“I still have absolutely no idea what I’m doing here,” Hanna says from the passenger seat of the Jaguar, driving along the A12 to go to a birthday party. Not any birthday, but that of Tom’s mum. Why Hanna was invited, she has no idea. She’s known Tom for about nine months now, but they are friends. Shouldn’t there be friends of his mother, not him?
“She just likes to meet you,” Tom answers from the driver’s seat, the sleeves of his white button down rolled up to the elbows, his Ray Ban sunglasses sitting comfortably on his nose.
“Yeah, but why though? Does she meet all of your friends?”
Tom just swallows, then grins, but says nothing. He looks entirely too good and relaxed, especially for someone who’s been working his ass off the last couple of months - and will continue to do so once they come back to London tomorrow. He’s also wearing Hanna’s favourite jeans, which is kind of unfair.
She shifts and plays with the hem of her sundress again. She doesn’t even know if she’s dressed properly.
“It’s just strange, I don’t know,” she says again. She’s been wondering about that all week now, and still doesn’t have an explanation why you would just casually invite friends of your children along.
“You didn’t have to come, you know that right?” Tom sounds a little pertly now.
Hanna immediately regrets her choice of words. “Sorry,” she mutters. “I’m just nervous I guess.”
Oddly enough, Tom isn’t nervous. Not now, that is.
He was plenty nervous a few days ago when he sprung the invitation on Hanna–almost nervous in the ‘I think I’m going to puke my guts out” way. Because this is important to him. And truth be told, he doesn’t even know what he’s doing. He should know better than to listen to foolish impulses, right? But when it comes to Hanna, he’s discovered he’s being foolish all the time…and quite liking it.
And Tom is pretty certain the nerves will be back as soon as they’ve arrived. But for now, he’s only one thing: blissfully happy to be driving with Hanna in his car, her subtle scent all around him and her summer dress making her look like an enchantress despite its no-frills design.
He shoots her another glance again, hoping the sunglasses hide how avidly he drinks her in; she’s a lovely vision, so close and yet so far away.
“You do know that this kind of jaguar doesn’t bite like the big cat, don’t you?” he teases her, earning himself a glare.
“Of course I do.”
“Then stop looking as if it will chomp your legs off at any moment, Han.”
“It’s not the car I’m worrying about, you meanie head,” she answers and sticks her tongue out at him.
“There’s nothing to be afraid of. Suffolk is all quiet and calm. And my family is as well.” Tom almost reaches out his hand to pat her knee reassuringly, but considers it a bit much in the last moment and stops himself.
“I’m sure of it. I’m positive I’ll love them. I’m just not sure if they’ll like me intruding on a family gathering.” She’s biting her lower lip now and as Tom glances at her he thinks he’s never seen something cuter.
“She’s invited you. And I’m sure there’ll be friends of my sisters and neighbours and all kinds of people.”
He’s not sure about it actually. His mother had a strange glimmer in her eyes the other day. Like she knew something and didn’t tell him.
A sudden gasp next to him makes him almost jostle the car. “What if she thinks we’re dating?! You’ve told her we’re friends, right?”
Hanna is sitting up, staring at him, half turned in her seat.
For a moment, everything in Tom’s brain short-circuits. He’s pretty sure he’s just swallowed his own tongue, and hopes to god he hasn’t made an embarrassing noise to indicate it. It’s a good thing he’s wearing sunglasses because he’s rather afraid of what his eyes might be revealing right now.
Belatedly, he remembers he’s supposed to be concentrating on driving and not staring at Hanna.
“S-sure.” Huh, he sounds rather squeaky. Tom clears his throat and stares resolutely at the road, as if he’s navigating an obstacle course at breakneck speed and not a calm stretch of asphalt with no other vehicles in sight. “Of course Mum knows we’re only friends. Relax.”
All of his relaxed attitude has been blown to smithereens, though. Tom takes a deep breath, feels Hanan do the same next to him. When he chances a glance at her from the corner of one eye, she’s still rigid in her seat. What the devil is she thinking? After all these month, she’s still leaving him clueless sometimes.
It takes her a moment. “Hm?”
Tom forces the words out that he’d rather not say. “You can still change your mind, you know? I won’t be mad at you if you don’t really want to do this. I’ll turn the jag down a side road and get you booked into a nice B&B and then drive to Mum’s alone.”
“Well now, that’s just rude. She’s invited me, I can’t back out of that. That’ll just look worse.”
Hanna can feel the air in the car changing. Like a few times before this. She’s also felt Tom’s glance and the way he swallowed and squeaked a little too obvious.
It wasn’t the first time either. Hanna is no woman who prides herself with men fancying her. But she does feel how Tom sometimes simply stares. The first time it happened she was almost afraid he had a stroke. Now she just talks on and waits until he realises he’s missed half of the conversation.
But for some reason he hasn’t done anything about that stare, yet. Hanna is not sure why. And she’s also afraid to do something about it. Because yes, he may want to be more than friends, but if he’s not asking her, he’s obviously not sure about it.
And if he’s not sure about it, Hanna’s going to stay in that cosy little corner that’s called ‘friendship’. If she’s honest, she’s afraid herself. Being Tom’s friend, that means anonymity. But dating an actor?
Yes, she’s thought about it, because Tom might be a good actor, but in private? He’s not that good at hiding feelings. There were lots of awkward moments these past few weeks.
She bites her lip again. What if he uses this trip to see if he wants to pursue? See what the family thinks? Oh god, they’re going to hate her, aren’t they?
She glances at Tom again, who is now looking a little anxious himself.
“You sure about that? It’s alright. I mean, you won’t ever have to meet them. Being my friend and all that,” he says.
Her stubborn streak makes itself known then. “I do have to meet them sometime. Plus, I want to see all the embarrassing pictures on the walls. I’ll go.”
Tom’s convulsive swallow gets lodged midway in his throat and he makes another very undignified sound.
Oh god, the pictures! And surely his mum will dig out all the embarrassing childhood stories. It’s one thing hinting at things publicly and having a good laugh, and an entirely other thing to have a woman scared off who has come to mean entirely too much to him in the past few months.
Why on earth did he think it was a good idea to say ‘yes’ to Mum’s invitation?! And what devil had possessed his mother to extend the invitation in the first place?
Somehow, he manages to suppress a gasp, but his grip on the steering wheel turns white-knuckled.
Dear Lord, has his mother sensed something? Has he said too much? Said the wrong thing? He’s such a lousy actor in real life. Oh no, oh no, oh no…does that also mean Hanna might’ve sensed something?
“Huh?” His head whips towards her and he jostles the car a little.
“Stop looking like that.”
“As if now you’re afraid of the jag biting your ass.”
“My ass?!” He sounds decidedly squeaky again because hearing Hanna mention his butt is not something his brain can handle right now.
Hanna has to stiffle her laugh. Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea; them being this close together. Which doesn’t mean she can’t at least tease him a little. Maybe her nervousness is gone then.
“Yes, Tom. Your nice, little firm ass.” She sees him swallow and his knuckles turn an even paler shade of white. “Ever thought about showing that on film?”
Tom starts to blush adorably at that and Hanna almost wants to coo at him. He clears his throat before he speaks, but his voice is still an octave higher than its normal timbre.
Hanna continues to tease him, “Oh, I’ll definitely have to see if there are any naked Hiddles pictures lying around at your mum’s.” She sees Tom swallow and now it’s her time to blush. Why does she say these things? “I mean… Well what sounded just wrong. Baby pictures of course. I don’t want naked selfies from you, please.”
Great, now she’s the one rambling and her nervousness is back.
“You don’t? What a way to disappoint a guy,” Tom jokes weakly, trying his damnedest not to image the reverse–Hanna sending him naked selfies.
Is it hot in the car or is that just him? He pries a hand off the wheel to fidget with his sunglasses, though they’re ridiculous armour against the nearness of her and the heat of the images flashing through his scrambled brain. Perhaps he should unbutton his shirt? The rolled-up sleeves don’t seem to help.
Get a grip, Hiddleston… He pulls in some air. She barely sends him normal selfies, although he’s regularly bombarding her with silly ones from the set and tiny little personal messages recorded just for her. He’s hardly ever had this urge before, to share so many persnal tidbits with a woman in his life.
Gulp. She is a woman in his life now, isn’t she? And not just any woman.
Hanna’s voice, sounding a bit odd and strained, interrupts his thoughts.
Please don’t let her go on about anything even remotely related to nakedness, or he’ll have to pull over and upend his water bottle over his head to cool down.
“What part of your body do you like the most? I mean… as an asset, sort of?”
Is that a trick question? It must be, right? Should he joke about it? “My ass of course.”
Okay, that was a bad one. She doesn’t say anything to that and just clears her throat. Oh, he’s fucked this up before they even got to his mum’s house.
