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“Dammit! Oh GOD. Oh. Oh God.”

She heard the crash from her perch on the fire escape. And then the swearing. And underlying it all was the pain. Claire had been sitting out on her fire escape, watching the sun go down in an orange blaze. Setting aside her steaming hot tea, she crept down the iron stairs slowly, her big woolen blanket still wrapped around her. It was a deep autumn night in Edinburgh, and the chill in the air was sharp. She didn’t want to appear like a weirdo, but the pain in his voice was too much to ignore.

And when she saw him, she reacted without thinking. Dropping the blanket, she crawled through his open window, hand outstretched and voice soothing. “Hi there. I’m Claire. I live upstairs. I heard the crash. Are you okay?” He looked at her, eyes wild, short of breath and clutching his right arm. A clearly dislocated shoulder. “I’m a nurse. Let me help you.”

He never said a word, just nodded at her and allowed her to lead him over to the coffee table. She sat him down gently and looked him in the eye. “Brace yourself. It will hurt. Just…just don’t fight me, okay? I need to get the arm in the correct position, and then I’m going to put your shoulder joint back in place.” He nodded again, and took a deep breath. She could see in his eyes when he was ready for her. She nodded back at him, their silent communication forged. Slipping her hand into his, she concentrated on what she was doing until she felt the joint slide home.

“A Dhia.” he breathed. He looked at her with surprise, relief, and nothing short of admiration. She smiled.

“Better?”

“Aye. Thank ye!”

She looked around. “I need to make you a sling. Do you have a scarf, maybe?”

“Maybe in the hall closet,” he said, but when he stood up, he swayed.

“Woah!” Claire placed her hands on his waist to steady him. “It’s the pain. You should sit.” He turned slightly and that’s when Claire noticed his belt. “Wait!” He cocked an eyebrow. “Your belt. It will do nicely.” And before she realized what she was doing, she undid his belt buckle, slid it free of his jeans and used it to immobilize his arm. “It’s just for tonight. Sleep carefully, perhaps with a pillow under your shoulder. Tomorrow I’ll bring you a proper sling from the hospital.” She finished her ministrations, marched to the bathroom hoping to find some type of pain medicine or anti-inflammatory in the sink cabinet and then strode through to the kitchen to get him a glass of water. She righted the bar stool he obviously tripped over, wrote her mobile number on a piece of paper and told him to call her if the pain became too much.

And crawling through the window again she gave him one last wave, picked up her blanket and mounted the rusty stairs. It was only after she was back in her flat coming down after her healing adrenaline rush that it hit her. How very firm his waist was. How tall, and big. With a myriad of red in his longish hair. Hair that curled just at the nape. And it registered that when she finally looked him in the eye, he’d had a small smirk pulling at his lips. Because she was unbuckling his belt….and she felt the heat of embarrassment flood her face. Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ, Claire! You need to not be so bold!

Downstairs, rubbing the torn bit of paper between his fingers like a rosary bead, Jamie felt as if he’d been hit by a lorry. Oh, his shoulder felt okay. It hurt, but it was manageable. No, the lorry that hit him had curly black hair, a no-nonsense manner and a good touch. Not to mention the last image he had of her leaving his flat. That sweet, round arse disappearing up the fire escape.

Claire.

Chapter Text

She loved her job. She really did. Being in a Trauma/Emergency Room was her calling. She loved the pace, the challenge, the feeling that she was making a difference every single day. What she didn’t love were the hours. She was constantly scheduled for the night shift.

And she worked a lot of night shifts thanks to that brutal Chief of Emergency Medicine, Dr. Jack Randall.

A small, wiry, angry man, Dr. “Black” Jack Randall treated her as though she were incompetent and berated her every chance he got. He constantly barraged her with questions making her doubt her treatment, her notes, and her skills as a nurse. He worked her hard for 12 solid hours; picking up labs, charting, running point in the ER room during mass casualties. He never let her rest, or eat, or sit. And Claire was stubborn enough that she would never let him see any weakness. However, she had friends who backed her up. Good ones. Geillis Duncan, her red-headed, sassy friend with whom she graduated Nursing school. Geilli was tiny, smart, sharp-tongued, somewhat sneaky and lived to thwart Dr. Randall.

The other person in her corner was Mrs. Fitzgibbons. The Independent Federation of Nursing in Scotland had strict rules in place as to how many 12 hour shifts you could work. And her Union Representative, Mrs. Fitz was religious about checking her nurses’ logged hours. If Claire had to work late, Mrs. Fitz got her overtime pay, or time off in lieu. If she was on shift with Mrs. Fitz, she was bundled up and hustled out the door not 5 minutes after she was supposed to be off. Mrs. Fitz was small, and round and a formidable force in the ER. She, too, had squared off a time or two with Dr. Randall over his treatment of her staff. And make no mistake, no one crossed Nurse Fitz.

Climbing up the stairs to her flat Claire was bone tired. All she wanted was a hot shower, a hot breakfast and to crawl into bed snuggled under her big white duvet. But the reality would be frozen waffles in the toaster and crashing on the sofa. Digging in her bag for her keys she spotted the sling she’d grabbed from the supply room for her neighbour. Dammit. She was exhausted but her conscience wouldn’t let her ignore him. He definitely needed it, so turning on her heel she headed down the stairs to his flat. She rang the bell and waited. She tried knocking and rang again. Nothing. No sound from inside. Fine. She’d try later, after sleep and food. Shoulders hunched, she summoned strength to climb the stairs a third time when the door opened behind her.

“Claire.”

His voice was low and hoarse, as if he’d just said his first words for the day. When she turned to look at him, she knew she’d woken him. His hair was tousled, and his sleep pants hung low on his hips. His feet were bare. The tight white t-shirt clung to his torso and exposed a flat expanse of skin between its hem and his waistband. And his shoulders were wide. Quite wide. And his…she met his eyes. His mouth had that smirk again. Dammit, Claire.

“I brought you a sling.” She dove into her bag and pulled it out like a magician finding an elusive rabbit. “It’s simple really,” she said, avoiding his gaze. “Just put your elbow in the pocket, and your head through the hole. Oh, and make sure your arm is at a 90 degree angle.” She knew she was talking too fast but couldn’t seem to stop herself. “Wear it during the day so you don’t overdo and move it too much, and then you can just stop when you can move the joint easily and without pain.” She thrust the package at him.

He looked at it dangling from her hand and met her gaze.

“Wouldn’t it be easier if you did it?”

She sighed. Yes, it would. Dammit.

He stepped back and opened the door wider. Entering the foyer she noticed the very masculine surroundings that had escaped her the day before. The leather sofa. The wood floors. A laptop, and mug on the huge antique trunk that served as his coffee table. And books. Hundreds of books. Sometimes two deep on the shelves that lined the far wall of his sitting room. The nutty aroma of fresh roasting beans hit her nostrils and she breathed in deeply.

“Would ye like some coffee?” he asked.

“Oh! No, thank you. That would keep me up, and I’m heading to bed.” He cocked a questioning eyebrow. “Hospital. Night shift.”

“Ah. I see.” he said. And his look seemed to take in her worn features and slumped shoulders. “Don’t let me keep ye. I can probably manage.”

“Oh, no. It won’t take but a minute.” She strode over to the kitchen counter and deposited her bag on the bar stool from the night before. Ripping open the package she said, “How did you manage to dislocate yourself….um…” She blushed. “I’m sorry. Seems I didn’t get your name yesterday.”

“Jamie.” He paused. “Well, James, actually. But, I go by Jamie.” Carefully, she adjusted the sling around his elbow and then over his head making sure the knot didn’t dig into his shoulder.

“So, Jamie, do you wrestle bar stools often?”

“Only on Thursdays.”

Her head snapped up and she laughed. A laugh that went to his gut like a sucker punch. This close he got a good look at the colour of her eyes. Christ. They were the colour of fine whisky. When she turned away he realized he’d stared just a little too long. He shook his head.

“I was trying to change a light bulb in the ceiling.” He gestured with his chin and she glanced up. Recessed lighting. So modern in this old Scottish neighbourhood. “I lost my balance, tipped the chair, and my shoulder hit the counter top on the way down.”

She checked the bruise on the back of his arm. “It’s the most spectacular shade of purple,” she said. “Does it hurt?”

“Only…” he started,

“….on Thursdays,” they finished together.

Claire smiled at the crinkles that appeared at the corner of his eyes when he laughed. It showed a man who had a playful side. Yet, she reckoned he didn’t let himself get too carefree, too often. His decor, his manner, all spoke of a man who had been on his own a long time. A self-sufficient, straight-forward man whose sky blue eyes held intelligence, curiosity and humour. And when he licked his lips, she realized she had stared just a little too long, and turned away to grab her bag.

“Before ye go…” he said, and brushed past her to step into the kitchen area. Opening a cupboard he rummaged around making Scottish noises until he found what he wanted. He turned and presented her with the most exquisitely shaped bottle of whisky.

“It’s beautiful!” Claire couldn’t help but admire the soft lines and the long throat of the bottle.

“A thank you gift. For healing me.” He held it out to her, his big hand cradling its base.

“Oh Jamie, I couldn’t! I’ve seen this brand in the shops. It’s way too expensive!”

“Well, then, it’s a good thing I own the distillery and can do what I like wi’ it.”

Claire went slack jawed, and looked up at him, eyes wide. “Fraser Whisky? You’re Fraser Distilleries?”

“At yer service, Madam.” He made a slight bow with his head, and then forced the bottle into her bag. “But, truly. Take it, with my gratitude.” When she made to protest again he said, “I insist. Claire.” And just the way he said her name made the words die on her lips.

“All right. You’re welcome. Jamie.”

And she showed herself to the door.

Later, after a shower, and a hot breakfast that she forced herself to make, she snuggled under her white duvet and fell asleep thinking of curling red hair, clear blue eyes, and a smile as bright as the sunshine outside her window.

Chapter Text

Hey…did you fall in the bottle? He hit the back button…that sounded like he thought she was an alcoholic.  He tried again.

So have you finished the whisky yet?  Nope…that sounded….lame.  He deleted that, too.

Jamie was sitting at his drafting table, hunched over it with his phone cradled between two big hands.  He hadn’t seen Claire in over a week and it was driving him crazy.  His shoulder felt better, but he had hoped she’d pop in to check on her patient.  He sat out on his fire escape hoping to “casually” meet her, only to have the cold drive him inside.  It didn’t matter if he left early in the morning or returned home late at night, he never seemed to run into her.  And he didn’t even know in which hospital she worked.

How did you enjoy the whisky?  Nah. That felt like he was fishing for compliments.  He didn’t want to come across as cocky.

Hi Beautiful.   Oh, he was tempted.  So, so tempted.

“Fuuuuuccckkkkk!” He threw his head back and growled in frustration.  Spinning in his drafting chair he looked out to see Laoghaire, his personal assistant looking back at him through the glass wall of his office.

“Can I help ye with something, Jamie?”  Dammit.  Why did she have to look so hopeful?  Like a broken down puppy starving for attention.

“Can ye get my sister, please?” he asked and stood up to move to his desk, hitting the back button. Again.

Fifteen minutes later, Janet Fraser Murray came striding towards his office. His sister might be small in stature, but she was feisty.  Direct and to the point, she spoke three languages fluently; English, Gaelic and Sarcasm.  She was sharp as a tack and ran the financial end of Fraser Distillery with a tight fist and an eagle eye.  Nothing escaped her notice.  And no deal was finished unless every ‘i’ was dotted and every ‘t’ crossed.  

Jamie loved her to death and wanted to throttle her most days at the same time.  She was also married to his best friend, Ian Murray.  But he’d be damned if he was going to put up with this much longer. This was her mess. He’d make her clean it up.  

“Brother.  I was in the middle of something.  Why the summons?”  He gestured for her to close the door and she did, eyebrow raised.  

“Jenny, I need to ye to get rid of Laoghaire.”  

“Oh, God, not this again!” she said.  “Jamie, you do this every quarter…I’m   not – “

“Yes. Janet. Ye are.” he bit out.  “I mean it this time.  Don’t look now, but –“ Jenny swiveled her head and looked at the shapely blond woman at the station outside her brother’s office.  “You know, for a CFO, you can be kinda daft. I said, don’t look!”

