Actions

Work Header

Time and Again

Chapter Text



Mo ghràdh, You forever hold my heart and our love and to you I entrust her care and protection until I return. Please understand and forgive me but I must go back. Until our spirit shall be done.  J



Time. Time alone was what he’d needed and the last week living rough on the moors had given him that. Away from the constant demands for his time and attention, he’d sought solitude to consider his future and a plan to move forward. Now it was time to head back, not home to Lallybroch this time where he truly wanted to go, but his refuge, while he finished sorting things out. He wasn’t a man given to backing away from a challenge, it wasn’t in his bones to do so, but how long could he chase a ghost? Would a lifetime be enough? Whose lifetime?



“Claire, dear, listen to me,” Frank jostled her from her comfy spot, nestled against his side as he straightened up and shifted his body into the corner of the couch they’d been sharing as he turned towards her, removing his arm from around her shoulders to better see her.

“Frank, can’t it wait a bit?” she asked a bit petulantly. “I need a little inspiration,” she continued not taking her eyes from the screen.

“No, I’d rather not, Claire. I’m sorry, but it’s important.”

Sensitive to his uncharacteristically sharp tone, she straightened up and turned towards him, “Alright, do go on then if you must, but I don’t know what could be so important now, to interrupt what promises to be a bloody good sex scene,” she added flippantly trying to lighten his mood.

Claire muted the sound but kept the picture running in the background.

“I’ve met someone.” He said it softly almost apologetically.

That got her immediate and full attention and reaching out and grabbed his nearest leg with both hands, “Oh, Frank! That’s wonderful, do tell!” as she sat back and settled in, “I want to hear all the details!”

Rather shyly Frank raised his head and met her eyes with a grin slowly spreading across his face as he prepared to share his happy news with his dearest friend. “I can’t tell you his name just yet, he’s – well, we – we’re not quite ready to go public, and I have to respect his wishes and concerns especially given all our circumstances. You’ll understand better than just about anyone else, but I needed you to know. We promised each other, remember?”

“Of course, I do.” Claire leaned back resting her head on the cushion as she looked at him before she continued, “Ah Frank,” she let out with a breath with a small pleased smile as she considered his news, “I am happy for you, really.” In truth Claire also felt an unexpected relief. Frank had had a few, very discreet, little flings in the past, which both tacitly acknowledged, but she had worried he would be caught out and the ultimate consequences would impact his - their professional positions. This was the first time he’d been forthright about anyone with her, so he must be someone very important to Frank, enough that he was serious about moving the relationship forward. She could support that, full heartedly.

“Claire,” looking pensive for a moment, Frank quietly stroked her arm, and took hold of her hand, “I’m sorry. I would never want to hurt you, I hope you know that.”

She considered this a moment and knowing it to be true, accepted his news really had not hurt her feelings nor surprised her. Shaking her head, she acknowledged it, “Hey, no, of course I know you’d never hurt me on purpose. This has only worked for as long as it has because we’ve had each other’s best interests at heart. I guess I’m a bit afraid; I just don’t want to lose my friend.”

“Claire,” Frank started, speaking her name curtly and looked at her as if was being ridiculous.

But she interrupted, “No, it’s okay. I’m a big girl, Frank and it’s time. . .” Time for what?  “Time to come out of hiding. I want,” her voice gaining strength in her certainty “– no, NEED, to experience a bit more real life and not just through a one-dimensional screen!” and with her own unexpected outburst flung the remote at the silent screen where the characters were now thoroughly exploring each other’s naked body amongst their discarded clothes littering the floor. And then again, her mind registering the scene, flinging her hand toward the screen with her finger shaking, Claire released some of her own pent-up frustrations, “I want some of that!”

Looking at each other with bemused expressions at her rant, Claire and Frank burst into laughter and fell into each other’s arms. Frank leaning forward, hugged Claire to himself, pulling her to his side, kissed her temple and vowed, “All right, frustrated, are you? Well dear, it’s high time we found you a man.”

“Great, I’ll just run right out and pick one up; great guys, aisle 4,” she muttered under her breath, but felt an unexpected twinge of anticipation.

“Well you are on a military base, plenty of men, you only have to toss your shoe and you’ll hit one, anyone interesting?”

Claire looked up at Frank from under the shelter of his arm and quirked her brow.

“Forget I suggested that.”

“That’s forgotten, but don’t you forget, I still want details,” as they were settling back.

And Frank, with his own satisfied smile growing as he considered, gave her an assuring squeeze, a quick glance, and responded, “When I can, I promise.”

“I’ll speak to Dom and see about getting things taken care of. And,” she added a bit hesitantly, “since, you’ve been honest with me, I’ve been feeling… I don’t know, restless? That’s there’s maybe someone waiting for me?” and blushing a bit recalling her recent dreams, “a bit better suited?”

Frank grinned down at her, “I’m sure darling. Changes are in the air, I can feel it.”

They snuggled back into their comfy positions, rewound the video for more inspiration, and only occasionally interrupted their peace with a snigger as they each contemplated what had been said and what was to come.

 

Chapter Text



Claire entered Dominique Raymond’s office and leaning down gave him an affectionate hug and kiss before plopping down in the chair across from him. She took liberties no one else would have ever considered. He’d been her uncle’s closest friend and when Uncle Lambert had been killed Dom had stepped up, following Lamb’s footsteps in effect as her surrogate father and mentor overseeing her education, safety and wellbeing.

When she’d graduated from medical school, he’d offered her a position with his organization providing medical services for off-site International military forces. It had somehow seemed romantic at the time. The reality had been harsh, the experience gained in trama response and care, incredible, and facilitated the rapid advance of her medical training.

“Raymond,” reverting to the name everyone else used to address him, “it’s time.” The power of three little words.

Could it really have been only a few months since Claire had met with him and her life had been flipped on its axis?

“Raymond, it’s time.”

What if I had just said, “Frank and I want to divorce. Can you help make it happen?”

 



She and Joe and had fallen right back into their easy relationship; they had always worked well together, and she knew he was someone she could always count on, even more so now it seemed, but she wasn’t ready to discuss it. Claire found she was looking at everything with a new perspective, but she had determined she’d stake her claim to as much independence as she could. She did not need babysitting despite Raymond’s insistence.

“So, how’re you adjusting, LJ?” Joe chuckled using his pet name for her as he looked up from his book when she walked into the doctors’ lounge and fixed herself a cup of coffee.

Claire quirked her brow at his open question, …so many possible responses. “No complaints for the most part, a few slog fests, but it’s good when it’s busy. Some interesting cases, thanks for helping steer those, my way,” she said slumping into the chair next to his and pulling one foot up onto the seat as she settled back into it sipping at her coffee.

“I knew work wasn’t a problem, nothing but praise coming your way, but I meant…” and reached toward Claire’s fizzy wig hair.

“Seriously?! You really want to make fun of my hair?” she laughed good-naturedly. “It is what it is and thank God for surgical caps! From desert to perpetual damp, now that’s an adjustment, but a good one.”

“Talking about adjustments, you know, Gail and I were sorry to hear about you and Frank.” Joe looked at her with brotherly concern. Up to this point he’d let Claire take the lead on what she was ready to share not pushing her, but in the weeks since she’d been there she’d not said a word and he decided she needed a nudge.

“It’s okay Joe, it was time,” and Claire gave him a nonchalant shrug. She hadn’t been ready to talk to him about it before. There really wasn’t anything to say. It was between her and Frank and not a subject for gossip even with friends.

“Well folks here know that we’re friends, and I’ve had a couple of the other docs checking with me; they want to ask you out, but you’ve been, how should I say this?... polite, professional, unapproachable,” his wide grin showing his mouthful of brilliant white teeth as he teased her.

Claire smiled into her coffee and nodded in agreement with his assessment, “I’ve fielded a few invites myself, but you know what they say about shitting where you sleep? I don’t think it’s a good idea and I know enough to know surgeons don’t always make the best partners. You of course are an exception to the rule, but, you’re taken and I’m not going to give Gail any cause to snatch my hair out by the roots. Lucky that I like my hair and intend to keep it.”

Joe laughed, “Alright, but we think it’s time for you to get out, make time for some fun; meet some folks outside the hospital. Gail’s been honing her match making skills and has a couple of fellas she wants to introduce to you, unless you already have candidates in line, hmm?” Joe pressed.

Smiling a bit Claire, “Seems I’m everyone’s pet project. Candidates? Hardly, I’d like to know who and when since I’ve already precluded the donor pool here. Now my neighbor, Louise, is doing her best to get me out too; wants to introduce me to some friends; I’m considering,” she cocked her head and looked at him with a mischievous glint, “But what I really want to know is just where in the bloody hell are all the bodice-ripping pirates when I really need one?” She eyed him conspiratorially as she pointed at the book in his lap. “If you have any new books, do share. I do have a free night on occasion,” she offered with a smirk.

“Oh this is a good one,” he waggled it back and forth.

“Dibs when you’re done. As for needing company? I appreciate your concern, but let me assure you, Joe, I’m a big girl and can take care of myself, thank you very much,” with a suggestive, rotating flip of her delicate hand. “The thing is,” and she looked around the empty lounge, “if I was just looking for a quick shag, then that’d be no problem, I’d just have to bat my lashes, crook my little finger, and drop my panties,” she giggled, “and maybe not even the first two. There’s always those lurkers hanging around, but you know that’s not me and I’m not looking to change, …just yet,” and waggled her brows, “but getting close to the station.” If you only knew.

Looking at her watch Claire, “Oops, gotta go check on Mr. McNeill. See you later,” and left to jump back into her daily routine, leaving Joe just smiling and shaking his head at her retreating back as she disappeared out the door.

Chapter Text



Claire loved the charm of Edinburgh, a city that embraced its history and historic structures, it was moving forward without entirely relinquishing its past. She’d lived a good portion of her life living out of her own time, in remote locations with her uncle during his digs. She’d traveled to the large modern metropolises around the world but they left her reeling as though she’d spent the day at an amusement park with the flashing lights and the upheavals of a roller coaster ride. The exhilaration and over stimulation were fun for a day, but she was never sad to leave them behind.

As a newbie on the staff and single, Claire had accepted and welcomed some long rotations but tonight, her body and mind were drained and she looked forward to making an early night of it and having a day off. She popped her dinner in the oven to keep warm and shed her clothes as she walked down the hall to her bedroom enjoying a long hot shower before slipping into pjs. She settled into her favorite spot by the window with a glass of wine while the curry dinner she’d grabbed from the local shop warmed.

She loved the expanse of windows in her rehabbed loft, remenants of its factory days when they were built to take in as much of the natural light as possible, as overcast as it frequently was it was an important feature. She leaned her head against the glass looking out at her neighborhood and pulled her fuzzy blanket up around her to ward off the chill she imagined outside. She was grateful she’d beat the rain before it set in turning the streets below into fun house mirrors reflecting the surrounding lights, street and red tail lights, and the cityscape beyond giving it an almost festive effect. The park’s lamps highlighted the autumn leaves that had been washed loose onto the path she walked to work, marking a yellow brick road for her to follow in the morning.

As she nibbled at her retrieved dinner, she thought about the weeks since she’d been here, the cacophony of street noises, just the number of people that had initially seemed an intrusion were finally becoming mere background noise to her life here. Claire decided she was settling in rather nicely all things considered. Well fuck, who am I kidding? For the first time in her life she had the freedom to live where she wanted and put down roots if she chose and it scared her, a woman who was rarely intimidated by any challenge.

She had to acknowledge her transition from the remote desert base to the city environment was taking her longer to adjust to than she’d expected. It was just going on three months since her conversation with Frank and then Raymond had set her life on a completely new tangent from where she’d been and here she was, new country, new job, and alone. Even with work and meeting new colleagues, she’d never before felt this isolated and resolved it was time to change.

Even though it had been nearly five years, Claire still missed Lamb and wished he was here to answer her questions, so many questions that Raymond had left her with. Her uncle had embellished her unconventional education by nurturing her imagination and curiosity, insisting she learn the local folklore and how influential it could be in forming the culture of the civilizations he was exhuming. Til now, she’d always appreciated her vivid imagination, her ability to get lost in daydreams, and possibilities, but it was currently running wild and she sorely needed a touch of modern-day reality.

Through observing Lamb and his colleagues, Claire learned reverence and respect for even the most mundane objects that had been lost through the ages of time but rediscovered and appreciated even though they might not be considered a significant find. She looked at her new knick knack, the empty blue vase sitting atop her mantle and smiled wondering if it too would one day turn up in some future archeologist’s dig and then whether they would understand how something as simple as a piece of pottery could be the start of a home.

Evenings might find them sitting around a campfire talking about the day’s discoveries and what might have been the purpose of some item and entertaining each other making up tales of the lives for the people that had used them. These conversations would frequently lead to musings about what it would be like to live “back then.” Living as they did, it was not a great stretch for her imagination to live without modern conveniences. And Lamb had somehow always managed to remind her in the smallest ways that even though the people he was studying may have lived hundreds even thousands of years apart, people were not so very different. They all wanted to live, to love, to survive and hopefully thrive, but not all did. And now everything he’d taught her, every conversation they’d had, was distorted with Raymond’s revelations.

Claire finally succumbed to the tiredness that was creeping through her body and accepted it was time to put away these thoughts and drag her ass to bed. She hated climbing between cold sheets and wished Frank was there to warm them. Turning out the bathroom light she walked across the darkened room and pulled back the covers and crawled into bed giving over to the comfort of it with a small groan as she settled into her spot. She’d yet to break her old habit and curled onto her side facing away Frank’s side of the bed deciding to forgo reading her current book left waiting on the bedside table. It rarely took her long to drop off and tonight she was gone within moments of her head hitting the pillow.

She lay there with her eyes closed, unable to open them, but something tugged at her slumber, a slight shift on the mattress? Something, a presence, a warmth tucked up against her back and breath rustling the hairs and tickling her neck. She stirred, responding to the hand caressing her arm as it moved to her hip stroking it, trembling waves emanating from it. Her consciousness pulled her toward wakefulness from a deep slumber; with a sleepy smile of recognition and happiness as a hand caressed her arm, she turned imagining Frank come to her and then startled full awake, realization hitting, That’s not Frank!

Chapter Text



“Raymond, it’s time.”

What if I had just said, “Frank and I want to divorce. Can you help make it happen?”

 

Raymond sat, head bowed, not looking at Claire while collecting his thoughts. He knew this day had been coming and despite that knowing was still not prepared, that was the great irony. This woman, a child of his heart, facing him was ready to leave her nest.

He just nodded before continuing. “You are correct ma chère, it’s time – all about time.”

Claire looked at Dom as he began to speak, Not now pleeeaase, I don’t have time for another philosophical discourse. She had listened to Lamb and Dom carry on for hours, they could debate any topic de jour, but not today, and groaned internally. “No, Dom, it’s time that Frank and I end this marriage. That’s all I’m…we’re asking is your help; I told Frank I’d talk to you. He’s met someone, and Wylie is long gone – a ghost, out of the picture and it’s time I got on with my own life.”

“So, that’s what you said, …it is about time.”

“I don’t think so, but have at it,” and Claire waved her hand at him knowing it was futile otherwise, settled back for an afternoon of listening with or rather to Dom.

“Claire, there are many mysteries in the universe that are yet unexplained. Some searchers spend their lifetime trying to discern and unravel them …they touch on the mystical, the magical, the unimaginable.

Among these mysteries are people such as yourself, me and, others that have certain gifts or abilities. Most live their lives never even aware of their ability or the havoc it can cause. And then there are those that come into their own, recognize their otherness, that they are outsiders. There are signs, they can be different for everyone, that indicate this growing awareness; a restlessness, curiosity, even dreams. . . And then the questions come, and the search for answers. It is a natural progression of human curiosity, don’t you agree?”

Claire attempted to engage and humor him, “Of course, I agree about curiosity, but I don’t understand where this is going. What’s your point? What has this to do with me?”

“Your dreams? You’ve felt him, a presence with you? Have you been wondering?” Raymond was looking at Claire with compassion.

Claire just looked at him dumbfounded and blushing furiously, she was so not going to discuss her fantasy dreams with Raymond! How the fuck do you know?!

“It’s all right, I know,” he spoke quietly as if reading her mind, and accepting her discomfort. “Someone, from your past.”

“Raymond, you’re losing me,” Claire balked, refusing to consider this topic, as she shifted in her seat trying to decide whether to leave.

Raymond just gave a slight shrug of his shoulder acquiescing. Gauging how much information to divulge and when was a unique challenge for each of his charges. Claire was proving to be every bit the challenge he had always expected and chose a new tack.

“Please,” he motioned with his hand indicating she should stay and waited as she settled back into her seat. “You should know that my connection with your family goes back, …long before your parents, and your Uncle Lamb.”

Silence filled the space between them while Claire just stared at him for a few moments. “What do you mean …exactly? Family ties?” He shook his head.

He had always seemed the same, good ole uncle Dom, hardly changing, maybe greying a bit around the edges Claire realized, “Just how old are you?” she narrowed her eyes at him speculatively.

Ah, she’d taken the first step… His smiled widened and he looked very much like the little frog they all joked that he resembled. “Today I feel four hundred years old give or take a decade or two, but what is time – it’s all relative is it not?” and allowed himself a quiet chuckle at his own joke.

“Well Einstein certainly had some thoughts on that subject.” She attempted to dismiss this line of conversation.

“He did, and we shared many a fine bottle and late-night conversation on the subject.” Dom’s gaze shifted to a distance beyond Claire and smiled as if in recollection.

“Noooo, you didn’t,” disbelief etched Claire’s brow as she shook her head at Dom’s smirk as he inclined his head and waved his hand in an off-hand manner as he continued. “Who is to say where a spark of inspiration may originate?”

“Really?! No, seriously, Dom, this getting a bit ludicrous.” Claire’s face, usually so open was now devoid of any tell-tale reaction as she considered whether she should be concerned for his sanity.

“Well not ludicrous, but a bit off track for the matter at hand.” Lifting his head and resettling himself, Raymond looked directly at Claire, “My child, we share a similar gift, an ability that few others have.”

“I like to think of it as a gift, but I don’t think our interest in medicine or healing is all that rare,” Claire countered.

Raymond, took Claire’s hands in his and turning them as though examining them and then looking back at her, “Ma chérie, the special touch of your hands, your caring for others; those are indeed true gifts, your calling that you have discovered and use to the benefit of others, but your ability, my dear, the one that I speak of is that we may travel through time.” Watching closely how this was being processed he proceeded slowly.

“Whether it’s a gift or a curse depends on how it is received and used.”

Claire just stared at Raymond, her mind racing to keep up.

Raymond had known Claire all her life and knew her intelligence and how she was now trying to accept and interpret the information he had just given her. He watched her face as her unspoken questions flashed across it and her mouth tightened as she bit them back.

“It is an ability sometimes passed from a parent to a child. In your case, it comes from both of your parents.”

“You’re kidding me, right? Time travelers…, hunh.” Claire huffed out the last with a deep breath. The words hung between them as she turned her thoughts inward weighing Dom’s revelation before speaking again just above a whisper, “My parents? Both of them?”

Raymond nodded, “And your Uncle Lamb, and paternal grandparents, and…”

“Wait. Stop, just stop!” Claire could no longer remain seated and pushed out of the chair and turned away from him, her fists clenched at her side. “How is that even possible?” she turned to challenge him, “And …so, what? Do I just get a pair of ruby slippers and click my heels three times…or do I step into a phone booth and disappear?”

“Non, non, and you will not suddenly vanish walking down the street, ma chère,” Raymond chuckled softly trying to lighten Claire’s stress that was becoming evident as she joked. “You must not worry about any of that now, I think that must be a discussion saved for another day.”

“But at this point you need to know that your safekeeping was entrusted to me. There are occasions when a child such as yourself comes into our care, and we take every precaution to assure they live as normal a life as is possible, as I said before, some never become aware or develop their gift. For those that do, someone like me, is there to help them through the transition, but even then, you might never travel.”

“And you think I’m going through a transition? I sound like one of those vampire characters,” and laughed nervously at the allusion.

Raymond just smiled and shrugged, “Not nearly so painful or dangerous, I assure you. But yes.”

Claire returned to her seat and squirmed as she looked at him unsure whether he was joking, or she’d opened another locked door of his fantasy world she was unprepared to enter. Before she could ask, he continued, “Through the centuries now, we’ve come to recognize the necessity to know each other and for the most part we do. It has been important to identify those of us that not only share similar gifts or abilities but also a like mind.”

Latching on to small details Raymond was leaking Claire jumped on them, she needed factual evidence and challenged him, “Alright then, just who is the ‘we’ and ‘our’ that you mentioned?”

“The simplest explanation is we are an independent international intelligence community, if you would – we have no political allegiance or ties. We are guardians in a manner; guardians of knowledge – of history through time.”

“Guardians, historians? What, …you mean there’s a bunch of Indiana Joneses hiding out in the bushes?”

He chuckled at the reference and threw up his hands, “Treasure hunters to be certain, but what is the true treasure? Is it the bauble or the knowledge? You’ve heard the expression, yes? ‘Knowledge is Power’ or as Frances Bacon wrote, ‘Knowledge is power itself.’ “

“Let me get this straight,” Claire licked her lips as she ticked off her fingers, “You said safekeeping? …am I in danger?” …who from and why?”

“It is unlikely, so as for your safety? We all have friends that watch over us, you need not worry, some you may know, others you may never know unless a need should arise.”

“You mean I’m being watched? All the time?”

Dom gave a light shrug as he nodded, “It’s just a precaution; you’ve never noticed, have you? There is nothing to impede living your life as you wish, and certainly there is no intrusion on your privacy.”

“Does Frank know about this?”

“Of course, my dear; he and your uncle were close friends and your Joe.”

“Were Uncle Lamb and Frank …?” she couldn’t bring herself to say it.

“Non! No,” and waved his hand dismissively at the unspoken suggestion. “They shared a passion for history and a love for you. Frank is one of your greatest supporters and protectors but no, he cannot travel, but as an historian and in his field of work, he is greatly invested in knowing the truth and keeping it.”

“And Joe?”

“And Gail,” Raymond winked at her, “because he can keep no secrets from her, but she is your friend too, no?”

“As for who… there are individuals that would use our gift, and knowledge to compromise and subvert history for their personal benefit – something that would rarely benefit mankind.”

“You mean go back and change history or can you go forward? I don’t understand,” shaking her head in disbelief, “why would someone risk it? I mean how would they know what the impact would be on the future, or hell our present?”

“Ah that is the conundrum my dear, what are the potential ripple effects? Consider. . . If you could, would you go back and stop a man like say, Hitler from implementing his New Order? Or John Wilkes Booth from assassinating Abraham Lincoln? Or going forward and getting stock tips, for example and coming back and meddling with world economy.

“Claire, I know you have many questions and I will answer them all as well as I am able. I believe we’ve just begun to stir the pot and more will surface as you take time to consider what you’ve learned today. We will continue this conversation another day, oui?”

“What? No! Raymond! That’s not fair, you can’t just dump something like this on me and say, ‘we’ll continue it another day’! When will that be?”

“When the time is right.”

“Raymond, why are you telling me all of this now?”

“You came to me.”

“About getting a divorce!”

“And why?”

“Are we talking in circles? Because Frank’s met someone and it’s time for him to be happy!”

“And you?”

“Arrgghh!” Claire rubbed at the pain in her forehead.

“Now as for you and Frank…”

“Raymond,” she was now totally exasperated by the whole conversation, “my head hurts, and I’m going back to my quarters, to bed.”

Raymond had facilitated their requests with extraordinary efficiency. The speed at which it had all been accomplished was she was sure due to Raymond’s connections. Just a few i’s to dot and t’s to cross, final papers signed and within weeks she and Frank were no longer married; fait accompli. Claire didn’t regret making it happen because it was Frank’s time. Their marriage was never going to be forever, now it was time for his happiness, maybe his happy ever after. She knew it but had to admit she missed him.

Chapter Text



With her heart pounding against her chest and a scream on her lips, Claire scrambled from the bed in a panic but as she tripped on the twisted bed linens wrapped around her, hitting the floor hard with her palms, she looked over her shoulder and could see even in the darkened room the bed was empty. The adrenaline coursing through her testified to the moment, her heart raced and her breath only coming in ragged gasps. It had been real; she knew it had been so real! She had wanted to laugh at herself, but she was shaking in a way that she couldn’t dismiss the incident out of hand. She had been so unnerved it was dawn before sleep finally pulled her back under as she lay on her sofa where she had retreated on wobbly legs clutching her pillow and spread.



This morning’s sun was a welcome relief from the ubiquitous drizzle Claire had expected so she took advantage and sat with her cooling cup outside the coffee shop that had become her morning way station. Closing her eyes behind her sunglasses, she tilted her face up letting the sun warm her as she ruminated.

Claire opened her mind and replayed her conversation with Raymond on a loop looking for clues she may have dismissed the first ten dozen times she’d revisited it. But Raymond had nailed her with his tease about curiosity; it was just the right hook to pull her in, but her follow-up requests for more information had so far been put off with his, “It isn’t yet the right time,”  or his latest admonition to, “Be patient.”

She’d spent the ensuing months trying to understand and sometimes it was just too much. She had to file it away and not let it consume her every moment, her patients deserved her entire focus, so it was a relief to escape to the confines of the hospital where she could leave it at the door.  

It was during the nights and in her dreams when she had no control. Since that night two weeks ago it had become an almost nightly…what …visitation? It wasn’t that they were unpleasant, just the opposite she admitted to herself, and after the first scare she’d had, she was succumbing to their pleasure with frightening ease though she always woke feeling incomplete and frustrated. 

“You’ve felt him, a presence with you? …Someone from your past.” Claire wasn’t sure why she even bothered but she considered the possibility, however, as deep as she dredged that shallow pool of possibilities, there was no one with whom she had that kind of attraction – no connection much less the affection she was imagining. Of course, it just ocurred to her that she was thinking it was someone she liked, but maybe not. Raymond hadn’t said that, she’d just assumed. Phillip?  and shuddered. No way could he be that tender.

It happened again last night. She’d woken feeling as though someone was in her bed making love to her in a way she knew she’d never before experienced. She had been startled awake at the touch of lips just behind her ear and a cool breath on her neck after a nip there, soft lips and and a wet tongue moved south leaving a trail of goosebumps. She could recall the feel as calloused fingers lazily circled her nipples and a warm palm held and gently massaged her breast until a warm mouth suddenly took her in, suckling at her and tonguing her now peaked nipple and lips playfully tugged it until releasing it with a moist pop and then disappeared. Claire was left so aroused that she realized if she were going to get back to sleep, she’d have to take matters into her own hands, but she wanted, needed more than phantom hands and lips. She wanted to be wrapped in someone’s arms, feel their weight pressing her down as she was taken and giving herself over to the sensations. She could feel her core starting to thrum just thinking about it and felt the heat rising in her face. God, she hated blushing as easily as she did – no impure thoughts for her! Frank was right, she needed to find a man and sooner would be preferable or she was going to turn into a zombie.

“Aren’t ye Dr. Claire Beauchamp?” a hand reaching toward her broke into Claire’s reflections startling her. “I’m Gellis Duncan, Pharmacology, thought I recognized ye. We haven’t met yet, but I’ve seen ye around and yer name on orders coming through my department.”

As Claire’s thoughts were jerked back to the present, her attention was drawn to the hand now inches from her face. She straightened up at the intrusion and pushed her glasses back on top of her head to better see who was speaking to her as she reached automatically to shake the hand offered to her. She looked up into the startling emerald green eyes of a beautiful, red headed woman standing in front of her who proceeded to seat herself in the empty chair across the table.

Claire was perturbed at the disturbance and it was evident in her tone though she remained polite. “Yes, I am. I’m sorry, I still haven’t learned everyone’s names yet. I don’t recall hearing yours.” Claire lowered her sunglasses back to her nose as she scrutinized the woman more closely.

“Ye probably wouldn’t. I stay buried down in the pharm lab most of the time, the doctors rarely make it down there; usually it’s just the techs, nurses or sometimes a stray intern, but I’ve heard talk of ye. You’ve been turning the heads of quite a few of the lads ye know. More than a few of the lassies are a bit rattled now that ye’re here, a diversion of interests ye are. I find it’s good to know the competition,” Gellis added with a humorous glint.

“No, no competition here, I assure you!” Claire asserted, amused at the effrontery of the woman.

Gellis eyed her speculatively but changed the tack of her questioning. “So why are ye here then?”

Claire laughed. “You mean if not for the blokes?” and chuckled again, considering her own recent thoughts, but quieted them. “…I would think that’s obvious,” Claire pulled herself upright and regarded Gellis cautiously before responding further with a tone she hoped would halt what she felt was becoming an inquisition. “Having coffee? Enjoying a quiet moment before I go to work?” and lifted her cup.

“But, why here, in Scotland, why now?” Gellis pushed back, her smile not reaching her eyes.

“The weather? The fall leaves? …Why else?” Claire looked at her watch, “Wait, maybe work? You’ll have to excuse me,” as she rose from her chair and not offering a further answer to her question. “I’ve patients to see,” and left Gellis sitting at the table.

“Claire,” she called to her departing back, unfazed by Claire’s curt reply, “Why don’t you come down to my lab sometime? Maybe we can talk a bit more when your patients are settled.”

Ignoring Gellis’ parting comments and the uninvited use of her first name, Claire left the woman sitting at her table without a backward glance, annoyed with herself that she had abandoned her coffee, and stopped dead in her tracks. Turning on her heel and she headed back to her table where Dr. Duncan remained. Reaching across it, Claire claimed her cup, “I need this,” then turned back toward her destination, clutching her cup and feeling much better, she strolled away, smiling to herself between sips of her coffee.

Claire had been a smartass but whether Dr. Duncan was just nosey or rude, she was definitely witchy and something about the woman had just pushed her button; maybe it was just the unsettled mood she was already in, but no one was going to deprive her of her coffee.

Chapter Text



“Hey Joe, got time to meet for a drink later?” They agreed to meet at the local pub around the corner from the hospital, a convenient meeting spot after shift, and today it was filled with familiar faces of their colleagues. Joe had beaten her there and was already sipping at his drink. He waved off invitatations to join others as he settled her into a corner booth where they could look out on the room and ordered her drink and started catching her up on a new case he had.

Around them the pub buzzed with conversations, but Claire was quiet, a small crease in her brow as she stared distractedly into her glass watching the amber liquid turn into mini whirlpools as she gave it occasional swirls.

Joe, noticing her distraction, quit talking and placed a hand over hers halting her movement and forcing her to finally look at him. “Okay, what’s up LJ?”

Claire heard the concern in Joe’s voice and looking at her friend saw it reflected in his eyes. She considered just shrugging it off, with a nothing, but took a deep breath and began speaking. “I know it’s more than ridiculous and right now I feel like a total loon, but I need to just get it out there you know, talk about elephants, as in the giant one that’s sitting here between us, it’s driving me crazy.”

Joe knew it would only be a matter of time but had left it up to Claire to open the door. He would be as honest with her as he could. He casually glanced around to assure no one was too close, or paying attention to them, yet still leaned in, “So why now?” before he took a sip of his drink looking at her over the rim of the glass.

Claire stared at him in disbelief. “Just that! You are the second person that has asked me that very question in as many days and she is partly why I wanted to talk with you. Raymond said if I needed help I should talk to you. Imagine my surprise that you, my dear friend, are in his trusted inner circle, my circle, I guess, without my even knowing I have a circle, much less needed one. So, tell me, just how long have you known about all…this?” She had slightly tilted her head and lifted her brow as she nailed him with her challenge glare.

“I know you have questions, a lot more than I’m sure I have answers for, but I’ll tell you what I can, okay?” Claire nodded. “Well it was our third year of med school, not long after Lamb had died and Raymond was in town visiting you and we started talking and initially he just asked me to keep an eye on you, let him know that everything was okay. You know, if you needed him for anything in case you wouldn’t ask for yourself.”

Then about six months ago he came to visit and told me just a bit, said there were going to be some changes coming for you and then not long after, guess what? …You decided to move here. After that he filled me in more. What I know is sketchy I guess you’d say,” Joe dropped his voice further in pretense of a mock stage whisper, “‘need to know’ and all that,” and chuckled at the absurdity.

Claire huffed at his theatrics, and punched him in his shoulder, “So, all this time and you never thought to share something like that?” her pique evident.

“No. It wasn’t my place. He said to wait until you came to me,” as he held her eye before caving under her scrutiny. “Hey now, Claire, don’t look at me like that. You’ve been my friend since day one at King’s and I knew then whether you recognized it or not, that you’re special. Ok, maybe not as “special-special” as you are but you’re different and you know it.”

“Special? What do you know?”

“Honestly, not much – plausible deniability and all that,” Joe examined her over the rim of his glass. “Claire, you’ve always had my back and now it’s my turn,” and Joe lifted his glass in a toast.

“Alright, that’s all good to know, but now that it’s all on the table, don’t keep things secret that affect me. You have to promise.”

Claire held his eye until Joe nodded back, “I’m sorry; I promise.” They didn’t speak for a few minutes each considering what would come next. “As I asked before, what’s going on? Are you okay?”

“Okay?” Claire chuckled humorlessly, “I honestly don’t know, but I’m dealing with it, or trying to. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I’m scared, well maybe scared isn’t the right word. How am I supposed to bloody get on with my life?”

“What do you mean? I thought you said things are going well.”

Claire lifted her glass and took a large swallow before waving off her comment. “Sorry, Joe, don’t pay any attention to me, I love my work, but there’s supposed to be …more. Look at you and Gail. I mean, how can I even consider getting involved with anyone with this hanging over my head?”

“Claire, you are the bravest woman I know; look at what you’ve done. Look, you cannot let some hypothetical what ifs and maybes cow you; that’s not who you are and you know it, better than me. Tell me, what’s happened that you bring it up now?”

Claire tilted her head, considering, “Alright then, what do you know about a Dr. Gellis Duncan?”

“Gellis? Why do you ask?”

“Well she ambushed me the other morning on my way into work, asking the oddest questions. She was incredibly pushy for someone I’d never laid eyes on before.”

“Oh well, …that’s pretty much just Gellis, the in your face sort. From everything I’ve heard, she runs a good lab. Scuttle butt is her husband, some old fart, died under some questionable circumstances, but nothing ever came of it. She’s got a reputation for enjoying the company of young guys, I’ve heard her name and insatiable in the same sentence more than once,” Joe gave wolfish grin and waggled his brows, as he laid his hands flat on the table and spread his fingers looking at them before looking back at Claire. “But that’s gossip and I shouldn’t have repeated it. On the surface, she’s strong, successful and a very attractive woman. Sound like anyone else I know? Kernels of truth tend to fertilize petty jealousies and women like that often find rumors flying around them.”

I don’t know, Joe, but relying on my intuition, there’s just something off there, but she got me at a bad time, and I, well I wasn't at my best either,” she ruefully admitted. “I haven’t been sleeping well and I’m suddenly questioning everybodies’ motives. I don’t like it.”

“I’m not going to tell you to ignore your feelings, but you’re not alone. You do have plenty of friends around, more than you can imagine, even with that brilliant imagination of yours,” Joe stated contradicting her objection before she was able to voice it. “Should you need them, not to be too melodramatic, they will step out of the shadows when needed.”

“Well, that’s reassuring if not a little too creepy, I guess,” Claire scoffed and looked at her empty glass, and signaled the waitress for another. “I’ve been warned about the Indiana Jones wannabes lurking in the bushes; can you imagine?”

“I can…” Joe winked with a smile, ‘I’ll let you know. Don’t waste your energy worrying about Gellis or anything else. Look, this is a fresh start, just enjoy life, you’ve got so much ahead…”

Looking to steer the topic to safer ground, Joe offered, “Listen Claire, Gail and I have to attend a fund- raising event this Friday. We’ve been invited by one of the hospital’s benefactors and I know it’s short notice, but we were encouraged to bring you specifically as well, by the ‘powers that be’…wink, wink.”

“Ugh, Joe, you know I don’t enjoy that kind of thing,” Claire practically groaned. “I’m still getting my feet wet here and I’ve intentionally kept a pretty low profile since I’ve arrived. And I certainly haven’t met any muckety mucks that I’m aware of that might have noticed me.”

“Claire, – anywhere you are, you only have to walk across the room to raise all kinds of interest not to mention blood pressure and other body parts, you are most definitely noticeable,” he gently jabbed her in the ribs.

Claire felt the heat as the blush rose to the tips of her ears but smiled in appreciation.

“Hey, there’ll be those people we mentioned, folks other than doctors at this party, and well you do need to make some new friends, wasn’t that what this move was about? What’s the harm in coming? You know the right guy, someone deserving of you, is out there looking for you, but he can’t find you if you’re hiding.”

Claire smiled a bit as she nudged Joe’s shoulder in giving in. “Okay sure, I’ll go, but I’ll need details from Gail. I don’t fully trust you.”

“And I guess, a girl can always use more friends.” And she graced him with one of her radiant smiles as she gathered up her things to leave. “Thanks for the ear, I feel better. I’ll see you tomorrow,” she gave him a buss on the cheek, took a deep breath, and twirled for his benefit as she walked toward the exit, laughing, definitely feeling much better.

Joe couldn’t help but notice the heads swivel in her direction as she passed and smiled to himself as he waved her off. Good girl  and  lifted his glass in salute, “Here’s to you Lady J. If only you knew,” and downed the remainder of his drink.

Chapter Text



“Okay, Gail, what’s the deal with this thing Joe talked me into last night? When, where and how dressy is it? I’ll tell you right now I haven’t got any formal attire left in my wardrobe that shouldn’t have been retired years ago and I certainly don’t have time to go shopping, if I even knew where to go around here before this weekend.”

“Claire don’t worry. I’ve been told it’s just a small gathering, friends, family, business associates, colleagues from the hospital, you know the sort of thing. Cocktail attire is fine, and I know you have plenty of beautiful dresses. Frank did like to dress you up and show you off when he had the chance. It’s going to be at Holyrood House, quite a nice place if you haven’t been there yet. It starts at 7:30 and should be over by 11. Emphasis is on low key. Come, make an appearance, meet some folks, by which I mean men, unless you’ve already met someone. Joe said you’ve been ‘glowy.’”

“No, he didn’t.”

“His exact word. Anything I should know?” Gail laughed.

“I wish, but if there were, I wouldn’t be going; as there isn’t, I’ll be there. Now tell me about this patron that wants me to come. Any quid pro quo expected?”

“No, I wouldn’t think so. It’s Janet Fraser Murray. The Fraser family is quite involved in a lot of philanthropic interests, especially those involving veterans. Her older brother was killed in service a few years back, hence their particular interest in that area, but it’s not limited to just this issue, they’re generous. They’re hosting the event with the proceeds designated for expanded veteran services they hope we can provide. That’s about all I know about that.

Now Janet’s an interesting woman herself. I’ve met her a few times and if I sound too catty, don’t pay attention to me, I’m just jealous of her energy. She’s one of those women who exhaust me before I make it to lunch. She has her fingers in everything. She helps run the family business, is devoted to her husband and passel of children. She’s on the hospital board and likes to review the CVs of all new hires – especially women and makes a point of meeting them. She’s a strong advocate for the female staff and would be a good person to have in your corner. Anyway, she saw your credentials and piqued her interest. It might have been your recent change from working with the military and it’s a way of saying thank you.

You know it’s probably because it’s sort of last minute that Joe was asked to invite you. I think the invites went out before you moved here and she must have known your connection. I can’t imagine there’s anything nefarious with the invitation. I assure you.”

“We can go together if you’d like, just let us know when you decide so we can make plans.”

“All right Gail, that sounds like a good idea, but I’ll confirm it, if that’s okay. Thanks for everything.”



Louise, her chatty, French ex-pat neighbor from two doors down, had stopped by to share a bottle of wine and visit. Louise de Rohan was completely unlike someone Claire had ever expected in the role of girlfriend, but she was witty, charming and had proven to be a tremendous help as Claire was settling in, showing her around, helping her get familiar with their neighborhood shops and eateries. She had followed a now former lover to Scotland, leaving behind in Paris her husband, a rather glamourous life by Claire’s criterion, and any regrets. It seemed an inplausible change to Claire, but Louise embraced her new life.

It turned out Louise was a social butterfly at heart which well suited her business necessitating that she stay well informed and attend such social events where she wooed potential clients for her art gallery.

As they drank their wine, Louise filled Claire in a bit more about ‘The Gathering’ which was evidently a reference to some Highlander clan tradition and Claire was getting the impression that it was a much grander event than Gail had led her to believe. Hearing all the details, Claire began lamenting her selected outfit now and pulled Louise into her bedroom for her appraisal.

“Non! Non! This will not do! Only could you wear this if everyone knew you were coming from your grandmere’s funeral first! This is your first social outing and if we are to be seen together, we must find you something that will get you noticed and have men groveling at your feet. I will not have you going home alone.”

“Well I’m not sure that’s my primary objective, but I wouldn’t mind meeting some one. Making a date,” Claire had to laugh at Louise’s audacity.

“We shall see. …You must have something else, what do you have in your closet?”

By the end of a second bottle of wine, and much laughing, they had dug deep and pulled together an outfit from pieces buried deep in Claire’s closet which were still packed in hanging bags from her move that she’d forgotten.

Lousie walked around Claire critically examining her as she modeled Louise’s selection. “No bra.” And she walked up and hefted Claire’s boobs, startling her. “They’re nice and firm and just the right size. If someone wants to touch them”

“Louise! I’m not letting a total stranger touch my boobs, I don’t care if they want to or not, don’t be ridiculous.”

“Be prepared should you change your mind. But you must lose that,” and pointed toward Claire’s groin.

Claire looked from Louise’s finger to where she was pointing, not understanding, and confusion was etched between her brow, “Lose what?”

“The thatch. When was the last time you were with a man? And I don’t mean your ex, he does not count. To be bare, is such a wonderful sensation.”

“Are you a masochist, by chance? Or maybe a sadist? Or both?”

Claire had finally agreed to indulge in a day at Louise’s favorite spa where it was intended she was to be waxed, buffed and massaged into oblivion before the evening’s event. Everybody had been encouraging to step out, well she’d be prepared for come what may.



Claire was off the rotation and taking full advantage of the freedom and was checking in for her spa appointment when she took Joe’s call.

“Pardon my French, but FUCK Joe! What do you mean? My whole day is planned out and I don’t have time to go meet Mrs. Murray before the party, that’s ridiculous!” not wanting to admit it was planned solely for her pleasure.

“Claire, I’m just passing on the message, this comes from higher up. Evidently some business issue has come up and she must be available for an international conference call. It’s their year-end and they’re deciding how they’re going to be allocating their annual charitable donation and ERI is in line for a significant contribution, but it’s evidently tied to you.”

“Me?! Why would that be? Joe, I’m not prepared to make any sort of presentation with this type of notice. It’s bloody not fair.” Claire realized she was whining and knew she would give in. She just didn’t want to do it without a bit of a fight. Doctors were expected to be cheerleaders for their cause and facilities, and if there was a donor dangling a carrot… It was an unwritten job expectation to raise funds to fill the perpetual budget shortfall though she’d never had to do it coming from her background – that was for the politicians and she was no politician.

“Why are you always the message bearer when it comes to me? You know what they do to messengers that come bearing bad news, don’t you? I will not kill you, but you owe me,” she sulked. “There are going to be some severe consequences. Where am I supposed to meet Mrs. Murray and how do I get there? I don’t have a car yet.”

“Their estate is about 20 minutes outside of the town proper. I’ll text you the address and her phone number. You can Uber there with no problem or you could use my car.”

“I’ll use your car, I do not intend to wait on a lift should I need to leave quickly!”



“Mrs. Murray? Hello, this is Claire Beauchamp. I understand you’d like to meet with me sometime today before The Gathering event this evening, that you might not be able to make it?”

“Oh, Ms. Beauchamp! Thank ye so much for agreeing to adjust your schedule to meet wi’ me.

That’s alright, would 2:00 be convenient for you? That should allow us a generous time frame for whatever you have in mind.” Be generous, Claire.

“Anytime would be fine. I ken it’s terribly inconvenient to make this request at the last minute, but I fool myself if I try to believe I’m in control of my own schedule or life; kids’ll pull that rug right out from under your feet quick enough. It’s my brother’s home and I’m just down for a few days while he’s traveling to take care of some business. I really dinna think t’will take too terribly long, but I do so want to meet ye. I dinna care to pull rank, but on occasion, rank helps to get things done.”

Claire was immediately put at ease by her open, friendly manner, and she had to admit she’d become a pushover for anyone with a rich Scottish brogue.

“A little pull isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I look forward to meeting you then.” Claire decided Mrs. Murray was much easier going than she’d expected and regretted the brusque tone she’d taken initially.

“If ye’ve time, ye might enjoy a walk through the gardens before ye leave. They’re being refurbished but still a treat with the fine weather.”

“Thank you, I’ll keep that in mind.” Claire had gotten herself worked up for no reason. She understood the anxiety she’d been feeling, but realized she needed to step away from the edge. Breathe, just breathe; it wasn’t like her to let little glitches ruffle her and determined nothing was going to spoil her day!

Claire stood in front of her full-length mirror looking at herself, more specifically her freshly groomed inguinal region and was grateful that she’d not caved to Louise’s insistence that she should have a full off waxing of her nether region. She’d had to rush her spa day and missed the massage she’d been looking forward to most but had managed to work in the body scrub and her skin felt nice and tingly.

She had selected deep burgundy toned casual slacks and jacket with a white silk wrap blouse and short heels for her meeting with Mrs. Murray. As she dressed, Claire looked over the ensemble Louise had helped her pull together for the evening hanging on the wardrobe door. In the light of day and without the influence of two bottles of wine, Claire realized it was definitely more daring than anything she typically would have worn, and probably why it had stayed tucked away in the back of her closet, but Louise had encouraged her that if she wanted to make a statement this would do it – just what that statement was Claire wasn’t yet sure. She’d found the perfect pair of strappy red four-inch sling back, ankle breaker heels that she never would have bought before but just couldn’t resist.

Being as tall as she was, a lot of men were easily intimidated without the added height, but she wasn’t interested in anyone that would be daunted by her stature. Claire looked it over satisfied and smiled to herself, Well, I’m ready. Not sure what I’ll be walking into, but I’ll turn a few heads when I do, like it or not, and maybe….

 

 

Chapter Text



‘Home,’ it hit her as Claire stepped out holding onto the edge of the car’s door while looking up at the upper stories and around at the beautiful, inviting, old stone house. The grounds might need a little care, but made it seem all the more approachable, and the place certainly had charm. She was looking forward to seeing the gardens as promised.

As she reached toward the knocker, the door swung open, and Claire was greeted with the beaming face of Mrs. Fitzgibbons, as she introduced herself and welcomed her.

“I’m that sorry to have to tell ye Ms. Beauchamp, but since ye spoke wi’ Mrs. Murray, she got pulled into a business meeting. She asked that I take ye to the speak-a-word room an offer ye tea while you wait.”

“That’s alright, I understand. A cup of tea would be lovely, thank you Mrs. Fitzgibbons.” Claire accepted as she followed her up a flight of stairs trying to take in the surprising interiors. The bones of the original structure were distinct, but modern touches enhanced the overall effect. “What’s a Speak-a-word room? I’ve not heard that term before.”  

“Och, dinna mind me, it’s rather old-fashioned. It’s where the Laird might meet with his tenants or guests. I guess office or study is what it is now.” Mrs. Fitzgibbons smiled, “I’ll be on to bringin’ up yer tea shortly. Please make yerself at home. Himself would be glad to welcome ye if he could,” and she bustled out.

Himself? Claire mused over the conversation with Mrs. Fitzgibbons and her preference for antiquated terms. The sun coming in through the windows had warmed the room so Claire removed her jacket and laid it over the back of one of the chairs as she took in the overall feel of the room; it was not particularly large, but comfortable almost cozy. She wondered if the owner “himself” had actually had a hand in it or was it the work of a designer interpreting his taste. The atmosphere exuded masculinity. Much of the room appeared original starting with beautifully rich oak-paneled walls, two of which were covered with bookshelves. As she skimmed the shelves, she noted a surprising trove of small treasures scattered among the books. Many appeared to be family mementos going back some time and proclaiming a Scottish heritage, but oddly it seemed there were a few items denoting English heraldry as well and considered they must be from marriages. She cast only quick glances at the framed photographs of people she assumed were family but the mountain vistas were beautiful, taken at different times of the year.

As enticing as the temptation, even with the off-hand invitation from Mrs. Fitzgibbons, Claire squelched her own natural curiosity to peruse more thoroughly. She was aware that she had been granted entrance to someone’s private sanctum and was reluctant to intrude further. She appreciated and respected privacy.

The relatively spare furnishings complimented the room; a solid old desk, well broken in – more a worktable, but polished, and definitely a working room with files and papers stacked about it. A setting of three overly large and comfortable looking upholstered chairs were grouped in front of the wonderful fireplace with its old carved mantel clarifing Mrs. Fitzgibbons’ term “speak-a-word”. It was not a place for a large gathering, but for intimate conversations. It was warmer today than it had been, but the thick exterior stone walls kept the interior rooms cool, and Claire let herself imagine sitting in front of a comforting fire enjoying a quiet evening sharing a word or two.

It was the single chaise, a contemporary leather piece with a rolled head-rest on one end and a plaid lap rug, placed along the rear wall, in front of a bank windows that drew Claire forward, so reminiscent of her own. She sat on it, then reclined to take in its view and was surprised to find it oriented not toward the formal gardens but towards a forested area. It was hard from her reclining position to see much beyond the balustrade of the veranda, but when rising, she noticed what appeared to be an old arched gate leading from the gardens to the woodland and wondered if that was the actual enticement of the view.

Claire rose and continued her survey of the view from the different windows and discovered a paneled door matching the walls tucked into the corner definitely a new but masterfully crafted addition. She had just pushed it open and poked her head out when the click of the door latch behind alerted her and she quickly retreated like a child caught climbing out a nursery window. Mrs. Fitzgibbons came in pushing open the door with her hips, her hands laden with a tea tray.

In the moment it took the door to swing closed behind her, Claire heard the distinct raised deep rumble of an unhappy Scot bellowing, “No! Janet. Leave it be!”

Claire looked to Mrs. Fitzgibbons, uncomfortable to be witness to what was an obvious dispute and found herself blushing unexpectedly. “Is everything alright Mrs. Fitzgibbons? Should I reschedule with Mrs. Murray for another time?”

“Och, no, please!” and looked as though she feared Claire was going to flee the premises, as she set the tray down on the table between the facing chairs. “Mrs. Murray’s meeting is taking a bit longer than she’d expected." Claire could have sworn she caught a bit of an eye-roll as looked back toward the door.

Claire knew that look and bit back a smile as she attempted to alleviate her concern offering, “I have nothing else planned this afternoon. I can stay a bit longer.”  

As she poured out tea for Claire she continued, “It’s been some time since anyone’s called me Fitzgibbons, everybody calls Mrs. Fitz, you may as well if ye would. After your tea would ye perhaps be interested in taking a turn around the gardens? It’s too lovely a day to be caught up inside if ye have a mind to get out.”

“Thank you Mrs. Fitz. I was just noticing the gardens below. I would love to see them up close, and it is a beautiful day. Is there a way down?” giving Mrs. Fitz her calming smile, assuring her the commotion down the hall was none of her concern.

“Of course, there is a stairway off the terrace leading down, just outside that door. Just mind your outfit. The gardens have been a bit neglected and repairs are in progress, but there may be a few brambles still here and there that might cause a snag if you’re not careful.” Mrs. Fitz opened the door and offered Claire an escape and beamed with relief at her easy acceptance.

Mrs. Fitz was doing her best to make Claire feel welcome and comfortable in what was obviously an awkward moment and Claire was not inclined to make it any more uncomfortable for her either. It really wasn’t her fault if her employer was having a bad day. They’d both just make the best of of it and Claire determined she’d let nothing ruin it. Maybe it had all worked out for the better she thought.

Claire stood on the terrace drinking her tea and nibbling at the scone she had snagged on the way out and momentarily considered going back for a second it was that delicious but held out. From her elevated position on the terrace, Claire had a better perspective of the grounds below, and planned her exploration. She could see the terraced gardens were being restored from what must have been an elegant formal state, but it was the arched gate of bent and woven branches to the woodlands that kept drawing her attention. It was like the entrance to a faerie garden.

She finished her tea and set the cup on the rail of the balustrade. Deciding the meeting would wait on her for a bit, she made her way down the steps toward the garden. With her first step onto the lawn toward the garden path, her heel sank to its hilt and her second step intended to position herself to pull it free, sank likewise, effectively trapping her and halting all forward progress. Her shoes were proving to be worthless for walking in the garden.

“Oh Bollocks,” Claire emitted a groan of frustration realizing her predicament as she looked down where her shoes were firmly stuck. Unless she intended to aerate the lawn with a great effort on her part, she would have to abandon her shoes and with an urgent attempt lifting her foot to pull her shoe free inadvertently sent the one shoe flying. “Double BOLLOCKS!” the surprising trajectory of her shoe over the hedge sent her into a laughing spasm, but she quickly recovered and slipped her foot from its remaining anchor. Fortunately, she decided the ground was warm enough that her bare footed escape would be undeterred and lightly ran over the lawn toward the alluring gate giving up all pretense of interest in the formal garden.

As she pushed her way through the gate she paused giving a momentary glance over her shoulder before continuing on allowing only the slightest thought towards her host. She was going to have an adventure!

Chapter Text



Jamie had ridden hard through the night to reach home. He was exhausted to the marrow of his bones and he felt as though his head was going to fall from his shoulders. He had looked forward to continuing his sabbatical uninterrupted a few more days. He was not ready to face the impending showdown with Dougal but parked alongside the garage was the old Range Rover that Jenny used for driving into the city. “Of course,” he exhaled as his shoulders sagged. He’d have Mrs. Fitz keep her at bay until he was ready to face the wee besom. As much as he loved her, she was just too much sometimes, particularly in her recent unrelenting quest. He wished she’d keep her neb out of it. He almost regretted sharing the dreams that had been plaguing him, but they had been increasing in frequency and intensity of late. Jenny had always been his stalwart supporter and kept faith when his wavered.

He dragged his saddlebags off his bike and as he made his way up three flights of stairs to his room, dropped them by the door trailing jacket, boots, tee, britches, briefs, and socks as he made his determined way straight to his bed. Not even the allure of a hot shower was enough to sidetrack him as much as he needed that too.

He collapsed face down into the pillows and lay there for a moment treasuring the comfort of stillness and quiet until he rolled to his back and settled for what he hoped, needed would be a dream free night. The dreams had become increasingly pervasive in the last couple of months and wrecking his sleep.



Jamie felt like an intruder in his own home, sneaking down the back stair to the kitchen hoping to grab a bite, he was starving having come in late and slept well for a change until Jenny had invaded his room, pulling his covers off wanting to wake him up. Well, she’d gotten an eye full; served her right, he sniggered, though she’d tried at being indifferent as he recalled her expression, teach her to come barging into his bedroom like that again.

“Ye need to get up!” Jenny stood over him not meeting his eye but peering off to the side, the flush on her face reaching the roots of her hair as she held his cover in her hands.

“What the hell Janet!?” as he roared to attention at the intrusion and sudden removal of his warm cocoon. He snatched at the duvet she was holding hostage. “I dinna have to do anything, especially get up now. Can ye no see that I’m sleeping?” his roar settling into a deep growl.

“Ye smell like ye’ve been living on the moors for a week!”

“Well there’s nothing wrong with your neb, exceptin’ it’s stuck up in my business and my room. Now get OUT!” he bellowed as he collapsed back against his pillows, pulling the retrieved cover back over him, and closed his eyes before she’d made it out of his room.

A few more hours sleep had not improved his disposition any when Jamie was finally ready to crawl out of bed, able to ignore his sister, but not his stomach. Damn Jenny! She had already invaded his bedroom earlier wanting to talk about one of her fundraising events happening that night; that was why she was in town. He’d forgotten about this one; he always made an effort to support his family’s philanthropies, but with everything going on at the moment, he was just not in the mood to be sociable.

He had showered off the worst of the week’s grime and road grit and was heading to his hot spring for a long soak, his head ached and his bones felt the strain of traveling and living rough for the last week. But here she was in the kitchen.

“Mrs. Fitz,” he greeted his housekeeper nodding at her with a heartwarming smile, blatantly ignoring Jenny’s presence. “It’s good to see ye. Have ye got something I can eat? Don’t want to put you out.”

“Och, Jamie! Good ta see ye lad!” and she gave him a hug and kiss on his cheek. “I’ve got some fresh scones and jam here. Just fixin a tea tray to take up to Jenny’s guest in the speak-a-word. I’ve got tea brewing or coffee is fresh. I can whip ye up some eggs if ye give me a few minutes, or there’s a shepherd’s pie in the fridge I can warm up right quick.”

Jamie had grabbed a scone and was making quick work of it as he fixed his coffee. “God love ye! That sounds just the thing. My wame is biting at my backbone. I’ve missed yer cooking something awful.”

Glenna Fitzgibbons beamed at her lad and set to preparing him a plate. When she had announced she was ready to retire from heading the household at Lallybroch, Jamie had invited her to come manage his home in Edinburgh instead and help with Fergus. It had been a perfect solution for the three of them, and he held her loyalty.

She set his plate down in front of where he’d taken a seat at the kitchen table and set in to enjoying his meal while she turned her attention back to preparing the tea tray.

“Well if ye two are about finished,” Jenny had stayed in the background, an audience to their little performance, but she was done with Jamie ignoring her.

Jamie nodded at Mrs. Fitz when she turned to him looking for direction, and she took up the tray and headed out of the kitchen, leaving the Fraser siblings to their business. She’d seen the children reared and was well accustomed to their temperments. Stubborn mules…

“Did ye bring Fergus back with ye?” he ignored her comment. “I do appreciate yer caring for him while I was gone, thank ye Jenny. It’s good for him to spend time with the family. Did he have a good time with the bairns?”

“Aye, he insisted on coming back in case you were here. I think he was getting a bit homesick,” Jenny smiled tenderly at her brother. She didn’t know why, but it always surprised her to see how much he loved his son and how well he was managing as a single parent – well Mrs. Fitz was a big help too, but still he deserved credit. “I’m sure he’ll want to tell ye about it himself. I think he’s working on his studies in his room until ye got up.”

“I’ll check on him after I get out of the pool. Would ye let him ken if he wanders out, please?”

“Of course. So now that ye’ve had a few more hours to sleep are ye in a fit mood to come tonight?”

“Jenny, please no now…”

Jenny waited patiently this time while Jamie concentrated on his meal. She knew she could be pushy and it was a tactic that usually worked to her benefit, but not always when dealing with other Frasers, especially Jamie, especially hungry Jamie. She moved and sat in the chair across from him moving into his visual sphere; she could out wait him, she thought…

“Listen, Jamie, should ye really no feel up to coming tonight, there’s someone I think ye should meet, a new doctor at ERI. She has a lot of experience working with wounded soldiers and has recently joined the staff here.” Jamie had been eating and studiously chewing each bite trying his best to ignore Jenny once again, but she was like a midge that wouldn’t let up and somehow avoided every swat.

He pushed his empty plate away and rose from the table, his chair’s legs scraping across the floor in the process and left Janet sitting there. He wasn’t usually rude, but he was exhausted and unusually short-tempered.

She followed him out into the hall as he started to make his way down to the spring, and touched his elbow, making one last effort to reach him. “…Raymond recommended her. …Her name is . . .”

Jamie rounded on Jenny with a pain in his eyes that she rarely saw these days, but it was there, and he shouted at her, his rich deep burr full of emotion, “No! Janet. Leave it be!” and left her standing looking at his departing back and shaking her head.

Lunkheid.



‘Double BOLLOCKS!’ …Bollocks? The words and laughter finally penetrated Jamie’s conscience. He was so focused on his recent exchange with Jenny it took a moment – and then he registered it wasn’t Jenny’s voice that drew him to the window, but someone English. As Jamie looked out trying to locate the source of the cry, a glimpse of fabric disappearing through his woodland gate caught his eye; all else remained hidden by the hedge.

“FERGUS!” This day was not going at all the way Jamie had intended. First Jenny invading his sanctum and now someone else she’d evidently invited, invading his woodlands.

“You called milord?” Fergus stuck his curly mopped head in the door, blue eyes beaming and a smile spread across his face.

“Mo mhac, it’s so good to see ye, I’ve missed ye,” and Jamie gave the lad an affectionate squeeze. “Sorry for calling ye like that. Evidently Jenny’s guest has left the garden and is off traipsing through the woodlands. Would ye go keep an eye on her? No need to bother her, but see her safe, aye? Dinna want anyone getting lost or hurt.”

“Mais certainment, mil… Da. It’s good to have you home. I’ve missed you. Are you feeling better?”

“Aye, just tired from being on the road and living rough. Getting soft I guess, but I’m done with traveling for a while. We’ll catch up later, but I’m going to take a soak for a while. Let Mrs. Fitz ken and no one’s to bother me. Jenny’s already pulled me from my bed where I meant to be for at least the day. She’s a bee up her bonnet but I’m no ready to swat it for her,” and they exchanged knowing looks. Once Jenny got hold of something she was like a badger until she was satisfied. Well today she’d poked and riled his own streak of Fraser stubbornness and he was not of a mind to give.

After seeing Fergus off, he headed down to the hot spring that the prior owners had enclosed in a rock cavern and he would escape to its refuge when he could. And he needed to very badly today.

Jamie had stripped off his towel and eased down in the waters sinking slowly up to his neck and then stretched out floating on his back. He’d wanted nothing more than to come here and clear his mind of all the thoughts and sensations that were haunting his nights and forget, …if only he could.

Chapter Text

 

Claire had hop-skipped her escape barely a dozen steps into the woods before she slowed to survey her surroundings. She could read a good path ahead, despite the fallen leaves. They were actually still fresh and soft enough to provide a cushion and lend some protectection to her bare feet. She moved ahead cautiously watching her step and wishing she had some better shoes, but had successfully avoided painful missteps. It may have been implusive but to turn back at this point was not an option.  

Claire noticed a change in the atmosphere; a peace almost like a blanket settled around her. As she made her way a bit deeper into the forest Claire let her mind wander as well. Is it a forest or just woods? What makes it one or the other? As she looked around as far as she could see there only trees, a mix of hardwoods in the process of shedding this year’s leafing, and cedars and firs which she’d grab hold of the branches as she walked past holding onto the fresh scent that stuck to her palms `with the resin. It was only the occasional twit and twerp of birds, a noisy beetle diving bombing her that attracted her attention. Her sudden need for flight had departed and the jubilation she’d felt earlier came rushing back as she felt she was being pulled forward.

A smaller, less distinct path to her left drew her notice and she decided to just go where nature led her this day. Diffused sunlight filtered through the color changing boughs lending a dusky feel to the early afternoon; a ray of light sometimes making its way clear to the colorful forest carpet. Claire stopped and gently fingered the small plants and fungi poking through the detritus or nestled in a tree’s roots, smiling at their tenacity, but also at the precious memories they held. She picked the leaf of a small plant she recognized and crushing it brought it to her nose, sniffed and closed her eyes…

“Claire, sweet pea, d’ye smell this …isn’t it nice? See how there are three long prongs on each leaf and a white stripe down the middle and the edges are a bit jagged? Mind ye there’s always three in a bunch. This little plant is good for settlin’ yer tummy if it’s upset, ye make a wee bit o’ tea wit’ the leaves,” her mother’s soft sweet voice came flooding back to her.

She was crouched next to her mother as she was digging up plants to take home and transplant in their little yard. She remembered the day on one of their adventure trips that usually included a picnic. Claire exhaled slowly, picked herself up and moved on, grateful for the rare interlude with her mom, but something wasn’t right and it niggled at her.

Returning from the haze of the past Claire picked up the sound of moving water and turned in that direction, leaving the path determined to move ahead, ever the wayward adventurer. She could feel herself slipping back to the carefree days of her youth when she was living with Uncle Lamb and had to create her own entertainment, pretending to be explorers on a jungle safari, which wasn’t so far from the truth. The undergrowth was getting denser and pricklier making grabs at her clothes. Claire proceeded with more care, holding back threatening briars when she needed, taking extra care where she stepped.

Parting one last screen, Claire pushed through onto the sunny banks of the stream she’d been seeking, delighted in her accomplishment. The stream was shallow along this stretch close to the banks, clear water moving over the semi-submerged rocks but could see it deepening and darkening towards the middle channel. Deciding it safe enough Claire pulled up the legs of her slacks and gingerly stepped into the refreshingly brisk water for only a few moments before her toes grew too chilled and danced back onto the rocky shore, giggling. She decided she would just take enough time to hike just a bit further upstream, before she knew she’d have to turn around – just as far as the bend up ahead; that would be her turn-around spot.

She stayed close to the stream’s edge to make better progress as she worked her way toward the bend taking care to avoid the slippery moss-covered stones. The larger dry rocks proved excellent stepping-stones, and she confidently made small leaps between them when needed.

The sun glimmered across the rock-strewn water casting sparklers of light about as she closed the distance to the bend. Claire slowed her pace knowing she’d have to head back to reality and her meeting with Mrs. Murray when she reached it. Before her the stream had widened into a small still pond. It looked like it might be an inviting swimming hole if it ever got hot enough to risk a nippy plunge but maybe only during the full summer months. She shivered at the thought of the potential icy chill, but it was beautiful with late season insects dodging and diving at the surface. She looked about her feet on the bank for the smooth flat stones, and bending over, selected a few suitable for skipping and made her first toss. A disappointing plonk swallowed the first stone as she released it much too soon. The next was better, skipping a couple of times, loosing small sprays of light infused droplets. Encouraged by her improving form, she took her final stone and set her feet perpendicular to the water and set to swaying her hips and swinging her arm until she felt she had the rhythm right and then flung the stone from her fingers, wrist snapping perfectly following through with her arm and the twist of her hips and body then watched it skip a least half a dozen times across the water before its journey ended nearing the other side.

Yes! Claire raised her arms above her head, fists clenched as she shook her hands in the universal signal of satisfaction. Did you see? A smile stretched across her face as she looked about hoping to share her joy over such a simple accomplisment with someone, anyone, but she was alone, quite alone; and then maybe not.

She halted, still as the stone monolith that stood on the edge of the small open glen carved out of the forest. She wasn’t sure how long she’d stood there before she came out of her trance and moved forward.

Claire maneuvered up the fern covered bank and walked toward the pillar but stopped short, keeping her distance as Lamb had taught her years before. “You must always respect the stones, sweetheart. Some believe they are the resting places of souls waiting until it’s time for their loved ones to join them, so they may finish their journey together.”

“How do they get in there?” It was a reasonable question for the child she was at twelve when presented with such an extraordinary idea.

She had felt herself too grown up, too old, for snuggling with her uncle and it had become a rare occurrence, but here they were sitting on a blanket in front of the campfire. Lamb leaned against a tree, his legs were splayed out and she fitted between them leaning against him while she twisted tidbits in her hands while they talked and absent mindedly tossed them toward the flames. It was during their last visit to the stone circle where they spent the summer holiday when in the country and not abroad. After that they were gone, spending most of their time in the middle East and northern Africa.

“The auld ones have their rituals. When people die and no longer have a need for their body, there is still their spirit, their soul that must be cared for until their life should be done.”

“But if they don’t have a body, isn’t it done?”

“Perhaps in this lifetime, but sometimes their purpose is not done, the reason for their being and they need to continue until their soul is ready to rest finally.”

“Is it the same for everybody?”

“I wouldn’t think so. It’s natural for people to like different things and what may be important to me will not be the same for you. This is what your growing up will be about. Discovering what is important to you, what you must accomplish, or maybe it will be someone who you will love and to know that wholeness in your heart.”

“Like Mama and Daddy? Do you think they are in there? Are they waiting for me?”

“So many questions!” She could feel his belly jiggle as he laughed. “I wish I had answers for them all, but I do know your mother and father love each other dearly; they found their hearts in each other and I know they are together wherever they are. And well, I like to think their purpose for being was to make you,” and she could feel his gentle squeeze of her shoulders.

Claire walked around as much of the outer edge of henge as was possible without venturing into the denser thickets. There was no natural rhythm to their fall, it had taken human intervention to create this ancient havoc of destruction, there was only one lone soldier left standing sentry over its fallen confederates.

She edged closer and could make out a jumble of fallen stones broken and littering the ground like tumbled headstones in a long-forgotten church yard, moss covered and silent corpses of ancient memories. Those stones laying on the edge of the woods in the shade were shrouded by vines and ferns hugging their foundation. Others that had toppled over toward the clearing appeared as splayed finger bones reaching toward the available light, and were as yet untouched, but laid out and prepared for burial.

She backed away and turned slowly taking in the rest of the glade. She recognized a Rowan, a Faerie tree with its distinctive red berries growing close to the site and recalled there was some folklore about offering protection from witchcraft and wondered if it had been planted there for a purpose as she looked at the remains of the broken circle.

Lowering herself onto the grass, she sat cross-legged facing the pillar a serenity she’d not known in ages flooded through her.

As she sat she leaned forward fingers reached, plucking at the grass and then her fingers were instinctually working their way into the warm rich earth. She wiggled her fingers seeing how deep she could work them until she finally met a little resistance as the depth approached her last knuckles. Playing with the dirt she loosened the grass until the soil was exposed in a small patch. She pulled her hands out, rubbed the clinging soil between her fingers testing its grainy texture before bringing her soiled fingers to her nose and inhaled the rich loamy scent before brushing the loose dirt off her hands finally letting them rest upon her knee. She had so missed the smell of rich soil, the joy of digging and growing things.

Claire finally pushed herself up and rising returned to face the standing sentry, remembering Lamb’s words. “Can you feel them? Sometimes, if you’re very quiet, you can hear them, do you?”  She could before that one other time, but here, there was nothing; no vibrations, no buzzing, only silence – it was dead and she felt a stab in her heart for the lost souls.

She moved into the center of the circle between the fallen stones approached it and reaching out, tentatively touched it first with her fingertips and then laid her palms flat against the face before leaning forward touching her forehead to it. It was there, barely, but she felt the soft thrum of the souls within. Not dead, It’s not dead!

An excitement jolted through her. She spoke in a whisper, “Lamb? Are you there? Can you hear me?” tears had begun to flow freely down her cheeks and she didn’t care as she embraced the stone. “I miss you so much. Dom was telling me the most ridiculous things about you and mama and daddy and I have so many questions.” Her shoulders shook as tears turned to sobs but felt a peace inviting and pulling her in as she pressed forward snuffling, “Please help me.” She was that little girl again and felt the warmth of a loving embrace.

“Mademoiselle?” a hand on her arm, was gently shaking her, pulling her back. “Mademoiselle? “

“Jesus H Roosevelt Christ! What the Bloody Hell are you doing?!” Claire cried in surprise clutching her hands to her mouth at the escaped profanity as much as the startle in front of the boy. “You scared the sh…  the wits out of me!” She was face to face with a handsome young boy with a mop of dark curls and round blue eyes peering at her with concern.

“Oh mademoiselle! Pardonez moi, s’il vous plait!” He raised his open hands toward her, “I meant no harm. I saw ye were crying and only wished to assure you were not in distress,” he offered in an odd French-Scot accent.

“I’m fine, I’m fine, really, thank you,” Claire brushed the back of her hands across her cheeks hoping to erase the evidence of her outburst, and started laughing offering no explanation.

“I’m sorry, I’m supposed to meet with Mrs. Murray, but she got tied up and said I should enjoy the gardens,” she offered in explanation for her presence. “I’m afraid, I’ve completely lost track of time and I’m sure she’s wondering where I am. Perhaps you can show me a quick route back to the house?”

Concern remained evident in his creased brow as the boy spoke, “Mais, oui. Of course,” switching back and forth between French and his strangely accented English. “I’m Fergus. I came down with Madame when she came to Edinburgh. I wanted to see milord when he returned.”

“I’m Claire,” and as she offered her hand to shake his, noticed his hesitation and how very dirty her hands were. “Oops, sorry about that,” and attempted to laugh away the strain. “Perhaps, I should just go rinse my hands a bit,” and headed toward the stream. She nimbly navigated the moss-covered stones that edged the bank and crouched down reaching toward the water and looked over her shoulder toward Fergus as she finished.

He was making small circular motions around his face adding a little shoulder shrug.

Claire stared at him in confusion until she translated his meaning, “Wot? Do I have dirt all over my face?”  and her hands flew to her face as they had done when she’d first encountered him.

“Well, no too much, just here, there, there and here.” gesturing towards both of her cheeks, chin and her nose. “That’s the worst of it anyway,” and he grinned impishly.

Good Lord, she muttered under her breath as she made her best effort at cleaning herself without benefit of a mirror. She stood and turned toward him for his approval shaking her hands free of water, “Better?”

“Oui!” nodding encouragingly.

Smiling at his approval, she stepped forward to climb up the bank but as she moved the rock shifted underfoot throwing her off balance and backward. Wind milling arms failed to save her as she plunged backwards landing flat on her arse in nearly a foot of frigid waters, “FUCK! SHIT!” The splash had completely soaked her trousers and doused her blouse, which was now practically transparent.

Cursing with every breath, she precariously regained her balance and stood up, standing as a scarecrow with her dripping arms stretched out, before shaking off what she could. Every garment was clinging to her like a second skin as water dribbled off.

“Mademoiselle!” Fergus had been stunned by the slow-motion fall, unable to do anything to halt it, but stood horrified as it happened. He raced forward now, stepping into the stream, and taking her hand leading her back to the edge and helping guide her up the bank with a misplaced hand on her ass, that she barely acknowledged as she grabbed for ferns as a handhold.

“Here, take this” as he shucked his jacket and wrapped it around her shoulders.

“Jesus H Christ! I’m freezing! Thank you,” she stuttered out as she started dancing up and down to warm herself and shed more water. “I guess it really is time to head back now,” as she looked at her bedraggled appearance. “Perhaps you can show me a better way?”

“Of course, Mademoiselle. Shoes? Do you have them?” he inquired looking towards her bare feet.

“Oh Lord, no.” Claire blushed as she blurted her explanation, “They turned out not to be very practical, so I left them, well one of them, in the lawn by the stairs when I went to look at the gardens. I’m not sure where the other landed when I kicked it off, somewhere near the hedge.” And she flung her hand out and forward in imitation of her shoe taking flight.

Fergus looked from his feet to hers, “I do not think mine would fit you even if they were not wet.”

“It’s okay, let’s just get moving, please.” As she stepped in one direction, Fergus laid his hand on her arm and pulled the other.

They made as much haste as a sopping wet, bare footed woman could possibly make under the circumstances. To take her mind off her now miserable state Claire started talking with Fergus.

“Were you looking for me?” Claire asked, curious if her absence had aroused alarm.

“Non, non. When I can come down, I enjoy my walks here. It’s like a refuge, a sanctuary for most of us.” Fergus prevaricated with his response to her search question but chose to be honest about his feelings for the place.

“Sanctuary,” she repeated considering. “You’re absolutely right! That’s exactly what it is. I hadn’t much time for exploration before I luckily found that glade, but it’s the most beautiful spot I’ve seen since coming to Edinburgh. I’ve been living in the desert for the last several years,” she explained, “God, what I wouldn’t give for a little of that heat right now,” and she shivered against the chill setting in. She wasn’t prepared to talk about the Monolith and source of her tears “Being invited to this place today has turned out to be such an unexpected gift. I guess,” as she looked down at her ruined pants. “Do you think the owner would mind if I came back and helped do some work in the gardens when I have some free time? I don’t have any yard at my flat and I need a little dirt therapy. I wouldn’t be a bother.”

“I will ask milord, but I think he will not mind. He does travel a lot these days.”

“Milord?” Claire wondered at the antiquated reference.

“Oh, he’s Madame Murray’s brother and my foster father. He brought me back from Paris about a year ago. I’ve been staying with her family for the last two weeks while he’s been gone, but I miss him.”

They rounded a curve in the path and Claire recognized where she was from earlier, arriving back to the house much quicker than Claire had expected.

Fergus escorted her to the stairs leading back up to the veranda, where her shoe remained firmly secured in the lawn. “Well, here’s the one, the other went flying in the direction of the hedge.”

“I will find it for you mademoiselle and bring them to you. Do not worry.”

Despite having only just met the boy, Claire gave him a brief hug in appreciation. “Thank you for coming to my rescue,” as she shrugged off his now dampened coat and handed it back to him. “Fergus. I’m in your debt,” and with the resignation of one marching toward the gallows, squared her shoulders and mounted the stairs with a quick glance back toward Fergus who gave her an encouraging wave.

"Bon chance."

Chapter Text



What have I gotten myself into? Claire steeled herself to open the door and entered hoping the room would be empty, but Mrs. Fitz was there, busying herself tidying up the room as though it needed it.

“Och, there ye are! We did wonder where ye’d got yerself off to. Are ye all right m’dear!? Ye look a bit of a fright,” as she noticed Claire’s wet and bedraggled appearance and bare feet.

“Well, Mrs. Fitz, I’ve had somewhat of a misadventure today and am a bit the worse for it.” Claire looked down at her still sopping clothes and dirty feet and moaned at the drips she was leaving on the floor. “I need to postpone my meeting with Mrs. Murray after all! I can’t meet her looking like this,” Claire shivered. “I’m sorry to ask but could you let her know and can I beg a change of clothes or just something dry to wear home?”

“Yes, of course, dearie. Ye must be chilled to the bone, let me show ye to the guest suite where ye may freshen up and I’ll get ye something …well something a bit more. Mrs. Murray did send me to let ye ken she’d be ready to meet as soon as ye are, but I’ll give her yer message,” and she led Claire off through a maze of corridors.

“Oh, and I met a young man, Fergus? He’s helping to locate my shoe. They weren’t much good for walking through the garden, so I left them and well he said he’d bring them up for me,” as she attempted to explain her bare feet.

She opened the door to a beautiful room and said, “The bath is just through that door. There should be a robe hangin’ in the bath that ye may use while I’m tendin’ to yer things.”

“Are you sure Mrs. Fitz? I certainly don’t want to take advantage.”

“Nay trouble a’tall, miss. Go ahead and slip out of yer wet clothes. I’ll wait for ye.”

Claire found the robe and quickly slipped out of her mess, bundled them in a towel and handed them to Mrs. Fitz.

“Shouldna take too long dearie. I’ll be back as quick as I can.”

Claire returned to the bath, intending to wash only her feet, but decided a quick overall rinse was probably called for and wouldn’t take too long. She didn’t wear a lot of makeup but noticed the dressing room had a well-stocked supply of cosmetics. Slipping out of her bra and panties she grabbed a band and pulled her mop of hair up out of the way. The warm water was wonderful after her excursion, but she kept it quick as she was well trained to do.

She cleansed a smudge of mascara off and reapplied a bit to her lashes, a dab of eye shadow and touch of lipstick. Done.

She used a hair dryer on her undergarments which were still dampish, but good enough to get home. She pulled on the robe, which was a rich silk, a bit too large, but with the sash cinched quite nice and there was a light flowery scent lingering on it. She wondered who had worn it a last, not that she minded under the circumstances, but she didn’t want to cause any more trouble than she already had.

She pulled the band from her hair and after the steamy shower her curls had taken on a life of their own. She could only attempt to push and twist them back into some semblance of order.

Fifteen minutes and done! Not too bad, all things considered. She just needed a change of clothes and her shoes. As she stepped away from the mirror a knock brought her to the door. Maybe everything was going to come together and wouldn’t be a complete disaster after all.

Chapter Text



Jamie was just emerging from the seclusion of his pool with a towel wrapped low around his waist and another draped across his shoulders when he met Fergus holding Claire’s shoes.

Nodding toward the shoes in Fergus’ hand, Jamie quipped, “Verra nice, but no my style – or size.”

“Ah, Milord, such a jokester. Is your head feeling better?”

“Fergus, no more milord. Ye make me sound like an old man and I already feel it in my bones after the last couple of weeks.”

“But, aye, thank ye, it’s much better. Next time I go off like that, ye’re coming with me. I dinna mean to leave ye for so long. Did ye have a good time at Lallybroch with Mam and Da?”

“Oh yes! Grandpere said I could ride Cobbler anytime I want and can take him out by myself now.”

“Did he now?” The sound came from deep in Jamie’s chest, “Hmmmph… I’ll have to see if ye’re ready for myself.”

Fergus giggled, “He said you’d say that.”

“He did? And what else?” Jamie was grinning knowing his da was taking great joy in giving him piss.

Fergus’ little brow creased in concentration, “About the shoe being on your foot? And did you like it?”

Jamie bellowed out a laugh as he reached over and ruffled Fergus’ hair. “I like it just fine.”

“So, did ye find our wandering lass?” he asked as he toweled his hair, and ran his fingers through it, combing it back.

“You mean the bare-footed wood faerie? Oui, I did, milord.” Fergus replied with a bit of a smile recalling his recent encounter and nodding at the shoes.

Jamie quirked in brow in question to Fergus’ response, both the milord and answer.

“Habit, milord,” Fergus shrugged unapologetically and continued. “It took a bit, but she was in your glade.”

“What? How’d she’d get there?” Jamie felt a surge of irritation at the intrusion.

“Just luck it seems; some good, some bad. She’s to be meeting with Aunt Jenny but was told she’d been held up so Mrs. Fitz told her to enjoy the gardens. Were you not talking with Madame earlier?”

Jamie ignored the jibe and grumbled. “I’d think she’d ken the difference between the gardens and the woodland.”

“I think she’s a wood sprite, or maybe an auld one and the stone was calling her. She was exploring and came across a path and followed it towards the stream and then well…fate,” giving Jamie a meaningful look with a shrug with palms raised with a shoe in each.

“I was only going to watch from a distance to see her safe as you told me. When I found her, she was sitting on the ground, digging into the dirt with her bare hands. It seemed silly to me, but then she rubbed it between her fingers and then she smelled it! And her smile…!” Fergus imitated Claire’s actions as though inhaling the finest French parfume and pursed his lips as he noticed Jamie’s growing interest, and expanded his dramatic story telling, “Like you and uncle Ian do. And then she fell into the water and…”

“What’d ye mean she fell into the water!? How did that happen? Is she alright?”

“The rock shifted and she fell into the water, and she was soaking wet and her clothes…,” Despite it being just the two of them, Fergus leaned in and cupped his hand to his mouth as he whispered to Jamie “I could see her bra …so sexy,” Fergus’ blush exposed the track his imagination was leading.

“Ye wee pervert, get your mind outta the gutter,” Jamie bit back his smile as he gave Fergus a nudge.

“Well, you should see her yourself,” he protested in his defense.

“I’m stayin well out of Jenny’s business today, but ye seem quite taken wi’ the lass, Fergus,” Jamie teased him.

“Mais bien sûr et vous aussi. She is quite the beautiful lady – too old for me, but in a few years…ah,” and then realizing Jamie’s suggestion, responded quickly.

“Non, non! She is like one of the auld ones in your faerie tales. She was talking to the stone and then she hugged it. I thought maybe I should leave, but her shoulders started to shake so, I went to offer her help. I heard her, ‘Please help me,’ she said. You would not want me to leave a lady in despair, would you?”

Jamie shook his head slightly, feeling proud of him, he smiled softly and held his shoulder as he looked directly at him. “No, Fergus. Ye did the right thing, to offer comfort; it’s no always an easy thing to do. Was the lass crying?” 

Fergus nodded but his expression shifted, and he blushed. “She scared me, but I did not let her see. I think I scared her first and she yelled at me. Rupert and Angus could take lessons from her.”

“I think she did not want me to see and wiped at her tears, but her fingers were very dirty and well, then so was her face,” grabbing his face imitating her motions. “I helped her wash… but then she fell, but I helped her out and gave her my jacket. She has very pretty legs et agréable rond bas.” Sketching her round ass with his hands in the air, giggling.”

“Fergus, be respectful,” Jamie growled in warning, “Where is she now?”

“I walked her back a little while ago and then went to find her shoes,” and held them up.

“She was barefoot all the while?” Jamie’s brows nearly rose to his hairline, incredulous at the thought. “Would seem the lass lacks a good bit of sense.”

“NO! You don’t know her, you can’t say that!” Fergus jumped to her defense.

“Och, ye’re right, lad. I shouldna have said such a thing.”

“She did not want to, but she was to see if she was still to meet with Madame before going to her party this evening.

On our walk back, she asked if I thought the owner would mind if she came and worked in the gardens when she had some free time. She called it her ‘dirt therapy’. She’s been living in the desert.”

“The desert ye say? Why?”

“Oui, the desert, but I don’t know. She did not say. I did tell the mademoiselle I would ask you. She promises not to be a bother.” And laying his hand on Jamie’s forearm, told him, “She needs this place as we do. Would you welcome her, s’il vous plait?”

Jamie bowed his head considering Fergus’ request as he rarely asked for anything. He recognized his own selfishness in wanting to guard his privacy here, his own refuge. He understood the healing enticement this place held and knowing his son’s good heart and the pain he still struggled to overcome, nodded his agreement.

“Ye’re right, Fergus. Ye can tell her she’ll be welcome.”

“Thank you, milord! I must return her shoes, so she may go to the ball like Cinderella and will tell Mademoiselle Claire your good news!”

Claire?!CLAIRE?” and all the memories, the sensations that he’d been struggling to free from his mind came flooding back and overwhelming him with the possibility. “She’s here?” as he uttered in near disbelief.

“Unless she has left without her shoes…,” Fergus said raising his hand holding the shoes.

“Gi’ me those shoons, ye wee gomerel!” as Jamie grabbed for them, “Where, where is she?” already heading toward the stairs and taking them two at a time in his rush.

Chapter Text



“Mrs. Fitz,” the name had escaped her lips when she realized the woman she faced was not Mrs. Fitz, but she was willing to bet was Janet Murray. “I’m sorry, I was expecting Mrs. Fitz, but I assume you’re Mrs. Murray. I’m Claire Beauchamp and I’m so happy to meet you,” as she extended her hand.

The petite dark-haired woman standing in the door was not at all what Claire had expected, and by the look on the woman’s face as she scrutinized Claire, neither was Claire, as she left her hand suspended between them. It was really only a moment, but felt like an eternity, before Mrs. Murray seemed to regain her senses and a smile brightened her beautiful face as her dark brows rose as if in surprise. She reached out and took Claire’s hand between the two of hers and held it before giving it a brief shake and releasing it.

“Call me Jenny, please. I’m sorry to have taken up your time like I have today. It’s been a bit of a strasmus all day. Do you have time to come have a bit of chat? I know ye’re needin’ to be leavin’ soon.”

Claire found herself blushing hotly as she waved at her dishabille. “I’m not really dressed for an interview. I had a bit of an accident in the woods and Mrs. Fitz is looking for something I can wear home and well Fergus is trying to locate my shoe.”

“Och, Mrs. Fitz is a wonder, she’ll find ye something. I’m no sure what we’d do wit out her, and you met Fergus, did ye? A fine lad he is, my nephew. Cum, cum. It’s nay a problem, just the two of us.” And Jenny turned on her heel and took off in the direction of the study leaving Claire no choice but to follow the dark bobbing head.

Jamie arrived at the end of the hall just in time to once again see a flip of fabric disappear around the edge of the door. “IFRINN!” he growled to himself in frustration but slowed and quieted his step as he approached. He stood in the doorway just watching, listening, and then slowly turned and leaned against the frame, needing the support. Jenny saw him and nodded slightly but made no move to acknowledge his presence to Claire, his Claire. He took a slow deep breath to calm and still his heart that he believed was banging so loudly, he was sure she’d hear. No, not yet, he just needed to look at her for a bit before she noticed him.

Claire noticed a bar cart with several whisky decanters and a couple of wine bottles had been wheeled in along with a fresh tea tray laid out on the table between the three chairs in front of the fireplace which now held a small inviting fire. Jenny invited Claire to sit in the chair facing the gardens. “If the sun gets too bright, let me know, but it’s a better view from there,” she offered.

“We’ve tea or I dinna ken about ye, but I need a wee dram after the day I’ve had, you?” as she tilted the decanter toward Claire in invitation. “Ye won’t find this particular pour many places, it’s private stock from the family distillery,” she added as a bit of enticement.

“Why not? It’s been a most unusual day, why stop now?” Claire took a small sip from the glass Jenny handed her. “Mmmm, it’s quite good. Thank you,” and then settled comfortably in the chair.

“I apologize again for the way the day has turned out. It seems my wayward brother returned last night and there were matters needin’ discussin’. I’d hoped he might join us but he’s still recovering from a head injury suffered a few months back and he gets awful migraines. He sends his regrets to ye.”

“I’m sorry to hear about his injury, I’d no idea. Of course, to be honest, I’ve no idea about the whole intent of this meeting. Gail mentioned you like to meet new hires, and that something on CV piqued your interest.?” Claire settled back in her seat.

“My family contributes a fair amount to the hospital, we’ve been fortunate and want to help as we can those that may need a bit of help.”

“That’s very generous of you, and I’m sure very much appreciated, but I’m not sure how I might affect your contributions. I’ve only recently arrived and I’m still getting integrated into the program here.”

“I’m not sure what Mrs. Abernathy has told ye, but yes, your qualifications did stand out; ye’re an exceptional u woman. The thing is I like gettin’ to learn more about folks than just what’s found in a paper. There is usually so much more to a person than just that, don’t ye think?” Jenny looked past Claire momentarily and caught the resigned shake of Jamie’s head.

Christ, Jenny.

Let the inquisition begin. “What would you like to know?”

“May I ask, what made you decide to come to Scotland? I notice that ye’re English and might have had other opportunities open elsewhere,” Janet ignored Claire’s comment but moved ahead leading the conversation asking questions that she thought Jamie would want to hear.

Jesus H Roosevelt Christ. Why is everyone so friggin interested in why I came here? Is there something wrong with Scotland?!  Claire tood a deep breath. “May I be candid?”

Please, yes!

“I wish ye would.”

“You’re the second person in a week asking that question. Is there something wrong with wanting to come to Scotland?”

“Nay, it’s just with yer qualifications ye could go anywhere ye want.”

What?! Are ye encouraging her to go elsewhere?

“Professionally, I did have other opportunities, and I could do my work just about anywhere and be satisfied, but I’m sure you’re aware there are many factors to consider when making a change in your life. This was very much a personal decision. I’d been to Scotland before, I remembered the country being a lovely place, and have fond memories of being here. I assure you I am where I want to be; where I’m supposed to be” How’s that? Claire surprised herself with her response more certain it was the truth particularly given her discovery.

Weel, ye’re a wise woman to ken yer own mind, dinna let her bully ye about.

"Well, yes. I don’t have any family and Joe and Gail are as close as any I could claim, so having them here was a plus and it's time to set some roots and make a home.” God, did I need to tell her that?

I’m here Sassenach. I'm no lost any longer.Ye're my home as I am yers.

“Oh, weel, it’s good to hear ye’re so certain, ye’ve made a wise decision. So ye’ve been to Edinburgh then?”

Claire felt the wind taken from her sails a bit and calmer. “No, we used to go further north in the Highlands around Inverness, but we might have passed through here, I’m not sure.”

 

“So, what do you think? How’re ye likin it so far?”

“I’m quite enjoying The Royal, it’s a wonderful facility and the staff is excellent. The administration has been most helpful while I’ve been settling into the new routine here – finding my sea legs; it’s a bit different setting, but I appreciate the opportunity to develop and hone my surgical skills in new areas.” No more limbs blasted off, gunshot wounds, shrapnel.. Stop.

What kind of question is that Jenny?