Tom clears his throat as well. “That was a joke, obviously. Uhm. My hands I suppose? I mean, I’m constantly talking with them. I like them. Yeah.”
Okay, he should stop talking now. “Or my face.” Or not. “In a not self-important way. But I’m an actor. I need my face.” Shut up, shut up, shut up. “Yeah. Yours?”
Oh god this is getting even worse. Especially since Hanna makes a strange noise of which he’s not quite sure. It could either be a laugh or choking.
“Not your favourite assets of mine. Yours.”
Ugh, this is backfiring spectacularly… Hanna uses sheer willpower not to bury her face in her hands with a mortified groan.
Why is it that she always puts her foot in her mouth around Tom? And why is he always so damn easily flustered? Where’s all that calm confidence and effortlessly oozing charm when she needs it to keep her sanity? He wasn’t quite so jumpy when they met, was he? What has changed?
Hanna buys a bit of time by shifting and crossing her legs–pretty sure that her mind is playing tricks on her because surely Tom hasn’t just stared at her legs and licked his lips before dutifully focusing on the road again.
She can think of way too many of Tom’s ‘assets’ right now, and not a single one of hers. Why did she have to bring that topic up?
Totally clueless what to answer, she hears herself blurt out, “Why don’t you guess?”
“Beg your pardon?” He whips his head towards her and away.
“I mean…aren’t you always claiming to be such a great people reader? You tell me what you think I like most about my body.”
Tom goes pale as a ghost, and then swallows and flushes as if she’s asked him to remove her panties one-handed or something.
Oh. Oh no, not a good thought to have. Bad Hanna. Down, girl.
‘Boobs’ is the first thing that shoots through his mind. Which is not a good thought to have, if he doesn’t want to embarrass himself. Well. Embarrass himself more.
“Uh. Uhm.” This is going massively wrong. She must think he doesn’t like anything about her, the way he is stammering here. “I think you like your…” Eyes, breasts, lips, hips, legs… “voice,” Tom says instead.
“My voice?” He can feel Hanna staring at him and blushes deeply. Again.
“Yeah. You’re so confident all the time and I think that you like how that resonates in your voice. It’s a strong one. And I think you like that. Well, I certainly do.”
Was that too much? She doesn’t say anything for a long time. “Thanks,” he then hears her saying softly.
Tom risks a glance. It really must be hot in the car, because Hanna’s cheeks are red as well, and Tom is definitely sweating now.
Fitting that they’re visiting his family, because Tom is sure he hasn’t felt like this since he was 12 years old.
“You’re welcome,” he answers, just as softly and has to look away again or he’s going to steer that car into the next field if he doesn’t.
Why is she wearing a dress again?
Why is she wearing a dress again? Hanna wants to curse herself to hell and back for thinking she needs to look pretty and presentable for his family and choosing a dress. First, if Tom stares at her legs for one more time as if he wants to run his hands or–holy mother of god–his lips over them, she’ll combust and burn his jag to smithereens. Second, she can’t seem to stop fidgeting with the hem, which only leads to more of point one. And third, the damn dress doesn’t help a bit with all the heat in the car.
Her voice. Huh. He would never cease to surprise her. It was always like this: as soon as she thought she had Tom figured out, he managed to astonish her again.
Like the time he’d couriered a sinfully tasty chocolate cake from a sinfully expensive bakery to her place because he’d just had a slice and wanted to–quote–share a piece of heaven with her. Or the time he’d tweeted in support of an indie author about whose new book she’d been gushing to him.
Why is she even thinking about all this? Shouldn’t she be bombarding him with questions about his family so she’s prepared? But thinking of confrontation time makes her blood freeze, so Hanna puts a lid on that idea.
She tears her gaze away from the muscles bunching in Tom’s arms as he maneuvers the car through a bend, and fixes it resolutely on the scenery.
“Tell me more about this place. Where exactly are we now? It looks very pretty.”
“Yeah.” Tom doesn’t even glance at it, she notices from the corner of an eye. “It’s…really green. Verdant. Lush.”
“Wow, Mr. Double First At Cambridge. You’ve given me three different words for almost the same thing.”
Yeah, Tom knows that as well. But the way Hanna sits there next to him; with that dress he’s happy he’s found words at all.
“Okay, uhm. Before us there’s the Colchester zoo. And Colchester itself.” At least he thinks so. With the state he’s in, Tom is content with just arriving at his mum’s without causing an accident.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
He does chuckle at that and tries to relax. He can do teasing if there’s nothing sexual about it. The greenery and Hanna’s lack of knowledge will do.
“How long have you been here now? Have you even been out of London, yet?”
“Oh har har, Tom. You know, some people have actual work to do. Not parading around in front of a camera.”
Tom wants to be offended but hears her slightly teasing sound. She’s right though. He does parade around in front of a camera. Not just on movie sets either. There are many, many cameras around and again Tom reminds himself that he should really not drag innocent, lovely cute Hanna in the spotlight.
“And I’ve been here since January. You should know,” she continues and Tom shakes himself a little. Right. Teasing. No heavy dating stuff.
“So good that you know me then. I’ll show you around.” He wants to pat he knee again, this time in a fake consulting manner. He even lifts his hand from the steering wheel, then remembers he should definitely not under any circumstances touch Hanna’s bare leg, and runs the hand through his hair instead.
“You do. So. How much longer now?”
She knows she sounds a bit like a whining child, but somehow she doesn’t think she can survive another hour or so in the car with Tom.
Not with this Tom, who’s kind of new, endearing and sometimes unbearable. Whatever has gotten into him lately? She sees him reach out a hand before awkwardly running it through his hair. Never mind that it makes the floof stand up in a way that makes her itch to run her own hands through it. Was he about to touch her and decided against it? He’s such a touchy-feely person, has been with her from the start too–but not so much lately.
And she hates to admit it, but she misses his touches whenever they manage to meet.
“Surely you don’t expect me to do math in my head while driving so I can convert miles into kilometers for you?” Tom’s voice breaks into her uncomfortable thoughts.
At least they’re back to friendly banter. She can definitely handle that.
“Oh, poor Tommy,” she coos. “Better not, I don’t fancy a detour into a ditch.”
They chuckle. Then she sees Tom raise a brow and shoot her a mock glare, which looks ridiculous half-hidden by the sunglasses. “Didn’t we have a deal? You call me Tommy, I call you Hannie bunny.”
Hanna makes a gagging noise. “Not if you don’t want your posh leather seats covered in vomit.”
His boyish grin is a relief. She hasn’t seen it for a while. “What would you like me to call you instead?” he asks. “My pearl? Pumpkin? Poopsy Doodles? Fluff Bumps? Tootsie Cutesie? Schmoopy Muffin?”
After she’s finished giggling–and resisted elbowing him in the ribs–Hanna wheezes between last bouts of laughter, “God, Hiddleston, I hope whoever ends up your girlfriend won’t be called any of that, or I’ll personally kick you in the nuts.”
The coughing fit that follows is kind of alarming, especially since Tom is the one driving.
Hanna is afraid he might choke to death actually, but every time she wants to pat his back, Tom raises a hand and shakes his head to indicate a “no”. At least he slows down a bit and they do indeed stay on the road.
“Sorry,” Tom croaks, taking a deep breath. “Water, please?” he then wheezes out while he wipes the tears that started pooling in his eyes.
Hanna hastily looks around and finds her own opened bottle and holds it out to Tom. “I’ve already drunk from it.”
Tom takes the bottle with a shaking hand and makes another sound like a groaning dying man. Then he gulps down the water and Hanna is hypnotized by the way his Adam’s apple moves and how his jaw tights and… yeah. Better not stare at that for too long.
“I won’t call her that then,” Tom finally replies.
A pang goes through her heart. “Good.”
“And it isn’t much longer now.” Tom gives her the bottle back, sniffs a little a focuses on the road again.
Well that wasn’t crazy at all.
Tom is still berating himself for being such an idiot and losing his control around Hanna so easily when the first familiar houses appear.
Desperate to redeem himself–and regain some sanity–he drops into tour-guide mode. Soon the jaguar is cruising slowly and smoothly along, and he points out buildings, even finds it in himself to tell her a little anecdote about the time he’d brought Chris Hemsworth home around Christmas and his mother had knitted him a gloriously ugly sweater with a reindeer on it–which Chris had worn with pride, his enormous biceps nearly tearing the thing in half.
Hanna’s laugh wraps around him like a blanket. She has that cute way of scrunching up her nose when she laughs. He could look at it forever. Instead, he takes the last turn and a last deep breath.
Hanna switches from laughing to freezing into a statue with wide, worried eyes so fast the actor in him is rather jealous. Her fingers clench around the hem of her dress again, and this time Tom tells himself he can do it. He can totally pat her hand like a reassuring friend so she’ll smile at his family and charm them as she’s charmed him.