“Poor lovesick darling.”  Jenny clucked her tongue and turned a stern gaze onto her brother.  “You need an assistant, Jamie.  And Laoghaire –“

“Get me Willie.  He’ll do. He’s good wi’ computers, and he can even help me with the digital drawings.”

“Jamie…”

“Ye owe me, Jenny!” he hissed through his teeth.  Jenny drew herself up straight, and even with her high heeled pumps she only came up to the middle of his chest.  She opened her mouth to say something but he cut her off.  

“This is yer fault.  Ye kent well enough I was drunk that night at the pub. And ye practically shoved the wee lass into my lap.  ‘Dance!’ ye said.  ‘Buy her a drink!’ ye said.  And now because of one snogging session she moons over me all day out there.”  

He sighed deeply, and sat on the corner of his desk. “Truth be told, I canna take it anymore. I feel guilty as hell.”

Jenny knew her brother well. And she realized he really had hit the wall in this situation.  “Fine. I’ll send her to marketing.  Those fools could use someone to keep them organized.”  She eyed her brother curiously.  “Is that it? Anything else ye’d like to tell me? Maybe there’s someone else?”  

“Good day, Janet” He stood up to give his sister a brief hug.  “My love to the kids.  And thank ye.”  Jenny planted a quick kiss on his cheek and squeezed him back.  

Turning on her heel she strode out of the office and he heard her say to Laoghaire, “That’s it settled, then. Marketing is a mess and needs sorting. Starting tomorrow ye report to Rupert Mackenzie.”  Laoghaire gasped and looked at Jamie, and then back at Jenny.

“Sorry.  It’s how it has to be, Laoghaire.  Jamie isna best pleased with the situation either, and he’s sorry to lose ye, but we have to do what’s best. Especially since the wines will be coming out soon.  We need to get that department in order, and Jamie says yer the best person for the job.”  

Jamie watched the whole thing unfold in his reception area.  His sister was masterful, making him look like the hero while making Laoghaire feel important.  And he couldn’t be more grateful.  He shut the door and sank down into the big leather chair behind his desk.  He turned it toward the floor to ceiling glass window that overlooked Edinburgh.  Slouching a little and stretching out his long legs, he resumed his attempt to text one gorgeous, hard-to-forget, emergency room nurse as the city lights came on.

“That’s HIM?”  Geillis shouted as she took Claire’s phone from her.

“Geilli, shhhhhh”, Claire giggled. “Yes. That’s my neighbour.  Jamie Fraser.”

The two women were huddled up on the sofa in the Nurses’ Lounge.  There’d been a lull in the evening and they’d snuck off to grab some dinner and put their feet up.  Claire told her friend the story, complete with belt removal and Geillis had howled with delight.  A quick Google search yielded several pictures. Geillis was now pouring over all of them, settled on the sofa, with her bright red trainers propped up on the old, scarred coffee table. “Damn, Sweetie.  He’s delicious.”  She lifted her deep green eyes to Claire’s.  “And dead sexy.”

“I knooooowwww.”  Claire flopped her head back on the sofa and curled her feet under her.  “He seems really sweet though, too.”  

The phone pinged and Geillis jumped.  Handing it back, Claire noticed a text message.  Not a number she knew.

Did you move? Claire’s brow furrowed.

Excuse me? She texted back.

Did you move? Because another bulb burnt out and before I change it I wanted to make sure you’d be home.  Claire’s head snapped up and she elbowed Geillis, who was scrolling through her Instagram.  “Geilli…it’s him.  Jamie just texted me.”

Geillis practically threw her phone across the room, she sat up so fast.  “What’s it say? What did he say? Is he asking ye out?”  The redhead peered over Claire’s shoulder at the text.

Claire shook her head.  “He has another burnt light bulb.”

“Oh for God’s sake, Claire! He’s FLIRTING!”  She gave Claire that exasperated look she always did when Claire did or said something foolish.  “Well, don’t just sit there.  Answer him!”

Claire stared at her phone. And narrowed her eyes.  I don’t recognize this number. Who is this, please?

Geillis read it over her shoulder and hissed, “What in hell are ye doing?!?”

The ping was immediate.  There’s that many light bulb changers in your building inquiring after your services, then?  

As a matter of fact, no.  Just one very clumsy neighbour.

Geillis’ pager went off and she swore.  “I want to see those later!” she said.  “Claire, ye hear me?”  Claire hummed non-committedly and then giggled when the embarrassed emoji popped up.

How is your shoulder?

Better.  Thank you.  In fact, so much better I wondered if maybe I could take you to dinner?

Claire sat stunned for a minute. The phone pinged again.  You do eat, do you, no?

She laughed.  Yes, I eat.  Quite a lot, actually.  

Good. Me, too.  When and where?  Claire quickly checked her calendar, and sent him her next days off.  She told him to pick the place because she worked so much she really didn’t know of any good restaurants.  She was just about to sign off when his next text came in.

I seem to have a blank space in my contacts where your last name should be …

Very smooth, Fraser….    Beauchamp.  Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp.  Does that help with your OCD?

You’re French?  Interesting.  I wouldn’t have guessed.

It goes back a long way.  And how may I address you, kind sir?  The phone buzzed and vibrated in her hand in perfect five second intervals.  She felt as giddy as a school girl with her first crush.

James

Alexander

Malcolm

Mackenzie

Fraser

See you Saturday night, Sassenach.  I’ll knock on your window.

Before she could respond with “what’s a Sassenach?” the door slammed open and Dr. Randall filled its frame.

Chapter Text

Dinner was never to be.  Nor coffee.  Nor meeting for breakfast.  Nor any of the plans they tried to make.  Dr. Randall had been livid to find Claire in the Lounge and ripped her to shreds.  She stood and took it, all the while seething, her eyes boring into him with all the hatred she could muster.  She tried to sidle past him without looking him in the eye.  Bloody basilisk that he was, she would have turned into stone.  

She didn’t have time to dwell on Jamie.  She was working 12 hours shifts, 3 days in a row, with only one day off in between.  Claire was numb with exhaustion, and became more gaunt as the weeks went on.  Everyone knew it was wrong. But no one dared cross Dr. Randall and take a shift for her.

Jamie, on the other hand, was crazy with frustration.  Every time his phone pinged, he leapt on it hoping it was a text from Claire saying she’d had a change of plan.  It got to the point where Jenny was making everyone put their silenced phones in a basket during a meeting.  Ian found it utterly hilarious. Three weeks had passed and he hadn’t heard her voice or seen her face.  The few times he actually called her she hadn’t answered. And when she’d called him back, it had been when his phone was in a sister-imposed lock down.  

With the holidays fast approaching, all hands were on deck to launch the new line of Fraser wines, as well as a specially matured whisky, which was why they were all at the Distillery taste testing.  

Jenny and Jamie’s Uncle, Dougal Mackenzie was COO of the Distillery.  A brother to their late mum, he was world renowned in the whisky business. His taste buds were legendary, and his nose was sensitive to every nuance that swirled up from his glass. They all agreed the whisky was perfect. Smokey, with a hint of oak, and pear, it slid down the throat smooth as silk.  

“It’s a gem!” exclaimed Dougal. “No question.  It’ll win awards, and bring lots of attention to the House of Fraser.”  

Jamie closed his eyes as he rolled the alcohol around in his mouth savoring the flavours and texture.  It was delicious.  He felt the warmth in his throat on its way down, and the warm blush it created as it settled in his stomach.  He held his glass up to the light and felt his gut tighten.  The new batch was the exact colour of Claire’s eyes.

“Now.  On to the wines.” Dougal announced.  He cleansed his palate with water and a few bites of cheese and crackers.  “I’m surprised at the two of ye,” he said, taking in his niece and nephew. “Scotland isn’t known for its wines.”

“Ye know well why we’re doing this,” admonished Jenny.  “That vineyard Murtagh found in Wales is just the right size for what we want to do. Won’t produce very many bottles, but what it does produce we’ll be able to get top dollar.  The grapes are excellent.  And we need to grow the business.”  

Murtagh smiled.  He was Jamie’s godfather, and had been involved in the company for a long time. He oversaw all of the farms that grew the barley, rye and wheat needed for the whisky and when he stumbled upon this vineyard on holiday, Jamie and Jenny trusted his intuition regarding diversifying into wines.

The afternoon continued with the tasting, and assessing. It was excellent wine, and they all left the meeting feeling good about holiday sales.  But instead of going back to the office, Jamie grabbed a bottle of the red and decided to go home.  

Lost in his thoughts on the way to his flat, Jamie dug his house key out of his pocket.  It took a moment for the strange sound to register.  It sounded like….was someone crying?  As he rounded the stairs he noticed keys and a wallet on the landing.  At the base of the stairs lay what looked like a lipstick tube.  Looking up he noticed the bag that had been upended with its contents scattered.  

And there, on the stairs, head on her arms, sobbing, was Claire.  

He flung his backpack from his shoulder, heedless of his computer and the wine bottle inside, and bolted up the stairs two at a time.  

“Claire.  Sassenach, what’s wrong?  Did ye fall?”  He placed a hand on her back and felt the bones of her ribs.  Christ, she was thin.  Was she sick? Sitting on the stair below her he stroked her hair, and gently placed his hands on her shoulders, rousing her enough to lift her head. God, she was pale with dark circles under her eyes. 

 And she was burning up.  

“Shhhhh,” he whispered. “I’m here.”  She dropped her head to his shoulder and let loose a gut wrenching sob that broke his heart.  

“Ah, mo graidh” She sounded so forlorn.  He wrapped his arms around her, rocking slowly.  And then, without really thinking he picked her up in his arms and carried her down the stairs.  Key still in his hand, he unlocked his flat and carried her through to his bedroom.  

He set her down long enough to throw back his covers (why had he never picked up his room?) then helped her sit. He untied her trainers, and pressed her back so that she lay down.  When she rolled away from him and curled up into a tiny ball, his heart shattered. He covered her up, left the room leaving the door ajar so he could hear her, and went back out into the hall to recover their things.  


He was watching a rugby game he’d recorded from the weekend.  The sound was off so he could listen for Claire.  He glanced at the clock on the wall, 11:00 p.m.  She’d been asleep for 4 hours.  He checked in on her a couple of times and she still felt warm to the touch.

Her phone rang around 8:00 and he’d had a long conversation with Mrs. Fitz. After listening to Jamie she assured him that Claire would have the next four days off.  He was ordered to keep her there, give her plenty of fluids as she may be dehydrated, let her sleep whenever she wanted and to make her eat. He hung up and texted his sister to say he’d be working from home for the next few days.  No need to fill her in.  He’d rather avoid the inquisition that would come his way.

He was just settling himself on the sofa with an extra pillow and blanket when he heard her stir in his bedroom. He was at the doorway in seconds. She was sitting up, eyes glazed from fever, and her hair a glorious mass of curls.  She seemed disoriented until she caught sight of him.

“Hi, Jamie.” she whispered, and pushed her hair back.

He smiled at her child-like voice. “Sassenach.  How do ye feel?”  A Dhia, she was beautiful.

“Cold.”  Still had a fever then.  “And kinda hungry.  And I need to pee.”  

He showed her to the bathroom, and then went to make her something to eat. When he came back with some butternut squash soup that Mrs. Crook, his childhood housekeeper had made for him, she was crawling back into his bed. He had just enough time to notice she had taken off her scrubs.  She was wearing a tee shirt and a pair of hot pink panties that hugged her round arse before she flipped the covers over herself.  

Focus, Fraser.  Setting down the bed tray he handed her the cup of soup.  She sipped it and smiled.  “Mmmmmmm. Warm. Delicious.”

“Mrs. Fitz said to keep yer fluids up.”  

She flinched at that.  “Oh, God.  My job.  I’ve missed my shift!” 

“Easy, Sassenach.  Ye’ve been removed from the schedule for the next four days.  She said it would give the other nurses a chance to earn a living.”  

She visibly relaxed at that, and took another sip.

She rubbed his comforter. “This is a nice coverlet.  It’s cozy.”

“Fraser colours.” he said. “It my family’s tartan.”