“Yes, I’m glad to hear that, but I meant being here… in Scotland.”

“Oh! I thought you meant, … actually, I’ve been so caught up in relocating and settling in at work, I haven’t had much time for anything else. Today has been my first real day away and it’s been quite an adventure! Certainly, a day I won’t soon forget,” and she took another healthy sip of her beverage. “Your brother’s home has lovely grounds. I really enjoyed exploring them and that one spot, the glade, Fergus called it? It was…,” how could she describe it without giving away too much, “alluring. I could have easily spent a whole afternoon just there. Please thank him for me.”

Ye’re welcome; it’s all yers so ye can plant yer wee herbs to yer heart’s content.

“Of course, but hopefully ye can tell him yerself. I’m sure he’d like to meet ye.” Jenny kept her eyes averted from Jamie’s but he could see the mischief in hers. “So, if ye weren’t in Scotland, where would ye go?”

“Oh, that’s quite a question, I’m not sure I have an answer. It seems silly but, when I was weighing my considerations, weather was first.”

“So ye like rain then?”

“Well it’s certainly a change from the desert. But yes, I rather think I do.  And then there’s language. It seems Scot is fairly close to English, though I do keep my closed captions running when watching the telly.” Jenny laughed richly in appreciation.

D’ye remember what ye told that Redcoat General? Where was it ye said the English accent was unintelligible?

“So, ye’ve had some changes ye said, no real family home connection then, where’d ye grow up?”

“I’m originally from Oxfordshire, but I lost my parents when I was quite young and it was my dad’s brother, Uncle Lamb, who took me in. Though ‘in’ is probably not accurate. He was an archeologist, so we lived a rather nomadic lifestyle living in some pretty isolated sites primarily in Egypt, North Africa, the Arabian Pennisula, some areas further east. When the changing political climate affected access to certain areas and things got too heated, he decided it might be wiser, safer to come back to England about the time I entered university.

It was rather unconventional on one hand, but other than having my parents back, there’s nothing else I would trade for the experiences I have had.”

“I’d love to hear more about it when we have time. It sounds fascinating.”

I want to hear about every moment of yer life.

“It was, but sure, that’d be nice, anytime.”

“Ye said ye had no family, is yer uncle not alive then?”

Claire took a deep breath and Jenny could hear the sigh, “No, he’s not. The irony is he came back here to keep me safe and was then killed in an accident on a site.” Stupid, so stupid.

Och, I’m sorry lass.

“I’m sorry Claire, when did that happen?”

“I was in my third year at university, so seven – no eight years ago.”

“So, no family to speak of then; what about your husband, Frank? Will he be joining ye soon?”

“Husband?! Frank?! IFFRIN! NO! NO AGAIN!”  Jamie felt the stab of alarm jolt through him and he nearly blurted his thoughts as his head jerked up as he stared at Jenny.

Weel I’ll get to fight him for ye this time.

“Pardon me?” How the hell did she know about Frank? I never took his name so there should have been no record of him unless someone was looking deeply into my personal life, for what reason? This was to be a clean start, no history. “Frank? No, he will not be joining me. We’re no longer married.” Her voice was flat, devoid of emotion. Claire finished her drink in an effort to regain her composure, but her smile was tight and fell far short of her eyes as she laid down a challenge to Mrs. Murray to take care where she ventured with her questions.

Ah Taing Dhia! I willna have to kill the man, ye may have been angry with me.

Ooops touchy! Jenny caught the sudden movement behind Claire as Jamie had reacted to the question and shot her a warning glare and shake of his head, his jaw clenched.

Leave off Jenny!

“Och, I’m sorry if I was too personal. I didn’t mean to offend ye. I can certainly see that your unique experiences growing up helped you, what a great opportunity ye’ve had.”

“Yes, it was certainly that.” Claire decided to let any further reference to Frank drop, and not even touch it but decided to let her comment be interpreted as such with her tone before continuing. “I learned I had to be pretty self-sufficient, independent, and I’m congenitally stubborn, so all in all it worked out well,” and her chin lifted a bit and her eyes expressing her characteristics.

I’m glad to hear ye can admit it Sassenach. Ye always said I was the one with the personality of a mule.

Jenny nodded in appreciation, studying Claire; those were characteristics they shared, would be interesting to see how they got along. “Did ye always want to be a doctor?”

Of course, it’s in her bones. It’s who she’s meant to be, it’s her gift.

“I wouldn’t say that I had some great epiphany that I suddenly wanted be a doctor but living as rustically as I sometimes did with Uncle Lamb, and being in remote dig sites, someone was always getting injured. No major catastrophes, but scrapes, cuts, bruises, sometimes a broken bone, typical illnesses and such; but I enjoyed helping people and I was good at it, so it seemed a natural course to follow when the time came to attend university, which he insisted upon.” Claire was relaxing back into the conversation a bit after the jolt of the Frank inquiry, but the idea that she had been investigated still nagged at her. This was something she needed to call Raymond about.

“With traveling as much as it sems ye were, what was yer education before Cambridge?”

Claire leaned her head back and closed her eyes as she remembered, and a snorted laugh erupted. Her eyes flew open and a hand to her mouth as she caught Jenny’s surprised reaction and laughed fully again. “Sorry, I was just remembering,” when she was finally able to regain her breath. “My uncle was a confirmed bachelor and suddenly being handed a five-year old to rear was not something he was prepared for. He believed enrolling me in a good boarding school would fulfill his responsibilities. I had other ideas about that,” she remembered dashing through the doors and catching up with him as he walked hesitantly down the path and latching on to his leg like a limpet, tears streaming down both their faces, “and well let’s just say, we came to a mutual understanding. As long as I proved to be a good student and keep up with the curriculum he set with guidance from the local school, he would not leave me behind.”

Ye dinna ken what it is to hear ye laugh like that again. 

Jenny noticed Claire becoming subdued when she finished speaking and flicked her eyes back to Jamie who she could tell had been smiling to himself as Claire laughed. “I wonder if I should try that with my wee Jamie? He’s just about that age and a handful,” she offered hoping to bring back a bit of the levity that had filled the room but moments ago.

“Well it worked for the two of us, but we only had each other and after a while I think I grew on him,” she smiled again with affection for the man who had loved her. “There were short periods when we’d be back, he’d switched his affiliation to Cambridge and that became our base when we weren’t out of the country and I’d attend the local school a bit “for socialization,” she air-quoted the term, “but I was always the new girl, the outsider, even though I knew many of the students. I much preferred my independent study. I could move at my own pace and when we were away, I never lacked for tutors. Other colleagues and grad students pitched in and I was more than prepared to sit for the exams and interviews sooner than if I’d followed the traditional track.”

D’ye remember Leoch how the lasses were jealous of ye Such wee witches?

“Do ye think having yer uncle being a professor there helped ye with yer admission?”

She’s a smart lass, dinna insult her!

And there it is. Claire wasn’t offended by the question, she’d heard it before and the insinuation behind it and had come to expect a certain attitude when people learned the association. She wasn’t going to be coy about it. “I certainly wondered about that myself sometimes, and I can’t say it wasn’t considered in the overall decision, but the admission process is just as rigorous and thorough as was my education. My test scores were superior, and by graduating second in my class, I think I proved I deserved to be there.”

Aye, ye showed em, ye did. I’m so proud of ye.

“I would think so.”

“I noticed that ye recently come from a military background and have experience in dealing with battlefield traumas and I’m interested in how you, as a woman handle such situations…”

She’s the bravest woman I ever met. Ye should see how she cared for our kinsmen during the battles and grown men pissin’ themselves. Not her!

Really? Again? “I assure you I handle them as would any male surgeon,” Claire interrupted and visibly irritated. If she had hackles, they’d be standing on end. She’d straightened from her relaxed position to her ramrod posture of defense shifting to the edge of her chair. The turn of the questioning was out of bounds and the tone from a woman who was herself purported to be a progressive advocate for women. She was tired of having to defend her choices and her frustration was evident in her tone. “I’m a damned good surgeon, and proud of my accomplishments – the lives I’ve saved literally and figuratively.”

Jenny started at Claire’s tone, and aggressive body language, “Nay, please, I meant no offense…,”

“Mrs. Murray,” Claire quickly interjected hoping the switch back to the more formal convention would indicate her strong displeasure with the turn of the subject, “I hope you understand, I cannot share any information about my recent work. I can tell you that I have had the opportunity to work with medical teams that are incredibly well trained, dedicated, and selfless in their efforts to provide the most exemplary care to those needing our help. Every case is unique and requires skill to immediately evaluate and determine a course of treatment sometimes under the most extreme situations. I have benefited from their shared skills and training, which is far in advance of a more conventional track. Unfortunately, we cannot save the life of every patient due to the nature of some of those injuries.” She paused taking a deep breath before proceeding, the recollection of too many devastating injuries, immediately flickering through her thoughts. “I assure you we are not unfeeling. It’s difficult, even painful to accept that our best effort isn’t always enough. The losses hit us hard, truly, but in order to be able to give our full attention to our next patient, we must be able to separate and compartmentalize those losses. We must, if we’re to go on; we’re only human too.” Claire slowed as her temper cooled and she lost steam and blinked back tears of loss and frustration, knowing those would be held against her, because she was an emotional woman. 

“Forgive me, please. That was unprofessional.” As she regained her composure, a quiet remained between them as the words spoken settled in. “Mrs. Murray, if you’ll excuse me, I should be going. Could you please see if Mrs. Fitz is finished and Fergus has my shoes?” Claire moved to rise from her seat effectively ending the interview.

“There’s nothing to forgive,” a deep rich Scot burr rumbled from behind her, breaking the silence. “Ye spoke from yer heart, honest and open; canna ask for more than that. Thank ye

Chapter Text



Claire turned to meet the unexpected participant of her interview just as the lowering sun emerged from behind a tree casting a spotlight into the room and directly on him. Later Claire would recall thinking it could not have been more perfect if it had been scripted by a Hallmark movie director.

Good Lord…

Claire watched as the man who had spoken slowly eased himself away from the doorframe he had been braced against and unfold to his full commanding height like some beautiful exotic flower exposed to the light and faced her. She actually felt her stomach clench as she watched him. She was accustomed to seeing fit young men wearing little more than their skivvies, and frequently less, but never had she had a physical reaction such as she was experiencing and felt herself blushing in response. His body had the long lean build of a swimmer with broad shoulders tapering to a narrow waist below his well defined and taut torso. Wrapped in a towel slung low on his hips with another draping his shoulders Claire had the fleeting impression of a kilted Highlander of times past standing proudly before her. His rope musled arms hung to his sides, his hands clenched as though holding something, His water darkened hair had been pushed back off his forehead, but coppery tendrils curled around his ears and nape. A light furring of chest hair matched the coppery bronze color of his mop as it disappeared into a thin trail below the towel. And his eyes, when she pulled hers back up to meet his were intently fixed on hers and his lip curled with the slightest twitch at one corner holding a smile back. And she found herself involuntarily moving forward being pulled toward him, his deep burr resonating through her mind. Get a grip Beauchamp!

Jamie watched as Claire studied him, pleading that she would know him. His angel, her hair a halo of dark curls above her slim white robed body; those incredibly long legs…Ó Dhia nan gràs!  the sun’s backlighting rays revealing the silhouette of those legs moving toward him.

Jenny had remained silent for as long as she could watching the pantomime between the two evolve until she could not keep her mouth shuttered another moment pushed, “Och, ye made it after all, did ye braither? This is my wayward braither I mentioned. I’d invited him earlier, but he pled his head hurt too much and was going to bed. Ms. Beauchamp, please allow me to introduce ye…”

“James Fraser, Jamie this is… Ms. Beauchamp, Claire Beauchamp,” Jenny’s tone exuded a quiet victorious challenge to an unasked question between them that Claire did not understand.

Claire noting the tone had hesitated in her step and looked over her shoulder at Jenny, not understanding the tension, but noticed a grin twitching at her lips, before quickly deciding whatever was going on between the siblings was ridiculous and continued forward several steps towards Jamie smiling and offering her hand as he finally closed the distance between them to take hold of it upon Jenny’s introduction.

“Hell… ooo!” The spark from the initial touch of their fingers snapped, the tingle jolted right up to her elbow causing Claire to jump and snatch her hand back and hold it rubbing it, while she puzzled at the cause. “Sorry, that was something,” she laughed a bit smiling though embarrassed at her reaction as she extended her hand once again.

“Ye’re real.” Jamie almost whispered as he nodded and took her hand again feeling her tense but merely held her hand gently but more firmly willing his own not to expose the tremble he felt racing through his body.

A peal of laughter the most beautiful sound in the world, answered him. “It would seem so, and you?”

He didn’t speak as he peered down, tenderly examining her small hand, the slender fingers, before he turned and lifted it caressing her knuckles with his lips. And as he lifted his eyes to meet hers, his lips turned up in a crooked half smile that lit up his handsome face.

“Your servant, ma’am. It’s so verra good to see ye again, Sassenach,” he said never taking his eyes from hers.

Without looking at her directly Jamie, acknowledged his smugly smiling sister, Jenny, standing behind Claire with hands akimbo and toe tapping foot. “I told you so,” she clearly conveyed to him though silently now with her movements and with the barest of motions, he dipped his head toward her in gratitude. And Jenny’s eyes glimmered with tears of pure joy. She’d known; she’d believed him and refused to give up even when he himself appeared on the cusp of resignation. Perhaps he could now find the solace he deserved.

Startled as much by his old school mannerisms as well as his statement, Claire stepped back, cocking her head as she strained for recollection staring into the deepest clear blue eyes she’d ever seen.

“Do we know each other?”

“Oh, aye, we do,” his deep rich Scottish burr caught at her heart.

“I’m…I’m sorry, but I don’t recall. I’m sure I would,” and then blushed again as she realized what she’d revealed. I would not forget you.

“Dinna fash, it will come to ye.” Jamie didn’t seem discouraged by her statement and still held to her hand which she made no effort to pull free.

“So ye met Fergus,” he quirked his brow. “Yer shoons?” He offered them up, wanting to free his other hand, in order to take hold of hers with both of his.

“So, you are ‘my lord’ then?” she asked with a bit of a smirk recalling Fergus’s reference to the owner of the property, but not sure this young man fit the billing she’d envisioned.

“I hope to be,” His eyes twinkled at her inflection. “Dinna ken where it comes from, he’s the only one to call me that, been trying to get him to stop,” and then Jamie leaned in confidentially, “but I do like how ye say it,” his smiled deepened at her and her discomfort as she realized its implication from his teasing response and blushed.

“Oh yes, yes! Please tell him thank you,” as reason returned, she awkwardly reached across for her shoes with her left hand as Jamie retained firm possession of her right.

“Ye numpty, let go of her hand! Can ye nay see what ye’re doing?” Jenny snorted as she waved him in. “Come in and join us. I’m sure Ms. Beauchamp wants to escape this loony bin as quickly as she can.”

Jamie reluctantly released Claire’s hand at Jenny’s urging and stepped back a pace and felt and instant loss and if his imagination wasn’t playing tricks on him saw disappointment flicker across Claire’s face.

“How is yer head feeling then Jamie? Ye’ve been taking to the waters I see,” Jenny stated matter-of-factly. “Did it help?”

Jamie glanced down registering he was sporting only a towel pinked up in embarrassment and shifted his shoulders, “Aye, it helps a bit, sometimes.”

Claire joined in, “Jenny tells me you suffered a head injury not too long ago and you get frequent migraines,” peering at him as if she could discern the problem deep within if she looked hard enough.

Jamie, uncomfortable with having his condition exposed, much less discussed, reluctantly acknowledged it. “Aye, sometimes. It’s no so bad, just pushing hard the last few days,” he tried to dismiss it.

“Are you having pain now?” Claire asked assuming her professional attitude and bringing she hoped a bit of calm to her heart which had been racing this whole time. She needed to focus on something else other than the physical reaction she was having to this man, but she readily dismissed thoughts of her immediate departure.

“Weel, just a bit.” Jamie admitted reluctantly as he rubbed the back of his neck.

Jaaamiiieee,” Jenny drew out his name in exasperation and admonished him equally as only a big sister could do.

Claire gave him a sympathetic look with a hint of a smile as he winced at Jenny’s wail and rolled his eyes. “Come over here,” Claire directed as she moved across to the divan, “and lay down. Let’s see what I can do.”

Dear Sweet Mary.  Jamie sat on the edge and swung his long legs up griping the edge of the towel looking back up at Claire, “I wasna expecting company,” and cast a disparaging look at his sister who only looked down her long nose at him reading her “I tried to tell ye” expression well enough before settling back.

“That’s alright, I was just thinking your attire sort of lends itself to the effect of a kilt wearing Scotsman, so you best be careful now or I’ll know just what Scots wear or don’t under their kilts,” she grinned at him trying to make light of the situation.

“A kilt? Sorry lass, it’s no exactly a kilt.”

“You’re right, of course.” Claire blushed at her lame attempt at a flirt. Good grief, Stop!

“I canna say the same for the robe ye’re wearing, no way does it mind me of a standard issue doctor lab coat,” he smiled attempting to flirt back.

“Sorry, offerings of the house,” she smiled. “I’m afraid I had a bit of a spill and well, beggars, can’t be choosers. I honestly didn’t expect to be meeting anyone dressed like this either. Next time I see you, I promise I’ll be wearing my regulation white coat.”

“I heard ye took a wee dunkin, I’m glad ye’re okay. I only meant I… I’d have a standing appointment, if that was… Sorry.” His ears turned pink as he stopped himself. Shut yer trap Man! Pigs, pigs, pigs, mounds of dead stinkin’ pigs, he chanted to himself in an effort to distract his thoughts and deal with his rising cock stand, as he removed the towel from his shoulders and casually arranged it over his lap.

Claire noticed his adjustment and bit back her smile, but glad she was behind him and he couldn’t see her as she smothered a laugh, glad that he appeared as nervous as she was. She knew it could be a normal reaction but didn’t want to cause him any additional discomfort calling attention to it. “Alright now, you must understand this is not really in my area of practice, but I might be able to offer you a bit of relief for the time. My uncle used to get migraines and he said this helped, perhaps it’s worth a try? If the pain persists, you really should see your doctor for follow up care particularly if related to an injury. Here now, bring your head up a bit and rest it here,” she patted the headrest of the lounge encouraging him to move up.

Jamie dug his heels into the leather to give himself leverage and scoot up into position. He couldn’t believe she was really going to lay her blessed hands upon him and thanked God for delivering her back to him and shivered in anticipation of her touch.

“That’s good. Have you taken a chill dressed like that?” noticing his shiver she placed her hand on his cheek and then shifted it to his bare chest and felt the heat radiating off him and through her and left her hand there a bit longer than necessary.

“Nah, we’re made of sterner stuff in the Highlands. How d’ye think we’ve survived the frigid winters for centuries wi’ just our kilts and plaids?” and attempted to give her a jesting wink and a smile. He looked more like a surprised owl which tickled her but the look that passed between them induced another tremor.

“Too right,” Claire conceded with a light laugh. “You do seem nice and warm. All right then, just lay back, close your eyes, relax,” and he closed his eyes giving in to the sensuality of her touch. “Hmmm,” quietly rumbled through his chest in anticipation.

Jenny soundlessly slipped out of the room and quietly pulled the door closed. She leaned against it for a minute placing her hand over her mouth, needing to stifle a laugh, having witnessed the most awkward attempts at flirting, the both of them, and did laugh, shaking her head as she headed off toward her room to get ready. Ah Jamie, lad, ye’re so outta practice! She’d felt like an intruder and wanted to give him – them time alone together to find each other. Dear God, it‘s taken ye long enough but Thank ye!

Chapter Text



Jamie heard the soft click of the door latch as it closed behind Jenny and realized he was alone with Claire.

She doesna ken me. What d’ye expect – that she would just throw herself in yer arms? Well maybe what I hoped. Alright, Plan B. Fuck if I ken. What am I going to do?. Thoughts warred with themselves in Jamie’s mind. What did she say? Relax? I canna do that, no with her so close, touching me! His initial ecstatic anticipation was giving way to a panic as his heart started racing leaping past his thoughts. His fingers were tapping out his nervousness on his thigh.

“It’s alright,” he felt her cool fingers rest on his shoulder, and her touch brings his focus fully back to her and what she’s saying. It will be all right.  Claire walked around from behind him trailing her fingers across his skin, not breaking contact until she was facing him and then lowered herself until she was eye level with him. His eyes flickered to the juncture where the robe wrapped just at the top of her clevage, exposing beautiful pale skin only a shade or so darker than the robe. NO now! Dinna look. and closed his eyes, shutting away the temptation. Claire saw his fingers curl into fists.

“James, may I call you James?” her voice was low and soft, pulling him to look at her, but he resisted his urge.

“Call me Jamie, please.”

“Jamie.” He could hear a smile in her voice and he took a deep breath. “That’s good. If you can focus on your breathing, you’ll feel your heart rate slow and you’ll be able to relax. This will be much more effective if you’ll trust me. Will you trust me?”

With my life. "Aye, lass, have yer way with me.. I mean do what ye think best.” Christ.

Claire couldn’t hold back her smile, though she’d managed to bite back her response. I wish I could.

She listened as Jamie controlled his breathing, settling into a good pattern and wondered what had set him off. She rose and moved back to the headrest where his lay. Silence enveloped the pair as Claire extended her fingers into Jamie’s hair; up close in the light it was so much more beautiful, deep shades of auburn, bronze, cinnamon, sun-streaked strawberry and blond, and stifled a sigh of pleasure as she felt the softness of it where it dried. She closed her own eyes and focused her attention recalling the task directly at hand. It didn’t help that he leaned his head into her hand, and a soft “mmmm” of appreciation wafted up. Her own sensitive fingers were trembling slightly as she set them to gently examine his scalp feeling for any indications of injury and then found one near the base of his skull, the raised line of a scar caused by stitches and wondered what had caused it. He’d been lucky she thought; not knowing the true extent of the injury, just the location in such a vulnerable area could have killed him; very lucky indeed.

As if reading her mind, he answered her curiosity. “The English. A group of Hooligans deep into their cups set upon a group of folks after their team lost the football match. What a brawl it turned into, no care for who was about. The police never found the lunkheads that did me but wanted to charge me for disturbin’ the peace. Only as I was laid out bleedin’ all over the walk they couldna take me in. Didna matter that my lads and I only came out to defend the lass they’d turned their attention on.”

“That doesn’t seem right. Did you get it sorted out?” Her fingers moved lower to the nape of his neck, the soft curls of his hair wrapping around her fingers, and she began to gently massage the knotted muscles and tendons there.

“Aye, eventually. But I dinna care much for the English fans these days, rabid dogs they are.”

“Hopefully, you don’t think badly of all the English, we are fellow Brits.” Thankfully he couldn’t see her face as she smiled at the irony of the situation.

“Nah," she could see his cheeks rise as he grinned. "I ken enough good ones that I count as friends to know the difference and I do have a dash of English blood myself, but Scot I choose to be.”

Jamie released a small groan of pleasure, giving into the bliss of sensations as Claire’s fingers continued to move in small sensual circles adjusting the pressure as she encountered tightness until feeling its ease and then slowly moving to other sensitive locations of nerves and tightness. “Claire,” it came out almost as breath and she paused as it came to her. Say it again, please. “Ye’ve a kind touch. Thank ye.”

She breathed in deeply and exhaled slowly, controlling her focus as she concentrated her energies on willing away as much of his pain as was within her power. Tingles of pleasure emanated through the nerves of her fingers, slowly radiating up her arms, through her shoulders and down her back to her spine and to her very core. It was far beyond that which she usually felt as a healer.

Claire wouldn’t speak, she just slightly increased the pressure of her palms’ embrace in acknowledgement for a moment before continuing. As her hands slowly continued their path following its contours, she embraced the weight of his head in her palms when needed, otherwise relying on the arm of the divan to assist. Her thumbs gently soothed his brow and massaged his temples and along the pressure points of his jaw. He was freshly shaven and his skin warm and smooth. She could feel the tension lessening and opened her eyes to verify it as his entire body had relaxed.

As she paused in her ministrations, his body tensed, and his hand shot up quickly grabbing hers. “Dinna leave. Please. No yet.” And when she looked down to assure him she was not leaving yet, she found him gazing back at her with an intensity she’d not felt before and felt a shiver along the length of her spine and extending to her fingers. “I’m here, I’m not leaving.” Jamie smiled grateful at her own reaction and closed his eyes. “Thank ye, mo nighean donn,” and patted her hand then lowered his hand to rest back on his abdomen.

Claire had fought to keep her thoughts centered here on what she was doing now, but now they raced back to her conversation with Raymond and the day her life changed course, “Ah, ma chere, you’ve felt him coming, have you?” “Someone from your past.”

Claire felt her own heart racing as she tried to reconcile her thoughts with what Raymond had told her. It was too much. It challenged all reason. Yet there was something happening here, something that she could not possibly ignore. He knew her and claimed she knew him. She risked looking down at this man stretched out before her and wondered was he truly her past as well as her future?

What a strange day it had been, and the lowering sun reminded her that she had one more obligation before her day would end.

She noticed Jamie’s breathing had settled in to a deep regular pattern and was sure he’d fallen asleep. She slowed her motions, knowing she would need to be leaving and didn’t want to wake him. Very gently she eased her hands away and stood still to make sure he was undisturbed and had settled into a good sleep. She tiptoed around the edge to face him and on impulse gently fingered the hair from his forehead and a sweet smile touched his lips. An angel kiss, she thought and turned to leave, then covered him with the throw. Do you know how beautiful you are? Sweet dreams.  She snaged her shoes as she left.

She eased out of the room with one last glance toward the slumbering figure and then out to find the corridor empty and continued down the hall back to the suite where she had changed and found her clutch next to the jacket she had removed before she left for her great misadventure and a change of clothes that would see her home, with a handwritten note next to it.

“We’ll take care of getting your clothes back to you. I look forward to talking with you soon. Thank you for today. – JFM

Claire dressed hurriedly in the yoga pants and top and her own jacket. From the fit Claire didn’t think they were Jenny’s and pushed aside the uncomfortable twinge as she considered they belonged to another female, a girlfriend’s – and the robe she’d laid out on the bed? She left the room with shoes in hand feeling a bit like a sneak thief slipping out like this but when she stepped into the hall there was no one about and she was reluctant to disturb the quiet that pervaded the residence. There were lights on in the halls and occasional side rooms but there was no one about to bid goodbye or thank.

Claire made her way down and opened the front door and stepped out onto the stoop, quietly closing it behind her before slipping on her shoes. She stood there for a moment looking about to see if the world had changed, but it all looked the same. Joe’s car was still parked where she’d left it. There were birds chirping nearby, and she could hear a bit of traffic passing from the roadway. The sun still shone though it hung lower in the still remarkably clear sky.

Before she turned out of the drive she called Joe. “Hey, yeah, it was fine. I’m just leaving now. Yes, it took a lot longer than I expected. Do you need your car back tonight? I thought I’d take Uber to the party and can drive your car to work and drop it off. You’re sure? Thanks, Tell Gail I’ll catch up with her tonight. Okay, see you in a bit.”

As she drove back towards town, the time dawned on her and couldn’t believe it was only just after 5:00. No way. Everything that had happened today couldn’t have in just a few hours. Had time stood still?

She pushed the button to Joe’s audio playlist and started it where he’d left off hoping to find something to drown out the thoughts screaming for her attention. Oh Joe. It wasn’t the loud obnoxious rants he usually played, instead it was something soft, and definitely not suited for her current state of mind.  

She smiled and cranked it up anyway and started belting out the lyrics along with the song. ...my sweet baby James…

When you're down and troubled  /  And you need a helping hand  /  And nothing, oh, nothing is going right,  /  Just close your eyes and think of me  /  And soon I will be there  /  To brighten up even your darkest night

You just call out my name.  /  And, you know, wherever I am  /  I'll come running (oh yeah, baby)  /  To see you again  /  Winter, spring, summer or fal l / All you've got to do is call / And I'll be there, (yeah yeah yeah)  /  You've got a friend

If the sky above you /  Should turn dark and full of clouds /  And that old north wind should begin to blow / Keep your head together / And call my name out loud now / Soon I'll be knocking upon your door

You just call out my name  /  And, you know, wherever I am  /  I'll come running (Oh, yes I will)  /  To see you again  /  Winter, spring, summer or fall  /  All you've got to do is call  /  And I'll be there, yeah yes

Ain't it good to know that you've got a friend  /  When people can be so cold?  /  They'll hurt you and desert you  /  Well, they'll take your soul if you let them  /  Oh, but don't you let them

You just call out my name  /  And, you know, wherever I am  /  I'll come running  /  To see you again  /  (Oh baby don't you know 'bout)  /  Winter, spring, summer or fall  /  (Hey Now) All you've got to do is call
Lord I'll be there, yes I will

You've got a friend  /  You've got a friend

Well I’m supposed to be looking to make new friends…

Claire…

Chapter Text



Jamie roused from his sleep not long after Claire had departed, his body already missing her touch. He felt more rested in the brief time that she had graced him with than he had in months. The pain in his head had subsided but he felt a new ache where his heart should be.

“JENNY!” he bellowed rising up from the divan and making his way toward the door nearly bumping into his sister as he charged into the hallway. His voice had lowered but was laced with frustration as he demanded, “Where did she go? Where is that bloody party tonight?”

“So, are ye feelin’ better then? I thought ye said ye were no interested in going to any parties. Ye wanted to keep a low profile until ye were ready.” Jenny had changed and was now dressed in a lovely deep blue cocktail dress that accentuated her luscious curves and defied the fact that she was the mother of three children. She stood in front of him with her arms crossed, her face set, a mother well practiced in dealing with childish tantrums.

“Jenny, dinna try me now.” His attempt to be imperious failing, added more softly, “Please?”

“We’re goin’ to Holyrood House. Yer kilt is laid out. Ye can show yer lass what a true kilt wearin Highlander looks like. Make it quick! Or I won’t wait for ye.” Jenny was feeling satisfyingly smug with the results of the day.

Jamie started to rush away, but then turned to give Jenny a kiss on her forehead and joy was lighting his face. “Thank ye, Jenny. Call the boys and tell them to meet us there!”

“Already done. They should already be there. Ye may have checked out, but we’ve managed to mind things just fine in yer absence,” she called after him with a smile and knowing look as he raced down the hall.



“Milord?”

Jamie looked up from where is was sitting on his club chair pulling up a stocking to see Fergus standing in his bedroom doorway and felt a wave of guilt wash over him. “Oh Fergus…”

“I guess Aunt Jenny won the bet.” Fergus was grinning at his da.

He bent down to pull on his boot, “Oh, aye? Did she have a bet with you?” and looked over his shoulder at him quizzically, while he adjusted the stocking.

“Not me. I heard her tell Mrs. Fitz that she just bet she could get you to go the party tonight.”

Jamie stood up and stomped his feet as he looked down at Fergus, “I hadna planned to go, to leave ye here tonight, but would ye mind?”

Fergus shook his head as he took the now abandoned seat and looked up at Jamie, marveling, “Is it the faerie? Are you chasing her?”

Jamie tried to hold back his grin seeing the earnestness of Fergus’ expression and moved to face the mirror addressing Fergus’ reflection as he worked on his tie. “Well, I’m no sure if she’s exactly a faerie, but I understand she’s going to be there. And if I can catch her, I’d like to talk with her some more.”

“But she is! She’s special. You have very long legs and are very fast, but I dinna think she will run if she knows you’re chasing her. I think she will like you very much and not want to run away, but maybe you should pluck her wing first.”

Jamie turned around facing Fergus and pointed at his tie, “How’s that? Is it straight?”

Fergus got up and approached him looking at him with a critical eye. “It’s very good.”

“And why should I pluck her wing?” Jamie picked up his vest, considering it before putting it on and buttoning it, “wouldn’t that hurt her?”

“Well Rabbie said, if ye like a girl ye need to let her know.”

“He’s right, ye should, but what does that have to do with plucking a wing?”

Fergus lifted his hands in frustration as though Jamie was completely missing the message. “You know, you can knock her over by accident and then help her up and then you can hold her hand.”

“I dinna think ye should be taking love advise from wee Rabbie,” Jamie was shrugging into his coat, trying to bite back his grin as he gave Fergus a stern look and failing miserably, they both started laughing.

“Ye ken, a lass will sometimes lead ye on a merry chase to see if ye can keep up and be friends That’s important.”

“What is, …being fast?”

“No, a bhobain, being friends, and ye do not go knockin any lasses over, use yer words to tell her ye like her.

“And then will you kiss her?” Fergus followed up on his question with exaggerated kissy faces and noises.

Christ, Da! I dinna remember talking to ye this way, I’m no ready to have this conversation. Jamie felt a blush creeping up his neck and was attempting to rub it away as he turned and silenced Fergus with his furrowed brow, “Only if she asks, and only if it feels right, for the both of us.” Jamie stood looking down at his son and took a deep breath knowing Jenny would be yelling for him any minute and grateful she hadn’t already. “Here,” reaching out for his hand he pulled him up and out of the chair and sitting down himself, pulled Fergus into his lap.

Oof! “Ye weigh almost as much as a good draft horse. I’m gonna have to tell yer gran to stop feeding ye so much when ye visit,” as he sat back in the chair fitting his arm around Fergus. “I dinna think ye’ll be fitting in my lap too much longer if ye keep growing so fast.”

Fergus giggled as he shook his head, “No, I’m not,” but leaned back against him.  

“It’s different for us, ye and me. I had my mam and a sister so my da made sure I kent the way to treat a girl…”

“I know, you already told me ...you do not hit them, …ever. I’m to be kind to all the girls. Ye hold doors open; It will be my job to protect them.” Fergus waggled his head back and forth as he recited the list. He stopped, furrowing his brow in concentration.

“Aye, that’s enough for now, so why would ye knock her over and maybe hurt her if ye like her? Doesna make much sense to me. It should be a long time off, but when ye like a girl that ye want to hold hands with, why no just tell her?”

“JAMIE, WE’RE LATE!”

“Och, it’s the clarion call of yer Aunt Jenny, she’ll have me me in knots if I dinna go. We are no finished with this, but soon, okay? I willna be home before ye go to bed. Mind Mrs. Fitz. Wish me luck?”

Fergus gave him a tight hug, “Bon chance, but still pluck a wing.”

Chapter Text



Jamie had taken to his phone as soon as they’d settled into their car seats. “Murtagh, are ye there? She’s here or I mean she should be there soon! Who? Claire! Who else would I be callin’ about? Keep an eye out for her ‘til I can get there. What does she look like? Just look for an angel wi’ a halo of brown curls. Ye’ll ken her as no other. An’ the Security on the door will have the guest list. Have Willie standin’ by there if need be. Aye, have him stay near.

Let the others ken too. Have Rupert and Angus start their regular security recon. Nay, I didna expect to be comin’ tonight or else would ha seen it set up before hand, do ye think I’m daft? Meet me outside. I’ll want to slip in away from the crowd ye ken for a bit ‘til I’m certain all is well. We should be there in 20 minutes the way Jenny is drivin’. Aye. I’ll see you in a bit.”

Jenny had been listening in to Jamie’s side of his conversation knowing he’d take matters into his own hands upon their arrival.

Jamie was bouncing in his seat like a bairn needing to use the privy, wanting Jenny to drive faster, which she steadfastly refused to do.

“It’s no my fault we got a late start. I’ll no leave my bairns motherless because I’m too rushed to mind the road.” Jenny almost always insisted on driving herself. She got carsick if she wasn’t she claimed. Jamie thought she just liked to be in control but knew better than to say anything. “If ye’d no been so pig headed and listened to me earlier,” but then looking over at him, “I guess it didna turn out so badly after all. Hmmm?”

Jamie returned her look smiling, “Aye, I’m that hard headed; the Fraser stubbornness for sure. You should have just hit me over the head wi’ a pot. What’s one more lump?”

“I hope ye’ve received enough of those for this lifetime. I dinna know that I could survive ye getting another.”

“She doesna ken me.” It was said it so quietly she’d almost not heard him.

Janet glanced over at him; his arm was propped against the window’s edge with his finger rubbing against his lip as he stared out the windscreen.

She reached over and took hold of his free hand, “No yet, perhaps. So this is yer chance for her to know who ye are now.”

“D’ye think that she’ll like me?” Jamie looked to Jenny bashfully, with the look of hesitant hope.

She couldn’t help it. The small laugh bubbled out as she looked over at him; he truly was a humble sort, but he’d always exuded a self-confidence, this side of him was fascinating. “What’s not to like Jamie?” she scoffed, “From what I could see, she certainly was impressed, but why did you rush up in yer towel like that? Ye could’ve frightened the lass, she might just think ye’re a loon if ye dinna take care. But yes, I could see she liked ye, but she was …uneasy. Were ye not confused when all this started comin’ to ye? Ye’ve had more time to understand and accept what’s happened. Take care Jamie, just gi’ her time.”

“Uneasy? D’ye think that might have been something to do with all the questions, grillin’ her like that? I thought she was goin’ to leave. Why’d ye do it?”

“Well ye were just lurkin’ in the doorway like a big gallump and it was true, I wanted to know something more about her.”

“That may be, but it seems ye already had the answers to many of the questions ye asked. Should I ask how or just remind ye that is an abuse of priviledge to use our resources for personal gratification or curiosity. Were ye satisfied?”

“Claire’s not a little girl, Jamie. She’s lived a life and she’s a strong woman, which ye need and she’s as smart as she is beautiful.”

“Aye she is,” a small smile pressed his lips upward, then tightened as he turned back to her. “Why did ye bring up her husband? Ye shouldna have done that.”

“Did ye already ken about Frank?”

“She was marrit before.” Jenny waited but only heard him take a deep breath before finishing, “I dinna want to talk about it now.”

Their conversation ceased, each taken up with their own thoughts. “What’s it mean to pluck a faerie’s wing?”

“Where did ye hear that?”

“Fergus, …he, we were talking a bit and he was giving me some advise, about knockin Claire down so she’d ken I liked her and then some nonsense about plucking wings.”

Jamie looked at Jenny, who was griping the steering wheel with both hands and staring out the windscreen looking for all the world as if she was choking.

“What?! Are ye alright Jenny?! Pull over!” and reached over to pat her back in their cramped confines.

She was just shaking her head back and forth until she shot him a quick glance and an explosion of laughter burst out “Mary! Dear sweet Jesus...” as hysterical laughter continued to roll out until she was finally gasping for breath, with small bursts of laughter popping out each time she looked back at Jamie.

“Are ye laughing at me?” Jamie wasn’t certain what had triggered such a reaction.

Jenny held up her hand indicating he should stop talking then knuckled the corner of her eyes as she took deep breaths trying to gather her senses before she began. “Mary told me Rabbie came home the last time his da had him for the weekend a couple of weeks back and he’d evidently decided to have “the talk” with Rabbie and gave him his full Highlander version of the birds and the bees.”

“Ye mean that iejiit, McNabb?”

“Ye can only imagine.”

“I dinna want to, please dinna make me.” Jamie rolled his head back and forth against the headrest.

“Oh yes. I dinna remember everything she told me, but he twisted it all up with water horses and faeries’ tales and how to make it so they couldna leave ye. Truly it made me sort of wonder about him and Mary. But Fergus got Rabbie’s version of it? It’s like that old rumors game. Who’s to ken what he heard.” She chuckled again. “So, knockin’ her down or knockin’ her up….? I think Fergus was telling ye to bed the faerie.”

“Christ.” It was Jamie’s turn to shake his head and scrub his face. “He’s too young to be thinking of such things. I dinna want him hanging out with Rabbie.”

“Well Jamie, yer going to need to straighten things out with the lad. Have ye talked with him? Ye might be helping Rabbie too.”

“No about that yet exactly. Only about how I expected him to treat girls. But then he started in on plucking wings and kissing.”

“Kissing? Ye better do it quick, puir lad.”

“Puir lad? … D’ye mean him or me?”

“This is what ye’ve always wanted. Ye may be going about it a bit different than most folks, but ye’ve always had yer own way of doing things. Why should this be any different? When did da talk to ye?”

“I was thirteen. Took me up to the fields; he was in his farmer mode when he told me I needed to be responsible for where I sowed my seed and if I wasna ready to care for a lass and a bairn, I wasna ready to be doing any fertilizing.” Jamie snickered at the recollection.

And?...”

Jamie’s ears burned red to the tips and looked away to the passing scenery, not able to meet Jenny’s look. “I’ve no sired any bairns if that’s what ye’re asking.”

“Yer bairns will be blessed, when ye do.”

Jamie leaned his head back and tuned in to his own thoughts. The knowing, the dreams had been with him for so long, they were just that part of him. So deep were the feelings and sensations he’d experienced he could never have imagined them, only lived them, he had begun to accept the possibility of their truth.

They’d helped define the man he’d become, the man hoped to be, someone worthy of her, Claire. It seemed she’d always been with him, so sure of her and then, he’d lost her. It was as if she’d become a ghost haunting only the periphery of his dreams.

The pain that accompanied the dreams now as he tried to recall and hold onto her had become almost unbearable. He was that close to giving in when he’d returned, he’d not been willing to hear Jenny add any more fuel to his diminishing flicker of hope.

“Jenny, I’m grateful to ye, truly, for believin’ me and no givin’ up when I was ready to.” And he reached over and squeezed her hand. They’d shared a lifetime of secrets and he was hoping to now share in a love as she shared with Ian.

“Ian’s going to be meetin’ us there. I called him earlier when I thought it was her. He said he was not going to miss this evening for the world. Are ye sure ye dinna want to issue the welcome tonight? I’ve got it covered if ye’d rather not, just askin’.” 

Jamie smiled as he thought of Ian, Jenny’s husband, and his oldest friend. They’d been like brothers growing up and he’d recognized the connection growing between Jenny and Ian before they did or were willing to recognize. He was glad for them but envied their relationship. His own parents shared a love that he hoped to experience one day. Even now it was hard for others to penetrate unless invited in; they shared a world unto themselves.

“I’d like to stay in the background tonight as much as possible if ye really dinna mind. I dinna ken how things are going to be. I feel I’m lettin’ ye down and I’m sorry for it, Jenny.”

“Dinna fash, I’m sure it’s going to be an excitin’ evening.”

Jamie and Jenny had arrived at the Palace after a tortuous thirty-minute drive.

“Jenny, go ahead in but avoid any further encounters wi’ Claire for the time being, if ye can, please?” She nodded in acknowledgement to his request, squeezed his hand and went in to greet the guests. He needed to meet up with Murtagh.

It was an odd feeling being here with Claire so near.

Chapter Text



Murtagh approached Jamie shortly after he’d left the car.

“Have ye seen her, man?” Jamie asked immediately, the grin on his face only a hint at his excitement.

“Aye, she’s here. Saw her come in myself wi’ tha little frog of a man, Raymond, she was a holdin’ on to,” Murtagh grumped out his disapproval. “Willie’s stayin’ as near to her as he can. She seems to be attractin’ a bit of attention and quite a few gents wantin’ to make the lady’s acquaintance.”

“Of course, I would think so, she’s a rare beauty, is she no?” Jamie didn’t like the idea of her attraction to other men but wasn’t surprised, she was a beautiful woman after all and he was hardly in a position to object, yet. However, the tone in Murtagh’s voice suggested something was amiss.

“Aye, she’s bonnie, but have ye seen her? SEEN her? What she’s wearin’?” Murtagh’s expressive eyebrows were nearly disappearing into his hairline.

“Of course not, ye keen that.” Jamie paused giving him a quizzical look, before continuing almost dreamily, “The last I saw her, she was as an angel, my angel, in a billowy white robe, wi’ her curls aflutter around her head.”

“Weel ye need to get yer head outta the clouds lad, she’s no dressed as any angel that I’ve ever imagined. Best ye take a look.”

Wanting to see what was amiss, Jamie slipped into the Gathering with Murtagh through a side door and into an alcove hoping to attract as little attention as possible. Given his stature and presence, it was not always an easy thing, but so far, he’d managed this evening. He was familiar with a great many of the guests, regulars for this type of event, and little cause for concern. New faces were another matter. He’d accepted a glass of whisky and sipped it as he stood in the bit of shelter offered by the shadowed alcove. Jamie looked over the room and studying the subtle patterns of movement amongst the guests as they milled about greeting one another.

Another kilted Highlander joined them as he continued his surveillance. “So, anything worrisome I should know, Angus?”

“Nothing to get your kilt in a knot over. I did see St. Germaine come in wi’ Annalise a bit ago. Ye best avoid her. And Laoghaire, too, she’s been askin’ if ye’re about,” giving Jamie a wink. “Dougal is on the list, but no here yet. We’re keeping an eye out for him. Jenny did say to tell ye that if ye can join her later there’re some folks ye should meet wi’ about a certain lady ye’ve recently made your acquaintance,” and he nudged Jamie’s elbow. “About the lady, seems she’s got a cadre of angels watching over her.”

“Aye? Why might that be do ye suppose?”

“It’s Raymond’s doing; ye keen it as well as I do.”

Angus just shrugged with his indecision. “She’s quite the fetchin’ sight laddie. A bit more woman than ye’re ready for if ye ask me. Perhaps I’ll have a go, if she’ll no have ye.”

“Angus,” Jamie rebuked him good naturedly but with a definite warning in his tone. “She’ll have none o the likes o ye. Dinna even think about it. Who else’s here tonight?”

Before Murtagh could answer, Angus jumped in, “Just Rupert, it’s a party, Jamie. Dinna worry tonight, we’ll mind things, we always do. Like Rupert says we’ll be the eyes and ears,” he gave a small salute as he stepped away from Jamie and Murtagh.



A flash of red and the tinkle of a laugh drew Jamie's attention like a beacon and then he saw her from the back, and his heart stopped, and breath seized in his chest.

Dear God, was she mad?! Her luxuriant tangle of chestnut curls had been swept up exposing her beautiful swan neck and bared down the full expanse of her back as far as the base of her spine. The drape lay just below and hugged the curves of her beautiful arse. Her beautiful fair skin, glows like pearls and soft as velvet. And he felt his fingers trembling in need to touch, the exposed dimples, the perfect spot for his thumbs to rest as he held her hips and he felt his firmness taking hold.

She was speaking with a man old enough to be her grandfather and clutching his arm as she bent her head toward him in an intimate manner as they spoke and the man leaning in closer looking intently down rather than at her beautiful whisky eyes. And then she turned; the neckline of her blood red dress plunged deep, anchored below her waist exposing her cleavage. Christ Almighty! He’d be able to see to her third rib! Jamie felt a flare of jealousy surge through him seeing the attention Claire was getting and giving.

He looked to Murtagh for confirmation as to what he was seeing, and perceiving the expression on Murtagh’s face, and his quick side nod of acknowledgement "I told ye." Jamie gave him a quick jab and a glare that just dared him to keep looking.

Murtagh returned Jamie’s glare with a lifted brow and a smile twitching at the corner of his mouth before he turned away from the crowd and placed a hand on Jamie’s arm reading his intent and shook his head. He leaned in toward Jamie speaking to him alone as Jamie’s eyes stayed pinioned on Claire, “Nay, lad, have a care before ye run over there and scare her. Ye ken better how to stalk yer prey, aye?” He dipped his head encouragingly with a small smile.

Jamie turned away from his vision of Claire, breathed in deeply and nodded as he accepted the wisdom behind Murtagh’s words before he turned around and squinted at him with a smile tweaking the corners of his lips. “Ye ken that sounds just a wee bit creepy, Murtagh, but I get yer meanin’, thank ye. I’ll take my time and mind my step and try no to embarrass myself,” Jamie whispered back as he leaned in and patted Murtagh’s shoulder. They stepped back into the recesses of the alcove and Jamie tracked Claire as she moved with lithesome grace through the gathering of guests traversing the ballroom. With the soft music playing in the background, it was almost a dance as she moved from group to individual and on, pausing and speaking, nodding, and how sometimes she would reach out touch a sleeve or lay a hand on an arm leaving it rest there for a moment and smiled with those lucious lips, drawn in ruby red. God, she has the sweetest smile.

“Jenny looks bonnie tonight.”

Jamie cast a quick glance around and spotted Jenny with her revolving coterie of patrons on the far side of the gallery from Claire. “Aye she is and I see Ian’s here standing sentry over her.” Jamie shifted his attention back to observing Claire. “Did she tell ye she’d called him?”

“We spoke.” Jamie darted his glance back to Murtagh. The man was like the sphinx when he wanted. Each returned to their thoughts while the party goers milled about them.

“Alex! You made it. Thought you might get tied up with that last surgery. Everything go well then?”

“Yes; it turned a little hairy for a bit, but she came around and is doing fine. Tonight, is just the thing I needed. Have you seen Beauchamp?” The comment caught both Jamie’s and Murtagh’s ear and they turned their attention to the pair.

“You could say that, who hasn’t though? My wife would cut off my balls if I got caught up with another woman but she might be worth it…. Heard that Andrews and Cameron have asked her out, but she’s keeping her distance from everyone on staff except Abernathy from what I can tell. They have some sort of history.”

“I’ll save Cameron the effort and let ye keep yer balls, just keep yer bluidy hands and thoughts to yerself. I checked with him and Joe said they’re just Med school buds.”

“I’m impressed, so, you’re really interested in her?”

“Are ye kidding? Me, you and every other cock in the place as ye noticed, maybe even a few ladies. But aye, I’ll bide my time, let her get settled in a bit more, get friendly first, see where it goes. But ye shouldha seen her the other night when that mass caz wreck came in. Jumped right in barking orders – definite military training. Ye wouldna know it to see her tonight, she’s like another woman, …man, that’s a lethal combination, power, brains and beauty.”

Jamie had heard enough and was beginning to feel heat rising when he felt a hand on his arm. He looked at Murtagh. “I’ll be about, …how long d’ye intend to stay hiding here in the weeds? A walk might d’ye some good,” as he turned and walked away from Jamie.

He was right, it was time to take this hunt out and stake his claim. Jamie stepped out of the shadows of the alcove, walking the few steps to join the pair, “Good evening, Mr. Grant, enjoying yerselves?” he greeted them pleasantly and extended his hand.

“Oh! Hey there, Mr. Fraser!” Grant replied, “Didn’t see ye there. Do you know Alex Thom?”

“Canna say as I’ve had the pleasure; glad ye came this evening.”

“Wouldn’t have missed it. It looks like a good turnout. It’s very kind of yer family to host this evening. Ye’ve set a pretty high goal for the evening, I hope ye meet it.”

“My prayers as well. But thank ye for all the hard work ye do. Hope to see that we can offer extended services to our military vets.”

“Of course!”

“Have ye met Ms. Beauchamp? Brought her on thinking her special training might be uniquely suited for our hospital here. What d’ye think?”

“Absolutely!”

“She’s a great addition to our team, I look forward to working with her.”

“Glad to hear, well good speaking with ye, I’d best go meet with some other folks. Look forward to seeing ye around the hospital.”

“Damn!” Thom shook his head and groused at Jamie’s departing back.

“Ha! Well, Alex so much for waiting and getting friendly; it was a good plan, but that lass has been marked,” Grant commiserated with his colleague.

“We’ll see, I haven’t seen a ring on her hand.”

Jamie smiled to himself as he moved on and joined the dance moving slowly but purposefully toward HIS Claire. It was like the gravitational pull of two orbiting objects on an inevitable collision course. He stopped and chatted with guests as required of any good host, but he always kept his sights on her, shifting his position as needed.

Chapter Text



Claire stared at her reflection and hardly recognized the woman looking back. A bit much for ‘low key’ maybe. She realized she hadn’t really made much effort dressing up for some time, certainly not since she’d been in Edinburgh nor when she was on base; not much point or opportunity there.

She’d tried to tame her mass of runaway curls by pulling it up into a very loose twist that accentuated the length of her elegant neck. Tendrils of loose curls pulled free along her nape as they were typically wont to do but lent it a carefree and romantic effect. Considering Louise’s advice, she applied a bit more makeup than she might typically, but certainly this was the occasion for it though it felt more like a mask.

When was the last time she and Frank had traveled? Rome, what? Fourteen months since he’d insisted on buying this dress there? Pity she hadn’t had an opportunity to wear it before; but it was far more, …well less, much less than what she would typically wear. It was just luck that she had kept it. Well it was time for dress up and pretending; she could be anyone she wanted tonight. A new face for a crowd of people she didn’t know or sure she wanted to; it would be her choice whether she let them get close enough to know her. With a final check, she grabbed her wrap and headed out to meet her ride.

As the car approached the gated entrance to the Palace, Claire was shifting her in her seat trying to get a better look at Holyroodhouse Palace. The low wail of bagpipes wafting through the evening air had Claire momentarily closing her eyes as their familiar mournful sounds raced through her.

“Looks ta be quite the gala here tonight, any celebs I might know?” her driver inquired as they pulled into the valet lane and could see other guests queuing up at the entrance.

“I have no idea,” Claire quietly responded as she looked out, grateful that Louise had prepared her expectations better than Gail had as she shook her head, Jesus H Roosevelt Christ. She came out of her reverie as the valet attendant opened the car door offering a hand to her. She turned extending one long leg and then the other out of the car and rose as she allowed the valet to assist her to stand. She stood for just a moment getting her bearings and checking out some of the other guests and felt a bit better with her dress, perhaps she wasn’t too over the top. As she approached the entrance a figure stepped forward out of a shadow. Oh great, of course.

“Claire, ma chérie!”

“I am not your sweetheart, Raymond.” As far as he was concerned, she was still miffed and acknowledged him coolly. “I certainly didn’t expect to see you here this evening. Why are you?” Claire was actually glad to see him, but she wouldn’t let him know.

“I am here to support a very worthy cause, ma chère.”

“Hmmph,” she snorted skeptically.

“You look marvelous this evening, quite at home. Your beauty suits this lovely Palace. You’re certain to catch everyone’s eye or is there one person in particular that you’re expecting?” he smiled with a speculative glint in his eye.

“Should there be?” and gave him her best penetrating glare. “Aside from some colleagues, there are few people I expect to actually know that will be here. I understood from Joe this evening was an obligation, otherwise I wouldn’t be here. You know it’s not my bailiwick.”

“I understand, but I do hope you can still enjoy yourself this evening. I very much look forward to catching up with you later and hearing about your day. May I?” and he offered up his arm.

Relieved not to walk in alone she reached down to take his proffered arm despite their height difference, “Thank you, Dom, and yes, it’s time to finish our talk, soon. You’ve not returned my calls. If I were sensitive, I would think you’re avoiding me.” And she gave him her piercing look which he knew well. “On top of some questions that have come up recently that need to be discussed, I had a most interesting interview today, someone asking me about Frank. It would seem someone has been investigating me. Do you know anything about it?”

He turned addressing the security officer at the guest check-in podium as they stepped forward, “Dr. Dominique Raymond and Ms. Claire Beauchamp,” and avoided replying to her question. Claire couldn’t help but notice the handsome fresh-faced kilted gentleman standing to the side seemed to be eyeing her closely particularly after hearing her name. She appreciated his attire, very much in keeping with what appeared to be the evening’s theme.

Thinking about her own recent encounter with James Fraser dressed in his 'kilted' towel, she blushed at the vivid recollection and found it hard to dismiss.

“Are you feeling all right, chère?” Raymond noticed her the flush creeping up her neck and rouging her cheeks.

“Yes, of course Raymond. Would you check my wrap please?” as they stepped through the gatehouse entry and unbelted the garment and shrugged out of it as he held it.

“C’est magnifique. Vous êtes belle, enchanteur, bien joué,” Raymond squeezed her hand encouragingly.

“You’re an old dog, a very old dog at that,” Claire spit back.

“Mais bien sûr, an old dog, I may be, but not blind and always young enough to appreciate a beautiful woman,” he grinned at her widely and waggled his brows at her as he kissed her hand. “Shall we?” and pulled her towards some acquaintances as Claire tried to take in the sights of her surroundings.

Even though she was still irritated with him, she relented to his charms, relieved he was there and knowing they would need to talk. Her mind had been racing through their previous conversation as she drove, and new questions had come to mind relevant to the day’s surprises and she hoped he would be able to relieve her anxiety. “Dom please do not avoid me or ignore my questions. I think you owe me.”

“Perhaps tomorrow? I think many of your questions will be answered soon.”

“Alright, tomorrow, then.”

They walked into the main gallery and Claire had to admit it was an impressive sight. Portraits were hung down one side of the gallery and French doors ran the length of the other intersperced with alcoves and smaller portraits. Chandliers and wall sconces lit the long room and high-ceiling space with soft light. The guests milled about in all manner of fancy dress, but it was the contingent of Highlanders in their full regalia, and no matter how old or ill-favored, they were impressive and lent a faerie tale atmosphere to it all. Claire had noticed looks being cast in her direction when they had entered, but steeled herself; she’d asked for it, hadn’t she, a new guise, well maybe not entirely. She felt exposed stepping into the spotlight, and she was fully, conscious as heads turned toward her with every step but held her chin high as she proceeded forward with a practiced air of assurance.

Claire snagged what turned out to be whisky from a passing wait staff and downed it before proceeding 20 feet. Yes, thank God! An excellent whisky at that and appreciated the additional side benefits to being in Scotland.

“My dear, take care this evening,” Raymond cautioned as he eyed her quick downing of the drink and she just smirked at him.

Quiet music wafted in the background mixing with the conversations of the guests milling about. The Great Gallery was filled with guests and Raymond as usual seemed familiar with a good many of them and took care to introduce her to a few as they made their way into the room, before introducing her a nd apparently handing her off into the care of Dr. Rawlings, an elderly gentleman, lean and sporting a full mane of white hair though unfortunately quite near sighted as he kept leaning closer and closer toward her décolletage.

“Dr. Rawlings, I’m so glad to meet you; I never thought I would. We actually have a bit of history.”

“So, you say? What would that be?” he inquired rather loudly, apparently a bit deaf too.

“My uncle, Lambert Beauchamp, taught at Oxford and we had the same rooms you once used. Among some of the boxes left behind in the storage unit was a journal that you’d made notes in during your own medical school days. It provided quite a bit of inspiration. It’s one of the treasures I continue to move with me where ever I land.”

“You’re too kind, m’ dear, I’m sure. My how medicine has changed in what, the last 60 years or so? By God, I’m old!” and he laughed with gusto. “Just not the knowledge and technology we’ve gained but having a beautiful young woman such as yourself attending old geezers like me, probably stops more hearts than can be counted. Good business for those cardiologist quacks!” and he barked out another laugh.

Claire laughed and smiled at his gallantry and laid her hand on his arm glad to have had the chance to meet the man who had unknowingly provided her so much inspiration. As he entertained her with stories of his early experiences, her mind wandered a bit as she looked over the other attendees. She was feeling more comfortable as she noticed the initial attention she had drawn was focused elsewhere, just a new face in the crowd she determined and relaxed more but could not shake the feeling some eyes were still on her. As she looked around the room, she noticed a hand waving to catch her attention. She thanked Dr. Rawlings again, excused herself and moved across the room towards where Louise was standing.

Chapter Text



Oh my, Claire you look fabulous!” Louise gushed. “You’re even more glamorous than I’d imagined possible.”

Claire gave her a side eye at the backhanded compliment but considered Louise was being sincere. “I don’t know how I let you talk me into wearing this! I feel very much like the queen who has no clothes.”

“Claire, you wanted to make a statement and you definitely are that. It’s all an illusion you know. Let their minds take them where they want. It’s a game, as long as you know who you are, you’re safe.”

Claire looked at Louise with a new regard and appreciation. “Thank you, Louise. You’re right.” And she shifted standing a bit taller and donned her poise with a bit more courage. “So, what is it with the kilts? Why are so many men wearing them, not that I’m complaining… Is this what they wear in Scotland these days?” and she took an appreciative look around as she sipped her drink.

“Well this is a Gathering, maybe not in the traditional sense, but for an occasion such as this everyone who can claim a Clan Tartan will show it off, women too, isn’t it all lovely?” Louise gazed dreamily around the room, “Can you just imagine when all the men mostly only wore kilts?” and quirked her brow as she smiled and dipped close to Claire, “everything at the ready and so close at hand, hmmm?”

Claire was concentrating on hearing what Louise was saying over the murmurs, when it registered. “Oh, you’re terrible!” and they giggled as a particularly rotund fellow with knobby knees who had no business sporting a kilt passed by and caught her attention and she had to reassess her earlier thought.

“Something catch yer eye there, lass?” he stopped to inquire with a broad smile, not one to pass up an opportunity to chat up a pretty girl much less two, especially when fueled with a bit of courage inducing whisky.

“I was just telling my friend…”

“Yer verra lovely friend,” and his smile transformed to smirk as he now focused on Claire, who was suffering from a coughing spasm as she had unsuccessfully tried to swallow her laugh.

“Claire, dear are you okay?” Louise was attempting to pat Claire on the back as she coughed, As I was just telling my friend,” Louise broke in with a well-practiced rescue, “I’m very much looking forward to meeting her date.”

The smirk transformed to disappointment only momentarily, “Weel of course ye’re not here alone, but if ye change yer mind, Arthur Graham, at yer service.” And he turned his attention toward another lass he sighted across the room and made off in her direction.

“Lech.” Claire smiled and raised her now empty glass, “Thanks! God, I need another,” as she looked around.

“Rich lech, if you will,” Louise nodded at Claire, “You certainly won’t be going home alone tonight, if you wish it; but keep your eyes open for ‘something that catches yer eye,’” as she tried to imitate his Scottish brogue and they both laughed.

Claire was starting to relax and enjoy herself. Louise was fun. “So what’s with the hairy appendages?” she nodded toward another gentleman sporting what looked to be a small animal hanging from a belt.

“Those are sporrans. Kilts may have some advantages, but no pockets. A questionable fashion accessory, the bigger the bag, the smaller the um…,” Louise laughed leaving the rest unspoken.

“Before you leave this evening, I want you to meet my friends, Comte St. Germaine and his wife, Annalise. I met them while I was living in Paris.” Leaning in she spoke confidentially, “He’s a bit of a stuffed shirt, but Annalise can be quite fun, even if she’s a bit of an airhead. He has some business to attend here in Edinburgh and lucked out that we could come this evening. Isn’t it wonderful!” as she looked around in appreciation of the crowd. “All the right people. If you want me to introduce you to anyone, just let me know. Oh, excuse me, would you? I have to go speak to that gentleman,” and left Claire abruptly to make her way towards a distinguished looking older man.



Claire appreciated the momentary relief at Louise’s sudden departure and turned her attention to studying the portrait next to where they’d stood and sipped cautiously from her fresh drink, more accustomed to wine being passed at these events rather than whiskies realized she should heed Dom’s caution. As she studied the collection of portraits in front of her a touch on her elbow brought her around to face Gellis Duncan.

“Hello there, I thought I might see ye here this evening. Are ye enjoying yerself then?” noticing Claire’s current interest in the portraits, “There’re much more interesting faces in the crowd,” she commented as she turned surveying the gathering.

Claire considered the woman she’d been avoiding now standing next to her in a short form fitting emerald green dress that closely matched her eyes and set off her red hair. “Dr. Duncan, you’re right,” Claire turned back to face the party and looked about.

“Please call me Gellis. I’m afraid I got off on the wrong foot when I met ye the last time. I can be a bit abrupt, I ken. Personality fault, especially with other women, particularly beautiful ones, I come off a bit too aggressive, protecting my territory,” she admitted frankly with a laugh. “Sorry for that.”

Claire determined to accept her apology, “I guess I’m a bit sensitive too, being new and trying to find my footing. It’s a different environment than what I’ve been used to recently. And this…? It’s been a very long time since...”

“Weel ye certainly ken how to dress if yer looking to catch someone’s eye. I didna realize how tall ye are,” as she looked Claire up and down.

“It’s the shoes,” Claire extended her foot and waggled it side to side showing off her red heels.

“Verra nice, but ye best avoid Duvernay, he’s a foot fetish,” she offered with an amused snigger, “unless ye care to play.”

Claire quickly looked around for the head of Ortho that she’d seen earlier and stifled a laugh and shook her head. Gossip or personal experience?

“Perhaps I should stay by yer side and catch one of yer strays; ye seem to be attracting a bit of attention this evening. I wouldna mind some new blood,” she smiled over the lip of her wine glass.”

Claire had been listening with half an ear to Gellis’ commentary and shifted her body, turning to look around and take in more of the crowd when she saw him across the room. He was hard not to notice, standing a head taller than most of the people around, with his distinctive red hair catching the light, it’d been brushed back, smoothing his curls into soft waves. He was talking to someone, but his eyes were locked on her and she could just make out the smile that turned up one corner of his lip and the slight nod he gave her. She couldn’t help but return a quick smile in acknowledgement, but quickly turned away looking in another direction trying to hide the accompanying blush.



“Do ye ken him, then, the fox cub?” Dr. Duncan had noticed Claire’s expression and looked toward the man who was attracting his own bit of attention.

“Who?”

“James Fraser?”

“We met briefly earlier today, but I wouldn’t say I know him,” Claire took a swallow of her drink this time rather than a cautious sip, hoping to mask her sudden nervousness and settle the kaleidoscope of butterflies she suddenly felt in her stomach as her free hand moved to rest there instinctually.

“He certainly isn’t taking his eyes off of you.” Claire watched the speculative look pass over Gellis’ face as she gave Jamie the once over. “Handsome lad,” she observed and then turned her contemplation back to Claire.

Claire was considering whether a reply was necessary to Gellis’ observation when she felt a touch on her shoulder and startled, she turned half-way expecting it to be him, and not a little disappointed when it wasn’t.

“Gail! There you are, thought I’d catch you sooner.” Relief flooded through Claire at her friend’s appearance as she leaned in to give her a hug. “You look elegant as always,” she admired her off the shoulder black rushed dress that hugged Gail’s voluptuous curves. “Have you met Gellis Duncan? She’s Head of the Pharmacology Lab, that’s correct, yes?” as she turned back to Gellis for confirmation. “This is Gail Abernathy, Joe’s wife. They are my dearest friends and why I’m in Scotland.”

“Gellis, have you been to a Gathering like this before? I hear it can be quite stirring,” Gail inquired.

“What do you mean? You said it was a fundraiser.” Claire looked confused, and as if on cue, a skirl blared from outside the hall and everyone seemed to start moving at once with a purpose.

Jamie had been slowly working his way toward Claire when he heard the pipes start up and looked toward the entrance where the procession would start. He’d thought to be well out of the way before it got under way, Jenny having released him from any official obligations, but given his family’s sponsorship this evening and folks knew him, he couldn’t ignore their guests. Bone deep fealty to his family and clan kept him rooted to where he was as he looked back for Claire and spotted her near the portraits where he’d last seen her. There was a second woman now standing next to her as the woman in green was talking to them. She was more than half-way across the room and there was no way he could get to her now without drawing notice that he was abandoning the call. IFFRIN!

Claire looked to Gellis, “What’s going on?” unsure what she should do.

Gellis was smiling as she looked out on the commotion. “The Clans are sorting themselves for the Gathering Invitation. Stay here, this is a good spot.”

The three women stood shoulder to shoulder watching as the chaos remarkably settled into a semblance of order. Claire noticed that guests sporting the same tartan plaids were gathering together while others like herself, moved to the perimeter. She immediately sought out where she’d last seen Jamie and found him still standing there looking at her intently across the room. As the crowd dispersed to their designated areas, he stood still as they moved around him and she was able to see more than his just head and shoulders for the first time. A tall, straight-bodied, and by no means ill-favored young Highlander in full regalia at close range is breathtaking. Head erect and shoulders squared, fists clenched at his side and feet firmly braced, James Fraser was heartstoppingly beautiful as though prepared to enter a battle, and a fool be anyone that stood in his way.

Suddenly the pipes became louder filling the hall as the procession started into the Gallery and Jamie looked over his shoulder in its direction, silently cursing, and then doing a double take as his jaw dropped slightly. Directly behind the piper, leading the procession were his parents, with Jenny and Ian following and the remaining Fraser clan members present coming in behind. Decision made, Jamie lifted his arm and placed his hand over his heart and gave Claire a small bow, before he turned on his heel and stepped into join his clan claiming the position right behind his father at his left as they moved to the center of the room. It was an impressive sight as they came to a halt and what appeared to be a representative from each of the other clans stepping forward into the now open semi-circle.

Claire felt heat coursing through her, stunned by the gesture, she struggled to remember how to breathe. It was Gellis’ hand on her arm that gave her a start and pulled her attention back to what she was saying.

“Brian Fraser, now that is a sight. Ye rarely see the senior Frasers away from their estate. This must be an occasion,” Gellis informed her companions without taking her eyes off the spectacle before them. “Now ye can keep the cub Claire, I’ll take the dog,” as her eyes gleamed with appreciation at the senior Fraser.

Brian Fraser was indeed a very handsome man, his hair was black with grey streaking at his temples; he was not quite as tall as his son, but shared his physical build, though not quite so lean as Jamie.

Gail looked over at Claire not missing the flush that heighted her naturally pale coloring, and mouthed, “cub?” and quirking her brow in a suggestive question but just received a shrug before Claire mouthed back, “Dog? What does that mean?” hoping to deflect Gail’s question, before she looked back toward the group.

Claire could see Jamie had inherited some good genes looking at the couple and the beautiful woman she assumed was his mother, tall and regal as she stood next to her husband. She had the same beautiful red locks as her son. His sister, Jenny, shared her father’s coloring, and while she was petite in stature compared to her family, Claire was sure she had a personality as large as any of them. They were indeed a strikingly attractive family, and a force unto themselves.

Chapter Text



The pipes quieted, and the murmurs stilled as everyone waited in expectation.

A strong rich burr broke the silence, “The Frasers of Lallybroch welcome ye to tonight’s Gathering! Caisteal Dhuni!” Cheers and hoots resonated and fists pumped the air with feet stomping as the hall was filled with an invisible surge of energy. Claire watched mesmerized, especially by the tall, red-headed Scot wearing a big grin as he turned to face his clan’s contingent and double punched the air as he brought them together in one unified voice booming out their call, declaring their presence until another blast of pipes filled the hall. The hair on her arms was standing on end and prickles danced across her skin as she got caught up in the excitement.

“That’s the Fraser clan’s battle cry, each clan has its own,” Gellis explained.

There followed a calling out of the different clans in attendance followed by a cacophony of what seemed different tongues as each clan’s representative stepped forward declaring their presence and accepting the invitation and hospitality, with a similar cry.

What evolved became a good-natured competition as each clan chanted their cry back and forth in response in an attempt to drown out the others’ shout out. It sounded like the Tower of Babel to Claire as she and Gail exchanged bewildered looks and Claire covered her ears as an amused expression spread across her face as the cries built to a crescendo that finally collapsed with no idea whether it could be determined whether one clan had successfully dominated. It was a performance she thought more appropriate for a stadium than a ballroom filled with elegantly attired patrons but laughed at the unexpected fervor displayed.

Brian Fraser, smiling stepped forward waving his hands in the air, demanding their attention and calling for quiet, which came begrudgingly, sprinkled with occasional cries and applause for the shared enthusiasm.

“Aye, that’s a bonnie start!” He chuckled in appreciation of the display and electrified atmosphere that sparked through the guests. “Tonight, we’re here to lend our support to our warriors, our veterans who have put themselves in harm’s way time and time again to meet their call to service as we Scots have done throughout our history. They return to us bearing scars seen and unseen and it is our duty to care for them as they have cared for us. We do this not only to honor them, but the loved ones …many of us have lost.” He paused in his talk, clearly an emotional moment for him and Claire noticed his wife reach out and take his hand as they exchanged a personal moment. It might be that they were alone in an empty room as they turned to each other. Brian leaned in and exchanged a brief kiss with her before turning and continuing. “We call the clans to come together to put aside past disputes as we care for our sons and daughters, fierce fighters all, bound by honor and duty as they answered the challenges thrown at them and met with unimaginable courage. It’s no a call that we all hear, and we owe our gratitude to those that do and answer.

We’re here to expand the services that the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary can offer to our veterans, so open yer wallets ye tight bastards. Ye have the opportunity to put the pinch on us, as the Frasers will meet every pledge made here tonight…Aye and paid off too. I see yer wheels churning Campbell. Dinna think about it, ye gotta put yer coin where yer mouth is and make good on it!” Good-humored laughter greeted the jibe, as everyone knew Cameron Campbell relished his reputation for being thrifty but was rich as Midas.

“Ye’ll ken the pretty lasses wearin our plaid will be glad to take up yer pledges and I’ll leave Jamie here to figure out how we’re to make good on my big mouth.” More laughter greeted the challenge as Jamie cringed and shook his head at his father but smiled.

Shouts of Caisteal Dhuni reverberated around the Hall issuing the challenge.

Someone had stepped forward offering Brian Fraser a glass which he accepted and with one last wave of his hand commanded their attention once again as he raised the glass and turned toward all corners of the room, “Slàinte mhath!”

Shouts of, “Do dheagh shlàinte!” resounded through the room concluding the welcoming invitation.

Claire could see Jamie’s bowed head as he embraced his mother and engaged in conversation with his family and warmly exchanged hugs and pats on their backs before she turned back to Gellis and Gail. “Well I certainly didn’t expect that, most interesting. Thank you for explaining it Gellis.”

“Ye’re welcome, but there’s someone I need to speak to,” and headed off but turned calling back, “Make sure and come down to see me sometime Claire, I won’t bite.”

As soon as Gellis was out of earshot Gail tilted her head toward Claire, “What’s with the animal metaphors?”

Claire smiled and nodded in acknowledgement to Gellis’ invitation and lifted her hand in farewell as she departed and then leaned her head toward Gail but keeping her eyes on the continuing festivities in the center of the room before replying, “I don’t know, you’ve been in Scotland longer, thought you’d have a better idea than me.”

“Strange woman, interesting, but strange,” Gail noted watching Gellis’ departing back.

“Too right.” Claire agreed. She felt a little better after their exchange but wasn’t ready to pull down the walls. “Did Joe mention…?”

Gail cut her eyes back to Claire and shrugged a bit. “You’re very intuitive Claire, don’t dismiss it okay?” Then looking around at the elaborate surroundings filled with beautiful people and then back to Claire with a smirk as she looked her up and down, “Mmm hmm, so since you’re dressed to kill, how’s the hunting? Are cubs in season?”

Claire raised her brow and looked at her friend and biting back her smile as a soft laugh escaped. Once she’d noticed Jamie, noticing her, she had hoped they might meet, but it now seemed pointless, since the ceremony, he was surrounded and his attention seemed pulled elsewhere though she did catch him staring at her, but his expression had changed and it was now without the smile she’d expected.

“Who are you looking for, Claire? Someone in particular?” Gail prodded following Claire’s covert glances.

“Wait don’t look yet, but in a minute just casually look around and tell me if you see anyone looking at me.”

“Can you possibly narrow that down a bit? Any hints?” but she cooly looked around as she continued talking. “Come on, are we back in high school?” Gail teased leaning in.

“Well I wouldn’t know would I?”

“That’s right, I forgot. Huh… So, how’d your meeting go with Mrs. Murray? I see she was able to make it this evening after all.”

“Evidently,” as she nodded in the direction of the group still commanding the center of the room, “I haven’t spoken with her this evening, but Gail, it was… surreal. I don’t have time to tell you all about it now, but I will. I have no idea what the meeting was about, honestly, but I did meet her brother.”

“You did? How was that?” Gail looked at Claire with an impish smile and looked back toward where he was still standing talking with a group of people. “He really is good looking; rumors were no exaggeration.”

“MMM HMMM!” Claire hummed into her glass with a bit of a smile, “Well he’s been staring at me whenever I looked at him.”

Gail laughed, “and when you look at him, he’s looking at you?” hoping Claire would pick up on the irony, “…Do you like him?”

“I could.” Claire felt a little jolt when she admitted it. “It’s really strange, but…” and halted herself, deciding she didn’t need to share his claim, as she looked back toward Jamie.

“But what?” Gail nudged her.

“But I need to just relax this evening and not think about him anymore tonight, he’s going to be occupied.” As if… and took a swallow from her glass.

“But, but, but… No more buts! If you like him, why not, Claire?” Gail pressed, “If anyone needs to let loose a bit, take a risk and have some fun, it’s you, I thought that was the point for you agreeing to come tonight, meet some nice men? Frank’s a nice guy, I never understood the connection, but you are single now. You are drop dead gorgeous and hopefully not completely oblivious to the attention you’re drawing, enjoy it.”

Claire blushed with Gail’s compliment. She’d been aware of the attention she attracted and acknowledged for Gail’s benefit, the several invitations for drinks that she had deferred – not declined outright, but Claire’s thoughts kept returning to Jamie Fraser, even before she’d seen him here. “Listen, we’ll catch up tomorrow,” as she laid a hand on Gail’s arm preparing to leave, “but I do need to speak with Joe before I go. Can you point me in his direction?”

“Sure, Hun, we’ll talk whenever you’re ready,” she gave Claire a reassuring smile and hug. “I left Joe talking to some folks over near the bar toward the courtyard windows, but I don’t know if he’s still there.”

“Thank God for small favors,” as she lifted her now empty glass, “it’s a starting place,” as she looked over the throng and headed off to find Joe.

Chapter Text



The electric charge after the call vibrated through the Hall. Gone were the smooth, quiet conversations that had previously dominated the atmosphere. Loud happy chatter and bursts of laughter were now resounding throughout. Claire’s hunt for Joe seemed to be continually thwarted as she made her way through the throng, acquaintances and strangers alike, wanting to say hello or make introductions. She dodged attempts to pull her into conversations, determined to speak with Joe and leave.

Confused didn’t come close to describing how she was feeling at the moment. Gail was right; she felt like she was in highschool, the new girl with a crush on the team captain who had kindly smiled at her across the room and she was taking it to mean more than it was. But there was something more and she wasn’t sure how to deal with it. That gesture, ...the bow she knew he directed to her? She felt the heat flushing her face.

When Claire had finally located Joe, she pulled him aside from the group he was entertaining with an apology and intending to demand an explanation. She glanced back to see Jamie engaged in a conversation with a blonde woman and felt an irrational tinge of jealousy spark through her. Stop being ridiculous! She looked quickly back again to meet his eyes, but he quickly turned his attention back to the young woman.

Jamie’s heart raced with adrenaline pulsing through him. Claire had acknowledged him and he was absurdly pleased she had been aware and was tracking his movements as well, though she seemed to be keeping her distance. He smiled to himself but was perturbed by the turn the evening had taken. He had allowed himself to be pulled into joining the circus as he considered it, and then admittedly enjoyed it, but he had hated stepping away from Claire. Before doing so he declared himself to her and just hoped she understood. As much as he wanted to be with her, he couldn’t ignore the fact that his parents had made the trip here after their prolonged absence from public appearances and he would show his support of them.

His da had issued the invitation and challenge and Jamie had to speak with his family a moment before he could leave them, only after agreeing to meet later. Claire was gone, she’d not lingered at the conclusion and he felt a slight alarm when he looked for her and realizing she was not there. Thankfully he had heeded Murtagh’s earlier advice and had calmed before he’d made a fool of himself. He hadn’t been able to take his eyes from Claire as she made her way around the room, greeting people, smiling, chatting and with the memory of lingering eyes that had followed her; his stomach clenched. He needed to find her, be near her.

He scanned the room, but the increased movement made it difficult until he saw a hand in the air, waving catching his attention and then a finger quickly pointing toward a flash of red at the far end of the hall moving away. Good lad, Willie.

Jamie was ready to put the chase to bed deciding it was time to move in. People, most people that is, stepped back parting like the Red Sea at his determined approach, but he felt one hand latch firmly onto his arm, and he pulled up short, turning to face the interloper, braced for a confrontation if need be.

“Jamie! I’ve been lookin’ for ye, I wanted to speak with ye.”

“Oh Christ, no now,” Jamie attempted to quell his obvious frustration. “Laoghaire,” he nodded his head politely acknowledging the young woman.

“Angus said you’d no be here this evening. But I kent ye’d not miss a Gathering, not one that ye’re sponsoring.” The pretty moon-faced blond looked up at Jamie with adoration shining through her eyes making him cringe. Jamie quickly looked away seeking Claire and catching her eye before turning back to Laoghaire.

“It was a late decision to come,” he responded curtly.

Jamie had quickly come to regret that he had ever come to the lass’ assistance after she had taken a fall and carried her home, but she was Mrs. Fitz’ granddaughter, and he would do anything for the woman. Ever since, Laoghaire’d follow him like a lost puppy whenever he was near and sought his attention when possible. She’d even taken to showing up uninvited at his home, ostensibly to visit her gran. Only the manners his mam had drilled into him prevented him from being rude. Even Jenny had tried to advise him that being kind to her only encouraged her and might mislead the lass further since she had no sense.

“I hope ye’re enjoying yerself this evening. I had no idea ye had any interest in supporting the ERI.”

“Oh, weel if ye support something Jamie, it must be a worthy cause,” she flirted laying a hand on his forearm.

“I’m sure yer help will be greatly appreciated. Now if ye’ll excuse me, I’ve someone I must see.” He nodded and left her staring after him as he made his way toward Claire, determined not to be delayed further.



“Joe, I’ve been looking for you, it’s taken forever to find you! I’m leaving but Is there something going on that I should know? You need to tell me.” Claire held Joe’s arm and leaned in close so she wouldn’t be overheard.

“Lady Jane, look at you, you’re radiant!” Joe humorously greeted Claire using his full pet name for her conceding to the formal setting as he stepped back to take in the full view looking her up and down from head to toe and back again. “Let me get you a refill,” signaling a server noting her empty glass. Attempting to deflect her question he asked, “Have you seen Frank?” and he took a sip from his glass eyes darting behind her.

“Frank’s here?”

Success…

“Where? I need to talk with him too.”

“Actually, I saw him speaking with Raymond and another fellow a bit ago.”

“Oh good,” she replied sarcastically and took a swallow from her drink, “the gangs all here. I knew something was up when Raymond met me at the door.” Claire swayed just a bit looking around the room as if she’d spot Frank then shaking her head. “Joe, I’ve had the most incredibly bizarre day. I feel like I’m living in another dimension, an alternate universe and there’s this man, he’s gorgeous, I just met, but he acts like he knows me, I mean really well, but I’ve never met him before. I’d like to,” she confessed, “…know him that is. Seriously, I need to know what’s going on.”

Joe was wondering if it had been a good idea after all to have gotten her a refill on her whisky, as she rambled on and off course, but was amused with her overly relaxed demeanor, a very rare occurrence in the Claire world.

“Is the fellow you’re talking about really tall and big and ginger headed by any chance? And a Scot?”

“Well, yes he is,” and leaning in confidentially, “and did I say he’s beautiful? But how did you know? What do you know?” Claire felt an unaccustomed daze creeping over her and looked at her glass as the culprit. Fuck, I’m getting drunk.

“Well actually you said, ‘he’s gorgeous’,” Joe smirked at Claire, “but I certainly don’t think you’re in any danger from him, if that’s what concerns you, but I might well be. I know the look of a very jealous man, though I’m usually the one wearing it.” Joe added pleasantly, looking up past Claire’s shoulder at the gentleman standing over her.

“Ms. Beauchamp, …Claire? Might I have a word, please?”

“Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ!” Claire jumped startled at the closenes of the deep brogue and recognition of the owner of the voice and felt a shiver as he rolled the r in her name.

“Nah, Sassenach, it’s just me, Jamie.” He chuckled softly, and his warm breath tickled her ear as he leaned in lower to speak to her.

Claire turned slowly catching Joe' bemused expression, and thinking she was finally to come face to face with James Fraser. He was much closer and much taller than expected as she tipped her head further back to meet his eyes. He was peering down at her with a charming lopsided smile that was full of mischief. She felt the flutter in her stomach but determined to maintain her reserve and not let him see the effect he was having on her. “Feeling better, are you? I didn’t expect to see you here this evening Mr. Fraser.” And she had to exert every ounce of her will to maintain eye contact and not just oogle him right there now that he was only inches from her.

"It's verra good to see you again this evening, I wish it could have been sooner," He dropped his eyes from hers as she realized he was seeking her free hand and then lifted it to his lips where he kissed her knuckles for the second time that day. A wave of light-headedness washed over her and she swayed just a bit toward him and felt a warm hand grip her arm, before she startled back; Do not swoon, DO NOT, please not now, and blushed even more thoroughly if possible.

Making sure she was steady on her feet he responded, "Aye, I hadna planned to come, but learning ye were to be here, I couldna stay away. Ye’ve the magic touch in these lovely fingers I’ve to thank for easing my pain,” then he kissed them again one by one. “Truly.”

She stood frozen, transfixed by Jamie’s magnetic blue eyes that held hers until she heard a distinct throat clearing behind her breaking into her consciousness and bringing her back to the present moment. Good Lord, please. And not sure for what she was asking.

Then James Fraser stood fully erect and turned his attention and glare toward Claire’s companion, but continued to keep a firm hold of her hand.

Following his look, Claire became aware of Joe sporting an amused look and stammered, “Ah… Mr. Fraser, I’d like to introduce you to Mr. Joe Abernathy my colleague and friend. Joe, this is James Fraser, Mrs. Murray’s brother; we met earlier this afternoon.”

“Oh? Joe…aye, ye’re the fella, Claire said brought her to Edinburgh. Call me Jamie, please,” Jamie visibly relaxed shifting back then forward from one foot to the other and squeezed her fingers gently before releasing her hand as he cordially stuck out his hand to shake Joe’s warmly. “I’m that grateful to ye for bringing her back to me.”

Okay, you heard that didn’t you? That’s exactly what I’m talking about, Claire pleaded silently that Joe had picked up on Jamie’s comment. Claire would swear that a look of understanding passed between the two men skipping over her and took another deep draught from her glass.

“Jamie, it’s a pleasure. Claire was just telling me about meeting you, seems you made quite an impression,” dodging the daggers she was aiming his direction. “You’ll have to show me how to properly kiss a lady’s hand. I’d like to see my wife swoon like that, once in a while,” Joe laughed at Claire’s expense, completely ignoring her pleading look.

“I did not swoon!” Claire protested, blushing.

“Oh yes, well you nearly did! A moment longer and,” and Joe got a quick jab in the ribs for his efforts.

“Enjoying the refreshments are ye? My family’s brew; have ye had a bite to eat as well?” Jamie asked eyeing the whisky glass Claire held in her hand, “Ye have to be careful, it’ll sneak up on ye.”

“Yes well, it’s quite good,” as she looked at her now half empty drink. How many have I had? And then reconsidering his comment looked back at him, “Are you implying that I’m intoxicated?”

“I’d be impressed if ye weren’t,” his teasing smile pinned her. “Perhaps a bit o fresh air is called for.” Jamie took her glass from her hand and swallowed the remaining contents before handing it to a passing server.

“A word, please. May I?” Jamie repeated and offered his arm in a gallant gesture, Jamie smiled as Claire took his arm this time with a trembling hand which he tucked under his arm and he proceeded to lock it in place with his free hand and led her through the crowd toward the colonnade.

Claire cast a disconcerted appeal back toward Joe as Jamie led her away, only to see Joe’s face brightened by a smile as she’d never seen it, as he lifted her glass toward her, in salute? What?

Chapter Text



Claire felt another wave of light-headedness wash over her and was unsure whether it was the effects of too much alcohol, too little to eat or the swiftness with which she found herself being swept off her feet and out the door and into the gardens. Still wondering how this had happened, she turned toward where they had left Joe only to meet the wide grin of the kilted attendant who held open the door for them and then noticed him shoot Jamie a definite wink and a nod.

Claire chanced a glance up at the man holding her arm to see if he’d noticed what she imagined the cheek of the attendant and could see that Jamie’s lips were curled in a smile before he looked down at her, bright blue eyes crinkling at the corners. Cocky bastard.

As they stepped into the lighted courtyard, Claire hesitated as the cooled evening air hit her. Jamie paused with her hesitation and looked down at her with concern. “I wasna planning to suddenly throw myself upon ye if that is what has ye worrit.”

Claire couldn’t help but smile back at him a little bit at his misunderstanding of her hesitation, “I never thought you would,” and an involuntary shiver ran through her.

“Ach, ye’re chilled now, Sassenach,” and Jamie removed his dark dress coat with the silver buttons that she’d admired earlier noting how it fit him like a glove and wrapped it around her shoulders without another word.

Claire snuggled in its oversized embrace and found the warmth from his body and his lingering scent that it carried unbelievably comforting. His gesture bespoke a familiarity that unsettled her and despite the earlier ease that had come to them, she felt a bit shy now in his presence. “Thank you,” was all Claire could murmur as she looked up then recalled, “You called me that before. What does it mean?”

Jamie had reached to take her hand again but stopped and looked down at her. “That isna goin to work. Here,” and reached around removing his coat from her shoulders and stepped behind her, “slip yer arms into the sleeves, ye’ll stay warmer.” He got the coat settled to his satisfaction and smiled at her. “Thas better. May I?” he asked this time as he reached for her and waited as she nodded and pushed up the sleeve as she extended it to him. Claire had remained silent through his dressing of her, nonplussed at his concern seeing to her comfort.

 “Ah, weel, it means Outlander, or someone English,” he continued answering her question.

“Oh? should I be offended?” She was fighting the smile that threatened.

“Nah, dinna fash, it’s someone that’s different, like ye are in a good way.” Claire thought she could hear teasing behind his words.

He took her hand again and tucked it under his arm securing her to his side. She wrapped her fingers around his arm in response as they continued their stroll as he led her across the courtyard toward the gatehouse entrance.

Noticing their direction Claire looked up at him in question. “The paths through the gardens will take us to the old Abbey ruins, a bit more interesting than just the courtyard here. It’s a nice evening for a walk, maybe help clear yer head.” She could only nod her head as she let him guide her toward the exit. She could feel the heat radiating off him despite his being in shirtsleeves and it was difficult to resist leaning into him and enjoy it more. An occasional tremble ran through Jamie’s muscled arm where Claire held it betraying his tension, and he felt her fingers tighten slightly in response. He could barely take his eyes from her. This is where he belonged, by her side and caught a sigh escape as he felt a contentment that had been elusive settling over him.

The shock of cool air was helping to clear her fuzzy head as she breathed deeply, Claire wasn’t so far gone that she was aware she was definitely tipsy from all the whisky she’d had but determined to bring her focus back and gave a slight shake of her head.

They passed through another gate with Jamie nodding to the attending guard as they left the lights behind and entered onto a more dimly lit paved pathway and walked in companionable silence for a bit until she could stand it no more.

Claire looked at him in expectation of him saying something, but when he didn’t, she broke the silence speaking quietly, “So, you wanted to speak to me, ...about something in particular?”

“Nothing, anything, …everything. I wasna ready to lose yer company earlier and I dinna care to share ye with others. I meant what I said earlier, I only came this evening because ye were here.” Jamie looked down at her smiling.

“Oh,” Claire had not been sure what to expect, but certainly not this candor. She let him continue to lead their way along the path. The quiet nourished her unaccustomed nervousness that had been ignited by their earlier meeting and feelings that had unexpectedly been exposed.

She took a deep breath and needing to break the silence asked, “Well then, how about the stars?” she paused their steps and waved toward the skies with an expansive wave with her free hand and looked up and surveying the skies that lay before and above them. “The sky’s so clear tonight isn’t it beautiful?” before looking at Jamie from the corner of her eye expecting him to look up as well, but instead found him gazing at her. “You’re not looking,” she admonished him in her pert English accent.

“Aye, I’m looking, always.” Claire felt herself blush under his scrutiny, and resumed walking, but she continued.

“Have you ever been in the desert where there is nothing to interrupt the view, no encroaching civilization, lights, noise… and lain out under the stars?”