Only, when he lays his fingers over her trembling hand, they brush against the warm, silky skin of her bare thigh.
And now he’s the one freezing.
And then he panicks. What is he supposed to do now? Try to apologise or act all cool calm and collected as if he didn’t feel anything?
While his brain - or what’s left of it - still tries to process recent events, Tom’s body takes over.
“I… I’m so… Sorry! I wanted… your hand. Pat your hand. Calm you. Sorry. That was a little misplaced. Did you…? Sorry.” It’s the former of the two options then.
Hanna next to him is still frozen and Tom realises belatedly that his fingers are still in contact with that damn thigh. Even digging in a little.
So, he does the logical thing, jerks his hand away, parks the car rather abruptly in front of the house and gets out of the vehicle so fast the seatbelt is almost still in place around his body.
He can do cool calm and collected another time then.
Hanna is still sitting there, feeling her world tilt and teeter on its axe a little.
Didn’t she wish he’d go back to touching her a while ago? Nope, definitely not wishing for that now. Because his hand on her thigh is enough to want to melt right into his seat. She’s pretty sure she can still feel the pressure of his long fingers, the tips digging in, the thumb doing the faintest little rubbing motion that was probably not intended.
Dimly, she registers they’re parked. And that Tom almost falls flat on his face by jumping out and tangling his body and legs up weirdly.
Air, she needs air. Or is it something else she needs–like his hand on her thigh again, his fingers stroking higher to… Air. Definitely cool air, or she’ll combust.
Frantically, Hanna fumbles with her seatbelt. She grabs for the door handle at the same time as Tom apparently yanks it open from the outside, and loses her balance. With a small squeak of distress, she blindly reaches for something, anything, to keep her from faceplanting in the gravel–and ends up with her fingers hooking into Tom’s belt, wedged between his waistband and hard stomach muscles beneath a soft shirt.
Oh god, oh god, oh god. What is she doing to him? Tom doesn’t know if he wants to run away or get closer, so his body decides to stay rooted in one place.
He doesn’t register anything apart from Hanna’s cool hand on his skin. On his skin quite low on his body.
Oh god. Why isn’t he doing anything? He gulps, hears his heart in his ears and wonders what Hanna would do if he kissed her now. Probably slap him.
But she does look pretty with her flushed cheeks. Tom almost wants to lift his hand to her cheek, but then he hears a voice that immediately drowns his libido in cold water.
“Oh! There you are! Did you have a good ride?” When did his mother come out?!
Hanna jerks her hand back and presses her body against the car. She still hasn’t looked at him. Tom takes two steps back himself. And still watches her.
For a moment, “ride” is the only thing Hanna’s already fried brain can process while her eyes strain to make out his mother behind his back. Oh yes, she could think of a few ways she’d like to ride Tom. She’d could…
Oh god. What the hell is she thinking? And why is Tom staring at her like that? With…what is that even in his eyes? Hunger? Confusion? Regret?
She’s lost her mind. Or maybe she’s sleeping and this is all some nice dream turned into a nightmare. Yeah, that must be it. If she pinches herself now, she won’t even feel it.
Hanna does just that, pinching the skin on a forearm still braced against the car for much-needed support.
Ouch. That stings. She winces, which in turn makes Tom wince.
“Thomas William Hiddleston, you will not let the poor girl stand there in the yard and make me ashamed of being your mother. What the devil has happened to your manners?”
Tom jerks as if his mum had slapped him, looking five years old and as contrite as if she’d caught him with his hand in the cookie jar–which she probably did a million times because Hanna is pretty sure he’s always had that sweet tooth.
He needs to clear his throat before he starts talking, because it feels like he’s swallowed a whole ton of bricks.
He feels like he’s 14 and is caught in the backyard with a girl. Which is kind of the case. Hanna looks like he feels.
Tom touches her hand - really, her hand - risking an electric shock, but wanting to reassure her. Then he smiles lightly, at least he tries to, and whispers, “Come.”
When he turns around he’s greeted by the familiar grin of his mum. She already holds out her arms and taps her foot lightly.
He walks towards her and feels comfort in her hug. “Hi mum. And happy birthday!” he smiles as he whispers in her ear.
“Thank you, Thomas.” She squeezes him a little before she lets go. “Now, introduce me to your friend.”
Her voice sounds a little odd saying ‘friend’, but she’s still grinning. Tom just shakes his head before he turns around to introduce Hanna. He realises she still hasn’t moved an inch.
Tom chuckles slightly and waves at her again. “Come.”
She shouldn’t have come here. Nope.
Hanna can’t find it in her to move, not sure whether it’s because Tom touched her again–thank god, only her shaking hand–because she imagines a knowing glint in his mother’s eyes or because laughter and talk filters out onto the road and increases her anxiety.
Tom seems to have pulled himself together somewhat, which is reassuring. Maybe she should try to do that too? He braces the media and red carpets and hordes of fangirls all the time, so why is she too cowardly to meet his family? If she were his girlfriend, she would have to…
No, not going there. Totally not going there.
Her inner turmoil is interrupted by Mrs. Hiddleston bustling energetically towards her, looking as neat and strong as in the few photos she’s seen. Apparently, Tom has some of his enthusiasm from her.
“Thomas, what have you told your lovely lady about us to frighten her so?” she scolds with mild reproach in her voice, which turns Tom into a sheepish five-year-old again. She doesn’t even give him a chance to stutter an apology but simply wraps Hanna in a short hug that smells of flowers and a hint of baking.
“You must be Hanna. I’ve heard so much about you.”
Flummoxed, Hanna stares and lets herself be hugged. Tom has been talking about her with his mum? Oh god, what? Why? Could it be that…?
Belatedly, she remembers her manners. “Th-thank you for inviting me, Mrs. Hiddleston. And happy birthday!”
Tom’s mother tuts before patting her cheek gently. “None of that Mrs. Hiddleston nonsense from one of the lamentably few women Tom has ever brought home. I’m Diana. Now come on in and let us pamper you for a bit.”
She takes Hanna’s hand and all but drags her into the house, commanding over her shoulder, “Be a darling and bring the bags in, Thomas. I’ve put Hanna in the room across from yours.”
Now in the house, the noise is getting louder and Hanna stiffens a bit. It seems like Tom didn’t only get his mum’s enthusiasm but her sense for other people’s feelings as well. Because before she knows what’s happening, Hanna feels Mrs. Hiddleston - Diana - squeezing her hand and holding her a little tighter.
“No need to worry, dear. No-one will bite you. And if they try, they’ll have to get around me first,” Diana whispers to her, making Hanna laugh.
Behind her she hears Tom grumble something like, ‘very nice to see you too’ and, ‘it’s just like the old times’ which makes Hanna grin. He does turn into a boy when he’s with family.
Diana leads Hanna through a hallway where she spots at least three pictures of Tom that need further inspections.
“I have a present for you in my bag!” the German girl exclaims, she almost forgot about that with all the touchy feely things going on. She searched the bookstores for the cookbook with German recipes but written in English everywhere. “Let me just…”
“No, no,” the birthday girl interrupts gently. “We’ll have time for that. Let me introduce you first.
They arrive in a spacious kitchen where two young women seem to be bickering over some kind of dough.
“You totally got that wrong, little sister,” the brunette says as they inspect the bowl in front of them.
“And here we have my daughters. Arguing all the time. I don’t know what went wrong there,” Tom’s mum winks.
Both women turn around and grin the same grin Tom always wears. “But we love each other,” the blonde woman says.
And that’s exactly what Hanna thinks to herself several hours later, standing by the window with a glass of water and taking a moment to calm her spinning head.
The house is filled with love. It’s everywhere, and undeniable. She recognizes love in the easy banter, as if all of them lived together day in and day out instead of being all around the globe. She sees it in the constant joking and teasing, in the little quarrels that get really heated only to cool down and dissolve in laughter after a minute. It’s in the lovingly prepared food, the thoughtful birthday gifts, the silent messages passing from one to another sometimes.
Hanna has a feeling it’s always been like this, although Tom has hinted at a difficult youth and she knows there was a divorce to deal with.
She’s an only child, but in Tom’s siblings, she sees how fun–and sometimes terrifying–it could’ve been to have brothers and sisters. And truth be told, she just loves seeing this side of Tom, a bit goofier, a bit humbler, amazing as an uncle, a bit more open, but essentially still the man she’s come to…
With a wince, Hanna stops the thought and takes a sip of water. All this time, she’s successfully blocked the issue out, too busy being introduced and talking about Germany and sharing jokes about Tom. His mother didn’t seem to mind a bit that Hanna was the centre of attention instead of the birthday girl. In fact, she was the one with the most questions. And mercifully, more guests dropped in afterwards, so Hanna had a bit of time to sneak peeks at photos of Tom. (And she’s so in love with 5-year old Tom with his ridiculous hair and cute grin and stripey trousers that she’s sorely tempted to steal the hoto.) What she didn’t have, though, was time with Tom. Maybe now that most of the guests have left…
As if her thought has conjured him, he walks into the temporarily empty living-room.