Claire closed her eyes and handed him the half empty cup.  “I’m so cold!”  She leaned back and burrowed under the covers.  He took the tray to the kitchen and returned with some fever reducer.  Helping her sit up to take the pills and drink the water, he took a moment to brush the hair from her face.  She grabbed his hand and tugged.

“Help me, Jamie.  I’m cold.”  She really was shaking. Hard.

“Claire.  I don’t have another blanket. The only one I’ve got, I need for sleeping.”  Maybe he could run to her flat and grab one.  He was casting about for her keys when he heard her speak.

“Body heat.”  

He froze.  Of course.  That would work.  Mary, Michael, and Bride what the hell was he getting into. 

“Please.”  She sounded close to tears.  

So, weak as he was, he slid under the comforter.  Jamie, lad, just until she falls asleep. 

She was burning up, but feeling him behind her she turned and tucked herself under his chin. Her breath was warm on his throat, and her legs tangled with his.  His reaction was immediate.  He tried to scoot his hips back so as not to assail her with his juvenile reaction to her closeness, but she whimpered and took hold of his tee shirt in her delicate hands.  Her fingers twisted into the fabric to hold him close.  

Ifrinn. Jamie swore.  This is going to be a long night. 

Chapter Text

When Jamie woke in the morning he registered three things.  

First, his left hand was cupping the lovely pink clad arse of one Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp.  

Two, he had an erection.  Again.

Three, Claire was soaking wet which meant her fever had broken.  

And for good measure he counted a fourth.  He’d never slept better.  

He let his lips brush gently across her forehead, and started to get up. Claire stirred, and like new butterflies slowing opening their wings, her eyelids fluttered open.  She took in their position and her eyes widened.  

Jamie attempted to soften the shock, “Seems as if yer fever’s broken, Sassenach.  Yer a sweaty mess.  How do ye feel?”

Claire dipped her head and took stock.  She met Jamie’s eyes again.  “Better, actually.  Hungry.”

“Lucky for you, Sassenach, I make a mean scotch woodcock.” And he rolled out of bed quickly before she could feel the state of his manhood.  He definitely needed the island and the cooktop between himself and Claire.  

“A what??”  She sounded horrified.

He peeked back around the door frame.  “Relax. Scrambled eggs on toast.”  

After breakfast in which Claire proved she could, indeed, eat a lot, she announced she needed a shower and some fresh clothes.  Jamie agreed she would be more comfortable in her own bathroom. When she announced she’d be back in an hour, his relief surprised him.  He wasn’t ready to let this go.  

He couldn’t quite put his finger on why, other than that Claire intrigued him. She was this angel of mercy who came into his life and left a mark on his heart. She was honest, and straight-forward.  She worked hard and never complained.  For God’s sake, she was going into work with a fever!  

The one and only girlfriend he ever had was the most high-maintenance of women.  Annalise needed constant attention and when he couldn’t give it, she constantly pouted.  Always dressed to perfection, he’d never seen her without makeup.  In contrast, he’d never seen Claire with makeup wearing anything other than her scrubs. Well, her pink knickers were nice.  He’d be willing to take a second look at that again sometime soon.  

Showered, dressed in jeans and sweatshirt, feet bare, Jamie set up his work for the day.  Even though he was CEO of Fraser Distillery, he was also its graphic designer.  As the company grew he was constantly being told to hand it off, but he refused.  He needed his creative side to stay sane. And because it was his name, he would also be responsible for the face it showed.  

Today’s task – labels for the new wines.  He knew the shape of the label, and using his template for the lettering he started work on his computer.  Having carved out the space for the artwork, Jamie started to sketch.  Deep into his work it was a while before he realized Claire wasn’t back yet.  Pocketing his mobile, he went upstairs to her flat.  He knocked on the door.  Nothing.

“Claire?”  Nothing.  

Banging now, he shouted, “Claire!”

Holy God.  What if she fell in the shower?  What if she decided to go to work?  No.  No, she would have come for her pocketbook.  He paused and knocked again, louder.  Dammit. Nothing.  

Sprinting down the stairs to his flat he tore through the lounge and lifted his window.  Freezing November air caught him in the face.  Heedless of his bare feet he sprinted up the fire escape to her window.  Cupping his face to the glass he breathed a sigh of relief and fogged it up.  He stepped back, took a deep breath, and let it out slowly.  Heart rate decreasing, he tried the window.  Locked.  Okay. She was okay.  

He took out his phone and texted her.  Bloody cold out here Beauchamp.  Help a guy out?  

He watched as Claire looked at her phone, and turned sharply from her kitchen sink to the window.  Thank God for notification sounds.  

She grabbed a towel to dry her hands and hurrying over to the window, she fumbled with her phone and took out her earbuds.  “Bloody hell, Jamie!  What do you think you’re doing?”

He felt stupid now that he was in her flat.  And he couldn’t think of anything cool to say.  So, he blurted out the truth.  “Ye said an hour.  I was worried ye’d fallen or somethin’.  Yer still somewhat weak.”  

He gestured helplessly as he looked down at the floor.  “I mean, yer fever just broke last night and ye havena eaten in days.”  

Claire was touched.  And now that he mentioned it, tired.  But her flat was such a mess.  It’d been ages since she’d cleaned and when she walked in earlier it seemed like she should take care of it.  “My laundry’s a fright, Jamie. And my flat is disgusting. I work so much…I thought the music would keep me awake long enough to put a dent in it and….” She let the sentence trail off.  

Jamie nodded.  “Here.  Let’s do the laundry at my place.  The rest we’ll tackle when yer feeling stronger, aye?”  

She nodded.  Jamie gathered up all the sorted piles of clothes and tossed them back into her overflowing basket.  He turned to carry it out the window and she laughed.  

“Come on, Sassenach.  Make sure the front door is locked.  Since it’s only us who share this escape, we can trust yer window to stay unlatched.”  Checking the door, and grabbing her key, she shut the window after her, and followed him down the short flight that separated them.

Stepping into the warmth of his home Claire asked, “Jamie?  “What’s “Sassenach”?”  

Jamie set the basket down, and closed the window.  “It means English woman.  Well, someone who isna from here, who isna from Scotland.”  

He turned to see her standing with hands on hips, a somewhat stubborn look on her face.  Her freshly washed hair framed her face in a riot of curls. Those whisky coloured eyes washed over him.  She smelled sweet and clean.  

He’d never seen a woman more beautiful.  In that moment, she was all the folklore, all the legends, and all the superstitions of his culture wrapped into one.  He was completely under her spell.  “My father used to tell us the legend of the woman who was stolen by the fairy folk, who traveled through the stones from faraway lands.  They’re rare. Unique. Fascinating. Other-worldly.”  

Claire shivered at his voice. It was low and soft, mesmerizing, vibrating with emotion.  And his sky blue eyes pierced through her as he spoke, almost at a whisper. “A Sassenach is spritely. And spirited.”  

Claire had never felt such a pull of attraction.  God, was he handsome. And that mop of red hair was dark auburn, and thick with golds. But it was more than his looks that called to her. It was his soul. The soul of him that set her nerves buzzing. He licked his lips. Claire’s breath shuddered.  He gave her that half smile again and said something.  

She shook her head.  “Did you just say “with ears like the wings of an elf”?”  

He shrugged.  

“Elves don’t have wings!” she admonished.

“Scottish ones do.”  

And she lunged at him, only to be caught in a bear hug.  She fake struggled, and he fake pretended she hurt him, and it was really only a way to flirt and touch and they both knew it.  So when she wrapped her arms around his middle and laid her head on his chest, he very naturally brushed his lips across her forehead and hugged her back. And when they parted, it felt like they’d hugged a million times before.

The moment was broken, but not forgotten.

Jamie set to work on his designs while Claire started her laundry.  They made pasta for lunch in an effort to get some weight back on Claire, and Claire ate two bowls.  Jamie took a phone call and when he was finished he noticed Claire had fallen asleep. Good.  Lord knows she needs the rest. He took his spare blanket and covered her on the sofa.

By the time she woke up in the late afternoon her last load was in the washer, Jamie was making pizza, and had pulled out the bottle of red wine he’d taken from the tasting.  And Claire was pleasantly surprised to see that a gentle snow had started falling.  They ate together, lights out, on the leather sofa that Jamie dragged over in front of the window that led to the fire escape.  

With only the street lamps to cast a soft glow into the flat, they talked quietly of their childhoods, and shared stories of how their parents had passed.  Jamie was surprised to hear of Claire’s travels with her Uncle Lamb, the archeologist.  And Claire was surprised to hear of Jamie losing his brother, Willie.  He even showed her the little wooden snake with “Sawny” etched on the back that Willie made him.  She smiled at the nickname.

Hours passed.  

Eventually the black iron of the fire escape turned into an ever changing white sculpture.  And just as slowly, they moved towards each other. Her feet in his lap first, his hand across the back of the sofa, her sitting up to place a head on his shoulder, him stretching a leg so that eventually she was sitting between his legs, her back to his front.  

When she half turned to smile at something he said, the kiss that followed seemed as natural as breathing.

Chapter Text

Mouths fused, Jamie took a deep breath and inhaled the scent that was all Claire.  Braced on his forearm, one hand was tangled in her hair, his other hand was under her backside pressing her to him.  Legs spread, Claire was cradling him while he ground himself against her.  Part of his brain was telling him to slow it down before he embarrassed himself.  The other part was full steam ahead.  He decided to listen to his brain for once. Bracing his feet against the armrest of the sofa, Jamie lifted his hips up, and tore his mouth away from hers.  
Claire growled and threw her legs around him, arching up, trying to find him again.  He rested his forehead against hers and jerked as her hands found the zipper of his jeans and tugged downward.  “Sassenach, we need to slow down.”  

“Why?” she breathed.  Her hot little hands slipped inside the waistband of his jeans.  Either her fever was back or they were both about to go up in flames.  

“Because it’ll be over afore it begins, mo neighean donn.” he chuckled.  Jamie placed one foot on the floor and made to stand.  Claire hooked her fingers through his belt loops and tried to pull him down to her again.  Tempting as it was, he pushed himself up and out of her grasp.  The fantasy she presented him panting and flushed on his sofa, her legs restless and shifting, running her hands through her hair, was incredibly arousing.  

Yet, Jamie wasn’t about to take her on the sofa.  Not like that.  It wasn’t just the sex, much as he wanted her.  This was Claire.  She was special.  She called to his heart, called to his soul.  He was in love with her, and he knew it.  He felt it in his bones, he felt his blood sing in her arms.  Jamie had never been “that guy”. The guy who had sex just to get some.  His father had always told him it was a great responsibility to lie with a woman, so he had better make damn sure he felt something for her first.  

Claire stood and looked at him. “Do you want me to go?” she asked.

“No.”  Jamie breathed.  He gently pushed a strand of her hair behind her ear, and risked a glance at the bedroom. “I want verra much for ye to stay.”  

Claire smiled softly, knowingly, and took his hand.  

Standing beside the bed, Jamie fit his mouth to hers again, feeling Claire rise on her toes to meet him.  He felt her hands slip under his sweat shirt and up his back.  

He felt her whole body stiffen.

Then he felt as if ice water had been thrown over the heat of his arousal, and looked up at the ceiling.      

“Jamie?” she whispered. “What happened?”

Jamie took a deep breath.  What the hell to say now?  He settled on the truth. If she found his disfigurement unattractive, so be it.  There was no help for it.  

“Explosion.  At the distillery.”  Claire gasped.  He continued, still holding her in his embrace.  “It was a few years ago now.  Ian and I were working down by the stills.  One of them overheated, and exploded.  It blew Ian and me right off our feet.  I landed on him, and steaming hot metal landed on me.  I got badly burned.  I was in hospital for months while they dealt with the third degree burns on my back.”  

He searched her eyes for signs of pity.  He saw none, so he continued.  “My father came to the hospital.  Apparently he saw me in the ER, screaming in pain.  And they say he dropped like a stone.  He had a stroke.  There was no reviving him.”  

Claire could hear the guilt in his voice, and see the anguish in his eyes.  
Jamie shook his head at the memory.  “At least I have it better than Ian.  The blast knocked down some of the ceiling beams.  Crushed his right lower leg. They couldn’t save it.  He has a prosthetic.”