“The desert, no, but I do like to get away by myself and camp. There’re stretches of the moors like that with maybe some low hills that become black in the dark, maybe like the dunes. Ye ken just before the light is fully gone, the sky is that dark, dark blue, maybe a touch of purple…”

“Yes! It’s like velvet, and you’re just seeing the brightest stars and if you blink it’s gone to black? And those few stars, they’ve disappeared, lost amongst the millions.”

“Aye, ‘tis my favorite time of the evenin’,” Jamie nodded in agreement a smile deepening across his lips.

“Isn’t it? Magical…” Claire smiled thinking about those moments and their shared enthusiasm. She looked up, surprised to find that she was clutching Jamie’s arm with both of her hands, holding it close to her. She stepped away and made to release it but his hand quickly grasped hers placing it back where it had been and held it there until he was sure she’d leave it.

“Do ye miss the desert then?”

Jamie’s move had been as natural as hers when she had unconsciously taken hold of his arm and the idea warmed Claire and she felt herself relaxing. Laughing she replied, “Yes and no. I’ve spent a lot of my life living in the desert growing up, so when I decided it was time for a change of scenery, and Raymond was helping me relocate, he suggested Edinburgh. My criteria was number one – seasons; a real spring – you know – April showers that bring May flowers, warm summers, autumns where the leaves change color and land on the ground, heck – just trees with leaves will do, and winter with snow. I want to feel a cold nose and toes and rosy cheeks. And I was so friggin’ tired of digging sand out of my cr…; …Oh, sorry, but I was developing permanent chafe, so definitely do not miss the sand!”

Jamie chuckled at her openness.

“What I do miss is the vastness of the horizon. I’m getting used to it, but sometimes it feels just a bit too crowded and closed in here. I’ll try to get out to your moors and do some hiking, sounds like what I need now that I’m getting settled in and can take some time for myself.”

“I’d be glad to take ye out, show ye the highlands when ye’re ready. But Raymond, you say? I thought Joe brought ye here.”

“Oh, Raymond, he’s my former boss, an old family friend, well more like family. When my uncle died, he sort of stepped in. But he knew Joe was here too, and that tipped the scales, otherwise, I might be in Boston.”

“And what about you? You have some beautiful gardens and woodlands just outside your door. Are you a gardener? Spend much time outside in them?”

“Well growing up on a farm there were always chores needing to be done, and ye help where ye’re needed including the garden when yer mam says to, but I prefer the woodlands myself, reminds me of home a bit. The gardens here used to be verra formal, but the previous owner let them fall into a bit of disarray. I’ve only had the house a bit over six months so haven’t really given them much attention – trying to decide what to do with them – maybe a kitchen garden, ye know or a community garden some such, it’s too much for just myself.

Fergus mentioned ye’d asked if ye could come back and dig in the dirt a bit. I didn’t give him a chance to tell ye himself, but ye’re welcome anytime. So ye like to garden, do ye?”

“I’m not sure you’d call it gardening. I’ve never had a place or time to plant a proper garden. I’d say it’s been more foraging herbs and local native plants for medicinal properties and learning how they’ve been used to treat illnesses. Something to help fill time.”



“Have ye been here before?” Jamie looked up toward the palace they’d exited and toward the darkened grounds before returning his questioning gaze to Claire.

Claire had looked around as Jamie had, puzzling it out. “I don’t know. It seems vaguely familiar, but it would have been ages ago.”

Please remember, Sassenach.

“My family was big into site seeing so most likely I was along for the ride. But since I’ve been here, I do seem to have a lot of déjà vu moments.”

Jamie just nodded his head in acknowledgement while they continued walking in the garden’s quiet until coming to the entrance of the abbey’s ruins. Claire stepped away from Jamie and stuck her head in and peered around into the darkened interiors. She could feel the heat of Jamie’s body as he curved over her as he whispered, “Feelin’ adventurous?”

Looking back over her shoulder she caught his mischievous smile as he looked down at her. “It’s pretty dark…” but felt Jamie step around her and take her hand as he led her inside the skeletal ruins, past the barred doors that had been pushed open.

“Yer eyes’ll adjust and I’ll protect ye from the ghosties.” Claire could hear the grin in his offer as he pulled her along and she joined in laughing. They wandered into the center of the space, Claire pausing to tentatively brush her fingers over the mossy pillars left standing as dark sentries in the ancient space. The quiet moments did not require words but continued their unspoken conversation as they stood hand in hand looking about. It was dark but shafts of moonlight and the stars shining through the missing roof and empty windows illuminated the abandoned nave.

“I’ll have to come back in the daylight for a better look-see,” as she shifted her view towards the stonewalls and arches behind Jamie.

“Would ye care to sit? I dinna think our friends will mind. Might enjoy a bit of company.” he indicated a bench along a wall.

“What friends? Claire turned around looking into the depths of the shadows beyond, an edge creeping into her voice. “Do you mean ghosts? There’s no such thing. Are you trying to scare me?” her tone now flirty as she looked over her shoulder.

“Of course, there are! Why would ye be scarit of em? Just auld friends hanging about, remembering a time that was good, a time of hope.”

Claire walked around the space a bit with her hands in front of her, looking back towards where Jamie was leaning against a column, his hands behind his back and his legs stretched out, watching her as she moved about. “Best watch out walking like that or old Kilmarnock will claim ye to finish that dance.” Claire stopped and put her hands behind her back as Jamie hung his head and chuckled softly. Claire returned to stand in front of Jamie and looked up at him curiously, “You really believe in ghosts?”

“Don’t ye? I mean where d’ye believe our souls go when our life is done, when we’ve completed our purpose?”

“I’m not sure I know, sort of working that out myself; somewhere up there?” and she waved her hand with a finger pointing in the direction of the firmaments above and changing direction, “or down there.”

“If ye had a choice, would you no rather be in a time, a place where ye were happiest with someone ye loved, the other half of yer heart?”

I do know your mother and father love each other dearly; they found their hearts in each other and I know they are together wherever they are. And well, I like to think their purpose for being was to make you.

A chill ran down her spine at the similarity of her uncle’s words. “Of course, that sounds ideal, but why are you telling me this? I mean it’s a pretty strange to admit you believe in ghosts and such.”

Jamie turned his head looking around. “I think being here in this place stirs memories. Ye ken back during the uprising, the prince and his advisors stayed here for a time after they had won some battles over the English and the tide seemed to be turning in the rebels’ favor. They had balls almost every evening just there in the same gallery.”

“Your memories?”

“Och, what would ye think of me then?” Claire could make out his raised brows and teasing smile.

“I’m not sure. You sound rather like my uncle and Raymond when they’d start on some off the wall subject,” and she laughed at the memory and her own not so long-ago conversation with Raymond and moved away from Jamie walking to lean against a nearby pillar herself, but the cold pushed her away and she moved around as they spoke with a nervous energy keeping her moving, sometimes pulled closed to Jamie.

“Curious men are they?”

“You could say that. Lamb had his own theories on the subject. You know about standing stones?”

“Aye, I’m familiar.”

“Well Lamb thought, well I don’t know exactly but when I was young he told me that when people die and no longer have a need for their body, there is still their spirit, their soul that must be cared for until their life should be done, and the “auld ones”, she gave air quotes, somehow entrusted them to the stones until their purpose, the reason for their being is done and their soul is ready to rest, or something like that.”

“That’s interesting. I wish I could speak with him – maybe one day.”

“You…” she gave him a gentle shove on his arm. “Again, why did you tell me?”

“Ye asked, I decided to trust ye.”

“You’re a complicated man, James Fraser.”

“Weel, I cannot fault yer observation, but does that scare ye?”

Claire walked back to Jamie where he’d been leaning but he straightened up pushing off from the pillar at her approach as she stopped directly before him, looking at him, thoughtfully. She felt many things when she looked at him, thought about him, that had her feeling slightly breathless, a bit off-kilter, but scared was not one of them and was glad. She accepted there was something between them which left no room for fear. “No, it doesn’t.”

Jamie waited while she considered him, his two fingers tapping against his leg when he was nervous. A relief washed through him at her response and he relaxed enough to grin down at her, “Good.”

She returned his smile and turned and walked over to stone bench and sat but the chill of the stone crept through the fabric of her skirt, the length of his coat not reaching much beyond her bum so she sat perched on the edge. She missed the warmth of him when she let go of him to walk about, but he followed her over and stepped close with a hand braced against the wall above her as he leaned over her, his knees almost brushing hers.

Something had settled in her; the earlier trepidation she’d felt had all but dissipated, of course there was the issue of… No. She wasn’t brave enough to be so open yet, but she felt a trust between them and they had time she thought. She shoved that thought to the back of the closet.

“Alright we’ve talked about the stars and gardening and the great beyond, what’s next?” She smiled up at him.

“So ye think I’m ‘gorgeous’ do ye?” Jamie grinned down with pleasure enjoying her wiggle about in discomfort just a wee bit but needing to break his growing tension as he loomed over her.

Now completely caught off guard and utterly flustered Claire could feel the waves of heat rising and couldn’t look at him as replied with a half laugh, “Oh, you heard, that did you?”

There was just enough light to brighten her beautiful face with the stonewall behind her and Jamie had to resist his urge to reach out and stroke her cheek. “I was no intendin’ to be eavesdropping, but I didna want to interrupt yer conversation with Joe, was nice to hear ye were thinkin’ of me as well.”

“Oh, well I was referring to your kilt and all,” she attempted to deflect as she waved her hand up and down toward his shadowed torso, “the plaid is quite nice, and it seems quite fitting given the setting here.” She quickly recalled how he stood looking at her across the room and could quite easily imagine him as a Highland warrior, a rebel.

“It seems to be a perfect location choice for your event given what you said about the prince and all. That ceremony was fascinating earlier and all quite colorful, …and loud.”

“That’s Jenny. She’s a great supporter of the clan traditions and reminding us of what we had. She was born in the wrong time. Ye ken after the rebellion was lost, so was much of our culture, or at least they tried to stamp it out. It was never fully forgotten just driven underground. Can ye imagine being a lobsterback on a misty morn and havin a thousand bareassed kilted Highlanders come screamin their war cry at ye outta the fog? Verra effective treatment for loosening the piles but makes running hard.”

Claire snorted a laugh imagining.

Jamie turned and sat down next to her on the stone bench. “Christ!, are ye not freezing yer arse sitting on this stone? Why’d’ye no say anything?” Jamie stood and reached out offering his hand to her.

Claire laughed up at him, “It’s fine, I can’t feel it anymore.”

Dinna say it.

“And what was it you said earlier about Highlanders being made of sterner stuff?”

“I havena had enough whisky tonight to warrant freezing my arse. How about ye?” He teased her with a cocked brow.

“Mmmph,” she waved him off. “Well there’s nothing at all wrong with men in kilts and I will say you do cut quite the dashing figure Mr. Fraser, nice knees by the way,” she looked at him speculatively, with a mischievous smile “but I might like you better in the towel.” Claire’s eyes bugged, as she gasped not believing she’d let that slip and blushed furiously, Fuck, did I really just say that? grateful for the shadows and hoping they disguised it, as Jamie just laughed, easy and relaxed.

“So, are we to be discussing fashion, now is it?” His laugh settled into a deep rumble in his chest. Claire wanted to reach out and touch him just to feel it. “Alright then, aye, I admit wearing my kilt brings back a certain comfort though I prefer my old one and no this dress get up,” he scoffed as he looked down.

“You have more than one?”

“Hrmph,” Jamie cut his eyes at her, “D’ye have more than one dress?”

“Alright, I’m sorry,” laughter fizzled out of Claire as she held her hands up in surrender. He could listen to her laugh all day and never tire of it.

Aside from her bouts of embarrassment, Claire was thoroughly enjoying Jamie’s company, his humor, easy conversation and she admitted, even his flirtatious attentions. Aside from that knowing her thing… he was perfect.

“If ye’ve finished admiring my attire, may I say, how lovely ye look this evening, Claire?” Jamie’s eyes had shifted from teasing to a darker pool as he gazed down at her.

“Well, thank you.” and returned his smile but felt a hitch in chest with his expression.

Jamie extended his hand toward Claire and she reached out accepting this time thinking they were to continue their stroll or return to the gathering, instead he pulled her up to stand before him, his gaze never faltering. “The truth is ye’re breath-taking to be sure,” and releasing her hand he proceeded to slowly circle her, taking in every inch of her before stopping behind her. Claire’s own breath was quickening under Jamie’s scrutiny and she had turned her head as far as she could to follow his path and could just see him from the corner of her eye, but she felt his coat being lifted from her shoulders as it slipped down her arms she shivered in the immediate loss of its warm comfort as he dropped it on the bench. “But I want ye taking only my breath away.” Jamie’s voice had dropped to a lower register as he spoke. With the coat removed, he was captivated by the exposed juncture where her neck and shoulder met and wanted nothing more in this moment than to kiss that spot to have the taste of her skin on his lips, on his tongue.

Claire turned around as Jamie spoke and met his eyes staring down at her. His smile slipped away, and his brow furrowed as he looked at her and reached out but didn’t touch her, his voice but a husky whisper, “I want no other man seeing ye the way that should only be between the two of us.”

What? Claire startled at Jamie’s declaration; “What? …Just what does that mean?” Uncertainty tinged her question as she stepped back.

For the first time since they’d met, and he’d swept her out into the garden, Claire could feel a reticence, as Jamie struggled to answer her, yet his eyes burned into hers and she felt a quiver inside where he reached her.

“There’s much I wish to tell ye Sassenach, one day, verra soon, I promise,” Jamie equivocated as he reached out and stroked her cheek with the back of his fingers, his voice was low, asking for her understanding.

I’ve heard that too often lately. “Tell me.”

“Trust me. I’ve carried ye in my heart for so long…, and now I’ve found ye, I canna give ye up again.”

Claire shivered, whether from the cold she was now feeling or Jamie’s declaration she wasn’t sure but closed her eyes; she had to think a moment and couldn’t do it while looking at him.  …And then she felt a movement and his coat being settled around her shoulders again, but this time, a pair of arms enveloped her as well and Claire could feel herself being pulled into him. 

Her eyes remained closed as she turned and laid her face against his chest and breathed in the scent of him. She could hear his heart thumping against her ear, its beat matching her own as his chin rested against her hair. She had felt drawn to him and wanted to wrap her arms around his waist and just stay buried in him, but she resisted her impulse and instead raised her arms against his chest and pushed back a step, feeling Jamie’s arms immediately release their hold on her.

She took another step back, so she could look up into his face; though cast in shadows, she could still make out his blue cat-like eyes boring into her. Claire wasn’t a naïve woman susceptible to shallow flattery she was well familiar with it, but this was different. She felt the earnestness in his statement, but she had been struggling with her own muddled feelings since meeting him. Maybe her heart was in a place to be open to someone, and maybe there really was truth in what Raymond had told her.

“Jamie,” his name felt so familiar and exposed feelings within her that she didn’t understand and felt herself backing down, “The thing is, we’ve just met, a few hours ago. And when you say things like that, as if you know me, as if there is something more between us, …I have to admit, it scares me.”

As much as he wanted to reach out and stroke her arm, reassure her, he resisted. When he did speak his tone was quiet and soothing, “I’m sorry if I alarmed ye. Ye dinna need to be scarit of me, Claire, nor anyone else while I’m around.”

Claire looked up at Jamie but didn’t speak while she considered what he’d said. Raymond’s words of caution flitted through her mind. She wasn’t afraid of him, or felt threatened, instead, she felt incredibly safe in his presence, but there was something. “I know,” she had already accepted there was a trust between them as she confessed, “but what if I’m scared of myself? Of what I feel when I want you to touch me?” and laughed quietly again as Jamie’s perplexed look altered to a satisfied comprehension with her admission.

Claire took a deep calming breath hoping to explain to herself as much as to him. “As interesting as this is, as flattering as your attentions are, I’m not sure I’m ready for where,” and using her hands waved at the space between, “…where this seems to be going,” and averted her eyes breaking his hold on her as her heart rate increased as she considered just where she hoped it might be heading.

“Oh, aye?” Jamie inclined his head slightly to the side, his eyes glinting with what she’d shared and as he envisioned just where it was going and smiled at Claire. He leaned in toward her and reaching out took her chin between his thumb and forefinger and gently tilted her chin up until she would have to look into his eyes. “What would it take to get ye ready?”

He had surprised her with his response as she stared at his mouth and unconsciously sucked in her lower lip, as her eyes shifted from his to his lips and back again. Those lips that she’d been so conscious of since his first smile, and felt her own moving imagining pressing hers against his. Good Lord, about twenty seconds with your lips.

Jamie’s smile evolved into a smirk as he replied, “Aye, I can do that.”

“What? Can do what?” she whispered as she sensed her face tilting up as Jamie lowered his to hers. Her lids fluttered closed as she felt his lips brush against hers before his fingers released her chin and moved to stroke her neck and then his large warm hand cradled her head as he tenderly pressed his lips, soft and tasting of whisky against hers.

An elation filled him as he lowered his mouth to hers and tasted her lips but forcing himself to stop when he wanted nothing more than to never let her go but he would not rush her.

Claire was pressing back, leaning into his kiss, and then his lips were gone from hers, and she was kissing air and left seeking more. A furrow briefly creased her brow in confusion as she opened her eyes and found she was facing a deep ocean of blue, and a pair of lips twitching as they held back their smile.

“Did I say that aloud?” she whispered, embarrassment flooded through her as realization hit her and Jamie nodded in amusement, “I do that sometimes. I’m sorry,” and turned her face away.

“Sorry for saying what ye think? Dinna fash, tha’s a good thing always, Sassenach.”

“It is until you don’t like what I think or disagree with it.”

“We may no always agree on things, but ye should always tell me what ye’re thinking. If we dinna share how we feel or think, how are we to find our way?”

Are you really that perceptive? Claire looked down at the hand she was unexpectedly holding, confused, …but it feels good, right.

Jamie’s hand trembled with the feel of her touch and he looked at her hand that he was now holding as his thumb traced small circles into her palm, “Claire, I’d make my declarations for ye right now, but I’d like to pay ye the respect yer due, and court ye properly this time. May I have the honor to do so?”

Claire had been focused on his touch, the way his fingers moved against her skin, it was hypnotizing, and she fought to shift her focus back to what he was saying. “Just what does that mean, court?” She could feel the blush up to the tips of her ears but pressed on, “Date?”

Jamie gazed into her eyes and a smile tweaked the corners of his lips before he replied. “Aye, a bit more than that, but aye, commit to me and no one else.”

“You mean be exclusive?”

“Is there someone else?” Jamie held his breath.

“No.”

Such a small word, usually the end of something but in this case, it offered a bounty of hopefulness. “Would ye agree to that, then? See what we can find together? I want to be with ye and I hope ye’ll want to be with me. But I understand ye may need some time to ken who we are, who we can be now.” Jamie held her hands clasped in his as he sought her permission. He hadn’t forgotten that; she should know always, it would be her choice.

Claire looked into his eyes trying to define what she saw reflected there and felt expectancy. Was he really the ‘him’ Raymond suggested she felt coming? Someone from her past? Was she willing to accept the possibility of what Raymond had suggested and take a risk on this man she’d just met? And against all logic Claire decided to trust the beat of her heart and nodded. “All right, yes, I’d like that,” in almost a whisper.

Jamie felt a surge of relief course through him and bowed his head in moment of peace and gratitude and then looked back to her and instinctively reached out and pulled at one of the escaped curls and pushed it behind her ear, leaving his hand to cup her cheek. “I’d like verra much to kiss ye, Claire. May I?” and held his breath waiting for her ‘yes’ to pass those lips he was desperate to taste again. His thumb stroked the curve of her cheekbone as he awaited her answer.

Claire barely breathing whispered, “Yes,” as she leaned forward tentatively to meet his lips.

Jamie gently brushed his lips back and forth over Claire’s breathing in her exhale, tasting the whisky she’d been consuming and held back his chuckle. If she was intoxicated, he’d not take advantage. He had to hold himself back from crushing her against him as she pressed into him establishing their contact as her hands moved to grip his shirtfront. “Claire,” he exhaled against her lips rolling the r with deep emotion and he finally took her lips with his. His kiss had started as a gentle acknowledgement, tender and inquisitive, resisting until Claire parted her lips and brushed his lip with her tongue, inviting him in.

Jamie’s coat slipped off her shoulders as she found herself reaching up, her fingers stroking the nape of his neck and grasping his curls as she had imagined doing only hours earlier.

Mary, Michael and Bride! With a low moan erupting from deep within his throat, Jamie relented to his instincts and moved to pull her up against him, wrapping an arm about her waist feeling her cool bare skin just beneath the film of sheer fabric that prevented him from slipping his hand beneath the edge and pressing his fingers into her bare flesh. His other grasped her neck cursing to himself, wanting to let down her hair and wrap his fingers in her curls, he pulled her more tightly into his kiss as it became a consuming force as they fell into and sought each other.

His hand wandered lower following the contours of her breast groaning as it filled his palm perfectly, his thumb gently rubbing circles against her hardened nipple. Claire’s head fell back pulling her mouth back as a sigh escaped and she drew a deep shuddering breath before she raised up on her tiptoes, seeking Jamie’s warm mouth with hers as she felt him pressing hard against her. Jamie’s hand continued caressing her, rediscovering the planes of her body, her hips and his hands were drawn to the curve of her firm round arse where they slid up and down with her dress fabric riding up as he explored that tantalizing bit of her anatomy as his fingers began to knead her, a deep groan emanated from Jamie’s chest as it registered. Fuck’s sake! “Christ, are ye no wearing any undergarments?” he whispered against her lips.

Claire had responded, pushing against Jamie’s, pressing her hips against his seeking relief. “In this dress? No. …I’m not,” she laughed quietly into his mouth with a soft shake of her head that grew into a soft moan escaping her lips, “but don’t let that stop you,” only to be swallowed by his deeper groan as he pulled her harder against him. Her tongue was as eager as his searching, tasting each other. Jamie suddenly pulled away from their kiss and rested his forehead against hers as she continued to press against him, inviting him back. Claire felt his stillness and feeling dazed at his withdrawal she leaned back to look into his eyes. “Wot?”

He was searching hers, looking for something deep within her as he took a ragged breath and whispered, “Aye, it’s like that, it is. Ye feel it do ye no?” and pressed a kiss against her forehead before resting his against hers.

Claire could only nod in response as she attempted to slow her breathing; she felt possessed, wanting nothing more than to give herself to him right then and there, her urges throbbing.  

Jamie struggled to catch his own breath, joyous at her response to him. “Yer body always did speak for yer heart before ye could say the words Sassenach. Maybe that’s the key to finding ye? Hmmmm?” and he brushed another wayward curl from her face as he cocked his brow and gave her a devilish smile.

Jamie leaned close nuzzling her hair, his lips grazing her ear as he breathed, “Sassenach, I want to love ye properly. When I do take ye, when ye come to me begging, I willna be taking ye against a wall as I would have if we’d not stopped then,” taking her lobe between his lips briefly suckled it as he moved his lips to leave a trail of butterfly kisses down her neck to that sweet spot where it met her shoulder. Jamie pressed lips to it wanting to mark her, claim her as his instead brushed it with his tongue and blew cool air across it.

Mindlessly Claire’s body had responded to their embrace and she felt the tightness that had coiled within suddenly release in waves as the shudders of the unexpected orgasm rolled through at the promise his rough voice and words evoked shook her to her core and then the heat rising to her cheeks.

Dear God, did I really just…? as warm moistness seeped from between her legs. Christ. She pressed her legs together as warm hands supported her against a large warm body while she collected herself. Jamie tightened his embrace as she wobbled, relishing in her tremors as well and held her crooning softly into her ear in words she did not understand but felt the tenderness behind them.

“A leanne, I think it’s time to get ye home and into bed,” a husky whisper broke through. Claire perked up and peered as if hoping there was more to come, but Jamie catching her wistful look just smiled and gave a slight reluctant shake of his head, “No this time, Sassenach.” Jamie’s eyes twinkled in delight, God this was going to be torment. Claire reluctantly yielded, but not before noticing the tent in Jamie’s kilt and was content to see he had not been immune to their embrace.

Jamie noticing her gaze had the grace to blush a bit himself, and gave a slight shrug and cock sure smile, “I am but a man Claire, and sure to be putty in your hands.”

Claire looking him straight in the eye and gave it back, “Putty? I don’t think so…” and then glanced meaningfully at his kilt as she stepped away and smiled at him.

Ah Dhia! “Aye, that’s how it will be.” He smiled, and a low chuckle rumbled deep in his chest knowing the path he was going to take to fully bring Claire to him.

Jamie took up his coat and settled her securely within it and then stepped back and offered Claire his hand. “My lady?”

Claire reached out and accepted his hand interlacing her fingers with his, a new experience, as he gripped it tightly.

Hoping to avoid unwanted scrutiny, Jamie led them out of the abbey ruins and turned to guide her through the gardens to the car park, but seeing his intent, Claire balked. “No, I have to go back inside before I leave and say goodbye to some people and get my wrap. I can’t just leave.”

A possessiveness took hold of Jamie as he protested, “Christ Claire, this evening when I saw dressed as ye are, practically bared from yer navel to the tip of yer arse, I wondered if ye were mad. Seeing as ye are near drove me mad just wanting to touch yer beautiful, pale skin, and hold ye to me. I canna fault those other men, but I canna stand to see the lust in their eyes as they watch ye just walking past.”

“Jamie,” Claire faced him with her hands on her hips, “I hope we’re not going to have a fight about this, because there is nothing wrong with this outfit. I assure you. Besides, practically everyone has already seen me and if you think there’s been any damage to my reputation, it has certainly already been done, and truth is I don’t give a fig.” And to prove her point, removed his coat and held it out to him. “Don’t look if you can’t manage it but I’m going in.” She leaned up against him coquettishly feeling the entire length of his body against hers and the evidence of his desire still there, “If you can manage, you may however, escort me,” and she lifted her brow in challenge as she looked into his deep blue eyes taking command of the evening. Oh God, who am I?

Jamie released a reluctant sigh ceding to her challenge, “Aye, if ye insist, Sassenach.” He donned his coat and gave his kilt a quick adjustment, praying for forbearance, and smiled down at her and took her hand again, their fingers intertwined, and she reached across and took hold of his arm as well acknowledging the claim she was staking on him as well.

Jamie was content as he felt Claire at his side and accepted that he’d just met his match in stubbornness.

Claire found herself leaning into Jamie’s warmth as he led her back into the party through a different entry and Jamie nodded to Rupert who had taken up his new position at the new door guarding their privacy. Rupert returned the nod with the slightest twitch of his lip as the two passed and he resumed his Watch duties.

Claire looked at him as they passed and confusion clouded her face as she looked back at him, and then at Jamie. “Wasn’t he at the door we left through?”

Jamie smiled and nodded, “Tha’s Rupert.”

Chapter Text



A smile was spread across Jamie’s face as he escorted a slightly dazed looking Claire on his arm back into the festivities. They entered the gallery from another direction than they’d departed and if Jamie and Claire’s earlier departure from the gathering had gone unnoticed, their return certainly was not by those in the vicinity, their body language indicated an obvious shared possessiveness of each other. Claire hesitated just inside the doors aware of the eyes turning in their direction and turned to Jamie who leaned down to her and peered at her beautifully flushed face, “Are ye alright?”

Claire nodded as she dared a glance around before speaking quietly, “I just need a moment to freshen up, do you know where?”

Jamie nodded and turned heading them in a different direction stopping at the entrance to a corridor. “It’s just down the hall, should I come with ye?”

“No, that’s fine wait here, I shouldn’t be long,” and left him feeling his eyes following her.

It wasn’t but a moment before several guests anxious to speak with one of the Frasers, seeing him alone, joined him, and Jamie, mindful of his duties as a host for the evening pulled his attention away from Claire and greeted benefactors that he had previously ignored up to this point.

The cool evening air had helped clear her whisky fuzzed head a bit but here she was now feeling more befuddled than before. Claire rubbed her arms trying to bring back some warmth into them. She’d been fool-hardy insisting Jamie take back his coat as she tried to make her point, and was now thoroughly chilled. On the walk back, she’d resisted her urge to wrap her arms around him and crawl into his warmth, God, he felt so good.

She looked back over her shoulder as she continued down the thickly carpeted hall knowing she’d only traded one intoxicant for another. Something had shifted in her world. She had started the morning as a very single, unattached woman and mere hours later, committed to exploring an exclusive relationship with a total stranger. An incredibly handsome, charming, intelligent and she smiled as she admitted, …fuck it, hot as hell man, but a stranger all the same. What happened?

She felt heat radiating from within her as she thought about what had just happened as she stepped into the relatively empty, dimly lit powder room and was immensely grateful for the solitude. She noticed the furnishings were as richly appointed as the rest of the Palace including a pair of elegant full-length gilded mirrors on one wall and a lovely collection of upholstered chairs including a reclining settee for the ‘indisposed’ and wishing for a moment she might take advantage of it, but there were already two older women sitting with heads bent in conversation who peered up at her when she entered. She just gave them a polite nod of acknowledgement as strangers do in this situation and moved to the next room, which provided a quartet of private lavatories. She leaned against the solid door with her eyes closed for a moment, appreciating the privacy it offered. Her head was swimming; it may have been the residual effects of the many whiskies that she’d consumed, but knew it was more that James Fraser was waiting for her down the hall. Her heart stuttered when she thought about him, but she smiled anyway, accepting the effect he had on her.

Lust? Whatever…she was truly smitten for the first time in her life with someone that she wanted more than anything else she ever had wanted in her life.

She pulled back and examined herself in the mirror, surprised that she didn’t look too much the worse for the snogging she’d been engaging in in the garden and blushed at the recollection. A few more curls had pulled loose, but nothing calling for a redo. The blush heightened her usual pale complexion and her eyes were bright and she couldn’t help the smile that kept touching her kiss-swollen lips as she touched up her lipstick.

She felt dampness growing between her legs and moistened a towel to wipe away the effects of Jamie. Lifting her hem, she sat on the closed commode, and rubbed her slick thighs before moving higher. She remembered Jamie’s low growl when he discovered she was pantiless and how his large hands had pulled her up and against him and the rush she’d felt. If Jamie had not stopped, she wasn’t sure she would have. Want, Need. Was that their connection? She touched herself feeling the slipperiness, evidence of her orgasm coating her lips and felt tremors tightening her core at the recollection. It wouldn’t take much to experience that lovely feeling again and pushed a finger inside of her, wishing it was his and then a second. She started to slowly rub herself with her other hand and could feel the pleasurable fog settling on her when a loud young voice beyond the door crept through penetrating her and halted her efforts.

“I thought ye said ye were going to be here sooner. Ye missed the calling.”

“Mother insisted we go by Sandringham’s before coming here and they always take too long when visiting, such a bore. His goddaughter is in town and they want me to take her around and introduce her to my friends, as if that’s going to happen. If she wasn’t such a mouse already, you should hear her stutter.” Claire could hear the condescension dripping from the woman’s mouth and shuddered with an immediate dislike.

“Did ye see the woman hanging on Jamie’s arm, Gena?”

“No, we just got here. I only just saw Jamie outside for a moment, he was speaking with some of the mob. Who is she?” a clipped English accent asked.

“I don’t know, haven’t seen her before. She’s pretty enough, but she’s too old for him.”

“Well I’ll just have to let her know that Jamie Fraser is off limits. I’ve been gone for a few weeks, but I intend to make up for lost time, just see if I don’t.” Her friend’s response was drowned out by their laughing, but Claire had heard enough and was disinclined to listen further. She stood and tossed the towel in the bin and stepped out and walked into the outer room.

“Ladies,” she glanced cooly at the two young women who had stopped their conversation when she appeared, so she wasn’t sure which was Gina. Claire paused in front of the mirror turning back and forth in front of them examining her reflection, confirming her outfit was in perfect order before she exited.

Before the door closed behind her, she heard the hushed, “That was her!” and smiled.



She could see Jamie where she’d left him talking to a small group of people. He now had a drink in his hand, but as she came up behind him, she slipped her hand into his free hand that had been hanging loose at his side. His fingers closed around hers and squeezed in acknowledgement of her presence and then he turned to her, smiled and lifted it to his lips knowing full well the risk he was taking of exposing their relationship. His eyes darted to hers as he breathed in her scent on them and darkened as the color all but disappeared as the tip of his tongue just brushed them before he lowered her hand and released it with a firmer squeeze. He deftly stepped just behind her and placed his hand on the small of her back and pressing his fingers into her as he turned to introduce her to the guests with whom he was speaking, leaving them to speculate on his actions.

Christ almighty ye tease! The effect her scent had on him had been immediate. Jamie vacated the conversation handing the lead to Claire to carry describing her position and expanded program the night’s benefit would support. Appearing to give her his attention, Jamie instead retreated to an exercise of mental calesenthics hoping to alleviate the rising cock stand he was now sporting, determined she was going to pay for it. He moved imperceptibly closer, and Claire could feel his heat. Not exactly what she had intended, but she’d take it and shifted back a half step making full contact with him and then turned her hips to speak to one of the other guests and then turned back to another to answer. Ye’re killing me Sassenach!

Jamie looked around and nodded at Willie who left the young lady with whom he was enjoying an entertaining chat and came right to him. Jamie apologized to the guests to whom Claire was speaking for interrupting, but leaned in and growled into her ear, “I need to take care of something ye minx,” then straightened up. “Claire this is Willie who will attend ye while I seek out Joe. I need a word or two with him.” His hand lightly brushed her arse as he turned disappearing down the hall behind them before she had a chance to say anything. With Jamie’s departure the group dispersed after a few minutes to mingle elsewhere, and she was alone for a moment.

“Mistress Claire,” Willie bowed toward her and offered her a glass, “Water?”

“Thank you, Willie,” she nodded recognizing him as the fellow standing by the security podium when she entered and sipped at the sparkling water, but she was too busy watching for Jamie to return and guessing at the something he needed to take care of, smiled to herself.

She was enjoying the heat of the flirtation that had erupted with Jamie but was struggling with her reaction to the young women’s comments. She chafed at the idea that she might be feeling like a jealous teenager and resented the unfamiliar sensation. As she tried to collect herself a voice came from behind pulling her attention.

“Claire.” 

Willie stepped forward to intercept the man behind the voice, but Claire raised her hand to stop him.

“FRANK, you are here!” a relief surged through her with his familiar voice and she spun toward it lunging forward to embrace the man and exchange kisses. “I’ve missed you. Joe said you were talking with Raymond earlier. What’s that about?”

“Just a bit of business to deal with, but I am glad to see you, darling, you know that.” He stepped back giving her an up and down exam, “Would you look at you? I always knew you’d look smashing in this dress, but my God, it was genius to add the sheath. Your idea?” and he took her hand and lifted it to give her a twirl adding a low whistle. “I’m glad you’ve finally had a chance to wear it.”

“Thank you, but I can’t take the credit, my new friend Louise pulled it together,” Claire smoothed out imperceptible wrinkles as she looked down at her outfit before looking back.

Taking note of the fellow standing close at hand, Frank leaned in conspiratorially, “Well it got you thoroughly and well fucked by that braw Scot I saw you with if I had my guess by the look on your face,” he teased her and raised a finger to her swollen lips.

Claire batted his hand away and bit her lips trying to hide the evidence before she smiled in the direction that Jamie had disappeared and flushed before turning back toward Frank, “What? You mean it wasn’t my witty and charming personality?” Claire laughed, “It’s not… we just met,” her brows knotted with confusion as she stumbled over her explanation, before finishing with a wistful sigh admitting. “Not yet.”

“Well, if he can get you beaming as you are and as unsettled, I’d say he’s making a very good start and good luck to you both.” Stepping closer to her again he whispered, “Seriously Claire, you deserve someone like that. He looks as though he can take care of you, in all regards.” He added with a lifted brow and perceptive grin.

“I’m not beaming,” she contradicted him.

“Yes, dear you are, and you look all the more beautiful for it if that’s even possible,” and Frank leaned in and placed a chaste kiss on her cheek. I’d say, good show my dear, seems you found your man.”

Even as she gave a small shake of her head, Jamie’s declarations and her agreement raced through her mind. “Possibly,” she allowed with a small smile escaping. “To be honest, I’m not sure what to think, except that I just might be losing my mind. It’s just the oddest feeling. He says we know each other and given everything that Raymond told me – I don’t know, I’m confused. I mean do you think I could forget him? I don’t think so.”

“Darling, you’re thinking too hard; don’t.”

Before she could respond with more than a roll of her eyes, a handsome blonde headed fellow walked up to join their conversation. “Ah, Claire, I’d like you to meet someone special,” and as Frank gave her a warm smile and a significant lift of his brow, her face lit up in recognition at the implication and turned to welcome their newcomer.

“I’d say I’ve heard so much about you, but I can’t; Frank has been entirely too tight-lipped,” she smiled warmly before she turned an accusing glare toward Frank.

“But I really am so happy to meet you…”

“John. I didna expect to see ye here this evening. I thought ye were outta town,” Jamie smoothly interceded. “And who might this be?” turning his glaring attention to the slender man holding Claire around her waist, but who astutely removed his hand under Jamie’s stare and extended it outward and was accepted with a very firm grasp as Claire introduced him.

“Ah, Jamie, this is Frank Randall, yes my Frank. Frank this is James Fraser, my who knows what..,” Claire waved her hand and looked at Jamie.

Jamie regarded her with a bit of a smirk as she attempted to define who he was. I’m yer soon to be Husband.

“And, John, was it?” She turned back to Frank’s friend.

“Grey, my friend,” Frank filled in.

“Grey, my associate,” Jamie added almost simultaneously.

“You know both Frank and Jamie?” Confusion etched her brow for a moment as she looked from John, to Frank to Jamie and back again. Claire thought Jamie looked as though he was going to start a pissing contest with Frank for some reason right there as they quietly took each other’s measure as though preparing for a schoolyard brawl.

John cleared his throat gaining her attention and leaned in towards her. “Let them be, they’ll get over it in a moment,” and chuckled quietly, “Perhaps we’ll talk another time?”

Claire gave him a brief nod before turning, “Boys, I’m really not sure what’s going on, but I need a bed. You’ll have to excuse me,” and Claire proceeded to storm off with four pairs of eyes and matching raised brows following her nice round arse as she flounced out.   

“God love her, as do I!” a smiling bemused Jamie exhaled and stalked off after his departing prey.

“And God love him, as do I,” a heretofore silent Willie exhaled as Jamie made haste to catch Claire up and he followed suit.

“John?” Frank shot him a bemused look.

“He has that affect on even the straightest arrow in the quiver,” and shrugged it away smiling. “But it appears to be on,” John gave Frank a shrewd glance before turning back to the wake left by Jamie’s departure. “I told you it wouldn’t take long,” he smiled as his lips took the rim of his glass as he swallowed his drink.

“So, it does. Claire’s a bit on edge though,” and Frank paused with his brow furrowed a bit considering, “but definitely in heat,” and winked at John when he looked back.

“Don’t be coarse, Frank.”  

“You’re right, it’s just that I’ve never seen her like that, so radiant. But she looked great though, didn’t she? You know, I picked out that dress for her,” Frank claimed. “Red really does suit her,” and they bumped shoulders laughing with the insinuation.



Jamie had been following in Claire’s wake noticing heads turning as she passed. One set of eyes he caught were those of his brother-in-law, Ian, who was standing next to Jenny whose back was turned, but she was looking toward the door. Jamie paused his stride momentarily at Ian’s grin and lifted brow as he too looked in the direction Claire had passed. Jamie couldn’t help but return the grin before giving a slight shake of his head and mouthed, “Later?” as he picked up his pace forward and caught Ian’s nod.

Claire had passed off her empty glass and just made it to the Gallery door when already recognizing his step closing quickly behind her Claire coyly inquired, “Did you manage to find ‘Joe’?” biting back a smile as she continued walking.

She got back a decidedly Scottish grump of displeasure, “No, …did ye? What was that about Sassenach?” and he grabbed her hand and turned her about to face him. Looking about at the other guests in the anteroom, he pulled her toward a quiet corner with a rasping whisper, “Ye make me want to forget that I’m a gentleman.”

Claire had ignored his questions, reluctant to admit her insecurities but more reluctant to not face them. She glanced back toward the gallery she’d just left before looking back at him, “Can you tell me, right here, right now, that you are free of any romantic entanglements?” She didn’t want to admit that the girls’ comments had gotten under her skin, but they had and if there was any truth to it, she wanted to know now before she got in one minute deeper.

Jamie looked at Claire’s face flushed with jealousy and felt a surge of affection, “Do ye think I would play ye false and ask to court ye if I had any other involvements? The only entanglement, romantic or otherwise, is standing right before me,” and he lifted her fingers to his mouth and placed the tips of the two against his lips as though to kiss them but parted his lips and lightly bit the tips of her fingers, before lowering her hand, but not letting go. “Only you.”

Claire felt her stomach clench as she felt the warmth of his mouth on her fingers and the heat of his blue eyes and accepted his answer. “I’m sorry,” she looked away for a moment before taking a deep breath and turning back to stare him right in the eye with her chin up, “It’s just that I overheard a conversation between two young women, and one was very definitely claiming you were hers. I, …I didn’t like it.”

Jamie felt proud as a peacock at her admission and it showed through on his face, but his voice was tender when he spoke, “I hope ye ken it’s no true, mo chridhe.”

“Well perhaps you should let her know?” Jamie heard her suggestion, posed as a tentative question, and wanted to reassure her. He did not want to let their relationship get off track with a misunderstanding.

“Do ye ken who she was?”

“No, I don’t, but I would suspect one,” as she considered the two girls and took a stab, “I know she was English, like me, long dark curly hair, like me, well not so curly, and rather pretty. Do you have a type, Mr. Fraser?” Claire eyed him appraisingly as he grinned at her, “Her friend called her Gina. Anyone you know?”

“Gina?” Claire watched as Jamie repeated the name and his brow furrowed in concentration and looked off to a spot beyond Claire, and then saw his expression change as recognition washed over and he looked back at her and stated flatly, “Geneva Dunsany.”

“So, you do know her.”

“Aye, I ken her,” Jamie’s voice dropped, and he sighed with frustration. “She’s the sister of one of John’s friends. Her father is Lord Dunsany, an MP for the Lake District where they live. I gave her a ride home a couple of times when I was passing near there. The first time John asked if I could and the next, she’d called and asked if I was going near sometime could she get a lift. I thought she was just a spoilt brat, but her sister and brother are great, and her parents are fine folks, so I canna say they are responsible for the way she acts, but there’s something amiss with the lass. After the second lift, she told John we were dating. The whole way there she just yammered on about one stupid reality show after the other. I dinna think I said more than a half dozen words to her. I’ve no spoken to her since though she has called several times. I just let it go to voicemail. I thought avoiding her calls would send her the message, but I guess not. I’m a bit of a coward for not dealing with her right off. I’m sorry for that. I’ll talk to her.”

Claire could hear the sincerity as he spoke to her and felt a huge relief. “Thank you for telling me, Jamie. It sounds like you’re just a very nice guy and she latched on to that. You don’t need to say anything unless it becomes a problem, but if she comes after me, I’ll deal with her. Okay? I won’t put up with bitchiness.”

Jamie looked at her with admiration flooding through him, “As ye say my wee brave Sassenach.”

They stood there for a few moments, each seeking and receiving reassurance from the other. It was only their public proximity that kept Jamie from pulling her into his arms. They were too exposed, and he wasn’t ready to share her; he knew he was already pressing his luck with the attention he’d been focusing on Claire during the evening, it wouldn’t go unnoticed.

“I really should be going, it’s been a long day, and I have work tomorrow,” Claire finally broke their silence and stepped back reluctantly but needing space. She felt the chill brush past when the entrance door opened and shivered as they moved back into a crowd milling near the entrance. “I need to call for a ride and collect my wrap.”

Jamie nodded grudgingly, “If ye must, though I dinna want to see ye leave; I’ll see ye get home, ye dinna need to call.”

“That’s not necessary, Jamie, I can manage just fine.”

“Allow me Sassenach, please?”

“Are you always such a gallant?” she asked handing him her claim chit for her wrap.

“My mam would like to think so, but no always,” and shook his head in admission, “but for you though, anything,” and he gave her a breath-taking smile filled with promise before he turned and walked away.

Claire couldn’t help but admire his easy confident gate and the slight swish of his kilt as he made his way determinedly away. She remained fixed staring after him, bemused by the whole evening, her emotions dancing on a tightrope.

“Claire, I see it didn’t take you long; it seems you’re already making new friends. Not too close, I hope. …I”

Claire felt her skin crawl as the voice from behind slithered as a whisper through her. She closed her eyes, determined not to respond, not to move. Breathe, just breathe damn it! She felt a touch on her shoulder and shuddered. “Get your fucking hand off me,” she breathed out and whirled around.

Chapter Text



“Oh Claire!” a startled Louise stepped back her eyes widened at Claire’s reaction. “Are you, all right?”

“Did you see him? Where is he?” Claire tried to control her frantic feeling as she looked past Louise and around the room and thought she saw a familiar dark head bobbing through the crowd and disappear around a corner toward the Gallery.

“Who Claire?” Louise joined Claire’s search looking around but see nothing out of the ordinary. "I don’t know who to look for.”

Realizing it was fruitless, she apologized, “I’m so sorry Louise, …thought I heard a voice from the past,” she offered in vague explanation and endeavored to cover her upset with a weak smile. “

“You’re leaving?”

“Yes, I was just waiting for my wrap.” Claire could see Louise’s concern and attempted to reassure with a smile. “I’m fine, really.”

“Come then, I want you to meet my friends that I’d mentioned earlier,” and insistently pulled Claire back toward the Gallery as she peered over her shoulder watching for Jamie.

“Comte George St. Germaine, and his wife, Comtesse Annalise St. Germaine his wife, this is my friend, Claire Beauchamp. She’s my new neighbor and a surgeon at The Royal.”

Claire looked to greet Louise’s friends with raised brows not sure how to address them, “George and Annalise will do,” the Comte offered.

“Thank you, it’s a pleasure. It’s so kind of you to come tonight.”

“I frequently do business with the Frasers, so mixing a little pleasure with business while we’re here.”

“I understand you’re visiting from Paris. I spent some time there during my medical residency volunteering at L'Hôpital des Anges.”

“Oh? You’re a surgeon now, do you have a specialty?” St. Germaine inquired attempting to engage her in conversation while surreptitiously scrutinizing her.

“Most of my experience has been dealing with trauma injuries received in the field. I’ve recently left a military medical unit to join the civilian workforce and a more general surgical field as might be needed here.”

“That’s very impressive, do you not find the change boring?” he seemed genuinely impressed now and looking beyond her exterior.

“On the contrary, I’m thoroughly enjoying this new experience, the environment, the people; it’s a nice change.”

“Ms. Beauchamp, pardon me for interrupting, I’d hoped to catch you this evening.”

Claire turned toward the voice of the man interjecting himself into the conversation and eyed him curiously before speaking. “Colonel. I would have said you’re the last person I would have thought to see here, maybe the second to last,” as she looked around distractedly looking for someone else but didn’t finish her thought. “A bit far afield aren’t you?”

He looked at the small group with Claire and noticed her failure to introduce him, “Andrew McDonald, Colonel Andrew McDonald,” and let it hang as he looked around them before returning to her. “I was asked to liaise with the new department head working with the veterans’ group as they beef up services here.”

“I’m not sure who that is, but I imagine if you’re around, we’ll bump into each other. You’ll have to excuse me, I’m leaving shortly and wanted to say good bye to my friends.”

“Of course, I look forward to working with you again. We’ll catch up another day. Good night all,” he turned on his heel and departed.

“Not bloody likely,” Claire muttered but not low enough to escape notice as she watched him depart. “He was the military commander at my previous posting, someone I’d hoped to leave in the past. My apologies.” She was not prepared to provide further explanation or alleviate the curious looks she was receiving.

Claire just wanted to make a quick departure when she got her coat.

She felt a great relief when she saw Jamie approaching with her wrap. “I thought ye’d disappeared on me Sassenach, Willie saw ye being hauled off in this direction.”

Claire shook her head and gave him a warm smile but before she could speak, she was blocked.

“Jamie!” Annalise turned and excitedly greeted him, wrapping him in a warm embrace before reaching up to give him a kiss on both cheeks.

Iffrin…

“So, I take it you already know the Comte and Comtesse?” Claire turned to look at Jamie and before he could respond, Annalise jumped in. “Oui, we knew each other quite well when he was at the university in Paris. He had quite the reputation for his saber skills.”

Claire turned to Jamie with a lifted brow before turning back to Annalise, “I’m sure he did.” Jamie pinked up at the insinuation and Claire’s scrutiny.

“Oh yes, he even fought a duel for me.” And who might you be? Claire interpreted the challenge well enough.

“A duel you say? How archaic. Do you fight many duels then?” Claire mused since she knew absolutely nothing about this man who had invaded her life and regarded him curiously. How many former girlfriends of yours am I going to be meeting? and quirked her brow at Jamie.

Jamie blushed a bit at Claire’s challenge and shrugged as though to diminish it. “It was no but a club match and Germaine’s skills proved better that day and he won the affections of the fair Annalise,” and he bowed toward her and gave Germaine a rueful smile.

Claire slipped her arm around Jamie’s waist, a gesture of possession that he pleased him immenisely, the ease in which she did it, and the comfort he felt as she leaned into him reflexively. He wrapped his arm around her waist, his fingers hesitating over the warmth of her bare flesh of her lower back, just beneath the sheath and twitched in frustrated need to touch it. What is that damn stuff?!

Turning her attention back to the St. Germaines Claire offered, “I see it turned out well for all then, congratulations.”

Louise had been standing to the side observing the exchange between the group and was giving Claire a very inquisitive stare.

“Jamie, I’m sorry, I should have done so earlier, before we got sidetracked, but I’d very much like to introduce you to my friend Louise De Rohan, my neighbor and sometime clothing consultant,” and Claire gave Louise a quick smile and wink.

“Louise, this is Jamie Fraser.”

“Of course, Jamie, it is a pleasure to meet you.” and glanced quickly at Claire; so, you have found something you like… but what else is going on?

Claire gave her a brief shrug in reply.

“Perhaps we’ll share a story or two and a glass of wine when you visit Claire?” and turned a quick look of concern to Claire.

“And my pleasure,” as he held her hand. “I look forward to it Louise. Sometime soon,” and looked at Claire for confirmation.

“Of course, if you’d like,” she nodded in agreement.

“It’s a surprise to see you here Jamie,” Germaine offered.

“Yes, Dougal said you were off finding yourself or some such …quest,” Annalise added rather coquettishly earning a glare from her husband who moved closer to his wife now.

Turning his look on Claire, Jamie replied, “I have,” and gave her a brief squeeze and her heart stuttered at the intensity in his eyes.

“Well, I hate to cut this short, it’s been a lovely evening, but I really must be going, early shift tomorrow.” Claire shared a wan smile with the group as Jamie held her wrap as she slid her arms into the sleeves as they prepared to take their leave.

“Germaine, I expect we’ll be meeting before ye head back to Paris? I’d like to hear what Dougal had to say. Will ye call the office and let Geordie know when it’s convenient for you and set up a time?” they shook hands as Jamie turned his attention to Annalise, “Lovely as always to see ye Annalise,” as he bent and kissed both her cheeks, before he nodded to Louise and took Claire’s arm escorting her back toward the exit.

When they were safely out of sight of the group Jamie halted and turned to face Claire, “Are ye alright Sassenach? Did something happen?” he held her arms as he asked searching her face for truth which he didn’t get.

“I’m fine,” she dismissed his concern as she tied the sash turning back to the door, “So, Annalise? She’s very …perky.”

“A verra brief infatuation years ago, but she was more interested in using me to make Germaine jealous.” And then lowered his voice as he looked back toward the group, “It was verra difficult to intentionally lose a match to Germaine, he’s such a bungler with the saber, no finesse. But it’s really more strength, swash and buckle than the finesse required with the foil.” Jamie added with a grin and held his left arm out holding an imaginary weapon and feinting and thrusting.

“A swash-buckling pirate! Do you rip off bodices as well then? You might be my perfect fantasy.” Claire teased him with a thoughtful look and sigh and feeling her earlier lightness creeping back.

“Nah, I could never be a pirate, ships and I are foes at best. A Highland warrior perhaps, and though against my code of chivalry mind ye, if ye wished, for ye alone, I would rip off yer bodice, yer skirts, yer shift, yer…” and Jamie was stopped in mid phrase as Claire turned and kissed him right there mindless of others present. Jamie froze.

It was a brief kiss, but perfect for the moment. “Ye take my breath away, Sassenach,” he whispered when he could speak again.

“Good.”

They had stepped outside before Claire offered and looked hopefully at Jamie, “Do you want to come along?” not really wanting their evening to end here.

“More than ye ken Sassenach. I thank ye for the offer, but I have more people I must speak with here tonight. I’m afraid if I see ye home, I willna leave ye to yer sleep. As ye say it’s been a long day and I think ye’ll be needin’ a bit more rest with the drink ye’ve had this evening.”

“I’ve not had too much to drink.” Claire vehemently protested.

“As ye say,” Jamie acquiesced sweetly, knowing differently and gave her a peck on her cheek just next to the corner of her mouth, afraid to do more, though she turned her face towards his seeking him and giving his heart a thrill.

Jamie led Claire toward a car with a kilted man standing next to it. The same man she had noticed earlier standing off to the side when she and Jamie had ventured into the gardens. He was older but looked fit; a good size though not as tall as Jamie, but still large and sporting a full beard and hair pulled back into a braid, not something she would have expected for a man his age. He had a rather dour expression on his face as he examined her with his dark brown eyes just below an enormous pair of bushy eyebrows.

“Claire, this is Murtagh Fitzgibbons Fraser, my godfather, and I trust no one in the world more than him, and to him I entrust yer care. He will see ye home.”

“Ms. Beauchamp,” Murtagh nodded in acknowledgment, and a brilliant smile broke through the gruff expression he’d been wearing, “my pleasure to meet ye.”

Jamie handed Claire into the car. Looking at Murtagh he said, “See her safe. You know where?”

“Of course, Jamie,” and returned his look with assurance.



“Ready, lass?” and the car eased off after she was belted in. Claire looked out the window until she could no longer see Jamie over her shoulder.

“Did ye enjoy your evening, Ms. Beauchamp?”

Coming back from her thoughts that were racing Claire hesitantly responded, “I, I think so. I’m not sure what’s happened to me.” And she sought in the mirror his eyes, which were crinkled up as though smiling.

“Ah,” Murtagh gave a bit of a nod, “that would be Jamie that’s happened to ye, lass. He’s a force to be sure. Best just rest on it a while.”

Claire sank back into her seat and closed her eyes; she needed to for just a moment, she promised herself as she considered the evening. Not now…

Barely twenty minutes later she was being roused by the gentle shaking of her shoulder. “Ms. Beauchamp, …Claire? We’re here. Wake up, lass. I’ll see ye up to your flat,” and reached for her hand as she came awake.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to fall asleep. Did I?”

“Just a wee cat nap,” replying as he helped her from the backseat. “Ye should get yourself right to bed. Ye’ll be wantin’ a good night sleep. I’m sure Jamie will be here in the morning with the larks.”

“What? He’s coming here? What does that mean, …with the larks?”

“Early.”

“NO! Not early, please.”

“Aye, I’ll tell him, but I’m no sure that will make much difference. He’s anxious to start courtin’ ye, proper like.”

“Courting me, he told you that? Really? In the morning? But I have to work tomorrow!”

“Nay, he told Dr. Abernathy ye would no be comin’ in. He thought ye’d not be feeling well and …” Murtagh decided it would be better to refrain from further clarification.

As they reached her door, he handed her a card, “Should ye need anything, this is my number. Call.” He gave her shoulder a good squeeze of what she thought was affection, but why?

“Murtagh?” He turned to face her and seeing the expression on her face, walked back.

“What can I do for ye?”

“Would you mind coming in for a minute?”

“Of course, may I?” and reached for her key and opened the door, and switched on the entry light and then walked into the flat, poking his nose into the different spaces and turning a light on in each. “Ye’ve got a lovely flat, would you like a cuppa tea before I go?” He turned to find her on his heels, looking a bit shamefaced.

“No, thank you. How about you? Sorry, it was silly of me. Honestly, it’s just been a rather strange day.”

Murtagh reached out and took her hand and placed her keys in it. “Thank ye for inviting me in, we’ll share a cup another time. Call if ye need,” and pointed at the card she still held and winked at her as he let himself out the door, but not before pointing at the lock. “Sleep well, lass.”

After Claire assured the door was bolted, she leaned back against it with her eyes closed and considered Murtagh’s parting words, ‘Sleep well’ as if that will happen, ever…again, and headed straight for her bed, shedding her clothes as she went. Remember to call Frank in the morning.

She crawled between the sheets and closed her eyes too tired to do anything else other than succumb to exhaustion as she rolled back and snuggled into the embrace of a very large, beautiful red headed Scot wrapping around her. “Caidil gu Sèimh, mo nighean donn.”

Chapter Text



Jamie stood watching until he could no longer make out the tail lights of the car carrying Claire away. He couldn’t believe how quickly things were moving now. He’d been totally caught off guard by her appearance today, and grateful though it did not come close to describing how he felt. He couldn’t claim complete, because she did not know him.

It had taken all his will power not to pursue Claire to her home this evening. His chest was still tight, and his body felt electrified as he recalled how she responded to their embrace and kisses, the wee sweet sounds she let loose and hearing her call him sweetheart even if in jest. His body was rousing again at just his thoughts of her. God this willna do.

He needed to walk a bit in the chilling night air and hoped it cooled his blood before he faced whatever it was Jenny had in store. He’d resisted her earlier today when she’d come into his room and pulled him from his sleep with her caterwauling about The Gathering and meeting someone, she wanted to introduce him to and other important people afterward. There was no denying the resolve of their Fraser stubbornness when the two of them were at odds and who would outlast the other was always a toss-up, but he had capitulated this time.

Rupert tracked him down in the garden. “Hey Jamie, so how was it this evening? I saw Murtagh driving off wi’ the lady. Is it her then? The one that’s been driving ye mad all these months now?”

“Weel she’s certainly been driving me mad today, but aye, it’s Claire.” Jamie was anxious to share his joy, but reluctant to let go of any part of her, even his memories of their moments together. And he just gave Rupert a big smile and pat on the shoulder, “Aye, thank ye, it was a good evening.”

“Ye ken we’re all glad for ye Jamie. Angus and me, we joke around and give ye a hard time, but it’s just because we’re jealous. We get the charm and witty banter and ye the looks and the lasses just canna see past ye to hear us. Perhaps now we’ll have a go with the lasses since your head is wrapped around the lady.”

“Whatever I can do to help ye and Angus. D’ye need to sign up for an online match-making service? I’ll cover it for ye. Maybe get Murtagh to help ye with yer profile?”

“Och match-making…, I hadna considered that. But I’m not sure Murtagh’s any good. He tried setting us up on a dating service, but “Lardbucket” and “Big Head” did not exactly draw the kind of attention, me and Angus were wanting, if ye ken what I mean.”

Jamie was having a hard time stifling his laugh; Angus did have a curiously large head. Ah Murtagh…  

“Aside from all that, Jenny sent me to drag your arse inside, said to tell ye, ‘It’s time.’ Ken what she means by that?”

“Aye, something of the sort leastways. Can ye show me where?”



Jamie stepped through the closed door and saw Jenny amongst a group cloistered in a small library talking quietly. He was caught up by the number of the familiar faces that turned at his entrance as those he’d met briefly this evening and then turning, “MAM! DA!”

Jamie greeted his mother with a kiss on her cheek and she returned it by pulling him into a big hug and then smiling back into the same blue eyes as her husband’s. “Mam, Da; that was quite the surprise to see ye here this evenin’. Jenny held back that little bit of information. I didna expect to be seein’ ye any time soon, at least not until Samhain at Lallybroch. How did ye come to be here this evenin’?” As he cast an accusing look at Ian who only grinned up at him from his seat and laughed with uplifted hands, confirming his suspicions.

“Aye, it was me; when Jenny called to tell me the news, I had to share it with your folks. Do ye think they’d ever forgive me had I not? And I had to ask to have Mrs. Crook watch the bairns so I could come down. No way was I goin’ to miss this occasion. No sir!”

“Jamie, my lad,” Brian clapped his son’s shoulder grinning widely as well. “ye understand your mam and I are here to just share in a bit of joy wit ye. It’s been a while since we’ve had such cause for a celebration!”

“My wee man…” was all Ellen Fraser could say as tears glistened in her eyes as she held his arms.

Oh, Dear God,” Jamie pleaded, “Mam, I’m no your wee man! There’s nothing wee about me.” Jamie could hear the smothered laughs around the room.

“Aye ye are and always will be no matter how big or old ye are, and dinna forget it. Ye’ll ken the feeling one day with yer own bairns.”

“Mam, I think that’s something we’ll be discussing sometime in the future, but no tonight, please,” as he looked around noting the other guests present smiling at his mam’s enthusiasm.

Taking pity on her brother for having put him in this position, Jenny interrupted the reunion and decided it was time to get down to business. “Before we start, have ye at least had a word with everyone here tonight?”

“No, give me a minute, would ye?” Jamie approached Joe Abernathy and the woman that had been standing next to Claire during the Invitation. “Hey Joe, this must be yer wife, Gail. I think ye’re the only one I’ve yet to meet this evening,” Jamie held his hand out to her in greeting, which she completely ignored, instead she raised her arms and pulled Jamie into a spontaneous hug, which he returned as Joe introduced her grinning over her shoulder at Jamie.

“Jamie you hardly need an introduction this evening, but yes, this beautiful woman who doesn’t know to keep her hands to herself is my wife, Gail.”

After being released and stepping back from the hug, Jamie responded in turn by bowing towards her and lifting and kissing her hand, eliciting a giggle from the beaming woman. “Now that’s what I’m talking about,” Joe laughed at Jamie but then turned to glare at his wife affectionately. “Woman, behave!”

“The pleasure is mine, Gail.”

Gail slapped Joe on the shoulder, “When you kiss my hand like that, you can order me to do anything, well maybe just about anything, you want,” and smiled at each other forgetting Jamie for the moment, laughing together.

Jenny interrupted the conversations going on around the room, “We dinna want to take all night, so shall we begin? Jamie, we’ve all had a bit of time to chat and we’re going to let Dr. Raymond take over.”

Jamie’d not known exactly what to expect when Jenny told him that Dr. Raymond had requested this meeting or how exactly he was involved except Murtagh had seen Raymond coming in with Claire this evening and then she herself had mentioned their connection when they spoke in the garden.

Raymond. Jamie had known him since he was eight or so and over the years they’d met frequently, but it had been some time since they’d last crossed paths. It wasn’t just that, but the man had a way of appearing whenever Jamie was on a brink of some revelation and since Jenny had brought his name up that afternoon, both Murtagh and Claire had as well. What the hell are ye on about wee man?

Raymond stood up at this point and turned looking at each individual gathered in the room before he spoke. “I will not let it go without saying, …it is imperative that each of us acknowledges the importance of what is happening here and trust that nothing said amongst us, these secrets will be repeated elsewhere.”

“Whether by blood or by design you are all family from this point on. Should anything you hear be bandied about outside this group, you may well put your loved ones at risk.”

“You may volunteer your information or answer questions, whichever suits, it goes both ways. We must be candid with each other, with Jamie for Claire. Is that understood?”

Quiet murmurs and glances from curious to nervous were passed around the room from group to group as heads nodded in assumed understanding of what was about to be revealed. That was not enough for Raymond though. He walked to each person present and received a variety of verbal affirmations before proceeding.

All the while Jamie’s mind had been racing. “I appreciate that, and since ye mention being candid, Dr. Raymond, may I ask… ye’ve known us, what – me at least fifteen years and Claire, her whole life?” Jamie up to this point had been able to keep his tone calm but as realization settled on him, he turned and faced Raymond, the fuse had been lit and his ire verging on eruption.

The murmurs had quieted as all attention riveted on the two men squaring off.

“Jamie…,” calm and quiet despite being over a foot shorter, Raymond stood his ground facing the raging six-foot four-inch Viking hands fisted by his side as though ready to strike out.

“Ye’ve known all this time and ye’ve kept us apart? Ye’ve kept my wife,” Jamie turned in challenge now to face Frank Randall bellowing, “MY WIFE!”  before turning back to face his unexpected nemesis, “ye’ve kept her from me all this time?” His eyes glittering and his chest heaving as he tried to draw enough air to fill his lungs, Jamie was unsure what to hit first.

“How could ye?” and just as suddenly he surrendered, defeated and sank into the club chair just behind him dropping his head and bracing it between his large hands as though too heavy. And those strong, broad shoulders that could bear so much began to heave with silent sobs.

“Time, Jamie. It wasn’t the right time, for either of you.”

Chapter Text

 

Raymond stood in front of Jamie speaking calmly, aware that all eyes were on the pair of them and secrets were to be spilled. He prayed that his belief in these witnesses was well-founded for all their sakes. The convivial atmosphere that had pervaded the room earlier and dissipated like the morning mist on a summer morn.

Jamie had collapsed into the chair overwhelmed by the ache of loss, pain that coursed through him as fresh as the morning he’d placed his hand over Claire’s and sent her and their bairn away, back to that man. She had disappeared from him, leaching into stone. He had given her his heart and she took it, leaving only the part that kept his blood flowing, forcing him, to exist, but not to live, an impossiblity without being able to love.

Rupert had been right; he had been going mad, imagining her; feeling her so close as he lay in bed, wanting her so badly, reaching for her, remembering how it felt to stroke her skin. Like velvet it was, he could have spent hours just tracing patterns of shadows with his fingertips across it, leaving trails of goosebumps, watching her nipples pucker and harden like ripe cherries that invited tasting. Her small laughs as he brushed a ticklish spot, her warm, inviting lips. But he never made it to an hour before they rolled into each other, seeking more than just featherlight touches. The euphoria of having found Claire, holding her, kissing her, feeling their bodies knowing each others’, seeking, needing, wanting to come together… Raymond had known. If he could have just been near her…

“Jamie. ...Jamie.” The quiet voice pulled him back but he did not have the strength to lift his head, but gave a small nod of acknowledgement, pemission to continue granted. “I do not wish you to see me as the “Wizard of Oz”, the man behind the curtain, manipulating and controlling yours and Claire’s life. It may appear that way, but it is not the case, I assure you.”

The contingents had separated into their own camps after Jamie’s outburst and were now warily eyeing each other, tears shining in many, and watching as Raymond leaned forward toward Jamie reaching out and placing a hand on his shoulder not speaking again, all waiting, but each wanting to reach out and lay their hands upon him as well, lend their strength to this man, yet feeling helpless to do so.

Raymond looked to the families silently beseeching them to give them some privacy and hesitatingly they drifted away to the furtherest corners of the room but remained watchful. Jamie’s shudders slowly ceased as his breaths became less ragged.

Jamie finally lifted his head and shrugged away the hand, struggling to regain his composure. “Ye’ll pardon me, if I beg to disagree,” his tone low and accusing as he glanced around seeing that the others had withdrawn and were giving them a bit of privacy.

Following Jamie’s glance, “There are some things I would say to you that I’m not sure others should be hearing at this time, you may tell them what you wish when you’re ready.” He waited until he received Jamie’s signal to continue.

“You feel I have betrayed you and I understand. I hope you will change your mind with time, once I’ve explained, but there is only so much we have time to discuss this evening. You will have more questions, some I can answer and some which I can only speculate myself.”

“You’re a rare man James Fraser. Even before, when people were put to to the pyre as witches for only being different by those with such small, closed minds, your mind was open, you were able to accept Claire’s story and believe her. And now, you can sit here with me, discuss and accept the impossible for truth.”

“I miss my conversations with Lambert; Claire humors me, but I would very much like to continue this discussion with you another time.”

“If we do, I insist we have a bottle of whisky on hand to dull the torment.”

Raymond chuckled conceding the point, “Or some excellent wine.” He pushed a footstool in front of Jamie’s chair and sat down on it looking up at Jamie as he continued, “You are aware that Claire has a special gift,” Jamie nodded in acknowledgement as Raymond spoke, “and there are others like us.” I figured.

“Claire has only recently been told of this, she is trying to understand. It’s difficult she has no knowledge, no memory of it or anything before this life she is presently living.”

Jamie felt his heart stutter hearing this, he’d always felt her, known she was there and could not believe she would not know him as well. “What d’ye mean? Does she have amnesia? Is that why she does not ken me? But she…” Her body kens mine.

Raymond dropped his eyes from Jamie’s and was quiet in his reflection on how to answer. “Claire did not pass through the stones.”

No. No. A look of horror crawled across Jamie’s face as he recalled her description of her initial passage, “Ye mean I condemned Claire to the stones for all that time?” Emotions fulminated as he struggled with what Raymond was saying, his questions of denial coming in whispers, pleading for a different truth, “I thought… What became of her? our bairn?”

“For Claire the cycle of death, rebirth, life began. I’m sorry Jamie, but the baby was lost.”

There was only silence while the words penetrated Jamie’s heart. So low Raymond could almost not hear, the questions spilled out. “Did she suffer? Was she in pain?” He searched Raymond’s eyes for answers. “She said the stones were full of screams, of souls trapped there. She didna want to go. I forced her, Oh Christ….” Jamie buried his face in his hands as guilt and grief assaulted him.

Jamie felt the hand on his knee, the connection the touch of assurance, “Non, Jamie, non. You thought to keep her safe, to spare her. She did not suffer and she does not remember the child. That is for the best, no? You must understand for us time is measured differently.”

“Are ye… immortal?”

“HA! I would not wish that on anyone. No, my time is finite, and not so far in the future, but I do not worry for it. It will come when it comes.”

“Why am I here, why do I remember? My mam says it’s because I have an auld soul. And why have ye not told me these things before when we met?” the questions came bubbling out of Jamie.

“Would it be impossible to believe that you’re here for Claire? I cannot claim to know or understand all the mysteries of life or death; some things just have to be accepted on faith but – how? I believe you’re here primarily because of genetics – your son William’s progeny was prolific and you have very strong genes.”

“As for why you remember, recall please, it did not come to you all at once, but started early in your life, and perhaps your mother is correct, for what is an auld soul, but a repository of previous lives’ memories?”

“And then, perhaps it was luck, fate if you will, that we met when you were a such young boy, and I could observe your revelations. Yours was a fascinating case when it came to me, but more so because I knew about you, James Fraser – your connection with Claire because I knew her in that past time; you are her Red Man and her soul continues to call to you. You’ve felt her beckoning have you not? It’s been coming stronger?”

Jamie nodded as acceptance came to him, “Aye, the dreams, I thought I was conjuring her,” he whispered back and swiped at the trails his tears had left on his cheeks. “Then what does she ken of me?”

“At this point, only that she has felt a presence. She’s been sensing you in her dreams. I have told her it is someone from her past – a bit vague intentionally,” he waved it off dismissively.

“She has?” Jamie blushed wondering if she had shared the nature of the dreams but felt encouraged.

“She is on a cusp of revelation and it’s a time requiring great care. It may take her some time, and you must accept that she may never fully come to remember your shared past, but it’s evident the connection is there.”

“We are not gods, but we are committed to righting a wrong done to you, to you both, and give you another chance. We cannot go back to change what was; we can bring together the bits of knowledge that we have and use it to nudge things along as we hope they should be or have been.”

“Ye mean change the future?”

“Not as you mean. As I said nudge it, and not on a grand scale, this can be possible without causing too many ripples. We’ve done what we can and put you in each other’s path now. If the two of you are meant to be together, you can build a life just of this time. Complete your life together, your purpose for being.”

His thoughts echoed in Raymond’s words.

“Your story is only yours to share with Claire; what, how much and when as you’re ready, as will be hers to share with you, when it’s time.”

“Why not before? Why did ye keep us apart?”

“That was her uncle’s decision. He thought to keep her safe as any parent wishes to do for their child. She needed to grow up, experience life.”

Jamie closed his eyes and dropped his head back, “Experience life…,” he huffed derogatorily, “ye let her marry Randall.” His head lolled to the side and he opened his eyes focusing on the man. “Again.” His heart had ached with the realization, but there was nothing to do for it now, but love Claire as he always had.

He looked towards his family and Claire’s and heaved himself up out of the depths of the leather, “Well, I guess I should hear what they have to say.”

Chapter Text



John kept a solitary vigil over the next hour as Jamie held private conversations with Claire’s contingent. His own heart relaxed as saw the wariness melt away as Jamie spoke with Joe and Gail. Gail had stood and embraced Jamie when he approached them; she’s a hugger, and then she just held him swaying a bit from side to side, and slowly Jamie’s arms came up wrapping around her returning the embrace. He couldn’t see Joe’s face but noticed he had stepped closer as though wishing to join in. The couple talked, heads turning toward each other for confirmation of something as Jamie listened intently. John recognized the expression when he was giving someone his undivided attention. He was leaning forward, elbows on his knees eager to not miss a single syllable. Jamie’s brows would pucker a bit and there… that small crease between them when something really pulled him in; small nods of acknowledgement, encouragement to go on. Smiles! Jamie leaning in, hands gesturing, telling them something they didn’t know about Claire. Faces relaxed and laughter, so much laughter and he felt himself smiling, wanting to be included.

John couldn’t remember a time when he hadn’t loved Jamie. The families had established ties going back a couple of centuries, and depending on the political climate, the strength of the relationships ebbed and flowed but their parents had become friends and determined they would encourage their children as well. The Greys had welcomed get-away visits in the Highlands to the Frasers’ home and trips into London had become an annual theater going event. John had even spent a couple of summers at Lallybroch, without his overbearing older brother, and they topped the list as his most favorite holidays ever. At first, Jamie treated him much like an annoying little brother the same as Willie treated Jamie, but he was always included in every outing, every gathering of friends, and chores were tended side by side.

John had arrived that first summer a bit too polished, too stylish, too upper-crusty, and unadulterated hero-worshipper of James Fraser. Jamie was aware of John’s growing affection, but he’d ignored it, embarrassed and not sure what to do about it until he heard John being taunted on the Broch Morda pitch by a group of the locals. John was growing into his own and could handle himself in any one-on-one, but sensing a likely target, the group had grown, everyone intending to get in an easy lick on the fancy-pants Brit. Facing off with the main protagonist, John could feel the pack moving in behind him, but then he felt chinks in the wall coming down, and there was Jamie stepping into the circle to stand at John’s back interceding before the fray got out of hand. Balled fists became feeble taunts carelessly tossed over fleeing shoulders.

He could remember the warmth of Jamie’s arm wrapped around his shoulder as he was led away back toward the road home and Jamie’s message. “Look ye wee pervert. Ye know how ye have your brother, Hal, and I have Willie and Jenny? Ye have yer family ye’re born to and ye have family ye choose. Weel, ye’re my brother; like Ian, I choose ye as my brother too, and I love ye as my brother. I hope ye ken what that means… It means no one comes between me, and my brothers, but ye keep to your own bed. Aye?” and with a squeeze of his arm, Jamie brought him tight to his side, under his wing of protection and reached over ruffling his hair with his free hand, before giving him a gentle shove wearing that big dopey grin he had and started up a game of tag as they jogged home. It was easy being with Jamie.

They’d accepted each other for who they were, but as accepting as Jamie was, he’d never be more than a friend, a best friend who knew about Hector and others after him that had flitted around John’s periphery, but… he’d not told him about Frank. He was his secret. And here Jamie was now, sitting down facing Frank, and he felt his stomach clench. When they’d met earlier that evening, he’d felt an unexpected thrill. It was almost enough to boggle the mind, to have the two men he loved, facing off against each other, over the same woman no less!

He felt and could understand Jamie’s antagonism directed at Frank but was surprised by Frank’s slip though he covered it well. Frank was good at that – keeping his emotions in check, hidden beneath the surface and in a moment of doubt wondered if Frank was truly over Claire.

Frank had been up front with him that he was married, but they’d both agreed to leave the facts shuttered away in the dark, he’d didn’t want to know – not even her name. It was months after they’d gotten involved that Frank suggested his marriage to his wife was a sham, a convenience for them both. It assuaged his guilt just a bit; he knew other gay men, even in this more accepting time that still maintained a façade relationship especially given their professions or societal position and expectations.

He’d met Frank through his brother Hal a bit over a year ago. Hal was a committed lifer to the Civil Service Intelligence community, like so many of their family before, the family’s profession. It was begrudgling accepted that John was interested in pursuing other interests, but secrets and information are bandied about in certain circles where old titles granted ready admission and when tidbits were picked up or overheard, he’d meet with Hal and let him know.

It was while in London for a meeting he’d stopped by Hal’s office on the off chance of his being free for lunch and met one Franklin Wolvertin Randall. He was handsome, a bit older than the fellows he was typically attracted to, but looked lean and fit and he was charming, exuding the relaxed air of a 1940’s Hollywood star as he sat back in the club chairs Hal kept with a leg casually crossed over his knee, loafered foot keeping time to some private tune.

Hal had declined the invitation due to a prior commitment, but Frank had offered to join him and well that led to other things, many other things. They were together now, since Frank’s divorce but had not come out publicly as a couple while they still worked on the logistics of pulling a life together, and John wondered if this would be a complication to that end as he watched the two.

So unlike his conversation with Joe and Gail, Jamie had let his mask slip into place, the one he wore when he was holding himself in reserve, sharing nothing. He did notice Jamie's fingers tapping on his leg, something he did when on edge. Likewise, Frank’s face was devoid of expression, except he noticed it warming a bit, that sly smile slipping through. Well he was going to get no more from this, it was like watching a chess game between long-time opponents, neither willing to give up a play and abandoned his post to join the family.

Jamie was leaning against the back of the chair after Frank had left considering what he had just experienced and it became obvious Claire’s circle were much better informed about him than he was about Claire’s existence here and now, but he had been offered a lot to think about.

“Lady Jane; with her English accent? named her after one of the heroines in the romance novels we like to share. You know the damsel in distress, pirates, kidnappings; it kills time.”

“Oh, please do not get him started on those nasty books,” Gail begged. “Smut, just pure smut, dressed up in pretty clothes.”

Swash-buckling, bodice ripping pirate,” and Jamie laughed aloud now recognizing its origins and took a healthy swallow of whisky he gotten before sitting down with Frank. Still chuckling softly as he remembered the kiss she’d bestowed on him. Damsel in distress, Dear God, that was her – constantly!

“Well it doesn’t sound as if it was all bad.” A hand clasping his shoulder startled him briefly and he turned to look at his next emissary.

“Ah John, there ye are,” he smiled up at his friend. “No bad at all, but I’m no sure this was a good idea,” shaking his head and feeling a bit overwhelmed by the influx of information.

“The truth is I feel as though I’ve been the subject of one those intervention shows like on the telly, and the panel is out as to whether I’ve lost my mind. I’m counting on ye to mind my back if they try to haul me off.”

John laughed softly at this as he lifted his left brow, “Is this the secret part of you you’ve been holding back all these years? If you tell me you’re a Highland warrior from the 18th century, I’ll believe you. Nothing about you would ever surprise me Jamie, but it would certainly be simpler if only you were gay.”

“Och if it were only that simple; for you, John, I would be gay, but, this? None of this is simple.”

John rubbed his forehead, “No, it’s not. I gather from what you, ah… said, Claire, you were married to her in a past life? And she was married to Frank?”

“To one of his relatives, but we never met directly. I crossed paths with another of his ancestors though and the resemblance is uncanny.”

“And you loved her.”

“Aye, with all my heart.”

“Do you remember that camping trip we took up to Loch Coruisk? You got so blotted, you started rambling and went on and on about the love of your life, and losing her, but you’d find her. You’d promised her no matter what. Sorcha… you called her and Sassenach and what else? Oh… mo nighean donn! And some other things, …none sounded like Claire.”

Jamie grinned like a loon, “I did? I dinna remember, but you do?”

“I don’t doubt it, but yes, it made an impression on me. It was the only time you ever spoke about a woman like that to me, except for that airhead Annalise. Well that was different, you never spoke about her like that but still.”

“Ah, her I would rather forget that. Christ, she was there tonight too! Did ye see her? What a monumental error in judgement she was,” he took a deep breath, expelled it looking shamefaced as he admitted, “…I just needed…”

“Jamie, we all have needs, you’re human, though I sometimes doubted it the way you managed to avoid all those women chasing after you and fueled my ever-living flame of hope. But there was that other woman…, do you still care for her? Are you still looking?”

Jamie’s expression turned soft as he faced John, “Sassenach.”

John heard Jamie practically hum as he breathed the word, like a lover, “Ye ken it means English or Outlander, usually intended as an insult – no offense to ye John, but did ye happen to pick up on Claire’s accent? I would tease her calling her that, but she came to realize it meant more, she is my English woman, and she knew it well and will again. And her hair when it’s down, it’s a tumble of brown curls, she is my brown-haired lass, mo nighean donn, and Sorcha? Light…It’s her name, Claire, in Gaelic. Aye, I do love her. It’s like my heart is whole and I can take full breaths, John.”

He let it sink for a few moments, incredible, if true. “Well, you’re very convincing, and not to be a naysayer, Jamie, I truly don’t want to be, but this was a long time ago? She could be a completely different woman now, and you too, …how can you be so sure?”

Jamie shook his head slightly back and forth, “I’m no sure how to explain it to ye exactly, but I am still the essence of who I was, it’s in the marrow of my bones, my soul, and it’s the same for her, I just feel it. I ken ye’re worrit for me because ye care, and I appreciate it, but will ye trust me?”

“You’ve never lied to me before, and as unbelievable as it may be, I will, but you need to write a book.”

A low chuckle greeted John’s comment, “It’s a story that’s already been written; that’s how I came to meet Dr. Raymond. Nobody believed me then either, but they came around. I’ll tell ye about it another day.”

“I’ve got your back, don’t worry. Was this helpful? Did you learn what you want to know about Claire?”

“Yes, but I want to learn it on my own and not have it be spoon fed to me. Is that not what our courting is to be?”

Courting – listen to yourself, Jamie. Can we agree you need to step out of the 18th century now?”

“Well it’s what’s she agreed to. She didna seem put off by it.”

“Of course not, Jamie. You’ve seen how you look in a kilt, swoon worthy and you know it, how could she resist? You should have heard Willie.”

“What?”

“Never mind. Alright then, in normal circumstances I would say yes, take your time, meet, have coffee, drinks, dinner – get to know her, her – you, but is there anything normal about this situation? You were practically professing your eternal undying love right out there in the garden but a couple of hours ago.…”

“Wait, how do ye ken that?”

John rolled his eyes. “You have eyes on her, Raymond does too. I don’t think much of what happened between you two this evening was totally private.”

Jamie rose up at that, “Mhac na galla,” he growled clearly agitated. “That must stop, immediately. I’ll see to her care.”

“Of course you will, but that’s a conversation needed with Raymond if he needs to pull his watch. But you’re ignoring this is a woman who believes that she only met you earlier today. Could be a bit overwhelming for anyone, even the strongest advocate for ‘Love at first sight.’ And my friend, with the attention you’ve been giving her this evening… well the two of you, tongues are already wagging. If you’re going to fast track this relationship, you need a head start, and who better than from those who know you best and have both of your best interests closest to their hearts?”

Jamie paused in his pacing and came back to trying to listen to John's cooler-headed thoughts, “Aye, I suppose ye’re right, but it is feeling a bit strange. Would ye be willin’ to do the same to Claire for me then?” 

“Would you like me too?”

“I suppose when ye’ve met, you could if ye’d a mind to. No anything bad! I’ll tell her my sins on my own, but should she ask…”

“Don’t worry, I’ll sing your praises. So how’d it go with Frank?”

“Unexpected. I’m no sure if I shouldn’t be feeling like a prick for calling him out for… well. He seems nice enough. I really dinna want to talk about him right now. But, hey how did ye come to ken Frank?”

“Oh, you know, through stuff for Hal, our paths have crossed a few times. You have to cultivate your contacts and allies carefully in the dark and in doing so, it turns out we shared a mutual interest in a certain couple, amazing,” and John smiled at Jamie.

“Actually Raymond, put it rather brilliantly I think, a way of visualizing it but think of it this way… Have you ever just watched raindrops landing in a body of water at the beginning of a storm? You see the first big drop hit and the ripples emanating outward, and then another drop and another. Some of the ripples start intersecting, and then for some, the ripples dissipate before reaching others or have only a limited interaction, but all become part of the same puddle. It turns out Frank and I are drops in your and Claire’s puddle. It was luck that our ripples happened to have intersected, and that we found that we had common interests.”

“Hmmph,” Jamie seemed unimpressed.

"I thought it was good, maybe you need to hear it again. No? alright... I can't say I've ever been party to a more interesting evening...glad to be part of it. And to top it off, Raymond deeming us family, does that make it official?”

“Didna need him to do so, ye already are.”

“Jamie, my brother, I will always do my best for you; that’s a promise.”

Jamie turned and grabbed John into bear hug and clapped him on the back, “Aye, man I ken ye will, thank ye. There is one thing that came up this evening if ye could check up on it for me? Geneva… What’s going on with her? Claire overheard her telling someone we’re involved. Ye ken I’ve no spoken to her since ye told me she claimed we were dating. There’s no truth to her claim and Claire accepts my word and says she’ll deal with Geneva if she needs to, but I’d like to avoid that if possible. I’d thought I should to talk to her but wasn’t sure if that would make matters worse or not. Do ye have any thoughts? Ye ken I’ve never been verra good with lasses like that.”

“Sorry to hear about Geneva Jamie. I know she’s not what you want to be dealing with right now. I’ll ask Gordon first, but she’s always been a bit like that… Don’t do anything about her until I check back with you okay?”

“Thanks, John. Weel, I guess it’s about time I go and see to Mam and Da. Now that’s a sight to see them come down from Lallybroch. Ye don’t think they’re expectin’ to meet Claire now do ye? That might send her fleein’ back to the stones for sure.”

"Stones?"

"Just an expression, ye ken, head for the hills?"

John laughed at Jamie’s worried expression; he might as well be back in primary introducing his girl to the parents for the first time. “It’s a meeting I look forward to witnessing. I will be around, and there are other matters that require your attention, but you’ll have your time. Ned and I and Tom, if need be will take care of business.”

Jamie turned to go with a wave and joined the rest of his family huddled together casting glances in his direction as he approached and sniggering loudly. “All right ye loons, can ye be done wi’ it?”

Jamie reached out and pulled his sister into his embrace, “Thank ye Jenny,” he whispered into her hair before kissing her temple.

She stepped back and gave him a thump on his shoulder. “Dinna be a clot-heid. So, it’s been quite the evening on top of quite a day, wouldn’t ye say?”

“Aye, you’re right there, it has been that. I’m knackered and ready to call it a day,” hoping to quell further unwanted advice sessions.

“Mam and Da are ye coming back to the house? Yer room’s always ready.”

“Of course, son. Ye dinna think we’d be coming all this way and leave without meetin’ yer future bride do ye?”

“MAM! I dinna want ye doin’ anything to upset my plans, please!”

“Oh, so ye have some plans then do ye?”

“Weel I’m going to be workin’ on them as soon as I have some peace.”

“Jenny and Ian can ride back together to the house and you can ride wi’ your Da and me. It will give us some time to talk just between ourselves.” Jenny had learned well from their Mam how to take control of the men and all Jamie could do was cast a pleading look to Da and Murtagh. Knowing who was really in charge they just grinned at Jamie and followed along behind Ellen as she forged ahead. Murtagh grinned at Jamie through his beard and gave him a ‘That’s my boy’ shove.

Catching Jamie’s eye as he trudged behind, John just threw him a look of deepest sympathy with a hand covering his heart and then grinned as well.

Chapter Text



Jamie took the wheel of his dad’s car for the drive home. He needed to feel he had some control of things in his world that was spinning wildly. His mam was seated next to him and his da in the back.

The ride started out in a comfortable silence, each was occupied with their own thoughts; no words need be said for the time being. Jamie then felt his mam’s hand patting his leg and he looked over at her. She was looking out the side window through the dark at the occasional light and what passing scenery she could make out. He reached down and took her hand in his and gave it a squeeze and just held onto it.

His da finally did speak up from the back seat, “She’s a bonnie lass.”

Jamie felt a surge of gratitude toward him, “Aye, she is that and so much more.”

“Ye look at her as I did your mam when I first laid my eyes upon her.”

Ellen just huffed, “Ye old fool,” but Jamie could see her smile in the window’s reflection.

“And ye still do Da. No one but a blind man doesna see it when ye’re together.”

“Aye, I’m a verra lucky man, I am. I have my love and ye and Jenny still.”

Still…“Da we all miss Willie. It’s no the same without him. I sometimes think that mayhap he’ll come back to us somehow too. Do ye ever think on it?”

His mam spoke quietly turning toward Jamie now. “Of course, we do, but, no, I dinna think he will be coming back. His life was too short for me, I would ha seen him married and wi’ his own family, but that was never his path he told me once. ‘Twas hard to hear, but I do think his life was complete and as hard as it may be to accept, I am content that he is safe and loved and where he’s meant to be.”

“Ye my lad, on the other hand were born an auld soul, from yer beginning. Willie may have been older but ye quickly became the leader and he was happy to follow. I love her, mind ye, but Jenny doesna inspire folks as ye do. She tries and, she gets the job done, that’s for sure, but she was just bossy, still is for that matter.” And they all laughed in agreement having each been subjected to her personality. “That’s the Mackenzie in her, sorry to say. Most folks just let her have her way, but no you. Two stubborn Frasers butting heads over everything. She’s lucky Ian loves her so.”

“D’ye think Frasers are destined to find their heart matches?”

“At least as far back as I can recall, more than a fair number have been blessed to have done so. I think it goes back to our family’s start, something they passed to their bairns. Thumbed their noses at everyone else’s expectations. They knew what was important and held to it.”

“When ye were just a wee lad ye were always looking for yer heart, even then. Yer mam and I kent there were something different about ye. A bit odd to have yer child ken things they never should and then to know they lived through things no one should ever have to endure and then relive them, it should no be so! I dinna even try to understand it all anymore, all this metaphysical mumbo jumbo stuff is beyond me. Raymond tried explaining it to me more than once years ago but I’m a simple man and just for thanking the grace of God.”

A sniffle escaped from his mam and Jamie looked over at her. “We didna ken, Jamie. Ye must know that. Never did Raymond say a word about her in all these years. But thinking on it, as much as it pained me to see ye aching as ye were, I think he was right. Ye each needed to grow and be ready for each other. And it’s a good thing that ye can be with her now, she’ll need ye; it’s a great chance that ye have.”

“Ye’re mam’s right, lad. I ken the times are different son, but ye do have the heart of a laird and one day – not too soon God willin’ – you’ll be a fine Laird of Lallybroch.”

No with the Laird again please. Jamie decided there would be time enough to address that particular subject later.

“Jenny and I are lucky to have ye both in this time. I have my family and we’re well and I’m grateful for the chance I’ve been given. I may no have the knowledge of the future, but I do have some advantages now and ken the traps and men to avoid. I’ll do my best to steer our family clear of such and look to the welfare of our clan just as ye always have Da and ye too Mam.”

“As long as I have my lady by my side wherever I am, I canna imagine a more content life, and I’ll be well pleased with the world.”

“That’s grand son, but about those plans? Do ye ken your next step to get there?”

“Ye know Claire was looking at ye just as your mam looks at me. Ye’ve got a good head start.”

Jamie blushed at the course the conversation had taken. “Raymond said she may never come to fully ken me, that she may no ever remember and truthfully that may no be such a bad thing. I’m no going to waste time waiting to see if she does. I dinna want to lose a minute with her so it seems I may just have to start fresh. I intend to present myself and let her get to ken me. I do have some good qualities that speak well of me I think.”