“A penny for your thoughts, Han.”
She turns with a slightly tired smile. “My thoughts are worth more than a penny.”
Tom flashes her a grin and raises a brow. “Hah, I knew it all along. You’re only in it for the money.”
Before she can react, he nudges his chin towards her water. “None of that now. I have been ordered to get you some wine.” He lifts his hands, and the way his long fingers are wrapped around the delicate stems of two wine glasses makes Hanna’s throat go dry. She sets her water glass down and accepts one–and their fingers brush, making her throat go even drier.
Oh yes, wine sounds good, now that she realizes she’s all alone with Tom standing so close she can smell him.
He loves her smell. It’s sweet and flowery, a bit of vanilla in there and a lot of Hanna that Tom hasn’t found out yet.
He needs to physically restrain himself from touching - or worse, kissing - her, so he wipes his now empty hand on his trousers instead.
The way Hanna looks up to him with her big eyes and kind smile makes those butterflies in his stomach roar to life.
Tom clears his throat before he speaks, “To you,” and clinks his glass against Hanna’s before he takes his sip from the rich red wine that was basically shoved into his hands with the words “Here, you need wine, and for the love of god, bring Hanna a glass as well,” by his mother. Emma and Sarah were in the background, giggling.
“We can’t toast to me. Diana is the birthday girl.” Hanna takes a sip anyway. And then another one.
“Mum drank enough Sherry and was toasted to each time. I think she’s fine,” Tom laughs, which makes Hanna start as well.
There’s the nose scrunch again. Instead of running his finger along Hanna’s nose, Tom takes another hearty gulp of the wine.
“I’m a bit disappointed by the way,” Hanna says and Tom’s heart stops. Oh god, what have they done to her? Were they mean? Did anyone say anything? Does Hanna want to go now? “So far I’ve only seen cute photo of you, nothing embarrassing.”
He lets out a relieved laugh, also Hanna looks too cute when she pouts. “I’ll just have to stop my mother from drinking more Sherry then,” he winks and in turn makes Hanna laugh.
He’s so glad he hears her like this. Relaxed and laughing and no accidental touching to make things awkward.
In that moment, Diana walks into the living room, a bottle of wine in her hand. “You two need more of this. I’ll just leave this here.” And that she does, putting the bottle on the table in front of Tom and Hanna and then hurrying out of the room.
Huh. Tom stares after his mother basically fleeing the room. That’s odd. She’s basically monopolized Hanna all day and now she’s… She’s what, exactly? He’s never really been able to read his mother, bless her heart of gold and spine of steel. But today he’s feeling more like a clueless boy than ever.
Taking a rather big gulp of wine, Tom refocuses on Hanna. “I suppose if you’re so keen on something embarrassing, I could show you my room.”
Bloody hell, that came out the wrong way. Hanna looks decidedly panicky and red. Or is that the wine already flushing her face? With a grimace, Tom apologises. “I didn’t…I swear I didn’t mean it like that. Not in the…the sexual way. I mean, of course I won’t invite you up and try to bed you when my whole family is downstairs. Not that the problem is my family downstairs, but…I…Jesus fucking Christ.” He dows the rest of his glass and bends to refill it with a shaking hand, sure he’s blushing the same crimson shade as the liquid. “I’m so sorry, I have no idea what I’m talking about.”
Tom sends her a pleading look, wondering how the hell to get out of this blundering mess–and how the hell to get the image of Hanna spread out on the bed in his old room out of his head.
He clears his throat. “I meant, my old room has all the stuff from those days. Photo albums, things I used to own, all that.”
Before Hanna can react–she’s still staring–there’s a low scuffle from the hallway. He thinks he can hear a heated whisper, a supressed giggle and then a very faint “no, let me”.
Emma bursts into the room with one of those cheeky grins he learned to fear in his childhood, triumphantly waving around something square and bulky.
“Did someone say ‘embarrassing’? I’ve got just the thing!” She pulls Hanna to the couch and plonks herself down next to her. “Pho-toooes!”
Hanna barely registers Sarah walking in behind her sister, another bottle of something in her hands and a grin on her face.
Her mind is occupied with the image Tom involuntarily created in her mind. Them in Tom’s bedroom, needing to be quiet because of his family downstairs and doing things that are definitely not quiet.
Hanna feels herself flush even more when Emma next to her nudges her and throws her a grin. “It is rather hot in here, isn’t it?” Tom’s sister whispers, then says louder, “You two look kind of flustered.”
And then Tom seems to catch up on what’s going on as well and lets out a groan. “Can we please not do that?”
“Why?” Sarah asks and sits next to Hanna after putting the bottle down next to the wine on the table. “Just because we won’t take this lovely lady up to your bedroom doesn’t mean we don’t have exciting things to say about you,” she snickers and Emma joins in.
Hanna is a little overwhelmed, but starts to grin as well seeing Tom all flustered and panicked, drowning his glass of wine.
She does the same, holds out her glass for Tom and laughs. “Okay, let’s do this.”
“Yay!” Sarah whoops. “And for the right amount of time travel to the teenage years, I even found the peppermint thingy we always stole from Mum.”
With a defeated groan, Tom buries his head in his hands. “All the alcohol in the country won’t save me from this.”
He peeks through his fingers at Hanna, who looks way too happy with the way things are unfolding.
“Speaking of the peppermint thingy,” Sarah continues while pouring generous amounts of the liqueur into their glasses, “Remember when Tom made us dress in various bedsheets to reeneact a Greek tragedy and we drank too much of it afterwards, vomiting all over those bedsheets?”
Emma cackled with glee while Tom winced at the humiliating memory.
“Oh yes, and Mum made him wash all of them by hand the next morning…AND iron them. He was so desperate by the time he was done with the first two of them that he begged us for help and promised us his beloved ET merchandise collection.”
“You had an ET merch collection?” Hanna asks with a giggle, and he feels himself flush again.
“Yeah,” he mumbles, and gives up hiding his face in favour of downing a glass of liqueur. Huh, certainly tasted better in his memory.
“It was almost holy to him,” Sarah chimed in, then fidgeted with the photo album. “Hold on, I’m pretty sure there are pics of that too.”
“Oh my god,” Hanna wheezes out, and Tom doesn’t even want to know what she’s found in that album. “You were a dedicated fanboy, weren’t you?”
Instead of an answer, Tom pours another shot of the god awful liqueur.
“I’m sorry,” Hanna cackles, “but this is way too good.”
They go through the album and Tom doesn’t know if he wants to be annoyed with his sisters or thank them from the bottom of his heart. They made Hanna laugh and smile and relax. And as long as they don’t find anything utterly disturbing that makes her run for the hills, it won’t be too bad, right?
“Oh my God, I’ve found naked Hiddles!” Hanna almost shouts then. Tom’s flush is back. “You were cute though.”
Now it’s Hanna’s time to go crimson while his sisters snicker.
“I meant… the hair. Not… the rest.” Hanna downs a shot and Tom thinks he can see Emma and Sarah sharing a wink. Or maybe it’s the peppermint liqueur.
“He was a Golden Retriever, that one,” Sarah says. “Still is, if he doesn’t plaster his hair with every product he can find.”
“I’m sure it’d look cute,” Hanna answers and Tom sees her immediately biting her lip, and blush. She should definitely not bite that lip, he decides the next moment.
She should definitely not drink another glass of that liqueur, Hanna thinks to herself. But then she catches Tom staring at her with the oddest look on his face and the only thing that helps against the sudden heat is another glass of the peppermint thingy.
Come to think of it, she should also definitely not dwell on the thought of grown-up Hiddleston with Golden Retriever curls. She’s pretty sure her body won’t be able to handle that. Magnus was bad enough in Wallander. Nope, not a good idea to think about that role of his either.
Stifling a delicate hiccup, Hanna turns the last page…and can’t prevent a loud, long “aaaaawwww”. She stabs a finger at a picture of a youngish, curly-headed Tom with a cat cradled lovingly in his arms. “It isn’t fair,” she exclaims. “You shouldn’t be allowed to be so cute and irresistible.”
She’s a bit too high on liquid pepermint to notice Tom’s sisters exchanging knowing glances. And too busy staring at the picture of Tom with a kitty.
“I swear, Tom, if you ever do a photoshoot with a cat, you’ll get half the planet pregnant.” She claps a hand over her mouth. “Whoops.”