Claire looked into the steel blue of his eyes.  She’d seen burn victims.  She knew how long it took to treat such wounds. She knew how painful it was to endure the treatment, the debriding, and the shots to prevent infection.  So, he wasn’t just a pretty face, and a successful businessman.  He was a warrior. He’d battled one of the worst injuries a person could face. Along with the demons he obviously faced with the death of his father at the same time.  She could see he needed her to understand, to accept him as he was. Body and soul.  

Taking a step back she said, “Take off your shirt. I want to look at you.”
Jamie shivered at the tone in her voice.  Desire. Lust.  Passion.  And smiling slightly, he lifted his sweat shirt and tossed it to the side.  

Jeans still unzipped, hanging low on his hips, Claire walked around Jamie.  She ran her hands lightly over his biceps, then reverently over his back. Yes, this would have been painful. But turning off the medical part of her brain, she let her eyes feast on his very broad shoulders.  She continued, dropping her touch to the skin of his lower back, and then flattening her hand to slide under his jeans and across his bare backside.  True Scotsman, then.    

When she faced him again Jamie searched her face for the revulsion that would surely come.  It didn’t.  Instead the little minx cupped his baws and said, “Now for the jeans.”  

Jamie obliged.  

He watched Claire appreciate his body but wanted more.  “Fair’s fair.” Jamie crooned, “Take off yers as well.”  With no hesitation, Claire slipped out of her clothes like a silkie shedding its skin.  

Bold as brass, this one, Jamie thought.  And so bonny.  Her skin was pale and smooth, the whisky coloured eyes getting dark, as dark as the merlot they drank earlier.  And her hair. Lord, that hair, twisting and turning like water in a burn, flowing o’er her shoulders, one tendril reaching for the tip of her breast… 

Jamie reached out one long finger, and brushed the tendril back.  Claire’s breath hitched.  He cupped her breast and felt the warm weight of it in his hand.  They moved toward each other at the same time, and lifting her up, Claire wound her legs around his waist as he turned and laid her on the bed.

Skin on skin.  Heat generating heat.  Tongues played.  Mouths consumed. Hands familiarized themselves with every curve, every hard plane, every muscle, and sweet spot.  Jamie locked his arm around Claire’s hips and fit her to him.  When he finally slipped into her they both gasped with pleasure. With completion.  

When passion-filled dark blue eyes looked into darker brown, each saw in the other a home they hadn’t had in years.  Each found a soul calling out to the other.  Each felt a bond forging.  Each knowing that they were forever changed by this union.  As Jamie began to move, Claire rose up to meet him.  They fought to get closer, feel more, to make their love last.  In tune with each other, they reached the edge and tumbled over together.  

Breathing slowed.  Hearts rested.  Hands clasped.  Touches softened.  Legs tangled.

When Jamie whispered, “tha gaol agam ort”, Claire knew he had said “I love you.”  And because she couldn’t speak, she let the tears that fell on his chest and the soft kiss she placed over his heart tell him, she loved him, too.

The next three days were more than Jamie could’ve hoped for.  Claire’s colour was back, the dark circles gone, and her appetite, voracious.  He was getting more work done than ever.  No one interrupted him, and anything he needed to deal with, Willie sent by email.  If it was Laoghaire his phone would have rang non-stop.

The fact that Jenny hadn’t been by was a miracle. He smiled.  A miracle named Ian.  As Jamie put the finishing touches on his last label, and prepared to send it to the printer, he recollected the texts he exchanged with his brother-in-law.  Ian had been bawdy about Jamie having a woman in his flat, and asked for a picture.  Jamie couldn’t resist sending him a Snapchat of Claire sprawled on the sofa watching television.  She was wearing one of his soft, cotton shirts, legs bare, tangled up in his Fraser blanket.  Her hair was a riot of curls and she was laughing. She looked sweet and sexy at the same time. Ian’s reaction was priceless.  

Claire caught up on medical journals during the day while he worked.  They cooked together, watched movies cuddled up under the tartan, and even took a walk in the snow, ending up at Jamie’s local and having a bit too much to drink.  
And of course, they made love. Slow love after waking up in each other’s arms. And fast, hard, passionate love after being at the pub, barely making it through the door and getting their coats off, up against the wall in the foyer.  

They also talked about anything and everything.  

But inevitably, Claire had to get back to work.  She was scheduled for her first shift the next day.  A day shift because Mrs. Fitz knew her body clock wouldn’t be ready for a night shift yet.  And that night, after dinner, they lay together on the sofa savouring the feeling of being together.  

“Are ye happy to be going back to work, Sassenach?” Jamie asked, nuzzling the soft skin behind her ear.

“Yes.” she admitted.  “And no.”  And shifted to hug him tighter.

“Ye’ve never told me why that Dr. Randall hates ye so much.  What’s the deal wi’ him?”

Claire sat up, warming to her subject.  “It happened my first day in the hospital.  My first day on the job, to be exact.  We had a major trauma come in.  Car accident on the A82.  We were working on triage and Dr. Gowan had taken a man into surgery leaving the rest of us to handle the broken bones and stitches that needed done.  Mrs. Fitz had sent a couple of people to x-ray and asked me to check on another patient, a young boy, who’d come in with his parents. His mum was being treated for minor contusions, but his dad was in x-ray.  Anyway, I just wanted to tell him what was going on and to reassure him that his parents were fine.  When I found him, Dr. Randall was doing the stitches on his forehead.”  She stopped to collect herself.  

Jamie reached out and gently grabbed her hand.  “What did ye see, Sassenach?”

Claire looked straight into Jamie’s eyes.  He could tell she was picturing the scene all over again.  “He had his head strapped down, and his wrists and ankles bound in cuffs. The boy was sobbing. Twisting. Begging for him to stop.”  
Claire took a deep breath and whispered, “He was literally torturing him.  He didn’t use any local anesthetic.  That poor boy could feel everything.

Jamie’s eyes narrowed.  Bastard. And Claire has to work wi’ this lunatic?

“I reacted, Jamie.” Claire continued, “I snapped.  I remember shouting, “What the bloody hell are you doing?” and rushed in.  I had no idea of who he was, what his title was.  I accused him of torturing the boy, and Dr. Randall screamed at me to get out.  I pushed the call button and had Mrs. Fitz and two other nurses in the room in seconds.  He was furious.  He insisted he gave the boy a local, but there were no needles on the tray, no evidence at all that he’d done anything before suturing.”  

Claire took a deep breath, and shrugged.  “Because of me, there was an inquiry.  There wasn’t enough evidence to say that he had, or hadn’t used a local as the E.R. was so crazy that night.  He spun a fantastic story, and the board bought it.  But he’s never forgotten.  And he’s made my life a living hell ever since.”  

“Ye did the right thing, mo neighean donn.” Jamie said.  

‘I know, Jamie.  And I’d do it again!”  Claire looked at the clock.  “I do need to get to bed, though.”  She giggled at Jamie’s raised eyebrow and grin.  “To sleep, Jamie.”  

“Och, aye.  I ken what ye mean.”  He placed a hand over his heart and looked as solemn as he could.  “I won’t touch ye, promise.”

“No.” Claire said, “You won’t. Because I think it’s best I sleep at home.  I think my morning routine will go easier.”  She ventured a look at Jamie at this point. His face betrayed nothing, and he nodded.  

“Let me walk ye home, then.” He stood up, and held out a hand for her to take. Jamie headed for the door but Claire had to confess she’d misplaced the spare key she brought down, so they turned and headed out the window.  

The late November cold reminded them of the warm, cozy nest they had created these last four days.  Jamie couldn’t resist holding her hips as she mounted the stairs in front of him, and after she opened the window, he turned her around and kissed her soundly, molding her to him.  She made those sweet noises she always did, and Jamie breathed deeply trying to tamp down his desire.  He kissed the tip of her nose, then her forehead, and sent her inside.  He made sure she locked the window.  

Alone.  The thin glass separating them, she was finally back in her world.  It felt very strange after being in his for so long.

They looked at each other a long minute before Jamie turned and left.

Chapter Text

Claire felt on top of her game at work.  She was rested and ready to tackle the E.R.  She had made it a personal goal to take time for meals and breaks so she wouldn’t get so run down again, even in the face of the impending night shifts. She texted Jamie when she could and called him on breaks to hear his voice.

Jamie went back to work and was pleasantly surprised to find that Willie had taken care of what he could and had left Jamie with only the most urgent of decisions.  Production of the wines were on time and the limited edition whisky was bottled, crated and ready to be delivered.  He texted Claire when he could, and took her calls regardless of where he was.  When he refused to follow Jenny’s cell phone tyranny, there was a bit of a struggle, but in the end Jamie told her he’d do what he wanted, and for her to keep her neb out of his business.

But over time, when day shifts turned to night shifts, and Jamie and Claire were on opposite schedules, the calls were hastily made and at times, unanswered.  The texts went hours in between.  Their plans to meet were cancelled and Jamie’s obligations to promote the new inventory during the Christmas holidays made it difficult to reschedule.

Claire became more tired, and Dr. Randall reared his ugly head again, challenging and pushing her.

Jamie became more frustrated, and was a nightmare at work.

It wasn’t until the middle of December that they were able to see each other. Excited didn’t begin to describe how he felt.  His body was humming with anticipation.  Claire, here, in his flat.  He could easily close his eyes and conjure her scent, how she felt writhing underneath him, but it wasn’t as good as having the real thing within his grasp.  To make it special Jamie decided to cook.  He planned the meal carefully and only put it in the oven when Claire texted to say she was on her way.  

An hour and two glasses of wine later, there was no sign of her.   She wasn’t answering calls thirty minutes later.  And forty-five minutes after that, he finally heard her sprint up the stairs.  He dumped the ruined meal into the sink and opened the fridge for a beer.  He heard her on the landing.  As he flipped the cap off his beer he heard her key scrape against his lock.  As the handle turned he drank deeply.

Claire dropped her bag just inside the door, an apology on her lips.  But it caught in her throat when she saw the meat steaming in the sink, and smelled the tinge of a burnt meal. Then she saw him.  He was vibrating with anger. His usual sky blue eyes were narrowed and dark.  The wide, generous mouth was set in a tight line.   She cleared her throat, and lifted her chin. “I’m sorry, Jamie. An emergency came in as I was leaving and I was told to stay.”

Jamie nodded, and took a pull from the bottle dangling loosely from his fingers. “I see.  And no chance to let me know, then?”

She unwrapped the scarf from around her neck.  “No. There wasn’t.”

Jamie shook his head, and looked up at the ceiling.  “No. O’ course not.”  He set his bottle carefully on the kitchen counter and gripped the edge with his big hands.  “Ye know, Claire, I canna tell if yer just selfish, or if you truly dinna realize what it is to be worrit about someone.”  

She flinched at his use of her name.  He hadn’t called her Claire in weeks.  “Ye take it into yer mind to do as ye damn well please, with no thought for anyone else.”

“It’s my job, Jamie.”

“No, Claire.” he said, softly. “It’s no yer job.  I ken ye grew up alone.  I ken ye rely on yerself and no one else.  But what I dinna ken is maybe ye dinna miss me, as I’ve missed you. That maybe ye dinna feel for me, what I feel for you.”  

Her mouth dropped open.  Not miss him?  Not have feelings for him? “This is not my fault.  Dr. Randall wouldn’t let me leave!” she said.  Now she was angry. He knew what it was like for her. He knew.  

“I’m about to head to the hospital and tear that bastard apart wi’ my bare hands.”  

Claire thought she’d pay good money to see him do just that.  But she had to make him understand.  “I was leaving with Mary Hawkins.  He literally grabbed my arm and told me I wasn’t going anywhere.  I said I was off the clock and tried to pull away.  He got really angry.  Mary offered to stay and he told her to go.  Told her she was incompetent, and hadn’t she put enough lives in danger tonight.  Mary was so upset by what he said, she started crying.  I told her to go.  Mrs. Fitz told him I was over my limit, but he yelled at her, too.  After we dealt with the trauma, Mrs. Fitz and I worked on filing a formal complaint.”

