees the regret in his eyes just before they turn away, the worry that he’s fucked up in a way that can’t be fixed with a finger of Scotch. “You don’t want a drink?”
“No,” Jimmy amends softly, “I don’t want tae forget about it.”
It takes a few seconds for his meaning to sink in, and when Duncan looks up there is still a trace of uncertainty mixed with freshly emerging hope. He’s still staring when Jimmy gets to his feet and extends a hand. Jimmy’s not entirely sure about it himself, but a dance can’t hurt, can mean as little or as much as they want, and, as Duncan’s fingers curl around his, he thinks maybe he’ll even enjoy it.
There’s a moment of awkward hesitation as they reach the dance floor, both of them trying to work out the mechanics of it, where their hands should go, how close to stand. Jimmy solves the problem by drawing Duncan into an embrace more akin to a hug than a dance hold, but it’s comfortable. One large hand runs over Duncan’s back, a soothing motion, and comes to rest splayed across his shoulder, locking him close. It feels like the most natural thing in the world to drop his head onto Jimmy’s shoulder, and only then does he remember they’re supposed to be dancing. What they begin is more a shuffling of feet accompanied by a slight sway, but it’s close enough.
They meander their way through a turn of sorts and Jimmy catches sight of Cassie, standing on the edge of a group of young islanders, watching them with almost comically wide eyes. His heart lurches with sudden panic, afraid of what conclusion she might leap to, and how true it might actually be. But, more important than his own feelings is the instinctive need to protect, to never do anything that might hurt his daughter. She may be a young woman now, but she will always take precedence over everything else in his life.
Their eyes meet, and she must see something in his expression, for she visibly relaxes, lips curving in a smile that is equal parts confusion and amusement. Jimmy knows that sometimes he doesn’t give her enough credit, forgets that she wants him to be happy just as much as he wishes the same for her. She raises a hand, flashes him a thumbs up, and the knot that had tightened in Jimmy’s stomach unravels a little.
Just behind her stands Tosh, looking both stunning and stunned as she blinks at the sight of her boss taking a turn on the dance floor with his rogue of a housemate, and he knows without doubt they’re going to be the new source of island gossip for a good while. He’s never been bothered by it before, and finds he doesn’t much mind now.
Accepting his fate, he chuckles, turns his head a little to speak into Duncan’s ear over the music. “I think we’ve got an audience.”
“Let ’em look,” Duncan mumbles into his shoulder, then a moment later he tenses, his movement stilling. “Unless it bothers you.”
“No,” Jimmy assures him, sliding the hand on his shoulder up to cradle the back of his head, holding him in place. “But I think we may owe Cassie an explanation.”
“Oh, shite.” Duncan’s arms loosen their hold, ready to drop away. “I’m sorry, I shouldae…”
But Jimmy’s already shaking his head, fingers stroking through the fine hair at the nape of his neck. “It’s okay. I think she’s given us her blessing.”
Duncan finally relaxes again, sagging against Jimmy with palpable relief. He starts them moving again, the gentle swaying, and when he speaks again there’s a playful tone to his voice.
“Does this mean I can kiss you?”
Jimmy huffs a short laugh. The thought is an intriguing one, but he quashes his initial impulse to agree. “Maybe later, eh?” He wants to let the idea – of this, of them – settle a little more in his own mind before they put on an even more intimate show for their friends and neighbours.
Duncan hums agreement, perhaps reading Jimmy’s mind, and Jimmy can almost hear his cheeky smile. “I’ll hold you to that.”
As the last chords of the song fade, Jimmy turns his head, presses his lips to the hinge of Duncan’s jaw, sealing the promise. They straighten in unison, but don’t immediately move away. Reluctant to let go, Jimmy runs his hand down Duncan’s arm, tangles their fingers together when he reaches his hand, gives them a brief squeeze before parting. Ducking his head, Duncan hides his uncharacteristically shy smile from all but Jimmy and it’s incredibly endearing that he should be bashful only now.
There’s a scuffle of bodies around them as some of their fellow dancers head over towards the bar for a last drink, and Jimmy’s suddenly ready to get away from prying eyes. “Let’s go see if Cassie’s ready for home.”
Duncan grins then, wide and bright. “That’s the second best idea I’ve heard tonight.”
Jimmy chuckles private agreement, and with a hand on the small of Duncan’s back, guides him from the dance floor and together they go in search of their daughter.