To her relief, Tom does look embarrassed but is also guffawing. “Somewhere in there,” he wheezes between ‘ehehehe’s, “lurks a pussy joke.”
“Eeeew.” Sarah snaps the album shut at the same time as Emma makes gagging noises. “Nope, Thomas, you’re not cracking pussy jokes while we’re sitting here. Nope, nu-uh.”
She gets up, swaying a tiny bit and grabbing the miraculously empty liqueur bottle while Sarah rises with the album clutched to her like armor. “We’re out. Byeeeee.”
Both sisters leave the room, giggling, waving cheekily and winking like mad as if there’s some great gossip going on.
“Huh,” Hanna says. “That was fast.” She hiccups a little and looks at Tom.
He’s still giggling now and then, his face flushed. Hanna hasn’t seen him that relaxed in weeks and she wonders if it’s because of that awful Peppermint liqueur they drank or because he’s finally seeing his family again.
“If I knew it’d make them leave, I’d have told a pussy joke an hour ago,” he chuckles.
“Aw, come on.” Hanna gets up from the sofa, swaying just the tiniest bit, and joins Tom on the floor where he’s made himself a home. “You love them.” She pats his thigh and grins at him.
“Only sometimes,” he grumbles, and puts his hand on top of Hanna’s so fast, she can’t even be shocked. “Couldn’t think of a joke anyway.” It’s the mixture of pouting and grinning that makes Hanna coo at him again.
“Good,” she says, “because my brain can’t handle you saying ‘pussy’ one more time.”
Tom’s head jerks to face her. “Why?”
Hanna shrugs. “Dunno.” She does know, but even through the pleasant haze of tipsiness, something tells her it’s better to pretend otherwise. Letting him know how unfairly arousing she finds anything even remotely qualified as dirty alk in Tom’s voice would just give him all sorts of ideas. Ideas part of her craves and part of her is dead scared of.
Tom nudges her with a shoulder, his hand still on top of hers and feeling oddly right there.
“But it’s such a lovely word for such a lovely body part,” he insists, his expression part naughty and part earnest. “And it’s a much nicer word than cunt.”
“Ah, don’t!” Hanna digs her elbow into his ribs rather too hard, which makes him yelp and overbalance. As he’s still holding her hand, she gets pulled along when he topples over, and ends up awkwardly half on top of him on the floor.
Her face is only inches from Tom’s, and his hand has somehow reflexively found its way to her thigh, zeroing in on a stretch of bare skin below the hem of her dress. Why hasn’t she noticed before how hot it is in the room?
Hanna stares at Tom, who stares back unblinkingly.
The room is spinning round and round and Tom doesn’t have a clue if it’s the alcohol or the closeness, the smell of Hanna, his hand touching her thigh or the way he feels her breasts pressing against his chest. Is she leaning even closer now?
“The room is spinning,” he whispers rather dumbly. Wow. Way to kill the mood, Hiddleston. Great work.
Hanna lets out a snort, her cheeks flushed red, and rests her forehead against Tom’s chest. This feels way better than anything he’s imagined the last couple of weeks. They’re closer as well.
“Same here. Prob'ly the peppermint thingy wasn’t the best idea your sister ever had.”
Tom chuckles as well, bathing in the good feeling Hanna’s laughter and closeness give to him. “B'lieve me, not the worst idea either.”
They laugh together until Hanna lifts her head, they’re much closer than before and their lips can almost touch. But does she want that? Tom’s not sure about anything anymore.
“Han,” he starts. But then the door to the living room bursts open, startling both of them.
“Sarah! I’ve TOLD you not to go in there!” Tom hears his mum shout, then the door is closed with a giggled whisper of, “I’m sorry.”
What the…oh. Oh! It was planned wasn’t it? Tom could kill them all, those nosey stupid family members. Miraculously though, Hanna’s still in the same position. On top of him. “I’m so sorry,” Tom tells her, not even knowing which part he means.
To his surprise, she just grins at him. That must be the alcohol as well. “Why would you be sorry, Tom?”
Yeah, why is he sorry? Having her so close makes it a bit difficult to concentrate on why he needs to apologize.
“Uh…I didn’t plan things to go like this.”
She’s still grinning, and looking way too adorable. Should he maybe risk moving a bit? Not to kiss her yet, perhaps just to nuzzle? A little?
“You mean you di’n’t plan to hold me in your arms?” Now she’s pouting, Lord help him.
“I…uhm…no?” It’s kind of the truth, isn’t it? Wishing and planning isn’t the same.
The pout intensifies, and it really is a miracle that he hasn’t kissed her yet. Why hasn’t he? He’s not sure he remembers why, but he dimly recalls there’s a long list of reasons why he shouldn’t.
“’s that mean you don’t wanna hold me?”
Christ, there’s no answer to this that won’t get him in trouble, is there? Before he can give it some thought, his tipsy brain decides the truth needs to be blurted out.
“I want to. Very much. ‘n’ I wanna kiss you too.”
Hanna’s first instinct is to laugh. Heartily. Surely this must be a strange dream, or she’s hit her head and now she’s hallucinating.
But she doesn’t laugh. Because yes, she’s had more than enough to drink but her brain still catches up. “What?” she breathes out.
Tom scrunches up his nose adorably and does one of the almost-winky-things he does a lot when he thinks about something really hard.
“I very much wanna kiss you. Like. A lot.” Hanna’s heart beats rapidly. This is the moment? On the living room floor of his mother’s house. He’s going to kiss her now, right? “But I shoul'nt.” Or not.
“And if I wanna too?” Yes, she’s a little desperate now.
“Han, listen. Ther’re paparazzi…”
“Where?” she asks and turns around, feeling a little stupid right after that. Of course, there aren’t any paparazzi there.
“Everywhere.” Before she can laugh at that, Tom continues. “They’re everywhere. I don’t wanna drag you into that. I like you. So very very much like you. Everything about you. But damn it’s hard out there.”
Hanna ignores a good pun in favour of comfort. “But a kiss won’t hurt.”
“I wanna do more than kissing. I wanna take you out on dates. Lots ‘n’ lots of dates. Only you. ‘N’ they’ll be there. Then you’ll realise this’ not worth it ‘n’ poof, you’re gone.”
Oh. Oh, so that’s the reason he doesn’t want this. Desperately, Hanna tries to sober up a little, even if it’s just to reassure him she won’t run.
“Can I kiss you then?” is all she comes up with.
For a moment, Tom looks so absolutely, blissfully happy that she feels the hundredth urge to laugh, along with some decidedly warm and fuzzy something in her heart. But then he scrunches up his face in deep thought.
“S’n’t right like that.”
“Bu-but why?” she splutters. She swears to god, if Tom makes some sexist comment about the man being supposed to make the first move, she’ll get up and leave–even though she feels way too nice plastered all over him…and even though the hand on her thigh seems to have a will of its own and has decided to rub up and down while their brains are struggling through the ‘to kiss or not to kiss’ obstacle course.
Tom looks almost as pouty now as she feels. “Cause I spent all ’se days plucking up my courage and scheming and hoping…so it’s gotta be me who kisses you.”
He nods a bit too enthusiastically for emphasis, and because they’re so close together, their noses bump. They freeze. Even Tom’s wandering fingers on her thigh seem to have caught up because they also still.
She can hear Tom swallow with a clicking sound. Then he inhales sharply, his nostrils flaring.
“Yeah. Should to’lly be me kissing you. Right now,” he mutters.
The last thing her hazy brain registers is how peppermint-y his breath is–and then his mouth covers hers and her sanity fizzles into nothingness.
It’s fireworks. Fireworks and his favourite pudding, his favourite whiskey and being with his family - all of this combined in one. That’s what Tom feels as he hears Hanna moan into the kiss while their lips work together.
The fingers on Hanna’s thigh start to move again while Tom’s other hand comes up to caress her cheek.
Tom breathes her in. This feels so different from what he’s imagined it would feel like. But better.
Their noses bump and Tom tilts his head a little while his hand wanders from Hanna’s thigh up to press her closer to him.
As she moans again, Tom uses it for his advantage and pushes his tongue forward a little to touch hers.
It feels like it’s all come to this. Every nervous touch and embarrassed rambling was worth it if this his what he gets as a result.
That’s all Hanna can think of. And it’s totally been worth waiting for. She’s had a million scenarios in her head how this would happen IF Tom really wants more from her than friendship. But this is weirder–and much better.
When his tongue gently demands more, she gives it, wondering how a first kiss can cause all the nerve endings in her body to come alive while her brain simultaneously dies.
Tom’s hands are firm and gentle at the same time, just as she’s imagined it. And when he deepens the kiss on a soft growly sound low in hs throat, she registers dimly that she would let him have her here. Right here, right now, no questions asked. And with that shocking thought comes the realization that she hasn’t touched him yet. In fact, she isn’t even sure where her hands are at the moment because she’s too busy swooning at the way Tom explores her mouth.
