Disclaimer: Just playing. I know I can't keep 'em...damnit!
Thanks to KT for Monarch of the Glen AU
Summary: Living up to expectations is a job in itself.
Roughly follows, and refers to KT's story Dream
Thanks to KT for Monarch of the Glen AU
Summary: The boys try something new for breakfast.
Author's Note: Small nod to 'Friends'.
Tongue poking out of one side of his mouth, JD replaced the absent candy rosette from the top of a beautifully frosted chocolate birthday cake. Straightening up and stepping back, he quickly wiped from his lips the remains of the piped chocolate decoration Nettie had put there herself, tilted his head slightly, and grinned at his creativity. "Ha, not too shabby if I say so myself."
It was Monday evening, and Nettie was away for a few days visiting an old friend, and also dropping in on Casey at her university digs, before heading back. Tomorrow was Vin's birthday, and Nettie baked Vin's cake before she left, with strict instructions to JD to ensure it got to him on the big day. Guilt flashed over the young laird's features at his deed, but he reminded himself it wasn't due to greed that he needed to replace the iced treat on the top.
Nettie had locked the cake away in the storeroom in Chris's office to prevent Vin from finding it early - and likely eating most of it after doing so. JD waited for Vin to leave for the night, and then popped to the office to retrieve the cake. All was going well until he took the lid off the tin to check the cake was still in one piece. The metal cover somehow flipped out of his hands, to land side on and slap bang in the middle of the central chocolate decoration.
He'd hunted through Nettie's supplies and found a packet of assorted iced rosettes. Using a knife, JD skimmed off the majority of the damaged decoration, leaving just enough to set the chosen chocolate rosette on top of to secure it to the cake. Left with a knife-blade full of chocolate piping, he did the only decent thing - slid his finger along the flat of the blade and ate the evidence. He grinned. Tough work, but it had to be done.
A memory unexpectedly flashed through his mind of making his first, and last cake for his mom, to coax her when at her sickest into eating something…anything. She had accepted a slice, bless her, but barely touched it. He hadn't eaten chocolate cake since that day until joining the guys at Glenneaval.
Realizing he was getting a little melancholy, JD snapped out of it and replaced the cake tin's lid. Tomorrow at breakfast, he would carry Nettie's cake out of the kitchen and into the dining room, with the intention of surprising Vin in the morning while he received his gifts. The Ghillie was always up at the crack of dawn to traverse the estate to his first destination of the day. Prior to resuming his duties, he would join the rest of them at the house for a hearty breakfast. By the time Vin arrived tomorrow, his gifts would already be waiting.
The next morning, on entering the decorated dining room, Vin's eyes bugged and he grinned. Last year, Josiah, Ezra, Chris, Nathan, and Angus had bought him some really nice gifts, the year before that, more simple gifts with his birthday cards, but this…
He shook his head at the balloons and streamers and directed his grin at JD and Buck. "You two are mad."
"Now then, Vin," Buck beamed back. "Don'ae be afraid to speak your mind."
The others chuckled, jolting when Nathan's fascination with a long, blue balloon ended with it popping. Everyone jolted, and then laughed. Josiah jokingly clutched at his heart.
"Well, that woke us up," Ezra deadpanned.
Directing them all to the silver serving dishes sitting on warming trays atop a long, walnut cabinet, JD guided them through what he, Buck, Nathan, and Ezra had cooked that morning. The boy was bubbling with excitement, while Buck and Nathan just grinned; and even the normally unreadable estate attorney proffered a smile.
"You cooked, Ezra?" Chris asked with eyebrows raised as he lifted the domed lids with increasing admiration at the selection.
"He cooked kidneys," JD announced before making a face. "I've never had kidneys." He figured they sounded gross, but when Ezra added the mustard and cream, JD had to admit, they looked, and smelled good.
Vin's eyes lit up. "I love kidneys."
Ezra, Buck, Nathan, and JD grinned. "We know," they chorused. They decided to include them in the birthday breakfast menu on recalling a conversation, not long after Angus passed away, when Vin revealed his appreciation of offal. They already knew he loved sweet and chocolate treats, so learning this from the usually reserved Scotsman was a revelation.
"Nettie's cooking liver, kidney, and bacon pie for dinner when she gets back…oop…" JD hung his head when Josiah, Nathan, Ezra, and Buck frowned at him for blabbing out the surprise. "Sorry."
Tanner chuckled and approached them all. "Ach, don'ae fret, surprise or no, it'll taste wonderful."
The seven took up plates and helped themselves to everything from bacon, sausage, black pudding, haggis, eggs, fried bread, and kidneys, to Scotch pancakes with homemade wimberry jam.
For gifts, Chris gave Vin a Scottish-made penny whistle, after one day finding him attempting to puff on the bagpipes Chris used when in the Black Watch Regiment. Nathan's gift was an SOS talisman pendant with a Scottish thistle on its face, for Vin to enter all his personal and medical details…just in case of an accident while out alone. Ezra handed over seven rugby tickets for the next Calcutta cup, insisting he had a contact in the city with access to corporate seating. With that in mind, and having consulted with Ezra, Josiah bought Vin the latest Scottish rugby jersey. Not yet knowing Vin as well as the others, JD and Buck combined their efforts to buy something for the only activity they had actually seen Vin enjoy - so far. Tanner was delighted with his new waders, tackle box, and fly fishing rod and reel.
With Vin still overwhelmed by his friends' generosity, JD startled them all when he leapt up from his seat at the table. "Oh! I almost forgot." They watched him race off.