“Ye’re right, I can think of a few. Would ye like me to tell Claire?”

“NO! Ye’re no to go near her until I say it’s time, do ye hear me?!” and then bashfully admitted, “John’s going to present my characters.” Brian and Ellen burst into guffaws that Jamie graciously suffered with his own grin.

They had reached Jamie’s home and pulled up to park in front. His da had handed his mam out of the car and as they walked toward the door, she stopped Jamie and looking up into his eyes, placed her hand on his cheek and told him, “Ye’re a lovely man Jamie and if she’s a bit of sense will ken ye’re the other half of her heart.” And she leaned up and gave him a peck on his cheek and went on in to the house. His da just gave him a wink as he passed.

“Good night to ye. I’ll see ye sometime tomorrow.” And as he headed up the stairs towards his room, he realized his head had not hurt a bit since Claire had tended him.

He stripped off his kilt and made for the shower before heading to bed. His mind still whirled with the events of the day and the day to come.

He grabbed for his phone as he climbed into bed and placed one last call for the day to Murtagh.

“Hey, sorry I didna get to thank ye earlier for your help this evening but thank ye truly. Was she well when ye left her? Nothing amiss? Good. Aye, she is that is she no? Did ye tell her to be expectin’ me in the morning? Wi’ the larks ye say! Ifrinn! Murtagh, are ye trying to kill me, man? Ok, Ok. I’ll be there bright and early on her doorstep. Ye too. G’night.

Jamie ended the call and fell back into his pillows after setting his alarm, cursing Murtagh for the need, but with a smile stuck on his face as he thought about seeing Claire in the morning.

He rolled to his side reaching out across the empty space next to him until felt her warmth and he spooned against her as he settled into sleep.

Chapter Text



Jamie jolted from his sleep not sure what had woken him, he looked about his room and saw nothing and realized it was her absence, gone was the warmth of her. It had only been a few hours since he’d fallen into his bed, his body and his mind, both admittedly weary and needing rest, but realized, he’d not be getting any more tonight.

He climbed out of bed and quickly pulled on a pair of pants, hoodie and boots then grabbed the ancient plaid from the foot of his bed on his way out, it would be enough for the short trek to the spot he was headed. He walked quietly though the house not wanting to wake any of his family; he needed to be alone with his thoughts.

He made his way along the path with a determined sureness even in the dark, thinking he could probably do it with his eyes closed as many times as he’d made the trek in the last six months. The moon was waning but there was still enough light to see the outline of the solitary standing stone and continued toward it.

He remembered well that first encounter during his exploration – his visceral reaction to seeing them was an overwhelming anger. Damned stones! Here in his own sanctuary, their very existence taunted him; his rant as he pounded on them, the tears and even the begging.

Exhausted, fists bleeding and bruised and soul drained, he slumped to the base and leaned back against it, giving up and surrendering to its pull. Something changed in him after that and he would return again and again. He accepted it as a connection to the past and it became his confessional when he needed solace. Strange the things he remembered, the people, the places, the moments in time burned into his heart forever while others had faded in the mist.

Jamie called up every moment he’d spent with Claire, the laughter, the friendship, the joy as they gave over to each other, as she introduced him to pleasures of passion unimagined. The fit of their bodies as they came together, exploring, tasting, consuming, never enough. And pain – the loss of their daughter, Faith, their shared grief, but this night ...and now, this knowledge… this new loss of a bairn he’d never know, the belief – the hope that he’d done right by Claire and she’d returned to her time and was safe, …gone. The new scars carved into his heart as deep and wide and painful as those flailed into his back and memory. What had it all been for?

Jamie sat hunched at the base of the stone, with the plaid wrapped around his shoulders against the night chill and let the tears wash over him, until they were done. His emotions were in such conflict as he grieved what had been lost, but the promise that the present offered overwhelmed him. Maybe the stones had returned her. Ye’re here now Sassenach, in this time – ye’ve even been here in this very place! 

When he was lad he saw no path before him. Like most, he just took a step and then another ever forward, ever onward rushing towards some place he knew not where until one day he turned around and looked back and saw that each step taken had been a choice influenced by a knowledge deep within to bring him to this time, this place now.

He saw the path before him now, and the steps he must take to bring Claire to him. There was still a connection between them, no doubt of that, but he would hold their past and memories to himself for the time being.

Let me be enough, mo nighean donn, because I’m coming for ye.

 



The dull throb was enough to wake her and Claire laid there in her bed for a few minutes before deciding she should get up and take some asprin. It only took a minute before she fell back into bed but she hadn’t really been able to fall back asleep and was restless as she tried to settle back, dozing on and off.

noooo. A bare arm snaked out from under the covers to smack the offending alarm, ceasing the incessant chirping. Claire tried burrowing back into the covers wanting to sleep but knew it was a lost cause and grumped at herself for not remembering to reset the alarm before bed. She rolled onto her back, groggy, not ready to face the day as she squinted at the faint grey light intruding through the blinds. And then memories came to her creeping through the muzz of sleep as the smile slowly curled her lips. Her head still ached and she would need to use the loo but she’d roll out of bed soon enough to tend those needs. Right now, she had others more needful of attention.

She pulled a large pillow over and curled around it embracing it as she recalled the previous evening. So long, she’d wanted, needed this… leaning and pressing her body against his, tilting her head back searching his darkened eyes until she could no longer keep focus and then the dark as her lids fluttered  closed. The flow of air carrying her name brushing over her lips as he exhaled hovering just above her, his fingers tightening, only a twitch really. Nervously waiting for him to close the distance between their lips. Don’t seem too eager she chastised. Finally! Feather light touches, lips – warm and softer than she’d imagined. Her lips parted as her tongue slipped past and brushed against upper lip. His groan, deep in his throat, as his mouth opened accepting her invitation and his tongue thrust in demanding and hard, as was his hold on her. She could taste whisky as his tongue tangled with hers, fighting to take dominion. She wanted him – badly, and she was trying, ready to give him all and felt him responding his hardness pressing. Her body convulsed and she rode out the shudders until her breathing had calmed and slowly pulled her slick fingers from between her legs. …until he broke away and left them both gasping for air. God, I’m in trouble.

She laid there for bit as she came to and finally crawled out of bed and headed to the bathroom. Claire caught a glance of herself in the mirror as she was filling her glass with water and nearly dropped it. Gone was the elegant woman from the night before, replaced with a demonic eyed mascara ringed specter; half her hair had worked loose from the pins and the locks looked like Medusa’s pet snakes looking for something to bite. She was a truly spectacular fright and had to laugh and was grateful that company hadn’t woken to the sight of her like that. She pulled the remaining pins from her hair and ran her fingers through working knots free, and scrubbed her scalp.

Claire downed the asprin before climbing into the shower and bracing herself against the wall let the steaming water cascade over and massage her body as she rolled her head easing her neck and shoulder muscles, bending and limbering her spine and back muscles, and finished with her herbal body wash. It was a much better start to the morning; she felt revived and enjoying the tingle of her freshly scrubbed skin.

She toweled off her wet hair and wrapped a towel around her head before drying her body and brushing her teeth. She focused on trying to recall the details of what that fellow, Mur, something had told her; it all seemed insandely loose, some rubbish about larks, whatever that meant, early and courting and James Fraser, and felt herself flush beyond the heat left from the water.

Coffee, she needed coffee and pulling on a robe headed to the kitchen. 

A message alert on her phone flashed from Joe: so tall red & gorgeous?

Claire pulled out her coffee canister – empty. Bollocks

LJ: ??

Joe: spill

LJ: no…winking smiley face four kisses

Time for big decisions, Bed? Coffee? Coffee in bed? Well if she was going to have the day off, she was going to run grab a cup and climb back in bed with a book. She finger-combed her damp curls, unable to do much more than that until they’d air dried. She pulled on jeans, a tee and sneakers – enough to dash to the corner shop and back.

Claire grabbed a jacket off the hook fumbling with her keys as she pulled open the door, stopped.

She slowly crossed the distance to the threshold and stuck her head out looking down the hall in the direction of her neighbors’ doors. It was still early, way too early for most of them to be up and about, so perhaps no one else had noticed the man-made obstacle.

There he was; back against the wall, a pair of booted, leather encased legs stretching across the hall. His copper capped head lolled back, long dark lashes fringed his closed lids and laid on the curve of his cheekbones, separated by a long straight nose. His lips parted ever so slightly were relaxed, as he slept, a coffee cup tilting precariously on his lap held with a hand gone limp and another coffee cup standing on the floor next to him. She watched him for a few moments longer noticing the cup tilting a bit more with each breath he took. Claire tip-toed across the hall and gently removed the cup diverting a potential spill. He never moved, completely out and she smiled feeling an unexpected tenderness toward him; he looked so young.

She stepped back leaning against the doorframe and lifted the cup to her lips, and tasted his coffee, cream no sugar – the way he liked it, and noted it was still hot so maybe he hadn’t been there too long. He must be really tired, to drop off that quickly. So this is courting… and had to stifle a laugh lest she wake him and she wasn’t ready to do that.

It was her turn to observe him unaware; this time she had the upper hand but she intended to take full advantage of the opportunity and take her time, at a safe distance.

His hair looked as if he’d combed it back with his fingers with a few stray coppery curls falling over his forehead. In repose, his face was soft, the muscles not working to hold the smile in place on his generous mouth or crinkles at the corners of his eyes that slitted when he laughed; his forehead was smooth, no trace of the furrows when his brows had lifted in earnestness when he spoke and he had the slight scruff of a missed shave, shadowing the edge of his jaw and the small cleft in his chin. He was every bit as beautiful as she’d remembered him from the day before.

Around his neck hung a tartan neck scarf over a black leather jacket which matched his pants and a grey sweater under the open jacket. His long legs were crossed at the ankles making himself comfy for his wait. His boots clearly well broken in, comfortable, polished.

Muffled steps began tramping down the stairs from the level above, the building was starting come to life. It wouldn’t be too long before Mr. Weymess would be coming out to take his pup on his morning walk.

Time to wake up sleepy head. Claire gently nudged his foot with her sneakered toe. Nothing. She did it again pressing a little harder and noticed a slight stirring, his brows quirking at the intrusion and lips pressing closed as wakefulness descended.

“On your feet, soldier,” she quietly urged him, teasing him along.

His head lolled back and forth forcing sleep away and a soft smile curled one corner of his mouth while his eyes remained closed, but she watched as his whole face lightened. “Good mornin’, Sassenach,” the huskiness of unused morning voice with his deep burr curled her toes as she thought about waking up to that every morning. His body shifted languidly stretching out from his position as though he’d been there a while. A sudden eruption of movement and Jamie bolted upright, hands searching, head turning from side to side.

Startled by his sudden movement, Claire took a step back but then guessing at its trigger started waggling his coffee cup back and forth to attract his attention. “Missing something?”

His eyes only glanced at the cup she held as he moved his focus to her eyes and his smiled deepened. “Ye saved me from a likely embarrassing calamity,” and he relaxed back against the wall again with his hands folded in this lap, looking up at her from beneath hooded lids, in a way that was causing her to feel a bit too warm.

Trying to maintain a casual attitude and not let her now racing heart betray her Claire leaned back against the doorframe and inquired with an amused tone, “Do you do a lot of lurking in hallways, Mr. Fraser?” and took a sip from his cup with a lifted brow.

“I’m no lurking, I’m standing… sitting …watch, protecting yer door until ye woke. Since ye’re up, my task is done,” and made a pretext of getting up, then lifted his hand to her, a silent beckoning request for help.

Claire eyed him and the cup she held before setting it down and moving forward with a huff of mock exasperation, reached down with both of her hands to take hold of his, and feeling his warm fingers close over hers, “I don’t know how you think I can possibly pull you up, you ridiculous man.”

It was the blink of an eye, but really just the flick of a wrist, “Wha!!” and Claire found herself landing with an “Oooff!” in the lap of said ridiculous man.

“Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ!”

“If ye keep calling me that Sassenach, I’m likely to get a swelled head. Still, just Jamie.”

It wasn’t what he’d intended, Jamie had determined the best tactic would be to go slow, let Claire take the lead. And now with one foolish gesture, here he was, with her exactly where he would have her, well not exactly – but sitting in his lap was close. He felt his resolve slipping away with each heartbeat, the heat of her burning through his intentions. His hand moved up her back between her shoulder blades supporting her, pressing her gently forward while his other wrapped onto her hip pulling her more snugly to him as he plumbed the depths of her amber eyes. He wanted nothing more than to wrap her in his arms and pick up where he’d left off the night before and kiss her senseless, but now, having her so close,… he pulled her in to only place a quick kiss on her startled lips, and whispering against them, “Ye, I missed ye.” He rested his forehead against hers for a moment before pulling back and settling her more securely in his lap Jamie asked, “Ye’re no hurt are ye?” as he casually examined her.

Completely caught off balance by the encounter, Claire’s heart was now hammering in her chest. She’d thought, hoped, maybe that he would kiss her again like he had but registered the intimacy of the moment as they leaned against each other, before he pulled back. Claire could only look at him caught in those beautiful blue eyes, as she licked her lips after his kiss and he tasted deliciously of mint and coffee couldn’t help the sigh that escaped, “No, I’m fine, – what’d you do that for?” she nodded her head toward the place she’d been standing.

“Ye were too far away, this is better.” He adjusted his seat again folding his legs up to sit cross legged making a better lap for her, jostling her as he did so she wrapped her arm around his neck and held his other shoulder to keep from falling off and then wiggled her bum settling in more comfortably.

Jamie closed his eyes and took a deep breath trying to stave off the effects of her arse in such close proximity to his… A Dhia, and a quiet groan escaped with his breath.

Too fast, too fast. A bit breathlessly she started, “What are you doing lurking out here in the hallway? …and none of that protection nonsense since I think you were actually sleeping on the job,” she teased.

“Och, did Murtagh not tell ye I’d be calling on ye this morning?”

She nodded, “I vaguely recall something about larks, but I’m a bit fuzzy on the details,” as she looked at his lips right there so close and leaned in slightly. What would he do if I just kissed him? and blushed furiously recalling her behavior from the night before and looked away momentarily before being drawn back in, “I have no idea what that means.”

Ah, ye want to kiss, I’m no going anyplace. Jamie smiled encouraged by her action, “The larks… ah yes, Murtagh told me same; I think he was just being evil,” and chuckled quietly at Murtagh’s mischief. “When ye’re lying in yer bed and it’s still the dark o night, but ye hear the twittering of the birds coming to the day, the larks are among the first to greet ye, so here I am to greet ye,” and he gave her a heart-warming smile.

“Well that’s a much nicer description than the crack of dawn, I guess, but early is early!” and returned his smile. She couldn’t help but reach up and brush the curl back from his forehead, and let her fingers trail down the side of his jaw before dropping away. “Looks like you had a late night. Did you get any sleep?”

“Aye, a bit. I didna expect it to go so late.”

“You could have called and rescheduled, or come with the owls, we still can, …reschedule another time if you want, if you need more sleep.”

“NO.” He hadn’t intended it for it to come out so sharply, “I dinna want to miss a minute with ye. Maybe we’ll just take it easy today, save seeing Edinburgh for another day. So, where are ye off to so early?”

“That’s okay, another day then.” Date number two already. “I was running out to grab some coffee and thought I might crawl back into bed, Wanna join me? I didn’t know you’d be coming so early. Seems you may have been right and I may have had a bit more to drink than I realized, and I’m out of coffee,” and she moved to get up.

Jamie tightened his hold, not ready to relinquish his contact with her and quickly offered, “Ah, it’s no hair of the dog, but this might help,” as he lifted up a cup bearing the name of her go-to shop. “It’s black, the way ye order it.”

“How do you know that?” as she settled back into his lap gratefully accepting his offering.

“Claire, I intend to learn everything I can about the things ye like and those ye dinna care for. Is that no all right?” he asked with just the slightest smirk, as if he’d had to ask.

“Yes, I suppose so, I’m just surprised I guess,” and took a test sip of the still hot coffee and raised a brow at him in question as she tasted just a touch of sugar.

“The way ye really like it, aye?” and gave her what she thought was supposed to be a wink but made him look more like an owl blinking at her. “I can be full of surprises and some of them good!”

“Seems so, thank you.” Claire’s face was only inches from his, her arm laying across his shoulders while his were wrapped around her waist. It would be so easy… Claire resisted leaning in closer as she pondered why, but couldn’t help the smile that she returned and turned a bit to face him more directly.

A door down the hall opened, and out popped Barney, turning in circles waiting for his owner to come out, and catching sight of the pair occupying his hall, started yapping and pulling at his leash, until the figure attached to the other end emerged from the door.

“Hush now Barney!” the whispered command made its way down the hall but had little effect on the pup, now straining against the tether eager to inspect the odd addition to his hall. “What’s got ye so excited? Oh!”

Claire ducked, burying her nose in Jamie’s shoulder unable to meet the eye of her elderly neighbor as well as to smother her laugh as he approached them.

“Looks to be a lovely day, doctor, …sir.”

“Aye, it does,” Jamie grinned up at the gentleman as he pulled Claire closer.

“Yes, Mr. Weymess, lovely. Enjoy your walk,” she peeked up as Barney paused to give them a good sniff before being pulled off as his owner continued on his way with a slight nod.

“Oh gawd,” she laughed as she turned following his departure before turning back to Jamie who was also chuckling now, she was smiling widely, “he’s lovely, but the worst gossip.”

“Ye need to introduce me next time, Sassenach.”

“Next time? Are you going to make a habit of sitting in the hall with me in your lap?”

“Weel, ‘tis verra pleasant having ye sit on my lap. But ye may be right, as much as I enjoy having ye sitting here, it may no be the best way to meet yer neighbors; first impressions ye ken. They may be getting more of a show than ye’re wanting to give them if ye keep squirming like that.”

Squirmy was exactly what she was feeling with Jamie’s attentions. Claire flushed as she felt his meaning and immediately moved again to get up, but he tightened his hold on her, “Dinna get up just yet.” He was quiet for a moment as he peered intently studying every achingly familiar feature of her beloved face before settling into her amber eyes, and whispered to her, “Ye are so gloriously beautiful fresh from yer bath, yer skin is like pearls and yer cheeks so pink, look like they’ve been kissed by the sunrise.” He chuckled slightly as he leaned close and nuzzled into her neck and placed a kiss right behind her ear and breathed deeply and hummed in pleasure, “ye smell good enough to eat.” …Fuck, did I just say that?!

Oh God…yes, please. Claire pulled back and starred at Jamie’s wide eyes. I did not say that out loud, I did not say that out loud, God please. They were both breathing hard, holding back.

Did she just say yes, please? Christ. Damn it! Ye said ye were going to go slow.

Claire took a deep breath, “Perhaps we should go inside?”

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with ye; blessed are ye among women and blessed is the fruit of yer womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners

“Jamie? Did you hear me? Perhaps we should go inside?”

“Oh? Aye.” Jamie reluctantly handed Claire up and then rose himself, and stepped away from her, the heat of her separated from him brought a bit of calm and he took a couple of deep breaths. No, ye said ye were going to let her take the lead.

Chapter Text



Claire stood facing Jamie from across what seemed too great a distance feeling like she had just run up a dozen flights of stairs, her heart pounding and fighting to slow her breathing. She had thought Jamie was going to kiss her but then he’d pulled back after only that too brief moment. She wanted to feel his lips against hers again, experience that heat racing through her as it had last night. She wanted to be brave enough to let him see her, her desires. She had felt his cock growing hard against her as she sat in his lap and God forgive her, she wanted more.

He had been right; she didn’t really want to have a neighbor walk out on her riding him right there in the hall. But when she suggested moving inside, Jamie’d suddenly gone quiet and she was now utterly confused, frustrated. Had she been too forward, what did he expect? AHG! And here she was now, standing with a cup of coffee in her hand, as he stepped further away from her. Don’t.

Jamie had retreated another step just out of arm’s reach lest he pull Claire right back up against him, already missing the contact of her body against his, needing the warmth of her. There was no hiding or denying his arousal pressing against the front of his pants, as he reached under the hem of his jumper grabbing at the waistband riding low on his narrow hips. Jamie hitched his pants up trying to ease the discomfort, and then brushing his hands down against his thighs. He looked over catching her starring at him, and when she lifted her eyes met his gazing at her. His eyes locked on hers, holding her in place; she couldn’t have pulled them away if she’d wanted.

Claire blushed furiously when she realized Jamie’d caught her starring. “Ye have that effect on me, a nighean,” he stepped back towards her all the while with a small unapologetic grin tweaking his lips. Jamie reached out pushing a stray curl behind her ear, then cupped her cheek with his hand, “but ye dinna need to be worrit that I’m going to suddenly throw myself on ye.”

And then she stepped closer looking up at him and was suddenly rising up on her tiptoes and his fingers shifted to the back of her neck as she did, guiding her up, as he bent and lowered his head closing the distance between. She pressed her lips against his softly holding them to his for a handful of heartbeats, before lowering herself. “I never expected you would,” she loosed a sigh as she whispered up to him smiling tenderly, then stepped back toward her door.

“Would you like to come in then? It’s not much yet, but its home,” as she pushed the door wider and stepped in.

Jamie nodded before he took a couple of deep breaths, and stooped to retrieve his coffee cup from the floor before he followed her in. He paused inside the door for a moment before he walked toward the windows on the far side, taking in the neat apartment as he passed through and stopped next to the lounge chair looking out, sipping at his now lukewarm coffee while waiting for Claire to join him.

Realizing she had lingered behind, he turned and saw she was struggling with something, confusion etched on her face. “What is it a leannan?”

“Jamie,” Claire hesitated and then lookinging at him directly offered, “Last night… Listen, I want you to know I don’t make a practice of throwing myself at strange men.”

“Och, am I strange then, Sassenach?” and then his features lightened, relieved by her worry and his eyes crinkled as he laughed, jesting back.

Claire relaxed and smiled at his good humored response. She set her cup down on a table and moved to join him standing next to the windows and nudged his shoulder. “Well maybe, just a little.”

“Well I dinna usually kiss strange women, but I’ll make an exception for ye – every day.” And nudged her back receiving a small laugh. “…But if ye want to throw yerself at me again, I’ll catch ye,” he finished his voice more husky with emotion than he’d intended.

Jamie held her gaze for several heart beats before he forced himself to turn away from her determined to ease the growing tension between them, “I imagine this is yer favorite spot to sit, is it no? Ye have a nice view of the park.” Jamie felt Claire leaning against him.

Claire was peering at the view resting her forehead against the glass. “You’re right, it is, sort of like your set up. The view is actually why I picked the flat. It is nice, isn’t it? There was sooo much green, but the colors are changing nicely.”

“So ye got the trees ye wanted, it’s good to have them so close to hand. Have ye spent much time there?”

“The park? Not really, I walk through it to get to the hospital but other than that, not yet,” and she turned to look at him.

“Would ye like to take a walk then, explore it a bit? It does look to be a beautiful day,” he smiled quoting her neighbor. “We can grab a bite and stay close to home so ye can relax, if that’s what ye’d like to do.”

“Sure you have the time? …You don’t have a photo shoot to get to?” Jamie stood there for a moment with his brow furrowed as he tried to discern what she meant. “I meant you look awfully nice,” she blushed as she realized he had no idea what she was talking about and felt silly recalling the jeans and ratty band tee she’d thrown on and felt like a ragamuffin.

Jamie looked down at his attire and shrugged, “Nope, just practical. Ye’ve a free day, and I’m yers for the day,” and night and everafter, if ye’ll have me… “I’d hoped we could spend it together …if ye’d like that is, to spend it with me?”

Claire noticed the change in Jamie’s tone as it became less assured and more hopeful. She couldn’t help but give him a bright smile, “All right, that would be lovely, but may I make a suggestion?”

“Anything ye want, Sassenach.”

She turned and sat against the window sill with her hands propped on its edge but faced him proposing, “Anything? Better be careful,” she teased. “Since it is ridiculously early to be out if you don’t have to be, and we have a full day, and neither of us got enough rest last night, how about you come crawl into bed with me?”

His mouth dropped open, Christ! And then he caught the glint in her eye. “To bed?” he tilted his head back looking down his long nose at her, quirking his brow, “or to sleep?”

“Well…” she shrugged smiling coyly back at him.

Jamie stood conflicted by his emotions; he wanted Claire badly, and it seemed she felt the same – eagerly, so he he wasn’t sure what was holding him back from picking her up and carrying her down the hall.

As the words slipped out, he was already kicking himself, “Claire, I dinna think it’s yet the right time to…”

“Take a nap?”  

He saw a quick look of embarrassment cross her face, before she closed off her expression, which surprised him, she’d rarely been able to keep her feelings hidden from him with her glass face; this was new.

“Aye, if ye wish, with me. If ye need to sleep a bit more, go lay down, I’ll wait for ye out here or I can come back later as ye suggested.”

It was Claire’s turn to reject the offer but quietly as she reached out and took his hand between her two, “No, please stay.” She looked at his hand as she held it, stroking it, learning the feel of it, “But this thing, what’s between us, when we touch; you feel it too, I know. Is it usual?” Claire looked up at him searching for an answer.

Jamie looked thoughtfully down at Claire and stilled her hand with his free hand and was now trying to calm and reassure her. “No, it’s not usual and dinna fash, it’s no going away.”

Claire nodded her head in acknowledgement, believing it to be true. “Alright then, let’s go back to plan A; I’m starving now. Let’s go get some breakfast and take a walk but give me a few minutes, would you? I need to change.”

“Ye dinna need to change a thing for me Sassenach. Ye’re fine just the way ye are.”

“Well, who says I’m changing for you, hmm?” and she turned on her heel and left him.

Jamie looked toward where she’d disappeared then closed his eyes and took several deep breaths considering everything that had happened in the last minutes. He had resolved to take it slow, let her get to know him. Then to follow her lead, but it seemed she was ready to move ahead faster than he was prepared and he worried she would regret it. But she was so close and smiled as he thought about the closeness of her in his lap, the smell of her shampoo, the scent of her fresh from her bath and felt himself rousing again. Christ this willna do.

He refocused his attention looking around her flat. It was neat and flat white, with only small pops of color here and there, a painting on the floor leaning against the wall, evidence of someone not yet settled in. There was a comfy looking grey upholstered sofa across from a fireplace with an empty blue vase calling for some flowers sitting on the mantel. He studied her small collection of books and the few pictures she had displayed on some open bookshelves. There was one of a couple with a small curly headed child looking up at the woman who was beaming down at her, the man showering love on the two of them, …her family, as he traced her figure with his large finger. There were a few more of her through the years with a be-speckled man, an abbreviated timeline of images as she grew up, but most were of her with Frank and he felt a flare of irrational jealousy that someone else had known her as he would. Most of the books were medical textbooks, several poetry tomes and a small collection on herbs and medicinal uses, seeing those wrenched his heart. His healer; always picking her wee green plants and caring for others. Some things did not change, and he was grateful.

He turned and went in search of Claire; he needed to be near her. He wandered into her bedroom, clearing his throat to let her know he was near. “Sassenach?” He noticed her bed with the linens all a mess, thinking she’d had a restless night, and smiled to himself. He thought about her invitation and wanted to be in that bed with her badly and determined to stick with his decision, painful as it might prove, “God, no again!” It was going to be a trying day and needed to get her safely away.

“In here,” Claire hearing him in the bedroom called out lightly. Where else would I be? Did I just invite him into my bath? Claire could hardly contain her thoughts about Jamie. She was as drawn to him this morning as she had been last night. As she examined herself in the mirror, she admitted she wanted him, badly and felt her nerves becoming twitchy. She’d never wanted anybody like this before, even invited him to her bed, and he’d declined. She’d had flirtations before, couldn’t help them working closely with men as she did, men she admired, but she’d never felt inclined to act on it, of course she’d been married; but this was different already. And he seemed to feel the same, but why?

Jamie could hear her in the bath and see her reflected movements through the open door as she stood in front of the mirror. He saw she had only changed her top, glad that she’d kept on the jeans that so nicely displayed her beautiful round arse. He was encouraged to see she wasn’t ruffled by his early morning intrusion. He wanted to see her when she was being herself. He moved forward and leaned against the doorframe and looked at her reflection as she was wrestling her hair up into a bun and before he could stop himself blurted, “Please don’t, leave it down if ye would.”

He stepped forward as she released it from the band. Jamie moved closer burying his face into her hair and wrapped his hands around the tendrils taking care not to pull. “Mo nighean donn,” closing his eyes recalling the sensations of it falling into his face while she rode him or as it pillowed out around her when he was braced above her while they made love.

“Thank ye,” he whispered, choked by his memories.

Jamie’s warmth, his presence surrounded her, and Claire closed her eyes and relaxed back into his chest as he released her curls and wrapped his arms around her in this incredibly intimate moment and buried his face in her curls and found her neck with his lips and hummed with satisfaction. And there it was again, that connection. She didn’t understand what was happening between them, but wanted to just accept it, accept him and see where it led.

“What does it mean? What you said?”

“I’ll tell ye one day,” and smiled at her reflection as he lifted his head and straightened up.

“Are ye ready?” and held his hand out to her, and she took it in hers and twined their fingers. He needed to get her to safer territory, but he wasn’t willing to leave himself.

As they stepped out of her building parked at the curb was a sleek black motorcycle. Claire pulled up, gave it the eye, looked at Jamie and his attire, “Yours?”

He shrugged casually in admission, “Aye, it’s not always practical, but it’s such a beautiful day, would ye like a ride? It’s closest to riding a horse when there’s none around.”

Claire just stared at him open mouthed for a moment, “On a horse, sure, but this? Not on your life.”

He gave a quirky smile as he tugged her hand and pulled in the direction of the park. “Let’s walk.”

As they moved on she couldn’t help looking over her shoulder at the machine. It really was pretty, but…dangerous.

Chapter Text



Jamie held open the door of the café for Claire encouraging her to enter, lightly pressing her forward with his hand on the small of her back. As soon as she’d set foot inside the small space the aromas of home cooking enveloped her and her stomach growled in anticipation and her mouth actually watered. The steamy heat from the kitchen carried out into the café and Claire was immediately pulling off her jacket.

“Hey Jamie!” came a shout from the grill area of the kitchen.

“Good morning, Hayes,” Jamie returned the greeting and Claire noticed Jamie just waved toward someone she assumed was a server with two fingers and then pointed at themselves. He guided her to a table in the corner and asked if she preferred to sit facing the door or out the window, choosing the window.

The chairs were a hodgepodge of styles but all painted a cheery yellow, a good offset to the dreary days. Claire had noticed while walking to their table that about half the seats were taken with an assortment of customers, all busy tucking into their breakfasts, or reading something while waiting for their food, but not one even bothered to cast a glance in their direction.

They’d barely gotten seated when a woman appeared with two cups of steaming coffee setting them down, “Haven’t seen ye in a while Jamie,” she stood at the end of the table with her hands on her hips.

“Aye, Ruby, I’ve been traveling. This is Claire, she’s new to the area and never had a full Scottish breakfast, so I thought I’d see she started with one of the best around, make sure she kens where to set the bar.”

Claire looked up as Ruby tsked at her, “There’s no much to ye, d’ye think ye can eat a full portion or d’ye want to go halfsies?”

Claire looked toward Jamie who had settled back in his chair, leaning against the window and was eyeing her with a speculative grin waiting to see what she’d do. “Well I guess I’ll try the full serving; I need to see what all the fuss is about. Could I get some water too, please?”

“Sure, it’ll be up in a few,” and Ruby turned on her heel and moved to the kitchen.

She leaned over toward Jamie keeping her eye on Ruby as she walked away and spoke with a lowered voice, “What am I going to be getting?”

“Just a little something to hold ye over til tea.”

Claire spooned a touch of sugar into her cup and gave it a quick stir before taking a sip, “Oh that’s good,” and quickly drank several more sips of the hot brew.

“It is. Nothing fancy here, just good hang-over food,” and quirked his brow at her.

Claire’s mouthed opened and shut a couple of times to protest her innocence before giving up. “I…I’ve got nothing.” Claire waved her hands in surrender at her unspoken admission before resting her elbows on the table and leaning in to rest her chin on her palms as she looked at Jamie returning his easy smile, and just feeling content. She leaned into one hand and dropped the other extending it toward him palm up. All the way to the café, Jamie’d held onto her hand securely keeping her close by his side, and she missed the feel of his touch. Ever since that first touch, she’d felt this ridiculous need not to let go, the immediate intimacy between them was as confusing as it was comfortable. Needy, that’s what you are.

Jamie leaned forward laying his hand in her open palm accepting her invitation and felt a warmth flood through him as her fingers closed around his. He’d not be able to let go again, ever, and he’d let her know his intent soon enough, but for the moment no words were needed between them.

Jamie turned her hand and wrapped his other hand around it as well, his thumb playing across her knuckles while he traced every contour.

His hand was incredibly warm as it held onto hers. Claire could feel the slight callus on his thumb as he moved to map the veins on the back of her hand, clearly visible through her near translucent skin. His head bent over the task, brightening daylight coming in from behind Jamie picked up the colors in his hair and she had to resist the temptation to reach out and touch that goldish streak now visible on his crown. Her eyes drifted closed as she remembered running her fingers through his hair the afternoon before and twitched involuntarily wanting to know that sensation again.

The sudden movement in her fingers caused Jamie to look up and catch the expression on her face and left him breathless; he’d seen it before when he’d first tasted her lips for far too short a moment. Her whisky hued eyes blinked open and crashed into his molten blue starring at her and she pinked up, but gave him a small smile.

“Sorry! Coming in, Hot!” Ruby arrived suddenly at their sides and slid two platters in front of them. Claire pulled her hand back and gripped the edges of the table as her eyes widened in alarm at the amount of food suddenly appearing in front of her and looked from her plate to Jamie’s.

“This a joke, right?” She looked at him with disbelief, “I can’t possibly eat all this.”

“Aye, she’s a trickster, Ruby kent ye’d never be able to eat it all,” and deftly swapped out the plates and immediately snatched up a sausage and took a quick bite before putting the remains down and wiping his fingers on his napkin as he placed it in his lap.

She examined the contents of the plate and forked the blood pudding over onto his plate. “Never really developed a taste for it,” as she picked up a piece of bacon and took a large bite.

Jamie ate ravenously while Claire nibbled more slowly at her own food savoring each bite. “You’d think you’ve never been fed,” she laughed as she observed his healthy appetite.

“My mam would say just that at about every meal!” Jamie laughed as he sat back relaxed in his chair, “Did ye have any of those wee bites they were passing around last night, Sassenach? They’re no very filling.”

“You mean there was something solid being offered? I must have missed those,” she eyed a portion of plump sausage she speared on her fork and popped into her mouth. “Hmmm,” escaped her lips.

They ate quietly like most of the other diners until Jamie broke the silence between them.

“Would ye tell me about yer family?”

“Oh well, there’s not a whole lot more than what you already heard. I was so young when my parents died, I don’t have too many distinct memories, mostly what I think of as impressions surface every now and again. Truth is I don’t try to remember anymore, it hurts when I can’t, it’s like they’re locked up and the key is misplaced.”

“Then yesterday, …it seems so much longer ago than just yesterday,” she paused reflecting and shaking her head, there was something she was supposed to remember; it was there just on the edges of recollection and then it was gone and she was silent as she unsuccessfully willed it to return. “Sorry, a bit of wool gathering,” she offered. “So it’s always special when something does come back unexpectedly. Yesterday when I was walking through your woods, I’d picked a small plant and the fragrance from it reminded me of something my mum told me when I was little. Do you ever have it happen that certain things or smells will unexpectedly trigger a memory?”

“Aye, I do, frequently as it is. So, what was yours?” warmed that she was opening up to him and sharing bits of herself.

“My mum called me ‘sweet pea’.” She leaned a bit closer and offered quietly, “No one else knows that.” She didn’t understand why, but she wanted Jamie to know something about her that no one else in the world did. Something to be remembered.

Jamie’s smile widened as he imagined her, “I can see ye as a sweet pea. I bet ye were a bonnie wee lass. D’ye have any pictures of when ye were little? I imagine ye’re running about in yer dungarees wi’ yer curls flying wild about yer head.”

Claire laughed, “You’re one to talk. But you’re right, that they’ve always done. I’m sure there are a few pictures tucked away in boxes in storage. Haven’t looked for them in years. I’ve always had to travel light. Maybe now that I’m settling in, I’ll see what I can dig up.

Now Uncle Lamb,” Jamie saw the soft smile touch her lips in recollection of him, “to look at him, you’d think he was the personification of the absent-minded professor. He always had a ruffled air about him if he was not concentrating on a particular artifact, but it was because he always had so many thoughts running through his head. I finally got him to start writing them down in his journals so he could let them go and come back to them when his mind was clear and he had time. What was it you said? … It described him perfectly. …A curious man? About everything! I might not have so many memories of my parents, but I’m lucky that I have so many of him.”

“I look forward to ye sharing them. D’ye have any other family?”

“I guess I have some distant French connections that I’ve never met, but nope, it’s just me, myself, and I. Family dinners are quite intimate.” Claire looked to him and smiled sensing Jamie’s sympathy and shook her head wanting to ward it off. “It’s okay, there tend to be few arguments and if there are, I usually win,” as Jamie laughed.

“Why are you laughing?” He hadn’t responded as she’d anticipated.

“I can just imagine that conversation; spirited is it? It’s good that ye are a strong-minded woman, Sassenach, ye need to be to hold yer own at one our family dinners. It sounds as though ye’ve got yer reinforcements in place already. I look forward to meeting them all.” Jamie shook his head slightly just thinking about the chaos that typically reigned at Fraser family dinners.

Claire nudged his foot under the table, “Well I may not have the numbers you do and they may not be blood, but I do have family. There’s Joe and Gail and Dom – he was always around, but he stepped in and has been like a surrogate uncle since Uncle Lamb died and of course, I will always have Frank.” She looked closely at Jamie looking for some reaction regarding her former husband. “I know you heard what I said yesterday when your sister asked me about him, and then meeting him last night; God what are the chances of that?” she shook her head.

“I’m sorry Jenny blind-sided ye as she did, she shouldna have done that, she crossed a line.”

“Well it did catch me a bit off-guard. I’m not ashamed of him or having been married, it’s just – this was supposed to be different.”

“Different? What d’ye mean?”

“A fresh start, no history, no ties. I don’t particularly want to deal with the assumptions that seem to tag along with being a ‘divorcee.’” Claire had been leaning over the table toward Jamie as they talked, his pull on her like a magnet on iron filings. She dropped her eyes to her coffee cup and ran her finger around the rim, before she looked back at him. “Exes and baggage and all that; not too soon?” she looked at him curiously.

Jamie had cringed internally at her words claiming Frank as family - always, even after having met and spoken with him last night, he found it difficult to hear her say so. “Ye dinna have to tell me about Frank, but if ye want to ye should never be afraid to.” Jamie felt his curiosity piqued about Frank though he wouldn’t admit it.

“You don’t mind, really?”

“Ye had a life together and shared experiences that are part of who ye are – and I want to know all of ye,” and Jamie nodded his encouragement that she continue.

Claire picked up her cup and smiled over the rim before taking a sip and ducked her head quickly looking past his shoulder out the window for a moment. “Thanks, but not now. …So, tell me about your family.”

Jamie chuckled thinking about the possibilities, “How many generations back?”

“Oh, your immediate family will do – for a start. Jenny seems nice.”

“Ye met her on a good day,” he chuckled, “but aye, she can be but it usually depends on the day. Are ye just being nice or did ye really no see what a nosey busybody she was being?”

Claire was looking up at him from the corner of her eye trying to hold back her smile, “She does have a rather …um... forceful personality; I can respect that. But does she happen to be your older sister?”

“Ye are just being nice. Just wait til ye see her when she’s being bossy, but I love her, and she loves me most of the time. She’s loyal and loves her family fiercely and I couldna be luckier than to have her as my sister. Her husband, Ian, has been my best friend since we were weans. Ian’s da, John, was the manager of the farm, so I’ve always kent him. It’s them and their bairns, three of em now.”

“They don’t live here then from what I understand; are they far?”

“Nay, she and her family live up north where we grew up near the village of Broch Morda, no too far from Inverness.

My mam and da live there too. Mam is an artist, a painter, and Da primarily runs the distillery operations up there now. Ian oversees the estate and farm and works wi’ Da on the supply end of the distillery.”

Claire noticed Jamie look up and smile this time before Ruby’s appearance pulled his attention away, interrupting his story.

“Did ye get enough then? Can I get ye somethin’ more?” she looked at Claire’s mostly cleared plate as she pushed it away from her a couple of inches.

“I don’t think I could possibly eat anything more, thank you. Halfsies?”

Ruby smiled and gave her a wink. “Come back and have the other half when ye’re hungry. D’ye care for a coffee to go?”

“No, thank you. I’m good. Jamie?”

“I’m good too, thanks, Ruby.” Jamie stood and helped Claire up. “I need to make a pit stop before we head out, d’ye?”

“Good idea; meet you up front?” Jamie nodded as he pulled out his wallet and tossed some notes on the table.

Jamie was standing near the door, looking out when she came out and shrugged into her jacket. He seemed lost in thought and unaware of her approach until she wrapped her arms around his waist and leaned into his back. He’d felt her coming toward him, heard her light tread, but remained still as he pondered his thoughts. To have her reach out and embrace him, set his heart racing. He’d tried to weigh Raymond’s warnings, balance them against his own instincts, his need of her. He gently loosened Claire’s hands from her hold on him but held them as he turned to face her. She looked up at him with a question in her eyes, her brows slightly raised.

Jamie dropped her hands and cupped her face between his hands and held it tilted up towards him as he bent down and kissed her and welcomed the pressure as she leaned into it. He only held her there for a few moments before he pulled back and rested his forehead against hers, decision made and whispered, “Cha cheil mi mo chridhe bhuat. Tha gaol agam ort. Tha mi air do chall cho mòr.”

The door being pulled open and the rush of fresh air into the warm café pulled their attention back to where they were. “Sorry to break up yer moment mate, d’ye mind?” Two fellas stood in the open door with grins on their faces, not looking at all sorry for the intrusion.

Jamie looked up at the pair and grinned back as Claire looked over her shoulder at them, her cheeks pink as cherry blossoms. “Sorry, we’ll be on our way,” and pulled Claire back so they could enter before guiding her out the door.

He wrapped his arm around her shoulders, pulling her close and she wrapped her arm about his waist as they meandered their way down the streets toward their destination. They would pause to admire shop window displays if it caught their fancy. More often, Claire found herself sneaking glimpses of Jamie rather than the window display, and more often than not found him looking at her and both grinning at being caught out.

They reached the park and once the distractions had been left behind, the silence between them grew.

“I can hear ye thinking all the way over here, Sassenach, what would ye like to know?” Jamie kept his pace slow as they trailed along a quiet path so Claire could easily match his stride, but kept them moving forward.

“Well, this whole courting thing, we said, well you mostly said a lot of things last night and now that my whisky infused haze has cleared up a bit, can we clarify … it seems to be a bit different, a bit old-fashioned?”

Christ, John, ye’re right, I’m an idiot!

“But I think I like it.” 

“Och, ye do? John told me I needed to step out of the 18th century.”

“That far back, hunh?” She quirked her brow at him teasing. “But back to courting, you said you wanted to be with me,” better to ask and find out now, Claire held her breath.

Mother Mary! She doesna beat about the bush, but, I promised her honesty.

Jamie stopped short and pulled her around to face him, until sure he had her full attention and she was locked into his gaze. When he did speak, Claire could hear the emotion in his voice as his brogue broadened and deepened, “I want no misunderstanding, Claire.”

He waited until she nodded and whispered, “Okay.”

“I want ye in every way a man can have his woman, and all that holds.” His voice was husky as he spoke.

“Oh.” It came out as a breath as she watched his eyes darken, “just what does that mean?”

Jamie bent down pressing his lips to her ear, his breath hot on her neck, “Ye ken fine well what I mean, Sassenach, unless ye’d truly like me to enumerate all the ways I intend to have ye.” He pressed small kisses along her neck where he could reach her, trailing his tongue between.

The shiver ran from where his kisses started down the length of her spine worming its way up into her sex as her body clenched with the need of him, lust emanated from her. Claire felt her knees begin to buckle and swayed forward leaning against Jamie and as he pulled her up in support she made full contact with the evidence of his readiness.

She had summoned him to her through their lost time and he was answering her call. “I’ve pledged myself to ye Claire, but before that I must prove to ye that I’m worthy of ye and ye can accept me for who I am. So we’ll take as much time as needed for ye to be sure of me.”

Chapter Text

 

Claire’s head was swirling as she fought to make her way to the surface, fighting to hold her breath for just a few moments more, she felt as though her lungs were going to burst. Then she became aware of the cool ground under her arse and Jamie’s arm tightening around her shoulders. What the hell?

Claire! Iffrin!” The muffled callings pulled at her and a sudden jostling broke through and had her gasping for air as she opened her eyes wide trying to get her bearings. Jamie’s face was bent over hers only inches away with worry plastered across it. “Are ye alright, Sassenach?” she felt trembles in his warm hand as he stroked her face before brushing her hair back from her face and brought it back to cup her cheek.

A couple of pairs of legs came into view behind Jamie and to his side, “Hey man…” a winded voice interrupted, “everything okay? Do we need to call emergency services?”

Claire was coming to enough to shake her head slowly back and forth, and mumble a vague denial, “No, I’ll be okay, I think I just fainted. Give me a few minutes, okay?” She was looking up at Jamie addressing her response to him.

“Ye’re sure, Sassenach?” The worry was fading a bit as she reassured him, her voice coming stronger.

“Yes, sorry for the trouble,” she looked up to the joggers, “just got a bit light headed there for a moment thank you,” as she moved to sit up more fully, feeling Jamie’s arm drop from her around shoulders, she shifted to sit cross-legged, and grabbed her knees, leaned forward lowering her head and breathing deeply. She looked at Jamie sideways as he adjusted his position to give her a bit of space but still within touching distance, his hand resting on his bent knee extended toward her.

“Well take it easy,” and the joggers moved off down the path with a backward glance with their departure.

“That was embarrassing, what happened?” Claire looked back at Jamie and noticed his expression changing to more of a smirk as his eyes crinkled at her.

“Wot?”

“Ye swooned,” and he reached forward and brushed her hair back with an extended finger.

She pushed his hand away, “I fainted.”

“Och, but swooning will sound much more romantic when I tell our bairns about yer reaction when I pledged myself to ye,” and he gave her a big mischievous grin.

“Bairns… you mean children? Getting a bit ahead of yourself there soldier.” She dropped her face back down, lowering her head head again, but more to let her hair fall and shield her face and hide the smile that was threatening and the heated blush rising up her neck. Cheeky bastard.

“There’s a bench just over there by the pond, would ye be more comfortable there while ye catch yer breath?” She responded by reaching her hand out to him so he could help her up, instead she felt warm breath on her palm as he kissed her wrist. She peeked at him and met his eyes smiling back, teasing her. “Just checking yer pulse, seems a bit fast.”

“That’s no way, to…” Claire made to snatch her hand away but with a smile still twitching at the corners of her lips. Jamie was quicker, wrapping his long fingers around her wrist, holding it firmly as he stood up and pulled her up against him wrapping his arms about her waist making sure she was steady on her feet. “Should I carry ye or do ye feel up to walking?” 

Claire looked back over her shoulder in the direction of her flat and briefly wondered how long it would take to get there. She was just fine with letting Jamie start enumerating all the ways he’d have her, but… could she get there in her present state? Her heart was racing, the effect of Jamie’s touch upon her. Lord what you do to me.

Claire dropped her forehead back against Jamie’s chest as his arms tightened around her and her arms snaked up around his neck and clutched at him. Here he was being all noble and asking that she let him prove he was worthy of her. Her body craved his and all she wanted was to give in to her base instincts.

Fuck…Worthy of me? And she felt incredibly small at the moment as tears pricked at her eyes. She released her hands from his neck and moved to push away from him. His arms tightened around her in response to her movement, securing her to him. She looked up, his face now a mask, devoid of the vulnerability she had seen but a little while ago. Instead here was a man, set, determined.

“No,” he said simply, quietly as he looked down at her through hooded lids. “Dinna be afraid.”

She took a deep shuddering breath, “Easy for you to say,” and made a back-handed swipe at the tear that had escaped and was tickling her cheek.

“I’m petrified that ye’re going to bolt.” He eased his hold on her but moved to pull her back closer and gently stroked her back wishing it was her fine skin he was touching instead of her jacket, but the rhythmic movement seemed to be helping as he felt her tremors begin to subside and her breathing slow, as she let go and leaned fully against him.

Jamie stepped to her side and bent down and swept his arm beneath her knees and lifted her up eliciting a “hoop of surprise” from Claire with the sudden movement and held her close to his chest as she wrapped her arm around his shoulders. He carried her to the bench and set her down, then sat next to her after she’d settled.

Jamie took her hand in his and finally spoke, “Did what I say, scare ye?”

She nodded her head but wouldn’t look at him, instead looking out over the water. Jamie waited for her. “It wasn’t so much what you said, I rather liked that,” her voiced dropped as she finished, “quite a lot actually,” Jamie could see the blush pinking her cheeks as she glanced at him quickly before looking away again, but he couldn’t hold back the smile his relief triggered. “I think the intensity, your honesty, …it’s more than I’ve ever been offered. I’m not sure how I can…” confusion weighed on her.

“Claire, there’s something between us, ye ken it and ye’ll no feel it with anyone else. D’ye no want to experience it, to share it? With me?” Please mo nighean donn look at me.

She didn’t trust her voice not to break so didn’t speak, but she turned to look him fully in the eye and just nodded as she leaned into him and rested her head against him, closing her eyes in concentration and listening to his heart pounding against his chest.

Jamie was afraid that he had spoken too soon, that she wasn’t ready to hear him and would run from him, he had gambled and at least for the moment she was still with him and he was content.

Claire wasn’t sure for how long they’d been sitting there when she opened her eyes. Jamie’s arm was draped around her shoulders and she was leaning against him with her feet tucked up to the side on the bench. She realized Jamie’s heartbeat had steadied into a deep solid thrum that matched hers, and accepted something had settled between them. She could see he’d relaxed and was now sitting with one ankle braced on his knee and his hand close to but not touching her hand where it rested on his thigh.



Claire pushed up away from him pulling him out of his reverie, but she was smiling all the way to her eyes.

“Have a nice nap?” She could feel the deep rumble of his chuckle beneath her hand where it rested on his chest as his deep blue eyes explored her face.

“Did I snore?”

“Weel, no so much, just a few wee noises,” he grinned at her as he squeezed her shoulder, “but I like hearing ye make them.”

Claire rolled away and leaned fully back against the bench and took a deep breath as she stretched awake, clenching her hands, flexing her arms and unfurling them overhead and tried to cover the following yawns.

Jamie admired her lithe body as she stood reaching over head and then placing her hands at the base of her back she stretched her spine like a cat, releasing several pops, before leaning forward and reaching as far as she could in a yoga position he recognized. Jamie automatically reached to lay a hand on her beautiful arse that she was presenting to him but stopped just before he made contact, snatching his hand away, just before she turned to face him. “I had no idea, how tight I was,” she grinned down at him.

Dinna say that. Jamie felt his face grow red as she lifted her brow at him. He stood now towering over her as her smile faded. “Thank you for watching over me while I slept, Jamie. I feel much better.”

“Always, Sassenach. Feel up to that walk?”

She reached out her hand to him, “Shall we?” He took her hand and tucked it under his arm and pulled her close as he had the night before and squeezed her fingers. “Thank ye Sassenach.”

They walked for a bit only silence between them until Claire broke it. With the closeness, she was feeling the pull of him, the want of Jamie again and needing a distraction, picked up the conversation where they’d left off earlier.

“You were telling me about your family. Your mom’s an artist?”

“Aye, and she supports a local artists’ collective that focuses on restoring some of the Highland traditions that have been lost, but it’s more a philanthropy. Jenny helps her wi’ that a bit when she’s no minding her bairns or running her part of the business operations.”

“Sounds like your family is very socially conscientious, certainly generous from what I saw last night.”

Jamie dropped his head in thought before he spoke, “Aye, I think it goes back to our clan traditions. The lairds of the clans were expected to take care of their folks, their tenants, no just their immediate families – ye ken with privilege comes responsibility. I ken my family’s history back hundreds of years, and not all of it to be proud of, but it’s the beginning of my branch that I hold dear. We learned early on to respect that it’s all the small limbs and twigs on our tree that have helped us keep growing and thrive.”

Claire thought he might have been finished due to the long pause but he cleared his throat and continued, “There were terrible struggles in Scotland after Culloden and the clearances, and my family suffered as well, but we were more fortunate than many thanks to the gifts of a wise English woman, she kept them from starving.” Claire felt Jamie’s hand tighten on hers, but when set looked at him his gaze was fixed forward and his mouth set in a firm line. “Then by a twist of fate some might consider the Frasers ended up benefiting for it in the long run. It certainly saved our line from fading into obscurity, but it’s hard to balance the losses against gains. It’s a painful lesson we’ve no forgotten and makes us mindful of how we must care for others.”

They continued on, neither saying a word, but the heaviness of the subject weighed on them.

“You’ve got a pretty amazing family, Jamie, you’re lucky.”

“Aye, it is for sure. Mam and Da are something special; I’ve been lucky to have them. But sometimes it seems as if they’re in their own world. Mam lost a baby, I was about eight, I guess, Da nearly lost her then too, and they coped wi’ their loss by pulling their world closer and it’s even smaller since my older brother, Willie died. They rarely leave Lallybroch; they’re content there; it was a surprise to see them last night. Jenny didna tell me they were coming. They love Jenny and me and all their family, but it’s really just the two of ‘em.

It’s no that they loved us any less, but it was a bit hard for us kids; harder for Jenny, she took on a bit o motherin’ me then, and I think that’s why we’re so close, but she still wants to mother me and that’s cause for some difficulties. She has a hard time letting go of me now that Willie’s gone too. I think it’s only when I have a wife will she loosen her grip.” And he grinned at the recollection of his wee feisty sister.

“Lallybroch?” Claire repeated the name that had caught her attention letting it roll off her tongue, testing it. Lallybroch?

“Gets its nickname from an old landmark that was there before the house was built back in the early 1700s. A tower which is amazingly still standing, though it’s taken a good bit of help through the years to keep it up. It has a bit of a tilt to it which gives its English name "lazy tower.”

Tis our ancestral home; It’s a special place, gets into your bones and once it’s there, ye never lose it. I look forward to taking ye there,” and he looked at her wistfully. “Official title is Broch Tuarach which means north-facing tower, and before ye ask, the door is on the northern face of the tower. Names get stuck and ye canna change ‘em. Tradition…” he shrugged good-naturedly.

“Three hundred years and it’s still standing? I can’t even imagine having roots that deep.”

“Aye, ye sound like ye’ve been more the tumbleweed, but verra interesting too.”

“So, are you a real live laird then?”

Jamie chuckled, “Nay, nay. The title goes with the estate so long as it remains in the family, so for the time my parents are Lord and Lady Broch Tuarach. It shouldha been my older brother, Willie, but it’s a wonderful home for Jenny’s family. I think she and Ian should have it; she’s the next by age and I dinna especially hold to the tradition of passing estates to the male heirs and by-passing the women. Jenny is as involved in the family enterprise as I am and more than capable of taking over if need be, and she loves it. It will always be my family home, …but I dinna think I shall ever return to live full time at Lallybroch again. I want to build something of my own for my family.”

Claire looked up at Jamie, squinting and shielding her eyes against the light behind him, admiration for his attitudes growing; he was proving to be quite an enigma.

“And what about Fergus? How’d that come about?”

Jamie stood a bit taller if that was possible when he spoke Fergus’ name and a new light came to his eyes. “Ah, Fergus…his name is really ClaudeI, but it’s a terrible name for a boy, so I call him Fergus,” Jamie chuckled at the recollection. “I came to ken Fergus when I was working in Paris. He was livin’ on the streets making do like a lot of throw-away kids, earnin’ his keep mostly picking pockets, petty thievery and happened he nabbed mine one day. But I caught him and gave him the choice o doing some work for me or me calling the gendarmes. Got him off the streets before more harm could come to him. It turned out being an opportunity that worked out well for the both of us. God, he’s bright and good hearted and just needing a chance and I was able to give to him. It wasna long after Willie died, and I was really missing him, but I wasn’t looking for a brother to replace him, it was something more, deeper. So, worked it out that he came to live here. Officially I’m fostering him but working to make it a permanent adoption; he may be a bit old for it, but he’s my family, …my son. I ken it’s a bit odd to call him my son, but that’s how I feel. Usually Ms. Fitz helps to care for him, but I’ve been having to travel more than usual, so he’s been spending time wi’ Jenny and her brood. He has tutors catching him up wi’ his education since he really hadn’t much before. He’s such a good lad, I’m lucky to have found him.”

Claire felt tears pricking as Jamie spoke about Fergus, “I think you’ve both been lucky. You’re quite an unusual man, Jamie Fraser. I don’t know another single man that would have taken on a child at your age. Well my uncle did, but that was different, I don’t think he really had a choice.”

“My mam always said I was born wi’ an auld soul.”

“A wise one I think. So when you say you were working in Paris? I don’t even know what you do.”

“Och, weel, I do a lot of different things, wi’ my family’s business. Then I was workin’ wi’ a cousin in the wine importing, exporting, learning that part of the business. It’s all grown a bit more and is a pretty diversified enterprise, now. I prefer being more involved in the publishing entity, I’ve always loved books and languages; I’ve a good ear for them. But primarily I do what needs to be done managing the company.”

Claire halted and just looked at Jamie. “That sounds like a lot of responsibility. You’re awfully young aren’t you to do all that… I mean, well how old are you?”

“It’s a family-held concern, no an international conglomerate, but I’ve been reared to this job for most of my life. It was not something Willie was ever interested in and I enjoy the challenges, most of the time. Mostly it’s managing and working wi’ good people that I trust. So, I’m twenty-five, Claire, but old enough.”

“And ye? Since ye asked first.”

“Hmmm, a bit older, twenty-eight, but my birthday’s coming up.”

“Ah, so ye’re a beautiful, more experienced woman, eh? Perhaps, ye can teach me a few things…” and Jamie attempted to wink at her suggestively but looked more like an owl and she had to laugh at his attempt and suggestion.

“I wouldn’t count on that, depending on the subject, it might be limited; you might be disappointed.”

“I dinna think ye could disappoint me Sassenach.”

“Don’t put me up a pedestal Jamie, I don’t want either of us to get hurt when I fall off it.” Claire realized as the words came out of her mouth that she really didn’t want to disappoint Jamie, but knew it would happen at some point, it had to, right?

They continued walking, fingers twined, Jamie never letting go of her, always managing to keep touching her even when they stopped no matter the distraction. Claire discovered Jamie was a born storyteller and wrapped her up in his tales of growing up in the Highlands. She felt lighter and happier and laughed more than she had since she could last remember, it was easy being with him.

Jamie’s beautiful words had painted pictures for her of his life with his family, visits with Jenny and her children, and dreams of his children that would one day be running and playing in the same fields where he had once trounced invisible invaders of his kingdom.

Claire was so caught up in Jamie’s vision she could imagine herself amongst the rabble as they yelled and played and swam in the millpond. Our children… and caught herself smiling at the thought and being part of that life.

The expression on Claire’s face caught at Jamie’s heart. “What are ye thinking about?”

“Oh, I was enjoying hearing you talk about your family, your wonderful stories, they all seem so normal, it must be nice. And the truth is, I like you, Jamie, really like you…”

“Aye? I’m verra glad to hear ye say that Sassenach,” Jamie grinned down at her hoping to ease the underlying tension he could feel coming from her before sweeping her into a bear hug and kissed the top of her head, “because I like ye too.”

“No, Jamie, stop, let me finish, please.” As wonderful as she felt, as safe as he made her feel wrapped in his arms feeling his chest vibrate as he chuckled, she pushed back from him and looked up meeting his eyes and her mind went blank as she felt herself wanting to just melt into him. But it was just an illusion, a beautiful illusion, but it couldn't last. Claire closed her eyes breaking their contact, so she could continue and bowed her head against his chest as she took a slow deep breath regaining her thoughts as she found the courage to continue. “At the risk of sounding paranoid, or delusional, there are certain things I’ve recently learned about my family and well, uhm, it seems I might not be such a safe bet for anyone to get involved with. Not for anyone that I care about; I can’t put you at risk or the people you care for.”

Claire felt Jamie pulling her against him and her arms wrapped around his waist. She already knew she would miss this, the feel of him. But better now than before she could hurt more, because Jamie was right, and she already knew it, he would be much more than just a fling, and felt the pain in her heart.

“I don’t think we, I can go any further with this.” Once she’d heard the words slipping from her lips, heard the implication behind them, she accepted she would be alone. Despite her bravado, it was not the life she wanted, but believed it would be her reality. She squared her shoulders as she took a deep breath and turned towards him, but the shimmer of tears betrayed her. “It wouldn’t be right,” he barely heard her speak.

Fuck Raymond!  Anger seethed in Jamie as he tightened his hold on Claire and felt her shoulders tense. A quiet sob escaped and then another and then a deep breath as she struggled to keep her composure and rubbed the heel of her hand across the corners of her eyes. He led her to a grassy knoll which gave them a bit of privacy just beyond the trees, but a good ways off the path. He sat and pulled her down into his lap as she buried her face into his shoulder and let the tears come.

He cradled her tenderly and rocked her whispering in the language that flowed from his heart, until her tears subsided, and snuffling and sniffing eased, quiet embarrassed laughs replaced them.

“I’m sorry, I’m not usually a crier.”

Jamie leaned forward and then produced and offered up a bandanna. “It’s a bit crumpled, but clean. Blow yer nose and I’ll dry yer tears.” After she honked a bit with more small laughs between them, and wiped it dry, Jamie tilted her face up and proceeded to kiss away the trails of her tears and very gently finished with a kiss on her lips.

“I dinna believe that is what ye truly want. Tell me what brought this on.” Jamie looked down at Claire and saw fresh tears collecting in her eyes and pulled her close and embraced her with his whole body trying to soothe her worries.

“It was just something, I was told.” She paused reluctant to go on, but felt Jamie’s nudge and his raised eyebrow when she looked at him. “I don’t know how real the risks are, I hadn’t paid attention to it, because at the time I wasn’t close to anyone, it didn’t seem real, but that’s changed.”

“Was it Raymond?”

She nodded.

“I’ll talk to the man and find out what the issues are. D’ye think I’d walk away and give ye up because of what…rumors? I’ll never be ready to do that, especially if ye’re feeling threatened. It is my privilege, my right to care for ye, protect ye and to keep ye safe.”

“Jamie, you don’t know what you’re saying.”

“Aye, I do. Ye’re scairt of me or my family being hurt. Would ye feel any better if I told ye that one of our businesses is a Safety and Security company? We already have measures in place, so whatever ye’re worrit about, ye’re not jeopardizing anyone.”

Claire felt a relief and hope rush through her, but pulled back so she could look Jamie in the eye so he could see her truth. “I care for people, heal them, that’s who I am. I can protect myself, but I cannot live fearing I put anyone in danger, much less someone I . . .”

“Like?” Jamie smiled filling in her pause and gave her a playful squeeze hoping to have put her mind at ease.

Claire gave him a nod, “Really like,” and leaned in and gave him a quick peck on the lips.

“A lot?

She smiled and pressed her lips more firmly against his and lingered a bit as he shifted under her before she pulled back. “Oodles.”

“From here to the moon and back?” His voice had dropped and become huskier with each admission from her.

“Well maybe not quite that far, but book-oodles,” she teased and shifted to face him fully and now straddled his lap, settling her knees on the ground and leaned in and nuzzled his neck, breathing in the heat of his skin and trailed butterfly kisses up his neck to his jaw, tasting him with the tip of her tongue as he had done to her and felt him shiver.

“Ah Dhia,” he groaned as her hips rolled against his moving closer to him.

“Aye, weel, I’ll settle for that, . . .” he whispered against her lips as his hand worked under her fall of hair to find her bare skin on her neck and pulled her into him. His mouth opened crushing hers against his and plunged his tongue into hers, tasting, swallowing her soft mewlings, exploring her, as she did for him. She clasped his cheeks between her hands as she twisted and turned searching for the best angle to go deeper, breaking only when needing to gasp for air, “for now,” he finally finished. His other hand found her arse and pulled and pushed helping to set the pace as she rocked against him seeking friction for her release. They were lost in their mutual search for oblivion when a solid thump hit Jamie square in the back.

“Mac na galla!” he cursed and quickly tumbled Claire from his seat as he jumped up fists ready to face his attacker.

“Sorry! Sorry mister!” two lads came chasing after the football that had gotten away from them and was now rolling away down the knoll. They ran off after it giggling with their hands over their mouths; one shot a quick look over his shoulder back at the pair before leaving peals of laughter trailing behind. Jamie turned and surveyed the area and caught sight of a familiar grin that quickly turned away with a wave and distinct hunching of the shoulders as he jogged away.

Lesley… I’ll get ye for that.

Claire looked up from her crouched position, biting her lips trying to keep from laughing as Jamie turned to face her. Her eyes opened wide enough that he could see a ring of white all around her beautiful irises as she looked up at him and then dropped her eyes back to his crotch and gave him a full smile.

“Och go ahead and laugh if ye need,” Jamie grinned down at her shaking his head as he sank to the ground next to her. “The truth is I can make ye swoon with a few sweet words whispered into yer ear and ye give me a terrible cockstand just being in yer presence. If I’m to leave this park before dark, ye’re going to need to leave.”

Claire scootched closer to him and leaned in breathing against his ear with a soft giggle, “I’m not going anywhere without you.”

Jamie faced her and lifted his brow, “Then tell me about Frank.”

Claire started pushing herself up, “Make sure and give me a call when you get free,” but found herself being yanked back down onto her arse. The humor had left her eyes when she looked back at Jamie. “Why?”

“I think it’s the only thing coming out of yer mouth that will shrivel my cock before dark. Besides I want to understand.”

“Understand what?”

“How any man could let ye go.”

Claire pulled her feet together and examined the grasses in the circle she’d made, pulling at single blades, and playing with them, pulling them apart and tossing them aside. She could smell herself, the scent of her unrelieved lust permeating her space and wondered if it carried as far as him. She’d expected she’d have to talk about Frank sooner or later, but had thought it would be much later. She started speaking before she looked up to meet Jamie’s patient gaze, and threw a few blades in his direction and watched as they fluttered short of her target.

“I met Frank when he was doing research with Uncle Lamb, he was just another friend - a colleague hanging about, worked a couple of the sites with him. I don’t know how many academic bachelor types you know, but they all have a bit of a quirky side to them. When Lamb and I came back to England and I started classes, Lamb picked up some of his old research and changed his focus to the standing stone formations and started spending a lot of time in Scotland. He was away more than he was at Cambridge, I mean that’s to be expected, you grow up, but we’d been in each others back pocket for so much of my life, it was maybe a bigger adjustment for me than I expected. We’d see each other on and off during holidays or such, but then Lamb died so suddenly. I didn’t handle it very well.

…I know I said I don’t mind being by myself, and I don’t really, I suppose I’ve gotten accustomed to it. But I was still at University when I lost him and it’s such an awful feeling to realize you have absolutely no one. I have Joe and Gail, and Raymond, and call them family – they are but they aren’t – but it’s just different. I’m not sure you can understand with all your family, but it is. Frank’s always been the odd man out with his family and relations have always been a bit strained, so we just sort of gravitated towards each other, created our own little band of misfits.”

“Anyway, Frank was in town for a visit and we’d been muddling over this fellow. God he was such a pest, I mean a real borderline cre… well he would just not take no for an answer. His family had a lot of money and he thought, well he’d didn’t, that was part of the problem. Frank was always good with advice, and we were discussing how I should best deal with Phillip and Frank suggested we get married then and there.”

Jamie had been listening to and watching Claire carefully giving her his full attention, noticing every small twinge that exposed the still raw pain, but this, this caused his mouth to drop open and a huff of breath escaped. Claire looked at him as he lifted his brow in question not daring to speak.

“I know, you don’t have to say anything,” she tittered self-consciously as she held up her hand and shook her head in acknowledgement, “a bit impulsive perhaps and like taking a sledgehammer to a mosquito, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. And we could stick a thumb in his parents’ eye for good measure. You see Frank’s parents had come to town as well and though I’d heard about them for years, had never met. We’d planned to meet them for lunch. Instead we swooped by the restaurant, collected his folks, and went to the Registrar’s office. Our lunch turned into a wedding celebration for the four of us. Not much, but enough.” She looked at Jamie with such an assurance that he believed her.

“Frank and I respected and encouraged each other to be the best we could. He insisted that I continue and finish medical school and then join Raymond’s medical group. As for married life, we actually didn’t live together for much of our marriage and given the demands for our careers spent much of our time apart, but he always arranged to spend at least a week a month with me where ever I was deployed. That in itself was no mean feat, and sometimes we would meet up in different cities for vacation – a perk of being employed through Raymond as a contract consultant. Just so you know, our marriage may have been unconventional, but it was good until it wasn’t …enough.” She shrugged as if that should explain everything. “That’s all I want to say about it so I hope your curiosity is satisfied.”

Jamie’s curiosity was anything but satisfied but had agreed not to push for anything she was unwilling to share. “Would ye mind if I asked why relations were strained with Frank’s family?”

“Oh that?” Claire pulled her knees up close to her body and locked her hands around her legs and leaned forward before she continued. “Well honestly, I think it was a couple of things, he was a change of life surprise and his parents never did quite know what to make of him. Pretty much left him to the nannies and tutors to rear. I’ll tell you what, for as little time as I had with them, I had a better go with own parents than Frank has had with his. I think that’s why he developed such an interest in his family’s genealogy; looking to connect with lost members, and one of his grandfathers was big into it too – obsessed, I understand.

I’m afraid what Frank did find was rather disappointing. Turns out that the man he thought to be his great grandfather so many generations back – a venerated captain in the British dragooooons,” she placed air quotes around the phrase as she spoke, “– turned out to be the most despicable and vilest of creatures and it would have been better if he’d remained under the rock Frank found him. Just where he belonged, the snake. Fortunately, Lamb was able to help Frank identify his true ancestor, who was in no way illustrious other than being a kind and gentle man that happened to be the younger brother. I can certainly see those traits in Frank. He just happened to sire a child on the wrong side of the blanket. Oh, but the brouhaha when Frank brought the truth to his parents! He deserved better than the way they reacted. I think he’s also why Frank has attempted to distance himself from that line. Anyway, he’s far, far, far in the past.”

Jamie had felt his free hand clenching at the mention of Frank’s unnamed ancestor, knowing the man that she referred to, but he could feel Claire’s affection and sympathy toward Frank. “Frank was a lucky man; ye cared for him well.”

“The truth is we cared well for each other.” Jamie heard the sincerity in her quiet statement yet even knowing that they were no longer married, he felt the stab of jealousy that she cared for another man as she did.

“And the man ye mentioned,” Jamie had grown agitated hearing this but retained his outward calm appearance asking quietly, “What became of him? Did yer marrying Frank take care of that?”

Claire became a bit subdued, “I think so, he faded from the picture rather quickly after Frank and I married and then I never heard or ever thought about him. But last night. . . I could have sworn I heard him speak to me, but when I turned, he wasn’t there, didn’t see hide nor hair. I’d say it was just my imagination, but he mentioned Frank and me no longer being together which is odd. I don’t talk about that and the fact that your sister asked me about him was rather upsetting honestly.”

So, Frank himself had married to protect Claire and his estimation of the man increased. Damn it.

“I thank ye for telling, me for trusting me wi’ it.”

Jamie knew this encounter must have been what had upset Claire last night but pressed no more. He’d have to ask Frank.



“Well, that bit of conversation did the trick Sassenach,” and gave her a mischievous grin. “What say ye to a spot of tea, are ye hungry yet?”

“I guess I am a bit, and you?”

“Always,” he gave her a grin. She looked at his trim physique as he hoisted her up and wondered how he managed.

He rose then and settled her on her feet holding her until she was steady. “Come on, then,” and held his hand to her and when she gave it to him, placed a kiss on hers. As they started back to her flat, Jamie felt a peace settling within him.

They grabbed some soup and croissants from the bistro on the corner eating quietly at an outdoor table. Jamie enjoying a second lager as they talked, him telling her a bit more about life growing up at Lallybroch, her about riding camels in Egypt. He spoke with his hands frequently gesturing for emphasis, but his hand was always finding its way back to her. Clouds were moving in providing the typical cover, but a stray sun ray caught Jamie’s hair and ignited its brilliance. It was a perfect moment as he smiled at her holding her hand, and Claire felt her heart hitch hoping to capture the sensation, accepting how much she’d enjoyed being with him, his charm, thoughtfulness and humor.

Claire was collecting herself preparing to rise from the table, when Jamie laid his hand on hers, “I ken we’ve talked about a lot of things today, and I ken there’s more to discuss but are yer worries settled?” Claire could see the concern in his eyes and nodded and gave him a reassuring smile.

“Are ye truly well then, Sassenach?”

“I feel better for telling you. I’m not sure just how to fix it yet, but I’ll think about it.”

“Ye ken there’s two of us, ye dinna need to carry it alone and I will take it up with Raymond. This may be going faster than ye expected, but as I said before, I’m no going anywhere and ye take all the time ye need to decide if ye want to be with me.”

She nodded acknowledging his offer and holding it close.

After Jamie wrapped his arm around her and pulled her in close, Claire slipped her arm around his waist but her hand found its way into his back pocket and settled there. Jamie felt the tentative squeeze of his cheek and grinned as he pulled her closer.

When she got her door opened, Claire turned to Jamie, “Come in?” He smiled and followed her across her threshold. “Excuse me, but please make yourself comfortable,” she ducked away making a hasty retreat for her bedroom as soon as they got through her flat’s door leaving Jamie behind. He shucked off his jacket hanging it on the back of one of the bar stools in the kitchen. He thought about waiting in her living room but his need to be near her pulled at him and he slowly trailed after her. Her bedroom was empty, but he saw the bath door closed and heard water running. He pulled up the covers straightening her bed and looking about noticed a bit of red peeking out from under her jacket where she’d flung it on a chair. He stepped over and pulled her outfit she’d worn the evening before from beneath and held the pieces of fabric between his hands and lifted them to his face. The lemony herbal scent of her clung to it and as he breathed her in, visions of her flooded him and a longing for her clutched his heart. He rubbed the fabric of the sheath between his thumb and fingers and smiled recalling how the sheer film had so effectively thwarted his efforts to touch Claire’s beautiful bare skin. Christ! it had been like cellophane protecting the contents of a children’s toy shop – look but dinna touch; holding out offerings of enticing promises, patience required, only his was nearly gone.

Claire had retreated to bathe her face and claim a moment alone and away from Jamie which was really the last thing she wanted, and it frightened her. She’d admitted as much to him last night before he’d kissed her. The memory of every touch, every kiss they had shared had her grasping the counter as she leaned against it needing support, her knees buckling and her core clenching and wanting more. They’d come close again this morning, and throughout the day, but despite the electricity that snapped between them, something was holding him back. She had never felt like this, never this connected nor wanting anyone like this before in her life and it shook her confidence.

Claire stared at herself in the mirror as she dared a last glimpse in the mirror, her decision made.

Jamie was standing beside the bed when he heard the latch releasing and looked up as Claire slowly emerged from behind the bathroom door, first her head poking out and pausing as she caught sight of him and gave him a shy smile. Jamie holding her red dress between his large hands wore a slight smile himself as he was remembering last night, but a blush rose up and pinked his ears as she looked at him, caught red handed.

She cocked her head as she fixed him with a quizzical smile and eased the rest of her body into the room and stopped.

His eyes widened and his mouth lost its smile as it dropped open as he gaped at her openly transfixed. It wasn’t so much her ratty band tee shirt that she was now wearing or the blue lace edges of a very skimpy pair of panties that clung to and defined the curves of her bottom peeking from beneath the tail of the shirt that caused a low groan to escape his lips, but the fingers of her right hand twisting the shirt’s hem contradicting her confident stance.

With a lift of her brow and only the slightest tremor in her voice, Claire issued her challenge. “Will you catch me?” and cautiously took a step forward waiting his response.

“Dear mother of God!” Claire’s laugh released Jamie from his spell while the dress he’d been holding slipped through his fingers and floated forgotten to the floor puddling around his feet as he moved towards her.

Jamie reached her in three urgent strides as she closed the distance between them leaping into his embrace. He caught her up against his body his grip firmly anchored on her beautiful round arse as he hoisted her up and felt her legs wrap around his waist. He buried his lips against hers finding them open and inviting him in. Her tongue brushed his and he thrust his into her mouth searching, tasting, wanting to take all of her into him.

He turned and carried her to the bed bracing a knee on it as he carefully lowered her. He finally broke away from their kisses to nod his head directing her with his chin to move up onto the bed. Claire reluctantly released her grip on him but held him with her eyes as she pushed away from him edging backwards.

Jamie quickly turned sitting on the edge of the bed looking back over his shoulder towards her as he pulled his boots and socks off then stood and turned back to face her. He stood there for a moment, panting to catch his breath, his desire battling his resolve and winning. Christ!

“Is this what ye truly want, …me?” Jamie huskily whispered. “Ye must be sure.”

 

Chapter Text



“Is this what ye truly want, …me?” Jamie huskily whispered. “Ye must be sure.” Jamie’s heart was pounding with the prospects of the moment.

Claire was having a hard time catching her breath as she looked at Jamie and opened her mouth to speak but the words wouldn’t come out. Want you? God yes. She’d wanted him from the moment they’d first touched, her eyes still locked on his, nodded slightly and unconsciously opened her legs a bit further. Jamie grabbed the hem of his jumper and made to pull it over his head and disappeared.

A muffled “FUCK!” followed by a string of indecipherable Gaelic curses came from deep within the folds of what now appeared to be a woolen straight jacket as Jamie struggled to release himself before becoming still and quiet. Slow movements within the strictures were accompanied by the sound of a series of three pops as snaps were released followed by a mumbled, “For Christ’s sake.”

Frank would be laughing at the absurdity... What?! FUCK NO! delete, delete, delete. Claire pushed thoughts of him away as she pressed her lips together hoping to stifle the laugh that was threatening to escape but couldn’t help the small smile that bloomed as she watched the scene unfolding in front of her as the jumper lifted exposing his taut chiseled abdomen with the faint trail of golden hair leading from that cute little belly button to the bulge of Jamie’s engorged cock thrusting against the front of his britches and when he had lifted his arms, she could see it’s tip broaching the waistband of his britches riding low on his hips.

Ah, a true son of Scotland, she noticed and shivered and felt her core clenching in nervous anticipation. Instinct had her reaching out towards him to touch, but an unexpected twinge had her pulling back, resisting her anxious urge.

And then finally that glorious mop of copper curls slowly emerged, released from the confines of the jumper, mussed from his struggles, as he lowered his arms pulling it from in front of his face. All pretense of the suave suitor from the night before was gone, replaced by the visage of a breathtakingly handsome young man bearing a small embarrassed smile twitching at his lips. His guileless gaze fixed on her as she sat with her knees slightly bent and leaning towards him with her hands braced against the bed.

He could see the dark impressions of her hardened nipples pressing against the washed thin fabric of her shirt, her eyes shining, lips wet and welcoming and her wild curls floating about her head; she was radiant.

“Taing Dhia,” escaped as a moan from the breath he’d been holding as he stood there taking in the beauty of her all alight, waiting and wanting him.

Jamie was standing before her now bared from his hips up, just as she had seen him the day before, but his heaving chest was evidence of his frustrated efforts. The jumper still held his arms but as he locked eyes with hers once more, he noticed her shiver and his smile transformed with his own anticipation as he pulled one arm free and then the other dropping the sweater onto the floor.

Jamie crawled onto the bed and moved across the short distance from the end toward her like a large predator cat, his approach, slow and deliberate, tensed as though anticipating she might dart away. The thought flitted across her mind that she had read where some large cat predators seemed to hypnotize their prey as they drew them in before their final, fatal pounce. Despite the adrenelin pulsing through her Claire could not have moved if she’d wanted to; there was no consideration of flight, she was where she wanted to be. She would lay herself down and let him devour her.

Claire laid back and reached towards him and with her fingers gently pulling on his shoulders inviting him, as he moved closer and she parted her legs for him. As he looked at her with her hair billowing out around her head, her amber eyes darkened with need, he was flooded with sensations.

Claire’s face tilted up to him, her smile faded as her lips softened and parted and Jamie could hear the slight hitch as her breath caught before escaping; the last thing of hers he would allow to escape him. Never again could he, would he let her go.

Jamie lowered himself to cover her, his hips pressing into hers and took her into his arms succumbing to the ecstasy of being here with her, the missing pieces coming together as their bodies fit so perfectly together as they always had.

“Claire, mo nighean donn,” her name, a sigh, a moan of contentment escaped his lips as he softly pressed his lips to hers. She had come to him in his dreams, had felt her touch upon him, but it had been fleeting and she had been as a ghost - gone in a moment; to be here holding her...  He began as he had in the abbey ruins, brushing his lips against hers, breathing her in and smiling as he tasted her toothpaste on her exhale as she whispered his name.

Despite the aggravation of the stalled moment when he’d been entangled, Jamie was grateful that it had been just enough to let his mind come back a bit. Otherwise he knew he would have driven right into her, bringing them to a quick completion, rather than taking her slowly, drawing it out and relishing every second of pleasure as he intended, making up for time lost to them, there would never be enough.

Claire felt his arms snake around her pulling her closer, strong but ever so gently he held her. The press of his body as he laid the length of her even as he bore his weight on his elbows sent waves of desire through her and she pressed her hips up into his issuing her invitation. With her eyes closed she was back in the ruins with Jamie having never left there, not stopping what had begun.

Jamie ran his fingers through the jumble of her curls before he knotted a handful in his fist holding her closer as he deepened his kiss and swallowed her breath. She sighed and opened her lips to him and touched his tongue with hers and began the tangle as each stroke stoked the fires within. Rasps of hastily drawn breaths as lips parted momentarily mixed with their soft groans of pleasure with each new intimate touch of discovery. She explored him, tracing the feel of his heated skin with her fingertips and then flattening her palms as she smoothed them against the silkiness of his skin, muscles rippling creating new contours with every move as he adjusted his embrace of her.

Claire needed to connect with him and pressed her body against him rubbing her hips against his and loosing small moans into his mouth as she sought him, and he was throbbing and pressing back in response meeting her. Her hands slipped down his back and beneath the waistband of his pants and smoothed her hands over his taut muscles, before grabbing and pulling him against her as she wrapped her long legs around him, urging him closer.

Jamie’s breath caught, with her every touch Claire left trails of fire where her fingers stroked him and thought he was going burst into flame. He shifted his weight off her to the side as he moved his mouth to her neck leaving a trail of kisses and unwrapped his arm as he moved his hand to her breast and traced the curve of it with his fingertips feeling her hardened nipple through the softened fabric. He wanted to taste her, fill his mouth and suckle her breast as their bairns would.

With the shift in position, Claire was writhing against him opening to him her own needs, her hands reached to his waistband at his hips ineffectively trying to push them down before squirming her hands between them as she fumbled to loosen the opening on his pants.

A soft whisper escaped her as her right hand rubbed against the leather holding back him back and her other was trailing fire as her fingers roamed between twirling the curls at his nape and stroking his neck. “Jamie, please, I need you.”

To hear her breathe his name again with such desire… Dhia, now, it must be now.

Chapter Text



“Nay yet, mo chridhe,” he whispered huskily as he gently removed her hand from where she was stroking him, cursing himself for the loss of her touch but knowing if she continued, he’d have a greater battle ahead. He placed her hand over his heart and pressed it there, sure she’d be able to feel the pounding of it. “I would cherish ye a bit.”

Anyone that knew him, friend or foe alike, would tell you that James Fraser was a man of his word. He did not make a promise or take a vow lightly especially those made to himself, but here he was on the verge of breaking a sacred vow he’d imposed on himself.

He’d put them in this position by deciding to respect Claire’s choice and follow her lead with the physicality of their relationship and he’d break that vow only for Claire, but not without acquiring her commitment.

Claire barely heard Jamie’s whispered denial of her touch as his lips brushed along her cheek and he kissed her neck. There, yes.  Breathe… a deep shuddering intake of breath as her body arched up into his body and the slow release after she came down.

He was feeling such joy in exploring her by touch and discovering her sweet spots, breathing in her scent as he nuzzled her neck. He couldn’t get close enough to her and the way she responded, initiated touches, left trails of fire behind where her lips passed, it was almost as if...she remembered. The familiarity.

“God you’re such a tease,” she smiled against his lips where he had returned to hers, but if he wanted to extend the play, she’d enjoy it with him a bit longer, though her body was twitching with almost painful electrified sensations throughout. Jamie. It was as if her very essence was calling to him and he was answering a prayer. Sweet torture as her hands returned to stroking his skin, tracing his muscular structure, trapezius, latissimus dorsi, thoracolumbar fascia, and slipping beneath the waistband of his britches, and ah, gluteus maximus, earned a tentative squeeze.

Christ! “Do ye ken what ye’re doing to me with yer wee hands Sassenach?”

He pulled away from her mouth and rested his forehead against hers gulping in air. He captured the juncture where her neck and shoulder met with his lips, and felt her fingers curling into his hair and holding him there against her. He lifted his eyes to look at her as he moved up her jawline, his breath hot as it brushed across her ear.

“Marry me,” he whispered his voice deep and roughened with emotion and then lifted away from her so he could look into her eyes to see her reaction.

Claire’s face was flushed rose with their exertions, her reddened lips wore the softest smile, but her eyes were fluttering, unfocused adrift in the wave of sensations that broke over her with each touch from Jamie and his responses to the eager thrusts of her hips pressing against his, pulling him to her. Sounds of pleasure, effort, want and frustration were escaping as she wandered in the haze she was lost in. 

The rrrs, love the rrrs. “Jamie,” she breathed out and wrapped her fingers in his curls and pulled his mouth down back to hers and gave him a deep kiss, loving the taste of him, wanting more, then he pulled away, her lips following his.

“So ye will?” he pressed his mouth back down to reach hers grinning ear to ear.

“Hmm? Will what?” God he sounds so happy, she smiled dreamily through the next kiss with a small laugh, feeling his teeth against her lips.

“Marry me.”

Claire’s body stilled as she registered what he’d said. She blinked open her eyes and a furrow formed between her brows as she struggled to comprehend and bring him into focus as he loomed above her grinning at her with one brow cocked above his blue eyes crinkled with happiness.

Marriage? They’d danced around it, joking as she imagined some new couples caught up in the fantasy of a future together might do, and if she was honest, she’d been doing it herself, but never did she think so soon, but there was no joking, kidding or teasing in his voice now, only pure sincerity. Damn those rrrs, she’d been caught by an eargasm.

Och, here we go…, Jamie smiled to himself as he repeated. “I said, ‘Marry me’,” and thinking to make it better – more a request and less a command though he would do so if he thought he had a chance in hell of her conceding, quickly added, “Please.”

It wasn’t as he’d intended, but here he was lying in a bed with Claire, not sure who would be taking whom first. He wanted her so badly he could hardly breathe. Jamie’d felt her still beneath him and as hard as it was, he ceased his movements as well. She was thinking, he could almost feel the whirl of her thoughts racing through her mind as she considered what he’d said.

“Claire?”

“I’m thinking,” she whispered back keeping her eyes closed. Her heart was racing to keep up as her thoughts sped through all the moments since they’d first met, her immediate attraction to him, her almost physical need of him, all the fine qualities she’d witnessed, the tenderness, the passion, and didn’t register what she was doing but Jamie felt her relax just a bit and tentatively reach a hand back to him stroking his shoulder pulling him close and couldn’t help but smile as he tenderly kissed her temple. How can I say no? I don’t want to say no, but by God, he’s cheeky.

Jamie shifted his weight off of her to lay along-side her as he propped himself on his elbow looking down at her watching her expressions shifting across her face even though she’d kept her eyes closed.

“Christ, Jamie…,” her whiskey eyes opened and met his with a challenge echoing in her tone as she chose to ignore his proposal for the present, “you said you’d catch me if I threw myself at you.”

“Aye, and ye did,” Jamie chuckled softly and bent over her placing a small kiss on either side of her mouth, “and I’ve managed to catch ye and to no drop ye,” and moved his hand to cup her face and stroke her cheek with his thumb, peering into her eyes conveying his own determination, “and I dinna intend to let ye go.”

“This, …it’s not a ploy for a marriage proposal, Jamie. You don’t have to do that.”

“I ken, but I want to marry ye.” His blue eyes were almost black with passion as he locked onto hers, “and if ye want me, ye’ll marry me.”

“You said,” Claire argued with more emotion than she’d expected coming though, “you’d take me when I came begging,” she rolled to face him and pressed herself against him and wrapped a leg around his hip. “Well I’m begging.”

“Aye, ye are,” he whispered back acknowledging her plea, “but now, we’re discussing the terms,” and lowered his mouth to hers again which was pliant, warm and inviting.

“Terms? Don’t you want me?” Her voice was so soft when she broke away from him, but he could hear her doubt.

Jamie rolled back on top of her, “I think ye can feel just how badly I want ye,” and he gave a small press with his hips to remind her, then pressed his lips to the crook of her neck and nipped her and sucked until he knew he’d marked her well and then soothed it with his tongue. Yer mine Sassenach, ye’ll be no other man’s again.

“You don’t play fair, Jamie.” She forced out with a small grunt of effort as she pulled her other leg from beneath him and wrapped it around him trapping him between her legs. as she pressed harder against the weight of him and increased the rhythm of her gyrations, seeking friction.

A soft chuckle escaped as he turned to kiss her the spot just behind her ear, “And ye do? Coming to me in just those wee knickers, and scrap of a shirt, offering yer beautiful body to me…”

“But I will play fair, and assure ye there’ll be give and take on both our sides. I imagine a great deal of give and take.” He smiled against her mouth feeling progress. “I will accept yer offer and take ye and give ye pleasure, and I expect ye’ll give me a great deal of pleasure in serving ye well, ye’ll no be left wanting.”

She smiled with anticipation and writhed under him, her body craving what the sensations evoked, “Then why?” His hand moved to cup her cheek as his fingers stroked her hair and gently turned her face towards his. Claire felt his weight lifting away from her as he rose up on an elbow and opened her eyes to meet his.

“Call me old-fashioned if ye need, but I would be joined wi’ ye in marriage before God first, and then joined as one in body, Claire.” He paused, “But if ye need this now, if we’re to join now, I need yer word. Will ye be my wife? I want ye to come willing to me.”

Willing…,” she choked off a laugh considering their current situation, “you don’t think I’m willing?” but the humor seeped out.

Claire was surprised by what she’d heard behind his words. Old fashioned he’d called himself, but she didn’t think that was apropos. There was something old-worldly that she’d recognized in him from the first and as important as it was to him to be married…to her, he’d give himself to her, only asking that she commit to him, trusting her word. She only just realized the full import of his pledging himself to her earlier, what it meant to him. Talk about the shoe being on the other foot.

“This is blackmail, you know,” Claire whispered into his shoulder between the small kisses she continued to place on the warm skin along his clavicle unable to stop, wanting the salty taste of him left on her lips and tongue, as her own body shivered at the feel of him pressing the length of her. I must be mad for even considering this.