Just when she’s fairly certain she could wind her fingers in Tom’s tempting Laing hair, she hears alarm bells ringing, shrill and yet oddly musical.
No, wait, that’s a phone ringing, right? Tom breaks the kiss and jerks away so fast he jostles his hold on her. Hanna slides unceremoniously all the way to the floor while the ringing cuts off. Is that the alcohol or does she hear muffled cursing from the other side of the room door and then the scurrying of hastily retreating footsteps?
They’re next to each other on their backs, both breathing heavily. Hanna feels Tom reaching for her hand and offers hers without question. It’s a good feeling now those electric sparks.
With her other hand Hanna tries to muffle her giggles, but as soon as she hears Tom chuckle, she snorts and they both dissolve in laughter.
“I’m…” Hanna knows where this is going. He wants to apologise again, like so often.
“Don’t you dare,” she wheezes out before Tom can continue. “No ‘cuses, no apol'gies, please.”
She can almost see the grin in Tom’s voice. “Okay then.”
They look at each other and smile, Tom’s has never been so bright as far as Hanna can tell and it makes her giddy everywhere.
Hanna can hear footsteps outside again and harsh whispering. She shoots Tom a look and he rolls his eyes. “They’re moments from entr'ing. Really should go t’ bed. We. I mean…” He’s stammering again.
“Help me up then.”
They make it up, Tom staggering slightly while simultaneously helping Hanna stand. He slowly opens the door and looks out to both sides, before they sneek out of the room, giggling as they rush - and bump - up the stairs.
Just as Hanna wants to tell him goodnight and go to the right door where her room is - it’s not that late, but the liqueur and the kiss surely did a number on her - Tom tugs at her hand.
“Where d'you think you’re going?” He opens his door, leads her into the room and rummages one-handed in his drawer while holding on to Hanna before he emerges with an old t-shirt and an old pair of boxer shorts.
Hanna raises a brow. “For me?”
“Yep,” he nods and starts to undress. He’s down to his own boxer shorts when Hanna starts as well.
When they’re both done, Tom leads Hanna to his old bed and lets her climb in first.
The last thing Hanna’s mind registers is Tom’s arm draped over her waist and his knee nudging between her thighs, Tom’s breath on her neck. Then she closes her eyes and falls asleep.
The first thing Tom registers is that he’s warm. And that he feels ridiculously happy, though he has no idea why.
It must be morning because something that can only be sunlight is soothing his back and neck with its warmth.
But why is the rest of his body also cosily warm? He automatically snuggles closer–and freezes. That’s definitely a soft, curvy body in his arms, radiating quite some heat. Inhaling on a low gasp brings his favourite scent into the picture, that intoxicating mix he’s come to associate with Hanna.
His eyes want to shoot open, but he deliberately squeezes them shut. Nope, he doesn’t want to wake from this dream. Because it has to be a dream. It’s happened before, countless times, especially in lonely hotel beds at the other end of the world. If he opens his eyes now, he’ll find himself face to face with a pillow and wishful thinking. It’s much less disappointing to force the dream to linger, to imagine he’s cuddling Hanna close and could nuzzle her neck if he moved a fraction.
Just when Tom has mustered the courage to open his eyes and face reality, his pillow decides to move. Frozen in place by a delirious combination of joy and surprise, he screws his eyes shut even tighter. Must be a hell of a dream if it seems so real that he can feel Hanna’s imagined body turn in his embrace and press closer until breath tickles his chest and hair his nose.
That peppermint thingy they drank last night really is potent.
Oh. Oh god. The peppermint thingy. And the wine before that. And his tipsy self with Hanna…
His eyes pop open wide at the same time as someone sleepily mumbles ‘Tom’ against his skin and he realizes that it isn’t a dream.
It’s warm. It’s all warm and tingly and soft all over. Hanna mumbles a sleepy “Tom” again, because she somehow feels close to him.
She cuddles closer to the source of warmth that seems to embrace her. And realises that it breathes.
Oh god, what has she done? There are images flashing in front of her closed eyes. Of Tom as a child and his sisters and that god awful liqueur, they somehow still drank.
And then there was a kiss.
Hanna opens her eyes and sees a chest - a well formed male chest - right in front of her. She scrunches up her nose a bit, her hair tickling it. Then she looks up and stares into blue eyes that stare back at her.
Hanna clears her throat. “Morning.”
Should she move? She doesn’t want to move. What is she supposed to do now?
Oh god, oh god, oh god. What is he supposed to do now? Any second now, realization will hit Hanna and she’ll bolt out of his embrace so fast she’ll probably clonk him on the nose.
Tom’s arms tighten reflexively because now that she’s finally in his arms, he doesn’t want to let her go. He’s also kind of afraid of blining as if that will ruin the magic of the moment.
When Hanna does nothing more than return his stare, he risks a deep breath–which is totally right and totally wrong at the same time because now he’s drowning in her and imagining having this particular scent with him every morning.
He’s such a goner. And he doesn’t even mind.
But without the god-awful liqueur adding a confidence boost, he’s also unsure of how to handle this again.
To break the silence, he asks softly, “How much of what happened last evening do you remember, Han?”
Oh god, this is it, right? This is Tom either telling her he remembers absolutely nothing and what the hell would she do in his bed, or it’s Tom realising what’s happened and regrets it.
So, what does she do now? Telling him she remembers everything - even if it’s through a slightly mint green haze - and faces infinite humiliation. Or does she act like she can’t remember?
No, she decides a moment later, if he doesn’t want her, he has to man up and tell her.
“Everything,” she mumbles.
Tom inhales sharply and Hanna can’t look at him. So she lowers her head and rests her forehead against Tom’s chest.
“Han… there is a very long list why you shouldn’t be with me.”
So this is it. The excuses start and she’ll be heartbroken when they reach London again.
But she won’t back down. “Tell me about that list?” she asks, nuzzling closer to him.
She feels Tom inhale again, and prepares herself for the worst.
The list. Why can’t he concentrate on that damn list that has been haunting him for a few months now? And yes, it is an actual list he’s compiled, trying to figure out a way around the items and to muster up enough courage to ask Hanna out. He hates that list, with a vengeance.
So why can’t he seem to care about it much right now?
Perhaps it’s because he’s actually holding Hanna close and it dulls everything else. And isn’t that what love is all about–that it’ll make bad things better and that the two people involved face difficulties together?
Love. Tom shivers once at the intensity of it all, and feels Hanna instinctively burrow deeper into his embrace. Does she know she’s digging her nails into him? Does she have any idea that this silent claim means the world to him?
But what if it’s all too much, too soon? She hasn’t run yet, but if he confesses how deep and strong his feelings for her are, will it overwhelm her?
Oh to hell with it all, it’s now or never.
Tom clears his throat. “You’re one of the smartest and strongest women I’ve ever met, Han. You can probably think of that list all by yourself. And you’ve got a little taste of it while being my friend. I just…I know it’ll get worse. Maybe much worse. But…would you give this helplessly besotted man a chance and let him date you? It would make him incredibly, incandescently happy.”
The sarcastic, stubborn, and yes, quite emotional woman inside Hanna wants to dig deeper. Ask him what exactly he’s come up with doing that stupid list of his.
But he’s right. She already knows. She knows there’ll be people who’ll likely tear her apart. That’ll find out anything and everything wrong with her.
She doesn’t really care. Carefully she loosens her hold on Tom, her nails leaving crescent moon marks. She hears him gulp at that.
Hanna finally looks up and is met by the most intense stare he’s ever given her. Then she slowly nods, and she really can’t help that grin forming on her face.
“Yeah,” she breathes. “Yeah, I think I would.” She doesn’t even have the time to tell him, she’d do more than date him as well, before she feels Tom’s hand on her cheek, holding her in place, and Tom’s lips on her own. Sighing into her as she does the same.
This kiss is different.
Tom is sure he’ll remember last night’s kiss for the rest of his life, but it feels like this is their real first kiss. With no alcohol to taint the experience, with no lurking fear they could be interrupted, with all his senses overcome by Hanna.
He takes it slow, or at least tries to, almost defeated by the soft sigh that travels from her to him. He wants to savour this, store it away for all those lonely nights to come, pour all his feelings for her into the touch of mouth on mouth so she doesn’t doubt the magic of their conection.
One of his hands travels from her cheek to the nape of her neck, holding, massaging, then finding purchase in her sleep-tousled hair. He glides his tongue over her lips and feels them part on the softest moan–and tenderness goes out the window.
Suddenly it’s all rocking hips, nipping teeth and eager hands scrabbling with unfamiliar clothes as the sheets tangle around them. Tom rolls with Hanna in his arms to pin her to the mattress. Bracing himself on one elbow, he lets his free hand move down towards the promise of bare belly even as Hanna hooks one of her legs around his hips to press herself closer.