Jamie’s head snapped up at that. “Ye stayed to do paperwork?”

Claire lifted her chin. “There’s a time limit for lodging a complaint.  It had to be done before I left.”

“But nay chance to pull out yer wee cell phone and call me, no?”   Jamie crossed his arms over his chest.  “This job is no’ good for ye, Claire.  Maybe it’s time ye found another.”

Claire felt trapped. Baited.  And in that moment, overwhelmingly sad.  

She had absolutely missed Jamie. And because she missed him, she’d been thinking a lot about her future.  What she wanted in life.  She’d come to a decision and wanted to share it with him, but now she knew she couldn’t.  She should have known it was too good to be true.  That he was too good to be true. In the end, they were all the same, thinking they knew what was best. After all, she was just a woman. She was glad she hadn’t removed her coat.  It would make it easier.  She took a deep breath and swallowed over the lump in her throat.

“I’m sorry, Jamie.  I realize now this isn’t going to work.  I thought it could.  But I cannot put any more stress on myself.  I shouldn’t have thought to make promises I couldn’t keep.” She tried to keep her voice from shaking.  “I’m planning on going to medical school.  I’m planning on becoming a doctor.  A surgeon, in fact.  I’m planning on enrolling at Uni for the spring semester.”

Jamie stared at Claire.  His heart was pounding.  What was she saying?  A Dhia, was she saying they weren’t going to work?  She was looking at him, but she wasn’t seeing him. She was looking right through him.

“If you cannot handle my hours now, you’ll never be able to handle my hours as a medical student.  In fact, Mrs. Fitz and I were talking about how to fit some part-time shifts in there as well.  Anyway.”  She picked up her scarf and bag and reached behind her for the door knob.  “I can’t be with someone who doesn’t support me. Who doesn’t understand that medicine is who I am.”

She pulled open the door and slipped through it.  “Goodbye, Jamie.”  

She hated the way her voice broke on his name.  Slamming the door she ran up the stairs to her flat, diving into her pocket for her keys and unlocked the door with shaking hands.  She heard his door open as she bolted hers. Running into her bathroom she closed the door and turned on the shower. She let the hot spray run over her throbbing head and mingle with her tears.

She never heard him pounding on the door and calling her name for a solid hour.

Chapter Text

“The picture stays Janet!  Ye won’t change one fucking thing on that label.”

“I dinna care a whit about the picture, Brother, although I canna for the life o’ me figure out what in hell it is.  But no one names a wine, Jamie!”

Willie, Laoghaire, Rupert, Murtagh, Dougal, and Ian sat still as stones around the conference table. Laoghaire didn’t know whether to take notes on this part of the meeting or not.  She leaned over to Rupert and whispered her question.

“Nay, lass,” he told her. “Dinna take notes when they use the f-word.”

She’d never seen the Fraser siblings this angry with each other.  She’d never seen Jamie like this before.  His eyes were dead, and he was definitely thinner. He seemed constantly on edge.  Even a ‘good morning’ seemed to piss him off.  

Dougal piped up.  “I ken exactly what it is, and it’s bloody clever, Jamie.”  He turned the wine towards the others and used his index finger to point out the undulating lines, “Look at it one way, and it’s the Scottish mountains in the distance wi’ what seems like a burn right here.  But, here’s the clever bit.” Dougal grinned at his audience.  “If ye look right here, it’s the curve of a woman lying on her side.  And the burn becomes a tendril of her curly, dark hair.”

Laoghaire gasped.  Willie grinned.  Rupert laughed.  Jenny screamed. Murtagh scowled.  And Ian sat straight up and twisted in his chair to stare at Jamie.  

“Sassenach.”  Ian said.  “You named the Merlot ‘Sassenach’.”  

“No.  Absolutely not.”  Jenny was livid.  “Ye call it Merlot.  Ye don’t name them with names, for God’s sake.  And look at the Shiraz?  It’s called Mo Neighean Donn!  Who is going to know what that even means, Jamie?  Honestly, the Fraser name will be a laughing stock.”  

Jamie had had enough.  He slammed his hands down on the conference table and hauled himself to his feet, leaning across the table into Jenny’s face. “I’m the CEO of this company, and I don’t have to discuss the running of it wi’ my sister!” he roared.  

Jenny rose up now, too. “Oh,” she said, voice dripping with sarcasm.  “Beggin’ yer pardon, Laird –“

“Dinna say it, Janet,” Jamie growled.

“-Broch Tuarach!” she finished

“Ifrinn, Jenny!”  Jamie pounded the table again.  “Dinna throw that ancient title at me!”

Laoghaire looked at Rupert, pen poised.  “How do I spell that?”

Rupert shook his head, “Nay, Lass. ‘Tis Jenny mockin’ her brother. Just….just put yer pen down, aye?”

Blessed St. Michael, Jamie thought.  His head hurt.  He hadn’t slept in days. And his heart ached.  Physically ached inside his chest.  At times he couldn’t catch his breath when the grief rose up to meet him.  The labels and the names had come to him during those four days with Claire.  She was his muse, his inspiration.  Each label was drawn by hand and sent to the printer.  He hadn’t shown anyone.  He knew they were beautiful.  Just like Claire, they were unique.  Some of his best work.  And he knew you didn’t name wines.  Naming them brought her closer.  Laughing stock.  That’s fine, he thought.  For I am truly a fool.  

Dougal stood up and placed a hand each on his niece and nephew.  “Come on now, you two.  Sit down. It’s no’ as bad as all that.  In fact, I can tell ye right now where I’m going to sell this wine.”  

Jamie sat heavily and rubbed at his temples.  Jenny huffed, crossed her arms and legs and flopped back in her chair.    

Dougal continued. “Wi’ names like these, I’m going to all of the resorts in the Highlands first.  Places that cater to weddings and such.  Can ye imagine a bride and her groom planning a wedding?  Havin’ a tasting paired with a white wine titled “Mo graidh”?  Huh?”  He looked around the table and rubbed his hands together.  “A wine called “My Love”!  Mary, Michael and Bride, it’ll practically sell itself!”  

Everyone looked around the table that was rife with tension.  Jenny spoke first, skepticism evident in her voice.  “If ye think so, Uncle.  No’ that it matters. The deed is done.”  

Jenny looked at Jamie, “For the record, I dinna like it.  Not one bit. But, if Dougal says it’ll sell, I believe him.”  She stood up, and turned to leave, mumbling, “That man could sell potatoes to the Irish.” Jenny’s exit broke the mood.  The rest followed suit, but no one dared say a word to Jamie.  

Dougal clapped his nephew on the back, and leaned down close to his ear. “It’s brilliant, Jamie.  Pay no mind to Jenny.  I see what you did.  Subliminal. Genius.”  And with that, Jamie found himself alone.  

Back in his office he looked again at the wines lined up on his desk.  The labels were beautiful.  And he hated each and every one of them right now.  Hated the memories they dredged up.  Hated the loneliness they made him feel.

Jamie looked at his calendar. Twelve days.  Twelve days until Christmas.  He never felt less festive in his life.  He always went to Lallybroch for Christmas. Lallybroch was their family estate, and the home of Jenny and Ian and their children.  Mrs. Crook was still their housekeeper.  Jamie couldn’t remember a time when she wasn’t part of their family.  He always looked forward to Christmas there. Cutting the tree from the woods around the estate and dragging it back.  Playing with his nephew and nieces.  Maybe he’d stay in town this year.  Right.  Despite her anger, Jenny, nor Ian for that matter, would let him do that.  Well, he had twelve days to find some holiday cheer.

Jamie sat bolt upright in his chair.  Twelve days. For the first time in weeks he felt like smiling.  Twelve days! He scrolled through his contacts and made two calls.  Then he called down to the art department and told them what he needed and to have it ready in ten minutes.  Closing his computer, he packed it up in his bag, told Willie he was heading home for the day and headed down two flights.  Jamie, lad, Dougal said ye were a genius. Now ye need to prove it. Prove ye can fix this massive misunderstanding with a wee subliminal message.  


Claire arrived home from her shift around 8:30 p.m.  She’d done two day shifts for Mary, and was now off for the next two days.  She planned to do laundry, sleep, and clean. In that order.  

Claire unlocked her door, dropped her bag and stopped.  Normally the room was pitch black.  She’d taken to drawing the blinds on her window because the sight of the fire escape made her heart hurt.  But the blinds were open.  And the glow from the street lamps made eerie shadows in her lounge.  She flicked on a light and gasped.  

Spotless.  Her flat was spotless.  Her kitchen was free of the dishes she’d left there this morning.  And she could faintly smell the solution that was used to wash her floor.  But what really rendered her speechless was the huge Christmas tree in the corner by the window.  The smell of pine was heavy in the room aided along by the natural garland that lay over her mantle.  Jamie. He must have found the key she’d misplaced in his flat. She hadn’t the heart to return the one he gave her.  It could only be him.  Oh, Jamie.  There was also a huge floral arrangement on her kitchen island. Flowers in reds and golds and white, dripping with cedar greens.  She couldn’t help the tears that sprang to her eyes, spilled over onto her cheeks, and dripped from her chin. She closed her eyes, buried her nose in the bouquet, and wept.  

She pulled herself together enough to grab a shower, and padding back into her kitchen in flannel pajamas, she opened the fridge to make something to eat.  The tears rose again.  She should have guessed.  He’d stocked the fridge with ready to go meals from one of those gourmet delivery places.  

Why, Jamie?  Why now?  

She sifted through the labels and found a pasta option to heat up.  As it cooked she thought about what it all might mean.  Was this his way of saying sorry? That was all well and good, but to be honest she would rather he actually say the words to her.  

Maybe he was trying to say he understood?  But understood what, exactly? That she would need this type of support while she went back to school?  That he could make things easy for her?  He can throw all his money into cleaning services and pre-cooked meals. That’s not the support I need. Or want.  It was all so confusing.  

As she sat at the counter eating, she spied something else.  A small white box was under the tree.  Damn you, James Alexander Malcolm Mackenzie Fraser. Damn you for surprising me AGAIN! 

 She got up and brought the white box back to her seat.  It was clearly a pastry box, tied with brown string.  But the artwork on top was breathtaking.  An origami partridge.  She carefully lifted it off the top of the box.  It was about the size of her hand, and folded in such a way that it stood on its own two feet. The markings were clearly drawn in ink. Jamie.  His name reverberated through her.  Setting aside the paper bird, she opened the box and smiled.  A danish pastry.  Not just any danish, but a pear danish.  A partridge in pear tree.  And Claire laughed for the first time in weeks.  

With only laundry and sleep to focus on, Claire woke up the next morning in better spirits than she had in a while.  Maybe she would get some shopping done for her friends. 

Heading out after lunch she opened the door and froze.  There on the threshold was another white box, but also dangling in front of her face were two origami doves.  One looked to be landing on an invisible branch, and the other seemed to already be perched.  Their wings were cut to show the finest of feathers.  The workmanship was so exquisite it was almost surgical in its precision. Jamie, love, these must have taken hours.  Claire grabbed a chair to remove the tape that hung them from her door frame.  Carefully she carried them inside and stood still, thinking of where to keep them. When it came to her, she didn’t hesitate.  She hung the turtle doves and went back to the door to retrieve the second package. Another pastry box, but this time it was a gorgeous pear tart, and another beautifully crafted partridge.  She placed the partridge on a branch of her Christmas tree along with the first one, and before she could change her mind, or dwell on what was happening, she headed out to the shops.  

Later that night, Claire lay in bed looking up at the two doves hanging from her ceiling.  For the first time in days, she dared to hope.  

Chapter Text

Over the course of the next few days Claire’s surprises kept coming.  The French hens were plump and had been hand painted.  The Calling birds were done in the blackest of paper.  She now had six turtle doves hanging in her bedroom and four partridges on her tree.  Every day there was a different pear pastry.  But never a note.  Nothing. It didn’t matter what shift she worked or if she was home, she never heard him leave anything.  

When she told Geillis, her friend had been beside herself with excitement. “Claire!  This is so romantic!  What did ye say to him?”

Claire was puzzled.  “Why, nothing.  What’s to say, Geilli?”  