Nettie opened the creaky outer kitchen door and stepped in from the side courtyard. Inhaling, she smiled. It was good to be home. She spied the two chocolate-colored Labradors that often accompanied Vin, sitting in their baskets in the corner of the kitchen and next to the Aga stove.
"The birthday boy's here, eh lads?" She smiled at the tail-wagging retrievers, then looked toward the pounding of feet approaching the inner kitchen door.
"John Daniel! What have I told you about running inside the house?"
Now it was JD's turn to clutch at his chest in shock at the unexpected appearance of the castle housekeeper. "Shoot, Nettie, I almost had a heart attack." He noted her frown and hung his head. "Sorry ma'am."
She smiled. "You're forgiven laddie. Now, what is it that's caused you to rush so?"
"Oh…" he pointed to the cake tin, "I came for Vin's birthday cake." He frowned. "How come you're back so soon?"
She tilted her head. "While I stayed with my friend last night, Casey called to say she forgot that she had two exams today. So I came home."
JD uncovered the cake and then picked up the plate the cake was on.
"Good Lord. Is it an American tradition to have cake for breakfast?"
JD moved to leave. "Uh, nope…just a Vin tradition…or at least, I reckon it could be. Like me, he loves sweet stuff, so I figured, seeing as you were still away and all, I'd give it to him at breakfast."
Nettie's smile widened. JD was such a sweetie. "Go, I'll be along shortly." She watched JD leave then turned to close the outer door, but was hindered by the castle mouser, Tigger, who was pushing in to get a warm by the Aga. She hissed on spotting the Labradors.
"Oh, no…not today, puss…no…"
The next few seconds was utter bedlam as Tigger, tail high and determined to get to a warm spot, strode fearlessly past Dougal and Bren.
"Boys, no, NO!"
The dogs sat up, barked, and then proceeded to chase the cat out of the kitchen and into the vast hallway. Tigger knew there was often a door open at the back of the castle and headed in a straight line for it.
Cake in hand, JD was about to walk into the dining room when the feline torpedo whipped past his ankles. JD tottered and, as he appeared about to stumble, looked in dread at his watching and astonished friends. Catching his balance, he grinned with relief, only to be bowled clean over by two rambunctious, barking Labradors.
The cake and its platter went up into the air, and JD went sprawling into the dining room directly after it. Both came to a halt on the solid wooden floor with a hefty splat.
"Dougal, Bren…DOWN!" Vin's command, followed by a shrill whistle stopped the dogs in their tracks and they went to the floor on their bellies instantly. Before he could reach JD, or them, Nettie, who had given chase, nodded to him and ushered the two dogs back to the kitchen. Vin gratefully returned the nod before he squatted next to the prostrate, winded laird.
Wondering whether his knee, elbow or ribs hurt more, JD looked up to see the smashed cake on the floor just ahead of him. "Aww hell, no." Reaching out, he picked up a redundant candle, planted it into the remains of the wrecked masterpiece, and pouted up at Vin. "Uh, happy birthday."
He appreciated the hand up from Vin and Buck. Bending over for a moment JD rested his hands on his knees until his half-emptied lungs re-inflated. He frowned when Tanner went back to the table, and returned with two forks.
"Aww, such a shame, it looked so nice, too. Did you make it?"
Rubbing his ribcage, JD took a few breaths, then shook his head at Vin. "No, Nettie did." He took the offered fork and looked at the birthday boy inquisitively. "What…?"
Vin crouched down and dug the fork into the two thirds of the cake not in contact with the shiny floor. "Most of this is good. I'm no about to let it go untasted." Placing the forkful of cake into his mouth, he released a chocolaty grin. "Mmmm, delicious."
JD laughed and took some cake. His grin of approval prompted the others to do likewise, and they cleared a good bit away before a horrified Nettie came in and 'shooed' them out in order to clear it up; promising to make Vin another chocolate cake for later.
Full to bursting after their breakfast, the seven made a move to continue on with the day to day running of the estate. Vin turned to his friends.
"Thank you for breakfast, and my gifts. I really appreciate them all."
Chris shook his head. "I can't believe I just ate cake off a floor."
Laughing, they thanked Nettie, and left. Tigger swaggered in, sat at the edge of the remaining dollop of cake, and sniffed it before walking away in disgust.
Nettie had to laugh as she bent to scoop it up. "A cat will turn its nose up at eating a free treat off a floor, yet not, it would seem, seven men. And I thought I'd seen everything."
She frowned; leaned in closer, and stared hard at an iced rosette she knew wasn't put on the cake by her. Nettie's eyes narrowed and she straightened.
http://www.merchantandmakers.com/wimberry-pie-mucky-mouth-pie/ - (wimberries grow wild on open moors and are related to bilberries. I often picked them as a kid growing up near to mountains.)
Kidneys with Mustard Sauce
Serves 2 - Ready in 30 minutes
2 kidneys (lamb is best but pork is good, too)
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
3 tbsp single cream
25cl white wine
knob of butter
salt & pepper
Skin the kidneys and slice them horizontally. Remove the cores and cut them into chunks. Put them in a sieve and pour boiling water over them twice. Heat a little butter in a frying pan. Gently fry the kidneys in it until cooked as you like them (about 5 minutes). Remove the kidneys from the pan and keep warm. In the same frying pan, add the mustard and white wine. Simmer to reduce, and then add enough cream to make a smooth sauce.
Return the kidneys to their sauce and reheat gently, without cooking any further. Serve with rice and garnished with parsley.