“Blackmail you say? How so?” she could feel his smile against her cheek as he lowered back down pressing against her.

Claire pulled back looking into his eyes which were filled with a longing she felt sure matched her own. “You know it’s when someone holds something against you in order to get you to do something.”

“Aye?” he laughed turning the tables on her, “So ye admit it?”

“No! I mean you.”

“Me? Just what would I be holding against you, that you want, hmmm?” as he hummed softly and kissed her ear, tickling it with the tip of his tongue.

Oh, sweet Jesus, and Claire feeling herself melting with his attentions, turned trying to wrest some sense of control back looked Jamie in the eye from her position and thrust her hips very firmly against Jamie’s own throbbing cock stand. “That!”

“Eh?” biting back a smile that curled the corners of his lips Jamie lifted one brow and peered back at her, thoroughly enjoying their negotiations.

Jamie rolled to his side easing his weight off her and lifted up resting his head on his palm as he looked down at her. He pinioned her to him with his leg wrapped firmly over her thighs keeping her snug against him.

In response Claire shifted to her side to face him and she wrapped her leg around his, securing him to her as well and he couldn’t help but smile. She reached out tracing the contours of his arm, lazily stroking him, feeling the warmth of his skin under her fingers, the changes between bone and muscle that rippled over it, settling on his hip as they moved against her and she pulled at him encouraging him to meet hers.

“So, if I were to give ye a wee keek at my cock, ye would agree to marry me?” Jamie gave her a smile of challenge.

If I were to agree to marry you, …I think I’d want more than a little look see. And don’t you think we should consider, you know if our expectations… if we’re compatible, …I mean, beyond this? The…wanting?”

“What d’ye have in mind?” Jamie felt Claire had all but acquiesced and she was beginning in earnest to open to him. He had brought her around to this point but going forward it would need to be her choice and she needed to know he respected that. He wanted her whole-hearted acceptance of him.

“You say you’re old fashioned, but I can be terribly stubborn and opinionated and if you’re expecting meek and obedient, I’m not the wife you’re looking for.”

“I dinna think anyone would ever mistake ye for being meek, as for obedient,…” Jamie reached out and slowly traced her clavicle with one finger, his eyes closely following the trail as he spoke. “Ye mean if I were to order ye to our bedroom to remove yer clothing so that I may worship yer body and serve ye,” Jamie lifted his eyes to meet hers, “will ye no listen to me?”

Claire gaped at Jamie, her mouth opening and closing a couple of times as a blush crept up her neck and then she narrowed her eyes at him. “And if I were to order you to do the same?”

Jamie grinned at her and rolled to his back with his arms spread out opening himself to her, a true supplicant. “Yer servant, ma’am,” before he rolled back and rose above her, “always,” he bopped the tip of her nose with his fingertip.

Then his tone became more serious as he spoke, “Claire I will no ask anything of ye that ye’re no ready to share. We both have things we canna tell each other, yet. I respect that ye will when ye can and I want ye to trust me that I will as well. Right now, we must agree that there is room for secrets, but no for lies. Aye?”

“Secrets, but no lies,” she agreed, “and you’ll be honest with me and trust that I can handle the truth, even if you think it might hurt me?”

“Sassenach,” Jamie lowered himself and slid his arm under her and pulled her close so they were now face to face, “I would do anything to protect ye, that means yer body as well as yer heart. I ken ye’re a strong woman and perhaps dinna ye need me as I need ye, but I promise to offer ye what strength I have if only to hold ye in my arms when ye need caring for.”

Claire felt tears threatening with Jamie’s avowal and her voice became raspy as she fought to hold them back. “Will you be faithful to me alone? Let no one else come between us?”

Jamie’s heart juddered with the implication of her words. Frank?  There’d been no insinuation of such from either of them, but still he felt the pain.

“Aye, there’s only you, Claire,” and he pulled her closer and pressed his lips to hers. “I promise.” He moved against her feeling the ache, his need for her deep in his bawls and felt himself giving over to that desire.

Claire pulled back taking a deep breath, “I intend to keep working as a doctor. It’s something I feel very strongly about.”

“Aye, ye should. Ye have a gift that needs to be shared.” Jamie’s hands had again started caressing and exploring any of her limbs that he could reach. He felt a deep throb in his cock and his hips pressed forward against her, his hands pulling her tight, and loosed a groan against her lips, Sassenach, I need ye.

“Independent…financial...Aaaah, Jamie, don’t want… thinking …married you for your money!” Jamie’s lips had found their way back to the juncture of her neck and shoulder and Claire felt him marking her again and then he pulled away.

“Yes, anything, I dinna care.” Jamie shifted lower leaving a trail of soft kisses moving his attention to her breasts, taking one in his mouth through the fabric and suckled there as the fabric became wet while his other hand massaged the free breast, finally slipping under the hem of her shirt and coming into contact with her velvety bare skin rubbing the hardened cherry of her nipple with his thumb, her breath catching in gasps.

“Fuck, Jamie,” she breathed out as her body lurched against him trying to sit up, pulling at her shirt, wanting nothing between and finding a pair of eager hands helping to pull the garment over her head and off before falling back into the mound of pillows.

Jamie’d risen to his knees and looked down at her amid the crumpled linens and took in the sight of her all but bared to him, exposing her taut lean belly, the hollows at her hipbones just above her panties, the shadow of her thatch covered mound pressing through the lace. He reached out and tentatively cupped one of her breasts in his hand where it fit perfectly and thumbed the hardened dusky rose nipple.

All the emotions, the love he’d ever felt for this woman choked him making him barely able to speak. “Christ, ye’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen.”

Claire felt the bed shift as Jamie dropped back down between her legs and then it was the warm wet heat of his mouth as he latched onto her breast, his tongue swirling against her nipple as he pulled her deeper into his mouth and she lost herself in his touch but needing more. She held his head against her breast as he laved attention on one and then the other, kneading the one that he wasn’t suckling. Feeling warm moisture between legs, she took his hand and guided it lower.

Jamie smiled as it rested on her Venus mound and pressed his palm against it as his fingers trailed lower feeling her wetness seeping through the film of her panties as he pressed his finger harder against her core. The wee sounds of her pleasure escaping her were driving him to distraction. Her hips rose pressing hard against his fingers and laid her free hand on top of his pressing his fingers into her. He could feel her building tension, her need for release and wanted to give it to her, and God he wanted to share it with her.

He lifted his head to look at her, “Bairns, I want to have a house full of beautiful bairns wi’ ye. As many as ye’ll gi’ me,” as he moved his mouth to her other breast. He exalted in feeling her skin pucker under his touch and she pressed her breast against him while his fingers continued massaging her lower.

“Children?” The daze that she’d found herself lost to was pricked. Jamie heard her concern before she finally continued. “I’ve never really been around babies or children. I’m not sure how good a mother I’d be. The idea sort of scares me,” Jamie felt her body stilling and shifted his body away from her as he moved his hand to gently rub circles above her womb as though making silent wishes and placed a gentle kiss there before he raised up and looked into her eyes.

When he could speak Jamie’s, voice was little more than a husky whisper, “I think ye’d be a natural mother, Claire, and what ye dinna ken, we’ll learn together,” and bent down to place another kiss there before returning to her mouth.

So close he’d been, he could smell her need and his mouth watered wanting to taste her and his cock throbbing with need of her.

Claire heard his assurances and knew how important family was to this man. It was something she’d not considered possible before and had let go of that dream, but with Jamie, it was a different story, and different life with different possibilities to consider. “I think I’d like to have children…with you.” Claire resumed moving her hips against his and nipped at his neck to make clear her meaning.

“Marry me, …please.”

He slipped his hand beneath the lace of her panties, her slickness making him groan and pressed a finger against her core. He opened his mouth to her thrusting his tongue into hers as he pushed into her and felt the pulse as her tremors released, swallowing the wee sounds she made as she came.

Claire had felt the tension building within her and had turned and grasped Jamie with both hands as her breaths came in quick shallow pants and hitches at the sudden release of the shudders that shot through her as she came hard against his hand. Jamie cuddled her against him whispering non-sensical words into her hair as he kept his hand moving slowly as she continued to move against it while she was calming until there was only the occasional spasm that rocked her. as she trembled against him.

Claire looked into Jamie’s azure eyes seeing a devotion there she wasn’t sure she yet deserved but secure that he was a man she could trust, and she was truly smitten if not in love with him – yet, but as quickly and unexpectedly as it had come about she knew, this was right.

Claire slowly nodded her head in acceptance not taking her eyes from his.

“Would ye please say the words? I need to hear them from yer lips.”

She had to moisten her lips and force a swallow before she could speak the words that will change her life. As sure as she is, they still only come out in a whisper. “Yes Jamie, I’ll marry you.”



The elation that whipped through Jamie drove him into Claire’s arms, pulling her as tight to him as he could manage feeling her own tightening around him as well and kissing her and smiling and bumping teeth in a shared exhilaration.

My wife.” He said it with such tenderness, Claire was nearly brought to tears. “Ye dinna ken how happy ye’ve made me, mo nighean donn,” as he pulled her close and smiled, the tension released.

“Well we shall have to see about how happy you’ll make me,” as she nipped his bottom lip teasing him. Her quivering had barely subsided, before she was moaning to him, “Again, please, I want to feel that again”’ and pressing her mouth against his.

Jamie groaned into her mouth and then smiled at her request, “Aye, I’ll help ye get there again, but wait for me this time?” He rose up over her supporting himself with one arm as he reached for the fastenings on his britches, his struggles were pushed aside by a pair of hands. He sank back onto his knees sitting on his feet as Claire sat up and took up the task, but raised himself up as though standing, presenting himself to her.

“Christ Claire.” He looked down and swallowed hard when he met her eyes as her hands reached for and adeptly loosened the button and slid the zipper open and helped push his pants past his hips. His crimson tipped, deep rose-hued cock was hardened flush against his belly.

Claire’s eyes dropped away from Jamie’s as she was presented with his cock inches from her face. Her eyes widened as she took in his size and smiled to herself, “Oh my.”

She felt Jamie’s hand under her chin as he tilted her face up and smiled down at her with a gleam in his eye, “Aye, all yers.”

Claire reached up, her fingers trembling and stopped. She looked back up at him, “May I?”

“I wish ye would.”

She reached out running her finger through the moisture that was seeping from his tip and traced the primary blue vein that ran the length of him. Her touch sent a jolt through him and Jamie had thrown his head back and groaned as his hands grasped the bed’s headboard and hips bucked forward, knocking into Claire.

“Christ, I’m sorry!”

Claire looked up at him giggling, “Don’t be,” and turned her attention back to Jamie’s very impressive cock and licked her lips. “You must be Wee Jamie, I’m so happy to meet you.” Claire bent forward and placed a quick peck on his head.

“Too forward?” she looked up seeing Jamie’s eyes closed, his lips were moving but could make out no words. “Perhaps a handshake?” she reached up more surely this time and wrapped her fingers around him.

Jamie groaned at the tender touch of Claire’s heated fingers and fervently sent up prayers that he would not embarrass himself as he gasped and held his breath.

Claire gently took Jamie’s heated shaft in hand and stroked the length of it. The softness of his skin was like silk and veins ridged his length. She held him a bit more firmly and pumped his shaft, testing her hold on him, as she ran a hand up the back of his thigh and held him. She could hear the increase in his breathing as he pressed a bit closer.

Jamie’s shaking hand came around hers and stopped her. “Am I not touching you the way you like? Will you show me?”

“Ye’re doin’ just fine. Claire, lie down.” His brogue had become very deep, as he ran his fingers through her hair and stroked her cheek and then kissed it. The blue of his eyes had almost been completely eclipsed by his pupils.

She scooted back down as Jamie lowered himself between her legs, feeling him pressing against her belly and then a burst of activity suddenly broke out lower on the bed accompanied by muttered curses as she realized Jamie was struggling to kick his legs free of his britches which thunked off the bed onto the floor in a heap.

She giggled again when she realized what he’d been doing, and he grinned at her. “Canna properly serve ye with those hobbling me, and I think we should lose this bit of lace for ye as well,” and he started to pull down on her panties.

“Jamie, wait.” Claire’s hand stilled his efforts this time and he looked at her in confusion.

“Is this no what ye wanted?”

“Yes, very much, but do you have a condom?”

A blank look suffused his face, before registering, “Condom? Fuck, no; do ye?”

Claire shook her head biting back the smile that was threatening, “So you’re not a boy scout? Come prepared?”

“No Claire, I didna come to ye today expecting to be bedding ye, and aside from no being prepared, I assure ye I’m no boy scout, but I am a man of my word.”

“I’m sure you are, but Jamie, maybe this is for the best. I heard what you said, earlier. I don’t want to spoil that for you. We can wait until we get married. We don’t need to consummate this relationship right now.”

“The fuck ye say! Claire, I’m about to burst with the need for ye.” Jamie had risen up on his hands looking at Claire with a pained expression pressing his hips into hers confirming his declaration.

“Well I’m not going to leave you with a case of blue balls,” she reached down between them as she responded to his hips pressing back. “Let me take care of you.”

“Ye’re killing me Claire,” and he rolled off her. She took his hand and guided it between her legs and stroked her wetness there and then took him in hand again, as she felt him begin stroking her sex. He huffed ragged gasps and moaned as her fingers explored his sensitive nerves as she stroked his shaft, never before had she experienced the like of him.

And they began a slow dance moving their bodies in a rhythmic unison. This time Jamie worked her panties down to explore and massage her bared folds and rub the little nub of her clit. “God, ye’re so slick,” he tentatively probed her slit with his finger but held back penetrating her, he wanted to take her so badly to sink his cock into her, feel her come on him.

“Soon,” she whispered to him as she explored the feel and shape of him, listened to how his breathing changed as she stroked him, the growls of approval.

Claire’s breaths quickened and small squeaks eked out as his touch became more forceful and she as neared a new climax calling his name. “Jamie, please.” Claire pressed her slit against his fingers and he pressed one home and her quaking flesh responded to his touch. “Soon.”

“Soon?” What does she mean soon? He would not have this end, this exquisite torment end anytime soon if he could help it. “Ah God, Claire, no now, no too soon, please.” Jamie was losing himself in her touch and the feel of her in his hands.

“How soon can we be married?” Ah…

He felt the tightening of his bawls and knew he’d be coming in moments. “I canna…” as he spilled his warm seed into her hand and across her belly as she gently held him until his spasms subsided. He rested his forehead against hers and then flopped onto his back. When he could, opened his eyes to see hers still closed as she came back slowly her face relaxing into a contented repose and finally her eyes opening seeking his and a small smile beginning.

They lay in each other’s arms as they slowly came to themselves and turned to face each other. Shared smiles grew and spread across their faces.

Claire captured Jamie’s eyes now running her finger through his cooling silvery thick cum that pooled on her stomach and repeated, “How soon?” as she lifted her finger to her mouth slowly put out her tongue and licked his seed off the tip of her finger and lifted her brow. “Mmm? If we’re not going to fuck before we’re married, it needs to be soon - verra soon.”

“Oh God, as soon as can be arranged.” And rolled back on top of her pressing her down with his full weight. Taking her lips with his, finding her mouth open to him, tasting his musk on her tongue. His cock had a mind of its own and was throbbing back to life ready for the second coming and pressed against her seeking home.

He rolled off of her despite her grasping hands and growled as lust surged through him before he turned and headed for the bath with his cock already roused past half-mast.

Claire had rolled onto her side and watched him depart admiring his beautiful sculpted body, the long lean torso and neat firm buttocks atop a pair of beautiful legs. God is he really to be mine? My husband?! And then laughed as a very un-Jamie like squeak followed by a very loud “IFRINN!” came from the bath as Jamie suffered what was going to become his regular routine of cold showers for the foreseeable future.

Chapter Text



She’d wandered out of the dreamscape that had formerly been her bedroom leaving Jamie still in the shower evidently attempting to drain the Leith of its Water. Sitting cross-legged on her couch Claire huddled up in her robe staring unfocused into space trying to come to terms with what had or hadn’t just happened but even more importantly …trying to reconcile what had led her to this moment.

Something had shifted, settled within her and it all turned on the moment she’d met Jamie. Introspection was not an activity she frequently indulged, but she thought she knew herself pretty well; she’d always been confident, capable, action oriented – of course she’d been pretty on track with that today, but this was different, it touched facets she’d never experienced.

Never have I ever felt so … brazen, daring, …content…possessive…NEEDY. Claire owned that her emotions were all over the place, then smiled just for herself at the rare mix of feelings. She bent over, reaching to place the empty water glass on the table and caught a whiff of the redolent scent of Jamie’s seed mixed with her own. She’d need to shower but not yet. She picked up the edges of the robe’s collar and folded them over her nose and took a deep breath memorizing their unique scent, and then took another.

Jamie stood in the shadows at the corner of the hall opening into the lounge area and just watched Claire across the room hoping she’d notice him, but she was slowly disappearing into the folds of her robe. He could only see evidence of her from her closed eyes to the top of her mass of curls.

She’d missed his footsteps as they approached until Jamie was standing just in front of her wrapped in a towel rubbing his head with another and grinning down at her. He reached out pulling at one of her wild tendrils and twirled it around his finger, finally catching her attention. Claire looked up at him and she let loose the robe’s collar and gave Jamie a shy smile as her heartrate picked up.  

He wondered if she knew just how beautiful she looked with her hair gone wild, her skin blushed all pink and the smile her amber eyes reflected as she had peeked out from the yards of fabric she was buried in. He leaned over gripping the back of the sofa as he did and gave Claire a lingering kiss. “There ye are,” as he fingered her oversized robe. “Ye look as if ye’d been swallowed by a Yeti.” He plopped down into the corner of the couch facing her with one leg up on the seat cushion, “have ye got room in there for me?”

Claire shook her head rubbing the plush material covering her knees and smiled at him, “It’s cozy and keeps me warm.”

“Come here.” He reached over and pulled her into his lap with her back against his front and wrapped his arms around her, “I’m cozy and I’ll keep ye warm, ye can wear me.”

Claire chuckled as she imagined the pair of them lumbering through her apartment with him latched to her back and felt a wave of heat rush through her. “I’m sure you’d keep me very warm, but it’d be a bit hard hoovering while lugging you around on my back.”

“Well the offer stands should ye ever need warming,” he leaned over and pulled the collar away from her neck and planted a kiss there and took a deep breath. “We smell good together, Sassenach.”

“Hmm mmh, we do,” she laughed softly though a bit embarrassed thinking never would she ever had expected to have this conversation with anyone as she settled back fitting into his chest. Claire wrapped her hand around Jamie’s bared knee and then began running her fingers through the fine dark bronze hair atop his thigh and watched as goosebumps formed in her wake. She felt his right-hand slip into the opening of her robe and gently take possession of and fondle her breast as his other arm tightened and secured her around her waist. Neither spoke as their thoughts wrapped around them and Claire finally felt her last bit of tension let go and she relaxed fully back into Jamie and felt his lips press into her hair and heard the slight humm of his contentment.

“Jamie,” she paused her fingers stroking his leg, reluctant to disturb their peace but needed to confirm as she stammered, “Did I, did we? . . . are we really getting married?”

“Och, aye, ye did agree Sassenach and we are most definitely getting marrit. I’ll no let you back out now. We settled and agreed on the major point and ye did fine negotiating yer terms and I’ll hold ye to em.” She could almost feel his smile as he kissed her on her temple. “There may be a few more details to be considered and agreed upon that I shouldha mentioned that I would like.”

“Oh, trying to change the terms on me? Does that void the agreement then?”

“Nay, just a few clarifications. If there’s something that comes to mind or questions ye’d like to ask, just say.”

Aside from the big one?  but she stopped herself. “So what clarifications is it that you have in mind?”

“I’d like to make the arrangements for our wedding, if ye’d allow me the honor. There’s an old kirk on the Lallybroch estate where I would like to have our wedding. It’s a beautiful old place only used for the occasional family wedding and funeral. It’s no verra large but will accommodate our needs well.”

“If that’s what you want, fine with me. The truth is I’m still trying to wrap my head around this. It’s certainly not what I expected when I woke up this morning, much less plan a wedding.”

“So just when do you think we should do this?”

“Next weekend should do fine,” Jamie lifted the edge of her robe peeking at the curve of her breast and smiled. “Maybe...”

What!?  I know I said soon, but that soon ?”

“An’ I said as soon as can be arranged. We could go to the Registry tomorrow, or if ye prefer, Gretna Green.”

Jamie saw a flash of hurt cross Claire’s face and her physical withdrawal at his bungled reference. He gently pulled her back holding her close with his eyes as he cupped her face with his hands. “I’m sorry, I dinna mean to diminish yer wedding to Frank, it was no what I intended.”

“It’s just that I dinna want to wait to be marrit to ye and I thought we could have something different, something of our own, having it at Lallybroch.”

Claire felt the sincerity of his apology, it was a misstep, but one that could be forgiven. “Alright, but your family,…are they going to be upset by this, by me? Pretty damn quick, I’d say.”

Jamie gave her a mischievous smile and leaned in to give her a quick kiss. “No, they’ll be fine with it."

“…And ye should ken how much I hate cold showers.”

Claire giggled at this, “Well you fooled me, you took long enough.”

“Ye shouldna have come in wearing nothin’ and perform tha lil’ pirouette for me. Cost me at least an extra twenty minutes in the cold. I thought my cock was going to snap off.”

She snuggled into his chest, “Can’t have that happening, I’ll behave. So what else, tell me more about what you’re thinking.”

“It can be as private as ye like, but if ye wouldna mind, could we have some family and a few friends as witness to our marriage?”

“Of course, Jamie, if that’s what you really want. I only have a few that I would even consider inviting.” Four, well that’s four more than last time.

“It is. I have a close friend, Brother Anselm, who would perform our wedding ceremony should I ask him.”

“Brother…he’s Catholic then? Will he? I mean since I’ve been divorced, and I didn’t get an annulment? Won’t that be a problem for you with the church?”

“Claire, I hold my faith close, but it’s private between me and God. I said I would marry ye before God. It’s no about the church, but my faith in Him and gratitude. If it’s only before Him and no one else, I would pledge my vow to you. Anselm kens me well and he’s the most faithful man I ken; he understands this.”

“Well if you think it can be done, I’m sure it will be just lovely Jamie and I like the idea of keeping it small.”

“I’m sure my family would like to host a reception for us at some time afterwards. I’m afraid it would probably rival a Hogmanay party if Jenny has her way.”

“Hogmanay?”

“That’s our big celebration at New Years, usually our biggest for the year, but no this year. I canna wait to introduce ye as my wife.” Claire could hear a little boy’s excitement leaking through in his explanation of the holiday and smiled in acceptance.

“Alright then, if that’s something you would like, then it would be fine with me. There is something you should understand. I’ve always had to be pretty independent and it’s clear how much your family means to you… I’ve never been around a lot of family, Jamie. . .and I’m not sure how I’d do with a lot of …meddling.”

“My folks are na ones to push their way in, they willna be poppin’ up on our doorstep. I wish I could say the same for Jenny, but we’ll have our home here and only go to Lallybroch when ye want.”

My family will love ye as I do. The truth is if nothing else they are grateful that ye’ve been found and I’m whole. They’ve been helping me search for ye for the longest time. I told ye last night I’d been carrying ye in my heart for so long, ye’re the part of me that’s been missing, and I can feel it healed.”

Claire’s own heart hitched at hearing what Jamie’d said. He loves me. He said it. Does he know or did it just slip out? She wasn’t ready to admit it to herself, much less him, so she wouldn’t ask him.

“I ken I owe ye more than that and I will tell ye, but no just yet, we have time.”

Okay, his secrets, trust.  “When you’re ready.

“Then tell me, what about Fergus? How is he going to feel about me suddenly breaking into what you’re building with him? How do you want me to fit into that?”

Jamie laid his head back on the couch and closed his eyes in thought for a few moments before he spoke. “Ah yes, I suppose there is fantasy and reality.” Jamie opened his eyes and adjusted her so he could look into Claire’s and held her more tightly, “and the leap of faith from one to the other. I’ve been looking for ye for so long Claire, but I found Fergus first. I dinna make vows lightly, but I vowed to care for him, to give him the love and family and security a child deserves. I canna turn my back on that pledge.”

There it was again, but she wouldn’t push him on it now. “I would never ask you to do that.” Claire reached up and brushed aside some hair that had fallen across Jamie’s brow as it dried and laid her hand on his cheek as she looked at him before leaning in and placing a tender kiss on his lips. You’re a wonderful man, James Fraser.

“I had my uncle to take me in and I have been grateful to him every day of my life. He certainly wasn’t prepared for the likes of me. He’d thought to send me to a proper boarding school, but I would have none of it. I’d been left behind by my parents and I was determined I would never be left again. And so he hauled me around with him from here to yon and back again, but everywhere we landed he relied on help for the care of me, especially when I was younger and I think I’m the better for it. So, we’re building our own family and have a head start.”

“Then ye would consider being his mam when the adoption is completed?”

“Would he accept me as his mother?”

“Aye, I think so.” Jamie grinned at her, “He’s already claiming credit for finding ye and I ken he would love to be a big brother, that’s why he spends time with his cousins at Lallybroch while I’m traveling.” And then his mood shifted, “Sassenach, he’s but a wee lad and he already kens how to survive, I want him to know what it is to live beyond that. To have a family he can depend on and depends on him, to get an education and ken he has choices to make. His tutors think he will be ready to enter the local school after the holiday break. Things have been a bit unsettled, but I want him to start making local friends and maybe try some sports if he’s interested, just be a child.”

As Jamie laid out his wishes for Fergus, Claire felt her nose twitching, her signal that tears were close behind if she didn’t act quickly. “I can’t imagine a better father for Fergus, or any child, Jamie; you’re a good man, you’ve got a big heart. But I’m not sure what I could contribute.”

“I meant what I said, ye’ve a tenderness about ye that a child needs and ye remember what it is that ye missed from having yer mam with ye.” Claire was nodding at this particular last comment.

“I sometimes woke in the night wanting her, but she wasn’t there. Lamb was, but it wasn’t really the same.”

“Aye, Fergus sometimes has the bad dreams and I comfort him, and he welcomes it, but I ken the difference between my mam and my da and ye understand it too.”

Claire did understand probably all too well but didn’t know if that qualified her for the role. She was worried If she fell short, disappointed Fergus, it would be worse than if she’d never been there.

“Dinna fash, it’s new territory for all of us. We’ll find our way together.”

A yawn escaped before she could clamp it down, “Sorry, …I need to close my eyes for just a minute, would you mind? maybe a little nap, but don’t let me sleep for long. Hmmm?”

“Close yer eyes, Sassenach. I’ll keep ye safe,” and kissed her on the temple, and wrapped her securely in his arms as a contentment enveloped him.

Jamie felt the exhaustions of the early morning and long day creeping up on him as he held Claire in his arms. They both needed more room and rest than he felt the sofa offered, so he eased out from under her, rose and lifted her gently and carried her to her bed.

She never woke as he rearranged the bedding to cover her and then eased down to lay next to her. He was determined to avoid further temptation by sleeping on top of the covers, but he too needed to close his eyes. He smiled as she rolled and turned into him reaching across his chest and holding him to her. He closed his eyes and slipped into his own deep sleep.

Chapter Text



God, why’s it so hot?  Damp hair clung to Claire's temples and the back of her neck as she struggled to sit up surprised to find herself in her bed wearing her robe. Pulling it off, she tossed it onto the floor, feeling immediate relief as the cool air hit her clammy skin. She collapsed back into her pillows, and turning onto her side, pulled a sheet up to lightly cover her and was gone in moments.

It could have been hours later, she hadn’t noticed the time, but she was roused during the night once again feeling the presence that had been haunting her dreams moving against her. Her heart began racing with the awareness as it did each time, but she willed herself to not move as she felt a hand stroking her arm before settling into an embrace pulling her close. Through the haze of an interrupted sleep she became aware. No, this is real, it’s just Jamie, my Jamie.  His warmth, his breath in her hair as he snuggled against her, was real. This was right as it was supposed to be and she settled back into contented sleep.



Food! The scent of fresh coffee and something else she couldn’t identify pulled her awake and the memories of a warm body cuddling her through the night pulled her out of bed. She picked up her robe and pulled it on as she shuffled toward the kitchen.

She rounded the corner and just stood there for a moment watching the ease with which Jamie moved in her small kitchen. He had pulled on his leather pants but was bare from the waist up as he tended a pan on the stove with something that smelled wonderful. Without turning around, he called over his shoulder, “Good morning, Sassenach. I was afraid the growling from my stomach would wake ye. It’s been some time since I went to bed wi’ no dinner, but I had much better things on my mind yesterday,” and gave a low chuckle as he pushed the pan off burner and turned toward her. She thought her heart would stop with his smile. It wasn’t a dream. She stepped toward him as he came to her and swooped her into his embrace and kiss. “Ye look beautiful,” as he beamed down at her and tried to tuck some fly away hairs behind her ears.  

She blushed with a bit of satisfaction when she noticed that he bore a fresh bruise on his shoulder, proof evidence of their afternoon in bed. “Are ye starving? We need to get ye some groceries in, but I’ve scrounged up a bit of breakfast, it’ll be ready in a few minutes. Here’s a cup of coffee to get ye started.”

Eyebrow raised in question as she took a sip of the hot beverage, knowing she had no coffee. “Murtagh,” he offered the one-word explanation.

Claire turned and made for the bath, coffee in hand. Did we just have a conversation without my uttering a word?  Turning on the light she saw she looked like a dandelion at full seed. “Oh God,”  leaning closer to the mirror a groan escaped as she examined her own neck with fresh love bites, “Fraser!” and heard rumbling laughter coming from the kitchen.

Freshly showered, hair tamed in a messy bun, dressed in a high necked tee under her scrubs, Claire returned ten minutes later, ready to face a day at the hospital, back to reality, but this time she walked into the kitchen and straight to Jamie who’d been leaning against the counter drinking his coffee and wound her arm around his neck and gave him her own thorough good morning wake up kiss, pressing herself close. “Good morning, Jamie.” They stood wrapped in the comfort of each other until her stomach growled interrupting the moment.

“Here ye go,” Jamie pulled a couple of plates being kept warm from the oven and set them on the table.

“Yum, Jamie, you made a frittata, it smells delicious," Claire looked down at the offering in front of her as she picked up her fork. "You were really able to make this with stuff in my fridge? I'm impressed. You should know I’m not much of a cook. I guess I should have disclosed that bit yesterday,” and she looked at him a bit sheepishly as she dove into her breakfast, admiring her shirtless breakfast companion.

“Dinna fash, mo leannan; I like to eat so Mam insisted I learn to cook and if I were to have a wife, I needed to learn to care for her as well as myself, we’ll no starve,” he gave her one of his owlish winks and a laugh bubbled up in her chest.

“Well thanks be for an enlightened mother! Lamb fell a bit short with my domestic training, I’m afraid. I hope your mother won’t be disappointed with me.”

Jamie reached over and took her free hand in his, “Aye, well she’ll appreciate yer sentiment, but Sassenach, I dinna want ye worryin’ about disappointing my mam or anyone else. It’s what’s between the two of us that matters, and I’m no disappointed, are ye with me?"

Claire smiled and shook her head and admitted to herself, so far he was just about perfect. "Well check back with me in twenty years."

Jamie returned the smile, squeezing her hand gently and entwined their fingers as he spoke, "I ken this is perhaps all happening faster than ye expected but to be honest, I’m grateful for it. I dinna believe if we waited another six months, a year or even two would I be any more certain of wanting to be marrit to ye and I dinna want to wait to start sharing a life with ye. And just because it's soon, I dinna intend the courting of ye to end with our wedding; we’ll have lifetime of learning what pleases each other.”

Claire felt a heat rising through her as Jamie spoke with such conviction, she could not help but believe in him and sighed with gratitude for this man that had, so it seemed, magically appeared in her life.

"As for the next twenty years, Sassenach, ...I’m no so naïve as to believe that hurtful words will never be said between us, whether intentional or no in the heat of a moment when we disagree on a matter, or just because I'm an idiot and I step in it, but when I do I will ask yer forgiveness and hope that ye give it."

When Jamie spoke as he was, Claire realized how young, but incredibly wise he was – far beyond his years and was awed by his perception. "I'll try too," she spoke softly, blinking back tears.

"Ye need to eat up," Jamie urged her and they resumed eating in companionable silence, each with their thoughts until Claire spoke.

“So, it’s back to the real world for us, Jamie. I guess there’s a lot of stuff we really need to talk about. What’s your day going to be like today? Do you want to come over later?”

“Aye, we do.” Jamie gave her a wary look and nervously tapped his fingers on the table.

“What?! After all that? Just say it.”

“I want ye to meet my family tonight. I want ye beside me when I tell them ye agreed to marry me.”

“Your family? Aren’t they up north?”

“Weel, no.” Jamie looked a bit sheepish and gave his meal undue attention before she reached over and poked his arm. “When Jenny was sure who ye were the other day, even before we’d met, she called Ian who told my mam and da and they all came down to The Gathering, they wanted to see ye for themselves.”

“And you knew! Wot? were they spying on us! Did they see us in the garden?! Oh God, I don’t think I can look them in the face…” Thinking about the interlude in the ruins, she dropped her fork to her plate unable to finish and she blushed to the roots of her hair.

“NO! I’d no idea they were coming until they walked in.” Jamie waved his hands in denial a look of astonishment on his face. “I did ask Jenny to stay away from ye though at the party. She can be very pushy, I told ye, and I just wanted to have time wi’ ye for myself. But afterwards, I did tell them I intended to court ye and they’re verra happy. Mam insists she won’t go back to Lallybroch until she’s met my future bride.”

“She said that?”

“Aye, for good or naught, we Frasers can be stubborn as rocks and when ye get a room full, there can be a good deal of head knocking. I love ‘em but I want my house back and if they’re back home, they can take care of some of the wedding plans. If we’re to get marrit in a week, then I need for ye to meet.”

“Jamie, we can postpone it a while if…”

“Absolutely no! Claire, I meant what I said and I dinna ken if I can tell ye how it was having ye lying next to me last night, so close and wanting to take ye into my arms and love ye, especially after I came back from taking a piss and ye were laying there starkers. I dinna want to wait any longer than we must.”

Claire looked at Jamie intently giving him a gimlet eye. “Marriage first…, if you’d like to reconsider…?”

“I appreciate that ye were stronger than I was and willing to respect my wish; we, I managed – barely, but marriage first. Now that I ken it’s only a week, I’ll bide.” Jamie gave her what she was soon to realize was his stubborn, “not gonna give on this” look.

“Hmmm …No?” Claire paused considering her response, “Well I guess I’m going to meet the parents. Jamie, I’ll have to check my surgery schedule and make sure I won’t be off too late especially as I was unexpectedly off yesterday,” she smiled, “I’ll call you as soon as I know, okay? Wait, I don’t even know your number!”

Jamie handed her phone over with a shrug and a bashful smile, “It’s in there now.” He took her hand and pulled her from her seat to sit in his lap. He reached up fingering the neckline of her tee and a slight furrow between his brows as he examined it before looking at her. “Would ye be wearing this trying to hide those wee love bites I gave ye?”

Claire’s eyes twinkled as she tried to hold back her smile as she fingered her mark on Jamie’s shoulder, “Wee love bites? I hardly think I can go in sporting a couple of hickies after being out yesterday, not very professional, and I really don’t like being gossiped about.”

“Well I can fix it so no one even notices these if that’s what ye wish,” and he bent forward to place tender kisses where he pulled the collar back a bit, “though I’d intended for those doctors ye work with to ken ye’re taken.”

Claire laughed, “So you’ve come up with a cure for the common hickie, Dr. Fraser?”

Jamie assumed a serious demeanor as he proffered, “Well I’ll no say it’s a cure, I think more research will be required for that and ye can be my assistant, but a solution for this particular situation. Here, let me show ye, Sassenach.”

With a suddenness that took her by surprise, Claire felt Jamie’s mouth open wide and latch high upon her neck and momentarily gave into the sensation of his lips on her, tongue licking at her, “STOP! Stop!” she’s off his lap and doing her best to back away as she starts laughing without wanting to, but Jamie’s hand holds her firmly in place until he suddenly releases her.

Her hand flies to the wet spot his mouth has just been, “That’s your solution? Give me a giant hickie that I can’t possible cover without a scarf? I can’t operate like that,” she was now getting mad, “What were you thinking?”

“Sassenach, no one will even notice the bitty bites with that one now,” Jamie laughed and pulled her back onto his lap as she gave up her feeble struggles. “Truth is I didna even suck on yer neck, there’ll be no mark, though I wish everyone to ken yer mine.” He took up her hand and rubbed his thumb across her ring finger, before looking at her. “I suppose a ring would be a better solution, ...will ye wear it?”

She ducked her head and rested her forehead against Jamie’s, “You don’t need to do that, I can’t wear it while I operate, but thank you.”

“I ken I dinna have to, but would ye wear it when ye could?”

Claire felt tears threatening as she nodded, “Yes Jamie, I’ll wear it.”

Jamie pressed his lips to her finger, his own voice quivering slightly as he spoke, “Mo nighen donn, I am so verra happy, thank you. My heart feels near to bursting,” and proceeded to give her a very thorough kiss until they were both gasping for air. “I canna wait. This will be the longest week of my life. And if I dinna finish dressing now, I’ll have a verra difficult time walkin’ away from ye.”

Claire rose up gaining her feet as she wobbled a bit and steadied herself holding to the edge of the table, “It’s alright Jamie, I need to be leaving soon too.”

“Do ye remember Murtagh, Sassenach?” Jamie looked at her as he finished pulling on his boots and stood pulling his jumper on quickly over his head then combing his fingers roughly through his hair before grabbing his jacket as he continued, “He’ll be waiting on ye downstairs to see ye to work unless ye want a ride wi’ me,” lifting his brow in invitation.

“How can you look so ridiculously good getting dressed in the kitchen?” she admired his skill, as she gathered up their breakfast cups and plates and placed them in the sink. “But no thank you to the ride, I prefer to walk, and Murtagh must have better things to do than babysit me, that’s not necessary. I’m a grown woman and can mind myself.”

“Claire, I’ve no forgotten what ye said, about the dangers ye feel. And to be truthful I have my own concerns. When it comes out that we are getting marrit, I’m afraid ye’ll be subjected to unwanted scrutiny and after that kiss by the door at The Gathering, ye can be sure it’s public knowledge if not speculation that we’re in some kind of relationship. Ye’re my responsibility and I’ll see to yer safety.”

He could see Claire working up a response and determined to forestall it. “I ken ye can take care of yerself, and we’ll come up wi’ something that satisfies ye, but for now I will feel better. And I’d like for the two of ye to ken each other; he’s family and verra important to me. Will ye accept that?”

Claire shrugged her acceptance, “Can he walk? Because that’s the only way this is happening.”

“Aye, he’s a great one for walking. He does the Munros when he can.”

“What’s a Munro?”

“Oh lass, ye’re going to be a Scot now, ye have so much to learn… and I’m going to have so much fun teaching ye.”

“Alright,” Claire conceded, “but I need to be leaving… now!” as looked at her watch and so they walked down together to find Murtagh waiting as promised.

“Sassenach,” Jamie pulled Claire into his arms and spoke to her quietly, “it’s hard to let ye go so soon, but I canna wait to introduce ye to my family. Dinna forget to call when ye get yer schedule, so I ken when to pick ye up.” And kissed her on her forehead before stepping back.

Claire and Murtagh watched Jaime mount his bike and pull away from the curb. “God, I hate motorcycles,” she muttered.

“Dinna fash yerself. Jamie is careful, but it gives him a sense of independence,” Murtagh responded to her worrisome comment and gave her a nod. “He’ll be fine.”

“Murtagh, it’s kind of you, but as I told Jamie, I really don’t need an escort. I’m fine on my own, been managing it for years now.”

He looked at her, started to say something and then she could see him change his mind. “So ye like to get a bit of air on your way to work, tha’s goot,” and he set off at a pace that had Claire hopping to keep up and forgetting her earlier objection.

“I do; it helps to calm me before I’m trapped inside for so long. It seems I’ve spent the better part of my life living in tents and I miss having open space just there.”

“Have ye spent any time in the Highlands then? The mountains, the moors will give ye plenty o open space if that’s what ye’re needin’.”

“It’s been quite a while, but yes, my family used to go to a place near Inverness when I was little. It was beautiful in the summer as I remember. It’s partly why, when I had a choice, I came here. Maybe Jamie and I can go there sometime.”

“Aye, I’m sure he’d like that. Inverness is no so far from Lallybroch.”

“So, you’ve known Jamie all his life? Is he as real as he seems?”

“Real? Och, real enough, I’d say. As a lad he was into all kinds of mischief and usually the ringleader. Stubborn. If he hasna told ye, all the Frasers are stubborn fools sometimes. I can see him now, standing his ground, staring me down wi’ those blue eyes of his, and wi’ his chin jutted out, just daring me to challenge him. Saw it just the other day. Keep your eye out and ye will too soon enough I’m sure. He had his arse skelped quite a few times “just for the principle of justice” as he’d claim. Ye’ll never want for a more loyal friend, or…a husband,” and he looked at her knowingly and gave her a wink. “He’s a braw lad and many a lass has had her eye on him, but tha’s no what he needs, no a lass that’ll be a lass when she’s fifty. He needs a woman that will be strong enough to stand wi’ him and even sometimes up to him. Ah, so here we be Claire,” as they arrived at the hospital entrance.

As engrossed as Claire had been in Murtagh’s description, she’d lost track of their progress. “Thank you, Murtagh. Thank you for sharing some of your Jamie.”

“Aye, weel, he’s a big fella, there will be a lot of him to share I imagine,” he chuckled. “Ye have a nice day, Claire. If ye need anything, anytime, ye can give me a call too.”

Chapter Text



Claire turned with a wave as she entered the hospital and found Joe was standing there as if cued.

Claire ducked her head and gave him a side eyed look beckoning him to follow as she passed by and he followed her in with only a quick look over his shoulder at Murtagh and smiled.

Claire said nothing as she led the way to her office but as soon as the door closed behind them, she was practically dancing, energy radiating off her in waves as she shrugged off her jacket and hung it up.

“By your looks I’d say you enjoyed your day off; spent the day in bed, get some rest?” Joe looked at her waiting for her to spill.

“You might say so,” trying her best to be coy and turning her back to play with some papers on her desk and avoid having her face give her away took her time drawing out her response. “Actually, I spent hours meandering the streets window shopping, walking through the gardens in the park, wasn’t it a lovely day? And then spent the rest of the day and night in bed – had the best sleep I’ve had in months!”

Of course, Joe jumped on the topic he wanted to hear about, “Bed, . . . alone?”

And Claire couldn’t help but laugh with excitement, “No, not alone… Joe! You are not going to believe me, will think I’ve gone absolutely mad, but I’m getting MARRIED!!” and she beamed.

“NO!! To that hairy Scot you were with outside?” Joe feigned his incredulity.

“Hmm?! …Him?! No, NO, to Jamie, Jamie Fraser!” and Joe marveled at the woman before him. She was alight as he had never seen her in all the years he’d known her.

“Well Lady Jane, that was quick work!” and he moved to embrace her in a big warm hug. “Claire, I’ve never seen you so happy, my best wishes to you and the lucky fellow. So, tell me…,” he prodded and sat waiting to hear her story.

Claire could not contain her nervous energy and paced the office as she spoke filling Joe on the details and omitting those private moments. “And he wants to get married as soon as possible, this next weekend if it can be arranged.”

For the first time Joe’s enthusiasm waned and concern tainted his question, “Don’t you think that’s a bit soon LJ?”

“Well, I may have had something to do with that,” she admitted looking back over her shoulder at Joe, a small smile curling her lips and felt the heat rising up for display on her cheeks as she recalled the play of her own persuasive hand in coming to that decision. She turned around fully facing Joe now, “The truth is…,” she started and then realized this was between her and Jamie, their moment, theirs alone. “I can’t tell you!”

The soft smile and glazed eyes as Claire was recalling something obviously private eased his conscience a bit, but he still needed to ask, “You’re not being forced into this are you, Claire?”

“No, absolutely not,” she scoffed and as she spoke the words a calm certainty settled on her. “Joe, I can’t explain, but trust me, it’s just right, I very much want this, I want him.” And for a second time in the space of minutes Joe witnessed the transformation of Claire from giddy schoolgirl to self-assured woman.

“I need to speak with Raymond and Frank and Gail, or you can tell Gail, I know you will anyway, but I need to speak with Raymond and Frank myself. I can’t tell anyone else yet. Jamie wants me to meet his family tonight so we can tell them together. Oh God, I’m nervous Joe. I’ve never felt like this before.

I know this seems rushed, but I have thought about it and I was hoping that you’d agree to be my Best Man. I can’t imagine anyone better to stand by my side. I will of course ask Gail to be my other attendant. I’m going to ask Raymond to stand in for Lamb and walk me down the aisle. I understand it’s a rather small church with a very short aisle. He’ll do.” And they both laughed.

Joe rose and put his arms around her and gave her a hug, “Ah, Claire, I’m happy for you. It will be my honor to stand by your side and catch you should you faint; just remember to breathe. But thank you.” Joe had been enjoying watching the shifting emotions play across Claire’s face as she spoke and the joy that was evident.

A sharp knock at the door interrupted her celebration. “Yes? Come in,” Claire called out and her surgical nurse opened the door. “Do ye want to review your schedule for today Ms. Beauchamp? Ye’ve the two planned on the boards and another possible later this afternoon. Her doctors are monitoring her, and indications are she’s improving but want ye available just in case.”

“Yes, of course, please, let me have the files,” and held her hand out. “Mr. McKimmee at 9:30? Everything well with him last night?” as she glanced at the file reviewing the morning’s notes. ‘I’ll be up and check in on him in 10 minutes and start scrubbing up. Oh, Mary, would you also get me the schedule for what we’re looking at for the week at this point when you get a chance? Thank you.” As Mary left, Claire turned to Joe. “And so, it begins” a bit ruefully.

“Claire, are you up for this today? I can cover for you later if you need,” Joe offered.

“Of course, I am, but thanks. Mr. McKimmee is pretty straight forward, a cholecystectomy. Mrs. Thomas has a tumor removal and bowel resection but of course once we get in there may be a bit more. Not sure about Mrs. Grant, I’ll check in with you later. And Joe, thanks for everything.”

“Best Man?” Joe gave her a big grin as he paused in the door on his way out, “Does this mean I get to plan an evening with The Full Monty Review?” He heard the book slam into the door just as he pulled it closed and Claire’s shouted, “NOT BLOODY LIKELY!” with her muffled laughter behind it as he started walking down the hall and fishing his phone out of his pocket.

Checking his watch as he heard the call go to voice mail, he realized Gail was probably in forum. “Hun! You’re never going to believe this. Call me as soon as you’re finished.”



He and Gail had lain awake after the evening’s event and subsequent meeting, talking about Claire and sharing their thoughts and concerns about the role they were taking part in what appeared to be playing out as some extravagant match-making scheme by Raymond. They suspected there was far more to it than they were being let in on, there always was when it came to Raymond, but neither had any doubt that his intentions for Claire were anything less than honorable.

“Joe, honestly, is Raymond acting any different than you were back when you were trying to fix Claire up?” Gail had asked, encouraging him to be more forgiving of Raymond’s motives.

“I think there’s a bit of a difference between inviting her to get out and join us for a pint and seeing that she sits next to Edmund, or”

“Gerald, or Alex, or Lucas, or that really squirelly guy.”

“Phillip, Well, that was a mistake.”

“You know she has no problem passing on somebody if she’s not interested.”

“You’re right, but Frank ? Don’t tell me you saw that coming or ever thought there was anything not weird about that whole marriage.”

“I know better than to pry open someone else’s bedroom door. I’ve never  heard her even whisper a word against him. I’m not going to try and guess at what got them together, but I’ve seen affection, but heat, …no.”

“Do you think Raymond had his fingers in arranging that? I mean ever since he approached you it was because he was trying to be protective of Claire, gotta give him credit. It seems to be his mission.”

“I know, but it’s like he’s built up an invisible fortress around her and she was oblivious while it was being constructed but now, she can see it, and doesn’t like it a bit and is looking for a way out. I don’t think he gives her credit for how strong she is.”

“That, or maybe he was giving her the time to develop her strengths. She went through that spell after her uncle died, when all this seemed to start up, and then she married Frank. We haven’t spent a lot of time with her in the last several years. Maybe it’s what she needed.”

“Maybe, …but Frank being there tonight? God, I thought Fraser was going to lay into him, challenge him to a duel or something. Would I be a terrible person if I said I would have liked to have seen that?”

“What is it about Frank that rubs you the wrong way?”

“I don’t know, could never put a pin in it, but maybe I never thought him good enough for her. That’s not fair, but that’s probably as close as I can come.”

“What about James Fraser? I’ll tell you after watching them tonight– whoo!” Gail chuckled. “Claire is so into him. Talk about heat! thought we’d have to call out the fire brigade.”

“Do you think it’s possible?”

“What? That they were married before, in another life?” There was only silence while each considered, remembering Jamie’s anguished outburst.

“Would you think me crazy if I said, I do? Maybe I’m more of a romantic at heart than I’d thought, but I know what it is to love you and it gives me hope that I’d find you again in another time.”

“I like him.”

“Me too.”



Claire pulled out her phone to call Jamie and when started typing his name under contacts for the first time came up as JAMRF-Husband. “Cheeky bastard.” And smiled as she called. He picked up almost immediately.

“Jumping the gun, a bit there, aren’t you soldier?”

“Nay, Sassenach, just saves ye a bit of time editing.” And she could hear the smile in his voice.

“You're so thoughtful," she teased him. "Listen, I’m not sure about meeting your family tonight after all. I have two surgeries that shouldn’t be a problem, but possibly a third later depending on whether the patient’s condition deteriorates. I must be available, I hope you understand, Jamie, but that’s the reality of my being a surgeon. Is that going to be a problem for us?” her heart was beating faster than it should as she waited for his answer.

“I’ll no say I’ll always want to share ye, but ye told me that it was important that ye continue your work and I agreed. We’ll manage, dinna worry.”

“I have to go get scrubbed in but I’ll let you know as soon as I have a better idea of how it’s going, okay?”

“Aye, Sassenach, I’ll wait to hear from ye.

Chapter Text



Ned Gowan and John walked into Jamie’s office to find him sitting on the sofa with his legs stretched out before him just looking out the window. Without turning around Jamie started relating his requests.

“Ned, I need ye to draw up a prenuptial between myself and Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp. Ye’ll need to meet wi’ her and whatever she wants, do it. Ye may need to meet her at the hospital where she works, I dinna ken if she’ll have time otherwise. I want my will and insurance to be updated naming her as my primary beneficiary, leave the others as they are for the time being, I may need to reallocate some of the funds. We’ll need to initiate a trust for any bairns we might have, that can wait a bit, but I want the rest done and signed by the end of the week.

John, would ye see to getting a separate financial statement of all my personal assets prepared for her? I also want her to review the financial records for Fraser Enterprises as well. She says she wants no part of it, to be independent, but I want her informed; she’ll be a part of it as long as I am. Ye’ll need to meet wi’ her as well and answer any questions she might have. If there’s anything else I should ken that I’ve forgotten, I trust ye to let me know and take care of it.”

Ned and John had just looked at each other grinning at the implications of Jamie’s requests.

“Oh, and John, one last thing,” as Jamie stood and faced the two men, “would ye stand up with me as Best Man and witness to my marriage to Claire?” and a huge lopsided smile spread across his face as he reached out to hug his friend and shake Ned’s hand and accept his congratulations.

John stood shaking his head in disbelief, but a grin matching Jamie’s own dispelled any doubts.

The door opened and Murtagh slipped in and exchanged a nod with Jamie before moving over and sitting on the sofa Jamie had vacated but listened to the conversation as it continued.  

“Aye she did accept me and we’re to be marrit as soon as possible. I’m hoping for this weekend if I can get Mam and Jenny to give up on too grand an event. I – we, we want it just to be family and closest friends for the marriage ceremony at the old kirk at Lallybroch.”

“Jamie, I couldn’t be happier for you! I would be honored, thank you.”

“I’m so happy I could burst, but ye canna tell anyone yet, nothing leaves this office, do ye hear? I’m taking Claire to meet the family this evening and share the news. Ye’ll both come as well; ye can buffer some of the Fraser enthusiasm. Ye ken how they’ll be. I dinna want her overwhelmed and changing her mind.”

“My boy, you do work fast when you set your mind to something,” Ned puffed, “I’m happy you found your lady. May you be as worthy of her as she is of you. Now don’t forget, you’ll need to get your blood work done before your marriage license. I’ll get a list of the requirements for Geordie, that will be easier. Did I hear your lady had been married previously? All the legal documents for that settled?”

“Should be Ned; can I ask that ye speak wi’ Raymond regarding some of these legal matters? He should know or who to contact for any matters regarding Claire. Maybe wait until she’s had a chance to speak wi’ him directly first. She’ll want to share the news wi’ him herself and wi’ her former husband, Frank.”

“Really? Is her former husband still in the picture then?”

“Aye, he is and will be. I dinna fully understand why their marriage ended, but she is verra fond of him still and if she respects him to the extent she does, I will respect and trust her wishes. And I have to be grateful to the man or else I wouldna have this chance to be wi’ her. John, ye ken Frank, aye?”

“Yes Jamie, he is a good man. You can trust Claire there.”

“Okay then, we have a lot to do this week aside from regular business, can it be managed?”

“Absolutely!” both men reassured Jamie. “Thank ye, I’ll let ye get to it then.”

They turned to leave but Jamie called out, “Wait John, d’ye have a minute?” and waved him over to the seat next to Murtagh while he pulled up a chair to face them both as he leaned forward intently.

“So, what’s the news wi’ Dougal? He’s gone quiet since we had that blow up three weeks ago. Spoke to St. Germaine at the Gathering and seems he’d spoken to him recently. I asked him to come in before he heads back to Paris. Does Arch need to come in?”

“It would probably be better; he’s been point on monitoring him since you’ve been away.”

“Alright, I’ll do that. Listen, I ken I asked ye to check up on Geneva, but another thing came up I need ye to ask Frank. I would, but I want to keep this close. Claire mentioned there was a man that was bothering her at one time but disappeared. She thinks he was at The Gathering, but didna see him. See what Frank can tell ye; Philip is his name and we can move on from there. Would ye?”

“Of course, I’ll check with him and get back to you.”

“Before ye go,” Murtagh spoke up now, “it may have been that, but when I dropped the lass ta home after the Gathering, she was a bit nervous about something and invited me in. I took a quick look see about her place to make sure everything was in order and that seemed to settle her down.”

“And ye didna think to mention it when we spoke?” Murtagh could see the flush rising up Jamie’s neck.

“No need at the time and I took care of it but thought you might want to discuss future arrangements with Taran soon.”

Jamie didn’t respond immediately. He was thinking about what Claire had said, or more specifically what she had not said when they were walking – her fears that would have kept her from him. Something that Raymond had told her. They would need to all meet and discuss what had driven her reaction and come up with a strategy. “Aye, ye’re right, so was Lesley yer doin’?” and Jamie shot Murtagh a caustic look.

Murtagh grinned, “Thought she’d be in safe hands; seems she needed a bit more watching after than I’d expected.”

John pushed Murtagh in the shoulder to get his attention. “Tell.”

“Later,” came his low muttered response, but not low enough..

“No, ye will not,” came the growled warning.



By the end of the afternoon Claire had managed the two surgeries, followed up on the post op care with the nursing staff, met with families, checked on her patients still in hospital recovering, caught up on charts and done some preliminary prep for surgeries scheduled on the boards, and met with her staff to schedule follow up appointments. Mrs. Grant was stable, so surgery was no longer being considered. Claire was elated with the day and the nervousness she had been feeling about meeting Jamie’s family had evaporated. Two calls to make and she could leave to get ready.

“Frank, hey it’s me. Yea, yea, it was a surprise seeing you there, but I was so glad you were, even if it was Raymond that brought you; I guess we’re losing our connection. Yes? I’m sorry I didn’t really get to meet John and chat with you two. Heee’s  really cute. No, he’s not too young. Why would you ask that? Well, there can be something very appealing about a suave, debonair older man. …God Frank, you’re being so sensitive right now! What did I say wrong? I loved that about you – because you are. I’m happy for you; you know that, right? No, it’s okay, it’s better than okay, really. Listen, I want you to meet my neighbor, Louise, she’s the one that helped put the outfit together. Wasn’t it? But thank you or it wouldn’t have happened. I almost couldn’t wear it, but she talked me down. You need to come for dinner and meet her. I didn’t get to introduce you before I left, it was such a crowd and I just needed to get out of there.

How long are you going to be here? No, that’s good. Dinner might have to wait for a couple of weeks though. I’m going to be really busy for a bit. Yes, work is good, very good. It is nice being back working with Joe. You know it’s different, a good different, but I’m enjoying it. Listen, . . .yes? Oh yes, he is quite the braw lad, well, I’d rather say gorgeous, but isn’t he? You think so? I do like him, a lot actually. Of course, I remember what I said, and when I’m ready I will, but let me remind you, it’s none of your business now. What? Oh yes, well of course to catch up with you, but I wanted to see if you’re busy next weekend. No? Good, we’re getting married and I’m hoping you’ll come. Yes, he understands. I’m sure, it’s just family and a few friends and you’re my family. Thank you, I’ll let you know the details.”

“Dom! Are you still in town? I’d like to meet with you in the next couple of days if possible. Yes, it’s important. Well, yes, some of my questions have been cleared up but there are others now and it would be better in person if you can manage it. Well don’t go far, I need you here next weekend. Now, I know you can make it happen. Yes, you can, you’re my wizard. Well, I need you to walk me down the aisle. Yes, Jamie found me, or I guess we’ve found each other, but you knew that didn’t you? Will you stand in for Lamb and up for me? It would mean so much to me. Actually, I’m going to meet Jamie’s family tonight and we’re going to tell them together. I’m not sure what to do with so much family! You think so? Well I spoke with Joe this morning when I came in; I had to. He’s here and I couldn’t hide from him all day. Oh, Joe said to tell you he owed you a hundred pounds and you could collect it at the wedding. Are you betting with Joe again? Well, don’t let Gail catch you. And I just spoke with Frank. I didn’t want him hearing it from anyone else. Yes, I am very, very happy. Jamie wants it to be at Lallybroch, but that’s about all I know. Just family and a few friends close to Jamie. I’ll call you back as soon as I know the details. Thank you, Dom, talk to you soon.”

Claire stepped onto the elevator thumbing through her contacts preparing to call Jamie as soon as she stepped out. It was only the familiar use of her name that got her to look up and acknowledge Gellis Duncan standing in the corner smiling at her.



“Jamie? Everything is good! I’m heading out. What time do you want to pick me up? I can probably be ready in an hour and fifteen if I really hurry, or two if I can take a soak. No, I’m walking out right now. You don’t need to…What?”

“I’m here Sassenach, look up before ye walk over me.”

And she finally did, to see Jamie leaning against the wall holding a bouquet of flowers. His hair had been brushed back smoothing his curls into waves. He was wearing a dark grey suit a light blue shirt with no tie and the shirt was opened showing off the hollow at his neck. She wanted to kiss that spot, just now and taste him.

There is a God in heaven and on earth; standing right in front of me, and all is right with the world.

Chapter Text



Sassenach… Jamie felt an immediate lightening in his heart as he sighted Claire, easily picking her out of the group that was entering the lobby together. Her head was turned looking back over her shoulder at someone he couldn’t see behind, but he recognized the wild knot of hair topping her head and couldn’t help the smile that spread upon his face.

Jamie had settled himself in a spot to wait near the hospital’s entrance where he expected Claire would try to sneak out. Well perhaps sneak out  is a bit harsh, he reconsidered. She was stubborn enough, no, independent, that was better, independent enough that he suspected she would wait to call until after she was well on her way home rather than wait to be escorted. She enjoyed her walk home; told him it gave her time to quiet her mind after demanding days. He did not wish to impose his concerns onto her or infringe on her sense of self-reliance, she would not appreciate that a bit.

His talk with Murtagh had confirmed his instincts, there was something bothering Claire that she was not sharing, and he’d called Raymond demanding an understanding of what she had been told to cause her fear of being with anyone and who she might be afraid of. If what he’d told Jamie was true, it seemed more a matter that Claire had misinterpreted Raymond’s caution that as there was some potential threat to herself, it would extend to anyone she might care for. Raymond assured Jamie there were no known threats and seemed dismissive of his concern regarding Philip Wylie based on feedback from Frank which Jamie thought curious since Claire had told him Frank suggested they marry to eliminate Wylie as a problem. He didn't confront Raymond with that though.

Claire’s care had fallen to her uncle, but when Quentin Lambert had been killed on a site investigation, Raymond had assumed responsibility for her. It had been managed easily enough until she and Frank decided to divorce and leave Raymond’s Medi-Corp Group where she’d had built in security unbeknownst to herself. Since then, he had insinuated resources within the hospital’s security team and maintained a presence when she was off premises.

They had agreed that they would leave the hospital security intact and transition oversight to Jamie with their marriage. Jamie realized he was dancing a fine line with secrets, wanting to balance caution without suppressing Claire’s joie de vivre, but felt a relief knowing he would be assuming charge. He swore he would do better this time.

He saw Claire turn her head and pause her step as she looked to her phone and a smile spread over her face as she started walking toward the entrance again. Jamie felt her call coming through to his phone and when he answered her smile grew even larger if possible, as did his heart as she continued to the exit.

“I’m here Sassenach, look up before ye walk over me.”

Claire swiveled her head looking for him and paused before adjusting her course when she spotted him and walked into Jamie’s open arms as he moved forward to intercept her. He smiled at her as she rose up on tiptoes wrapping her arms around his neck as he wrapped his arms around her waist pulling her up to meet his lips. Time stood still for the two of them as they lost themselves in the kiss right there in the hospital atrium.

Claire finally broke for air and relaxing her hold, slid down his front sneaking in a kiss on his neck just below his Adam’s apple, but settled on her feet and snuggled against Jamie’s chest as he embraced her and she felt him press a kiss against her crown. Claire breathed in the fresh scent of his cologne. “You feel so good and smell even better. I can’t believe you came; you really didn’t have to do that.”

“I missed ye today. And I wanted to be here to greet my fiancée after work.”

“Should you be saying that in public? I thought you wanted to keep it quiet; there’s an awful lot of people around.” Claire couldn’t help but notice the curious glances being cast at them by passersby.

“After kissing me like that in public? I want everyone to ken ye’re no some wanton woman kissing a stranger, but I’ll kiss ye in the roadway if ye prefer. Come on let’s get ye to yer bath,” and pulled her toward the door.

“Are those flowers for me?” Claire asked eyeing the beautiful bouquet.

Jamie looked at the flowers he held and then back at Claire, “I’d thought to give ye a little posy, but ye put them to shame,” and he turned her toward an elderly woman just making her way into the hospital. “Madam? Would ye accept these as a token from me and my fiancée as we celebrate our engagement? May yer day be as blessed as mine since she accepted me,” and he extended the bouquet and paid her a courtly bow as she reached out and accepted the unexpected gift, a smile smoothing the crackled skin of her face.

“Bless be to ye both,” she laughed out sharing the joy of their moment.

“Thank ye for yer blessing, ma’am. We’ll take all we can.” And turning back to Claire, “Truth, aye?”

“Truth,” and with tears brimming she pulled Jamie down for another kiss, and from behind the sound of clapping startled her and she turned to see a collection of visitors, staff, and colleagues all turned toward her and Jamie showering them with their blessings.

“For good and all, there’s no turning back now Sassenach,” he whispered against her ear and Jamie scooped her up into his arms and out the door toward a grinning Murtagh standing by an open car door, their laughter trailing behind them.

It didn’t take long to make it to Claire’s flat and they all made their way up to wait while she got ready.

“Take yer time Sassenach. Murtagh and I will have a beer and find a football game to watch.”

“You’re sure? I would really like to soak in the tub for a bit. What time is your family expecting us?”

“Dinna fash, whenever we get there will be fine. I asked Mrs. Fitz to prepare a dinner for us.”

Claire stripped and sank into the tub, letting the warm water ease the aches from her tired muscles after her surgeries. She closed her eyes and thought about the lovely man that was sitting in her front room and thanked God for sending him to her.

When she emerged from her room dressed and ready to go, she walked in front of the television to get their attention. “I’m not sure what’s appropriate for meeting the parents for the first time and telling them we’re getting married. What do you think?” Claire looked down at the simple bronze colored wrap dress with slim three-quarter sleeves she’d selected. It was a soft shimmery silk fabric that draped beautifully about her hips but hugged her curves especially her fine round arse as Jamie was already fond of calling it. She looked to Jamie and Murtagh who were sitting side by side with the same expression fixed on their face. Murtagh lowered his beer and closed his mouth first as Jamie rose and embraced Claire.

“Ye clean up well, Sassenach.” And Claire gave him a poke as he teased and grinned down at her. And then his gaze shifted and softened as he thought about what was to come. “Ye look beautiful, are ye ready then?” and offered his hand to her.

On the way, Jamie updated Claire on his day and the legal documents she’d requested were in the works and that Ned would be contacting her. And that he’d asked John Grey to be his Best Man.

“John? I thought he was your business associate.”

“Well he is that, but he’s really a bit more, a brother. I just dinna introduce him as such in a situation like that. Family is a private matter, those that need to ken, do. I stood up for my brother Ian, and one day I may be asked to stand up for John.

And in the short amount of time before the wedding, Ian will have his hands full helping Jenny wi’ the bairns, and the plans up there, but he’ll stand up wi’ me too. Dinna fash. Ye’ll like them both.”

“I’m sure I will. I don’t know about Ian, but John is very handsome.” Tell or don’t tell? Secret or not? And deciding it was not her story to tell didn’t.

“Do I need to be jealous, Sassenach? Are yer eyes already wandering?”

“No, but it’s okay to notice, isn’t it?

“Mmhphm,” came from deep in his throat in what Claire was beginning to recognize as a distinctly Scottish noise of displeasure.

“I really only have eyes for you,” and she batted her lashes at him demurely

“I’ve made progress too. I asked Joe to be my Best Man. I know it’s a bit unorthodox, but other than Frank, there’s no one else better suited for that role and that would be a bit too unorthodox wouldn’t you agree?”

“Mmhphm.”

Claire giggled enjoying Jamie’s response. “Gail will attend too and then I asked Dom to stand in for Lamb and walk me down the aisle. You haven’t met him yet. Unless you met him the other night; he was at The Gathering but disappeared rather early on.”

“Weel, I ken Joe and Gail will do just fine, I’m glad they’re here for ye. Dom? he must be verra special to ye…” Tell or don’t tell? Secret or not? And deciding it was not his story to tell, yet, and didn’t. Jamie didn’t like the idea of starting off their life together holding the secrets that he did, but it was for her safety for now. He would tell her soon, he knew it would be important for them both, but he would always put her safety first.

“Dom? He is.” Jamie could see the fondness reflected on Claire’s face as she thought about him. “He’s a very old family friend, and when Lamb died, he stepped in. With the life we led, we made friends fast, but moving as frequently and with as much distance between places, it was hard to keep friendships tight; they’ve mostly just flitted away, I hate to say. You’re lucky to have your family. I didn’t know how much I really needed Dom, until he was …just there, whenever I’ve needed him. I think you’ll enjoy getting to know him. He’s a most interesting character.”

“Should I have asked his permission for your hand then?”

Claire laughed at that, “No! Absolutely not! Don’t you even think about that! We’re not in the 18th century, I’m a grown woman and don’t need anyone’s permission to do anything that I want!”

“So ye do  want to marry me?” Jamie was pleased as much with the tone of Claire’s declaration as the words she spoke and hugged her tightly against him.

“Well, I did agree, didn’t I?” but seeing a question, a need pass quickly, realized she wanted to reassure him, so turned as best she could belted up as she was and wrapped her arms about him and pulled him close whispering in his ear.

From the front seat, Murtagh was privy to much of the conversation going on in the back but ignored the two as much as possible to allow them their privacy, but he saw Claire pull Jamie close, as he glanced back in the mirror. The expression that radiated from Jamie’s face as Claire whispered something in his ear, told him all he needed to know, and he quickly averted his eyes back to the road, his own face reflecting the joy on Jamie’s.

“Is he in town? I expect we’ll need to speak of other matters.”

“Not now, but he’ll be returning soon. I have to let him know the details as soon as they’re hammered out.”

“I’m sure Mam and Jenny will want to start in right away. I have my ideas about what I want, is there anything ye’ve thought ye might like?”

“Honestly? No. I haven’t really had any time to think about it. I’m going to leave it in your very large and capable hands. I guess I do need to find a dress though, maybe Louise can help me, she’s really good at that.”

Jamie leaned in close and dropped his voice to a whisper, “The one that dressed ye in yer dress and no undergarments? I’m no sure about that,” Jamie frowned.

“Well you did notice me, didn’t you?”

“I did as well as every other person there. I dinna ken if I could wait to get ye to our bed if ye came to me like that again. Might just give the priest a heart attack.” Jamie was quiet for a few moments before speaking, “I may have a dress for ye to consider, if ye would like. Ye’d look bonnie in it.”

Claire laughed, “What? You keep spare wedding dresses hanging around, just in case you came across the right girl?”

“Nah, it’s a family heirloom, but only if ye’d like it, since ye may no have much time…”

“I guess I could try it and see if it fits. I certainly don’t have a lot of time; but if you like it and think it will fit, I could cross that off my very short to-do list.”

“Aye, it would give me the greatest pleasure to see ye wear it.”

“Well I can certainly give it a try.”

Claire guiltily noticing they’d been ignoring Murtagh’s presence during the drive chimed up, “Murtagh, you’ve certainly been quiet through this today, what do you think of it all?”

“Weel Claire, I’ve kent Jamie’s parents before they met each other. Jamie’s dad, Brian, is my cousin and I met Ellen while visiting her brothers, Colum and Dougal MacKenzie. I’d hoped to marry Ellen myself, I was that much in love wi’ her – still am, but from the moment she met Brian, there was no one else in the world for her.”

Claire had looked up at Jamie as Murtagh was speaking. He just nodded his head, he already knew this truth, but reached forward and clasped Murtagh’s shoulder and gave it a couple of pats.

“Tis no secret, Jamie’s as much a son as I’ll ever have, and his health and happiness are as important to me as Ellen’s to this day. I see how he looks at ye, it’s the same as when Ellen saw Brian and when ye smile, it warms ye to yer backbone. I ken no other woman fine enough to be Jamie’s wife than you, Claire. I ken ye’ll be able to mend his scratches when he needs tending, kiss the hurts away, keep him in line when he’s getting too big for his britches and make beautiful babes wi’ him.”

“Murtagh!”

“Weel, ye asked and it’s the truth! Ye’ll do, both of ye!”  and Murtagh nodded his head at the truth of his statement.

Claire glanced up at Jamie embarrassed by Murtagh’s declaration and he returned her look, proud that Murtagh recognized Claire as the woman he knew.

Jamie leaned over and whispered into Claire’s ear, “Still waters run deep,” before turning back to his godfather, “I’m grateful to have ye be so much a part of my life, Murtagh. Ye’ve helped guide me and I count on you to be here for our bairns when they come.”

“I’m no going anywhere,” Murtagh replied gruffly with just the slightest hitch in his voice.

They’d pulled into the drive and up to the front door. Jamie helped Claire from the car and turned to his godfather as she got out, “Did I no tell ye Murtagh?”

“Aye, ye did Jamie and I kent ye’d find her and glad ye have.”

Murtagh then turned to Claire and pulled her into a big hug, “Welcome to the Fraser clan, lass.”

They turned toward the door as it was flung open and a mob descended upon them.

Chapter Text



“Milord! Milord!” “Unca Jamie!” “Jaaammieee!” “Laddie!” The greetings echoed around them as everyone competed to be heard and recognized first. Fergus and a throng of small children that had swarmed around them like a hive of bees were grabbing at Jamie’s legs jumping up and down demanding his attention, the wee ones attempted to climb up his torso.

Jamie leaned over and gave Fergus a big hug whispering something in his ear before looking him in the eye and giving him a slight nod of the head and big smile before turning his attention to the mini horde. He bent down lifting the smallest, a rosy-cheeked toddler, who’d been clutching his pants leg with both hands, bouncing up and down as she looked way up at him demanding “Me up! Me up!”. With her firmly planted against his chest, Jamie, started chucking her under her chin, as she giggled and ducked, pulling her chin tight against her neck away from the tickling fingers, “What’s this, a wee little Kitty? Kitties dinna say Me up! They say Meow! Come on, let me hear ye purr…sweet wee Kitty.”

Claire knew she was being scrutinized but kept her attention focused on the rambunctious greeting Jamie was receiving from his nieces and nephew and his joyous smile that lit his face as he stayed the onslaught. She felt a hand slip into hers and looked down to find Fergus smiling up at her as he whispered softly, “Milady.” Claire felt the prick of tears at his greeting competing with her laughter as she gave his hand a small squeeze in return. All the while, five pairs of eyes were focused on her and knowing smiles and glances were exchanged.

Jamie’s exuberant play with his niece caught at Claire’s heart and she was laughing with everyone else as he shifted the little girl to his hip then adjusted his hold in a well-practiced manner as she scrambled higher to grab onto his neck. “Back off ye wee deils! Ye’ll knock Claire over if ye dinna mind.” Jamie had not wanted to let go of Claire’s hand, but had lost his grip with the stampede. He reached out to her now with his free hand and pulled her close as she pulled Fergus along, not loosening her hold on his hand. Jamie saw Fergus was leaning into Claire’s side and ruffed his hair before he wrapped his arm around Claire’s shoulder and whispered in her ear as the welcomes and chatter subsided until everyone eventually stood quietly looking at the pair, “Sassenach, thank ye for accepting me and being here; are ye ready?”

Claire smiled up at him taking a deep breath and nodded as she leaned into him and felt his reassuring lips kiss her temple then peeked up at the little bundle that now had her arms wrapped possessively around her uncle’s neck and staring down at Claire as her head rested on Jamie’s shoulder.

“Jenny. . .a bit of help?” as Jamie turned and attempted to pry loose a Kitty now gripping his neck, determined to keep a hold of her uncle. Her grinning father interceded and reached out to retrieve his daughter who was now on the verge of tossing a tantrum throwing her head back and letting loose a mighty wail.

“Thanks, Ian,” Jamie smiled taking it in stride as was everyone else apparently.

“No problem. Hush now, mo leannan,” Ian walked away bouncing his recalcitrant two-year old with whom he was trying to reason.

Claire felt Fergus’ hand slip free of hers as Jamie took Claire’s hand and stepped forward escorting a suddenly self-conscious, and totally unprepared to meet her future in-laws Claire toward the handsome couple she recognized as his parents from The Gathering. Oh Christ! What do I do? Handshake?... Hug?  She was so lost in considering the etiquette of the situation that she nearly missed Jamie introduce her with an unexpected tenderness in his voice. “Mam, Da, this is Claire, Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp. Claire, my parents, Ellen and Brian Fraser.”

Claire extended her hand and then felt herself unconsciously bobbing into a curtsy. A curtsy! What in God’s name am I doing?! And she heard some tittering from the children. “Why’d she do that mam?” Her ears flamed as she blushed to the roots of her hair as she heard Jamie join in with a teasing chuckle, fondly drawing out her name, "Saaassenach!"

“Nay, lass, no need for that!” and her hand was pulled forward as she was swept up into a bear hug by Brian Fraser and felt a warm kiss on her cheek. When he loosened his hold, Claire could see his eyes were the same shade of blue as Jamie’s; his handsome face carried the beginning wrinkles of age, but it was more the weathered skin of someone that spent a good deal of time out of doors and laughed a lot. He wasn’t quite as tall as Jamie but was a firm and solid man and his arms were strong about her shoulders as he turned toward his wife who was pulling at his arm, “Let go of her, it’s my turn!”

And she was suddenly pulled into another big hug. When she was released Claire felt a cool hand on her cheek and lifted her chin so she was now gazing into the beautiful warm and smiling face of Ellen Fraser. Her eyes were shaped as Jamie’s but grey, and crowned with the same glorious red hair, now showing some silver streaks. “I’m so happy to meet ye dearie. I’m sure this was no the welcome ye expected, but we’re just so excited for the news.”

“The news?” A beaming Jamie looked at Claire; they both looked at Murtagh, who shrugged and mouthed, “No me.”

Jamie spoke up then, “What news would that be?”

Jaaammiee!  What were ye thinking, after everything, …ye do this? Ye’re cruel, ye ken that? Leaving us to be the last to hear!” Jenny wailed as she walked up and stuck her phone in his face. Behind her Ian, still holding Kitty, shook his head in sympathy at Jamie as he swallowed a smirk while Jenny lit into her brother as he took the phone.

There on the screen was a picture of Jamie and Claire kissing in the hospital atrium as Jenny recited the caption aloud, “ James Fraser, scion to Fraser Enterprises, announces engagement to Ms. Claire Beauchamp.” Jenny stepped back crossing her arms against her chest and glaring at her younger brother, perfectly mimicking her daughter’s pout, “Mmhphm.”

“Oh God,” Claire breathed out and looked from the screen to Jamie, to Jenny to his parents and around toward the rest of the group gathered about and then back to Jamie.

Jamie pulled her close to his side and grinned down at her, “Ye ready Sassenach?”

“For what?” What else can there possibly be?

“This.” Jamie pulled her up off her feet and gave her a kiss as he twirled them around, Claire laughing against his mouth until he stopped and lowered her back to the ground and deepened the kiss until she forgot there was anyone else around.

Wolf whistles, a bit of laughter and applause from her soon to be family burst through their bubble and brought them back to the moment as the pair was quickly embraced by all.

“Come on into the house dear, it’s gotten quite a chill out,” and Claire was being pulled along inside the house firmly embraced by Jamie’s mother on one side and Jenny on the other. Jamie followed behind, herding the rest of his family inside as another two cars pulled up.

John Grey and Ned Gowan got out just in time to join in the tail end of the parade.

“Missed the announcement, did we?” John surmised. “I’d counted on seeing that.”

“Aye, we got caught off guard a bit. It wasna how I’d planned to tell, but a bit exciting to get it out. I’d hoped to keep it private ‘til after the wedding, but my pride got the better of me today and had a lapse of judgment. Seems someone snapped pictures when I went to pick Claire up from work and overheard me call her my fiancee, now they must be all over the social media.”

“So, have you had your phone off then? The alerts have been popping up since late this afternoon. Do we need to do anything?”

“No, I just dinna have those alerts on. Too much garbage gets thrown out as news. I’ve no time for it. If it’s something I need to ken, folks I trust will tell me. What’s to do about it? . . .it’s true. And I’m happy for it. I do want to keep the details of our wedding private. At this point nothing has been decided, no one aside from those here ken anything. Let’s keep it that way, aye?”

“Ned, mind if I speak wi’ John a moment? Go on in and see where they’ve taken Claire and let her ken I’ll be in shortly. She probably thinks I’ve abandoned her. Thank ye.”

Jamie watched Ned disappear into the house before he began. “John, about the other night? I ken it will be verra busy here tonight, but I’ve thought if ye can, would ye drive Claire home and talk wi’ her? I’ve told her ye’re to be my Best Man and I’d like her to get to know ye. But if there’s anything she wants to ken about me, be honest about it.”

“Of course, I’ll be honest with her with anything she wants to know. You look happy Jamie. Everything going well then?”

“John, I canna believe it. I feel I’ve been a verra good boy on Christmas morning, just afore the door opens. But I admit I am just a bit worrit that now the news of our engagement is public, something will come up to wreak a bit o havoc while my attentions are on other matters. About the other fella? Did ye learn anything other than what Raymond told us?”

“Frank said there was another med student, Philip Wylie, that washed out of the program, a bit obsessed with Claire. He moved to North Carolina and has been living off his trust fund and investments, evidently manages that quite well. Heard nothing of him for years, but he was on the guest list. None of the boys saw anyone approach or speak to Claire that you’re not already aware of.”

“Would ye go ahead and update Taran and have him check up on him anyway? Let’s see what he’s up to, aye?”

“Will do, and Jamie, you can count on us to give the business our full attention, things are well. You focus on your bride.”



They made their way into the house and found the family in the living room. Ian and Brian were speaking with Ned off to one side, and kids were playing and running through the room, the usual general commotion of a family get-together. His heart warmed to see Claire being embraced by his family.

She was looking more comfortable seated in front of a nice fire, Jenny, and Ellen on either side of her. Jenny’s four-year old Maggie was leaning into her mother’s lap as she gazed intently up at Claire interrupting the conversation. “Are ye havin a bairn?” Claire was startled by the question and immediately pinked up as she blinked at the child. Jamie caught Claire’s deer in headlights expression as her eyes widened from across the room and made his way towards her.

“What?” was all that Claire could manage as Ellen reached for her hand and gave it a squeeze and a soft smile.

“Maggie! Ye do not ask such things.” Jenny was quick to correct her curious outspoken daughter.

“But ye said ye get marrit to have a bairn.” Maggie put her hands on her little hips and stuck out her lip while challenging her mam, “ye did, an dinna say ye didna.”

“Well they’re no getting marrit yet.” Jenny leaned over to Claire and whispered, “Sorry, just ye wait; it’ll be your turn one day, and everything ye never thought little pitchers heard will come spilling out, usually in front of the priest.”

Before Jamie could do more than smile and cast Claire an ‘I’m sorry’, Fergus ran up to him and they hugged and clapped each other on their backs. “Oh, milord, so you did it! Did the faerie enchant you or did you pluck her wings?”

“I think it was a bit of both while we were in a …wrestling match.” And Jamie glanced sheepishly over at Claire finding her looking at him with an amused expression, while Jenny was shaking her head at him before she turned to say something to Claire.

“You wrestle with faeries?” Fergus was obviously awed at the idea.

“Only if ye’re bigger and ken ye can pin them down first. Ye must be able to steal a part of their heart before they steal all of yers, otherwise ye’re completely lost and under their spell forever,” and looked at Claire with a beguiled grin, “but ye’re happy to be there.”

“Just wait til I tell Rabbie!”

Claire’s attention had been caught up hearing ‘faerie’ in the exchange going on between Jamie and Fergus, and looking for an escape from the baby discussion, peered up smiling, “What’s this about faeries?”

“Faeries! I looove faeries.” piped in Maggie turning her attention now to Uncle Jamie and the new topic of conversation.

“Och, the day ye first came here to meet wi’ Jenny, Fergus saw ye in the glade, it’s my favorite spot in the wood, ye were digging in the dirt and ...well, he was convinced ye are a faerie or one of the auld ones and enchanted me, which ye have, but I have captured ye by plucking a wing. Ye’ll no be flying away from me.” Jamie grinned at his blushing Claire.

“Brother, ye’re making a right stew of it,” Jenny tilted her head toward Fergus.

Jamie gave her a sheepish grin and shrugged his shoulders as he lifted his hands palms up, “When?”

“You did not say she was speaking to the Stone! And hugging it,” Fergus added.

Claire shot a startled look at Jamie when Fergus said this, and all eyes turned on her. God what does he think? What do I say? And gave a small embarrassed laugh, He’s right, I was. When I was a little girl my uncle told me that the standing stones are special and if you’re very quiet, and listen hard, you can sometimes hear the faeries whispering.”

“Ooo, are ye a faerie then?” Maggie’s gaze turned back to refocus on Claire her eyes wide in wonderment.

Jenny and Ellen both looked to Claire, “Are ye then?” Ellen asked looking at Claire a little too intently for her comfort.

The question unsettled Claire and she laughed a bit, “What? A faerie? Certainly not that I know of, . . .I’d know that, wouldn’t I?” and looked to Jamie and then Ellen. “It was just such a beautiful spot and I was so happy to have discovered it. It seemed like it had been such a long time since I’d played in the wood, you know what I mean, don’t you?”

“Dinna fash, Sassenach, our folklore is full of stories of faeries and sprites and water horses and all sorts of mystical creatures. Ye’ll be hearing the tales.”

“Don’t forget about the lady that traveled back in time through the stones, that’s my favorite,” Fergus piped up.

Jamie quickly cut him off, “Aye, but we have no time to talk about those now. We have too many more important things to discuss.” Jamie had sensed Claire’s sudden discomfort and determined to change the topic as she looked wide eyed at him.

Travel through time? Through the stones? Is that how it’s done?

Jamie could see the look of confusion on Claire's face as he reached toward her and pulled her from her seat to hold her next to him and addressed those gathered. “Well ye heard the brilliant news. Claire has accepted my proposal and we are to be marrit.” And he looked into her eyes for her confirmation and she nodded slightly to him smiling back. "This next weekend.”

“NO! So soon!? How are we ever going to manage it all?” Jenny had jumped right into assuming the project management mode Jamie had expected.

Maggie jumped up and down clapping, “Ye can have a bairn now!”

“Maggie!”

“Bairn!? Who’s having a bairn?! Wee Jamie joined the building clamor, with Kitty quickly joining the din demanding her mother’s attention.

Dear God! Claire was feeling faint.

Jamie attempted to regain control of the bedlam that was mounting, “Jenny, Mam, I have a lot of it already planned and under control.” Jamie looked around for some support only to see Murtagh, Ned, Ian, Brian, and John gathered by the windows, lift their glasses in silent salute and bury their grins and snickers in their drinks. “There are a few things that I want to discuss wi’ you privately. Claire is letting me plan our wedding ceremony and I do need yer help a bit wi’ some of that, but mostly if ye want a celebration after, that’s up to ye.”

“It sounds as if ye’ve been considering this for some time braither.” Jenny gave Jamie an appraising look, he was much further along than she’d given him credit and was having a hard time biting back her grin.

“A while now.” Jamie sheepishly admitted and smiled again. “Is that no okay?”

“Ye’re worse than any girl I know Jamie Fraser,” Jenny egged on her younger sibling.

“Have ye looked in the mirror, Jaanet?  How long were ye planning yer wedding before ye asked Ian to marry ye? How much of it did I have to hear yer yammering on about in the planning and me keeping my mouth shut? I’ve got my own ideas too, ye ken. Claire understands this is special to me and is glad for it. If ye’d rather I no include ye, let me ken now and I’ll make other plans.”

Ellen caught Claire’s eyes and rolled hers and she then noticed the other adults in the room shifting about exchanging their looks, “Here we go again.”  Oh, so this is the Fraser stubbornness she’d been warned about and smiled.

Claire quietly separated herself from Jamie as his tirade with Jenny grew more vocal and had switched to them shouting Gaelic at each other. Claire moved toward the hall and nodded her head silently inviting Ellen to join her. She made her way towards where she thought the library was thinking it a good place to escape and heard footsteps closing behind her.

Chapter Text



“Are they always like that?” Claire asked in a low voice without looking back.

A soft quiet chuckle warmed Claire’s heart as Ellen fell into step by Claire’s side and linked her arm with Claire’s and now taking the lead. “No, they just love each other dearly and I’ve no always been the best of mothers. Jenny has held a big hand with Jamie, and when ye get a couple of strongly opinionated siblings butting heads, ye sometimes get fireworks. When Jamie calls her Janet, it’s best to just take cover and leave ‘em to it. They’ll sort it out soon enough. Here, come in here,” and Ellen pulled Claire into the same beautiful guest room where she had changed before. “Oh…”

“We willna be bothered in here.” Ellen walked over to the bookcase there and pulled out a decanter and a couple of glasses. “I think we should have a dram don’t ye? Have a seat.”

Claire took a seat in one of the armchairs near the window and Ellen joined her, handing her a glass and sat in the chair facing her. They sat in silence sipping their drinks each thinking how to move forward. Claire spoke as Ellen opened her mouth, “Mrs. Fraser,”

“Och, please, no. Call me Ellen or Mam, whatever yer comfortable with, but I’ll no have my daughter calling me Mrs. Fraser, and the same for Brian, but I ken he would be tickled if ye call him Da, but only if it feels right to ye.”

Claire blushed as she tested out her name, “Alright then, Ellen for now, thank you. I was going to say I certainly see where Jamie gets his looks, you both have the same beautiful red hair, and eyes.”

“Weel, it’s not quite what is was and I have a bit of silver, honestly earned mind ye, starting to come in now, but yes, he and his brother Willie, both got my Mackenzie hair and eyes. Fortunately, they also got more of their Da’s kind temperament and blue eyes. No to say Jamie canna have a flare of a temper,” as she smiled nodding her head back in the direction they’d just left, “but he’s better at managing it. Jenny can be too much like me when I was her age. Hopefully she’ll calm down as she ages too. No so much to worry about when the bairns are older. No that ye ever stop worrying, but ye have to let go.”

“Jenny told me that ye lost yer parents when ye were just a little girl. I’m sorry for that. But yer uncle did a first-rate job rearing ye to be a fine, young woman; I can see that already. Ye’re smart, ye must be to be a surgeon, that’s quite an accomplishment; ye’re proud of yerself I hope.”

Claire wasn’t sure why the comment surprised her given what Jamie had said about his mother, but very much appreciated the acknowledgement. “Yes, I am, thank you, I’ve worked hard at it and it means a lot to me to be able to help people. I’m good at it. And just so you know, Jamie and I have discussed it and I’ve let him know that I’m not going to give-up working, it means too much to me.”

“Good, that’s as it should be. I’m sure Jamie wouldna have it any other way if that’s what ye want. It’s important to feel fulfilled, helps to keep yer marriage happy. It may take a bit of work to get there but I’m sure ye’ll both manage to balance yer work with yer family. Ye’ve got a bit of a head start with Fergus there, but he’s a good lad and out of nappies!” Ellen chuckled at her poor joke and was a bit surprised that Claire hadn’t joined in, didn’t even merit a smile, but she noticed Claire biting her lip and becoming pensive as she now stared out the window.

Ellen’s words hit home with Claire; everything with Jamie was so intense, had been since she’d met him. They’d been so focused on each other, there were the practical matters that had not been considered much less discussed.

Claire turned back to Ellen who had settled back in the wing chair with one long leg crossed over the other and was examining her with a soft smile on her face. She took a sip of her drink before settling her hand cradling it on the armrest looking totally relaxed, the lady of the house. “Did Jamie tell ye about his father and me, how we met?”

“Actually, Murtagh shared just a bit on the way here, but not much.”

“I bet he did the old coot, still claiming to be in love with me?” but Claire could hear the affection in her words. “We’ll have plenty of time to get to ken each other better and share secrets, but I tell ye this because when Brian and I married, we’d eloped. The truth is my parents wanted me to marry someone that I didna want and they were mad about it. Brian’s mam had died, and his da was – is a right old bastard. He abandoned the family home and remarried a younger woman while Brian was in school. But my point is we never see them and because my parents didna support our marriage, we had a chance to be there just for each other as we got to ken each other.”

“I want ye to ken that there’s the awful stories about in-laws, some may be true, but I dinna ever want to have a bad relationship wi’ ye. Jamie is too important and ye’re important to him. Brian and I will never butt in our nebs, but we’ll always be here for the two of ye and yer family. Ye will have disagreements, that’s just part of being marrit, but we will not intrude or take sides. Ye’ll sort things out. So, all that said, I ken yer mother would be here for ye if she could, but since she’s not, I am… if ye need anything atall.”

Claire was nodding internally as Ellen spoke; it wasn’t that Frank’s parents were awful, well yes they had been pretty bad recalling the way they’d treated him, and the dismissive remarks directed at her and couldn’t help but wish they’d both had the benefit of a mother like Ellen Fraser.