“What?!  What’s to say??  How about thank ye, for starters.”  Geillis crossed her arms over her chest and stood as tall as she could.  “How about, Jamie, I’ve missed ye and I’ve been walking around the hospital like a damned zombie, with me head up me arse and so damned miserable it’s a wonder I havena killed anyone.”

Claire tried to shush her friend. Geillis looked disgusted.  “Really, Claire.  How could ye be so daft?  Do ye no’ see this for what it is?”

“No, frankly, I don’t see what this is at all.”  Claire was put out.  She was supposed to forgive a man because he made her ornaments and gave her food?  

“On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me….” she sang.  “True love, Claire.  He’s trying to tell ye that ye are his one true love.”   Geillis snorted.  “Honestly, Claire, ye don’t deserve him.  Give him my number, aye?” and with that she turned and strode down the hallway, leaving Claire well and truly shocked by her statement.  

On the fifth day Claire received her five golden rings.  They were done in different shades of gold paper, all intertwined and she couldn’t for the life of her figure out how Jamie had cut them so perfectly. The turtle doves over her bed had multiplied and she had grown used to falling asleep watching them sway gently above her, whether it was early morning or late at night.  

The golden chain had been taped outside on her window which he reached via the fire escape.  She slowly lifted the frame and crept out into the cold to gently peel them off.  When she got back inside, she noticed the fine calligraphy that went across the back, winding from circle to circle.    

Fraser Distillery requests the pleasure of your company at their annual Christmas Gathering on Friday, December the twenty-second from six until ten o’clock.  Cocktails at six o’clock p.m.  Dinner promptly at seven o’clock p.m. R.S.V.P. to Mr. James Fraser.

Claire quickly checked her schedule online.  It was quite unusual that next week’s shifts weren’t up yet, so Claire did something she hadn’t done, ever. She requested a personal day.  And then she wrote her R.S.V.P.


“Jamie,” Willie called from the door to his office.  

Jamie lifted his head from his drafting table and motioned for Willie to come in. “This letter’s been hand delivered. Says ‘Personal and Confidential’ on it.” Jamie took the envelope and opened it. He unfolded the letter and began to read as Willie went back to his desk.

 

Dear Mr. Fraser,

Thank you for your kind invitation to the Fraser Christmas Gathering.  I would be pleased to attend.

Jamie was at his office door in three strides.  “Willie! Who gave ye this?  Ye said it was hand delivered?”

“Aye, Jamie.  A red-heided woman.”  Willie smiled, “Good lookin’, too.  Green eyes.”

“Was anyone else wi’ her?” Jamie strode over to the window to look down into the street.  No one was about.

“Nay, Jamie.  Just her.”  Willie looked puzzled.  “Who was it?”

“Nay worry, Willie.”  Jamie shut the door to his office, sat in his big leather chair and swiveled it towards the window for privacy.  He took a deep breath and read it again.

Dear Mr. Fraser,

Thank you for your kind invitation to the Fraser Christmas Gathering.  I would be pleased to attend.

Now that the formal bit is over….

Jamie,

Thank you.  While I will admit finding a huge tree in my flat when I wasn’t expecting it was a bit unnerving, it did make me smile.  The flowers made me cry, and the meals were a welcome treat at the end of some long shifts.  But beyond all that I wanted to thank you for your artistry. Because that’s what I’ve been receiving. Pure artistry.  Each hand painted hen, each feathered bird.  At first I didn’t think you made them.  I kept picturing your big hands trying to do such delicate work and I couldn’t.  And then I remembered the way you would hold me, and gently brush my hair behind my ear so softly I could barely feel your touch.  I would remember the way you would draw one finger down my body, and how gentle you could be with me.  I remembered how you sat for hours designing those labels you never let me look at, and I realized that these masterpieces were truly from your hand.  

I think I understand what you are trying to say with all of this.  I don’t want to be wrong.  I hope, but sometimes I can’t let myself believe it.  

I have been alone, Jamie. You were right about that.  I lost my parents, and Uncle Lamb was a bachelor. I have no idea what true romantic relationships are supposed to look like. But I do know this.  In the time that we were together I’d never been happier. I felt loved and supported and understood.  

And then I didn’t.  

I won’t apologize for my independence.  Or my desire to be a doctor.  I AM a healer, Jamie.  It’s all I’ve ever wanted.  I won’t give up on that dream for anyone. But I’m also a woman.  A woman who is tired of being alone after being with you.  And I think, maybe, that you feel alone, too. And that maybe in our time together I made you feel loved and supported and understood?  I hope I did.

Anyway, I’ll see you Friday night.  Might even get myself a new party frock….

Love, Claire

Jamie read the letter three times just to make sure.  She had accepted.  He rubbed her signature between his forefinger and thumb, like a rosary bead.

Love, Claire.                   


By the time the Christmas party rolled around Claire’s flat was resplendent in the Twelve Days of Christmas. There were Ladies Dancing and Lords Leaping paper chains, origami geese whose eggs fell out every time she lifted one, and partridges increasing in number on her tree.  She continued to hang the turtle doves over her bed.

Friday afternoon Claire laid out her new dress and took a long shower. Stepping out into the steam of her bathroom, she heard her phone ringing. She threw on her robe, tied it quickly and ran out into the bedroom to grab it. A quick look told her it was Geillis.

“I’ll remember to send you a picture when I’m dressed!” she said in way of greeting.  “I promised I would didn’t I?”

Geillis voice was thick with fear.

“Claire. Ye need to come in. Now.”

Claire frowned.  Geillis knew how important this evening was.  No. No way.  

“Sorry, Geilli.  You guys are on your own.  I don’t care what’s happening, I’m not missing this party.”

“Claire!” Geillis was frantic. “It’s Dr. Randall. He’s in with The Chief.  Apparently there’s been a lawsuit filed against him and he’s saying it’s our fault.”

Claire’s felt an icicle of fear pierce her spine.  

“Remember that young man that came in 3 weeks ago?  The head trauma? Well, he’s passed away.  And pages from his file are missing.  Pages and pages of labs, and vitals.  He’s accusing you, me and Mary of neglect.”  Claire could feel the panic rising.  

“Claire, Dr. Gowan wants to see all three of us.  Now.”  

Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ, Claire thought.  Damn Randall. Not today. Not bloody now.  

“Fine.  I’m coming. But you listen to me, Geillis.  You and Mary say nothing. Do you understand? Go sit in the Nurses’ Lounge and don’t leave.  Stay in there and not one word to anybody until I arrive.”

“Claire, Mary’s a mess. She’s stuttering and crying.” Geillis voice dropped to a whisper. “And I’m so bloody pissed off I could burn that man at the stake.”

“Not to worry, Geillis.  We’ve got that fucking bastard dead to rights this time.”

Chapter Text

Claire walked into the hospital at precisely 4:00 p.m.  Christmas decorations adorned the E.R. and carols were piped over the sound system. It would have been fairly festive had Claire not felt exactly like the Grinch.  People said hello, but she ignored them on her way through to the Lounge, ready to do battle. She was almost there when a conference door to her left flew open and Dr. Randall stepped out.

“Nurse Beauchamp.  We’re in here.  Have you seen your friends?”  

She glared at his smug face. “Is my Union representative in there?” Her voice was cool and steady.

He laughed.  “We don’t have time for that, Nurse Beauchamp.”

“We have a right to our Union rep being in meetings with us. Nurses Duncan, Hawkins and I will be in when Mrs. Fitzgibbons has arrived.”  

Dr. Randall grabbed her arm. “The Chief of Staff is waiting, Nurse Beauchamp.”  Claire turned her head slowly and met his gaze.  

“Fuck the Chief,” she said. With that Claire pushed past Dr. Randall and strode on.


“What do you mean you have copies of the patient’s records?  That’s a breach of confidentiality.”  Dr. Randall was outraged.

“Actually, it’s not.” Claire scoffed.  “The records never leave the hospital.  After every shift, Nurses Hawkins, Duncan and I scan the documents we use to record the patient’s care and print them off. They go in a file at the Nurses’ station.  In this way, when one of us leaves and the other takes over, we can get up to speed quickly without having to travel to the patient’s room.  It’s easier to look things over for all your patients in one place than go from room to room.”  

Claire focused on Dr. Gowan. “You’ll find every lab run, every note taken, all the medications and patient’s vitals logged, clearly dated and in chronological order.  No day is skipped.  Nothing is missing.”

Claire went to pass the folder to Dr. Gowan, and Dr. Randall tried to intercept it.  She pulled it back.  

“This is excellent practice, Ladies.” Dr. Gowan looked at them over his glasses. Claire moved to pass the folder a second time and Dr. Randall made a grab again.  Claire alluded him.  There was no way he was getting his hands on this folder.  It was going from her to Gowan and that was final.

“Thank ye, sir.  We try to be as professional as possible.” Geillis was beside herself with smugness. She gave Dr. Randall an exaggerated wink.

“T-t-thank y-you.”  Poor Mary.  She was a wreck.

Dr. Gowan stretched out his hand, and when he almost had the file Dr. Randall grabbed a corner.  Claire pulled it free a third time.  Through gritted teeth she growled at this man who’d made her life hell, “I swear if you try to take this file from me again, I will nail your hand to this table.”

Randall’s eyes widened.  His smile was feral.  He was enjoying this, the bastard. He looked from Claire to his superior, and to Claire again.  “Such insolence!  Ned. Surely, you will reprimand her for that, won’t you?”  

“Sit down, Dr. Randall.  And shut up.”

Mrs. Fitz cleared her throat. “Speaking of reprimands, this may be a good time to bring up the unauthorized schedule changes that Dr. Randall has been performing.”

Dr. Gowan looked up from sifting through the pages before him.  “Scheduling? Doctors don’t handle scheduling.”

“No.  They dinna.  But over the last year Dr. Randall has systematically changed nurses’ duties online.”

“Preposterous.”  Dr. Randall leaned back in his chair.  “You can’t prove that.”

“Aye.” said Mrs. Fitz, “I can.” And she produced a file of her own.  


Jamie looked at his watch for the fourth time.  Forty minutes past six o’clock. He finished his whisky, and asked for another.  

“Slow down, man.  That’s two already, and we’ve barely started the party.” Ian nudged his friend.

“She’s no’ comin’, Ian.” Jamie reached for the glass from the bartender.  “I can feel it.”

Ian laughed.  “I suggest ye never take up reading tea leaves, or palms then. Ye’ve no sixth sense at all.”  

Jamie followed his brother-in-law’s gaze and almost dropped his glass.  He took one step forward only to be stopped by Ian’s hand on his elbow.  “Easy, lad. Dinna go up to her like a blustery Scottish wind.  This calls for a nice, calm breeze, aye?”  He straightened Jamie’s collar and chucked him on the shoulder.  

Jamie nodded.  “Ye always did have my right side, Ian.”  

Claire stood at the doorway looking into the lowlighted room for Jamie.  There were quite a few people around and she just didn’t –

She caught sight of him striding towards her, hands in his pockets.  He had on a jacket and shirt, neatly pressed pants, but no tie.  She could see the hollow of his throat, where she had kissed him a hundred times, and she felt a pang in her chest. It had been so long since she’d seen him. Physically seen him. He’d been in her thoughts, and in her sometimes rather erotic dreams.  But he was so much more in the flesh.  His wide mouth was stretched in the biggest smile and Claire couldn’t help but smile back.

Jamie drank her in as he approached.  God, he had missed her.  His memory didn’t do her justice.  He’d never seen her hair pinned up before, but he liked it. Her black dress was trimmed with lace and gave him a nice view of her legs. But it was the neckline he was staring at.  The dress sat off her shoulders, and made her neck look long.  It drew his eyes to that soft spot at the juncture of her neck and shoulder. The spot he’d kissed a hundred times before.    

Jamie stopped in front of her, hands still in his pockets.  She fidgeted with her clutch and smiled shyly.  He bent down to her eye level and cocked his head to the side.  “Claire.  Ye look beautiful.”  

He slowly leaned in and kissed her cheek, softly, lingeringly.  He felt her turn her face into his, and heard her sigh.  He closed his eyes and savoured the moment.  

Claire had to resist the urge to place her hand on her cheek to hold his kiss.  