There’s a knock at the door.
“Uh, I hope I’m not interrupting anything important here,” he dimly hears Emma’s voice over the blood rushing in his ears. “But I’m supposed to tell you that there won’t be any breakfast left if you two lovebirds don’t make it downstairs in ten minutes.”
A very un-Tom-like part of him wants to say ‘fuck breakfast’, but then he thinks about all the things his family will say, and even though he can live with the constant jabs that’ll follow, he can’t to that to Han.
So, Tom tries to clear his head, still pressed against Hanna who is breathing hard. “I…” Well, that sounded rather squeaky so he clears his throat. “We’ll be down in a bit.”
The only answer is cackling from behind the closed door and footsteps that hurry away.
Tom looks down at Han, who now looks as desperate as he feels. Maybe they can compromise?
“We do have ten minutes… I could… you know?”
Hanna huffs and laughs a little, shaking her head. “As much as I want to, and believe me I want it very much, ten minutes? That’s going to be our first time?” she grins.
Tom wiggles his brows. He can so definitely feel a flush rising in his cheeks. He also feels many different things, mostly body parts that would gladly be up for that challenge.
“You’re very confident about those abilities of mine, Hanna,” he murmurs and nuzzles his nose into her neck. He can’t get enough of her smell.
“I’m sure, you’d be…” Tom’s world spins for a moment when he feels Hanna’s hand through his boxer shorts. “Up for that,” she finishes.
Tom groans in response and again wants to say ‘fuck it all’, but no, Hanna is right. A ten-minute short rump while his family is downstairs eating breakfast knowing exactly what Hanna and Tom do in his room. No.
Suddenly Hanna stiffens beneath him, and Tom raises his head to look at her, sure the confusion is written on his face.
“Did she,” Hanna starts, “Emma said ‘lovebirds’, didn’t she? How the hell do they know so fast?!”
She looks as panicky as she did yesterday, but Tom still can’t help but chuckle. “I’m quite sure my mum knew before me, Han.”
“Argh!” Hanna’s hands leave Tom’s tempting body so she can hide her flushing face behind them with a mortified groan.
“Don’t be embarrassed, love.” She can feel more nuzzling and soft kisses being peppered all over her neck and jaw, which makes her arch her back again. She wants to curse his sisters to hell and back, but somehow she can’t. They were so lovely, and clearly they understand Tom well.
“I swear she’s got a sixth sense when it comes to those things,” Tom mumbles against her skin. He hisses when she rubs against him and lifts his hips to sto the friction. “And I’m sort of grateful she invited you because it gave me the final push I needed to…” He clears his throat. “Confess my…feelings for you.”
Hanna peeks at him through her hands, the earnest, loving look on his face almost too much to handle.
“Since when have you known, Tom?”
He blinks and blushes, automatically moving back a little whenever she tries to get some contact with his body back.
“I guess it was something gradual, though I was attracted to you right from the day we bumped into each other in Australia. It must’ve slyly crept up on me and into my brain and heart without me really noticing it. And then…”
He shifts to cradle her face in one large hand, cupping her jaw as tenderly as if it were made of glass. “Remember that day I called you to talk about the dog in High Rise and how difficult it was to handle what happens to him? And we ended up talking about our dream home and dogs and other books with animals–and it hit me over the head. That I’d very much like a chance at such a life with you.”
Hanna is sure she can’t keep that stupid grin off her face. She does remember. They had long calls before that and texted each other when she was still in Germany. But that day felt different.
He didn’t just call her to talk then. He wanted to know her opinion and to reassure him. Yes, she remembers it clearly.
“Something did change then, didn’t it?” she asks and leans into his touch. God, she loves those electric sparks she gets.
She tries to touch him again, but he leans even farther away. “To-hom.”
Said man just chuckles and then leans his head closer, his lips at her ear. “If you keep touching me, we’re going to stay here until they barge in. We don’t want that.”
Ugh. Right. They don’t. But he’s so tempting. “Get off me, then,” Hanna huffs, but the glare won’t stay and all she can do is grin at Tom. Her… is he her boyfriend now?
Tom presses a last kiss to her mouth before moving off her with a reluctant sigh. “Ten minutes means no shower, but I guess I should be a gentleman and let you use the bathroom first. So off you go, ladies first.”
She shoots a glance at his tented boxers and giggles. “You could definitely use a cold shower.”
Tom swats her butt lightly as she gets up, wiggling his brows. “And whose fault is that, hm? You’re way too tempting in my bed. I will have to torture myself by doing complicated sums in my head before I face the inquisition downstairs.”
Hanna sways a little standing at the foot of the bed and scrunches up her face, and Tom is out of the bed in an instant, taking her arm. “Han, what’s the matter? Are you alright?” He tilts her face up with his free hand, searching it for signs of discomfort.
She swats at him. “Don’t be such a fussy mother hen, Tom. I’m okay. Just a bit hung-over, I guess. That vile pepermint thingy should be illegal.” She rubs a hand over her face and frowns even more. “God, I must be having morning breath from hell. Yuck. How can you even stand being close and kissing me?”
Tom throws his head back on a laugh. “My silly darling. What’s a bit of morning breath when I’ve got the most wonderful woman in the world in my arms at last?” To prove his point, he gives her another thorough kiss that has her swaying a bit again, then gently pushes her towards the bathroom.
“Away with you, temptress.”
With a shake of her head, she disappears, and Tom can’t stop the blissfully happy grin from spreading on his face. She’s his girlfriend now, isn’t she?
They’re both ready in the promised ten minutes, Hanna sneaking across the hallway to her room to change her clothes. Yes, they all obviously know, but Tom’s family doesn’t have to see that they’ve spent the night together.
So they’re both casually dressed, Tom admittingly more so since he doesn’t have to impress anyone.
Hanna’s nervous. Even more than she was yesterday. Now they know. And now they’ll look at her differently, won’t they?
“Hey.” She jumps a few centimetres, hearing Tom’s voice in her ear before they walk down the stairs. “Please, don’t be nervous.”
Her head jerks to him, and to Hanna’s credit she at least tries to look surprised. “What? I’m not… I don’t… I’m not nervous,” she grumbling.
She wants to slap that stupid grin from his face. How dare he read her like that? “Han, you may have spent just one night in my bed, but I do know when you’re nervous. It’s gonna be alright. They love you already.”
Hanna tries to give him a smile and a nod, but it feels forced even for her. “Yeah.”
God, she’s cute when she’s nervous. Well, to be honest, she’s cute most of the time.
Tom runs a hand over her freshly combed hair before giving the end a slight tug. “If you think you’re too anxious to face the Hiddleston bunch, I could always kiss you thoroughly. That’ll make your head so fuzzy you won’t remember to be nervous.”
He wiggles his brows and bends close, making an exaggerated pouting kissy mouth.
“Don’t you dare, Thomas!” Hanna ducks out of the way with a reluctant grin. “I need all my brain cells to face this.”
They’re interrupted by two voices at the bottom of the staircase, and their heads jerk towards the sound almost guiltily.
“Oooh, see, she’s already calling him ‘Thomas’. She’s definitely got a handle on him,” Sarah stage-whispers between giggles.
Emma, next to her, nods vigorously, grinning from ear to ear. “Want to bet whether she can resist the Tommy puppy dog face or not?”
He notices Hanna snicker. With the groan of a fatally wounded person, he slaps a hand to his chest and staggers. “My fate is sealed. I am doomed. It’s a conspiracy of lovely ladies, out to make my life miserable.”
Among laughter, another voice can be heard from the kitchen. “I will most certainly make your life miserable if you don’t come down for breakfast this very minute!”
“Breakfast!” Tom whoops. He grabs Hanna’s hand and simply drags her down the stairs with him.
Hanna ends up stumbling past Emma and Sarah who simply grin at her. It’s not teasing, they almost look…happy?
They reach the kitchen where Diana has truly outdone herself. Again. Five plates of Full English Breakfast are waiting on the table, along with pancakes, hard-boiled eggs, juice, fruit and yoghurt.
Hanna stops at the door, gobsmacked, while Tom sits down, grinning happily, after wishing his mum a good morning.
“Good morning to you too. And to you as well, Hanna. I hope you’ve… slept well.”
Emma and Sarah march into the kitchen sitting down as well and only then Hanna realises Tom’s brothers in law and niece are missing.
Sarah seems to know what Hanna’s thinking. How do those Hiddlestons do that? “Oh, we sent the men to the beach with the child. We can have a quiet breakfast then,” she winks.
Hanna looks at Tom’s mother who looks expectantly back. “Diana, you shouldn’t have…”
“Oh, darling. Your spoilt boyfriend over there loves a breakfast like that.” Boyfriend. Diana said it.