Her eyes had been begun brimming with tears as Ellen spoke kindly but forthright, and her nose twitched trying to hold them back, but the unexpected kindness on top of all the emotions that she had been facing over the past few days, sent her into an emotional spiral that unleashed the dam and found the tears spilling down her cheeks and her breath coming in sobs. Ellen came to her and knelt down and embraced her and patted Claire’s back as she cried. “I…I never cr…cry like this.”

“Tha’s alright my dear.” The soft deep burr of Ellen’s voice was surprisingly soothing; she felt she knew what she had missed not having her mother around, and tears started a fresh with the knowledge, and the calming touches continued.

When she could speak Claire stuttered out, “He’s…he’s just such..a.. a lovely man, I …I see where he gets it. Thank you.”

“I wish I could take the credit,” Ellen chortled, “but it’s really his father. I saw the same in him. A lass is lucky to be loved by a Fraser man,” her smiled turned meaningful.

“But it’s only been a couple of days, and …getting married in a week? Is it too soon?”

“Too soon?! Did Murtagh not tell ye that Brian and I eloped within hours of meeting? It’s been nearly thirty years now. Dinna let a moment of doubt cloud yer heart, Claire.”

“Really?!” Claire wiped at the tears.

“Really,” she nodded and smiled broadly as she stood up with a little groan and patted Claire’s shoulder. “Now come on, I suspect someone’s wanting to speak wi’ ye and Mrs. Fitz will no be happy if her dinner goes cold. Wash yer face and come down when ye’re ready.”

Claire heard Ellen’s footsteps retreat and the door close as she splashed her face and toweled it dry.

“Sassenach? …I’m here, are ye all right?” Jamie called quietly to her from the door.

“Yes, Jamie, I’m fine,” and she went to him and walked into his open embrace wrapping her arms around his waist leaning her head against his chest. “Your mom is so nice, I had a good talk with her and a bit of a cry and now my eyes are red and puffy, I’m sorry. I’m sure I look a mess.”

Jamie leaned down and kissed the top of her head, “She likes ye too, Sassenach.” And he lifted her chin so he could see into her eyes and lowered his voice as though sharing a secret with only her. “Yer beautiful mo nighean donn, there’s bound to be a few tears when ye have so much passion. It’s good to let them run sometimes and truth be told, I’m known to shed more than a tear, or two myself.” And pulled her up tight as he chuckled. “And ye’ll be in fine company tonight. Just wait until ye see Jenny. Come on now, I’m starved!”

Chapter Text



Claire held Jamie’s hand tightly for support as he led her down the stairs and toward what he’d told her was the formal dining room where everyone was now gathering in small groups awaiting the guest of honor before sitting. He felt her hesitation at the entrance and leaning down whispered into her ear before giving her a kiss on her cheek, “I’ll be right by yer side Sassenach, I’m no going anywhere.”

She gratefully noticed that Jamie had been honest with his appraisal of his feisty sister’s appearance. Jenny looked just as frazzled as she had felt and noticed lingering evidence of tears when Jenny walked right up and pulled her out of Jamie’s embrace and hugged her tightly for a few moments before speaking.

Between sniffs Jenny apologized, “I’m so sorry Claire for the skelloch earlier,” before letting her go and taking a step back. “I think I was just mad about yer news getting leaked before ye and Jamie had a chance to tell us yerselves and then how soon the wedding is to be, I was just a bit overwhelmed in the moment and overreacted. I’m just so happy that ye found each other. Forgive me?”

Claire felt Jamie’s warmth press against her, and his hand lightly resting on the small of her back so she knew he was there for her. “Of course, please don’t worry. I completely understand, it is a bit overwhelming, isn’t it? But Jamie and I certainly appreciate your help getting it arranged on such short notice. I know it’s a lot to ask with everything else you manage.”

“It’s no so much once Jamie and I cooled our heads down enough to talk a bit. It will be lovely and we’ll talk some more in a bit. Now, wi’ everything that went on earlier, ye didn’t get properly introduced to my husband, Ian.” Jenny turned slightly and reached back for the tall, slim, brown-haired fellow that had been quietly standing sentry behind her and pulled him up next to her.

As Ian stepped forward, Claire barely noticed the slight hitch to his step. Jamie had told her of the tractor accident that had taken his leg, but he managed it remarkably well. He took Claire’s hand in both of his; warm brown eyes crinkled at the corners as he smiled and casting a quick look at Jamie and addressing him, “Yer a lucky bastard, I hope ye ken that Jamie,” before turning back to Claire. “So glad to finally meet ye Claire, ye’ll be a most welcome addition to the family. I’m that happy that ye’ve given Jenny something else to turn her attention to for a while. She gets frachetty when she’s bored,” and gave Jenny’s shoulder a friendly nudge as she scoffed at him and Jamie chuckled.

“Och, ye ken ye do, dinna look at me like that!” as he intercepted Jenny’s glare. “And I love ye all the more for the care ye take of our family,” as he smiled down at his wife and leaned over pulling her into an embrace which she pretended to resist, but the light on her face defied the pretense as Jenny turned her face up to receive the kiss he was bestowing on her.

The softening effect Ian had on Jenny as she leaned into him was a surprising but welcome new perspective to Claire who had been feeling a bit intimidated by her soon-to-be sister. “Thank you, Ian. So where are your children now?”

“Mrs. Fitz is feeding the bairns in the kitchen. Ye’ll have a chance to get to meet them, but Wee Jamie, our oldest is six, then Maggie, our wee magpie, who ye may have noticed is quite the four-year old conversationalist,” Ian laughed good-naturedly as Jenny described their family acknowledging his daughter’s propensity for talk, “and bitty Kitty, she’s classic terrible twos right now – has a bit of thing for her Uncle Jamie, ye might have noticed. They’ll be put to bed after eating so we can enjoy a bit of peace.”

“Jenny could not be away from them another day, so Ms. Crook drove them down. I hate to admit it, but when they get all wound up as they were and hungry, they turn into a rite bunch of hooligans,” Ian shook his head in mock dismay.

“You certainly managed Kitty rather well earlier, I’d have no idea how to cope half so well.”

“Och, ye get used to it, a bit of hands on experience is all it takes, and when yer ready, ye’ve got Jamie, he’s got a special way with the wee lassies.”

Claire looked up at Jamie who had the grace to blush at he insinuation, “I’m sure he does.”

“We’ve had a good bit of experience now haven’t we, dove?” Ian gave his wife’s waist a bit of a squeeze pulling her into him, and his hand slid around further resting on her stomach and leaned in with a lowered voice. “And we’re about to get a bit more,” Ian couldn’t help the grin that spread across his face.

Jenny whirled in his arm and hit him on his shoulder with her small fist, “Shhh! Ye’re not supposed to say anything ye great lunkheid.”

“Mac gunna!” Jamie’s eyes got almost as big as his grin as he leaned forward and clapped Ian on the shoulder. “This is a night for celebrating!”

Please, Jamie,” he could hear the beseeching in Jenny’s tone as her eyes darted around the room, “Ian’s excited, but it’s too early. I dinna want to say anything to Mam and Da yet, let alone if Maggie gets word, it’ll be a looong seven months; there’ll be plenty of time for that thank ye very much. And this time is meant for Claire and you.”

Jamie wrapped both his arms around Claire and patted her stomach, “Well we’ll see what we can do about giving yer pack some cousins.”

Claire had blanched at Ian’s announcement – considering – four children under seven, bloody hell! and Jamie’s enthusiastic response to the news and turned to him with a question lurking in her eyes.

The look in Jamie's eyes and the soft smile he gave her nearly melted Claire’s heart as he leaned down and whispered to her alone, “As many as ye’ll give me – when ye’re ready, mo chridhe.” Bloody Scot…

A pair of newcomers joined their group forcing a change of conversation and looks of relief passed over Jenny and Claire’s faces as Jamie asked Claire, “Did you meet Ned Gowan?”

“Just in passing I’m afraid,” as she turned to him, extending her hand.

“Ned’s an old family friend and manages our legal issues. He’ll be calling on you to address any concerns ye want addressed in the pre-nuptial agreement. He will take care of anything ye need and answer any questions ye have.”

“Ms. Beauchamp, it is my great pleasure to meet you,” and the older gentleman took Claire’s hand in his. “I know this is a bit of a whirlwind, and I know your time has constraints on it with your work schedule, but just let me know when it might be convenient for you and I will come there to meet you, if that will help.”

“Mr. Gowan, and my pleasure as well, please call me Claire. Thank you for everything. I look forward to speaking with you. Perhaps I can give you a call tomorrow to see what our schedules look like?”

“Of course, my dear, Murtagh has my number and will send it to you. No need fumbling with cards and such now.”

“Claire, ye didna really get to meet John the other night. I think I stepped into yer visit, but it’s my great pleasure to introduce ye to John Grey. Like Ian, here, he’s a brother and will be my Best Man. He’ll touch base wi’ Joe and they’ll talk about “duties” if tha’s okay wi’ ye? John too has all the financial documents for ye to review and knows he can answer any questions ye have.”

Claire nodded at John as he smiled back at her, everything was moving so quickly, she felt like she’d been swept in a whirlwind and before she could do more than acknowledge John, Jamie had turned to the rest of the room and commanded their attention.

“Now that we have all the initial intros done, let’s eat!” Jamie turned to his family issuing the invitation to dine.

Jamie escorted Claire to her seat at his right hand as he stood at the chair at the head of his table waiting for his guests to be seated. Fergus took the seat to her right as Jenny and Ian sat across from her. Brian led Ellen to the seat at the opposite end from Jamie and John and Ned flanked her and then took a seat next to John. The seat next to Ned remained open and Murtagh took the one between it and Fergus.

“Mrs. Fitz! Are ye ready to join us?” Jamie called out.

“Just now, Jamie.” And she preceded two young ladies carrying in service platters. Murtagh rose and seated Mrs. Fitz.

Jamie leaned toward Claire, “We dinna eat like this every night. It’s no as formal as some dinners may be, but this is a verra special occasion for me, for our family.” And then turning his attention down table, “Everything looks wonderful Mrs. Fitz, thank ye.”

Everyone served themselves from the platters as they were being passed and genial conversations started up between everyone. Claire felt Jamie’s hand on her leg giving her a reassuring squeeze as he looked at her.

“So, Fergus, do ye think Claire will do?” Jamie looked toward his foster son and smiled as though sharing a secret.

Claire turned to look at the young man seated next to her and it registered that if all went as planned, he would also be her son. Fergus had his own mop of dark curls, and round blue eyes and his attention was focused on the plate in front of him. “This is a pretty unexpected turn of events I would think.”

He turned his attention to her now, shaking his head while he finished chewing and swallowing his bite, “Non, non, milady. Milord has been on a quest to find you and so I knew he would, only I found you first.” He beamed looking to Jamie now, “Did I not tell you about her beautiful eyes, and round…”

“FERGUS!” and everyone’s attention was diverted to their conversation at Jamie’s sharp tone and glare. He turned to Claire regaining his composure, “Fergus was most complimentary of yer … ah, natural charms when he was describing the lass he’d found in the wood.” And Jamie shot Fergus a warning look while the rest of the table erupted in sniggers. “And he let me know that if he were but a few years older, I’d be having a run for my money.”

Claire blushed at the intended compliment and turned back to Fergus and leaning in gave him a nudge with her shoulder, “So you would,” she whispered to him. “You were most gallant coming to my aid, leading me back and finding my shoe, I didn’t have a chance to tell you thank you.” And then with her eyes softening, lowered her voice again, “For everything.”

Jamie had been watching the small exchange between Claire and Fergus and saw the future with his family emerging and felt his heart hitch.

“I’m sorry, what did you ask?” Claire turning her attention to Jenny’s question.

“I asked if ye kent who else ye might want to invite to the party after the ceremony. Jamie said the wedding ceremony will just be the immediate family and your friends the Abernathy’s and Mr. Raymond. The kirk can easily handle that, but we’ll hold the party back at the house in the evening or would ye rather have it the next day? Actually, we can have the celebration whenever ye choose. Have ye any thoughts about it?”

“I haven’t really, there are a few friends and colleagues here from the hospital that I might invite, but I haven’t many friends here or those that could travel here this quickly, but that’s okay. The ones that are truly important will be there. But,” and she looked to Jamie and held his hand, “there is one more guest I would like to include….” Jamie knew what she was going to say and as much as he disagreed, he knew he had to let her have this, he could not deny her and he gave her the slight nod and squeeze of the hand that was becoming part of their language and she squeezed back her thanks. “Frank.”

A glass was knocked over at the other end of the table and John was quickly offering his apologies as he picked it up and Jenny looked quickly to Jamie for confirmation and he nodded curtly. “If it’s important to Claire, he will be welcomed.”

Diverting the line of conversation, Jamie asked, “Mam, do ye think the dress will fit Claire? I’d like for her to wear it if ye think it would or to at least try it. If it’s no to her liking, she’ll have to find something else she might like quickly, if she can.”

Ellen looked at Claire speculatively, “I think it would fit her just fine Jamie, she’d be lovely don’t ye think Brian?”

Brian who had been quiet through much of the evening, looked directly at Claire now, “Aye, she’ll be as lovely as any Fraser bride that comes to mind,” and then looked back to Ellen with a gleam in his eye. Brian then rose from his chair and everyone turned their attention to him as he began to speak.

“As all of us here ken, Jamie is a special lad. I do no say that just because he is my son, but proud that he is, I do admit.” He was looking directly at Jamie as he spoke assuring he heard his love and his pride, before looking back to Claire. “Jamie is a brave lad, true to his convictions that rarely lead him astray, a determination and will to stay the course when others will lag, a fierce temper we all ken,’’ and snickers all around the table and heads nodding in agreement and shared experiences, “but ye can trust his heart will always bring him back.”

“Now when Jamie was just a wee lad, he asked me how he would ken when he’d found the right lass to be his. Weel, ye ken, that’s a difficult talk to be had tween a father and son at any age but I thought Jamie was just a bit young at eight to be wondering about lasses and such then and I hoped to put that talk off for a bit, a good bit, but he would not be put off. Did I mention he’s stubborn?"

Claire heard the low chuckles and noticed the nods of agreement around the table and Jamie only shrugged when she looked at him.

"Weel the only answer I had to give him was he would just ken, for that’s how it was wi’ me,” and Brian looked at his wife and lifted his glass in a silent tribute to his love. “He told me then, he was sure who she was, she was there in his heart, he kent her, but she’d had to leave and was now lost. He was looking for her and wouldna stop but he just hadn’t found her yet.

It seems Jamie’d already gone to his mam wi’ the same question first. I dinna ken why he’d do such a thing,” he chuckled, shaking his head in bemusement, “but his mam, …no being his Da,” Brian looked at Claire and gave her a wink, something she noticed he managed just fine, “had told him how if he didna find the girl, another might just find him first and that would be that. Evidently there was a lass in his school that had decided our lad should be hers. Now Jamie has always been a polite lad, but he did no particularly care for the idea of her trying to kiss him, so the next time she tried, he told her he was already spoken for and he'd appreciate it if she would not try to kiss him again because another lass held his heart.

Ye must understand this being a verra small school and all the children kenning each other, this little lass challenged our lad and told Jamie he was just making it up and demanded to ken her name.” Brian paused for a moment and turned back to look directly at her, “he said, ‘Claire, her name is Claire.’”

Jamie had been holding Claire’s hand under the table and stroking her knuckles with his thumb as his father had been speaking and Claire could feel his tremors as though he was nervous and gave his hand a squeeze as she listened, smiling and imagining Jamie being put on the spot by a brazen little lass and ready to laugh at the vision. With Brian’s last statement she looked to Jamie, dumbfounded by the story, as Jamie lifted her hand to his lips, and nodded his confirmation of it, tears now trickling down his cheeks.

“It’s no always easy to be born a Fraser, but when ye’re marrit to one, ye become one.” Brian and the rest of the table lifted their glasses to finish his toast. “To my daughter, Claire, thank ye for bringing back to Jamie his full heart.” Cheers resounded through the room.

“Thank ye Da.” Jamie choked out and then taking a deep breath, “Aye, get on wi’ ye. We’re all buckets of saltwater, here. It wouldna do our reputations any good if everyone kent how soft we are,” and he looked around the table to see everyone’s eyes shimmering and napkins dabbing at eyes.

Chapter Text



Their first family dinner was wrapping up and Claire had relished the warmth in which everyone had welcomed her but was still feeling a might emotional after Brian’s tribute. Her tears joined Jamie’s as he pulled her close and kissed her warmly then spoke only to her, “But now I’ve found ye.” Afterwards, everyone had jumped in offering Claire their own Jamie stories, until he’d declared a halt lest she run away and he’d have to search for her again.

Jamie rose from the table and helped Claire up as he turned to his family as they were moving off, “Thank ye all for everything ye’re doing to help us this week, it means more than ye ken. I’ll see ye later, but I’m going to have a bit of time with Claire.” As he looked at her Claire felt as though her knees would give way right there in front of his family and felt a blush rising. Jamie smiled sensing her tremors pulled her a bit closer and took her hand in his, “Come on.”

“Let me at least tell your parents good night.”

Jamie gave her an exaggerated sigh, “If ye must Sassenach, but be quick about it, so I dinna have to be quick with ye,” and gave her a lopsided smile.

Claire quirked her brow at him as she placed her hands on her hips in challenge. “Really?”

Jamie smirked at her, “Did ye no just hear Da tell ye of my determination and will to stay the course when others will lag? There’ll be no lagging here even if I have to throw ye over my shoulder and carry ye away. Is that something ye would have me do?”

Yes, I bloody well would. Something in the glint of his eye had Claire dropping her hands and taking a half step back as she quickly glanced around the room, everyone was standing by with amused expressions on their faces, “You wouldn’t dare.”

“Aye, I would, I ken ye’re no that heavy.” Jamie’s smirk melted away as he took a step closer and extended his hand to her and spoke quietly. “I just need to be alone wi’ ye.” He quirked his ruddy brow over his darkened eyes at her in invitation.

Any thought of resistance, even their playful repartee, evaporated in the heat of his gaze and Claire felt herself take the step forward and accept his hand as he turned and led her in a different direction than she’d been before.

Jamie opened a door guiding her through and barely let it close behind them before he was pushing her up against the wall and pressing himself against her as he claimed her mouth devouring her. He held her face between his two hands, locking his lips to hers, taking her breath as his own, until she broke away gasping, “Ne…ed to.. breathe.”

Jamie rested his forehead against hers and apologized, “I’m sorry mo chridhe, but I’ve been needing to kiss ye since the moment ye stepped through the door.”

Claire shook her head smiling at his response, “Don’t need to apologize for that,” and lifted her face to kiss him. This kiss was slow and deep and wet as their tongues danced with the other. Jamie tasted of the whisky they’d had after dinner, Claire was sweet and citrusy like her amaro.

This time it was Jamie backing away, breathing deeply and stepping back. "I dinna want to stop, but we best before I canna and I want to show ye something,” and started pulling her toward the stairs. “Ye haven’t had a chance to get a tour of the house yet. That’ll have to wait, when we have more time, aye?” They came to another set of stairs and he led her up another flight. “This back way is the quickest way from there, I hope ye don’t mind a bit of a climb, but when the house is full, I can still have my privacy here.”

Claire felt as though she was caught in a flood current just being pulled along only catching glimpses of her surroundings as she was propelled forward, but secure with the hand guiding her. Jamie paused in front of a large oak paneled door before opening it and stepping back to allow Claire to enter first.

Claire slowly walked toward the center of the room waiting as Jamie came up from behind and wrapped her in his arms. He rested his chin on top of her head as she leaned back into him, and they sighed together, at the comfort of each other and finally being alone. She looked around taking in the setting of what must be his bedroom. Similar to the library she’d seen downstairs, the room had a paneled wainscoting, exposed beams in the high ceiling and dark oak floors covered with a couple of thick oriental carpets. The furnishings were an eclectic selection of old pieces; chests of drawers, older tables and lamps flanking a massive carved bed that dominated the room. One of the bedside tables held a few books, his side, she thought. A single leather club chair placed in front of yet another fireplace appeared to be the only relatively new piece. It all spoke of comfort, ease, home, and Jamie.

She leaned back against him and tilted her head back trying to see him as she sighed, “Did you bring me here to tease me?”

A deep rumble in Jamie’s chest came in response and his arms tightened as he leaned down to speak softly in her ear.

“More to tease myself, I think. I wanted to know could ye see yerself here, be comfortable? Ye can make changes if ye want or there’re other rooms ye might choose, but it’s here I’ve been imagining holding ye, bedding ye…loving ye,” as he kissed her neck.

Claire turned in his embrace and raising her hands to his shoulders and taking his gaze into her own, “Do you need to keep imagining?” a smile quirked at the corner of her lips and she slowly moved backwards toward the bed behind her pulling him along not breaking their eye contact.

“Sassenach…pleeese,” Jamie groaned as he allowed her to pull him along.

She felt the edge of the bed against her legs and lifting a brow at him in invitation released one hand from his neck and reached down to the ties at her waist and gave them a quick tug. Her dress opened to expose only her blue lace bra and panties and mile long legs. “Now, just so you know, I do wear undergarments,” she whispered and shrugged her shoulders as her dress slipped off and down to the floor. She felt Jamie’s quick intake of breath as she raised her hand to wrap it around his neck, pulling ever so slightly, inviting him to take the next step.

“Ye're a temptress mo chridhe to expose me for the weak man that I am, but Christ! ye do take my breath away,” as he leaned down to claim her lips.

“Keep breathing, ...I need you to keep breathing,” as Claire rose to meet his, consuming him.

They fell back with a whuff onto the bed as Jamie’s weight bore her back and their drop caused them to laugh before rolling into an embrace with their limbs twining, hands moving along each other’s bodies, touching exploring as best she could with him being fully dressed and she nearly naked. Claire wanted Jamie badly but took joy to feel his passion as he pressed into her hard and with a mounting urgency.

“Let me…” and she moved her trembling hands to his belt. Jamie rose, his eyes darkened with intent locked on hers, kneeling over her and nodded as he shrugged off his jacket and unbuttoned his shirt while she unfastened his belt and trousers. He quickly rose from the bed allowing them to fall to the floor and shaking them loose from his feet as he tossed his shirt aside before he climbed back onto the bed and atop her.

“God, Claire I want ye so badly.” As he pressed himself against her, resting his weight on his forearms that rested on either side of her as his lips sought hers and fed on them as she responded with her own needs. Claire slid her hand beneath the band of his boxers. She’d agreed to wait to join with him until after they’d wed, but by tacit agreement, she could do this, she could take him in her hands and bring him some relief. Fueled by the sensations Jamie released in her with his kisses and touches, and soft sounds, Claire stroked the length of Jamie’s erection with a gentleness feeling the silken softness of his skin beneath her fingers as he moved against her. She could feel the veins running the length of him feeling his throbbing pulse and wrapped her fingers around his shaft and pumped him. He shifted his leg to straddle her opening himself, so she released her hold on him reaching further and lengthened her stroke to include the tender cupping and massage of his bawls. Jamie was groaning into her mouth as she touched him.

He moved his mouth to her neck sucking the tender skin a long the way to her shoulder barely conscious not to leave marks, he lifted up so that he could see Claire's face as she touched him and saw his lust for reflected in her own. Her head moving softly in a matching rhythm to her hips and soft whispers of air coming through her soft parted lips, "Jamie."

Oh God. It was all he could do to keep from breaking his vow then and there. He felt her hips moving against his in small circular motions as her buttocks clenched and released pressing her to him, opening to him as she wrapped a leg around his, exposing her need to him. How exquisite it would be when they did finally come together, to fully share their bodies with each other. He wanted to bring her to the same release as she was granting to him. Jamie slipped his hand between them and fingered her barely existent panties down until his fingers were stroking the slick folds of her opening. "Ye're so wet…,"  he found the hardened nub of her clit and stroked her tenderly at first but as he came closer to the edge his touches reflected his own needs and wanting her to come with him.

Claire was responding to Jamie’s touch as he shifted his hand pressing one long finger into her and his thumb against her clit. Jamie felt clenching around it and losing her breath as soft mewlings her own desires were pressing to the fore. "Let go, come for me, mo nighean donn," and pressed another deep into her, and began to pump into and out of her. Her hand loosened her hold of his cock as she reached up and ran her hands against his buttocks urging him on.

“Please,” she could barely get out as she was taken by the storm of spasms that rolled upon her and Jamie’s fingers gently coaxing out every last tremor until he felt her slip away in an orgasm induced haze.

Jamie lowered himself and laid on his back as his muscles relaxed from the previous effort. Christ she was lovely when she came like that and he smiled thinking about the pleasure of it, unfortunately leaving him with a mammoth throbbing cockstand which twerked against his stomach as he thought of her. He felt near to bursting himself at this point and took hold of his cock with his fingers still slick with Claire's orgasm and began to pump. So close already when he turned his attentions to focus on her, it wouldn't take long and a soft groan escaped as he thought about her clenching on his fingers. So tight she is, would he hurt her? His hand slowed for a moment with the worry but felt another lay on top and still his hand.

"Let me," came the whisper from the woman lying next him, the woman that was his heart.

He turned his head and met her whisky hued eyes boring into his and just nodded with gratitude.

Claire rolled onto her side and then rose on her knees tugging at his boxers. He lifted his hips at her efforts but he noticed her slipping her panties the rest of the way off freeing her legs so she could straddle him.

"What are ye doing?" came the strangled question as she settled on top of his thighs pressed against the base of his cock, balls nestled against her. "Christ, Claire."

"Trust me?" as she took hold of his cock and gently pulled it to attention and sliding her slick cunt up and down against him. "I already promised not to fuck you."

Jamie was looking up at his woman sitting astride him, her hair flying every which way and his hands didn't know which part of her to grab first and then she reached back and released her bra and slid it down over her arms and dropped it off the side of the bed, and his hands went up to take hold of the gifts she was offering. 

His hips started moving as he thumbed her nipples and rose up trying to take them in his mouth, licking his lips in anticipation of tasting them.

"Hold on there," letting go of his cock she rested her hands on his chest and gently pushed him back down. "It's my turn to watch you come."

Jamie fell back against the pillows and looked up at her as she took control of him. "May I touch ye?"

Smirking at him she allowed, "Anywhere but my sex."

Jamie flopped his arms out to the sides grasping the sheets, "Ye're all sex, there's no part of ye that isna."

Claire lifted off of him and leaned forward her core of her sex brushing against the tip of his cock which rose up seeking her before she moved out of reach seeking Jamie's mouth. She bent down and gently teased his lips open with her tongue and bit his bottom lip. "Any where but there."

She lifted herself higher as she moved back taking care to avoid Jamie's cock seeking her entrance. "Can you deal with that?"

"Aye," and his hands moved to her hips, thumbs pressing against the bones there and fingers firmly pressing into her arse, "I'll try to manage," and he smirked up at her as he started to pull her against him.

"No! You may touch, you may hold on, but I'm in charge of my movements."

"As ye say," Jamie conceded.

"Good."

Claire leaned forward again placing her hands on Jamie's chest and lifted herself looking down between them until she was satisfied with her position and then lowered until the lips of her vagina were kissing Jamie's cock.

A strangled, "Claire!" emitted from deep in Jamie's chest as he thrust up at the contact and struggled to keep from pulling her against him.

Slowly she lifted her hips so she was just barely in contact with him and started rolling them against his length stopping before coming too close to his tip. So easy to sink down onto him, take him in. Her movements increased with the temptation, just there. She could feel Jamie's fingers tightening on her but he was just holding on, barely.

She was getting even wetter herself, the juices from her orgasm soaking them both and she forced herself to stop her ride and settle back on his thighs. Jamie's eyes opened seeking hers and watched as she stuck two fingers up inside of her coming out slick with her moisture and wrap around his cock. She had him well lubricated now and wrapped her hand almost around his girth, and held him for a moment trying to fully appreciate the size of him. He's huge! and bucked against him. Jamie smirked at her reading her face, there was naught that he could do about it. He was all hers, but he'd be gentle about it when he came time to take her.

Claire moistened her fingers again and began to pump him starting slowly, watching his face for clues that she was serving him well. She tried adjusting the pressure and tempo, playing with him with the tips of her fingers, marveling at the beauty of her man and how he responded to her touch, gratified by the moans that escaped his lips. His hands released their hold on her arse and one moved to stroke her thigh and the other reached up her back tracing the knobs along her spine. His abdominal muscles were contracting and suddenly he was sitting up and pressing his mouth against hers praying her name in hushed reverence against her lips. She felt his hips bucking against her and convulsions in his shoulders with the release of the warm wetness of his seed spilling over her hand. She softened her hold on him but continued to gently milk him until there was no more.

His breaths warmed her neck as he stilled and fell back into the pillows pulling her down next to him. Slowly he came back into himself, regaining some semblance of time. “Thank ye,” he murmured into her hair as he rolled to his side.

Claire softly laughed, “Your father is right, you are very polite,” she replied smiling as she rolled to face him, “Ladies first?”

“Always,” he replied dreamily as he kissed her forehead. As they lay together on the verge of dozing she was enjoying the feel of him and heat that radiated from his body as she snuggled closer despite the stickiness that was now covering them both the scent of their sex permeating the bed.

Jamie pushed a lock of Claire's hair away from her face and tucked it behind her ear, giving her a lopsided smile. “So bossy..."

Claire rose up on her elbows looking down on him. "Do you have a problem with that? ...Sometimes?"

"Did it seem as though I did?" Jamie cradled her face in his hands searching her eyes. "Just tell me what ye need, Sassenach, but I liked it, if I have a problem, I'll let ye ken and I expect the same from ye. Agreed?"

She settled back into his shoulder and kissed his chest, "Agreed."

"I do have a confession though."

"What's that?" Jamie's fingers played with her curls as they laid in each other's arms.

"I've never, ever done that, been like that before, but I liked it. It felt good."

Claire's head bounced a bit with the deep chuckled that started in his chest, "Christ, Claire. Ye have no idea, it felt soooo good. But truthfully, that was no, what I was intending when I brought ye up here, but I’ll sleep well tonight having the smell of ye and memories of ye here wi’ me.”

“Memories? Oh, so I’m being kicked out, am I?” her fingers were playing with the curls on his chest as she pulled back to look at him.

“I would never have ye leave, but I dinna think either of us would get any sleep and the next time ye're in this bed with me, I will have ye, all of ye, no holding back. See?" Jamie took Claire's hand and placed it on his hardening cock before gently moving it back to his chest. "Just thinking about it.... But before that can be, I still have matters to discuss wi’ my family before they leave in the morning and should probably speak wi’ them tonight.

I've asked John to drive ye back to your flat tonight. He can begin to fill ye in on some matters that ye need to know. Do ye mind?”

“I guess not, it’s probably the most sensible thing to do, though I will miss you. I did sleep very well last night, myself.” Claire’s lips had a mind of their own as they continued to pucker and leave small kisses as she nuzzled him.

“Aye, I did too, though there were a couple o times I woke wanting to take ye verra badly but having ye there next to me just knowing ye’ll soon be mine and we won’t need to be parted eased that a bit.”

Claire snuggled deeper into his side and sighed with contentment and breathed in the scent of him. “I love how you smell after we’ve had our little trysts.”

“Ye do, do ye? Well ye’ll be verra happy in our marriage I think then. I promise I’ll be verra smelly,” and he rolled to his side to face her. He reached out to push her hair from her face so he could sink into the depths of her whisky eyes loving every flicker of them.

“Do I have to bear the walk of shame in front of your family?”

“Nah, dinna fash, Sassenach, we Frasers appreciate a good bit of passion,” Jamie’s laugh rumbled from deep in his chest as he recalled numerous encounters he’d suffered through after witnessing his parents’ amorous displays and gave her a reassuring hug.

Chapter Text



John was sitting in one of the wingback chairs with a book opened in his lap when Jamie and Claire walked in, Jamie’s arm draped over Claire’s shoulder as they talked. Looking up at them as they entered, he closed the book and laid it on the side table a knowing smile slowly curling his lips. 

Despite Jamie’s assurances, Claire was relieved to see that John was alone and she would not have to face Jamie’s family and their scrutiny after their earlier tempestuous disappearance especially now given her rumpled state. She had declined Jamie’s too tempting offer to join him in the shower, opting for a quick wash up and combing dampened fingers through her hair trying to tame it somewhat, but there was no mistaking the tousled effects from their earlier activity.

Seeing John’s speculative observation, she couldn’t help feeling that she was coming up short compared to Jamie’s freshened state. He was now sporting a fresh pair of jeans and long-sleeved tee, his damp hair combed back. He had been amused at her embarrassment and tried to convince her they all lived very comfortably in glass houses and no one carried any stones.

“Dinna fash, mo nighean donn, they’re happy for us.”

“Are you ready then? Done with your cavorting already?” and John grinned at the pair.

“Stone?” Claire turned to Jamie as he laughed.

“Och, he’s ours by adoption, ye’ll have to forgive his tight assed parents.”

Jamie wrapped Claire in his arms from behind pulling her close as he spoke, “Nay, John, no nearly enough cavorting for my pleasure, but I must send my Sassenach off wi’ ye. I appreciate ye seeing her home safe. I hope ye can use this bit of time getting to know each other - ye’re two of my favorite people.”

Jamie walked out to the car with them and pulled Claire close tilting her chin up for one last tender kiss before settling her into John’s car, “I’ll see ye tomorrow, mo chridhe, sleep well,” and watched as they pulled away and turned toward town with his hand lifted in a departing wave.

Claire had settled into the seat next to John leaning her head back against the leather headrest and closed her eyes. She enjoyed the companionable silence recalling the interlude of the last hour and her conversation with Jamie. There was a lot floating in her head that needed her attention, but not yet, and she smiled lost in her thoughts of him as he moved with nonchalant ease through his space. She stopped breathing for a moment recalling the sight of him as he dropped his towel while pulling fresh clothes from the wardrobe and pulled them on forgoing any briefs. She had to sit on her hands as she sat in the club chair watching to keep from reaching out and touching him.

“Claire Beauchamp.”

Claire was pulled from her reverie at the sound of her name simply stated and turned to see John quickly glance at her before turning his attention back to the road.

“Hmm?”

“Does it strike you as an unusually small world that we’ve somehow wandered into? And it seems you are the common denominator that has brought us together.”

“Me?” The surprise evident in her voice. “You’re giving me an awful lot of credit for something that seems entirely beyond my control.”

“Quite so, the fates then if you put much store in that sort of thing, which I’ve recently come to give greater regard. What is it about you Claire?” he said the latter quietly, almost under his breath as he looked at her. No doubt, she was a beautiful woman, but there was something more that seemed to call to certain men; he just didn’t hear it. “…You must be a rare woman indeed to have attracted the affections of two such stalwart men,” peering at her he leaned over sideways toward her and added teasingly, “both who share my greatest affection.”

Claire turned in her seat to more fully study John’s handsome and refined profile. This whole conversation had taken a turn from the typical “getting to know you” scenario she was expecting, but John had jumped in to direct its course. His tone was friendly, but he seemed to have an agenda.

“Do you love him then?”

“Frank?”

“No, Jamie.”

For a few moments, only the purr of the engine filled the silence between them. Finally, John breathing deeply let go, “Always. But as a brother,” and looked over at her for acknowledgement.

“And Frank?”

“Yes, But definitely not as a brother. Does my admitting that make you uncomfortable? I hope not.”

“No, I’d hoped that was clear from the other night. … and Jamie, does he know?”

“About Frank?. . . No, I don’t think so. I’ve not said anything. Have you?”

“Of course not. It’s not my place to share anything like that about Frank – or you. And I won’t, it’s your story to tell when you’re ready.”

 “John? Would you mind if I asked how long have you known Frank?”

“About a year now, our paths crossed in the course of work.” John looked at Claire trying to assess her reaction which was not without its difficulties in the darkened confines of the car.

“So, you’re an historian as well? But I understand you work with Jamie?”

Claire settled against the door and looked at John, waiting for his answer.

John was well aware Claire was studying him and she had the advantage not having to keep her eyes on the road.

“Historian? No, not really; it’s more of hobby. It’s a fascinating field, particularly depending on the specific era or event but I’m more interested in one’s process of collecting information, separating the wheat from the chaff. And then of course what do you do with the knowledge gleaned?

Intelligence, Information gathering, Knowledge. He’s a bloody spy too and not a very good one.

“How does that fit with what you do with Jamie?”

“Oh, well pretty perfectly… Fraser Enterprises may be small by some standards, but they are extremely profitable at this point but despite being a privately held concern, they’re still subject to outside influences and possible disruptions in supplies. Remaining independent, keeping their roots firmly planted in Scotland is a paramount goal to Jamie. Those exceed just profits; they provide good job opportunities for the locals. Briefly, I study market trends, the competition, the suppliers and make recommendations for Jamie to consider when there are concerns that might affect his objectives. I’m somewhat of an analytical savant you see, and this suits me rather well, much better than the family business.”

“What’s that?”

“Come now, I thought with the little nuggets I dropped you might have drawn some conclusions of your own. Frank said you’ve a quick mind and like puzzles. What assumptions have you made?”

“Well I admit with what you said and your connection to Frank I thought possibly, MI5 – 6?, but you’re not are you?”

Claire could make out his sheepish grin. “Hal insists I’m not terribly well suited for it, and I have to agree. I’m not much of a stickler for bureaucratic rules, but given what I do and the circles I travel in, I do come across the odd bit of information now and again that if I deem appropriate, will pass along to my brother who is entrenched in the civil service. Doing what, I shall not confirm, but it was through him, that I made Frank’s acquaintance.”

“Does that help you understand, or should I worry – is this the awkward part, spouse, lover?”

Claire collected her thoughts and feelings about the situation. “Does it need to be? Can we just accept that we each hold the heart and maybe secrets of people we care for and hopes for their happiness?”

John nodded agreeing with her sentiment, adding. “We make for strange but comfortable bedfellows.”

“I am curious though, what did you know about me, may I ask?”

Claire could tell by the tightening of John’s fingers on the steering wheel that this was awkward.

“You mean with regards to Frank? ...Not much at first, only that you existed and then not until later when he felt comfortable speaking about you, that he was – is terribly fond of you.” John took a quick glance toward Claire.

“Should I assume then you’ll understand when Frank and I married, it was rather unconventional. I guess you could say we were ‘stand-ins’ if that’s the right word, until the right person came along. He just happened to find you first, but if he hadn’t, then maybe I’d not have met Jamie.”

John smiled gratefully at Claire and she could see why Frank would have been attracted to him, along with his boyish charms. “You know, this isn’t really a secret, but Jamie arranged this you know, my driving you back, so I could present to you ‘his characters, references’ if you will,” and John laughed at his recollection of Jamie’s anxious expression when he’d asked John. “I’m not sure I’m suitably qualified, but honored, none the less.”

“Did he? When was that?”

“Yes, the night he found you, after you left The Gathering. He instructed me to tell you anything that you wanted to know, except “his sins,” those he would tell you himself. Though I imagine that list should be extraordinarily short. Everything Brian said tonight is true. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but Jamie seems to be a man out of this time in many regards. He has a sense of honor, chivalry and loyalty, a penchant for caring for others that he feels responsible for that I find unusual in these days. And I think he would do anything, anything to protect someone he loved if he felt they were being threatened. I think you could plunk him right down in the 18th century and he’d be right in his element as the Laird of Lallybroch. You should see him swing a sword, a warrior through and through. God he’s beautiful.”

“He is beautiful, isn’t he?. . .” Claire dreamily agreed.

 “I’m sorry, I’m afraid I’m not totally unbiased. But he is as fine a man as I know.”

“He’s not just that. He’s incredibly kind. You asked about my loving Jamie. Truth is, he’s known that I was gay and loved him almost as long as I have, but while he didn’t reciprocate my feelings, he was never repulsed, he accepted me and having someone like him do that … I can’t imagine life otherwise. I don’t hide, but I am private.”

“You will also find more than a woman or two are going to be upset that he’s getting married. Imaginations run amok, and daydreams run aground. I hope your skin is thick enough to sustain the jabs of a few jealous harpies. I won’t name names – hopefully the ladies will be able to mind their manners, but you will be crossing paths in some social situations, so I don’t want to say anything prejudicial, but fair warning is all.”

“Yes, well, I’ve an idea.”

“Geneva, …Jamie did mention her. Our families are old friends, so I’ve known her forever, and she has always been a horror; she bullies her way through life. I can’t wait until she tries it on you, especially when she learns you and Jamie are getting married. My God! I mean, I don’t think she’ll have ever encountered a woman the likes of you; I hope to see a comeuppance in her future. You’ll have to call and let me know.

“If it comes to that, I will. I don’t know that it falls under the “Sin” category, but he did mention one ‘lass’…”

“Ah, yes, …her. He met her at a particularly low point. Jamie won’t claim to have been a monk.”

“I’d think not,” and Claire’s body betrayed her with a convulsion that there was no disguising as she thought about his hands expertly exploring her body. John couldn’t help but notice the sudden movement and laughed knowingly. “Well that’s embarrassing,” she tried laughing it away but was glad for the dark confines of the car as a blush and heat washed through her.

John inhaled deeply and chuckled, “God, you smell like sex.”

Claire turned her nose into her shoulder and sniffed and gave a quiet laugh in acknowledgement. “I smell like Jamie.”

“That’s what I said,” John laughed back in response. “I suppose I should be just a bit jealous, but surprisingly I’m not. At least not today, but I’m glad he found you. Claire, you should know that there has really never been anyone for Jamie, but you.”

Claire had been looking down to her hands, fingers fidgeting in her lap, “Jamie, you, Jenny, Brian and even Ian have all said things that seem to infer that Jamie has known me before. I feel this connection to him, I can’t deny it, but what does that mean?”

Silence filled the car again while John considered. “I’m not exactly sure how best to answer that. You heard what Brian said and that’s the truth of it. You were like some mystical unicorn that he was searching for. Jamie asked me to be honest with you, and I will with everything that I tell you, but that’s not something to which I can speak further. I’m going to defer to what I call “The Secrets Act…” That will have to come from Jamie; I hope you understand.”

“Of course, I understand, and thank you for respecting his privacy to that extent.” Claire’s regard for John grew and happiness for Frank that he’d found someone as honorable.

They were pulling up to Claire’s flat when John said, “We haven’t even discussed the financial matters that Jamie asked that I go over with you. Is it too late to come up? It shouldn’t take long, but there are a couple of papers I need for you sign, but you need to read them first and I can explain them as needed.”

Claire glanced at her watch; she was tiring after the work and the emotions of the day and it was getting late, but said, “Sure come on up for a bit. If my mind is too fuzzy, I’ll send you home and we’ll deal with it tomorrow, okay?”

“That’s fine,” and John grabbed his case from the trunk of his car.

They made small talk about the family dinner as they walked up the two flights of stairs to Claire’s flat, laughing at some of the comments Fergus had made. Claire had just unlocked the door and was stepping into the darkened entry when a man rushed out knocking the pair out of his way. Claire had been shoved hard against the door frame and losing her balance tripped over her feet and fell hard to the floor, but John took the hit full on and was knocked off his feet with such force he hit his head on the wall across the hall leaving an depression in the wall before he slid to the floor unconscious trailing a smear of blood down the wall.

“JOHN! JOHN!” Claire’s frantic calls pulled neighbors from behind their doors, “Call Emergency services!” as she knelt next to John, checking his condition. She could feel a lump forming at the back of his head and when she pulled her hand away, it was covered with blood. “John, do you hear me? Wake up John.” She talked to him as she continued examining him. Claire looked up and saw a white-faced Louise standing among the knot of neighbors, pointing to her bag by the door, “Call Jamie, please.”

Chapter Text



After John and Claire had departed, Jamie’s family had reconvened in the living room to continue discussing his wedding plans. Most were enjoying a whisky as they talked, well Brian and Ian were silent, listening – tuned to what might be expected of them to meet Jamie’s schedule. “Jenny, I remind ye this is no anything like what ye and Ian had. I want to keep it small. Understand that Claire has only four people that she counts as her family right now. I dinna want to overwhelm her.”

“But Jamie, why no…”

Interrupting her Jamie’s frustration was becoming clear, “This is what I want Jenny. Mam would ye tell her, please?” It wasn’t often but Jenny had a way of twisting his bawls that reduced Jamie to feeling like a lad.

“Jenny, listen to yer braither; I think it’s a grand idea. Jamie and Claire should have their wedding this weekend at the kirk in the late afternoon as they wish. We can manage that and a lovely dinner afterward here. There willna be too many more attending than we had this evening. Then let them enjoy a couple of weeks together alone.

And then, it’ll be close enough to our Samhain party that we can change it and make it a fancy-dress reception. We can ask the guests to dress in traditional Highland style attire of the 18th century. I’m sure we have enough clothes in the attics for our immediate family and wedding party. Can ye see? It will be quite festive!”

“Jamie what do ye think about that?”

Jenny was beginning to come around to see Jamie’s point once Mam offered her opinion. “It would give a bit more time to pull it together and ye ken, we could direct folks to Mary Rabb’s stall at the Collective if they’re wanting some clothes and maybe some of the other artists could benefit too.”

“Jenny let’s no turn this into a marketing event, please!”

“Why ever not? Isn’t this what we’re trying to do, support our community, support our traditions?”

Jamie threw up his hands in concession, deciding this was not the hill he was willing to fall on, there would be other battles with Jenny to take a stand. “I’ll leave that to ye then and the wee details. We may no live at Lallybroch but it will be Claire’s family home as well and I want her to ken she belongs there too; she is as welcome as any of us. I want this reception to be for our friends and family to meet Claire.”

“Including Dougal?” Jamie heard his mother’s tentative question come from behind him. She’d been acutely listening to her children’s conversation.

Jamie’s eyes got wide at the absurdity of it, No! …IFFRIN No!  

Before he could school his face and form a civil answer on his tongue, Jenny jumped in ahead of him, “Oh Jamie, wouldn’t that be wonderful? We havena seen Maura and their girls in ages,” as she walked over behind her mam and rested her hands on her shoulders. Facing Jamie who had turned to follow her she mouthed, allowing her facial expressions to do the shouting while she shook her head, “No Trollop!”

Jamie couldn’t help the smile as he nodded his appreciation and his expression softened as he looked at his mam, moving to sit next to her on the small settee, eyes flicking up momentarily to Jenny, “Aye, to the reception would be fine and Colum and Leticia if he’s able to travel. Would ye like that Mam?” he spoke softly and patted her knee. James Fraser loved his mother and would have her be proud of him. He would never cause her any pain if he could avoid it. If inviting her brothers would help, it would be a small thing. As frequently as he and Jenny got into spats, he loved her and could not imagine a rift that he would not attempt to mend and felt himself relenting a bit.

“I would. Thank ye Jamie,” Ellen chirped unexpectedly cheerfully back then paused to take a sip of her drink. “If Dougal doesna come, he canna claim it was because he wasna invited.”

“Yer Mackenzie is showing, a leanne,” Brian teased her.

“That’s alright. And if the arse has the bawls to show his face, I want him to see how fine my family is and ken that I dinna regret for a moment marryin’ yer da even after all these years. It is the best thing I’ve ever done.” She smiled over at Brian who was already smiling at her, his eyes twinkling.

“Ye mean after giving me our beautiful bairns.”

“Well as handsome and charming as ye are, Brian Dubh, I guarantee ye wouldna have gotten the three without marryin me first.”

Jamie had stood up with the turn of the conversation, the tips of his ears pinking as he looked from one to the other, “Mam! … Da!”

“And why d’ye think we eloped? Had to get on with the practicing. I hope after 30 years Claire can appreciate that ye got more from your mam than your red hair.”

“Or your Da’s stamina.”

Ah Dhia! Would the pair of ye take it upstairs, please?” and Jamie looked at Jenny and Ian who were now laughing, “Ye too!” and he waved in the general direction of the stairs.

“Of course,” Ian stood grinning and walked across the room and took Jenny’s hand. “Ye ken it takes a lot of practice to make perfect bairns, Jamie.”

Jamie’s phone rang with the chime he’d set for Claire as they turned to leave laughter trailing, his smile was shining through his voice as he spoke, “Thank God, Sassenach, ye’re saving me in the nick o time…Who? Who is this?”

In the background Jamie could hear the confusion and Claire calling to John. “What’s happened?” as he spoke, he looked to Ian and mouthed, “Call Murtagh and Taran.” And signaled him to hold for instruction with his hand while he listened. “Louise? Aye? Can she speak to me? No, that’s okay. Listen to me. Tell her she must go wi’ John to the hospital. Will ye wait wi’ the police? Dinna let anyone into her flat without them. Ask that they dinna touch anything. My Chief of Security is on his way to her flat, Taran, Taran MacQuarrie,” he nodded to Ian to issue the instruction. “Murtagh will meet her at the hospital,” another nod to Ian. “And I will be there as fast as I can. Put her phone in her bag and give it to her before she leaves. Thank ye Louise.”



The alarm evident in Jamie’s eyes belied the calm tone of his voice as he had looked at his family that had stopped when the call came.

“Someone was in Claire’s flat when she got home. When she opened the door, they rushed out. She’s okay but John’s been hurt, knocked unconscious. I’m going to meet them at the hospital. Ian, thank ye,” he acknowledged his help.

“Jamie, I’m coming wi’ ye. I dinna want ye driving alone, frightened as I ken ye are.” Brian reached to hold his son’s shoulder. Jamie just nodded his acceptance to his father’s command. “Ian, since we dinna know what’s happened, ye need to stay here wi’ Ellen and Jenny and make sure the house is secure.” They were already moving toward the door as he called back, “Fergus and Mrs. Fitz are probably abed, no need to cause them any upset. We’ll call once we’re on the road if Jamie should think of anything else.” He threw Ellen what he hoped was a reassuring look as he followed Jamie out the door.

They grabbed jackets and headed for Jamie’s car and Brian headed directly for the passenger seat knowing that Jamie needed to drive, to feel he had some control in the situation, it would help him focus and calm. Neither said a word until they got onto the main road back toward town. “Call Joe Abernathy for me first. He should be in the contacts, put it on speaker.” Brian did everything Jamie asked, he did not try to anticipate his needs, he knew them, but Jamie needed to feel his power.

“Joe, it’s Jamie. Are ye home? Claire is headed to the hospital wi’ John by ambulance. He’s been hurt, someone was in her flat and John was knocked out when they fled. That’s all I ken, except that Claire will need ye. Murtagh should be there soon; I’m on my way but will probably be 20 minutes. Aye, thank ye.

“Call Taran, please. …Taran, are ye there yet? I understand, no. Who’s meeting ye? Willie? Good, he’ll be good. When ye get there, check on Louise. See that she’s okay. I dinna remember her last name, but she’s Claire’s neighbor. I asked her to wait wi’ the Police until ye got there. Dinna think she could keep them out, but at least to witness their goings on until ye got there. I ken she’s upset. Have Willie escort her back to her flat, make her a cup of tea. Have him stay wi’ her while everything is being sorted out there. Insist if he must; the lassies all like Willie. John was going to review some financial matters wi’ Claire. He may have had his case wi’ him. I didna think to tell Louise to give it to Claire. Dinna let the police take it or anything else from the flat. Aye yer right, ye dinna need me tellin ye yer job, sorry. I’m headed to meet Claire at the hospital. I’ll stay in touch. Thank ye Taran.”

“Jamie, give yourself a moment lad, aye? Claire’s okay, I’m sure John will be fine.” Brian could see Jamie relax into his seat a bit. His vision had blurred with unshed tears, and he swiped at them with the back of his hand.

“Da, I canna lose her, no again.”

“Let’s no be chasing trouble until we ken what’s happened, aye?” and he gave Jamie’s leg a squeeze. He was struggling to keep his own tears at bay as he watched his son. He was a braw lad, big and tenderhearted; too often set to take on the suffering of others and he carried those pains and their memories deep within, ever a part of him. No father could be prouder of a child than Brian was of Jamie. He well understood the courage the young man embodied and the toll of it.

The phone blipped and Murtagh’s name came up. “She’s a’ right lad. A bit banged hoop and no so much scared as um, pissed, madder than a half-plucked chicken, she’s bouncin’ around spoutin’ orders at folks, and that hair o hers flying all aboot. She’s a bossy one ye got there, Jamie. Settle yourself, she’ll be fine.”

The relief that flooded through Jamie would have buckled his knees if he hadn’t already been sitting down, and the tears that he’d been attempting to hold in check trickled out. She may be a bitty thing, but she could be fierce, and he found himself smiling with a handkerchief being shoved toward him by his da. “So bossy.” Jamie murmured repeating Murtagh’s observation. If ye only knew, his relieved laugh filled the car. …Aye she’s that.

Brian looked at Jamie with concern then intercepted the call relieving Jamie of speaking for the moment, “Murtagh.”

“What’s he cackling on about?” Murtagh could hear Jamie as he quieted.

“I imagine it’s relief and something ye said. So, John? What do ye ken about him?”

“They’ve taken him for some scans; he was stirring a bit, but Claire insisted. Folks around here jump when she barks. She’s quite a lass ye got here Jamie. It’ll take a bit o time before they ken anything more about John. Ye should be here before he’s done wi’ the tests, dinna fash. Just be safe yourself, aye?” Murtagh paused before venturing, “Do ye think we should call Raymond now?”

Jamie had been struggling with that decision, whether to call him or not. In his euphoria of the day he had let his defenses down and the guilt was eating at him. He’d thought Claire would be safe with John. No, he needed to see Claire first for himself.

“No, not yet. We’re almost there. Tell Claire, please,” and disconnected.

“Jamie, when we get there, go find your lass, I’ll park the car and come to ye, okay? Everything will be fine, son.” They were quiet for a few minutes each to their own thoughts when Brian spoke, “As soon as we know the situation with John, I’m going to call Gere and Bene and let them ken. I’d want someone to call if ye were hurt.”

Jamie nodded willing his da’s words to be true, “Of course, ye’re right, I hadna even thought about that. God, I’m glad you’re wi’ me, Da, thank ye.” Brian put a hand on Jamie’s shoulder and gave it another reassuring squeeze.

“Jamie, ye’re a better man than I am, making a spot for Dougal with the company, I couldna work with the man. He’s discontented with his life so he’s always stirring the pot, causing mischief. The man has no idea what fidelity means. Maura’s a good woman and deserves to be treated better but maybe we can give him a little reminder what a vow is to be true to yer mate.”

Jamie nodded, “Aye we’ll do that.”

 

The A&E was bustling when Jamie arrived to find a knot of friends over to one side. Murtagh was speaking with Joe, while Rupert and Angus stood listening from the side. Relief hit Jamie as Murtagh smiled at him knowing it must be good news, but he was anxious when he didn’t see Claire.

Joe spoke up seeing Jamie approach, “John’s coming around and he’ll not be coming back down here. Claire’s gone up to see him while we get him checked into his room. Don’t worry, hospital security is with her and a couple of friends are keeping watch too. No one is crowding her. Until we know more your friends can wait in the lounge upstairs, it’s quieter this time of evening, you’ll have more privacy.”

Jamie’s appearance had drawn the attention of several people in the waiting room and phones were being pulled. In frustration he turned and marched down a corridor not knowing where it led, just away, wanting to escape the attention and trusting Joe would lead them through the maze. He stopped and turned to Rupert and Angus, “Taran, called us. We got here as fast as we could. I’m sorry Jamie.”

Jamie shook his head, “Nay, we’ll just be better prepared. I mucked it up. Angus, keep an eye out for Da and bring him up when he gets in will ye? He’s parking the car.”

“Aye, we’ll be right up wi’ ye.” And he turned heading back to the entrance.

Jamie walked side by side with Joe as he guided their group to Claire. “Ye called Raymond?”

“I did.”

“I wish ye’d waited.”

“He needed to know.”

“What were ye able to tell him? Anything of value?” Jamie felt his frustration rising as they walked but tried to keep his voice level.

Joe paused in his steps forcing Jamie to stop and turned to look at him. “I was scared for her. I needed to tell him.”

“I was scairt too,” Jamie admitted. “She’s my responsibility to care for and I messed up today and am afraid I put her in danger. It willna happen again.”

Joe nodded to Jamie and reached up to shake his shoulder. “Have you met Claire? She somehow seems to find trouble at every turn. It will happen… again, and again,” and Joe resumed his walk.

“Ye’re no making me feel better, if that’s what ye’re trying to do.”

“Nope, not trying to, just warning you if you’re going to be with that woman, be prepared.”

They turned the next corner and there she was standing at the nurses’ station. She’d donned a white lab coat over her dress and pulled her hair up into a messy bun and he couldn’t reach her fast enough.

 

Chapter Text



The relief Claire felt when she saw Jamie coming down the hall toward her washed over her like a tsunami as Jamie swept her up into his arms just holding her close as she clung to him and he whispered into her ear. “Ist m'eudial cuir stad airdo rànail - cha tig cron sam bit ort.”-

It was such an intimate moment that the small group of spectators turned away sensing their intrusion.

She didn’t understand a word that he was saying but the gentleness of the words as he spoke them, the warmth of his body and strength of his arms as he held, steadied the trembles that had begun. He stroked her back as she leaned into him resting her forehead on his chest, until her heart slowed and breathing eased.

The pair finally settled standing toe-to-toe foreheads touching, hands clasped, and Jamie’s lips continued moving as he spoke only to Claire.

Brian and Angus joined the group as Jamie and Claire did and they all turned to her expectantly. Claire took a deep breath and felt Jamie squeeze her hand and she slipped right back into her professional mantle. “Dr. Fielding is the neurologist on staff here, he is handling John’s case, but I’ve called in a consultant I know that specializes in head injuries. I’m being overly cautious; John’s regained consciousness and his vitals are good. He sustained a severe concussion but with head injuries such as this…, we’ll keep him here to monitor for a couple of days.”

Rupert spoke then, “Can ye tell us what happened? What did ye see?”

Before she could answer, Joe pointed toward a small consulting lounge suggesting they move there thus away from the lingering curious looks from the nursing station staff. By the time they all piled into the tight quarters, Claire felt dwarfed by the large men that surrounded her and was struck by the similarity.

“A footballer! Honestly it happened so fast, as soon as I got the door opened, he blasted into me and knocked poor John right off his feet. But he was huge! When I turned to John, all I saw was the back of him moving down the hall disappearing through the stairwell doors. Nothing of note, a grey hoodie, black trackers, purple runners. Big, muscled. I don’t think he intended to hurt us, he just wanted to get away.”

“Didn’t want to hurt ye?!” disbelief tainted Jamie’s outrage.

“Well he could certainly have done more damage if he’d stuck around, we were down and vulnerable, but he was off!”

A sense of relief washed through the group. “Could ye tell if he was carrying anything?”

“No, at least nothing in his hands; he had his arms pulled up in a blocking position and fists clenched and head down,” small details coming back. Claire could hear the “Ooof” as John’s air was being knocked from him and the sharp smack as his head hit the wall and then the muffled sounds as he slid down landing with a thud as he crumpled on the floor. It was as if the sounds played back in slow motion on a loop and shuddered with the recall.

“Claire?” She winced as Jamie’s hand gently touching her shoulder pulled her attention back to the room and the circle of anxious faces all looking down at her. “Have ye been seen to Sassenach?” Jamie asked quietly and looked to Joe for confirmation.

Shaking her head, she demurred, “I’m fine just knocked up a bit.”

“Sassenach…”

“Let’s see about getting that shoulder examined, shall we, lass?” Brian intervened quietly.

“Ye need to Claire, please. I want to see John before we leave, but Taran is at yer flat wi’ the police. They canna leave until ye come back and take a look around, so they can finish up their report. Would ye be up to that? I ken ye’re exhausted, but it needs to be done, and we’ll decide where ye’re to stay tonight after that, aye?”

Claire looked from one to the other Fraser men and could just nod, conceding the request as she felt the blanket of exhaustion, shock wrap around her and she now struggled to keep her eyes open, “Alright, but I need to close my eyes, just for a minute.” Jamie settled her on the small couch in the room as everyone vacated, and Joe gave her a quick check. “I’m sure she’ll be fine, give her a few minutes. I’ll get someone to come up from A&E and examine her and then get her home and into bed.”

Jamie followed Joe out of the room and down the hall a way, “Can ye give me a few minutes, please, …in private?” He looked back toward the room where Claire was resting with Brian and Murtagh now sitting by her side, Rupert and Angus standing watch outside her door.



“Sure, just a minute.” Joe went to the nurses’ station and issued up his orders before turning back to Jamie. Looking around, he found another open consultation room and led Jamie in. Jamie paused at the door looking back toward Claire’s before, turning and closing it behind him. Joe took a seat and watched Jamie pacing the small room, moving to the door with his hand on the knob before turning it loose and away to make another circuit. Joe was a patient man and would wait for him to settle down. Joe became more aware not only of his size in the small room, but his charged presence that radiated through the small confines.

Jamie finally took a seat and bowed his head cradling it in his hands as his thumbs massaged his temples before lifting his head and scrubbing his fingers back through his hair and piercing Joe with his blue eyes now red-rimmed and weighted with emotions as was his voice when he spoke.

“First, I want to thank ye for being here for Claire, for always being her friend, her family, her support, for having her best interests at heart. She trusts ye and so I will as well. We each have secrets that we canna share as yet, but what happened tonight, …what ye said, ye’re right, it seems no matter where or when Claire attracts trouble.”

Joe scrutinized Jamie carefully as he spoke but found himself nodding in agreement.

“It’s as her brother I need to talk to ye. Ye understand there’s nothing usual about our situation, and I said some things the other night that I didna speak of with ye and Gail then, but were …well perhaps, might lead ye to think I’m mad.” Jamie turned to stare at the door as though he could see through it searching for Claire. Jamie paused before turning back to face Joe, “and Christ, sometimes I’ve felt the madness of it myself, but I’m not,” with a low wry chuckle.

Jamie took a deep breath and plunged ahead, “I want ye to ken, though I’m no sure how to explain it, or what Raymond has told ye, but Claire and I have a history. Whether ye believe in such things or no, we share a past and ye heard me say it plain enough, she was – is my wife. The truth is it doesna matter how long it’s been, Claire is my wife. Ye ken what that means, I’ve seen how ye are with Gail, ye share a bond – a soul that canna be broken.”

“What happened, can you tell me?” For years Joe had been charged with keeping an eye out for her, only vaguely aware of a veiled threat; he’d never questioned it, there was just something about Claire. Raymond had been surreptitious about the extent and the information that he shared, but perhaps now he would learn the full truth.

“We lived in a time that was full of danger and for her safety, I sent her away from me,” Jamie’s gaze shifted back to the closed door, “I wish ye never to ken the loss of the one that holds yer heart, to live with the ache of it so that it becomes part of yer every moment.” Silence filled the room.

“Claire doesna remember that time. Raymond believes she may eventually, but whether it comes to her or not, I realize it is no as important as that she kens the connection that exists between us and we can make a life together now.”

Joe recalled Claire’s earlier exuberance when she announced her sudden and to be short engagement and could not deny the connection and had a better appreciation for Raymond’s seeming ulterior motives for bringing this pair together.

“So are you two living a reincarnation?” Far from being satisfied, Joe’s curiosity was just being whetted and wanted to know more but intuited that he couldn’t push too hard.

Jamie’s lips curved in a small smile as he acknowledged Joe’s curiosity, “Truth be told Joe, ye’d have a better conversation with my mam about that, but it’s no reincarnation as I understand it to be, more a genetic memory if I had to describe it for ye. I’m a man born in this time, but I have memories of a time, a life before. As it is, I now seem to be living in a time that does no always seem my own; it sometimes feels like a shirt that doesna fit properly, it chaffs a bit.”

Jamie glanced at his watch anxious to check back with Claire and not prepared to divulge more than he already had, “I know ye have more questions and there will come a time that I’ll be able to give ye more answers, but no until I’ve talked with Claire. Raymond said I should wait, and let it come to her if it will, but it does no feel honest to tell others and hold back from her. I hope ye understand. And truthfully, I’ve told ye this today, because I need yer help to do whatever I can to protect her and will be better able to see to her care once we’re marrit.”

“Oh, is that the reason for the rush?” Joe tilted his head and gave Jamie a discerning smile, his dark brown eyes crinkling up. Joe watched in amazement as the “big ginger” pinked up to the roots of his hair.

“You love her, truly love her,” Joe observed.

“Aye, I never stopped.”

“Well I appreciate your telling me what you have Jamie, I don't fully understand it, but I believe you. And not that you need it, but as your future brother-in-law, you have my blessing. I know you’ll take care of our girl. Speaking of, …shall we go check on her?”

Jamie nearly leapt to his feet extending his hand, “Thank ye Joe.” Joe accepted it but pulled Jamie into a quick hug.

“No need. That’s what family does. Gail is going to be so excited when I tell her!” then checked by Jamie’s piercing look, “…After you talk to Claire, I promise,” he added.



“I’m here to see Ms. Beauchamp.” The scrub dressed doctor was stopped at the door by Rupert and Angus. Murtagh opened the door and stepped out and ushered him in before closing the door.

Alex looked down at Claire who was laying scrunched up on the small couch with her eyes closed and the man sitting in a chair across from her, whom he immediately recognized from meeting just the other night. “Mr. Fraser, I’m Alex Thom, we met the other night. What’s going on this evening?”

“She had a bit of a run in with someone leaving her flat in a hurry and knocked her about.” Brian leaned over and gently shook Claire. “Lass, have ye had enough of a rest? The doctor is here to check ye over.”

Alex pulled a chair up close to Claire and sat before he took hold of her hand. “Can ye sit up? Would ye be more comfortable in a regular exam room?”

Claire pushed herself up and took a couple of deep breaths while she cleared her head and recognized Alex. “Oh hey, Alex. How did you luck up? This is a bit ridiculous,” as she looked at Brian, “but no, here is fine.”

Alex turned looking at Brian. “Could you please wait outside while I examine Ms. Beauchamp?”

“No, I’ll stay here while ye check out my daughter.”

Confusion raced across Alex’s face, “Yer daughter?” and then looked at Claire, but Brian continued.

“Aye, my daughter. She’s to marry my son, James, so I’ll stay put while he meets with Joe Abernathy.”

Alex took her left wrist and measured her pulse while noticing it was absent a ring before laying her hand in her lap. “Well this is news. Recent?” as he pulled an ophthalmoscope from his pocket and examined her eyes.

“Yes, actually. It slipped out today.”

Fuck… Alex lowered the light and looked directly at Claire not hiding his disappointed expression that surprised her but managed to cover it when he spoke lightly. “Well, Mr. Fraser is a very lucky man.” He stood then, “Let me help you take this off,” and reached for the lab coat as she shrugged it off. He pulled out his stethoscope and warmed the head on his palm. He looked at her seeking her permission before slipping his hand into the opening of her dress and moved the bell above her heart adjusting the position taking care not to brush her skin with his fingertips. He dropped his head as he listened to the rhythms and noticed an uptick in the beats and glanced up quickly at Claire. “Everything sounds good so far. Ye took a bit of a hit? No knocks to the head. Tell me.”

“Well it was mostly I tripped over my feet when the intruder rushed out and I fell against the door frame and then to the floor. There’s some bruising to my right shoulder and my wrist is a bit sore, but nothing serious, I tried to tell them.”

Brian was observing the examination, only intending to maintain a quiet presence, but couldn’t keep his mouth closed hearing this. “Ye’re a surgeon Claire, ye shouldna ignore any injury to yer hands or wrists. Ye must rely on them.”

Alex bit back a smile, “He’s absolutely right Claire, can we slip yer arm out of this sleeve?” Again he rose as she turned her back to the pair and he helped ease the sleeve down and off her arm. Brian had turned his head while her shoulder was barred.

“Jesus H. Christ,” she mumbled below her breath and felt a soft pat on her good shoulder.

“Do ye mind?” while fingers tenderly touched the affected area that was blooming a dark bruise. “Can ye rotate it back? Now forward? How’s that?”

“Honestly it’s fine. I’ll be completely fine by tomorrow. I heal quickly.”

“Lift yer arm forward, hold it. Now up.” With each new position, Alex’s fingers expertly probed the joint and surrounding area and then her wrist and grip.

“D’ye think she should have it x-rayed?” Brian wondered out loud.

“No, I think she knows herself well enough and she’s right. We’ll get some ice packs for ye to keep on it. Ye’re familiar with the routine.” He grinned up at her. “It’s just bruised but would be good to let it rest for a few days. I’ll get ye a sling just to remind ye to go easy on it. You don’t want to be in a surgery and have the bruised muscles tense up on ye or lose yer grip, d’ye?”

“No.”

Murtagh and Rupert were walking away as Jamie and Joe approached the door to where Claire was being checked over, “We’re going to see to Joe, yer da is in with Claire and the doctor,” as he thumbed in the direction over his shoulder.

Jamie knocked softly on the door before poking his head in. “Go on in Jamie,” Joe ordered from behind him with a gentle push.

Claire smiled up at him as a sling was being adjusted and she held an ice pack on her shoulder, “I told you I was fine.”



Joe led the rest of the group to where John was being settled and met with Dr. Fielding. “Scans don’t show any brain bleeds. He certainly suffered a concussion, small laceration to the scalp, just a few stitches required to close that up. Don’t think there will be any negative lasting effects but will have to monitor him. He will be sore for a few days, from the blunt force impact he sustained. Sounds like he stepped in front of a lorry. He’s very groggy, but we don’t want him to sleep so we’ll be rousing him regularly. It would be better for him if you could wait until tomorrow. Joe? I’ll be available if anything comes up,” and Dr. Fielding left them.

Jamie quietly pushed opened the door and stepped toward the bed where John lay propped up. He opened his eyes at Jamie’s approach lifting a hand in a careless wave and smiled. Jamie approached him and leaned down wrapping his large arms about John and held onto him, while John lazily patted Jamie’s back in return.

“A braither, ye scared me,” Jamie spoke quietly as he rose from the embrace.

John started to shake his head to wave off Jamie’s concern but stopped short and caught it up with a hiss of pain. “I wish I was up for a witty reply, but things seem to be a bit loose. Check back tomorrow would you?”

“Aye, I’ll do that.”

“Claire! Is Claire all right?”

“Aye, she’s fine, she’ll see ye tomorrow. I’ll call Hal and let him ken; Da wants to speak with yer folks himself. Get some rest – as much as they’ll let ye then,” and then with a pat on his shoulder, left.

“I have to take Claire back to her flat to deal wi’ the police there. I’d like for Rupert and Angus to stay at the hospital. Da? Can ye stay wi’ Murtagh here in town just for the night?”

“Dinna fash, lad, we’ll manage. Ye get Claire taken care of and Joe, we’ll talk wi’ Raymond tomorrow. There’s no more to be done tonight. Everyone just needs to find their way home into bed. Thank ye for coming in and tell Gail, we’re sorry to have pulled ye away from her tonight. Jamie, I’ll pull the car out front for ye and meet ye there.” Brian had spoken, and the group parted each to do what they needed.

Jamie spoke quietly to Angus and Rupert giving them instructions for watching over John. When he turned to Claire, her eyes were on him and a look of relief on her face.

He crouched down next to her as he stroked her hair from her face searching it. “Are ye all right mo chridhe? Truly?” he asked quietly and accepted her nod, taking her free hand and lifting it to his lips and holding it there until he could speak again. “Let’s get to yer flat and then to bed, aye?” he stood up then but didn’t release her hand as he pulled her up to him. He wrapped his arm around her waist, and they leaned on each other as they made their way out, neither of them speaking.

Chapter Text



After locking up, Jamie trailed behind Claire as she made her way into her bedroom, shucking her clothes along the way, inadvertently performing a strip tease for him leaving a tantalizing scattering in her wake. Jamie paused, stooping to pick up each discarded article until he stood at the edge of the bed watching her beautiful naked arse disappear as Claire slid between the sheets and turned to face him and patted the space next to her. “Coming?”

Christ…  “Aye,” Jamie swallowing hard, bobbed his head and laid her garments on a chair in the corner and quickly stripped off his own clothes, laying them on top of hers. As he crawled under the covers Claire leaned over and gave him a quick peck on the lips with a murmured, “Thank you,” before she rolled over and flopped onto her side releasing the deep huff of contented relief of the weary, grateful to finally be abed.

Jamie looked over at her as she laid with her back curled away from him resisting the temptation to trace the knobs along her spine, to curl around her body, shield her with his own, so laid on his back with his fingers interlaced across his abdomen as he stared at the ceiling. As close she was, he heard her breathing settle as she fell into sleep. He briefly questioned the advisability of joining her in her bed but quickly dismissed that thought. He’d not be parted from her again until they married if it be within his control. It would take a good deal longer for him to settle and drift off as his mind raced through the evening’s events but having her close helped eased his worry over what had happened. He let go of the what might haves and turned to the more pleasant thoughts of their time in his bed and grew hard thinking of her straddling him, the pleasure on her face as she lost herself riding along his length. Shiite, ye’re a fool. He looked over at Claire as he rolled out from under the covers and made his way to the shower to take matters into his own hands.

In the dark, silent hours of the night, Claire had turned in her sleep to find Jamie. He wakened to feel her fingers lightly caressing the skin over his heart and then she settled into place as she laid her head on his chest, her bare body aligning with his, one leg overlaying his, the soft tuft of her hair against his hip. His body had gone rigid in response to her proximity. It was all he could manage not to roll into and take her into his arms and love her, but he held himself at bay, not caving to his want of her but taking comfort that he could hold her, protect her after what had happened earlier. He would not risk waking her, so pacified himself with tracing small circles on her back until he eased back into sleep, content that his heart was in his arms and she was whole.



Claire slowly woke to soft, waffling breaths tickling the fine hairs on the back of her neck. Lifting her hand to brush the hairs away she felt a slight tenderness in her shoulder and memories from the night before surfaced into her consciousness along with the awareness of a warm comfort nestled against her back and smiled as she became fully aware of his presence. Jamie…, and then – their very naked state.

How? …I did… Jesus, and sighed. It had recently become her habit with her new life, assured of a privacy she’d not previously experienced, with no chance of being called from her bed, the one benefit of being single, to sleep naked, to luxuriate in the sensation as her bare skin slipped across the fine sheets she’d splurged on when she crawled into bed after a long day, seeking and finding simple pleasures where she could.

And now here she was sharing her bed for a second night with Jamie and was amazed considering how he had shown up in her life and within just a few days he had become the core of her being. How had it happened so quickly, the immensity of it scared her. She could not deny the physical draw, but it was so much more and that she was having a hard time defining. Last night, when she’d looked up and seen him at the end of the hall, her heart had leapt at the sight of him, overflowing with relief and gratitude realizing there was no one in the world she wanted—needed  to see more than him.

Jamie’s arm lay heavy over her torso snuggling her close as his hand laid palm up cupping her breast. She wanted to roll over so she could see Jamie as he slept, bury her nose into the skin of his neck to breathe him, to run her tongue along the skin from his clavicle to his neck, to taste him, but from the rhythm of his breathing, he was still deep into his sleep and she wouldn’t disturb him. It had been an exhausting evening so closed her eyes against the dim grey light that was bleeding through from behind the drapes deciding to settle back into sleep and cozied closer to Jamie. She immediately stilled as she felt his morning arousal pressing against her bare-assed cheeks. Jesus H… Claire felt the tempo of her heart pick up, keeping pace with her shortened breaths. Her face flushed with the heat that bloomed deep within her core and spread through her body as she thought about inching backwards, it would be so easy, but…

Memories of how she’d behaved, the reckless abandon she’d felt in his bed had her face blazing in a heat between desire and mortification, how could she have done those things? She didn’t recognize herself, but she had liked it and so apparently had Jamie. But laying here with these thoughts was doing her no good. For fuck’s sake, this is absolute bloody torture. Saturday. I can make it to Saturday, I think I can... but not laying here like this.

Claire shifted her focus from moving closer to extricating herself from Jamie’s hold and out of the bed as she started slowly easing away from him across her sheets. She gently took hold of his wrist, intending to remove his hand from her boob and slip out from under his hold, but his fingers began to gently knead it before stilling and her stupid, betraying nipple hardened with his touch and sent shivers through her  as his thumb continued the caress brushing over it in what she was now fairly certain was a very deliberate motion by a hand that was attached to a wakening Jamie, confirmed as he hitched his body closer to her reclaiming the space she had gained between them.

A pair of lips pressed a kiss to her bruised shoulder followed by a husky morning voice greeting, “G’mornin’ Sassenach, are ye a ‘right?”

“Loo,” she whispered the one-word explanation hoping that would be enough and hearing a quiet desperation she hadn’t expected, like abracadabra, it worked as Jamie released his hold and lifted the weight of his arm from her with a quiet apology, “Och, sorry, ye should have woken me mo leannan.”

Claire felt his fingers trail across her body, leaving goosebumps in their wake as she moved from his touch. Swinging her feet over the edge of the bed to the floor she looked over her shoulder at him, Damn! His head was propped up in his palm as he looked at her. The bedsheet had been rucked down and he was bare to the waist wearing only a lopsided grin, blue eyes beckoning her quick return.

She pushed off from the bed and quickly made her way to the bath, closing the door behind her and leaned against it trying to calm her raging libido which was demanding she turn right back around and return immediately to that bed and Jamie. Determinedly, wresting control, she turned on the water for the shower instead and peed as it warmed up a bit. She pulled out her toothbrush and a spare for Jamie and left it on the counter as she stepped into the spray continuing to brush her teeth and just let the water run over her luxuriating in the heat and excess of it, as she struggled to sort her jumbled thoughts and emotions.

Claire’s quiet rustling as she eased herself away woke Jamie, and he gave into his urge to pull her back into the space she had left hollow next to him; he needed her but accepted her explanation; she needed her time.

Jamie turned over onto his back and pillowed his head on his arm after she had closed the bathroom door, smiling as thoughts of her consumed him. Weel I promised I’d care for her and love her well if ye gave me another chance and I thank ye most gratefully for the opportunity ye have given me, but God almighty! How is that trouble seems to find her so easily?  



It had been late by the time they’d gotten back to Claire’s flat. He had watched her, his wounded dove with her arm in a sling as she dropped his hand and walked into the center of her lounge and stood there for a moment before slowly turning in a circle taking in the mess. It seemed every drawer, every door was opened, even her kitchen cupboards. A small box of loose photos had been dumped and scattered on the floor, books shoved aside, and her new blue vase was laying on the floor in pieces. She walked over and bending down picked up a few large shards and looked at them before walking over and dropping them in the dust bin.

“Whatever was he looking for?” more to herself than those others present; she moved as if in a trance to straighten the bookshelves.

Jamie came up behind her speaking softly and gently placing his hands on her shoulders, “Sassenach, let’s leave this til morning; we can come back and deal with this then. Yer mind will be clearer after ye get some rest, aye?”

She turned to him and spoke with a fierce determination feeling the heat of anger at the intrusion of her privacy. “No, Jamie. I will not turn rabbit and be chased from my home just to go and hide. I’m staying here but,” and the weight of it all settled on her as she leaned forward against his chest and wrapped her arms around his waist, asked him quietly, “would you stay with me?” Determined to be independent, here she was twice in the space of the evening looking to him for support that she would never have asked or expected from anyone else and he was giving it to her freely and not making her feel small for asking. Her heart swelled with the realization and gratitude.

“Of course, I’ll no be leaving ye. Let’s finish taking a quick look and then ye talk to the officers while I talk to Taran.”

Claire just nodded and walked over and sat on her sofa where she was joined by an officer. She numbly responded to a litany of standard questions taking exception to a couple that cast even the slightest shadow on friends as possible culprits.

“Does anyone else have a key to yer flat?”

“No one, no wait, Joe and Gail Abernathy have one in case of emergency, why?”

“Just collectin’ information, ma’am.”

“Who knew ye would be out this evening?”

“Christ, this is ridiculous,” Claire couldn’t help mutter under breath then responded, “I told Joe, Dr. Dominique Raymond, and Frank Randall.”

“And they are?”

“My family. I was sharing news with them that I was getting married and letting them know I was meeting Jamie’s family for dinner. I assure you none of them are the culprits.”

“Of course, ma’am. Just collectin’ information.”

“D’ye notice anything missing?”

Claire looked around with a befuddled expression, “It’s hard to tell, but no, I don’t think so, I can’t see that I have anything that would be of value or interest to anyone else. I left my laptop at work since I was going out. I’m really just settling in and don’t have much as you can see, but…” she jumped up and ran for her bedroom.

“Sassenach?” Jamie followed her as she started rummaging through the clothes in her top drawer and pulled her visibly shaking hand out holding a small silver box and opened it. “What is it?”

Claire looked at the necklace she poured into her hand and held up by the chain, the small emerald pendant hanging. “It was my mother’s, my father gave it to her,” she looked at Jamie with tears brimming, her lips trembling as a tentative smile curled the corners, as she let out a huge sigh of relief. “It’s one of the few things I have of hers. I have some odds n ends that have been kept in storage until I finally had a place to settle, I just haven’t had the time to reclaim them, but this, I always keep with me,” and she closed her hand tightly over it.

Jamie embraced her as she rested her head against his chest and let loose the tears and the emotions that had finally caught up with her and gently stroked her back whispering softly Gaelic words that made no sense to her all, but still, the cadence and timbre of his voice had a calming effect on her until with a final sniffle she wiped at her nose with her sleeve.

“Let’s see about sending these fellas home, Sassenach. I’m knackered and I’m sure ye must be as well.” He looked over her shoulder at the officer that was standing in the doorway and directed him away with a jerk of his head, before leading Claire back out.

They were finally able to send the police on their way after providing them what information she could. It appeared the door had not been jimmied, could she have left it unlocked? Their initial assessment was inconclusive at this time since nothing appeared to be missing but considered the vandalism a bit excessive for a mere prank and the fact that she and John were both injured, even if unintentionally, increased the seriousness of the matter. They would keep the investigation open.

Of course, Jamie’s security was more focused on items that might have been left behind. Taran had done a sweep and found nothing that appeared out of place, no recording or transmitting devices and set up a temporary security patrol; more measures would-be set-in place in the morning.



As she started soaping up her body, she assessed her scrapes and bruises; they were tender, but she’d live and thought she could forgo the sling.

“Sassenach?”

Claire hadn’t heard the door open but smiled hearing his tentative tone. “Sorry but I really need to take a piss, d’ye mind?”

“No, go ahead. There’s a spare toothbrush on the counter.” In all the years they’d been together, she and Frank had never shared a bathroom like this. Living in the close confines with mostly men on a military base she’d had to develop a thick and somewhat prickly outer shell and quickly learned to give up any pretense of false modesty as the chaps would test her limits constantly if given the chance; they could be such little boys, but this newly found intimacy as she heard Jamie peeing was different and somehow ridiculously comforting.

Anticipating Jamie joining her, she turned the hot water down as far as she could stand without freezing herself but felt goosebumps ripple across her cooling skin.

“Jesus, Claire! Why’s it so cold??” Jamie protested as he stepped in and attempted to reach past her to adjust the temperature only to find her hands pressed against his chest keeping him at bay.

“Don’t. Things were getting a bit too warm and I needed a cool down,” she admitted eyeing him appreciatively thankful for her foresight. Dear God,  she hummed to herself.

Jamie gave her a wry smile, “Ye dinna say…” thinking about his own earlier shower. His fingers ghosted over her shoulder before he bent his head to tenderly kiss the bruise purpling there. Claire shivered at the contact and not because of the cool water, and she was immediately pressing into him responding to the feel of him as his hands slid down her arms, he pulled her closer as she tilted her face up towards him.

Her whisky-honey eyes locked with his deep blue as he leaned in to kiss her, “Oh, but I do,” she whispered against his lips and gently but firmly pushed away from his embrace and taking in his confused expression. “I’ve got to go.” She wanted him badly and she knew it wouldn’t take much effort on her part to break their pact, she was too close to the edge, but she realized she was not prepared to do that. But by the same token she couldn’t deal with half measures, not today.

Jamie grabbed for her hand as she slipped out, “Sassenach?”

“I’ve got to get ready,” she called over her shoulder and rushed out of the bath.

Claire had raced from the bath only thinking far enough ahead that she needed to remove herself from Jamie’s proximity and to put on some clothes quickly so donned clean scrubs that were handy though she knew she had been removed from the surgical schedule today. She hoped they might afford her a bit of protection against the sexual tension that was rising in her – don’t feel sexy, don’t be sexy; she felt the urgent need to escape the effect Jamie’s presence was having on her in the small confines or she was going to implode. Hair! Good Lord. She ran her fingers through the wet mess and glanced toward the bath where her comb was to see Jamie draped in a towel leaning against the door frame with his arms crossed and a crooked smile tweaking his lips.

“How long have you been standing there?” she asked unaware the water had shut off, as she self-consciously stabbed her fingers at her hair before she dropped her hands to her sides, fisting them.

“No nearly long enough.” Jamie walked toward her and reached out twirling a tendril around his finger, before carefully pulling his finger away and releasing the curl.

“Don’t you dare say a word,” she huffed as she brushed past him and moved back into the bathroom, pulling her comb out and attacking the tangles with skilled practice as Jamie returned to his doorframe post to watch her mirrored reflection. She worked through the mass trying to avoid making eye contact but thoroughly aware of her silent audience until she was no longer able to ignore his presence which vibrated through the small space. Hands collapsing onto the counter she braced herself as she leaned forward toward the mirror as though to get closer to him and lifting her eyes to his reflection commanded him, “Say something!”

“Och, so I may speak now?” he smiled teasingly at her, “I love yer hair.”

Utterly deflated with his unexpected response, she released a quiet, “Oh.”

Eyeing her attire with a lifted brow glancing from her bedroom back to her he asked, “Sassenach? Where d’ye think ye’re going?”

“Where do you think? I’m getting ready to go to work, I have a job, patients that I need to check on. …John?

Ye stubborn wee… “No. Ye’re hurt and Dr. Thom said ye should rest yer shoulder for a few days. I dinna really want ye going in today, no until we ken what happened here last night.”

“No, Alex said I shouldn’t do any surgery, and I won’t but my shoulder’s fine, really. He was just being overly cautious. I have responsibilities that I can’t, that I won’t just shuffle off on to someone else because it’s inconvenient. That’s not who I am. I’ll be fine, and what happened here last night…? I’ll find out, you needn’t bother, it’s not your problem, I’m not your problem.” Claire could hear the words spilling out of her mouth, the tone spoken and couldn’t believe she was saying them and wanted to bite her tongue but she needed some distance and this was the only way she knew to do it by lashing out at him. She could see the hurt she was inflicting reflected in Jamie’s eyes, with his brows furrowed as he tried to understand.

He erupted, “What d’ye mean ye’re no my problem?! Ye will be my wife, Claire, and I vowed to ye that I would let no harm come to ye and if anyone should harm ye, they  are my problem. I will care for ye, as is my responsibility, …my right.” Jamie was fuming with frustration.

“Well we’re not married yet,” and she stuck out her chin though it quivered a bit daring him to challenge her and her eyes shimmered with unshed tears. “I can take care of myself; I always have. I don’t need you.” Did I really say that? After last night?

“I don’t need you.”  Jamie jolted back at their utterance; it was like a stab to his heart to hear Claire speak those words even knowing she didn’t mean them, he could see it in her startled eyes. He took a deep breath to calm himself and when he spoke his voice broke into a whisper as he admitted, “But I  need ye, mo chridhe.”  Please, ye ken this and ye do need me, let me in, open yer heart to me.

They stared at each other across the short distance separating them.

Jamie reached toward Claire’s hand, it was within his easy grasp, but he needed her to reach out to him, across this small rift that had exploded out of nowhere and threated to become a chasm. “What’s this about, …really?”

Jamie stood poised in front of Claire with his hand still extended toward her watching as she struggled with something, warring emotions reflected in her glass face and tears on the verge of spilling. God, he wanted to help her, but she needed to know he trusted her to make her choice. “What do ye want, Claire?”

Claire could feel the betraying tears pooling and threatening to spill and finally broke the hold Jamie had on her and looked away. Ball’s in your court Beauchamp, what do you want, really want?! 

YOU! Damn it. I want YOU!

Claire finally looked at Jamie, he hadn’t moved, but his expression had relaxed, the crease between his brows, gone, and there was a small smile twitching at this lips that hadn’t been there before.

Did I say that out loud?”

“Say what, mo chridhe?”

She scoffed at his implied denial, but Claire finally reached up and accepted Jamie’s hand. “I’m sorry, I said more than I meant. I’m just cranky and,” looking at Jamie, she blushed furiously and looked away.

“…And?” his lips twitching, and blue eyes sparkled, “ye want me?”

“YES! All right?! I want you; I admit it. Satisfied?”

“Aye, it’s a start,” and Jamie’s laughed rumbled deep in his chest as he pulled her in closer, “Perhaps, I could lend ye a hand with that,” as his hands started roaming south, tugging at the waistband of her scrubs.

Claire smoothly twisted out of his hold and backed away putting space between them and pointing at him as he stepped toward her. “No! You just stay right there James Fraser,” as she took a step back.

Jamie stayed as she’d commanded, and quirked his brow and gave her a half smile, gazing at her from hooded eyes considering…

Feeling as though he’d granted her a moment’s reprieve, she closed her eyes and took a deep breath before she could look him directly in those meltingly beautiful blue eyes that were staring directly at her. Oh God, “Jamie, I…, I’m trying, really trying to understand, to respect that you don’t want to… to actually fuck me until we’re married,”

He leaned toward her wanting and ready to take a step, his hands held out to her in supplication, but waited to follow her lead.

“but, all I want, is YOU, right now, and when I’m near you much less wake up lying next to a very naked you – do you know how hard it is not to, not to, …well to respect that decision? I want to support your choice, but this tension…”

Jamie was entranced watching Claire’s face as she struggled to explain.

“So ye’re no really mad at me?” he asked quietly.

Claire hung her head ashamed of her outburst, “You? No.” and shook her head before she could look up at him. “You just seem to bring things out that I’ve never felt before and well it’s embarrassing to admit.”

Jamie couldn’t hold back the self-satisfied smirk at her admission. Taking a step closer, he wrapped an arm around her waist and pulled her against him forcing her to tilt her head back to meet his eyes as he cupped her cheek. “I’d be a liar Claire if I told ye that didna please me greatly to hear ye say, but it does, more than ye might understand; thank ye for telling me. I want to share experiences and pleasures with ye that ye’ve never had before.” Claire felt herself growing light-headed as she nodded in mute agreement as her hands clutched Jamie’s upper arms for support as much as to feel him pressing against her. “I imagine there will be days when I’ll act the rutting bastard and take ye and give ye as ye say, ‘a right good fookin’ because ye’ve drivin’ me mad with the want of ye, but,” he leaned lower, his breath hot on her neck as his lips brushed the sensitive skin behind her ear and growled, “ye’re right mo nighean donn, it willna be until I’ve made love to my wife.”



Claire was feeling wobbly on her pins and if Jamie hadn’t been holding her was sure she would have sunk right to the floor, but as he released his hold, he settled her back against the countertop and stepped back.

“Would ye come out here and sit wi’ me a bit?” Jamie walked slowly toward the bedroom door and waited to see if Claire would come with him. “We should talk and I imagine ye have questions.”

Claire followed him at a safe distance as he led the way to her living room but then he turned off into her kitchen.

“I’m going to brew some coffee; would you care for a cup or would you prefer tea?”

“Coffee, please.” She watched a moment as he started the process, already familiar with contents of her cupboards. He moved through the space, closing cupboards and drawers after straightening them.

Following his lead, she stepped into the living room and started straightening the bookshelves. She moved to the pile of pictures and sat on the floor as she gathered them up in her lap, stopping to look at one here and there. Jamie leaned down to her and held out a cup.

“Here ye go Sassenach. We didna get ye any groceries yet. Are ye hungry?”