Jamie smiled and held out his hand to her.  “Come. Let me introduce ye.”

They really didn’t have much time to do more than grab a drink before being directed to sit for dinner. The food was delicious and the company was amazing.  Claire found herself seated between Ian and Jamie.  His brother-in-law was good company, and the two men teased each other like the good friends they were. The rest of the table included Rupert, a very funny man who worked in Marketing; Murtagh, Jamie’s quiet godfather; the boisterous Dougal Mackenzie, Jamie and Jenny’s uncle; Willie, Jamie’s assistant who was also a graphic designer, and Jenny.  Everyone was very kind to her.  Jamie’s sister, however, was another story.  Jenny didn’t say much, and answered Claire’s questions very succinctly. It was only when Claire asked after her children that Jenny became animated.  

Dougal had just finished telling a particularly suggestive story when Jamie said, “More wine, Sassenach?” and held the bottle over her glass.  

The table stilled.  

Claire looked around, surprised at the sudden silence.  Rupert and Willie looked down.  Murtagh glared at his godson. Dougal’s face was smug as his eyes shifted between her and Jamie.  And Jenny was gripping her knife and fork until her knuckles were white.  

Jamie cursed himself for using the nickname he gave her.  Christ. They’ll be all over it now.  He set the bottle down, and that’s when he heard Claire’s small intake of breath.  He glanced over.  She was staring intently at the label.  

Blushing furiously, she wiped her mouth and whispered, “Excuse me,” and was gone from the table before anyone could react.  

As Jamie stood to go after her, his chair knocked back, hard.  He looked at his sister.  In that moment Jenny saw - really saw her brother.  In his eyes she saw the fear and panic of a man who was certain he’d lost something precious.  His eyes were pleading with her as they used to when he was in trouble or hurt as a bairn. Help me fix this, Jenny.  What do I do? Jenny, it hurts.  

“I’ll go, ye muckle-sized fool. Sit down.”  And with a warning finger at the rest of the table to behave, she went after Claire.

She found her in the bathroom fumbling with her phone.

“Callin’ a friend to get ye out of this mess?”  Jenny asked.

Claire spun around. “No!”  She changed her mind when Jenny crossed her arms over her chest. “Yes. I was thinking of it.”

Jenny relaxed.  “I told him.  I said it wasna good idea.  He’d no’ hear of it.  In fact, he told me, and I quote, “ye’ll no’ change one fucking thing on that label.” You know, Claire, my brother is a lot of things.  But what he is, to his core, is a good man.  Honest.  Loyal.” She approached Claire slowly, and placed both hands around her clenched fists.  “And what he’s been for many years, is lonely.  He’s also no’ a man to give his heart lightly.  And I can tell, Claire.  He’s handed it over to you, right enough.”  

“Jenny –“ Claire hesitated. Jenny squeezed her hands in encouragement. “Jenny, he doesn’t understand me. Not really.”

“Och. Time, Claire.  All men need time.  And sometimes ye just need to tell them what to think.  Ask Ian. I tell him all the time!”  They both laughed.  

Jenny got serious again. “He never did it to embarrass you, Claire.  In fact, none of us noticed until Dougal pointed it out.”  

Claire sighed, “God, Jenny, what you all must think of me!”

“This isna the 18th Century, Claire.”  Jenny smiled softly.  “Ye know, I was furious at what he’d done. But I see it now for what it is.  It’s a love letter to ye, Claire. My brother poured his heart into those designs.  Into naming those wines. Each and every one.  In Gaelic, no less.”  Jenny smiled softly, “My Da used to speak to my Mam in Gaelic.”

Jenny’s dark eyes looked straight into Claire.  “It’s the language of love for a Fraser.”  

Jenny watched Claire absorb her words, and knew she’d hit home.  She squeezed Claire’s hands one last time for encouragement, then turned and left.

Claire stared at herself in the mirror.  She needed to decide what to do. 

Do I go? Stay? Try? Forget?  

In the end she composed herself and rejoined the table.  Good thing, too, because she couldn’t remember the last time she’d had so much fun. There was dancing, and Jamie didn’t dance.  Apparently he was tone deaf.  Ian said he didn’t dance either because he had one left foot, which earned him a smack from his wife.  

Rupert let out a resounding, “Well, I do!” and dragged Claire out on the floor.  

But when the first slow song played, Jamie forcibly removed Rupert from Claire by grabbing his neck.  Jamie didn’t have much rhythm, but he could sway. He could place his hand on the bare stretch of her back and gently flex his fingers to stroke her skin.  He could entwine their fingers and keep her hand close to his heart.  He could slide his hand low on her back and press her to him.    

In other words, he could drive her mad.

They drove home in relative silence.  Jamie walked her up the stairs to her flat keeping his hands jammed in his pockets while she unlocked the door.  The urge to speak was strong, but she didn’t know where to start.  In the end, she didn’t have to because Jamie went first.

“It was never about the medicine, Claire. Or yer job.  I kent from the moment I met ye that ye were a healer.“

“What was it then?” Take the sharpness out of your tone, Beauchamp. He’s trying.

He shrugged.  “It was about shuttin’ me out.  I felt like an afterthought when all that time, ye’d been my every thought.” Jamie took a deep breath and tried to explain.  “It was about communicating. At least that’s how it was with my parents.  They were always tellin’ each other where they were going and when they’d be back.  No’ because they had to, but because they wanted to, ye ken?”

“No.  I don’t.  I don’t know.”  She was being stroppy, so she tried again.  

“Jamie, I – “ the words wouldn’t come easily.  “It was just me and Uncle Lamb, and I was left alone a lot.   But that’s not really the point.  The point is, I can’t promise it won’t happen again.  I can’t promise that when I’m back in school you won’t feel shut out from time to time.”  

Jamie searched her face.  He took a deep breath, and said, “Claire, when ye accepted my invitation for tonight ye said ye thought ye understood my meanin’.  Ye said ye’d never been happier. Together.”  He cleared his throat, hard, and forced the words past the fear.  “Ye said ye had hope.  Tell me, Sassenach,” Jamie whispered, “what hope do ye have?”  

Claire opened her door wide. “That this is real.  That it’s literally what’s sung about it,” and stepped aside.  

Jamie couldn’t believe what he saw.  All of his work strewn across her flat.  The plump French hens were on the mantle.  The black calling birds contrasted with the golden rings that served as her Christmas tree garland. Partridges nestled among the branches.  His eyes scanned her flat, taking it all in but…    

“The turtle doves.  Where are they?”  He searched her face.  

“In my bedroom.” she blushed. “Above my bed.”

Jamie couldn’t help himself. He was through the door and down the hall in a heartbeat.  What he saw took his breath away.  Twenty turtle doves hanging above her bed.  Swaying gently.  He poked one with his finger.  

But it was wrong.  It was all wrong.  

When Claire caught up to him he had shed his jacket and was taking off his shoes.  He stepped up on her bed grabbing the taped strings and muttering, “Ye dinna put them in order, Claire.”  He knew exactly which set of birds he wanted, and where.  He moved them into place, taping them back up, adjusting their positions.  

When he was done, he stepped off the bed and stood behind her.

“Now do you see?”

She did see.  She couldn’t help the tears that came to her eyes.  Oh yes, she did see.  

“It’s us.” she breathed.  “It’s our story.”

She didn’t realize.  How could she?  But it was all there.  The first set of doves with the larger one sitting perched, and the smaller one landing was her, coming into his life.  The second set, the smaller dove with her head tucked up to the larger dove’s throat, was when he took care of her.  Then, doves kissing. Then doves with their backs to each other.  And today’s doves that she received earlier, with the larger one’s head bent low, as if asking for forgiveness.  

The tears spilled over.  

“Turtle doves mate for life.” His voice whispered just behind her. “God, Claire, I have nothing to offer ye.  Only my true love, and what I can do with my two hands.  I make things.  I’m an artist.  My hands won’t save lives, like yers will. But I promise ye my hands will be in service to ye, and worship ye until our lives will be done.”

He stepped in front of her, slowly.  “Claire, I’ll ask yer pardon for what I said.  I dinna mean to call ye selfish, or tell ye that ye couldn’t handle yer job.   Christ, yer the least selfish woman on the planet.”

Claire stared into those sky blue eyes, clouded with worry.  She reached up and rubbed his strong chin.  “Forgiven, Jamie.”  She placed a hand on his heart.  “If you can forgive me, too. For doubting.  For running.  For not trusting you to be the man I knew you to be.”

He pushed a strand of hair behind her ear.  “Forgiven, Lass.”

He shouldn’t have touched her. He should have kept his damn hands in his pocket, because just stroking the curve of her ear roused his desire.  Slowly, carefully he leaned in, giving her time to change her mind.  When Claire’s hands cupped his cheeks, he closed his eyes and softly settled his lips over hers.  

It was like setting fire to dry tinder.

He stepped closer, and let his mouth travel to the spot on her neck that had driven him mad all night. Desire raged, but he had to be sure.

“I want ye, Claire.” His mouth hot against her ear.  “I want ye so much I can scarcely breathe.”  He kissed her again, trying to keep his passion in check. Grabbing a handful of her hair, he forced her to look at him, “Will ye have me?” 

Claire could hear his desperation, and felt the same.  “Yes,” she breathed. “Yes, I’ll have you.”

The damn dress that drove him to distraction had to go.  His big hands tugged the neckline down as Claire pulled her arms free and let the fabric slither down her body and settle around her ankles.  

He was robbed of breath.  

Black strapless bra.  Black panties.  Black stockings.  Black heels.

Claire peeled off her underthings, but Jamie refused to let her take off the stockings.  He fell back on the bed with Claire on top of him.  

Claire could not, would not wait. Taking Jamie inside her she was overwhelmed by how good he felt, and how much she’d missed him.  He sat up to kiss her while she rode him, holding her hips and swallowing her moans.  It was hard and fast and explosive.  

Later, as she lay curled up next to him, Claire listened to his breathing while he slept and tried to remember what she’d heard him say when he’d entered her. 

She was almost positive he had said, “Home”.  

Chapter Text

Jamie woke while it was still dark.  He was somewhat disoriented by the fact that his bedroom window appeared to have moved 3 meters to the left, but then he remembered where he was.  His memory was further jogged by the fact that he had Claire’s left breast cradled in his hand while her arse pressed up against his lap.

Jamie kissed her shoulder, and regretfully removed his hand to lift her duvet and pull it up higher for warmth. He looked down the line of her body. From shoulder to waist to hip to thigh, the undulating lines reminded him of their first night together.  He’d looked down at Claire and saw Munros and valleys all along her womanly curves.  He brushed back her hair.  He knew what he would find.  One lone tendril of hair clinging to her neck.  This was what inspired him.  She was the live version of his wine label.  

As much as he wanted to linger in the warmth of her bed, he had work to do. Quietly, he crept out from under the covers, slipped on his clothes, and using the fire escape, went home.


Claire woke up and stretched, feeling her body lengthen.  She rolled over onto her back and snuggled up against Jamie, lying on his stomach and snoring lightly.  One arm was flung over his head across the pillow, giving her access to the long line of his body.  God, he was a furnace.  She’d never slept better than with him keeping the Scottish chill from her sheets.

She blinked, and noticed there was a new pair of turtle doves above her head. When had he done that?  

Slipping from bed she grabbed her robe and padded into the kitchen to make coffee.  She noticed right away that there was more of everything, from another set of gold rings, to more paper chains of Ladies and Lords, to geese, swans and another partridge.  The white box on her counter made her smile. When she opened it she had to laugh.  Two pear turnovers.  He’d included himself this morning.

As the coffee brewed Claire checked her phone.

Twenty-two text messages. Five voice mails.  

Her hands shook.  The events of the day before came flooding back. She’d pushed the ugliness with Randall out of her mind last night, but here it was in the bright light of day, forcing her to face whatever consequences may come.  

Claire pushed the button to listen to the first voice mail.


It was the scream that woke him. He pushed upright, still disoriented.

He heard the sound of feet pounding into the room and just had time to look over his shoulder to see a flash of bare leg, a streak of a bright blue robe, and curls galore before he felt the weight hit him.  He flopped back down, breath whooshing out of him as Claire landed on top of him.  