Stunned, Hanna simply sits down next to Tom, a little overwhelmed by it all.
“Has he impressed you with his oh-so staggering ‘I can get a full English breakfast hot on the plate at the same time’ skills yet?” Emma asks, nudging Hanna and winking before pouring herself a cup of coffee.
Blushing fire-engine red, Hanna busies herself with her own cup of coffee, infinitely glad for the caffeine boost. “Uh…he..I…”
Tom comes to her rescue, well-behaved enough to chew and swallow before he speaks. “Em, don’t embarrass her. We haven’t…you know…” He blushes and stammers too. “I haven’t yet had the chance to spend the night with Hanna and woo her with breakfast the next morning.”
Sarah stabs a fork in his direction. “Seriously, Thomas? You’ve been gushing about this lovely lady for months and you still haven’t,” she makes quotation marks with her free hand, “made her breakfast? Don’t tell me you’re thinking of popping the proverbial cherry under this roof.”
Tom chokes on a bite of egg, coughing and spluttering as Hanna and his mother slap his back.
“For heaven’s sake, can we not discuss my sex life during breakfast, euphhemism or not?” His face looks so funny that Hanna has to chortle into her cup, and suddenly everyone else is laughing too while Tom mutters curses and fidgets.
“Can we not discuss Thomas’s sex life period?” Diana asks when she stops wheezing. “I already love you dearly, Hanna, but I really don’t want to know what you guys are up to.”
“Mum!” Tom exclaims and sends the table into a fit of laughter again.
Hanna can’t help but think how much she loves these people already. She doesn’t have siblings herself - and she’s a little glad she’s never been mocked like that - but damn, she knows she’s going to miss this when they’re back at London.
With a bit of a panic she realises that London also mean more people with cameras. Oh, she needs to tell her parents, doesn’t she? Before her mother reads one of those yellow press magazines at the hair dresser.
She startles a little and looks at Tom. “Huh?” she stammers out, and blushes. She didn’t hear a single thing of that conversation.
“Mum asked if you like Suffolk so far.” Tom shoots her a funny look, but she just smiles and shrugs then turns to Diana.
“I love it. I haven’t seen much, but I definitely adore your house.”
Diana looks at her so knowingly again that Hanna is almost sure Tom’s mum is a psychic. “Tom will show you the beach before you leave. You’ll love it.”
Under the table, Tom’s hand reaches for hers and squeezes.
“I had that idea as well. Really. I came up with it all on my own.”
Emma chuckles. “You just wanted your girlfriend for yourself.”
“Well, naturally. If I don’t get her away from you two mean madwomen, she’ll ditch me before she’s even properly dated me. And if I don’t get her away from Mum, she’ll be so in love with her that she won’t even remember her pining boyfriend.”
His mum rolls her eyes and pats his hand with an indulgent smile while Emma leans over to steal a sausage from his plate. Sarah huffs. “Alright, spoilsport, whisk her away to the beach. But only if you promise to bring Han home again soon. We’ll have to take her shopping and get hours’ worth of sisterly gossip in because I have a feeling you’ll get down on one knee and present her with a ring so soon it’ll all shock us into a coma.”
This time, Hanna is the one choking and spluttering. Tom aims a glare at his sister while also making use of his long legs and kicking her shin a little.
He pats and fusses over Hanna, knowing he’s blushing again.
“For fu…heck’s sake, first it’s sex and now it’s marriage. Intimidating much?”
Sarah mumbles a sorry and hides a tiny grin behind her hand.
Before anyone can say anything else, Hanna’s phone rings in her pocket. She pulls it out and swallows. “It’s Mama.”
Eyes wide, she stares at him, and Tom swears his stomach wants to heave up all the lovely breakfast food in a new bout of nerves. So this is it? Will she tell her parents too?
“Excuse me,” Hanna mumbles, first turning pale then red. She hurries out and Tom can hear her start talking without actually understanding anything. “Guten Morgen, Mama. Ja, ich bin bei Tom und seiner Familie. Ja, der Tom…” (Good morning Mama. Yes, I’m with Tom and his family. Yes, that Tom…)
Just as Tom wants to turn his attention to his breakfast again, Hanna will tell him later he hopes, he realises how all the remaining women stare at him.
“What?” he swallows.
They just raise their brows and Tom feels like he’s 12 again. They’ve done it since then, even then small, innocent Emma. And he still caves.
“I won’t thank you for anything and I won’t tell you anything. If you think that, I’m sorry.”
“Well, a thank you would be nice. You’d have pined after her for five more years if it weren’t for us,” Emma states dryly.
Tom splutters. “That’s… that’s not true. Not five years.” They all still stare at him. “Alright. Thank you, I guess.”
“You’re welcome.” Sarah smiles genuinely and pats his hand before stealing another sausage from her brother. “She is lovely.”
Tom can’t help the grin escaping and he can’t help that embarrassed chuckle either. “Believe me, I know.”
‘She’ returns to the kitchen a moment after. Looking a little pale, a little guilty, but also a little smug.
Oh god, what is it now?
He swallows, wondering how many surprises and confrontations he can handle in such a short time. Maybe he should’ve got drunk on that vile peppermint thingy? Would he be able to get away with some alcohol in the morning?
“Tom, Mama would like to talk to you,” Hanna says, holding the phone out to him.
Yes, alcohol sounds good right about now.
Of course, he knows a bit about Hanna’s family and life in Germany. There’s barely anything the two of them haven’t talked about while becoming friends…and more. But she’s never really mentioned how much her parents know about him or what they think of their daughter befriending a famous moviestar.
Hauling in some air and resolutely refusing to look at his sisters’ or mother’s face, Tom unfolds himself from his chair and walks towards Hanna. He follows her into the living-room, wiping a clammy palm on his well-worn jeans.
Taking the phone, Tom frantically tries to remember some of his ten or so German phrases, keenly aware of Hanna’s intent gaze on him.
Hanna scrambles for her mobile and puts her mother on speaker. There’s no way in hell she’ll let them talk without knowing what’s going on.
She’s nervous, but yes, a little satisfied that she’s not the only one who faces the inquisition this weekend.
“Oh, wie schön! Du sprichst ja Deutsch. Ich wusste nicht, dass Hanna dir was beigebracht hat!” Hanna hears through the phone. She has to stiffle her laugh seeing the look on Tom’s face. He’s utterly bewildered and looks so guilty for not speaking perfect German as if he’s sorry for being born in the wrong country.
He clears his throat, and Hanna has the feeling that this is Tom’s acting education coming through. “Mrs. Engel, I’m so sorry. I’m afraid I didn’t catch that, I’ve got quite a bit of German to learn.”
Her mother laughs, and now Hanna is the one caught off guard. She’s never heard that laugh before. “Oh, don’t be sorry. I just said how nice it is that you speak German, and that I didn’t know Hanna taught you.” Hanna realises her mother didn’t offer the use of the first name. Then again, that’s quite of a German thing to do.
“She tried,” Tom offers and shoots Hanna a loving look that leaves her belly with butterflies, and her heart with some kind of stutter. “I’m just too busy to properly learn.”
“Well, I hope you’re not too busy. Now that Hanna was with your family, we feel a little jealous.” Hanna closes her eyes. She didn’t really tell her mother much, but somehow she seems to have the idea Tom and Hanna are already married without telling anyone.
But Hanna’s mother, not being used to the constant apologies, simply talks on. “I know you’re both busy, but Hanna will come for Christmas. It’s a little time until then, but maybe you can come then too?”
Hanna’s sure her eyes look just as wide as panicky as Tom’s do at the moment. He’s rather pale as well.
Hanna shakes her head no, throws her arms around, even hissing “no” but Tom doesn’t seem to get any of that.
Because the next thing Hanna hears from him is a resolute “Oh, yes, I’d love that. Thank you for the invitation.”
“That’s great! We’ll talk about the details later, I need to go visit a friend’s house.”
Tom just nods dumbly before seeming to realise he actually has to say something. “Have a good day, Mrs Engel.”
“You too, dear. Bye! Oh, und tschüss, Hanna. Es ist so nett von dir, dass du deinen Freund nicht alleine lässt.” (Oh, and bye Hanna. It’s so nice of you not to leave your boyfriend alone like that.)
They hang up, and Hanna stares at Tom who stares back. “What the fuck?!” she exclaims at the same time as Tom shouts, “I panicked!”
Hanna sighs. Then grins, then laughs, also it’s a little unbelieving. “So, Christmas at my house. You have no idea what you’ve gotten yourself into.” He really hasn’t.
“I’ll be fine.” He walks closer to her and Hanna gladly lets herself being pulled into an embrace. She also gladly lets herself being pulled into a kiss. “Promise,” Tom murmurs into her mouth.