She smiled shyly up at him as she accepted it. “Not really, you?”

“I’ll do for a bit; then we’ll go get some lunch.” Looking around the small space he encouraged her, “Ye’ve made good progress. It willna take long to put things to rights.” And he sank to sit on the rug facing her, leaning against the couch and crossed his long legs.

She took a sip of the hot brew and shook her head in agreement. “You’re right, it’s really not so bad, but who would do such a thing? Why?”

Settling himself back against the couch he smiled, “Och, weel, it was probably just a brùnaidh, a broonie ye ken, those wee mischief makers, they do like to upset things.”

“Well there was nothing wee about him, but he certainly did a good job at that. I know what you’re trying to do Jamie.” Claire eyed him over the rim of her cup. “I’m fine. Do you remember if I locked the door when we left yesterday? It’s one of those things I just do automatically, but with the three of us leaving, maybe I got distracted and forgot. I can’t recall.”

“It doesna matter at this point, the locksmith will be by to change the locks and then ye dinna need to worry about it further. I’d like to install an alarm system here as well, Taran will see to that.”

“Do you really think it necessary?”

Jamie shrugged as he eyed the remaining mess and looked back at her.

“Alright.”

Neither spoke while they sipped on their beverages, letting the rift settle a bit between them.

“I ken ye’re used to standing on yer own, and I dinna doubt ye can do this yerself or anything else ye set yer mind to, but ye do not always have to carry the burden, alone. We’re to be in this together – a marriage, a shared life, a cleaning project, aye? Let me help; I’m offering myself to ye. I’m no going anywhere, I promise ye.”

Chapter Text



It had been comforting hearing the quiet sounds of Jamie puttering in the kitchen. She had just been picking up the photos turning them face up and right side around with no intent other than to put them away when one and then another caught her attention that she thought she’d share with Jamie and her original mission got side-tracked as she started looking through them more closely. Many were unfamiliar to her and wondered how she’d forgotten them, then noticed Lamb’s scribbled handwriting on the back of some with non-sensical notations that were typical of his field notes known only to him so shrugged them off.

She hadn’t been sure how to respond to Jamie’s comment. He had spoken quietly but she heard the earnestness in his words. A marriage, a shared life…and himself and felt tears prickle, at the promise, and blinked them away. She looked over to where he sat leaning against the couch just looking at her with a soft smile and she realized he was much too far away, she needed to be closer.

While she’d been distracted with her task, she realized he must have slipped into the bedroom and gotten dressed, putting on his jeans and shirt from the night before though he was still bare footed. Claire placed most of the pictures back in their box then crawled towards him to close the distance. She settled one arm on the seat cushion and leaning into the couch faced him, her legs pulled closer to Jamie with her hand on her drawn up knees.

Her move pleased him, Jamie wanted nothing more than to sit with Claire and hold her, but she was like a skittery mare, she still had a wall up around her seeming to need to keep a bit of distance, wary of the tension that ignited between them if she drew too close.

Cautiously she reached out, her fingers itching to play with his fiery red mop, still damp from the shower, but then withdrew her hand before touching him, resisting the temptation of him.

“Whatcha’ got there?” Jamie nodded toward the photos she held, easing the moment.

A smile lit up her face. “Oh, some pictures you might like. I didn’t know I had any, but you did ask…,” and she held out a picture to him.

Jamie reached out and accepted the gift, and his eyes shone as he looked at the picture and traced her outline with his finger. “Och, look how bonnie ye were even then, ye were a wee pìos milis – sweet pea. Ye look to be about the same age as Maggie there.” Claire giggled as Jamie spouted questions as he stared at the picture.

“You remembered,” pleased that he had recalled her mom’s pet name. “It looks like it. Is it dated?”

Jamie flipped it over: CND 01061996 and looked at her. She just shrugged at the notation before flipping it back. “I don’t know, Lamb’s notes.”

“Are ye tryin’ to fly with yer arms spread out? Ye look as though ye’re about to take off – and yer smile. I can almost hear ye laughin’,” and gave her a hug.

“I loved to run and would stretch my arms out to catch the wind,” she closed her eyes and lifted her arms and tilting her face up. “Can’t you feel it? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to fly?”

Jamie watched her face transform to that of the child in the picture, full of light and joy. “Aye, it would,” and watched her soar, wondering where in her memories she was traveling, wanting to join her.

“Have ye more there?” he quietly pulled her back to him.

One by one, she handed them over as they laughed over them and stories behind them that she could remember and by the last she had completely shifted her position and was sitting beside him, her legs stretched out along-side his, touching the length, leaning into him as she pointed out and expounded on a detail from one of the site excavations. She was looking at him when he turned towards her and leaned in with a kiss, as natural and easy as breathing, then he pulled back an excitement shining in his blue eyes, “I canna wait,” and then turned back to shuffle through the pictures once again.

“For what?”

“To have a daughter with you, one with yer curls.”

“Yours would be prettier, with your blue eyes.”

“Aye, we’ll mix ‘em all up,” and he chuckled to himself, as Claire leaned back, a memory flashed of Jamie smiling joyously holding Kitty in his arms… she had an image now of what could be their future, their family to hold; a dream that she would not easily relinquish, and it hit her, Me too.

“Jamie?” She reached up this time and ran her fingers through his hair, nails scraping against his scalp and he leaned into her hand as he turned to face her smiling sweetly at her touch. He could see that she was struggling to put voice to it.

“We really are doing this? …Getting married in less than a week’s time?” she looked at him for confirmation.

A lazy smile of anticipation etched his handsome face, “Aye we are,” he turned his face and kissed her palm where it was resting against his scruffy cheek, “And?”

Claire took a double breath as she looked at him, before she shyly returned his smile. “Well something you said about marriage and a shared life…”

“Aye?”

“There’s just so many things we haven’t talked about, things that if we’d known each other longer would just have come up naturally, important things, but since we’ve not… The truth is I’ve never had this conversation before, we should have and I’m not…, this is ridiculous, I’m a grown woman - a doctor, I should be able to… Listen…,”

He couldn’t help the small smile that twitched at his lips, “I’m listening Sassenach, ye dinna need to be nervous. Ye can speak to me about anything, ye ken that do ye no?” he encouraged her as gently as he could.

“Have you been tested for STDs since your last sexual partner?” she jumped in asking in her most detached clinical voice.

Jamie literally choked at the unexpected question. “Ye caught me up there, lass,” clearing his throat when he caught his breath and could speak then smiled a bit sheepishly, his face still red from the coughing as well as the topic. “Aye, I’ve nothing for ye to worry about, but if it would ease yer mind, we could have new tests run.” He could see relief wash through her.

“Yes, that would be good; of course, we had tests frequently just as protocol, and I’ve only ever slept with Fr,” she stopped herself hearing what she was saying and blushed, no need to bring that history into their present.

She hesitated before taking a deep breath, as she continued. “And, well remember when we were speaking of children before and it was all sort of theoretical at the time,” and she glanced sideways at him, “well I’ve sort of changed my mind.”

“Ye have?” he responded slowly, unsure where she was leading.

“I told you that I’d like for us to wait for a bit, to have time to get to know each other before we start a family.” He could hear the tenseness in her voice and felt it creeping toward him and felt his wame clench but only nodded in acknowledgement. They’d been laughing over the prospect only moments ago.

“Well it’s just that I was wondering how you feel about contraception? It’s not something we’ve discussed either, but we need to, maybe…make a decision together?”

Jamie gave a small nod, “As ye wish.”

“I want to apologize for the … the situation I caused the other day. That first time when we, when I nearly had you,” emboldened, she eyed him, “I really wanted you, I still do, you know that,” she admitted, there was no point denying it. “If I hadn’t really heard you, how important it was to wait until you were married, because well, I was unprepared for…” Claire stumbled over her explanation blushing a deep rose as she thought on it; she’d been consumed with a lust for this man since they moment they’d met and had no thoughts beyond just getting him into her bed and into her, “and that was unfair to place the responsibility on you.”

“I’m making a real muck of this, I’m sorry.”

“Christ, Sassenach, ye dinna need to apologize, I was there and wanted ye just as badly and still do,” he smiled at her, “I shouldna have assumed anything, but I guess I thought ye might have been on the pill.”

“Well, no….”

“So ye and Frank …?” he gently prompted leaving the rest unasked, not really wanting to know.

Claire paused before speaking, considering what was fair to share, knowing she was walking a razor’s edge line with the truth and secrets. “I only tell you this because it affects us, so you understand, but Frank can’t father children, he’s sterile. So, contraception was never an issue for us. Honestly, it’s pretty stupid of me really, and I feel foolish admitting it, but since we divorced, I haven’t considered or planned any precautions.” Claire blushed hard before she continued, “You might not believe it of me given our recent experience, but I am not into casual sex, I’ve never… have been. I guess I just hadn’t met the right bloody Scot,” she finished as a mutter under her breath.

“Claire,” Jamie reached out and took her hand and gently rubbed it between his two, pressing his thumb into her palm, “I think we can agree there is nothing casual as to what is between us.”

“You’re right,” she nodded her head in agreement smiling softly as she admitted to herself and spoke quietly as she accepted her burgeoning feelings toward Jamie, “There is nothing casual about you, …us.”

“If ye’re no ready for a bairn, we have options til ye are. I dinna expect ye to bear the full responsibility of that, I can use a condom if ye prefer.”

“Well I’ve been giving that some thought and, it’s mainly why I wanted this conversation. Having children was never a consideration when I was with Frank, but now that I’ve told you… I don’t want to take birth control pills and even if I could start them today, which I can’t, they wouldn’t be effective by the time we get married. There are other options, and depending on how long we want to wait, would affect our choice, but the thing is…,” Jamie watched as the flush crept up her neck and turned her cheeks a rosy pink, but she didn’t turn from him, she held his eye and he smiled at the beauty of her strength as she continued.

“After last night, after feeling you, only you,” Claire closed her eyes breathing through the recollection and squirmed a bit recalling the sensation of him, opening her eyes to meet Jamie’s dark and dilated “only you against me, …when we do make love, when you do come into me, I want no barriers between us, I want to feel just you, all of you.”

Jamie swallowed hard but sat silently, mindful of the implications of what Claire was saying and felt a rush to his groin and forced himself to sit still, “So ye really do not wish me to wear a condom…?”

“That’s right,” and taking a deep breath Claire stumbled on, “So, I’d like to reevaluate my initial term somewhat.”

Jamie didn’t speak a word but nodded for her to continue. “Maybe we could just let nature take its course. It may be perhaps, ah, that we have a child sooner, rather than later. I mean if we both agree, and I do get pregnant then it’s not necessarily ‘an unplanned pregnancy’.” Claire paused for a few heartbeats before continuing. “Do you think…would you be willing to take the risk?” her nervousness took hold and Claire glanced away, not able to keep looking at Jamie directly while she laid out her thoughts, but when she’d finished and turned to assess his reaction, his face had become a mask, impossible for her to read.

His silence was deafening and Claire interpreting a reluctance, instead began, “Of course, there are other alternatives I can use if…”

Claire lost her breath as Jamie’s sudden lunge and embrace inadvertently landed them sprawled out on the floor with him pinning her beneath him. “Yer shoulder, I’m sorry, did I hurt ye?”

Claire shook her head back and forth smiling, “I told you it’s fine.” And the onslaught began, Jamie peppering her with kisses mixed with deep rumbling sounds of his excitement, “Risk! Did I no just tell ye I canna wait?” as he rolled off her to place his hand on her belly and stroked it gently above her womb. “To fill ye with my seed and see yer belly swell wi’ our child? Aye, I’ll be joyful when the day comes, …but ye need to be sure.”

If she’d had any doubts, they were quelled by the look in Jamie’s eyes as much as by his words and his hardness she was feeling pressing against her. “I’m sure, Jamie,” as she returned his smile with an unexpected relief, “but you understand it may take a while, I’m not really counting on having a honeymoon baby. I meant it that I do want to have time for us to know each other better.”

Jamie rested on his elbows above her stroking the wisps of hair back off her forehead and smiling tenderly at her, “When the time is right, we’ll be ready.”

“I wish I had your confidence.”

“It’s faith, mo chridhe,” and he kissed her but did not linger on her lips overlong but pulled back resting his forehead against hers. “It’s pure faith.” 

“So maybe you can explain your determination not to have sex with me before we’re married.”

“Well if this is the time to share this story, come get up off the floor and sit wi’ me.”



Jamie pulled Claire up from the floor and settled her on the couch facing toward but not looking at her. He sat close enough to hold her hand and not letting go watched as his thumb rubbed circles into her palm gently almost hypnotically, and Claire thought he was building up his courage to speak.

Jamie did look up at her then, his eyes locked on hers. There was no smile behind them, but a solemnity as he finally spoke, “I could tell ye and it would be the simple truth, that I dinna want to risk siring a child out of wedlock. I ken it’s no considered such a big thing these days, and I would never judge anyone for their decisions, I can only hold myself accountable, but I ken now, for me it wouldna be acceptable. I want ye to ken the respect I have for ye, Claire, there is nothing stronger or that I value more than my word that I give to ye and ye alone the vow that I make to ye, before God.”

“The thing is, I didna come to this truth simply. It isna a simple story, some may think it a faerie tale but unlike so many of those, it started not once upon a time, but a long time ago.

If ye want to ken the whole of me, I need to tell it, it’s part of who I am now to the marrow of my bones, but it only came to me through pain, suffering, loss,” and in the pause Jamie took to take a deep breath, she saw it, finally, that beautiful smile that made her heart lurch as he finished quietly, “and the love of an amazing woman.”

Chapter Text



As Claire watched Jamie, she couldn’t ignore the look suffusing his handsome face – shining from his deep blue eyes as he so evidently thought about ‘the amazing woman’ she was going to hear about. Claire had felt a jolt as she registered what she heard, …Respect for me. …Love for someone else  and felt her heart stutter.

Claire realized she’d stopped breathing …again; for how long she wasn’t sure. When had the concept of counting time with seconds, minutes, hours, and all the increments between them and eternity lost its meaning? When, she wondered, had the metrics changed to heartbeats, breaths, glances, caresses, kisses and the moments between?

The breath she finally took was jagged as she tried to hide the unexpected pain. With the warp speed that had gotten them to this point, the L word had not yet been spoken, they’d teased about it, and though she wasn’t ready, it hit her that she wanted that look to be for her and her alone. She took another deeper steadying breath hoping the small smile she forced would be accepted and turned her entire focus on to what he was saying. …Well I did ask.



Christ, he was suddenly nervous, had he ever been this nervous before? …Well, maybe on their wedding night… and his smile shifted slightly as he ducked his head recalling that night and blushing at the recollection of his inexperienced fumbling and prayed to God, that Claire couldn’t read his mind.

Claire watched Jamie as he ducked trying to hide his thoughts and immediately thought how young he looked as he turned his face and looked at her from beneath his lashes and was charmed once again by the sweetness there.

As he lifted his gaze back to Claire’s he thought he caught a question, …a doubt behind her golden orbs and then he blinked, and it was gone.

Would the wanting of her ever cease? He couldn’t imagine it, certainly not as long as he existed in any form; not since the moment he’d first set eyes on her and it hadn’t changed in all that time and wondered at it. Aye, she could curse like a sailor and would stand up to any man, including him, when she perceived a wrong, …and well doing so likely saved his arm. And her hands, strong enough to set him right could be so gentle with their touch, this woman, would have him in a puddle at her feet.

She could be pig-headed, frustratingly so, refusing to listen to him and doing as she damned well pleased; well of course he was grateful after all when she did not leave him in that hell hole and then at the abbey. Stubborn she was, a Fraser through and through. And he’d been on the receiving end of her adder-sharp tongue a time or two and she could rile his temper and be a foul-mouthed bitch when backed into a corner but those same lips could be soft and tender as she plied them to his skin traversing and exploring the entire lay of him when she could not speak the words; but she did, she loved him fully as he did her and knew the wanting would never cease. Ye are an amazing woman, Sassenach, whenever ye are. 

He straightened up as he looked at her wishing to God this time that she could read his mind, unsure he could tell her all he wanted, but he would leave no doubt as to his commitment to her.

“Claire,” it came out as only a husky whisper, but full of emotion. His tongue slipped out to wet his lips, but still it wasn’t enough, his mouth had gone dry. Jamie’s gaze slipped from Claire’s for a moment as he reached for his mug on the coffee table and swallowed the cold dregs from the bottom and grimaced slightly, but at least it was wet.

She watched as his adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed hard. Suddenly the nervousness was gone and there was an ease about him as he started again, huffing a short deep chuckle as he began, “Ye remember the other day Sassenach, when I started tellin’ ye about my family long ago? Perhaps ye understand with yer uncle’s work that in some cultures time can have a way of standing still. It doesna make a difference that it was two or three hundred years ago, time has little meaning. There are some things that can never be forgotten, the events, the people, – but it’s more, they have a way of becoming a part of ye that ye can never lose or forget.”

Claire barely nodded as he continued.

“I’m an educated man, Sassenach, I’ve traveled a good bit, lived abroad, ken the world outside of the Highlands, but I’m too steeped in the ways and our traditions …the stories of faeries, and witches, waterhorses, silkies, and such. I’ll admit I canna dismiss the mystery and magic that are part of our folklore. If I may be so bold as to borrow a phrase from the Bard, “There are more things in heaven and Earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” Simply meanin', there are some things, ye just canna explain and dinna even try to."

“Mam says it’s because I’m an Auld Soul, one of those folks that seem to be more attuned to the spirits – the ghosts of their past.”

“You really meant it – what you said when we were in the abbey ruins, didn’t you?”

Jamie’s smile curved up on one side of his mouth as though trying to hold it back. “I said a great many things, but I assure ye, there was truth in every word Sassenach.”

Jamie dropped Claire’s hand and at her surprised look asked, “D’ye mind? I need ye closer,” and moved lifting her legs so they lay across his lap holding onto her hip while his other arm lay along the back of the sofa, but now he could stroke her neck and caress her cheek with his thumb.

Claire let Jamie adjust their positions and relaxed into the warmth of his hand, but her hips wiggled her closer and felt his hand tighten on her hip. Touching helped, but close was never close enough.

Jamie looked to Claire, wanting to kiss her badly, …felt himself leaning in towards her, drawn as he always was, now focused on the perfect bow of her lips but knew one kiss would lead to another and another and…

“Do you see ghosts?” Jamie felt the breath of her question as she whispered it before it registered with him and brought him back to the present and current purpose.

She had wanted to ask him, he’d said he knew her, Raymond said he was from her past, maybe this was the truth.

“Ye mean like Bruce Willis?” he pulled up grinning at her and letting loose a low chuckle at her question but shook his head. “Nah, …it’s more that I sometimes sense the presence, a connection to those in the past, in a place like where we were at Holyrood the other night.”

Jamie could see no fear in Claire’s eyes, felt no withdrawal from him, just curiosity as she seemed to be focused on what he was saying and watching him closely. Let her ask the right question and he'd answer her honestly.

Damnit! “Am I a ghost?” it barely came out as a whisper feeling ridiculous for even asking.

“OUCH! You bloody bastard! Why did you do that?” her ass hopped into the air from the quick pinch he'd given her.

“Ye feel real enough to me, Sassenach. Isn’t that what ye’re supposed to do if ye think ye’re dreaming?” Jamie couldn’t help laughing at her outraged expression.

“I damn well know I’m not dreaming,” she hit him on the shoulder. “But you said you know me, and I thought maybe,” she let it trail off.

“Aye, I ken ye to the marrow of my bones, Sassenach,” his voice was low and sultry as he leaned over and kissed her gently on her forehead, cupping her cheek as he held her gaze. “Yer soul calls to mine and I could do naught but answer. Is that not enough?”

“Sassenach? Claire? Do ye hear me? Breathe would ye!” Her eyes came into focus peering at the most beautiful pair of blue eyes, though they appeared to be scowling at her. Do they really come in that color?

“Did ye swoon again, lass?” She could feel the gentle pressure of his fingers on her arms and he gave her a shake.

She finally had enough sense to smile back at him and nod her head. “I think so.”

“Och, mo chridhe, what am I to do with you?” he tightened his arm around her pulling her into his chest as he chuckled with relief.

“Love me?” Shit, did I say that? Oh God. And she buried her face in his chest, feeling her face burn. Claire felt the rise of his chest as he took a deep breath and a pair of warm hands took hold of each side of her face and tilted it up so she had no choice but to meet his eyes, or show herself to be a complete coward, and that she couldn’t do.

God, how I love this woman, thank ye for bringing her back to me. As she met his eyes, she saw it, the look he’d held for someone else was shining on her. “As ye say, Claire,” he leaned in and kissed, and repeated against her lips, “as ye say.” Contentment settled in his heart as he felt Claire relax against his.

“You owe me a story, you said it would explain.”

He would be mindful of Raymond’s concerns, and cautious as he proceeded, but he was determined to share what he could of himself. He still held hope that she might come to the revelation of her past on her own. Jamie made the decision to only give her the basic information at this time to wait and see how it played out before sharing details about their life together. If not today, they would have time.

“I do, are ye ready then? I’m no going to tell the full of it, just some of the highlights for now. There'll plenty of time to tell ye more when we're auld and ye’re bored with me,” and accepted her scoffing nod as she sat up so she could watch him.

“My namesake was James Alexander Malcom MacKenzie Fraser born in 1721. His father was the younger half-brother to the heir of the clan’s laird but he was a bastard though recognized by his father, old Simon. Simon was the Fraser clan chief, and by all accounts, a canny old fox and totally disreputable reprobate. It was Brian that built Lallyboch and we credit him and his wife with starting our Fraser family lineage.

So Jamie, he was called Jamie too, was the third child, the second son, but his brother died young and Jamie was being groomed to be the Laird of the estate. It was a difficult time to be a Scot. D’ye recall much of yer history about that time?”

Claire slowly shook her head, “Not really, it wasn’t on my syllabus during independent study, what I do know is from Frank when doing his genealogy research, but I’ve told you how that turned out.”

“Aye, well the English were constantly bedeviling the countryside and the highlanders and by the time Jamie was a young man, an altercation on his family’s estate with a redcoat officer occurred that caused Jamie to be arrested. He was rescued by some friends, but he had to flee and become an outlaw with a price on his head. He lived for a time in France as a mercenary and then returned to Scotland living for a while under the protection of his mother’s MacKenzie kin.

One of his uncles was a Jacobite and raising funds for the effort to bring back what many considered the rightful king to Scotland, and Jamie got caught up in it. Again, circumstances drove him from the shores of Scotland to France where he became a confidante of sorts, to Charles Stuart.”

The Bonnie Prince Charlie, really? He certainly traveled in high circles. I’d say there was more to him than just being an outlaw. He certainly sounds intriguing.”

Jamie bobbed his head and Claire could see the blush color his cheeks. “Some would say so, but in truth he was working to subvert the Prince’s efforts and halt the French king’s support of the coming rebellion. He was convinced it wouldna benefit the Scottish people and the retributions they would suffer for it would cripple the clans and their culture.”

Claire saw a sadness creep over Jamie’s face as he dropped his gaze, the first time it had been broken since he started telling his story and reached up to stroke his cheek, hoping he’d lift his eyes to hers. “He sounds like he was an amazing man, so wise, Jamie; it’s too bad his efforts weren’t successful. How do you know all of this?”

He lifted his eyes to Claire’s, and she was surprised to see the sheen of tears and he swiped at them with the back of his hand.

She was giving him credit that he did not deserve. “He wrote it all in his journals when he was an auld man. He wanted his family to ken the truth of his life.” Jamie lifted her hand to his lips and tenderly kissed it, holding it against his lips for several heartbeats before he lowered it and began to speak. “It was his wife ye should be giving credit. She was an amazing woman, who opened a world to him beyond the realms of his imagination. She even saved his life more than a time or two. She was a woman of incredible courage, strength and beauty and he loved her well as she loved him.”

Jamie had to stop speaking in order to swallow the lump that had formed in his throat. There was so much he wished to say, but now was not yet the time.

“They left France and were able to return to Lallybroch for a time where they enjoyed the peace of home and family for a time before getting caught up in the Uprising of ’45. Ye see, the Bonnie Prince, had forged his signature as a supporter of the cause thus labeling him a traitor to the crown and setting his future’s course, now he had no choice but to fight if he had a chance of surviving. He’d been a warrior, he kent how to do that, to fight, to lead men and so they went, his wife always by his side, and he by hers until just before Culloden.”

Claire watched as Jamie disappeared into the fog of what seemed distant memories. When he began, she could feel the anguish as if it were truly his own as he spoke haltingly, hardly above a whisper, “Lost her then, her and the bairn she was carryin. She’d given everything, and in the end, couldna protect them. Vowed to and failed the one that loved and trusted…,” his whispered words faded away so that Claire could no longer hear him, except the last, “me”.

 

Jamie thought about what Raymond had told him, that his Claire, his heart and soul had not survived the return to her time as he had prayed, but then felt the guilt return. He’d forced her against her wishes to go, and as he shuttered his eyes, could see her turn toward him and cry out his name as she clutched her belly as she evaporated with the mist into the stone and his heart felt slayed as it did that day when he fell to his knees before the monolith and begged for her to return to him, but she was gone, had been truly lost until now.

He had fallen silent, and somehow his head was resting on Claire’s shoulder and he felt the gentle touch of her fingers as she stroked his hair and her soft breath against his cheek.

“Did I fall asleep?” he murmured without lifting his head and felt the stroking pause.

“Maybe, I think so, but that’s okay, I’m here,” and he felt a soft kiss as she turned her lips to his cheek before she resumed the stroking.

‘I’m here,’ she’d said. “Mo nighean donn?” He lifted his head then and looked closely hoping for some reaction, but only met her curiosity.

“Expecting someone else?” she asked, not sure if she wanted to hear.

“Only you,” he smiled and pulled her into a kiss and let his lips linger as hers played with his, until he had to break off the game and pulled back. “D’ye mind? I need to hit the loo.”

“Course not,” and rolled her legs off his lap with a bit of help from Jamie.

Claire walked to the window and looked out over the wet pavement, there were some breaks in the clouds in the distance and wondered if they’d be getting some sun. Culloden Bloody Moor, the name came to her unbidden. Of course, she’d heard of it from Frank and her uncle had made some mention of it, but couldn’t recall the context, but it was important, to Jamie and his own history.

She heard his shuffling footsteps approach before he wrapped his arms around her and joined her looking out the window. “Tell me about Culloden. He… Jamie didn’t die there.” She turned to look up at him and could see that he’d washed his face, his hair damp where he’d brushed wet fingers through it, and his eyes were clearer, the tears gone, though a bit red.

For the first time since he’d started sharing this tale of woe, he’d promised a faerie tale, but this was more along the lines of a Brothers Grimm tale she thought, Jamie’s face lightened and Claire felt a lifting in her heart, glad to see the change because she’d not been sure what she could offer him to soothe the pain he was baring. It seemed far more real than sympathy for stories gleaned from a journal. “No, he didna die. If he had died then, I would no be here to hold yer hand, to tell ye this story, so I’m verra glad he survived.” Jamie lifted her palm and placed a kiss in it before continuing.

“He engaged in the battle like a mad man intending to die that day on the field. It’s a miracle he survived though he’d been severely wounded; he should have died. He wished to die, but we dinna always get what we wish for. Come on, let’s sit down,” and he pulled her back and plopped down, pulling her into his lap, needing her close and wrapped his arms about her waist looking up her, so grateful that she was here and he could hold her and love her now and hopefully she would love him. He had to let go of the past, it did not matter any longer, they, the two of them were here now.

“Well, his family kept him hidden for a time after Culloden, but Cumberland, The Butcher, had ordered all the traitors be hunted down and hung or imprisoned. The man had no compassion for a vanquished people. The scourge he ordered imposed on the Highlands by the redcoat soldiers was relentless, ‘twas meant to destroy the clans and crush any possible further uprising. It’s hard to imagine the retributions our folks suffered. It was no enough for the thieving by the redcoats of anything they would take, there was a terrible famine that plagued the Highlands as well. Jamie did his best to care for the people under his care during this time and given the circumstances, but he knew they’d never stop being a target as long as he remained free. To protect his family home, he had assigned Lallybroch to his sister’s son so, the Crown could not confiscate it, but all the tenants still considered him the Laird. He could not stand to see them all suffer any more for his actions, so he arranged to turn himself in for the reward that would help his family survive. By that time, they had ceased the hangings for the most part, so he was taken to Ardsmuir Prison where he remained for four years before it was closed. When it was, most of the prisoners were transported to the colonies. Now was it a change in luck or a twist where the fates play fast and loose wi’ lives. Before it closed though, a new governor was assigned to the prison, John Grey, Lord….”

“John Grey? Your John Grey?” Claire couldn’t stop herself from interrupting.

“Weel, of course, he’s no the same man, but his ancestor. See our lives are twined that far back. There were skirmishes and battles before Culloden and during this time, the Jacobites were doing better than expected. It seems that this John had encountered Jamie and lore has it he attempted to cut Jamie’s throat while he was taking a piss! Can ye imagine that? Standin there with yer kilt wadded up about ye holdin yer cock, mindin yer business when someone decides to stick a knife to yer throat. What a mess!” Claire noticed Jamie absently raise his hand to his neck and rub it before catching her eye and getting back to his story.

“Nicked him, he did, but the lad was no successful. There was a bit of a scuffle and during it John’s arm was broken. Jamie didna kill him but returned him close to his camp so he could be found. Because of Jamie’s honorable behavior toward the young fool, Grey determined He now had a debt of honor owed to Red Jamie Fraser! And who do ye think it was that came across the wounded Jamie after Culloden and sent him home to Lallybroch?”

“John Grey?”

“Nay, but his brother, Lord Melton, who because of his family’s honor and debt owed by his younger brother, did not execute Jamie wi’ the rest of the group of wounded that had taken refuge in a nearby farmhouse near the battlefield. Of course, Jamie was so ill at the time, the Major thought he would no survive the journey back, but at least he would not have the burden of his death on his hands.”

“Jamie, this is unbelievable, the luck of it.”

“Aye, it is a bit. Later, Jamie and John became friends of a sort while they were at Ardsmuir. If no exactly friends a respect between them and when people of different minds can be open to others, bridges can start to be built and that’s where the real friendship did start between the Frasers and the Greys.

Rather than transport Jamie to the colonies with most of the other prisoners when the prison was closed, John arranged to have Jamie paroled to a family friend in the lakes district. It was a good thing because Jamie would get terrible seasick. Me too, sick as a dog, canna abide being on a ship,” he shook his head and shuddered at the thought.

Claire recalled this declaration the night of the Gathering and couldn’t help but smile as she recalled the exchange.

“Anyway, Jamie worked for the Dunsany family as a groom; he was always good wi’ horses so it was no so bad aside from missing his family and Lallybroch. It had been arranged that one of the daughters was to be marrit to an old geezer, an Earl, who had the title and money. Ye kent how it was that the lasses didna have a say in who they were marrit off to in some circles; they were just a commodity. But this lass decided her maidenhead was no going to be part of the bargain and she wouldna give up her virginity to a man older than her father. She had her own ideas on the subject, that being Jamie. He was a fine braw man, and by family accounts, we look much alike,” and Jamie turned a quick smile toward Claire and tried to give her a wink but failed as always which set her to laughing.

“Wait,” her laugh faltered, “Is this the same Dunsany family as your fan, Geneva?”

“It is,” Jamie’s demeanor lost the lightness of the moment and sobered quickly before continuing.

“I’ll save ye the details, but the conniving lass blackmailed him into a liaison which resulted in her getting wi’ child. …His child, which he could no claim, a bastard as was his own father and it galled him something terrible.” He paused for a few moments in his story and Claire let the silence between them rest until he was able to start again. “He’d lost so much a’ready, and then, to no be able to be a father to his child.”

Claire could hear misery bleed through Jamie’s words and a dawning settled on her. She leaned forward and wrapped her arm around his broad shoulders and pulled his head down until his forehead rested against hers. “I understand now Jamie.”

Jamie pulled back and cleared his throat. “This is where my branch on the Fraser family tree originates; as a bastard graft. She died in childbirth and the Earl claiming the child could no be his went mad and determined to kill the bairn when her parents offered to take him. Before the Earl could harm the babe, Jaime stepped in and shot him, killed him on the spot, so not only called out as a bastard to those few who were present, but an official orphan on the day he was born. The bairn survived and was named William. Since his mam was married to the Earl, he inherited the Earl’s title and estate and later a portion of the Dunsany family estate.” Jamie looked over at Claire before continuing, “Ye dinna ken how one simple fuck, may end up affecting yer whole history down the road.”

Claire had been intently watching Jamie as he shared his family’s tale. Even though she was watching Jamie in profile she could detect twinges of hurt flicker across his face as he spoke and felt this was the root of his determination to wait.

“It doesn’t matter.”

“It should.”

“No, you  matter. Who you are, what your family has overcome, grown past, so that’s what you meant when you said you had a little English blood in you. Does Geneva know?”

“God, I dinna think so, though it would make no difference. I mean if ye look deep enough many of the old families have connections through marriages. But it’s no something that we publish and the link is not direct or well known, but the family kens and why we keep Ransom as part of our name. It was the Earl’s family name.”

"And you honor him?" 

"It's a bit more complicated than that, and if ye dinna mind, can we hold that as well? It deserves an explanation that we dinna have time for right now."

“Sure, whatever you say. So that’s the R in your initials? What’s the rest of it then? I should at least know your whole name if we’re to get married.”

“If?”

“When.”

“It’s James. Alexander. MacKenzie. Ransom. Fraser.” Claire couldn’t help but smile as he enunciated each name and rolled the r’s and grateful there were so many. She reached out and played with the curls at his nape, “Say it again.”

Jamie chuckled at her request, “Why?”

Claire awkwardly pushed herself up shifting her position so that she was now facing Jamie and moved her left leg so she was straddling him and wrapped her arms around his neck, her mouth inches from his smiling at her.

His fingers flexed on her hips as she settled against him. “Sassenach,” he breathed in warning.

“Because it’s sexy when you say it, James,” and she kissed him on the corner of his mouth, “Alexander,” then his neck, just below his jaw, moving her lips across his face, just brushing her lips across his mouth as she nipped his ear lobe, “MacKenzie,” her hips starting to move against him, as she pulled back looking him in his darkened hooded eyes, dropping her gaze and her lips to lightly kiss his mouth as she breathed, “Ransom,” into it, “Fraser,” pressing full into him urging him to open to her and accept her tongue.

His left hand moved up to her neck pulling her into him taking all she was offering him as his right moved to her arse, encouraging her as she ground against him, pushing up to meet her and then suddenly she was flipped onto her back and he was poised over her, supported by his arms, the weight of his hips pressing into hers. “Christ, Claire, ye’re killing me, d’ye ken that?”

She couldn’t help but smile up at him, his face reddened and a bead of sweat trickling down from his temple. “Say it.”

He gently lowered himself so that he covered her with his body and pressed his lips to hers and spoke it one more time, “James Alexander MacKenzie Ransom Fraser,” his brogue deep with emotion. He held his position steady caught in her amber eyes for eternity, before he pushed up off of her and stood looking down at her stretched out on the sofa.

“Water?”

She nodded and watched as he limped toward the kitchen stretching his leg out as he adjusted himself.

Claire pushed herself up to sit on the sofa as Jamie came back with two glasses. He paused as Claire’s phone started pinging on the counter and grabbed it as well, balancing it with the glasses. “Ye willna be happy until ye see what’s come in, it’s okay,” as she reached for it looking at its screen.

“I missed two earlier texts; Joe says John’s okay, alert and asked about you. One from Officer Foster. The police plan to interview John today. …A lot of good that will do,” she muttered.

“Aye, he’s doing well. I let him ken I’d be stopping in to see him later.” Seeing the inquisitive look on Claire’s face, he offered, “I called earlier,” Jamie shrugged, “I was worrit, too. Something else the matter, Sassenach?”

Claire’s brow was drawn up in consternation as she looked at her phone, “I’m not sure, this last one… I’m being called in by Giles Chisolm the head of HR today at 3.”

“Perhaps it’s best if we get out of here for a bit, eh? We could do wi’ a bit of fresh air and something to eat, I’m starving, aren’t ye?”

“You’re always starving.”

“I think that has been established a’ ready, but we’ve slept through breakfast and it’ll be a late lunch at that. Let me put on my shoes and we’ll be off.” But before he turned to go, he pulled Claire to him, wrapping his arms about her waist. “Am I making a muck of this, Sassenach?”

“No Jamie, honestly I think I understand. Given your family’s history, you’re sensitive to it, and who am I to tell you otherwise? I’m sorry I called you a bloody bastard.”

“At least ye didna call me a fucking bastard,” he grinned at her confused expression. “Ah, that’s part of the story saved for another day.”

“So, we’re agreed, there will be no chance of scandal raising preemies until after we are well and truly wed. Okay? I’ll try to behave, but…,” leaning back and grinning up at him plead, “say it again.”

Jamie pulled her close and leaned down to her ear and whispered as he slowly swayed her back and forth, “So does this mean on those nights that ye come home claiming ye’re too tired to have me, I’ll just have to roll over and whisper into yer ear… James. Alexander. MacKenzie. Ransom. Fraser, and ye’ll be climbing on top of me to take yer pleasure?”

“Roll your r’s like that, and I think you have your Pass Go Collect a Lay card in your pocket. Alright now,” she pushed off against his chest, “go on and get ready, before I decide not to behave. And I do want to hear the rest of your story, I don’t think you’re finished.”

“Aye, ye shall. I’ll be as quick about it as I can.”

Jamie rounded the corner holding out her sling, as she eyed it. “Ye’ve made it clear that ye’re not the meek and obedient type, but if ye insist on going in, ye’re going to put this on and follow yer doctor’s orders, even if ye willna follow mine.”

She reached out and grabbed it with a pout but didn’t say a word and even let Jamie help her get it adjusted. “Might help ye remember no to exert yerself for the next couple of days, aye?” he just got a silent nod in response. “What?” he pushed for an explanation.

“I don’t like feeling helpless or having others think I am.”

“Oh,” he accepted her explanation. “I dinna think anyone would ever think of ye as being helpless. Ye help so many Sassenach, what would ye say to one of yer patients?”

“You’re right,” he barely heard her mutter.

“What did ye say?” he prompted wanting to hear it again.

“I said, alright; let’s go,” a bit louder, missing his grin.

“There’s still a bit of a mizzle but looks like it’ll no get worse. Grab yer rain gear, ye need a walk to clear yer head.”

Claire pulled him into curry shop she liked on the way, avoiding a heavy shower and the worst of the rain cleared as they walked through the park, holding hands dodging puddles and laughing. Claire felt a tremendous relief and lightness in Jamie’s company despite the previous evening’s events and the emotional conversation they’d begun, having decided to postpone further discussion until later. Instead, Jamie filled her in on Rabbie’s birds and bees conversation with Fergus and how it had become so twisted that Fergus now believed he had won Claire by plucking her faerie wing in a wrestling match. Jamie would listen to her laugh all day long if he could.

As they approached the hospital Claire stopped and pulled Jamie close, “I’ll need to go up and check in when we get there, and then I’ll go meet HR. Why don’t you go see John and then I’ll meet you there when I’m done? At least while you’re here, I’ll arrange for our bloodwork, is that ok?”

“Aye, that’ll do, though I dinna care for the wee stickers. Never liked ‘em.” Claire could make out the slight pout and couldn’t help but laugh and pulled him close for a quick kiss.

“I’ll see you get a good tech,” as she beamed up at his relaxed face, “And thank you for this morning, and the story and talking me down. I see a light at the end of the tunnel,” and she closed the space between them to give him a very thorough kiss which Jamie returned with fervor.

“It’s getting close,” he leaned his forehead against hers, “I canna wait.”

She greeted his husky promise with her own, “Well you’ll have to, but if you disappear on me, I’ll hunt you down, James Fraser, I promise.”

Chapter Text

A new chapter for Time and Again will be posted shortly.

Chapter Text



It started as soon as they entered the building with a greeting from the guard standing by the entrance, “G’day, Ms. Beauchamp.”

Claire looked back over her shoulder at the man, who had stood as a silent sentry for the last several months and had never before uttered a word to her, smiling and a giving her nod. George, she recalled, and returned a tentative greeting. As they proceeded across the lobby Claire felt eyes on her, couldn’t miss the not so covert glances and a warmth crept up her face, muttering under her breath to Jamie, “I should have known.”  

She felt a soft squeeze from his warm hand that enveloped hers as he replied, “I would think ye’d be used to it.”

She looked up at him and he was grinning down at her. His hair was curling up a bit around the collar of his leather jacket. Despite the previous evening’s events he looked relaxed, fresh and happy and couldn’t help smiling back at him. “Used to what?”

“Being watched.” He tilted his head lower speaking out of the side of his mouth, “I ken I canna take my eyes from yer perfect arse when ye walk away from me. Canna fault them for looking, but there’ll be no touching, except by me.”

“You, ridiculous man, possessive, are you?” Claire huffed at the absurdity and biting back her smile.

“Oh, aye, I am.”

“Back to what I was saying, …I was referring to the gossip mill running at full speed. Can we keep the fodder to a minimum, please?”

“Of course, dinna want anyone getting the wrong idea, just let me in on what ye hear,” he was grinning at her as she rolled her eyes at him in response. They fell quiet as folks gathered waiting for the lift, but he stayed right behind her with his hand on her lower back and she leaned into it in silent acknowledgement and felt his fingers press back. They stepped into the lift, pressing their floor buttons before moving to the back, claiming a corner as it filled, and Jamie sliding his hand from her back, down to cup the closest cheek of her arse and fondling it.

Her floor came too quickly, “See you in a bit.”

He smiled slyly at her as she reluctantly stepped away and felt his fingers make one last grasp as she stepped away, “Perfect,” she heard his deep whisper as she moved away.

She looked over her shoulder, blushing before quickly stepping down the hall.

Half a dozen curious smiling faces turned in unison to Jamie as the doors closed.

“Ladies.” He nodded as he greeted each moving his glance from one face to the next with his most charming smile, “Did ye hear?” his smile softening as he thought of Claire. He had no intentions of keeping the news quiet; there’d be none of this “we’re engaged non-sense,” let them get it right from the source, “We’re getting marrit.”

His declaration was greeted by a chorus of giggles and a smattering of congratulations and a few questions asking for details, those which he would guard. “Canna say when just yet,” and put his finger to his lips.

The lift came to his floor and as he stepped out, oriented himself and headed off to John’s room. He was pushing it and Claire would most definitely have his bollocks, but if they were looking, they’d know soon enough Claire Beauchamp was spoken for and off the market. He’d suffered through enough observing those looks from her colleagues at the Gala.

Claire had stopped by her office to check in before her meeting and catching Mary’s wide-eyed expression as she looked at her slinged arm. “I heard, …are you alright?”

Claire set her bag down and shrugged off her jacket. “It’s fine, over reaction if you ask me, but I’ll be out of rote for a couple of days. Suppose it’ll give me a chance to catch up on reading and paperwork, maybe the clinic? I could still do that. Listen, I’ve got to go down to HR, but could I ask you to order up some Lab work for me?”

“Of course, what do you need?” Claire was looking through some papers on her desk as she relayed the tests she was requesting and looked up when Mary didn’t respond.

“Alright, what is it?” she couldn’t stand it; Mary was practically dancing on her tiptoes, questions on her tongue.

“It’s true then? You’re engaged to James Fraser?! God he’s so,” and she stopped as she caught Claire’s lifted brow, and finished quietly, “nice.”

Claire smiled, “He is and handsome and evidently really doesn’t like needles, so if you could ask to have someone really good with the draw, handle this, I would appreciate it. I hate to pull strings, but he’s in John Grey’s room for a bit and I’m not sure how long he’ll be here. I can go down when I’m free.”

“I’ll set it up right away. So, have you set a date, for the wedding?”

Claire stood up straightening the papers as she made to leave, “No, it’s early days, nothing decided yet. Page me if anything comes up. I’ll be about.”



“Well Ms. Beauchamp, I’ll relay your decision to the Board. I understand this offer may be unexpected, but please take some time to consider it more fully. I’ll let you go for now, but I’ll check back with you in a couple of weeks to see if you’ve reconsidered or have more thoughts about it. I’ve kept you long enough, thank you for coming in.”

Claire kept her head down as she made her way to John’s room and concentrated on what had just happened. The meeting had taken a turn that had blindsided her and she was fuming and wanted to hit something, no someone.  She slowed her pace as she approached the room taking deep breaths and decided she needed another lap around the corridors. This was not something she was prepared to discuss with Jamie just now.



She paused with one hand on the door the other on the handle, her head bowed against the wood panel listening to the deep-bellied laugh mixed with a responding lighter chuckle coming from the other side and felt better for hearing it. Hoping not to interrupt, Claire quietly pressed the handle down and slowly opened the door just enough to stick her head in and saw the lights were off except the one coming from the bathroom. She pushed in just a bit further and her glance immediately found Jamie sitting in a chair pulled close to John’s bed leaning forward resting his forearms on the mattresses’ edge, his face turned toward the opening door with a questioning expression on it which morphed back to the smile that had been sharing the laughter.

“Sassenach! We were just talking about ye, about the wedding.” Jamie rose from the chair and opened his arms in invitation, which she could not turn down and closed the few steps between them and felt him wrap her into the welcoming the calm he provided whether he was aware of doing so or not.

At his touch Claire turned and buried her face in his chest, pressing against him and wrapped her arms around him.

“Are ye alright, a leannan?” and she felt a kiss on the top her head.

She nodded into his chest admitting, “I just need a hug.” And felt his arms tighten about her as she pressed harder needing to be closer and his large hand opened, pressing her to him.

“John close yer eyes.” Jamie commanded just before he leaned down and whispered to her, “I need more,” and took her mouth with his.

“I’ll do no such thing.” He watched the pair giving them a few moments as Jamie was evidently attempting to swallow Claire before launching in, “…I suppose this is when I should say, “Unhand her! you…you Scottish barbarian!”

Claire couldn’t hold back the giggles that started at John’s exaggerated theatrical tone and turned to face him from the shelter of Jamie’s body that was enveloping her.

“Just what was he telling you that had you two cackling like old biddies?” Claire leaned and turned an accusatory eye up towards Jamie as he still held onto her from behind.

“Maybe something to do with pirates…?” Jamie offered with a twist to his grin.

“You didn’t…” and her small fist jabbed at his shoulder.

“Pirates!? Oh…I am the very model of a modern Major-General / I know our mythic history, King Arthur's and Sir Caradoc's;”

“Sheas John! Dinna get started or you’ll be on it the rest of the day, you ken how ye are.”

“Penzance is it? Know it well, it’s a favorite of Frank’s,” Claire laughed and gave a knowing wink. “You’re really quite good.”

“Aye, he is. Another stage career thwarted by family expectations, but my gain.”

Claire heard a scoffing coming from behind. “You’re totally tone deaf. The world does not need another mediocre troubadour. I’m happy doing what I am.”

“Sassenach, yer meeting, was it okay?” He quirked his brow at her, despite the banter and general lightness they’d been enjoying something was off. Instead of answering she just gave him a wry smile and small non-committal waggle of her head, leaving it unspoken and turned in his arms to face John, leaving him still confused.

John was sitting up in bed with a grin on his face and appearing quite chipper despite his recent injuries. Unable to shed her professional mantle, Claire was visually examining him, “You’re looking pretty good all things considered. I want you to know, I’m sorry.”

“Whatever do you think you have to be sorry for? They’ve blocked the adult channel, and I was rather enjoying watching the pair of you. …Oh, not that?” John grinned at Jamie’s glare, “Come on…”

“No. Well that you got hurt while you were with me at the very least.”

“Oh, that,” he waved his hand dismissively, “Well that’s on Jamie, but we’ve sorted it out,” John glanced over her shoulder at Jamie and winked. “Just gives me a debt he owes that I’ll add to the others to collect sometime in the next century.”

This was greeted by Jamie’s grunt of disagreement. “I think if ye check, ye still owe fer the time we were in Glasgow and …,” catching Claire’s curious look, stopped. “Perhaps we should just leave it at that,” he trailed off.

There was something about watching the good-natured squabbling between them, the closeness of two friends that she missed having and she was suddenly blinking back unexpected tears.

“Dinna fash, Sassenach, we’re just having a bit of fun,” Jamie misinterpreted her reaction and wrapped an arm around her shoulders tucking her into him.

“I’m not worried, I’m just enjoying watching the pair of you,” as she looked between the two of them.

“So, John, I was informed that your care has been assigned to Dr. Hunter since your injuries occurred at my home. I’m officially off your case.”

“Can they do that, Sassenach?” Jamie started to object, “he can ask to be placed back in yer care can he not?”

“No,” she looked back and forth between the two wishing to reassure them, “it’s a totally appropriate protocol given the circumstances, and John, you’ll like Denny Hunter, he’s very good. But as your friend,” Claire paused looking intently at John as she stepped closer, “we are friends, aren’t we?”

John smiled softly at her and reached for her hand, “How could we not? yes of course,” acknowledging the secret that bound them together and then a thought struck her. Frank! I haven’t called him.

A momentary rush of guilt washed over her at the realization that in all the chaos of the last hours she’d not given Frank a thought and how John’s being injured would affect him, she needed to let him know. Then there was relief as John looking at her closely squeezed her fingers; it’s okay.  

“Alright then, so as your friend, how are you feeling John?"

“I’ll be well enough to see you two wed this weekend. Nothing will keep me from being there with you.”

Jamie snorted through his nose at this, “Claire, dinna listen to him; he willna tell ye, but John’s still got a bit of a headache.” Jamie kept his attention on John while he spoke.

“I would imagine so. You’ll probably have it for a few days. I’m sure we can give you something to help with the discomfort. You don’t need to be a hero about this and suffer unnecessarily John. I can’t order anything for you myself, but do you want me to check with Dr. Hunter?”

Before he could reply, Jamie came around to stand next to Claire and took her unencumbered hand in his examining it closely and massaging it with his thumb. “Ye ken… since ye touched me as ye did ye’ve given a great deal of relief.” He dropped his voice as he minutely jerked his head toward John, “Do ye think your magic fingers could help John?”

Claire peered closely up at Jamie clarifying just what he was asking of her.

“Och, his head!” his eyes widened with innocence as his ears turned red. “Ye ken how ye massaged my head, Sassenach,” as his fingers imitated her efforts, but his look held a silent plea, “and ye said yer arm was much better.”

“Criminy,” Claire muttered as she shook her head and rolled her eyes at him, “I think you’re delusional ‘Mr. Fraser’, but if it will make you feel better.”

She turned her attention to John and stood considering him for a moment before speaking, “John, I told Jamie before I don’t usually do this, I am much better with a knife, and your situations are quite different. You’ve got a newly stitched laceration with some bruising to the scalp area emanating from the wound that is going to be tender to the touch regardless.”

“Could it cause additional harm?”

“No, I don’t suppose a massage would harm you, but it might hurt. Would you like me to try?” Sliding the sling off her arm, she wiggled and flexed her fingers in the air.

“Madam, I am completely at your disposal,” John had rolled his head to the side watching the interaction between Claire and Jamie. He’d noticed it last night as well. Aside from the obvious sexual tension that was shimmering just below the surface whenever they were within proximity of the other, there was such a naturalness, and ease between them, if he hadn’t known better, he would have thought they’d known each other for a lifetime. Perhaps they had, perhaps Jamie was absolutely right. “Lay your hands upon me!” he teased her.

“Alright then,” decision made, Claire turned to the sink and began washing her hands as she issued instructions, “Jamie, help John into that chair there, I can’t reach him in the bed like that. I think those chairs recline a bit; there that’s good. Jamie, would you turn out the light and stand by the door, I’m sure this would be frowned upon if someone comes in and I’m caught doing anything off protocol.” And she cast him a wary look with just a twinge of a smile.

“Now John, before I start you have to let me know if I’m too close or causing you any pain. Yeah?”

John started to nod and stopped with a hiss, “Okay.”

“Alright now, close your eyes and just breath slowly and regularly and relax.”

Claire closed her eyes as she always did before starting any kind of procedure, visualizing the body’s anatomy where she would be focusing her attention.

Jamie leaned against the door with his arms crossed resting on his chest as he intently focused on Claire across the shadowed room as she began to tend to John. He watched as she with her eyes closed gently cupped the back of John’s head and stood with her head bowed, lips silently moving as though offering a prayer.

And then she began. Claire’s fingers started their slow, gentle and meticulous exploration. Jamie noticed a slight crease appearing between her brows that coincided with a pause as her fingers seemed to concentrate their efforts on a particular spot and would fade as she moved on.

Jamie couldn’t help but raise his hand and rub the scar at the base of his skull, feeling the slight ridge. It was true, what he’d told her. He hadn’t actually thought about it, his mind had been so full of her since that moment, but truly there’d been no headaches since she’d treated him and there had been plenty of times since then that she’d been running her fingers through his hair. He smiled as he thought about it. She’d said she like how it curled around her fingers. He’d intended to get it trimmed up a bit, but if she liked it, he’d keep it as long as she’d keep her wee fingers in it, holding him to her. Ah Dhia, he breathed and forced his attention back toward John.

Claire had almost completed her probe of John’s head, having moved her attentions to the front and softly embracing his face between her hands as she bent over him, her lips continuing to move silently as the pads of her thumbs worked in gentle circles on his temples. The good-humored smile John had been wearing when Claire began had relaxed away. Breaths had synchronized as though there was a metronome to set the pace with only John’s occasional hums of satisfaction breaking the silence within their sanctuary here. Muffled sounds from beyond the door seemed to fade further. Jamie closed his eyes for a moment as though he could feel her caress upon him and felt a tightening in his loins. He pulled his eyes open and noticed something had changed, an almost imperceptible shift, a softening in Claire’s features; her lips had parted ever so slightly, and her breathing increased a half measure. Christ! I canna watch this a moment longer.

The door suddenly hit Jamie in the back. “Dè fo shealbh!?…” and then again, the jarring intrusion bursting the peaceful bubble that had settled over the trio. Startled at the disturbance, Claire straightened upright and stepped back from the chair as her eyes jerked to Jamie’s with an alarm in her eyes.

From the hall came the deep resonance of an otherwise very proper English voice loudly demanding, “What’s going on in there? Open this door immediately!”

John reluctantly came out of his stupor and met Jamie’s shadowed eyes. “You best let him in,” uttered with a deep sigh as he straightened in his chair, recognition evident.

Jamie turned with a mischievous grin and with a neat step back, pulled the door open, timed perfectly with the next anticipated shove admitting a fellow stumbling across the unimpeded threshold and struggling to regain his footing and composure. Once settled, Claire noticed the now ramrod erect figure wore a charcoal grey bespoke suit that could only have come from Saville Row and his face, vaguely familiar, she noticed was a matured version of John.

“Hal,” a neutral greeting issued forth in unison from John and Jamie as Jamie met John’s surprisingly pugnacious glare from his station behind the door, before Jamie pushed it closed, shutting out the curious looks from staff drawn by the commotion and the hall lights bringing the room back into shadows.

“I told ye I was calling him,” Jamie practically hissed in his response to John’s unspoken accusation.

“Was I of sound mind at the time? Perhaps suffered a knock on the head – didn’t remember?”

“I didna ken he was coming.”

Claire had to hide her amusement behind her hand as she watched the exchange between the two. They carried on as though the subject of their whispered hissy fit was not standing right in front of them.

“That’s enough from you two! Of course, I came. Mother and Father are in Portugal, otherwise they would have come themselves.”

“Why are there no lights on in here? Where’s the damn switch? And for God’s sake why aren’t you in bed John? Who’s in charge here?” his gaze shifting from John to Jamie and back to his brother whose hair he now noticed looked as though it’d been in a blender, suddenly lit on Claire who had stepped back from John’s chair and was holding her hands in front of her and wearing a very guilty look under his scrutiny. “Who the devil are you ? And just what have you been doing?” the intruder’s imperious tone did nothing to endear him to Claire who felt her spine stiffening in response to his challenge.

“I have a headache Hal and the lights bother me, so stop fussing and leave them off. And if you must know, she’s been doing me.”

“Doing you? And just what in God’s name has  she been doing?” He turned his frown on the woman.

“John…”  Jamie harrumphed in a gruff warning as he walked toward Claire. “Hal, this is Claire Beauchamp, my fiancée. Claire, Lord Melton, John’s brother.”

Claire’s eyes widened at Jamie with the introduction. Surely, you’re kidding!  Now recognizing the name, and putting the two together, and the man she’d briefly met once before.  

“And be nice, or she won’t do you,” John smirked up at this brother. Distracted she might be, but she heard John’s off-color tease aimed at his brother.

A soft THWAP sounded in the room immediately followed by an indignant, “Ow! …Really?! ” and John rubbing at a new sore spot on his shoulder as he tried turning to look at her.

“Yes, really! Behave you!” The command was issued with a good deal of finger jabbing in his direction as though he was a misbehaving puppy. “It’s a good thing I’m no longer your doctor.”

Claire stepped forward extending the offending hand to John’s brother. “Lord Melton.”

“Doctor? Beauchamp is it?” she’d seen the flash of recognition pass through his eyes which she acknowledged silently, but with a quirked brow.

“Please, call me Claire.”

Taking her hand and patting it gently he addressed Jamie without taking his eyes from Claire, “Well James, you’ve done well for yourself, congratulations. And when did this engagement occur, I’d not heard your news.”

Jamie was grinning at Claire, “Well Hal, I had the honour of her accepting me day before yesterday.”

Hal’s brows lifted in response, “Oh, so very recent! Well then my dear, you’ll have plenty of time to reconsider before tying yourself to this one,” as he nodded his head sideways in Jamie’s direction then leaned in and whispered as though confidentially. “Long engagements are to be commended.”

“Well it’s my verra good fortune that Claire doesna believe in long engagements,” Jamie stepped around Hal and took hold of Claire by the waist, pulling her close, disengaging Hal’s hold on Claire’s hand.

“I’m to be Best Man,” John practically crowed, eliciting smiles from both Jamie and Claire.

“Did you take a knock as well?” Hal turned to Jamie not really expecting an answer, but Claire stepped forward resting her hand on John’s shoulder before combing her fingers through his hair trying to arrange it in some semblance of order while he closed his eyes and relaxed back into his seat.

My  Best Man will be working closely with John; I think they’ll make an ideal pairing.”

Your  best man?”

“Well as progressive as he is, I don’t think Joe would relish being referred to as my Matron of Honor; wouldn’t really suit him if you know what I mean.”

“Oh God,” Lord Melton muttered under his breath, but loud enough for all to hear and rolled his eyes so hard, Claire expected them to continue onto the floor.

She paused her stroking momentarily before continuing, “Yes, I expect God will be there too, front and center, as frequently as Jamie calls out to him,” and in her miserable imitation of Jamie’s brogue, ‘A Dhia!’ “wouldn’t miss it.”

Jamie tried to cover his guffaw in a coughing fit, but there was no disguising his wide smile buried in his elbow, red ears and the bursts of laughter escaping him and John. At this point she stopped and rested her hand on John’s shoulder and Hal couldn’t help but notice in the midst of his laughing John reached up and patted it.

“Christ, Sassenach,” Jamie was gasping.

“Him too, though I suspect he would probably be my side of the aisle.”

Hal’s lips were compressed in a tight line, though he couldn’t keep the corners from curving just the tiniest bit, and there were actual crinkles at the corners of his eyes, “Well James, it sounds as though you’ll be hosting some divine company, aside from your bride. Just when is the auspicious event?”

Jamie beamed, “Saturday, Claire will become my wife on Saturday.”

Hal nearly choked as he repeated, “Saturday?! As in this  Saturday?” His eyes drifted to Claire’s stomach area.

Noticing the direction of his gaze Claire firmly announced as her hand moved as though to protect her womb and rested there, “I’m not pregnant if that’s what you’re thinking.”

“Hal, not everyone puts the cart before the horse as you and Minnie did.” John was waving his hand dismissively at his older brother, “And let me assure you, no one believes that 9 pound plus butterball, Ben, was a six-week premature honeymoon baby. I don’t know why you bother.”

Jamie choked back his laugh as he caught Claire darting a glance at him and silently sending her a message with his lifted brow. See? and John’s laughter immediately subsided with the full weight of Lord Henry Melton’s scowl thrown back and forth at the pair of them and an ominous quiet took hold in the room.

Point made, she shot back but Claire was concerned with the dark red complexion that Hal’s face had suddenly taken on and stepped forward, looking up into his eyes, placed her hand on his forearm drawing his attention to her and quietly said, “Breathe with me,” and pursed her lips and gently blew air into his face. “Come on, do it, you know this,” she instructed with a bit more force and blew again watching his shoulders drop and he released his breath and took a refreshing breath. “Do you need an inhaler?”

Hal slowly shook his head as he withdrew his hand from his pocket with inhaler in hand and took a couple of puffs.

“Good. Jamie would you pull up a chair for Hal?” Hal sat in the chair Jamie pulled up next to John’s and raised his eyes towards Claire as she pulled out her stethoscope and listened to his airways.

“Hal, you’re doing fine. I think you just need to sit and have a quiet chat with John while Jamie walks me to my office. I have some other work I need to see to. Ring the nurses’ station or me if you need anything.”

“Thank you,” he exhaled between breaths and nodded at her.

She returned the gesture and turned to leave the brothers to catch up, sure both would be fine.

“Claire! You will come back, won’t you?” John was pointing at his head, “… before Hal interrupted?”

“I’ll check in on you later if I haven’t been banished. Pleasure to meet you Lord Melton,” nodded and stepped out of the room.

Jamie grabbed his jacket off the chair and following Claire out, paused at the door, “Hal, the wedding… it’s just immediate family and the odd stray,” his glance flicked to John as he smiled, “but we’ll be havin a party a couple of weeks after so everyone can meet Claire. I hope you and Minnie will be able to come, I think they’d get along well.”

Hal nodded in agreement and spoke with more ease, “Wouldn’t miss it for the world James, I’ll let Minnie know to put it on the calendar, just let me know the details.”

“Aye, will do.”

The door had barely closed behind him before Hal turned on John huffing with what breath he had, pausing as needed. “Randall’s ex? With Fraser? When in God’s name did that happen? You should have told me.”

“Why on earth would I do that? Besides, I’ve hardly had time; they just met the day of the Gathering fundraiser and got engaged the day after and then this…it’s been a whirlwind. Why would you care?” John defended his actions or lack thereof as he always seemed to be doing to Hal’s consternation.

Hal sat squinting at the closed door seemingly lost in thought. “Tell me exactly what happened.”



Jamie caught up with Claire a few strides down the hall and pulled her around to face him and kissed her hard not caring who saw. “Sassenach, ye’re amazing!”

Claire fought not to return his grin before turning and continue to walk but was stalled as she felt his large warm hand take hold of hers, fingers lacing with his automatically. “Not really but thank you. I know the type too well. They get their good stiff upper lip and posture from the English ash rod shoved up their ass at birth. And he’s John’s brother? Seems an unlikely match up though they do rather look alike.”

Jamie chuckled at her assessment, “Aye, perhaps. He’s always been a bit of a pain in the arse, but Hal’s really no so bad. He’s a bit overly protective of John, which puts them at odds sometimes.”

“Why would John need his protection? He’s a grown man and certainly looks as though he can take care of himself just fine.”

“Weel,” Jamie hesitated.

“Not because John’s gay, surely?”

A brief flicker of alarm crossed Jamie’s face before it relaxed. “Ye ken already,” relief evident in his voice as he smiled at her. “It shouldna matter who he loves, it’s his own concern, no one else’s but Hal worries for him.”

“And you don’t? …worry for him? He loves you,” Claire offered quietly, wondering for just a moment at Jamie’s affections, needing to settle her momentary doubt. She mentally shook her head clearing the thought, surely not twice.

Jamie bobbed his head in acknowledgement but holding her gaze, “I ken, and I’ve told him if I felt the same, I’d be a lucky man, but he’s my friend, Sassenach, a good friend – like a brother, that’s all, but there’s too many iejiits that I do worry about. John hasna said anything to me, but I think he’s seeing someone; he’s been different the past six months or so. Minds me of when he became serious with Hector, keeping it private for now, but I suspect he’ll tell me when he’s ready.”

“One can only hope.”

Chapter Text



“Hope?”

“Well yes, of course, I mean that John’ll feel comfortable sharing that sooner rather than later as close as you two are. I can’t imagine it’s easy keeping such a thing secret.” Of course, Claire sincerely hoped this would be the case, but wondered what Jamie would think when it came out that John and Frank were involved and then Lord Melton being John’s brother? What were the chances of that? Jesus H Roosevelt Christ!  Her head started to swim with the implications.

The hall was relatively quiet, but being near the nursing station, the usual activity continued on around them and Claire became more aware of the curious looks directed toward them. She realized how close she was now standing to Jamie. “The hall is not the place for a conversation; we need privacy,” she moved off still holding Jamie’s hand, and led him to a stairwell exit.

Claire stepped across the landing toward the steps but felt herself suddenly tethered to the spot by her large pillar of a Scot. He was looking down at her with his brows furrowed, concern etched the corners of his eyes. He stepped closer and then around her to stand on the first step down and pivoted her to look at him. Jamie still loomed above her, but he had done what he could to bring Claire level with him, meet his eye.

“Not here,” as small sounds from levels echoed below and floated up, drawing her attention downwards.

“Aye, here is fine,” he quietly insisted and pulled her focus back to him, as he pulled her against his chest and wrapped his arms around her, and a wave a relief as he felt hers raise up and embrace his waist as she relaxed into him. He couldn’t help the little hum of contentment that emanated from deep within his chest and kissed her crown of curls and then dipped his head moving lower to kiss the spot below her ear and trailed his lips along her neck.

Claire felt her heart rate increasing as her head lolled back inviting more, “No, Jamie, it’s not safe,” she demurred, reluctantly pulling back, reason conflicting with want.

“Behind closed doors wouldna be safe,” he leaned in and extracted one more kiss, “but, I’ll no put ye in a compromising situation.” Claire felt his hold relax just the slightest bit and took a ragged breath.

“So, yer meeting. Are ye going to tell me what got ye upset?”

Bloody hell! Bloody fucking secrets, but what do I tell?  Not wanting to move from this place, she started to mumble into his chest until she felt Jamie lean back away from her and lifted her face to meet his eyes and repeated. “You were right; it was nothing to worry about, I’m not sure what I was expecting. Dr. Chisolm just wanted to review the incident from last night, review the hospital’s protocols, “Dot the I’s and cross the T’s”. And told me that I would not be treating John, but that’s reasonable, makes perfect sense, you know like not treating your family.”

Jamie had felt her tense when he asked and heard Claire’s struggle in her hesitation as she started to speak and saw it on her face, the momentary furrow of her brow as she shifted her gaze; it was as clear as if he’d been watching the telly. He listened for what she was not saying as she rambled with her explanation and just nodded along.

“And then he offered his congratulations, or rather best wishes to me since I’m the bride, on our engagement. Anyway, it seems the lady you gave the bouquet to, Grannie McNabb, is a long-time volunteer, quite the legend around here. He claims she has an uncanny intuition and is a superb judge of character. Evidently to receive a blessing from her, there’s something special about you,” the expression on Claire’s face had softened as she recalled the prior evening’s encounter and lifted her hands to cup Jamie’s cheeks, not able to hold back the smile as he turned his face just enough for his puckered lips to kiss her palm. Looking into his eyes, beyond the depths of the cerulean blue she saw the truth of Grannie McNabb’s words and was grateful that she had somehow found him, and knew her own truth, I love you  yet unable to say the words just yet, not here in a stairwell, it wasn’t the right setting. She leaned forward and pressed a tender kiss to his lips and whispered, “she sees you for the good man you are, Jamie Fraser, as do I.”

Jamie saw the shift in her eyes as she looked at him, felt the subtle increase of her hold as she embraced his face in her wee hands and smiling at her pressed in for another kiss, lifting his hand to her neck and pulling her close, fighting the need for breath as they opened and sealed their mouths to each other, tongues dancing, but broke it off too soon as a door opened above them and quick footsteps tripped down the stairs, and a nurse skipped past them with a quick apology.

“That was kind of her, I’ll never turn down a blessing, I’ll take all that I can get.” Jamie smiled at her accepting the benediction, and grateful for their brief interlude.

“Ye’re right, Sassenach, it isna safe here, but I’m no sure anywhere with you alone  would be,” acknowledging what passed between them and wanting more, but that was not why he had sought solitude with her, Claire was still not explaining her troubled state and he needed to know.

Not to be dissuaded by her he observed, “None of that would seem to be cause for upset. So?” He was toeing a line and he knew it. He’d promised not to press her for what she wasn’t prepared to tell him, in this situation he weakly self-justified that it was for their good, and he would encourage her to open up, but would accept if she declined.

Claire stepped down to sit on the wide tread and waited for Jamie to take a place next to her before she began, “He wanted to know my plans after we got married and I assured him I intended to keep working, that I like it here and he said he was glad to hear it, that I’m well thought of and …you know that bs kind of stuff. And then,” Claire dropped her gaze and looking down at her feet pressed her hands to her forehead as if warding off a headache.

She felt Jamie’s knee nudge hers. “You’re not very patient, are you?”

“I can be, but no when I see ye’re in distress over something. Talk to me, please.” He had lowered his head and leaned forward trying to see her face which was hidden by her hands. He wanted badly to touch her but kept his hands to himself as his elbows rested on his knees.

Claire took a deep breath and exhaled. He could see a reluctance in her eyes, but gave him a slight nod before she jumped in. “Look Jamie, what your family has done for this hospital is extraordinary. I mean they’re huge benefactors, and I know the services provided to our vets is especially dear, I heard your father speak. I know the personal toll that your family suffered losing Willy. I applaud the cause to provide enhanced services, I support it, but I don’t want to be in charge of it. I am a surgeon, not an administrator.”

Mention of his family surprised Jamie not able to reason the connection but he could hear her rising frustration as she spoke, “What d’ye mean be in charge?”

“I was offered the position.”

“Ye turned it down, I hope.” Jamie interrupted.

“I did, but I’m feeling pressed. Evidently, the board has engaged Colonel Andrew McDonald to provide some consultation, act as a military liaison, while they reorganize the department. He was the CO where I was recently posted and indicated we had a good working relationship and thought my perspective could be invaluable,” she scoffed at the suggestion, but Jamie held his question.  

“I sound like an ungrateful sod whining over this, but it wasn’t just because Frank and I split that I decided to resign my previous post, though it certainly provided the impetus, the timing was right but there was more… so I took advantage of it for a fresh start.”

“You see, I’d been struggling with what I was doing. You learn to compartamentalize it, you have to, to survive. Each patient gets your undivided attention and care and you do your best to see them healed. Some wounds were career ending, meaning they got to go home…to what? Others you patch up and send back and pray not to see again. It was feeling…,” Claire closed her eyes and cradled her head between her hands searching for the words as her senses were assaulted by the stench of blood, vomit, loosened bowels, the sweat of effort and fear, cordite and dirt, cries of pain, pleas for relief, for loved ones, the distant boom of cannon, the report of gunfire, calls for medic, shouted orders, chaos, and registered the shudder running through her before shaking away the haunting impressions and turned to face him with glazed eyes, and a furrowed brow. Where the fuck did that come from?

“Are ye alright?” Jamie had laid a hand on her cheek and was looking at her intently, searching for something. “Where did ye go?”

Good question... She pulled her face away from him not caring for the scrutiny, but held onto his hand, “Um, yea, I’m sorry, just lost my train of thought there for a moment,” she rubbed her forehead. “I was trying to find the word. I’m not sure why, but, familiar… it was feeling too familiar, and it was beginning to seem so futile.”

“Were ye close to the fighting?” His voice was husky, filled with concern as he continued to examine her closely.

She shook her head, “No, not usually, our base was stationed pretty far back, Raymond made sure of that. The wounded were evacuated to us, there were advance teams that got them stabilized in the field. But there was one occasion when we were out traveling and one of the vehicles just ahead of us in our convoy hit an IED and flying debris hit us and disabled our vehicle. It was an ambush and we had to bail into the ditch.” She had been gripping his hand, focused on massaging his palm with two thumbs avoiding eye contact while she talked. “We were lucky, no casualties, but I don’t know that I’ve ever been more scared of anything in my life.”

Jamie closed his fingers around hers and held them tight, scared for what might have been.

“There’s always going to be another fucking bloody battle, a conflict, a war. A group of politicians and generals deciding to send their soldiers out to face those that have been deemed enemies. And coward that I am, I needed to disengage from that work, from that military mindset, at least for the time being.”

Jamie held her shaking his head denying her charge knowing she was anything but a coward. “Sassenach…,” he crooned to her, wrapping his arm around her pulling her to his side feeling soft tremors run through her, seeing her visions and wanting to comfort her and she took what he offered. Claire leaned into him, her ear against his chest, hearing the steady beat of his heart and let the nearness of him settle on her. She felt safe in the shelter of his body. In their quiet, the sounds of incursions into the stairwell came and went, a pair of interns climbed past them, casting quick curious looks, but saying nothing to them as they continued their conversation.

Claire wasn’t sure how long they’d sat together in silence before she needed to continue. “I can heal the physical wounds, but the resulting traumas, the experiences, these invisible wounds go so much deeper. Call it what you will, PTSD, IBT, shell shock, …I know a great deal of the need for continuing care should be primarily focused on residual mental health issues, the therapies and treatments to address them. Believe me, I know – enough to admit it is certainly not in the realm of my experience. Someone with that background would be a hundred times more effective than I could ever be.”

“Jamie, I’m just finding my place here, feeling like I can be of help. I  need this. I’ve already told you my hours are going to be difficult and schedule not the best until I build up seniority. That’s part of the experience and if marrying you gives the perception of favoritism or being recommended for a position that I’m clearly not qualified for, then doubts are cast on my real qualifications that I’ve worked damned hard for. …I just don’t know Jamie. I want to marry you, I do, but,” she paused, her voice dropping off. She hadn’t meant to say that, BUT  , things were still so tender between them from everything they’d shared this morning, but before she could correct her thought, Jamie jumped in.

He’d held his tongue throughout her account wanting to allay her fears. He knew her to be brave and fierce, a warrior herself and survivor of her own demons, but to have doubts about marrying? He could not bear to listen to that.

“But nothing, Sassenach. Dinna even think otherwise; we’re meant to be together and this…? Ye dinna need it – it’s yer decision, but ye have my support. Ye have sound reasons for feeling as ye do, why would ye even give it another thought?”

“I’m sorry, you’re right, I didn’t mean to suggest that… Well it’s not just McDonald, someone on the board was really advocating with the others for my appointment as well.”

Silence permeated with unspoken insinuations wafted around them.

“Iffrin, Jenny,” Jamie scrubbed his face breathing out her name and shook his head in realization and Claire could hear the disappointment in his voice. “I’m sorry. Christ, I’ll talk to the meddling beesom.”

Claire gripped his forearm, “No, please don’t. Chisolm didn’t come right out and admit it was her, but I can’t imagine it being anyone else. But if it is Jenny, I need to speak to her myself, Jamie. She’s your sister and this doesn’t need to come between you two, and I don’t want it to come between us either. I want to believe it was with good intentions, but we need to establish some boundaries. When it comes to us, it’s between us, but this is about my career, so I’ll deal with it.”

“As ye say, Sassenach.” Jamie couldn’t hold back the chuckle as he thought of Jenny wilting in the face of Claire, and with that one small sound the heaviness about them lifted a bit.

Claire slid her hand down Jamie’s arm to slip her hand into his warm upturned palm and relished feeling his fingers wrap around hers and pulling her in close, so she leaned her head against his shoulder and felt his lips press a kiss against her forehead. “Maybe nothing more will come of it. Dr. Chisolm said he’d check back in a couple of weeks to see if I changed my mind, but as long as I know I have your support, I’m good.”

“Always, mo nighean donn. Christ, when ye stuck yer head into John’s room, my wame flipped seeing ye fashed as ye were.” He lifted her hand to his lips and kissed it, then stroked the apple of her cheek with the back of his fingers.

“No, you couldn’t tell,” she objected to his observation.

“Aye, I could. Yer cheeks were all rosy like ye’d been running, and breathing hard, yer eyes were mad as ye looked about. I kent something had ye peeved; ye looked as if ye wanted to hit something – Jenny, I’m guessing,” he chuckled lightly, “I’m just glad it wasna me. I ken it wasna easy, but thank ye for trusting me, it was important for ye to tell me.”

“I really don’t know where that came from, I’ve never put it to words before. At least my head doesn’t feel like it’s going to explode anymore.”

Claire’s pager went off, surprised that it hadn’t before and looked at him a bit guiltily, as she explained. “I told them I’d be available to help in the clinic. I really am okay.”

Jamie looked at her with a bit of feigned exasperation as she pulled herself upright and brushed at the seat of her pants and rose to stand next to her. Taking up the sling she’d dropped to the step next to her he went to put it on her. “Well, I should have expected nothing less, but ye’ll wear this and be mindful, aye?”

She gave a him a grateful smile, “As you say.” And started walking down the stairs, “Oh, did you get your blood drawn? The lab said they’d send someone up.”

“Oh, aye. Thought John was going to jump under his bed.” He laughed at the memory of John’s eyes getting big as saucers and shrinking back into his pillows, “A big bloke he was, thought he’d be more comfortable hoisting a harpoon, but he was verra gentle,” as Jamie pulled up his sleeve and examined his cotton ball swathed elbow joint. “Hardly felt a thing. Thank ye, Sassenach.”

“You’re such a little boy underneath that great big, bad warrior exterior.” She pulled him down and kissed his forehead and then wrapped her arms around him and held him close as he returned the embrace. Leaning her forehead against his chest not able to look him in the eye as she felt her sexual urges coming alert, God just the scent of him… “I think it’s probably best if we sleep in our own beds tonight.”

Jamie felt his heart thumping heavily in his chest, “Claire, dinna ask me to do that.” He spoke quietly to her but with a huskiness exposing his emotions.

“You had suggested it last night, remember? I know you don’t like it, but my shift won’t be through until after midnight and I can’t promise your virtue would be safe if I wake up next to naked Jamie again,” and she sneaked a peak up at him through her lashes, smiling at the thought of him this morning, but afraid to fully look him in the eye, knowing her resolve was onion-skin thin.

She caught him with a half-smile gazing back at her. “Ye ken that was before all this happened,” nodding his head upward in the general direction of John’s room. “Would ye consider coming to my place then? I could at least sleep kenning ye to be in the room next to me. We’ll have the place to ourselves, except Mrs. Fitz, but she’ll no bother us. I’ll give ye a proper breakfast and ye can see the place, and we can talk. I ken there’s still a lot needs discussing,” and he gave her a squeeze of encouragement.

Knowing it was a reasonable request especially in light of everything that he had done for her in the past couple of days, it was an easy compromise, “Alright, that sounds good. Should I call you when I’m close to being done? You can hang out at my place if you need to take a nap or something.”

“I’ll probably nip over to my office for a bit after checking in on John and see if Hal has left. Taran was to have yer locks changed; I’ll check on that and get yer new keys. Should I grab anything for ye? Save having to go back?”

“Are we at that point in our relationship that you can rummage through my drawers, do you think?” Claire smiled teasingly up at him.

“I think in a few days, I’ll be rummaging through more than your drawers, Sassenach; I’ll pull some things for ye. Call me when you’re ready, aye?” Jamie gave her a quick kiss but held onto her hand as they exited the stairwell only letting go when they’d arrived at the clinic entrance.

Claire gave him a reluctant wave and disappeared around a corner, where she promptly stopped and slumped against the wall letting her heart slow down before reporting.

Chapter Text



Claire pushed the medical journal on her desk away and leaned her head back against the chair’s headrest giving up all pretense of being able to focus on the article she’d been reading and closed her eyes, trying to center on the dark behind her closed lids before thoughts pressed forward demanding her attention. NO! just breathe.  She was able to focus on the long pause as she held her deep breath before beginning the slow exhale, lips parting slightly, fifteen heartbeats, before she had to begin again. And then lips pressing together as she slightly moistened them. Claire could almost feel Jamie’s shadow as he bent his head towards hers and she tilted hers up. A breath of air against her cheek… a tip of pink running along his upper lip before pulling his lower lip in just before he touched his opened lips to hers. She gasped a quick intact of air, no holding it before releasing it as quickly. Damn… and started the control exercise again.

Jamie was right there with each breath forcing his presence to be acknowledged. He had found a loosened thread in her controlled reserve and was deftly unraveling her, exposing her needs and tying her to him with the best constrictor knots, yet as much as wanted him, had confessed it to them both, she was pushing back, needing to hold onto some control, not ready to lose herself completely. Ok, Again…

Tap…Tap…Tap…it didn’t take much as distracted as she was for the quiet knock to pull her attention.

“Yes?”

Joe stuck his head around the opening as he pushed open the door, “You are still here; thought you might have left,” before coming in and closing the door behind him.

Claire turned her face toward the voice without opening her eyes but smiled in recognition then pried her eyes open as she heard his steps move toward her, “Hey you.” And followed him as he crossed the few remaining steps and sat in the chair across from her.

Assuming his usual position after a long day, he slouched down into it and resting one ankle on the other knee, with his clasped hands on his stomach, “I saw a light from under the door.”

She was sitting in her small office with only her desk lamp on, a new medical journal open on the desk in front of her. The lights from outside cast an overall dim grey wash about the room with the warm light from the lamp illuminating her in bright contrast, her honey amber eyes shining brightly at him.

“Why is that so surprising? You’re here, and I know  you should be gone by now.”

“Well I just wanted to check on my girl. Good day?” He studied her closely with concern showing in his dark brown eyes as she rested her cheek on her fist, “or long day?”

“Long,” letting loose a deep sigh, “didn’t go exactly as I’d planned. Today, everyone seems to think I’m incapable of doing my job,” she couldn’t disguise the frustration in her voice. “The Clinic shift supervisor took one look at my sling and deemed it “inadvisable” to have me treating patients in my incapacitated condition insisting they were adequately staffed, but would appreciate my volunteering when I’m fully operational,” she scoffed at the absurdity. “Man acted as if my brain was in sling.”

Joe shrugged in sympathy but kept his own thoughts and let her vent.

“However, I’m totally able and I can even do some of it with one hand tied behind my back,” and waved her hand over the reading materials, “as some would prefer,” offering up her sling that was now resting in a crumpled heap to the side of her desk and put a finger up to her lips making a shushing motion. “Don’t tell.”

Joe chuckled, “Okay, our secret. You do look a little tired. Are you alright?”

“I am a bit,” she admitted wanly. “I’ve just got a lot on my mind.”

“I would imagine you do. It’s been an eventful few days, and now things to get ready for your day…”

“Nope, nope, that’s what I have you for, to do the worrying for me on that account,” she waved her hands in front of her as if warding off incoming traffic while smiling at him, “no it’s something else.” Claire pushed back into her chair, “You remember when I told you about Colonel MacDonald?”

“Yeaaa, what about him?”

“He’s here, military liaison working with the reorganization of the vet’s services department, why in God’s name he got recommended… unless they’re trying to shuffle him off, keep him from putting anyone else in harm’s way, but I was offered the position to head up the department, he asked for me.”

Joe sat forward in his seat with his mouth open to speak but before he could respond, she waved him off, “I told Chisolm, no. It’s just that when I was talking with Jamie earlier,” she was focused on her fingers twisting a piece of paper into a corkscrew, “about my leaving Raymond’s group, … I had… I’d say it was a flashback, but it was nothing at all to do with my attack, nothing like any of my experiences. It was archaic.” Her eyes had closed, brow beetled in concentration, “I couldn’t see it, but I could hear it, taste it, smell it …” and dropped the paper freeing her fingers to work, to feel something in her fisted palms, “almost feel the grime. And when I say archaic, it was booming cannon,” and her eyes popped open and hands flew up and apart making an explosive gesture. “It was only seconds, but.” Claire stopped and let silence between them rest in the aftermath.

Joe had watched confusion wash over Claire’s delicate features, her dark brows drawn, the doubt she bore with her words gave life to belief he felt bloom in his chest as she spoke.

It’s true, by God, it’s true! Fraser was telling the truth! and he was bearing witness to it! Hot Damn, Gail is going to freak!

Joe tried to keep the eagerness in his voice in check forcing a casual tone that belied his true state as he continued.

"Wot?"

“Nothing. What did Jamie say?”

“He’d think I was mad if I told him such a thing.”

“Are you?”

“No,” she replied curtly, pulling away as though struck, doubt shadowing her eyes.

“I don’t know,” Joe tilted his head as he questioned her, “he seems like a pretty understanding guy.”

“I told him about the convoy, but not about MacDonald, he doesn’t need to know that.”

“And what do you mean, understanding? How would you know?”

Uh… “We spoke for a bit when John came in last night and you were resting. I think he would do anything for you, accept anything you told him Claire. I don’t think I’ve seen anyone as in love as that man is with you.”

Claire blushed at the assertion, “He told you that?”

Joe nodded with a smile, “But he didn’t have to, I know the look. It’s the same as when you look at him.”

Her blush deepened, but she didn’t deny it. “Gail and I are pleased that you found each other. It seems as if it was meant to be, but I think you should trust him and tell him everything, LJ. It’s the two of you now.”

“Not until we’re married.”

“I'd advise you start thinking differently on that sooner rather than later, but let me set your mind at ease, everything is still on for this weekend to get you two married.”

Claire’s attitude shifted and she almost giggled, “Jamie insists it is, stubborn Scot. I wasn’t sure with John being sidelined if he might relent, but they’re both pressing forward.”

“Can’t say I blame him at all. Claire, I’ve never seen you happier.” She blushed as she turned a radiant smile on to Joe.

“I have to admit I was a bit skeptical with the rush, but I have a better understanding of it now and I have to say Jenny seems to be pulling it all together with no problems.”

“You’ve spoken to her then?” Claire could not help the annoyance that swept through her and wondered just when it was that Jenny had started pulling strings but determined to push back on the intrusion until she could deal with her directly.

“Yes, and John, isn’t that what your Best Man is supposed to do?”

Claire laughed at that. “I guess so. Good job there, taking control and moving full speed ahead on top of your work here, thank you. I promise, this is the second and last time I’m getting married and I’m two for two with having to do nothing except show up, how lucky am I? So, what have you heard? Jamie’s being very tight lipped about it all.”

“Of course, I have my trusty sidekick to help, but I’ve had my instructions as well, what did John call it? ‘State secrets?’ something like that.”

“When did you speak with John?”

“A few hours ago, now. Stopped by to see him and ran into Jamie and got Jenny’s number. John was sitting up, feeling great, anxious to get out. Met his brother,” letting his eye roll speak for him along with a soft grunt.

“Lord Melton, I think I’ve quite shocked him with having you as my Bestie, got the impression it’s just not the done thing,” Claire couldn’t quite hold back her laugh at her recollection.

“Jamie insists he’s not so bad, so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt for the time being. He had a bit of an asthmatic episode when I was there, managed it very quickly – notice anything? How’s John’s headache? I stopped by to check in, but he was asleep.”

Joe gave a quick shake of his head and shrugged, “Didn’t mention it but I was really just there in “Best Man” capacity. He filled me in on some of the details. Talk about the done  thing… I understand Frank will be attending. You truly are out to break the norms aren’t you. Do you really think it wise or fair  to either of them?”

Fair? I hadn’t really considered that. Is it or am I being selfish? Claire was thoughtful as she answered, “I know you’ve really only tolerated Frank for my sake all this time,”

“Hold on, wait a minute now, I’m sorry you think that, LJ, it’s just…Look I can say it now, it’s just that the pair of you were such a mismatch. And it’s not that I didn’t like Frank, I  just couldn’t see how he floated your boat. But from what I’ve seen, I think Jamie will be much more hands on in your marriage, than I ever saw Frank, I mean it certainly helps that you’re here… he’s here, that can’t hurt.”

Claire’s eyes popped bright at Joe’s comment as her smile spread across her face, “No truer words were ever spoken Joe,” and gave him a wink. “Still, he’s family and I want him there. And despite any reservations he may have, Jamie understands and is being very gracious.”

They looked at each other across the desk, Well I’ve said my piece and if the groom can be that accepting, let him lead the way. “Alright then, so Gail and I are to deliver you safely to Lallybroch early Friday afternoon, I hope you don’t mind if I bow out on the evening’s plans for you ladies since you nixed my recommendation.”

“I’ll give you a pass. But what are the plans?”

“That is in Gail’s purview, you’ll have to check with her, which you can do tomorrow. Jenny did say she had “the dress” delivered to Jamie’s home and you needed to try it on as soon as possible.”

Claire rolled her eyes a bit, “Oh that. Evidently, it’s a family heirloom that Jamie wants me to try; some sort of tradition I take it. Keep your fingers crossed it fits or I’ll be getting married in my slip at this point. I don’t think I’ll worry with your opinion on this Joe, but maybe Gail can come over to Jamie’s place tomorrow? I’d call her, but it’s late. And if this doesn’t work, well maybe she can help me pull a rabbit out of a hat.”

“Sure, I’ll let her know. How was it, meeting his family?”

He watched her face go soft and dreamy. “Complete and utter chaos and absolutely wonderful, Joe. His parents, you met Brian last night, wasn’t he nice? and his mom, Ellen, she was so kind, she made me cry. And Fergus! have I mentioned Jamie’s son? Jenny and her husband, Ian, have three children, she’s a bit intense, but you and Gail are going to love them too. I never thought, …I never thought I’d have this.”

Joe sat up in his chair as she spoke but waited, “What…Jamie has a son?”

“Yes, …well not yet exactly, he’s been fostering him and is working on his adoption. I’m going to be a mom!”

Joe shook his head in disbelief, “Wow, surprise, surprise.”

“Wow is right. Everything about meeting Jamie has been a complete surprise, but it's so easy being with him. Like I've known him so much longer than just a few days.”

“So, Jamie’s place?”

“Come on, Joe, you know what I mean. Just for the time being, given what happened last night.”

“Makes sense, but have you talked about what you are going to do about living arrangements?”

“No, not yet; it’s one of the dozens of things we haven’t even talked about yet. We still have a few wrinkles to iron out, but nothing pressing! Ha! How bad was that one?” Claire giggled at her bad joke.

“Ugh…pretty bad, LJ… but keep trying though.”

“It would make sense though, practicality wise. I could keep my flat for times when I get off too late, I guess.”

“Speaking of details have you talked with him about….?”

Joe noticed an immediate sobering of Claire’s exuberance and she hung her head in thought before glaring at him in challenge, “And just what details would those be… what’s the point? I don’t know anything…except, Oh, by the way, hon, I might just disappear on you someday. People do it all the time…not just housewives with the grocery money. …Don’t look at me like that, Joe. I know,” her voice trailed off as she dropped her chin into her hands.

“Claire, I didn’t mean to,”

“I know,” she stopped him. They sat in silence Joe watching Claire mull over the thoughts running through her head and then looked him directly in the eye.

“I’ve decided I’m not going to say anything. Why should I introduce the idea of a snake into our garden? I want to enjoy the bliss of ignorance for as long as we can.”

“Alright, now you go home to Gail and let me finish up here, so I feel like I’ve earned my keep.”

Joe smiled accepting her decision and dismissal as he pushed himself up from his seat, “See you tomorrow?”

Claire looked at the offensive sling and pushed at it. “Not if I’m not allowed to do anything worthwhile. Maybe I will go ahead and stay out, doctor’s orders after all.”

Claire leaned back in her chair watching Joe pull the door closed behind him. The day hadn’t gone as she had hoped but she felt a lot better after talking with Joe. She may not have been able to work in the clinic, but she’d at least been able to get her own bloodwork drawn for the tests, so it wasn’t a complete waste. She’d be able to give Jamie her results the day after, plenty of time before their wedding. She felt rather silly, but it had been her idea.

She glanced at her watch for the umpteenth time aware that she had completely lost her ability to focus on the reading and would do better tomorrow with a good night’s sleep. Her mind was racing with too many distractions and decided to call it a day and called Jamie.



While she waited, she thought about her earlier call with Frank, he could be irritating as hell, but she realized how much she missed just chatting with him.

She’d decided before they spoke, she was not going to let on about everything she and John had discussed on the drive to her home, not yet anyway and glad she hadn’t as by the time she’d ended the call she was feeling just a bit put out with him.

“Hey Frank, … no, I’m fine. So, I guess you’ve already spoken with Raymond then? …Listen, I’m sorry I didn’t call before, but I, I just didn’t know what to say. I’m so sorry about John, he’s going to be fine, you know that, right?

Of course, you should come see him. You don’t need to make up any excuses, just come. I know he’s anxious to leave…,

“Tomorrow? Well he may be released by then, but, I’m not on his case, I can let you know or just give him a call. When he’s discharged will he be coming home to you? You should know that his brother was here, don’t know how long he intends to hang here, but just in case thought you’d want to know.”

“Yes, we recognized each other but didn’t say anything. I almost believe Scotland is at the epicenter of a very small world…”

No, we don’t know anything yet, nothing seems to have been taken, just papers and stuff rifled like they were looking for something, like I have anything…made a mess of the place though, but it’s ridiculous.

There’s not much to look at yet. I haven’t gotten Lamb’s stuff from storage, haven’t really had the time, the space or honestly, the interest. I know I should have gone through it before, but I’ve already given so much to the universities, …this is his personal stuff.

No… unlike you, I’ve not had that much interest, you know that, but maybe I’ll discover some information about my family when I go through it.

Speaking of families, when are you and John going to declare yourselves? Of course, I know that. I wouldn’t say anything. I said the same to John,

…last night… That’s what started this whole mess. I met Jamie’s family, we had dinner and John gave me a lift home. We were having such a lovely time getting to know each other …Stuff, you know.

Did you know Jamie asked him to be his Best Man? Yes! I wouldn’t kid you about something like that. I had no idea they were more than business associates, until Jamie told me before dinner. Did you know they were friends?”

It was Frank’s hesitation before answering that snagged her attention and prompting, “Frank? We’ve always been honest with each other, at least I thought we were.”

“Yes, you’re right on both counts. I knew about Fraser’s connection with John, but not at first. I hope you understand the awkwardness when we met up at the party, and you’d just met him. Who would have ever thought?”

“You’re right, it’s weird. Is it too weird?”

“Any more so than you asking me to attend your wedding? Is it still on then with the Best Man laid up?”

“Yes, the wedding is still on. John is as insistent as Jamie. We’re counting on you being there, him too, you can be his plus one.”

“I’ll be there if it’s not going to cause any upset, I don’t want to interfere in your day. But I meant what I said before, and I’m happy for you as well. So how was meeting the family?”

“Honestly? Not to cast aspersions, but better than the last time I met my in-laws. They were wonderful and guess what else…I’m going to be a mom!”

 

“Hello? Are you still there?”

“God Claire, have you been through some kind of time warp?”

“Ha, Ha…Not funny. No, Jamie’s been in the process of adopting the cutest boy and I’m going to be included and be his mom. His name is Fergus and he’s eleven years old, he has curly brown hair and big blue eyes and he’s French, but Jamie said he’s going to turn him into a Scot.”

“Listen, Fergus said something really odd though, about a woman traveling back in time through the stones, but Jamie seemed to dismiss it saying it was just one of the folktales, but is that how it’s done? You know Lamb was studying the standing stone formations when we came back, evidently something he’d been studying before but dropped. He never would talk to me about what his interest in them was about. Raymond still hasn’t told me anything, and Lamb’s project research papers were misplaced or lost, but you know, don’t you?”

“Claire, it’s not up to me to say anything about this, when it’s time Raymond will have to explain it to you.”

“Bloody hell Frank, I’m getting tired of being put off by everyone and keeping me in the dark. I wish you’d just tell me.”

“Can’t.”

“Can’t or won’t?”

“Pick.”

“Did you say prick?”

Dead air greeted her. “Oh, alright then, since you don’t seem interested in sharing, maybe I won’t tell you about an old formation of stones I happened to stumble upon.”

“Here in Edinburgh?” Frank’s normally languid tone immediate switched to high gear betraying his interest. “You’ve seen it? Has it been recorded?”

Claire refused to answer. “Claaaire…” he entreated, wanting a response.

“Fraaank…,” and let the pause hang between them. “Maybe I’ll be in a better frame of mind in a couple of weeks, maybe we can talk about it then, but definitely not before then.”



The ringing of her phone brought her out of her reverie.

Chapter Text



“Sassenach, I’m out front. D’ye want me to come up?”

“No! I’m packed and ready. I’ll be right down. See you in a minute, sweetheart.”

‘Sweetheart,’ Jamie was ridiculously pleased at the small endearment. He was standing by the car waiting for Claire to come out. He’d been surprised at the text she’d sent letting him know she was done. It was much earlier than she’d originally thought, and between shifts now evening foot traffic was light and only a few curious glances directed his way. It was a welcome lull in what had become a hectic day and pushed back on some intrusive thoughts. Soon wasn’t coming soon enough for either of them, feeling his need for Claire pulse through him, his hand nervously palmed the small red leather box in his pocket.



Jamie by-passed the lift opting to take the stairs two at a time, hurrying to make up lost time. He expected the offices to be closed but the doors were unlocked and as he strode through the reception area of Fraser Enterprises as he made his way to his office glancing toward a man, a large man even compared to himself, standing outside the glass fronted conference room.  He eyed Jamie suspiciously while a middle-aged gentleman was seated inside with a case on the table in front of him.

It was later than he’d planned to come in and the offices should have been closed. He stood at his desk looking at the accumulation of neatly stacked papers and sighed at the task ahead before calling out, “Geordie?”

 “Ye’re still here.”

“Of course. I am, where else would I be? D’ye really expect me to just leave the doors wide open and allow strangers the run of office?” Exasperation dripped from Geordie’s mouth as he huffed, “God’s tooth Jamie! I expected ye to be here hours ago.”

Ignoring Geordie’s chastisement, Jamie asked while reading a piece of correspondence. “Did I forget an appointment?”

 “Ye asked me to arrange for the jeweler to bring some rings to consider for Miss Beauchamp.”

“Iffrin!” Jamie muttered dropping the letter back to the pile and looked at Geordie, “I forgot, I’m sorry. Why did ye no call?”

“I figured ye forgot. Murtagh explained what happened with John. I kent ye had a lot on yer mind and would show up eventually.”

“And ye’ve had them waiting on me out there for hours?”

“No, they just got here ‘bout twenty minutes ago. But for the commission they’ll be getting, they would have been fine with hours.”

Jamie couldn’t fault his logic though not overly considerate started making his way back to the front, “Well shall we see what they’ve brought? What did ye tell them?”

“Just what ye told me, simple, delicate, unique; that ye want it to work with the band that ye have.”

The jeweler’s security guard stepped aside allowing them entrance before resuming his position blocking the door. Jamie approached the jeweler with this hand extended, “James Fraser, sorry to have kept ye waiting.”

Accepting and shaking hands briefly, the visitor responded, “Of course, Mr. Fraser, Jeremy McLeod, not a problem. Congratulations on your engagement and I want to thank you for considering McLeod & Son. Based on Mr. Sinclair’s directions, I’ve brought a few rings for you to consider. Of course, if we’ve misjudged, we have a much greater selection in the store, but I understand your time constraints.” He lifted the lid on the case and turned it toward Jamie for his consideration. There were a dozen brilliant rings laid out for presentation on the case’s black velvet lining, each beautiful and unique, all glimmering diamond based with the exception of one. Jamie’s hand went to it immediately.

Jeremy McLeod was a romantic to his core. He’d been a purveyor of fine gemstones for over 30 years, longer if counting the years before at his father’s elbow and it never failed to move him when he witnessed the moment a connection was made. He saw it now as Mr. Fraser bowed his head over the ring and a soft smile curled James Fraser’s lips and the word “Perfect,” slipped out.

Smiling, he lifted the blue stone ring, elegant in its simple platinum setting, and slipped it on the tip of his little finger. “I’ve never seen a diamond this color before.” He turned it in different directions examining it as it caught fire in the light off the facets. Mr. McLeod held out a jeweler’s loop for Jamie.

“Ah, you’re very perceptive Mr. Fraser. It’s not, it’s a neon blue, Paraiba Tourmaline from Brazil, much rarer than diamonds and only recently discovered in the early eighties. The gemstone comes in a rainbow of colors, but this is rarest, and most sought after. The stone happens to be a modern option for the October birthstone and as I understand your wedding will fall on the bride’s birthday; well, it seemed a serendipitous opportunity to present a unique stone.”

As the jeweler spoke, Jamie couldn’t help but imagine seeing the ring on Claire’s finger, but when he heard this last comment, he looked quickly at Geordie who gave him a slight shrug. I make note of things.

“It matches yer eyes Jamie.”

“No, it doesna.” Jamie felt himself blushing as he removed it from his pinkie and held it between his very large fingers, avoiding eye contact.

“I would have to agree with Mr. Sinclair, Mr. Fraser, the similarity is definitely there. I would dare say Miss Beauchamp will think of you every time she looks at it.”

“She said she didna really need a ring, that because of her work – she’s a surgeon ye ken – and wouldna be able to wear it all the time. But I want her to have it. She has the most beautiful hands; she talks with them. Verra strong, but delicate.” Uncharacteristically Jamie found himself blathering on unable to stop sharing thoughts he would have kept private as he spoke admiringly of Claire, showing his pride in her accomplishment.

“In this platinum setting with the oval cut stone set as it is along the length of the band rather than perpendicular, your wedding band will snug up to it nicely. This stone is not large just over a carat, but very nicely proportioned to the setting and sized for small hands. And might I suggest, we could offer a lovely rope chain that would hold it beautifully and securely when she couldn’t wear it on her hand.”

Jamie held it as though considering, stoking his finger up and down his long nose.

“One last word Mr. Fraser, if you would allow me.”

Jamie nodded, “Of course.”

“Based on my experience, when a woman says she really doesn’t need  a bit of jewelry, it’s more likely that she’s preparing herself to ease the disappointment of not getting something she would rather like or worse, she’s feeling she doesn’t deserve it.”

Ye canny wee salesman, hitting all the buttons.  Yet Jamie couldn’t dismiss the truth of his observations and hoped it was not the case for Claire, but he would do his best to assure her that she knew she deserved everything she truly wanted; that should never be in doubt. But the truth of the matter was he was prideful enough to admit he wanted it known that with this outward token and with their wedding bands, Claire was his and he was hers.

The ring was perfect for Claire, a rare stone for a rare woman. “This is the ring for her.” He slipped the ring on his finger again as though testing the fit.

“I think Miss Beauchamp will be pleased,” and noting Jamie’s movements, Mr. McLeod offered, “Bring her by the store and we can get it properly sized if needed. I can send over some chains tomorrow for your consideration.”

“Aye, that will be good. I’m not sure what my schedule will be I’ll have Geordie touch base. I appreciate your coming today, but if ye’ll excuse me, I have a call I have to make now. Geordie will take care of finishing up here if ye dinna mind.”

“Thank you, Mr. Fraser, it is a pleasure working with you. I’ll clean this right up and box it for you. And later, if you wouldn’t mind sharing, I’d like to hear how Miss Beauchamp receives your gift. It’s one of my great pleasures to hear the beginning of a story.”

Jamie nodded as he left the room and awaited Geordie in his office. The beginning of our story… well that would go back a good bit further than today. Then he had little to offer her except himself. It was different today, but the truth was that reversal was due in great measure to her as well. He sat looking out over the Water of Leith when Geordie came in and placed the small red leather box in front of him.

“Do I want to ken how much this just set me back?” Jamie had picked the box up and turned it around in his hands examining the finely tooled gold embossing on the leather before releasing the latch. There nestled in a satin bed was his token and smiled. It was certainly bonnie and would suit Claire perfectly and if she did think of him, that would not be such a bad thing. Tomorrow, I’ll take her on a proper date and ask her to wear it.

“Probably not. I’ll call the insurance broker, and have it added to the coverage in the morning.”

“I ken ye dinna usually partake, but would ye care to have a dram with me? Due for a bit of a celebration, I think.” Geordie only nodded at this rare occurrence and took a chair adjacent to where Jamie was sitting relaxed back into his seat.

“Thank ye for taking care of this today and everything ye do. How did ye ken it was Claire’s birthday? I completely slipped up on that bit.” Jamie looked closely at Geordie.

“It was on the papers Ned left for ye. They’re on your desk.”

“I’m going to miss ye,” Jamie quietly offered, “I want ye to ken that.”

“Ye’re firing me?!” Geordie nearly spewed the small amount of whiskey he’d sipped. “Well, ye can’t, I quit!” and made to get up from his seat.

Jamie took a deep breath and waved him back into his seat. “Again? How many times is that this quarter?” Jamie could hardly contain his amusement at what had become Geordie’s knee jerk reaction.

Geordie worked the small amount of liquor he had taken around in his mouth as he considered. “Six?”

“Sounds about right. Well ye canna quit, if I’m promoting ye.”

There was a long pause while Geordie sorted what he thought he’d heard but needed clarification. “What d’ye mean?”

“I need ye to take up some of the travel, site visits and such, keep yer eye on things, represent me, our company.”

“And ye expect me to do that?”

“I’d like for ye to consider it. Ye’ve done a braw job here – better than, ye’ve far outgrown being my babysitter. I’d like ye to be doing something that takes advantage of yer skills - stretches ye so ye dinna get bored. Yer jaundiced eye perspective is …ah… refreshing. Ye see everything that goes on, hear everything and ye’re scrupulously discreet. That’s an admirable quality.”

Geordie was looking a bit green, “I dinna ken what to say. Ye mean to say ye think I’m capable of stepping into yer shoes?”

Jamie grinned and lifted up one very large booted foot turning it this way and that examining it before lowering it back to the floor. “Well, let’s say my wee baby shoes…, I’m no giving up my role anytime in the foreseeable future, but aye, I think it’s time for ye to do a bit of stepping out. Ye’ll need to find someone to step in here while yer gone first. Let’s look at nailing this down in the next six months and I’ll be laying out what I expect ye to be doing. I think finding someone will be harder for ye than what I’ll be doing.”

“I’m surprised, I dinna ken what to say,” Geordie repeated. “What should I do in the meantime?”

“As I said, think on it and let me know. But I do expect ye to keep on with work here for now and ye need to work on being a bit less pissy,”

“I’m no pis…” he interrupted.

Jamie fired right back, “Och, ye are Geordie and ye ken it, and it may work with me, but ye’ll find others are less appreciative of it. We’ll get ye some coaching as well, maybe a stylist to help ye a bit…”

He'd been gone three weeks before he'd encountered Claire and had fallen further behind, nothing critical, but it was not his practice. He reviewed his schedule with Geordie for the next two days before he would leave for Lallybroch and prioritized what needed to be dealt with immediately; what Geordie could handle, what John needed to review when he returned and what he expected from the other division heads. St. Germaine had called and wanted to see him before returning to Paris and hoped they could schedule meeting tomorrow. When he'd gotten Claire's text, he felt a bit easier having made a dent in the pile of correspondence and grateful that Geordie had stuck with him.



His heart lifted as he saw Claire come out the door and head his way. Did he imagine her face lighting up when she saw him too? Certainly, the smile was real and as she got closer, he could see it reached all the way to her eyes. God, he loved this woman. As she approached, he moved forward to greet her, raising his arms to take her in, wrap her in warmth, welcome her home, and returning the kiss she offered him. Oh, the joy she brought to him.

Claire settled herself in her seat but turned a bit, so she was leaning against the door, facing Jamie once he got in. It was dark within the cab of the car, but his profile was illuminated by the street and dashboard lights when he started the car and pulled away starting toward home.

“What?” he felt her whisky eyes upon him, intent with her gaze and felt a bit self-conscious under her scrutiny.

“Just enjoying the view.” He could hear the smile in her voice.

“Are ye then?”

“Most definitely, you’ve been filling my head all day.”

Jamie stretched his hand out and grasping her leg where he could touch her, running his hand up and down and squeezed her calf before shifting his gaze to her briefly, “As have ye.”

“Did you have a good rest of your day?”

“Eventful, but aye, it was verra good,” Jamie chuckled. “I’ll have to be getting a new assistant at work, Geordie quit, …again.”

“Well that sounds neither good nor funny, why are you laughing about it?”

Jamie filled her in on most of his history with his assistant most or what had transpired with Geordie that day and Claire laughed along, amused at his innate storytelling and the anecdotes.

“Whatever does that mean, God’s tooth?”

“I dinna think he uses it for its original intent, just his way of sneaking in a bit of cursing Sassenach, he says it whenever he’s peeved with me. He’s Free Church and I think he’s sees it as his duty to save me, being a Papist and all,” Jamie chuckled again.

“And why do you want to promote him?”

“I dinna wish to be traveling as much; it’s been hard enough being away from Fergus, but when we marry Claire, I want to be home with my family.”

“Oh.” She hadn’t known what to expect but certainly not that and felt tears threaten with the burst of emotion she felt. Home, family… She fell quiet considering what he was offering, the reality of what it meant, something she never truly believed she’d have. She felt Jamie’s warm hand squeeze her leg again in reassurance and felt her face warm, not sure how to respond.

Jamie sensed the change thought he understood so didn’t press her. “And you Sassenach, was your day good?”

“Not as good as the start of it,” Claire then admitted that she’d been benched and not allowed to treat any patients and was sore about it and relegated to dealing with her paperwork. She’d stopped by John’s room, but he was sleeping.

“Hal was still with John when I stopped back to check on him though preparing to leave, not acting quite the arse he was when he arrived. John declared he was feeling ‘amazingly refreshed’ which is a blessing, but he was fuming to be discharged.” Jamie had been giving considerable thought to Claire’s gift. She had definitely helped him, and it seemed that John had responded as well. Maybe Raymond was wrong, maybe Claire couldn’t travel, maybe her gift was more in keeping with her healing talents. Would that be better?

“John’d left a lot of work in progress that he was anxious about and some Best Man duties he’d had to peel off to Joe.”

“And remember what I told ye earlier?”

“Remind me.”

“About John, …he assured me he had a friend that would stay with him and make sure everything was alright.” Jamie turned grinning at her briefly. “I think he may be coming close to spilling beans.”

“That’s good,” Claire returned the smile thinking about her conversation with Frank. “Maybe you should tell him to bring his friend to the wedding, his plus one.”

“I’m no sure about that Sassenach, I mean he’d be welcome of course, but there’ll no be too many of us and Jenny, well Jenny will be Jenny and no leave ‘em alone. Maybe at the party where there’ll be more folks to run interference, distract her attention.”

Claire couldn’t help but nod in agreement thinking about Jenny and how she’d need to deal with her herself. It was going to be awkward enough without bringing Frank into the equation.

“I met Taran at yer flat and got the new keys while I picked up yer things. He went to the Police Headquarters and reviewed the CCTV and they were able to track the fella ye described into the park, but nothing after that. They weren’t sure if he’d stayed there and slipped out after somehow changing his appearance, but no evidence of him leaving.” Jamie was furious that between his security and what Raymond had claimed would still be monitoring Claire, no one had picked up on the intruder.

“I was wondering… there is no rush to decide, but have ye by chance given any thought about where we might be living?”

“You mean making our home?”

“Aye, I guess so, I mean I’ve got my house, but I’ve really only thought of it as my place.” As much as he wanted to say it, Jamie kept the words back. Ye’re my home, wherever ye are.

Claire was quiet for the moment, “Well, I have been thinking about it, just a bit. I think it would be difficult to put everyone up at my flat when they come to visit, I mean one bathroom for how many? Your mom and dad, Jenny, Ian, wee Jamie, Maggie, Kitty, and who knows how many more they’ll be having, and that’s not even counting you, me and Fergus. And Mrs. Fitz! No, it will never do, even if it had a second bath. I suppose, since you already have such a lovely place… from a practical point…”

“God, I love a practical woman,” Jamie’s laugh of relief bellowed out. “Sassenach, I think it would suit us well and we’d still have plenty of room for our bairns,” Jamie looked at Claire with a gleam in his eyes and a smirk playing on his face, “just in case the need came up.”

“Just in case…?”

"Sooner rather than later." Claire watched the smirk transform into a full grin.

“I ken ye were making yer flat yer own, and I want ye to do whatever ye need or want to make this place feel like yer home. I want ye to ken it’s as much yers as it is mine.”

“And ye can have yer garden ye’re talking about. Dirt therapy, was it?”

“It sounds lovely, thank you,” she tried to stifle a yawn.

“Are ye tired Sassenach?”

“Yes, a bit. It’s all catching up I’m afraid.”

“Weel ye can sleep as long as ye need. I promise to leave ye to your rest.”

“I rather like having you next to me, I’m not sure how I’ll sleep with you not there, you’re quite easy to get used to having around.”

“I’ll be right next door if ye get lonely.”

“Good to know.” Claire smiled at him, He’s really such a little boy for as big as he is and laughed quietly to herself at the irony.

“We’re here,” and Jamie pulled into the long drive leading to his house.



Their arrival was a much quieter experience than the last; it was only the two of them. He’d grabbed a bag of her things from the trunk and opened the door and led her in. He directed her upstairs to a different wing of the house than she’d been before and opened a bedroom door for her and switched on a light and set down her bag. “I hope it’s okay, usually a couple of Jenny’s kids sleep here, the room connects to the one next door where I’ll be… Bath’s through that door. Sleep as long as ye need, mo nighean donn. I’ll be near,” and Jamie gave her a tender kiss as he left her not lingering as much as he wanted to do.

Claire examined the room after watching Jamie disappear through the adjoining door and pull it closed behind him. It was pretty she decided if simply furnished with a set of antique iron twin bedsteads, a nightstand and lamp between them and a dresser with a stack of children’s books, a basket next to it overflowing with stuffed animals. An ottoman and glider occupied by a half-dressed doll were by the window would provide a wonderful reading nook. Pulling the curtains back didn’t really reveal much of the view because of the dark, but it seemed to be facing a direction away from the gardens. She did a test bounce on the bed and found the mattress to be most comfortable and ran her hands over the soft bedding and could just imagine trying to get Maggie and Kitty giggling away to sleep in here.

Returning to her bag, she inspected Jamie’s clothing selection and smiled as she pulled out a pair of clean scrubs, a sports bra, old soft flannel pjs and tank top, a couple of pair of her cotton knickers and a miscellany of toiletries. She had to laugh to herself shaking her head as she fingered the assortment imagining him going through the drawers and making these particular selections. Nothing remotely sexy, good lad. Well it was just for the night; she’d be able to get something else in the morning.

She used the bath, then letting the shower spray soak her down, turning to avoid wetting her hair. Working up a lather of the rosemary and cucumber scented soap she washed every inch she could reach wishing for Jamie’s strong hands to get that spot between her shoulder blades or her back brush, but tonight she just enjoyed the contentment she was feeling wash over her.

Claire pulled on the pj bottoms and tank and ran her fingers through her hair pulling tangles free and then gave it a twist before pulling back the bed covers admittedly ready to climb into bed and turned off the light. With the light out she noticed the door that Jamie had left through was now slightly ajar and a faint light was shining from the room beyond. She tiptoed over and peeked through the opening, Holy f…, and slumped, her shoulder brushing against the against the wall.

Jamie was sitting up in bed, back braced against the headboard, with his long legs stretched out under the covers. His upper torso was bare, with the lamp shadowing his well-defined musculature, the mussed copper curls caught the light here and there as his head bent closer to what he was reading – evidently an amusing book as his lips twitched with a smile.

Attention caught by the movement, Jamie lifted his head and turned toward her, his grin widening with her appearance.

“You wear glasses.” As if you could be any sexier.  She thought the tortoise shell glasses were perfect for his coloring and framing his face.

Jamie’s breath caught with the sight of Claire standing there partially hidden in the shadows, the top she wore fell short of meeting the bottoms, her belly button showing in the sliver of exposed skin.

He swallowed hard before he was able to speak, “Och, aye just for reading when my eyes are tired. Have ye changed yer mind?” He closed the book sandwiching his finger between the pages, marking his place and patting the space next to him with his free hand invitingly. “I could read ye to sleep if ye like.”

Claire pulled the door open a bit more as though considering the advisability of joining him in the bed admitting the lure of hearing him lull her to sleep was thoroughly enticing. “I don’t know, what are you reading?”

Jamie lifted the book turning the cover toward him, as though examining it before holding it out to Claire, “Something Joe gave me, said if I wanted to know ye better I should take a look at yer favorite reading material, before I give it over to ye …Lady Jane,” and waggled his brows at her, chuckling as he played up her nickname.

“He didn’t!” her mouth gaped open with a choked back laugh, as she took a step through the door toward the bed and then retreated. “Why that… I’ll have you know I’ve never bought one of those rags myself. He’s just made me the beard for his habit. Ask Gail!”

Jamie sat up pulling his legs towards him until he was sitting cross legged, but remained ensconced in the bed, a safe distance she considered. He cradled the book in both hands as though thinking and then started thumbing through the pages until he located what he was looking for then looked at Claire. “I’ve just been skimming it, but well, from what I’ve gathered so far, this looks to be verra educational, Sassenach. Ye said ye werena a verra good cook, but perhaps ye could find this recipe and practice on it. It seems to have verra desirable benefits.”

“Oh?” she smiled at his off-hand review – educational? – that’d be a stretch. Eye-opening it might be in some regards, but Claire couldn’t possibly imagine what could be contained between the pages of one of Joe’s books that would pass as a recipe or even the suggestion of one. “What’s the dish?”

Jamie laid the book aside and his glasses atop it before he tossed the covers back and rose from the bed and turned toward her giving her a smile she could only think of as wicked. Claire took a breath and held it as he sauntered toward her not sure how the plaid pj bottoms he was wearing remained in place as they dipped low on his hips. Fuck yes! Wait No! …NO!  She took a half step back grabbing hold of the door as he approached, “Weel, it’s a good one to hone yer skills on, a soup’s easy enough – one ye make with terrapin and lots of sherry.”

“Terrapin? …You mean turtle soup? Really? That’s in the book?” Claire tried looking past him at the book, but he was blocking her view and was having to look up at him as he stopped on the other side of the doorway. Jamie raised his arm and grasped the edge of the door pulling it towards him a bit, narrowing the opening between them as he looked down on her through the space.

He reached through the opening, extending a finger he touched his mark he’d left there on her neck and felt his cock twitch recalling the pleasure he’d had leaving it there; he’d need to find a place more discreet, just for the two of them. He trailed his finger across her chest, her nipples hardened through the taut fabric and felt the quickness of her breaths as he dragged his finger to her bruised shoulder, stroking it tenderly, “Is it bothering ye mo chridhe?”

Claire’d closed her eyes, reveling in his touch and considered pulling the door open when the question came to her. Turning her face to him her eyes fluttered open, and with a shaky voice responded, “No, not really.” And thinking to distract her thoughts opened her eyes to him and asked, “But what about the soup?”

“Weel, there’s the mention of it, but its effects are described most provocatively. Seems there’s a good bit of debauchery going on below decks in the captain’s quarters....” Jamie’s mouth turned up at one corner as he quirked his brow and pushed gently against the door feeling Claire’s easy relent and reached through the opening taking her hand and pulling her toward him.

All thoughts of sleep or anything else for that matter except for being close to him had vanished with Jamie’s approach.

“So ye imagine ye’d like a bit of ravishing by a pirate…”

Claire’s eyes got big as she smiled in anticipation and readily closed the distance between them reaching up for him expecting his embrace and a lustful one at that with the look he was giving her with his eyes blown near black. Instead, he took her hand and twirled Claire so her back was against his chest and wrapped his arms around her and nuzzled her neck and placed tender kisses along her bruised shoulder. “I’d run the blaggard through that did this to ye.”

Jamie ran his hand up into her hair and wrapped his fingers in it gently tugging her head, exposing her neck and nibbled at her ear. Claire was pressing against back against him loosing small sounds of need as he responded growing harder with the contact.

Christ, Sassenach.  He stroked her arm and responded to each move of her hips until they were pressing against each other setting a rhythm as he whispered into her ear, letting his hand rove down to her hips pulling her closer, “I almost wish I was sailor, to let the swells of the waves rock us as I plumb deeper into yer depths,” her took her hands and placed them over her head palms flat on the wall, “keep them there,” he growled as she started to move them.

“Jamie…” Claire’s plea came out as breaths as she responded to his movements against her, undulating her hips against him and then felt his hand moving up under her top and gently take hold of her breast as he turned her face, kissing the side of her mouth.

She couldn’t hold her head up any longer and had to drop it between her arms struggling for rasping breaths as his hand slipped down across the bare skin of her abdomen and beneath the band of her pjs.

His head dropped to rest solidly between her shoulder blades as he cupped her sex and groaned at the heat of her. “Ah Dhia, mo nighean donn, I’ve missed ye so,” she felt the warmth of his breath against her back as he spoke pressing kisses between his words and pressed his palm against her cuddling her there and she could feel the trembles in his fingers. And then the heat of his hand was gone from her, both now tightly gripping her hips as he straightened up and away from her, breathing hard.

She dropped her hands and placed them on top of his for a moment before she stepped forward and turned looking up at him confused and recognized his determination. He’d slipped but had regained it at least for a while as he continued, “Ye best get to bed before I take ye to mine and…,” his voice had dropped, heavy with intent, his eyes so dark she could barely see the blue.

Claire held Jamie’s gaze, measuring the cost of his challenge and yielded, “I’ll just say good night then, but you’d do well to bolt the door.”

“Caidil gu sèimh, mo nighean donn,” he spoke softly before pulling the door closed. He grabbed hold of himself through his pjs and prayed with every step that Ian had left the lube in the nightstand drawer; he’d be damned if he took another cold shower.

Chapter Text



Claire was in the nether regions between sleep and wake, reluctant to open her eyes, as if she could though she did try. Disoriented as she was, she became slowly aware that she wasn’t in the bed she originally climbed into last night. A nearby voice mumbled into a pillow, “Ye were lonely without me,” and a hand felt its way across the sheets and found hers. Claire tucked her chin into her chest as she smiled and scooched backwards until she made contact with his warm body and gave herself fully back over to sleep.

 

“Are ye awake, mo chridhe?” Fingers were alternately playing with her hair and slowly stroking the length of her arm.

“No,” she mumbled back in a leave me alone tone.

“Did ye plan to go in to work then?” a whisper penetrating the fog.

“nnnn nnn,” low hums came with her yawned exhalations as she rubbed her face back and forth in the pillow forcing herself awake, at least enough to respond. “noooo. I’m going to follow doctors’ orders if they won’t let me have fun,” denying the necessity to wake up and refusing to pry her eyes open except for a quickest of peeks. The light coming in from the windows was from an overcast sky making it difficult to judge the time of day.

Claire felt Jamie’s warm hand on her cheek and then several tender strokes as he brushed her hair back off her face, feeling very much as she imagined a cat would and luxuriated in his touch turning her face into his heat. Not fair.

“Ye mean I have ye for the whole day?” Claire couldn’t help but notice the excited tone in Jamie’s voice despite his quietness as she nodded leaning deeper into his touch. “Gail’s here to see ye. Said ye’re to try yer dress on?”

“She is? What time is it!” and finally blinked her eyes open to see Jamie who was now grinning at her like a little boy who’d snuck a peak under the Christmas tree. He was kneeling on the floor, so his face was on a level with hers as he leaned his upper body towards her across the bed.

My dress…You’re sure about this?”

“Only if it suits ye,” but she couldn’t ignore the appeal in his voice and reached out to stroke his cheek.

“Okay, will give it a try,” attempting to shake off the remnants of sleep between yawns, she tried to sound reassuring if not to him, for herself. “How long have you been up?” She couldn’t make out what he was wearing, but he was dressed.

“No that long, it’s just past noon, ye finally settled and had been sleeping well. I’m sorry, I wouldna have woken ye ceptin’ she’s downstairs with Mrs. Fitz having tea.”

“Oh God…” came out in a prolonged groan as Claire stretched, settling on her back and letting her eyes wander about taking in her surroundings, before coming back to meet Jamie’s. “How … ?”

“Ye dinna remember?” he was smirking at her.

She closed her eyes recalling exactly what had transpired, but she wasn’t going to admit that to him.

She’d lain awake for what seemed like hours after Jamie had sent off her to her bed throbbing with need of him. Bloody Bastard… She shifted in the bed trying to get comfortable in the now too small bed. She flung the covers off feeling stifled, then chilled and pulled the sheet up until it was all twisted around her legs trapping them as she tried to move. She bolted upright in the bed glaring at the door that separated them. “Agh!” This was too ridiculous. Sleeping apart was admittedly her terrible idea, why had she pushed for it? And then remembered, but Jamie wasn’t naked – at least he hadn’t been, and neither was she. And it’d looked to be a rather large bed, certainly bigger than hers at home. She could change her mind, couldn’t she?

Claire untangled her legs from the sheet and tiptoed across the carpeted floor to the closed door, her hand on the smooth brass knob and wondered if he’d actually locked it. She laid her ear against the door with her hand flat against it but could hear nothing through the heavy oak. She took a deep breath and slowly twisted the knob. Shit!  and froze. The latch of the old hardware sounded like a bomb going off detonating in the silence as the old door released from its position. Shit… Claire held her place debating whether she should make a dash back to the bed, but realized she heard nothing come from within. She took several deep breaths calming herself as the rush of adrenaline subsided. She prayed Jamie had somehow slept through it and then was angry that he had and was somehow managing to sleep, Bloody Bastard, probably dreaming away.  She was being irrational, and she knew it. She eased the door open until there was just enough room for her to slip through, prayers answered that the hinges didn’t creak. She waited a moment letting her eyes adjust and could just make out the form of Jamie laying in the bed, slumbering away.

She squinched her eyes tighter refusing to look at him, “Oh yea.”

It started as a low chuckle as he leaned in and kissed her temple until it became a full bellied laugh as he pulled back, “Ye were like a little ninja faerie, tiptoeing yer way to my bed in slow motion and then slipping under the covers.”

“You saw and let me think I was getting away with it?” Claire opened her eyes with the first rumble of his laugh and took a half-hearted swipe at his arm as she pushed up sitting against the headboard.

A small chuckle escaped before he began to answer, “Aye, ye were ‘bout the cutest thing I’ve ere seen, Sassenach. I thought for sure ye’d seen me watching ye before I could close my eyes when ye got too close. Took everything I had to keep from laughing as well,” the memory of that itself set Jamie to shaking harder finally letting loose another peal. He pushed up off the floor and sat down next to her on the bed and took her hand in his, playing with her fingers as he settled. “I’d been layin here wide-awake thinking about going and fetching ye myself, when I heard the latch on the door release like a starter’s gun.”

Claire snickered nodding in agreement to his apt description. “Scared me too, I half expected to find that you’d bolted the door after…, just in case,” Claire blushed. “So, you were just playing possum, not letting on you heard…”

“Couldna help but hear it; it’s an old house and ye’ll get used to the odd noises. The fittings on some of the doors still need a bit of attention and there’s creaky steps but Claire,” he reached out cupping her cheek and leaned in close locking his eyes on hers, “as badly as I wanted to be with ye, ye minded what ye thought ye needed, and I’ll do my best to respect that. But I’ll no lie Sassenach, I’m glad ye chose to come to me. Of course,” he lifted his brow at her in admonishment, “it seemed to take hours before ye appeared. And, well if it should happen again, I’d appreciate it if ye’d come sooner,” he pulled her close and leaned his forehead against hers.

“Come sooner? …too much work for you, am I?” she smiled wondering if he’d catch her drift and reached and patted his cheek, teasing him.

Jamie pulled back scrutinizing her debating whether to rise to the banter and scratched at his stubbly chin, “Ye’re a witty one. But,” responding to the uncertainty her thought she voiced as a joke, “ye’re always welcome in my bed whether to love with me or just a cuddle and sleep, but I’ll never lock ye away from me.”

Claire’s heart was thumping hard in her chest as she leaned forward and wrapped her arms around his neck and pressed her lips against his, before pulling back and laying her head on his shoulder. Jamie hummed with satisfaction as he held Claire close as he nuzzled her neck kissing her there, “Can we agree that this idea of sleeping apart doesna work? I didna get a bloody wink of sleep until ye were close to me.”

Claire leaned back and smiled at him admitting, “Me either, I was furious with you thinking you were in here dreaming away.”

“Och, well dreaming, yes; sleeping no,” Jamie stood and pulled the covers back before sitting back down and heaving a giggling Claire into his lap who settled herself quite comfortably, “but I was dreaming about all the things I wanted to do with ye, to finish what we’d started.” Jamie closed his eyes feeling her arse squirming a bit in his lap and his hardening in response.

“Do tell,” she whispered encouragingly in his ear and gave his lobe a little nibble with her lips, before she moved to kissing him along his jaw and down his neck. She nuzzled his neck breathing in the heating scent of him mingling with the spicy scent of the soap and tasted him with the slip of her tongue.

Jamie closed his eyes grinning in recollection as he started, “Ah, so many ways, Sassenach,” he hummed deep in his throat as her lips moved along his skin, his hands roving along the contours of her body. “The way ye were pressing into me, presenting yer beautiful arse to me …ripe for the taking, ah Dhia, such a lovely gift.” His hands had moved of their own volition to said arse, and his fingers pressed into her flesh, pulling her against him. “I wanted to run my hands up and down yer body, feel the softness of yer skin. Run my fingers up yer thigh into the warm wetness of ye. Feel ye quiver around my fingers as I slide them into ye, first one and then another until ye cannot stop squirming with want of me, aye, like that and I thought I might take ye from behind, thrust deep to the hilt.” Jamie was getting lost in his ruminations and thrust his hips forward meeting hers.

Coming to his senses, he groaned in frustration as Claire moved against him, “We must stop Sassenach,” firming his grip on her hips stilling her motions as well. “Christ, we’ll just be where we were last night, and Gail, she’s downstairs, and I told her I’d be down with ye shortly.”

“Jamie,” she protested as he moved her off his lap and she flopped back onto the bed, eyeing him greedily as he stood picking up a robe from a chair, “Just put on this robe, ye dinna need to dress just to undress. This is our home, and nobody cares,” he clarified forestalling her objections. “Ye’ve missed breakfast again, but Mrs. Fitz, she’s got a bite of lunch ready. Ye need to eat something, Sassenach. I feel I’ve been starving ye the last few days.”

“Alright then,” she allowed knowing she’d been thwarted though it truly hadn’t been her intention to get caught up herself and push them to the edge like that; it just seemed to happen whenever she came in too close proximity. “Would you give me hand please?” as she lazily extended her arm, so he could pull her up from the depths of the bed into his embrace and a warm good morning kiss.

“I’m sorry for that, I know we agreed, and I don’t mean to press you but the things you do to me Jamie Fraser, it just happens.” She stepped back from him, “Give me a few minutes and then you can show me the way down.”



Jamie stood looking out the window waiting for Claire. He’d need to make a few calls if not going into the office; he hoped to catch Fergus between tutoring sessions and touch base with John who had texted him earlier that he’d been released. St. Germaine had wanted to meet, but hopefully could deal with him over the phone. If he was going to have Claire’s company for the day, it would be a good time to continue, to tell her what he needed.

It was overcast per usual but did not look threatening. Perhaps they could walk in the woods after Gail left. He would take her to his favorite spot, and he could give her the ring. It seemed to be an appropriate spot with the vestiges of the old stones.

Jamie was suddenly feeling nervous, thinking about slipping it on her finger, imagining it there and hoping she would like it. He turned when she came back into the room, freshened up and greeting him with a wide smile brightening her already beautiful face. His heart felt near to bursting. It had seemed forever that he’d been waiting for her, yet it had only been days since he’d found her in this time. God how I love this woman, thank ye for bringing her back to me. I promise to never take this chance or her for granted.

Jamie gave her a quick verbal overview of the layout of the house to get her oriented as he escorted her down to the kitchen where Gail was visiting with Mrs. Fitz. Seated at the small table there, Gail rose and the two quickly shared hugs and giggles, while Jamie looked on, happy for their friendship; he’d liked Gail from their first meeting.   

“Good day to ye Claire, it’s good to see ye again,” Mrs. Fitz welcomed her as well with her warm smile. “I’m sorry I wasna up when ye arrived last night to welcome ye, hope ye rested well. Jamie said ye’d be hungry, so I’ve got a bit prepared for ye. Come have a seat.”

Lunch was set out on the table and Jamie pulled out a chair for Claire accepting Gail’s greeting as she settled in her seat. “Well this is exciting. Can’t wait to be part of the festivities, Joe is so jealous Claire. I promised I’d send him some pictures.”

“Oh let me get ye some fresh coffee,” and Mrs. Fitz moved to rise.

“Dinna get up, I’ll get it for her,” Jamie patted Mrs. Fitz on her shoulder before he brought the pot over and smiling down at Claire poured her a hot cup, earning an approving look from Gail as well.

“Thank you, Jamie,” she smiled sweetly at Jamie for the thoughtful gesture for her as well as Mrs. Fitz. “Oh, Mrs. Fitz, before I forget, I wondered, do you have a recipe for turtle soup? I’d like to learn how to cook it if you could help me.”

Hearing this, Jamie turned back to face Claire and covered his heart with his hand grinning at her, “Sassenach, if that comes out well, perhaps we’ll be looking for other recipes that inspire ye as well.”

Gail looked at Claire suspiciously, “You don’t cook,” as she noticed Claire’s deep blush as she ducked her face as she tried to sound nonchalant, pouring a bit of cream into her coffee.

“Well, I don’t imagine it would hurt to be able to manage a dish or two. I’m not so old that it’s too late to learn a thing or two.” She glanced back up at Jamie returning his smile. “And what’s the saying?... the path to a man’s heart is through his stomach.”

Gail couldn’t hold her guffaw back as she turned in her seat and looked from one to the other before exchanging knowing looks with Mrs. Fitz and eyeing Claire, “And you call yourself a doctor, perhaps you need a bit of a brush up on your anatomy lessons. What do you think Jamie… does she know her stuff?”

Jamie was blushing to the roots of his hair looking for a graceful way to extricate himself from the turn of the conversation, “I’m going for a run while ye ladies enjoy a bit of fun at my expense.” Jamie came around the table and gave Claire a quick kiss but before pulling away from her looked her straight in the eye as he addressed Gail’s comment, “Aye, she may be a doctor, but she’s a kind woman, with a good touch and a verra  good grasp of anatomy. I’m a lucky man.” Before Claire could clear her head to think of a comeback, Jamie was out the door.

Gail was fanning herself and nodding, “Oh he’s hot, you, lucky woman.”

“He runs?” Claire said to no one in particular.

“That’s what you got out of that declaration? God Claire, wake up!”

“Oh, I’m awake…I know he’s hot, and kind, a fantastic kisser that makes me melt and I shall not go on and feed your inquiring mind, sorry, not sorry,  but I didn’t know he runs. We’re still getting to know each other.”

Gail rolled her eyes at Claire as she joined in laughing and holding up her hands in surrender, “You’ll have a lifetime ahead of you to get to know each other.”

Mrs. Fitz jumped in, “Och, but aye, he’s a big runner. Will go for miles and miles when he’s a chance, even runs those marathons, great stamina he has,” and gave Claire a knowing wink while Gail joined in laughing. “Been a bit busy lately I would guess.”

“Alright, nothing to see here. Let’s move on to something else, shall we?” Claire tucked into her lunch, “Oh my God, Mrs. Fitz, this is delicious, I didn’t know I was this hungry,” adroitly changing the topic. Gail caught Claire up on the gossip that Joe had gleaned of her engagement running rampant through the hospital.

“So much for keeping it private. I don’t know what I was expecting,” she huffed. She finally pushed away from her plate. “I’m afraid if I eat as much as I want, I won’t fit into anything. So, have you seen this dress I’m supposed to try on?”

Gail shook her head, “Nope waiting on you for the big reveal.”

“Och, it’s so beautiful and quite famous.”

“Famous? What do you mean?” Claire choked on a scone she’d decided she couldn’t pass on after all.

“The Fraser family has lent it out on occasion for display to museums, it’s a treasure of the time.”

Gail and Claire looked at each other, “Do you think she should be wearing a museum piece for her wedding?” Gail voiced both their concerns.

“If it gives Jamie pleasure why ever not. It’s his family’s heritage and as much as they have worked to bring back and support the Highland clans’, culture and traditions, it would be most fitting if his bride were to wear it. Did he no tell ye about the first Fraser bride that wore it?”

“I’ve not heard anything except wondering if “the dress” would fit me.”

“I’ve no doubt about that, ye’re certainly slim enough,” Mrs. Fitz judiciously eyed her, “perhaps a bit more...”

“A bit more what?”

“Well, just a bit more,” she left off there.

“That’s a high compliment if every I heard one,” Gail teased, “but what about the bride?”

Mrs. Fitz tilted her head in thought, “Jamie’ll have to tell ye the whole story, but what I remember is she was an English lady, …like yourself Claire, that he met while he was living with his mother’s family for a time. The English redcoats were up to no good causing all kinds of trouble for… begging yer pardon. It was a long time ago, but memory runs deep here, I dinna mean to sound too harsh.”

“No, it’s alright. Oppression is a hard thing to forget, do go on.”

“It seems she became the subject of unwanted interest to one of the redcoat officers and the young laird married her to save her from his clutches and she became Lady Broch Tuarach. He purchased the dress as a gift for their wedding.”

“Ooo, that sounds romantic, like one of those books,” Gail smiled and winked at Claire.

“To be sure, they loved each other dearly, but they were caught up in the Jacobite rebellion and he lost her just before the battle of Culloden, nearly died himself. So sad…,” she murmured under her breath, “but her gifts saved the family from the famine that followed afterwards, so they kept her dress as a token, a tribute to her memory. She was a rare woman of her day, did so much for her family that she’d never ken. Och but enough of that, let’s get on to the business of the day, shall we?” her bubbling outlook resurfacing as she clapped her hands dispelling the sadness.

Claire had felt a tremor run down her spine as though someone walked on her grave as Mrs. Fitz spoke and was trying to shake off the feeling when she felt Gail’s hand on hers giving it a squeeze. “Are you alright?” Concern was etched on her face and she peered closely at Claire. Mrs. Fitz had droned on unaware that she’d lost the attention of the two.

Gail received a weak smile and wave of a hand from Claire dismissing her attentions and turned back to Mrs. Fitz. “So, the traditional attire includes a lot of pieces that ye’re probably unfamiliar with unless ye watch a lot of period pieces on the BBC. Shifts, corsets or stays, bum rolls, petticoats, lots of layers to be sure. We do a bit of dressing up for some of the holidays, so ye’ll get used to it and to be honest, we’ve been known to take the shortcuts and sneak in a zipper now and again,” she tittered like she was sharing a deep secret. “Now Mrs. Abernathy, I’ll be there to help if ye need me, but since ye’ll be attending Claire, ye’ll be helping her to dress.”

Mrs. Fitz walked over and took hold of Claire’s loose curls and gave it a twist with her hand and lifted it as she addressed Gail, “Dinna ye think it would be lovely if her hair could be pulled up wi’ some of those beautiful curls falling loose,” she twitched loose some wisps, sighing, “so romantic,” eliciting Gail’s giggling agreement as Claire rolled her eyes heavenward, before turning the twist of hair loose.

“And they’ve got the traditional clothes for all the wedding party, yerself included, so someone, if no me will be there to help ye as well.”

“Did you know about this Gail?” Claire looked at Gail flabbergasted.

Gail shook her head, “I know nothing. Joe has been as tight lipped as the poster boy for those old ‘loose lips sink ships’ posters. All I’ve known is we’re to get you there Friday afternoon. Jenny said something about a Hen party, I guess that’s Scotland’s version of the Bachelorette party. Should I even guess?”

“I told Joe in no uncertain terms, no strippers. It’s been such a whirl wind; I honestly just want a quiet night before the wedding.”

“Joe did say something about you letting Jamie make all the arrangements. Did you really agree to that?”

Claire smiled in recollection, “I think I might have agreed to something like that. Seemed like a good idea at the time, but I had no idea…”

“Dinna fash, it will be a most special ceremony, I’m sure. Weel, if ye’re done eating, come along and let’s get dressed. I’m sure ye’ll be a sight to behold for Himself when ye come down the aisle to meet him at the altar. I canna wait to see the expression on his face!”

Mrs. Fitz led a dazed Gail and Claire back to the guest room that Jamie’s parents had used along a route that was becoming somewhat familiar to Claire, but Gail was gawking as much as Claire the first time. “When am I going to get the twenty-five-cent tour?”

“Maybe we’ll take it together when Jamie gets back. I’ve not seen much of it either.” Claire grinned at her before she broke into song, “‘Fairy tales do come true, when I’m thinking of you…’”…and leaving off on the high note laughing.



The dress was laid across the bed ready for Claire to put on, with other articles laid out on the bench at the foot of the bed. “Oh…,” Claire’s breath caught as she approached the dress. “I’m not sure what I was expecting, but certainly not this.” She leaned close ghosting her fingers over at the fine detail, the beautiful intricate handiwork. The dress was a beautiful grey silk, a full deep lace edging finished the elbow length sleeves and a heavily pleated skirt with a lace insert with a reflective material quilted into the sheer underskirt in a leaf pattern. The low-cut bodice had a matching embroidered insert. She understood why it was such a treasure to the family.

“Really? This? Are you sure?” Claire’s disbelief was evident as she glanced from Gail’s own eyes that were big as saucers to Mrs. Fitz who was standing by with her hands on her hips nodding in reassurance.  Buttercup move over.

Mrs. Fitz’ jovial laugh, “Aye; it’s something is it no? ...Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, and a ha’ penny to go in yer shoe.” She laughed again at her joke as she dug into her pocket and pulled out a coin and offered it to Claire.

“Ye have the old and borrowed covered for sure, ye may want to consider getting a new shift made special for your wedding night. There’s a shop at the Collective that can whip up something special just for you in time for yer wedding. I’ll tell Mary if that’s all right, some of the fabric of the old under garments is pretty threadbare, very fragile. Since they were worn next to the skin, they were softer and more delicate fabrics to begin with. So ye need to strip down out of all your garments there, lass, that’s right, no need to be bashful.”

Claire did as she was instructed, but still self-consciously covered herself. “So, this first layer will be your shift. Let’s go ahead and give it a try so ye ken how it will all feel.”

As if to herself Mrs. Fitz offered, “I do think I recall seeing a beautiful blue fabric Mary was holding back for something special, ye’d have your new and blue covered then too.”

“Whatever you suggest Mrs. Fitz, I trust your judgement.”

“You’ll notice everything was done up wi’ ties and laces, a few buttons, but no zippers then. A dress such as this was for a Lady and ye’d always have a Lady’s maid to assist ye with dressing.”

Claire followed Mrs. Fitz’ instructions as though in a dream, listening in a fog to the details and history of the pieces. Gail followed as well helping add another layer of petticoats and quilted petticoats after the stays or corset was cinched in taking her breath, “Please, Gail not so tight, let it out! I have to breathe, I’m not Scarlett O’Hara for God’s sake!”

The stays pressed her breasts up until she thought she was going to spill out, “Are those my nipples?! No, no, no…You’ve got to be kidding… I am not facing my father-in-law, or a priest  with my nipples staring him in the face!” Claire was blushing furiously at the thought.

And then the bum roll was added. “Do I really need anything to make my arse look any bigger?” she twisted and turned groping at the prosthetic for her bum.

“At least, ye’ll no need to wear hoops with this dress. A plump woman was most desirable, showed she could afford to be well fed, and the roll hid any suggestion of her actual arse cheeks though I guess it would help to keep the dress from getting caught between them,” and she laughed cheerily. “I’m a woman out of my time! It must have been difficult being a woman living in those times. Ye could bare your breasts, but bare ankles?”

“What about pantaloons or undies?” Gail asked.

“Ach, can ye imagine trying to untie and pull down your pantaloons and hold up an armful of dress while trying to use the chamber pot? They were no practical for the times though some were starting to be worn, they dinna last though as ye might imagine. If ye were in the fields ye just took a squat and cleaned yourself wi’ leaves, and such. No verra fun actually. I think I’m happy now.”

“Mrs. Fitz, can I get her some of those pretty silk stockings that go just above the knee? I think they’d be a practical substitute for these that you have to tie up.” Gail asked as she held up a pair of saggy knit stockings. “I mean won’t these keep falling down? And shoes, she’ll need shoes.”

“Aye let’s see once she gets the dress on, but they should be fairly flat heels, the ground leading to the kirk can be a bit rough. She’ll be walking there from the house. It’s no so far, less than a kilometer.”

Claire exchanged a you’re kidding me look with Gail, Walking, honestly? She had begun to feel as though she was a mannequin in a dress up game for Gail and Mrs. Fitz. Turn here, lift your arms, hold onto the rail, lower them, turn around now.

“All right lass, are ye ready to try on the dress?”

“Anything to end this farce.” Claire nearly grumbled, her patience was running low and ecstatic that this ritual was not something to be endured daily.

Mrs. Fitz stood back with her hands on her expansive hips contemplating the situation before walking around Claire then disappearing into the bath returning with a handful of clips. “Let’s just give this a try for the effect,” and proceeding to pin Claire’s hair up. She stepped back smiling at her quick handiwork, “Okay, I think it best if the two of us lift it over your head, specially once your hair is done, ye dinna want to muss it. Careful now, raise your arms and slide them into the sleeves and we’ll settle them on your shoulders before tying the laces. Almost done.”

Claire had closed her eyes separating herself from the masquerade it had become. Giving herself over, she felt the tugs and final adjustments as the laces were tied, even her bodice was pulled down a bit. If it had been anyone other than Jamie asking her to do this, she would have put her foot down so hard, toes would have been broken. But it was Jamie, and she remembered the happiness in his expression, he had been so excited, and she wanted to share it with him. She could do this for him.

“Claire… oh my, you’re perfect,” she heard Gail breath. “Wait! Don’t move I need to take pictures for Joe, Lady Jane.”

“Aye, that she is, …perfect.” Mrs. Fitz practically fizzed with excitement, “Open yer eyes now.”

Finally! Claire opened her eyes and catching the bemused expression on her friend’s face as she snapped pics. Really? She moved around, adjusting to the feel of the hang; it did, it fit perfectly. It felt good, much more comfortable and lighter than she’d expected for so much material and despite the corset that kept her ramrod straight, she felt bubbly and excited, caught up in the moment. Claire was twisting and turning trying to see herself. “It feels good. How do I look? Will Jamie be surprised?” she beamed at the two.

“See for yerself the beautiful bride yer groom will be welcoming,” and Mrs. Fitz turned Claire to face the floor length mirror standing back in a corner.

Claire moved toward the mirror mesmerized by the image before her. The woman looking back was enchanting and wore her own astonished expression and smiled in reflection. The low-cut bodice with her hair pulled up accentuated her elegant swan neck and the pearls wrapped around it. Claire reached up to stroke the pearls.

She froze with her hand touching her chest, just at her clavicle. No pearls. She stared, caught in the reflection for a few moments longer before reaching out toward the image in front of her and felt a chill run through her. Turning her head toward Mrs. Fitz she whispered as though not to disturb the dead. “She was beautiful,” and turned back peering closely at the woman captured in the mirror’s reflection; it almost was, but it wasn’t hers. “Who was she? Whose dress was this?”

Gail and Mrs. Fitz had just looked at each other with Claire’s words hanging between them, not understanding.

“Whose dress? I dinna ken…”

The change was instantaneous. “Help me. Get it off, now! Now!” and she started scrabbling as though on fire to reach the laces at her back. “How in God’s name did anyone live like this? Nobody could do this for themselves.” Quick tears of frustration were spilling over. “Please,” came out in a broken sob.

“Hold still lass, we’ll get ye out.” Mrs. Fitz wrapped her arms around Claire tenderly and held her to her chest and patted her soothingly on the back, while Gail attacked the laces, untying them as fast as she could, not understanding what had happened but only knowing Claire needed her help.

“Almost done, Claire. It’s alright, just take a breath.”

Claire felt the last of the laces come loose and pulled at the sleeves freeing herself finally letting the dress pool to the floor and stared at it as she stepped out of its folds; her beautiful, beautiful dress.

They quickly dispatched with the rest of the layers of underclothes and Claire snatched up the robe putting it on as she ran out the door naked otherwise. Gail ran after her leaving Mrs. Fitz to deal with the aftermath.

“Claire?! Where are you?”

Claire had dashed out of the room turning left and coming to a dead end, “Fuck!” before turning and running back the other way recognizing the hall and getting her bearings and running into Gail but leaving her to follow without a word. She found the bedroom in the wing on the other side of the house and rushed in. Dumping her bag on the bed she scrambled for something to put on. Breaths still heaving as she struggled to talk, “Please, I need to leave. Gail, will you just get me out of here?”

“What’s going on Claire? Of course, I’ll do anything you need, but what happened? You were so happy and radiant and then… you weren’t. What was it Honey? You looked like you saw a ghost.”

Claire swiped at the tears streaming down her cheeks as she looked at Gail. “I did. I think it was mine.”

Gail recognized that Claire was slipping into a full panic and was attempting to soothe her, “Don’t you want to talk with Jamie?”

“NO! God, no… please, I just need to go. Somewhere… where’s Raymond?”

“I don’t know, I can call, find out.”

“Let’s do it from the road,” and she grabbed up the bag with her stuff tossed back in. “I need to leave before Jamie gets back,” and rushed out leaving Gail to trail after her again.

“I have to get my purse and keys from the kitchen, Claire. I’ll meet you by the car. It’s unlocked I think.”

Gail rushed back to the bedroom hoping to and finding a stunned Mrs. Fitz still holding the wedding dress against her. “I have no idea what is going on, except something about seeing a ghost, her ghost. Claire insists she needs to leave before Jamie gets back. I have no idea where we’re headed, but as soon as I do, I’ll let you or Jamie know.”

“Please tell Jamie I’m so sorry about all this,” and she rushed out the door.

Chapter Text



“Ah, Mrs. Fitz!” Jamie came charging in through the back entry; his hair, dripping tendrils of sweat, his cheeks flushed red from the exertion and headed straight for the tap after his run and seeing her sitting at the table. He splashed water on his face and neck and leaned over drinking his fill from the tap, before he grabbed some towels and wiped at the droplets running down his neck. “So has Gail gone then? I didna see her car.” He turned and leaned against the counter looking at her, “ … Mrs. Fitz?”

Mrs. Fitz turned to meet Jamie’s questioning eyes with a queer expression on her face and tears flowing over her ample cheeks, “Aye, she’s left, and Claire wi’ her. Jamie, lad, …I dinna ken what happened. Your lass had just finished putting on the dress and she looked so bonnie and happy and then when she looked in the mirror to see herself, she changed. She asked who the woman was, whose dress it had been. I couldna tell her and then she begged us to get it off her; Jamie she was crying and shaking so. It was as though she saw a ghost in the mirror, she couldna see herself.” Mrs. Fitz was visibly shaken and crossed herself in reflex.

Jamie could barely comprehend what she was saying, his heart was crashing. “Where? Where did she go?”

“Mrs. Abernathy just said she would let us ken as soon as she kent where.”

“When? How long?” his fists clenched at his side as he struggled to slow his hammering heart.

“About an hour or so now. I tried to call but yer phone rang…ye left it on the counter.” She held the phone out to him, “I’m so sorry lad. What can I do?”

Jamie just stood there with his head hanging feeling his world shifting once again. “Nothin’, Mrs. Fitz. I ken where she’ll have gone.” Jamie patted her shoulder, accepting the phone before he turned away, and then back, “Please dinna say anything to anyone about this.”

“Of course not, Jamie.” He nodded accepting her assurances before he turned away leaving the lady sitting at the table feeling helpless in the face of her lad’s grief.

“IFRINN!” with a fist pounding against the wall, echoed down the hall in Jamie’s wake.

Glenda Fitzgibbons was still sitting at the kitchen table when she heard the door close and Jamie’s car engine start up and fade into the distance as he pulled away. “Lord watch over the lad and see him safe.”



Gail glanced over at Claire who was huddled against the car door with her head resting against the window. Her tears had finally subsided, but she wasn’t sure if they weren’t better than the vacant look that was now entrenched there. Having no idea what she was doing except getting Claire away she’d turned away from the city and had just started driving north. They’d been going for nearly an hour with no sense of where she should be headed, and she wanted to call Joe. She was worried about their friend, concerned that Claire needed more help than she could give other than with the sudden departure. Hugs and soft words only went so far. “Claire, I need to stop, okay? I think it’s time to call Joe and Raymond.” Claire only nodded her head slightly and turned to look at the passing landscape.

Gail stopped at the next village they were passing through and ordered a cup of coffee at the local café, her invitation to Claire was met with a fresh stream of tears with a shake of the head. “Joe, you need to get Raymond on the phone NOW!  Claire is in a total melt down, or was, now she’s a zombie. No, we left there, we’re an hour north. I don’t know, listen, get Raymond and call me back. I am not going to repeat this. She needs more than I can give her right now. Yes, damn it!”

Joe had always had the greatest confidence in Gail; she was the true bastion of their family and could handle any situation thrown at her and rarely lost her composure, but Joe finally acknowledged that this was one of those times. God please, let Raymond ..., we need him.

Luck was with them and within a half an hour they were conferencing with Gail. “Please tell me exactly what has happened Gail,” Raymond's soft accent, his quiet voice and demeanor bringing a calm to Gail. She related the whole story of the day up to this point. “Can you send the pictures you took? Yes, to this number, to Joe too. I’ll hold while you do it.”

Some technologies are indeed better than travel, Dominque Raymond mused while waiting.

Raymond felt a jolt in his heart as he looked at the images. Joe on the other line was gushing as to how beautiful Claire was. “Gail, now please explain the pictures and exactly when did you notice the change.”

“She was radiant and happy like I’ve never seen her before, sashaying around, she said she felt like a princess. And then Mrs. Fitz told her to look in the mirror. I think she said something about seeing the bride her groom would be welcoming. At first, she was still happy, but you know maybe a little embarrassed like when you’re caught admiring yourself? But then she started looking very intently into the mirror and raised her hand to her neck like she was touching, feeling for something that wasn’t there. That’s when she started asking who the woman was, who the dress had belonged to and then she freaked out. Begging to take the dress off, trying to do it herself, but of course no one can get out of those by themselves, it’s ridiculous. After that she just had to get away from there, I couldn’t convince her to stay and talk to Jamie. She insisted on leaving before he got back. He’d gone for a run. God, I can’t imagine what he came back to. I told Mrs. Fitz I’d call as soon as I knew anything. What should I do? Claire needs you. She’s practically catatonic, but then she periodically just has waves of tears.”

Raymond had been looking through the pictures as Gail spoke but halted as one caught his attention. “Joe, look at the eighth picture, yes, the one where Claire’s facing the mirror, her back to Gail, but she catches the reflection. Do you see it?”

“Sweet Jesus,” his voice was low, but the astonishment coming through clearly.

Gail started scrolling through the images she’d sent as she followed their conversation. “How is that possible!? Why didn’t I notice it?” as she zoomed in, she could see the reflection was wearing a string of pearls. “There were no pearls, Claire had no pearls!” and when she refocused on Claire, she had no pearls. “What’s going on?”

“Gail, I know this is very confusing, but I must ask that you bring Claire to Inverness. I’ll meet you here. There is a small B&B off the square, Mrs. Baird’s, I’ll send you the address and let her know you’re coming. Claire knows her. Are you up to driving a couple of more hours? Alright, drive carefully, I’ll see you when you arrive.”

“Gail, hon, it sounds as though Claire is experiencing an acute stress reaction. Have her lay down in the backseat if she will; see that she’s warm, get her a blanket, I think there’s one in the trunk. Get her to drink some water or decaffeinated tea. Try to get her engaged if you can, but don’t press her about what happened, what might have triggered it. Don’t talk about Jamie, the dress, anything about the wedding. If you can start to bring her back out of herself, it will help. There’s nothing wrong with hugs and soft words.”

“Joe, I’ll have a friend call you shortly. Let him know when he can pick you up,” and Raymond rang off.

Gail climbed back in the car after the call ended and met the dazed eyes of Claire as she tucked a blanket around her.

“Gail? What’s happening to me?”

Her words were just above a whisper, but they were the first Claire had spoken since leaving Jamie’s. She had followed instructions with a little encouragement but as Gail looked back over at her friend, she was still huddled in on herself but appearing a little more alert.

“I don’t know sweetie, but we’re going to find out. Here’s some water. We’re meeting Joe and Raymond in Inverness, we’re not too far now. Have you ever been before?”

Claire just nodded as she lifted the bottle, her hand shaking visibly and sipped at the water. She laid her head back and fumbled to cap the bottle she held in her lap. “Not for a long time. We used to go there for some festivals when I was younger.”

“What’d you do there?”

“I don’t know; ate, ran around, watched the faeries dance. Stuff.” Claire’s eyes were closed but Gail could see a little smile as she remembered.

“Watching faeries dance…Tinkerbell and friends?”

Claire snorted a little laugh and rolled her head toward Gail as she opened her puffy red rimmed eyes momentarily. “Nothing like Disney. Wait, which one had the little old lady faeries? Snow White? Sleeping Beauty? That’s me. Can’t keep my eyes open…. No wings, but lights and twirling.” Claire hummed a little tune, “Mmm hmmm mmmm mm mm. Mum was so pretty when she danced.”

“Your mom danced? Was she a faerie?”

“Hmm? Mom danced?”

“That’s what you said.”

“Don member,” and she mumbled and curled into herself once again but this time slipping into sleep.

Chapter Text



“Claire, dear? Can ye wake up a bit?” The car door had opened, and crisp October air flooded the warmed interior, unraveling the false comfort. Hands, someone’s hands were shaking me, and I startled to near full alertness, at least as alert as one can from the deepest sleep, sitting up and having no idea where the fuck you are. My heart was racing as though I was being attacked though the voice and touch were anything but threatening. Blinking at my surroundings like a three day drunk I was trying to get my bearings and arrested on Gail whose expression must have reflected my own before she schooled it, and she reached out for me and held my arm just assuring me of her realness.

“It’s alright Claire, remember I told you we’re meeting Joe and Raymond here in Inverness.”

I closed my eyes and leaned my head back against the headrest and just breathed the cool air, willing my heart to calm, and just nodded, remembering …sort of. I’d be a liar if I claimed to remember much of anything that had passed since early in the day and then it slammed back into me and felt the panic again. Jamie. Fuck.

“Claire,” she claimed my attention, her soft hands cupping my cheeks pulled my face towards her, you always have the softest hands – Joe’s lucky you’re not constantly having to scrub them. “Look at me. Focus. You’re safe, hon,” her voice softened, and I could feel myself relaxing but wanting, needing to just crawl back into the cave where my mind had taken refuge. Safe? …that’s not right. Empty, I feel empty.

“Ye’ve grown a bit since the last time ye were here.” I knew that voice, would never forget it although it’d been years.

“Ms. B?” my voice was croaky, and I tried clearing it but sounded much like it must have all that time ago; I turned trying to get a look behind me my brows furrowed in question. Ms. B., her once plumb baby doll face had thinned and her powdered skin now a wrinkle upon wrinkle was smiling softly at me, the little dimple in her cheek still there, but I could still see the concern exposed in her eyes.

“Aye, it’s me. So ye do remember,” and her smiled deepened. “Need yer help to get ye into the house dearie, ye’ve gotten so big,” as she leaned in to wrap her arm around my shoulder, gently urging me out.

I couldn’t help but smile at the gesture coming around a bit, “I can manage, thanks,” and turned pushing out of the car, wobbling on legs suddenly turned to jello.

Gail was right by my side slipping her arm about my waist. “Steady there, we’ve got you.” What a disconcerting feeling needing assistance for a such simple task. Between the two of them and my returning stability we managed to maneuver into the B&B and up the stairs to the corner bedroom at the end of the hall that faced the square.

“Look familiar?”

I sat on the bed and gave it a quick test bounce and pushed the thought of Jamie back out and slammed the door on it. It was the same furniture - bedstead and dresser, a table and chair by the window. Gone was the faded flowered wallpaper, a new rug instead of the old braided rag rug. The prints were from the room Lamb usually stayed in, but yes, I recognized it. She still used the same lemon scented furniture polish; I guessed when I opened the drawers there would be lavender sachets and took comfort in the fact that as much as things changed, they remained the same. “Of course, it looks wonderful,” I replied quietly lest I disturb the peace of it looking around, avoiding looking at her.

“Spruced it up a bit and ye have an ensuite bath now, no need to share one down the hall anymore. Had to make a bit of a change to keep up with the demands.” I could hear the pride in her cheery voice as she enumerated the updates throughout her B&B. In the light I could see the changes the years had on her as well. She seemed inches shorter, and not nearly as plump. Her hair was nearly white; gone was her French twist, now styled in a trendy bob, she was sporting tweed trousers and cardigan. It’d been what? Fifteen years since I’d last seen her, but she looked at least that much younger than before. Seems she’d successfully turned the clock back with her own updates as well.   

“Ye still look a bit peaked, Claire. Why don’t you have a good lay down while Gail and I have a chat and cuppa. I’ll be up in a while to check on ye, bring you some tea and biscuits.”

I nodded at the suggestion, grateful for it. Far beyond being able to manage a more civil conversation I barely squeaked out a thank you to the pair and giving Gail a big hug before she backed out the door with her assurances that she’d be just downstairs if I needed her.

I toed off my shoes, kicking them aside and went to use the loo, quickly shutting off the light when I caught a glimpse of my reflection in the mirror and felt a surge of panic. Get a grip. I shrugged my jeans off the rest of the way stepping out of them when I’d finished and shuffled them over the floor with my foot, to join my shoes before collapsing in the bed burrowing under the covers.

Sinking back into the dark depths of slumber, hands clutched at her chest trying to hold in what was left of her heart before the ache filling the hollow could spread through her.

 

“Ma chère? It’s time, wake up, come back,” gentle touches and soothing accented words pulled at me, but I fought them.

“Dom?” I barely muttered refusing to open my eyes my head throbbing and encased in mud… Fuck. Shit, I need to improve my vocab.

“Oui, ma petite.

“Go away.” This is all your fault. If you know what’s good for you, you will step the hell away from me.

“Non, it’s time.” So you really are an ignorant bastard…

Claire thrust herself up pushing forward, a shrieking fury to face her tormentor, anguish suffusing her being. “FUCK TIME! It’s time to get up, time to brush your teeth, time to go to bed, time to go to work, time to eat, time to play, time to do homework, time to fall in love, time to face reality, time to forget, …do you need more? And yet… ALL. THIS. TIME.  you knew and never told me,” she felt gut punched and the betrayal coated each word.

Claire collapsed onto the pillows exhausted by her effort, body shaking with misery, turned her back to him, “…Please, …just give me a little more…, just to be,” and pulling the covers over her head remained cocooned there until she heard the quiet stirrings and footsteps cross the room and heard the click of the closing door.

 

She’d squeezed her eyes tightly shut and tried to still her mind, but the escape into darkness failed to materialize. She lay there for a bit and accepted it wasn’t going to happen and like it or not, definitely not, she was going to need to consider what had happened and what she was going to do next. She’d fled in a panic and despite the aching hollowness she felt, she’d somehow ended up in a place that had once felt like home, even if only for brief respites.

Claire rolled to her side to look at the light coming in from the windows, streetlamps she registered, but with the movement she felt the cascade of beads down her chest in a waterfall pooling beneath her arm. What the fuck! Startled she sat up and grabbed at her chest feeling the weight settle between her breasts, but there was nothing but her under the shirt.

Pushing back the covers and twisting to the edge her long legs dangled as she waited for her heart to calm. This is all going to kill me, I’m going to drop dead of a heart attack before I hit 28. She hadn’t noticed their presence since seeing their reflection in the mirror at Jamie’s, she could only feel their light weight now that she was conscious of them. Glancing toward the bathroom, mind made up, she rose and warily approached the door half expecting a haunt to jump out from behind it. Gathering her courage, but unwilling to enter the night dark space, she slowly reached in and fumbled for the switch. Finding it she flipped it on and jumped at the suddenly exposed specter.

“Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ!”  As she clutched at her heart. His booming laugh filled the room behind her. Jamie!  “It’s not funny,” she grumbled automatically in response, as she recognized her reflection in the mirror and took a breath to ease her embarrassed fright.

The laughing continued though it quieted to a low chuckle as he disagreed, “Och it is. Ye shouldha seen yer face, Sassenach!” and picked up again. “John Carpenter wouldha loved it, ‘Cut! Print!’,” his voice raised in a mock impression, before turning warm and soft, “Ye were perfect, mo chridhe.”

“Stop,” joining in and chuckling at herself now, she turned to his voice in the darkened room behind her. She sobered quickly as she peered back into the emptiness. She leaned her forehead against the doorframe and held it. “Guess a heart attack would be preferable to being certified, talking to myself and ...” she left off.

“Okay, then.” She stepped into the space toward the mirror and just stood examining her reflection for a moment, then leaned closer. Other than her eyes being swollen and red-rimmed from her crying and her hair being a fright there were no other outward signs that anything was amiss and heaved a sigh of relief. She grasped the hem of her shirt and pulled it over her head keeping her eyes closed as it came off and freed one arm and then the other balling it onto the counter. The chill caused her nipples to pebble and goosebumps to race across the newly exposed skin. Claire kept her head lowered, eyes still closed, and arms crossed over her chest hugging herself for warmth and protection, from what she wasn’t sure.

“Dinna be scairt, Sassenach, open yer eyes,” low and beguiling his words returned as a whisper.

She slowly shook her head, back and forth, retreating further into herself.

“Say my name, Claire, please.”

She could almost feel the heat of his breath on her cheek as his tone changed, became more urgent, “I want to hear ye call out my name as ye do when I take ye hard, with yer legs wrapped tight around me, yer heels thumping me on my arse,” the breath of a chuckle of remembrance, “driving me into ye faster. When yer need of me leaves ye breathless with want and I fill ye so deep ye have no room for any thoughts save but for us as ye fall apart around me. God, Claire, can ye no remember?”

In my dreams, we’ve never…Her breath came short in bursts, then Mrs. Fitz’ words rang through her head, “See for yerself the beautiful bride yer groom will be welcoming.”

“You’re not real, none of this is real,” tears started to escape from her shuttered eyes as she uttered her denials.

“I’m as real as ye wish me to be, mo nighean donn,” the tenderness of it nearly broke her heart.

“See the beautiful bride, the beautiful bride…” Mrs. Fitz’ words invaded her mind.

“STOP! …Please,” Claire sank to the floor resting her head on her knees, covering her ears.

The voices in her head stopped. Silence. Thank you.

Certifiable, that’s what you are, Beauchamp.  The chill of the tile settled in as she sat there in only her knickers. Eventually she pushed herself up and went in search of her bag that had been stowed on a luggage rack by the bedroom door. She rummaged through its contents in the dark feeling the thick cotton shirt and pulled it out. It was the shirt Jamie had been wearing yesterday discarding it before bed. She buried her face in it, drying her tears on it and breathing in the sandalwood scent of his cologne that lingered in the fabric. She slipped it on and returned to bathroom door reaching in switched off the light having successfully managed to avoid her naked reflection and leaving her in darkness once again except for the intruding light from the streetlamp.

She moved to the window deciding to close the drapes against the morning light that would come but paused with the fabric in her hand and looked out on the vacated square trying to see if it had changed since the last time she was here. The motion of a familiar figure – a tall man, with broad shoulders across the square caught her attention. He was standing in the shadows, just on the edge of the streetlamp’s light. At this distance she could make out that his head was covered by a knit beanie pulled low, he was wearing a kilt - a different one, damn him, his leather jacket and boots that came to mid-calf. He was still except that he seemed to be slowly pouring something back and forth between his hands, but she couldn’t make out anything more.

Claire stepped back behind the folds of fabric wondering if he’d seen her cross the room before shutting off the light and blushed considering what he might have seen.

His hands stilled feeling her attention, “D’ye wish me to leave?” Unlike the demanding tone before, his voice was soft, the question was hesitant.

Her heart caught at the edge of sadness to it.

“Commit to me and no one else.”  The deep tremor of his voice vibrated through her, his encouraging smile as he had asked her in the abbey ruins and she had agreed, readily,  trusting in herself for once. The pull she felt toward him was unlike anything she’d ever experienced in her life, and the more she was with him since that first encounter, the more she needed him. More fool, me.

He had known her from the first moment, had professed it and again. And she knew him from the touch of his hands upon her, his caress as he stroked her skin leaving trails of goosebumps in their wake, his fingers as he explored her deep contours. His lips on her bringing her to such peaks, she took in a deep shuddering breath. How is any of this possible? I don’t know how to do this…

Maybe it’s just as well, we never did fully consummate it.

“Claire? I’ll ask ye one last time, …d’ye wish me to leave?”

“I, I don’t know,” she stammered out the truth. There’d be absolutely no turning back if she said yes and it would not be fair to either of them if she did not know the truth about herself.

She saw his head drop and his hands buried themselves in his jacket pockets as he turned on his heel, his kilt swishing and took a step, hesitated, waiting, then walked away with his shoulders hunched, disappearing into the shadows carrying the remains of her heart. Claire stepped forward and pressed her face to the glass as she tried to track his path through her tears. “Stay, please stay.”

A light tapping at the door preceded its opening and the head peeking around the edge met her eyes as she stood vigil by the window.

Of course, it’s not you.

 

“Ah, ye’re awake, good, thought I heard ye stirring in here. Ready for a cup of tea? There’s an old friend here to see ye,” and before Claire could beg off, Ms. Baird walked in followed by another lady carrying a tea tray. She set it down on a table before turning around and started pouring out three cups.

Ms. B. having taken one look at Claire with her swollen red-rimmed eyes as she entered, disappeared into the bath and emerged holding out a warm washcloth to Claire, “Get yerself back into bed and wipe yer face dear, ye’ll feel better. Give it a good scrub now.”

Claire moved back to the bed as instructed and self-consciously sniffled back her runny nose. The newcomer looked intently at Claire as she wiped her face and ensuring, Claire got a good look at her as well.

She reached for the cloth exchanging it for a steaming cup of tea forcing Claire to pull herself up and sit against the headboard before taking it.

She inhaled the fragrance from the oolong tea before taking a cautious sip of the hot, sweet offering, issuing a bare, “Thank you, but I’m not sure if I’m up for company right now; maybe another time?”

The woman tilted her head at Claire ignoring her comment, “Claire, dear, do ye remember me?”

Well this isn’t going to be easy.  Claire scrutinized the woman for a few moments; if Mrs. B. had turned time back, this woman had made time stand still, looking just the same as she always had. Her hair still mousy brown, no doubt with assistance, though her style was the same as always, pinned back at the sides with a slight flip. Claire had wondered as a child if she’d opened her closet door, would all the garments hanging there be the same, a dark dress with buttons up the front and a good pair of sturdy lace-up shoes and a cardigan. “Mrs. Graham, you’re here too?”

“Agnes, I told ye she wouldna forget me, ye old biddy,” as she gave her friend a smug look before turning back to Claire. “But I think ye’re old enough to call me Moira now; that’s what my granddaughter calls me,” she reached out and patted Claire’s leg. “Of course, I’m here. As soon as Agnes told me ye were on yer way, I made sure to be here. It’s been too long. O, ye’ve grown to be quite the beauty ye have. Look so much like yer mum, dinna ye think wi’ those curls and those eyes, well once the swelling is down? No so much of Henry about you.” The petite woman stood, still giving Claire a thorough assessment, before handing Ms. B. a cup and taking a seat in one of the chairs Agnes had pulled up bedside.

“You’re having quite the time of it, aren’t ye?” as she followed Claire’s stare towards the window. “He won’t have gone far.”

Claire jerked her gaze back to Mrs. Graham, her mouth opening and shutting, but she was dismissed with a wave.

“Your friends, Joe and Gail, have been catching us up a bit on some of what’s been going on.” Tsk, tsking, Mrs. B. injected. “Raymond the old toad, we’ll get a little update when he’s passing through or a card at Christmas wi’ just a ‘She’s doing fine…’, but I always looked forward to your family staying here. I’ve missed seeing ye and kenning how ye really are.”

Not to be ignored, Moira piped up, “I’ve missed her too!”

“I know you did, Moira, but I was speakin for myself. You have Fiona to pass your knowledge on to and weel when Julia was lost, I’d thought I might pass mine to Claire seein’ as I had no girls.” Then turning to address Claire, “Your Uncle Lamb tried to keep you coming but decided it would be better to stop for a while.”

“And then he died too, such a shame; he was a dear man, he was,” Moira’s testament was accompanied by a heavy sigh.

Cutting her eyes at her friend, Mrs. B continued, “I had hoped you’d be coming back when you got a bit older to pick up and weel now, here you are! You know things have a way of working out when it’s time.”

“Raymond said not to talk about that, Agnes.”

“Pfft! So, I said it, Time! She’s a big girl. There’s no getting around it; certainly, canna live without it. Things do have a way of coming about full circle if they’re meant to be. You and Jamie are meant to be, Claire and that’s all there is to it.”

Despite her misery Claire had felt twinges of amusement curling her lips. It had been oddly relaxing like watching a tennis match between a pair of septuagenarians as she quietly observed the slow rambling banter volleying back and forth between the two old friends and then the lob over her, the set up for a smash directed at her. Jamie.

Her heart rate spiked at the mention of his name, them bringing him into this setting, “What do you mean about me and …”, she had evaded saying his name as though voicing it would conjure him. “That’s,” unsure what she wanted to say, shook her head from side to side, “…not possible.” her voice was still gravely as she tried to protest and deny him which struck her oddly as a betrayal. “Wait, do you know him too?” She was beginning to feel like everyone knew Jamie.

“Course we do, he’s been coming ‘round for years.”

“You just need to rest on it for a bit, dearie. Dinna slam and lock the portal. Ye need each other, always have, always will.”

“Ye can say his name ye know.” Moira turned to Agnes, “What was that movie? The one where you weren’t to say the haunt’s name?”

Agnes cackled out her response and clapped Moira on her knee, “Beetlejuice! I love that movie! Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice. What a great name.”

“Almost as good as Jamie, Jamie, Jamie,” Moira turned a teasing smile on Claire.

“Agh!! Would you just stop it! Please! You’re sounding like him, like we have a past. He may have a past, but it wasn’t with me!” Claire was starting to feel the panic rising in her chest, set her cup on the table with quaking hands and was moving to get out of the bed.

“No! You must stay and listen, ye canna run away again,” kindly Mrs. B. had turned into a paragon of force. “Ye were brought here so you could learn and understand. Ye’re special and past time that you should know the truth!”

The truth, magic words to Claire and the promise of it, was the only thing that kept her from bolting. Alright, she’d hear them out for a bit and settled back into the bed, hoping she could be open to their explanations. “Then tell me the truth! Explain all this to me.”

“Umph, well ye’re certainly taking the fun outta this.” There was a pause as Moira tried to compose herself. “Alright but ye must keep an open mind, there’s no other way.” She leaned in closer to Claire trying to impart the significance of what she was about to share. “Claire, ye may have lost the memories, but ye do share a past though ye may no see it as yet, ye do. Ye ken we’re your faerie godmothers, we’ll help ye.”

“Och Moira! There ye go, ye canna tell her that! Not if ye want her to believe a word we say,” exasperation was clear on Mrs. Baird’s face as she chastised her friend.

Claire snorted at the thought of these two women being anything remotely associated to faerie godmothers but choked back her laugh and started apologizing. “I’m sorry, that was rude. But, if it’s true, how can you help me remember?” It was an unexpected grasp at a straw.

“Claire, we’re no faeries, no really, though it may be that some folks in times past may have called us that just because they didna know any better. Mostly anything – anyone different was to be feared, bugger those ignorant ole priests anyhow, causing poor folks to be afraid, good people lost their lives because of it. That’s the shame of it. So, we hid our gifts.”

“Do ye remember coming here as a little girl? Ye’d come on the feast days when ye could and ye’d watch yer mam dance wi’ us. It’s magic, is it no?”

Claire watched as Mrs. Graham, no… she’s Moira, she corrected, closed her eyes and saw the years melt away as she swayed to the silent music of memory.

Claire closed her eyes struggling to share the memory, “It was so long ago it’s mixed up with wishes and dreams and pretend times.”

“Wishes and dreams and pretend times, Isn’t that lovely, Agnes?”

“Your mam was learning our ways, though she herself was a Traveler.”

Claire heard her say it Traveler, so blithely. “So, is it true about Travelers? And my mum, you know about her and Travelers? Can you tell me?”

“Of course, but to tell you about your mam, you need to know a bit about us and what we do. Did Raymond not tell you any of this?”

“Well he told me some pretty ridiculous things, that…” Claire looked between the two women before continuing, “that I’ve supposedly inherited the ability from my parents to be a Traveler, a Time Traveler, but nothing else. Not how it happens, or why. …He told me a few months ago and was supposed to tell me more once I’d had time to digest it a bit, but he hasn’t yet. I’m just supposed to accept it as fact.”

Mrs. B. just nodded her head, pursing her lips and exhaled the deep breath she’d been holding through her nose. “I’ll say it again, you should open yer mind, Claire.”

“And nothing else? He told ye nothing about yer past?” Moira challenged her.

Claire felt a blush creeping up her neck, feeling awkward and embarrassed to even be discussing, but admitted, “Well I was having some dreams and Dom told me something like “I was feeling a presence of someone from my past. I thought he meant someone I’d known in the last few years, which I knew wasn’t possible, but definitely no mention of a past life. But then today…,” and she shared what had happened when she’d tried on the dress and the pearl necklace.

Moira shook her head, “He shouldha told ye, the frog! I canna believe how irresponsible he’s been, can ye believe it Agnes? I think he’s just getting too old for his job. If I had to guess, but I don’t, it was Jamie reaching through time to find ye.”

“Enough Moira, second guessing Raymond is no going to be of help to anyone. Perhaps, Ray’s just too close.”  

But Moira wasn’t yet done. Claire felt the chills race up her arms as she saw the finger jabbing at her and backed against the headboard. “Why would ye dismiss it, dismiss him? Did ye learn nothing from yer uncle?”

“Ye dinna need to bite off her heid.”

Claire was suddenly feeling defensive. Where in hell had the sweet little faerie godmother gone? “But it’s not real. Is it? Do you believe all this?”

“Aye, I’ve lived with the tales my whole life, handed down through the generations, my grannie wouldna lie. And what was it ye were just telling us? Should I doubt you? D’ye think folks just make up the tales out of thin air or do they all start with a kernel of truth? Yer uncle used to tell ye the tales of the folks where he held his digs. We all have our tales, many verra close to each other, perhaps a bit lost in translation. But there’s magic and wonder all about. Not everyone has the gift to see it, to accept it, but you! Ye’re twice blessed, just open yer eyes lass!”

“You mean thrice, cursed!” she shot back. Pulling on her fingers keeping tally Claire bulleted her comments. “I’m supposed to be some sort of Time Traveler, which I still don’t understand at all. I’ve just learned that I’ve had some sort of past life that I have no recollection of, but the man I love,” Love? Oh fuck… she froze as the previously unacknowledged admission slipped past her lips and felt the blush of heat warm her cheeks. Claire looked cautiously from one to the other of the women who were fighting hard to suppress smiles before proceeding more quietly, “The man I’m supposed to marry is in love with this ghost from my past and I’m just a means to his ends. It’s not me he wants; I think you’d agree, it’s all a bit much,” she finished with a mumble and crumbled back into the pillows with the weight of it hitting her, blinking back tears.

Agnes leaned forward and took Claire’s shaking hand trying to soothe Moira’s words. “Claire, dear, I think it would be best if we start at the beginning and help ye try to understand a bit what it is we do. Do you remember the standing stones? Where we have the festivals and dance?”

She felt a calm from Mrs. B. wash over her as she rested her hand on Claire’s. “On top of a hill, we had to climb and climb to get there and the rocks that we ran around and chased each other and then when it was dark, you’d light the lanterns and dance. Sometimes I’d fall asleep and dad would carry me down to the car when I was little.”

“I know I came back with Uncle Lamb, but then we stopped. He never said why. Just wasn’t convenient…it wasn’t a good time.

Agnes and Moira exchanged a look before Agnes picked up. “Aye that’s right ye did. There is magic in the stones, but the truth is it is dangerous if ye’re too young or dinna understand the power of it. Not everyone can hear or feel it.”

“What do you mean? Hear or feel it?”

“Weel, I’ve heard it described by the Travelers as a hive of buzzing bees and there’s a vibration, a pull toward the stone, that can be irresistible. Unless ye’re prepared to travel, dinna touch the stone.”

“I heard the bees and the voices,” Claire whispered.

“When was that lass?”

She shrugged, “The last festival we came to?”

“Well there ye go… that must be it. Lamb did what he thought best to keep ye safe. Canna blame a man for wantin’ to care for his family. I wonder if he told Raymond, he should have. It sounds like ye were starting to be aware – to transition that far back.”

Fuck. A different perspective was dawning on Claire. “But I didn’t feel different.”

“You probably wouldna unless ye were close to the stones. The stones on Craigh na Dun were placed there so long ago the knowing of who and when has been lost, but to be sure, they must have had the sensitive powers that we share.”

Moira had calmed and decided act the tutor. “Ye see Claire, there are certain rhythms and energies to the earth, and maybe it’s because generations of our families have lived in this area and because we were born close to the stones, but there are some of us as can feel these powers, we have a sensitivity to them. But it’s only the women that seem to bear it. It may be our connection to creation and life. D’ye wonder how it came to be called Mother Earth, Mother Nature? Who kens…” Moira’s face lit up with a secretive grin. “We can pass it through sons to granddaughters, but unless we’re there to teach them, to show them what’s here,” as she touched first her head and then placed a hand over her heart and let it remain there, “the knowledge can be lost. They may have the sensitivity, but no understanding the power of it.”

Agnes continued, “We feel these energies more strongly when we’re close to the stones and during certain times of the year that coincide wi’ the feast days of the sun and the moon; the solstices. It was our ancestors that first noticed and started the rituals and since then the knowledge is passed along. Moira’s granddaughter, Fiona, is a Sensitive. Sometimes a family’s line peters out, like mine, wi’ no one to pass it along to, but your mam, she was special. She was a Sensitive too and I was teaching her my part when she was lost, ye ken.” Agnes and Moira shared a look that Claire knew held more secrets.

“I thought the people that danced around the stones and the trees and celebrated nature and the solstices and such were Druids.”

“Anyone can be a Druid. It’s a choice to accept, hold and practice certain beliefs, and we certainly commend them for it, and I would say most of us hold to the same, but for us it’s different. Like the Travelers, there is a physical aspect that sets us apart.”

“Claire, there is mystery – the magic that shrouds the stones, an energy that opens the portal of time. We’re the Guides of the standing stones. We can help Travelers by holding open the portals of the Stones during these times. Ye must understand there are certain times that passage through the stones is easier. It’s possible on other days but can be more dangerous.”

“Och, ye have to mind it’s always dangerous, ye must never ever forget that. There are precautions ye can take to protect yerself, but sometimes Travelers are lost. Sometimes they just never return to their own time or their souls dinna complete the journey through.”<