“Easy, Sassenach!”

She straddled his back and leaned over to place her face next to his on the pillow.  

“Jamie.”  Her eyes were bright, and her grin wide.  “Jamie, he’s been suspended.  He’s going before the Ethics Committee!”

Jamie tried to roll over to focus on what she was saying, but the weight of her pinned him down.  He blinked hard.  “Randall?” he asked.

“Yes!” Claire was triumphant. “Jamie!  We’ve won!” 

She began to get emotional as she talked.  “All those nights being worked to death.  All that abuse he threw at us.  All those times he made me doubt myself, made me feel incompetent. All those poor patients he hurt.” She half-laughed, half-cried. “It’s over.  His career is basically shattered.”

“But how?”  Jamie asked.  

Claire slid off him, and snuck back under the covers. She’d forgotten to tell him at the party last night, and when they got home…well, they had other things on their minds. She filled him in on everything.

“And the best part, Jamie? The best part is that I am off until after the New Year.  Apparently they have proof he meddled with scheduling.  I’ve logged so much overtime because of that sadist that they’re giving me a nice little bonus check and time in lieu for the holidays.  I have the next 2 weeks off!”

Jamie felt a smile tug at his lips, but checked it.  Two weeks.  Christmas and Hogmanay off.   “So. What will ye do wi’ yer time, Sassenach?”

Claire looked at Jamie with a hint of confusion.  “I’d hope to spend it with you.” she said, slowly.

He let a hint of a smile grow.  “Good. How do ye feel about takin’ a wee trip then?”

Claire closed the space between them.  Biting her lip, she looked up at him. “What did you have in mind?”

Jamie dropped his gaze and took a deep breath.  He’d never done this.  Never brought a woman there.  But after last night he realized that there needed to honesty between them.  He needed to show her what he wanted and what it took to really be committed.  If he wanted Claire to learn to communicate, he could not be coy.  He rolled over on top of her and ran a finger through her riotous curls.

“Lallybroch,” he said. “Come home wi’ me for Christmas.”


Christmas morning was not what Claire imagined.  Or had ever experienced. Just before dawn she found herself in front of a tree that Jamie, Ian and Murtagh had cut down two days prior, the smell of the Fraser fir as strong now as it was in the woods behind the estate.  

Lallybroch was bigger than she imagined.  So much land. So much house. The fact that it was ‘technically’ his shocked her.  Who knew lairds and landowners still existed? But here, titles weren’t important. Family was all that mattered.

The two toddlers who accompanied them on their Christmas tree hunt were adorable and clearly in love with their Uncle.  And Jamie? He was ten times sexier when playing with wee Jamie and little Maggie.  Claire had never felt so much emotion watching him walk with his nephew on his shoulders through the woods, or cutting Maggie’s portion into smaller bites at Christmas Eve dinner. When he held baby Katherine against his chest, swaying gently, she all but melted at the sight of him.  

Her heart was too full.  As the children’s feet pounded down the hallway outside their bedroom, Claire woke to see the last set of turtle doves hanging above their bed.  She teared up at the fact that Jamie had now completed the entire set.  She hadn’t caught him setting them up once.  She knew he had been up to something yesterday when she knocked on the study door and wee Jamie had opened it a crack to say, “Unca Jamie said he canna see ye now. But bring back cookies later an’ I’ll let ye in.” Then shut the door firmly in her face.

Claire rolled over and embraced the man who, in the span of two months, had become her best friend, her confidant, her lover, her soulmate.  She thought back to dinner the first night when Mrs. Crook asked what Claire did for a living, and Jamie encouraged her to tell the family of her plans to be a surgeon. She noticed Jenny’s raised eyebrow at her brother, and watched Jamie shake his head at Jenny as if to say, “Not going to be a problem.”  It meant everything to her to see that exchange.  

Jamie gathered Claire to him.  “Happy Christmas, mo graidh,” he whispered, stubble rubbing her cheek, his voice heavy with sleep.  

“Happy Christmas, my love.” Claire captured his lips and felt him smile through the kiss.  “When did you hang my doves?”

“When ye were snorin’ so loud as to wake the dead last night.”

Claire pinched Jamie’s arse, and laughed when he jumped.  

Jenny banged on the heavy oak door.  “How long does it take a person to dress?  Unless ye want two wee gomerals jumping on yer bed, I suggest ye get downstairs fast.”

They drank strong coffee, ate warm scones, and watched the kids tear through their gifts.  Claire was glad she had insisted they go to the Edinburgh Christmas market before leaving town.  She was not going to meet Jamie’s family empty handed.  Wee Jamie loved the wooden trains Claire had bought him, Maggie hadn’t put down the soft handmade doll, Jenny couldn’t stop stroking the oversized cashmere scarf, and Ian loved the crafted beer that she found in Jamie’s local.  

She had a harder time choosing for Murtagh, but Jamie talked of how his godfather enjoyed the outdoors, so she settled on a simple flat cap that he popped on his head right away.  The dour man actually smiled at her in thanks. Even Mrs. Crook seemed pleased with the small tea pot Claire chose for her. She said it was perfect for an “afternoon cuppa”.

Claire’s heart swelled when she opened the Fraser tartan blanket from Jenny and Ian.  Being gifted the family plaid made her feel accepted, as if she belonged there, among this deep-rooted Scottish family.  It was hard for her to imagine that she, nomad Claire, might have actually found someone to call her own, someone to cheer her on, to worry after her, to love her.  She wasn’t sure if she would be able to be what Jamie wanted and needed all the time, but she was more than willing to try.  She was more than willing to try to live up to the expectations of this family.  

Claire was suddenly nervous.  She wanted to give Jamie his gift but second thoughts crowded her mind.  What if he didn’t like it?  She’d found it a while ago, the second day he’d surprised her with his turtle doves.  She’d been wandering around the Christmas market shopping for Mary and Geillis when she came across an antique tent filled with brooches, blades and tartans. She ventured an ask and when the little man dug deep in a box for it, she couldn’t believe her luck. She was raised by an archaeologist after all.  She knew a few things.  The small sgian dhu had the Fraser crest on it, and the horn handle had a distinct Viking pattern.  It was authentic, and expensive.  Even though doubts still plagued her mind, she’d bought it.   

Jamie drew his thumb over the handle.  He traced his finger over the Fraser crest.  Je Suis Prest.  Slowly, he drew the blade from its small scabbard, mindful of all the Fraser hands that would have done the same across generations. He couldn’t imagine how she knew he would love this.  He raised his eyebrows.  

“It really wasn’t that hard, Fraser.  You’re flat is filled with history books, after all.”

He laughed.  The fact that she’d taken notice pleased him.  So did the fact that she honoured his family, and his highland heritage with this artifact.  Did she know they pledged oaths on their dirks in the old days?  She’d pierced his heart the day she walked out on him.  He silently made a pledge of his own, May this blade always remind me to love and honour this woman, to be faithful and loyal to her.

They stared at each other a long moment until Wee Jamie popped up between them.  

He held up an unmarked white box from under the tree.  “Is dis fer me?” he asked.  Jamie jumped.

“No, lad.  Here.  Give tha’ to yer Uncle Jamie, aye?” The young boy handed it over and Jamie looked at his sister.  Her eyes widened in silent understanding. She gathered up Murtagh and the kids to take them to the kitchen for something to eat. Kicking Ian as she passed and jerking her head towards the door, they all departed and left Jamie and Claire alone. Jamie held the white box gently in his hands.  His face was thoughtful, serious.  Claire waited. Finally he stood up and carried the gift to her.    

Claire took it, and looked at Jamie, searching his eyes.  She pulled the gold bow, and slowly lifted the lid.  Inside was the rest of her Twelve Days of Christmas.  Except for the turtle doves, it was all in there.  A Partridge, fat French hens, long-necked swans, ladies, lords, all of it.  Claire slid to the floor so she could lay each one out with Jamie sitting across from her.  At the very bottom of the box were twelve perfect drums, each with their own set of sticks. She lifted one, and marveled at its intricacies.  That’s when she saw it.   A letter on the bottom of each drum.  Hand written in his distinctive draft lettering.  An L.  Then a U. An E.  Claire was puzzled.  She looked at Jamie, a question in her eyes.  

“Keep going,” he whispered.

Pulling them all out she turned them upside down and tried to make sense of the letters.  She arranged and rearranged.  When she finally put it together, she gasped.  

“This goes with it,” Jamie said, his voice rough with emotion.  He produced another small box with the same gold ribbon from the pocket of his sleep pants.

Claire’s hands shook as she opened the package.  He’d surprised her again. The long silver chain was delicate and fine.  As she lifted it out of the box she held it up so that the pendant swung between her and Jamie.  She blinked back the tears.  “It’s beautiful, Jamie.”  

“It’s an exact replica.” he said. “I had it made from the antique one Jenny keeps in an old trunk. It’s the original key to Lallybroch.”  

The tears spilled over.  The old fashioned key had a fleur-de-lis bow, a long, delicate shank, and two blades.  Claire was touched beyond words.  Jamie was offering her a home.  And not just any home but this home, this place that helped shape and define the man in front of her. The man who loved her fiercely, made her body sing, and chose to support her in her dreams. This man who healed her emotionally as much as she healed him physically.  He was giving her the key to his heart.  He was giving her himself.  He was her home now. And with the simple words on the drums, drums that beat like a heart, he gave her the gift of his one true love.  

He slipped the chain over her head, hands shaking slightly.  The key settled right over her heart.    

“Well?” he said, and gestured to the drums.  

She took his face in her hands, and rubbed his chin gently.  “Yes,” she said. “Yes, a thousand times, yes!”

Twelve days.  He’d only had twelve days to prove his true love, and he’d done it.  He’d proven to Claire that she was his one and only.  From the moment she stepped into his life, he knew he wanted her. When she wept in his arms that day on the stairs, he knew he loved her.

Jamie breathed a sigh of relief into his kiss.  A kiss they shared over his final piece of artistry that said, quite simply,

W I L L U M A R R Y M E.

Chapter Text



“What time is it?”  She couldn’t see the clock from her current circle of light.

“It’s 5:35, Dr. Fraser.”  

Claire had been elbow deep in a patient with a ruptured spleen.  She had made the necessary repairs, and all that was needed was to close. She bent her head to the task. “Geilli, grab my phone will you? Text Jamie and tell him I’ll be on my way by 6:00.”  

Faced with the prospect of not working with Claire every day after she started medical school, Geillis had decided to become a surgical nurse.  The two were inseparable in the O.R. and were becoming somewhat of a legend in the hospital.  Co-workers teased that they had some kind of magic powers because they were fast, and efficient with a high surgical success rate.  

Geillis stripped off her gloves and retrieved Claire’s phone.  Hey Ginger Laddie! Wife will be on the way by 6. xoxo G.  And just to be naughty, Geillis added a tongue and kiss emoji.  

Claire stepped into the darkened auditorium.  It was so crowded, she’d never find Jamie in here.  She was just pulling out her phone to text him when he appeared at her side. He gave her a quick kiss on the lips, and grabbed her hand.  

“I’ve got us seats up front, Sassenach.  Murtagh’s saving them,” he whispered. “Stay low and quiet else they’re likely to stone us.”  He led her to the second row on the aisle.  

“Has she gone yet?  Have I missed her?”  Claire whispered on the way to their seats.  Jamie shook his head.  

Ten minutes later their daughter came on stage with her Primary One class.  Taller than the other kids, with a gorgeous head of red hair, Brianna Ellen was dead centre.  Jamie videotaped the whole thing on his phone. Claire took a couple of pictures, but mostly just watched the miracle that was her daughter perform on stage.  She sang the loudest (and in tune, thank God), rang the jingle bells with gusto, and had one line to read into the microphone, which she said perfectly after practicing every minute of every day for two weeks.  When her class was dismissed from the stage, young Ewan tried to push in front of her.  Bree deftly hip checked him back into place revealing that time spent with Great-Uncle Dougal Mackenzie did indeed include playing with his caman collection and practicing some shinty moves.  

Returning home they drank hot chocolate on the fire escape, all bundled up together in the large Fraser plaid coverlet looking out at the Christmas lights of the city.  Jamie had the flat renovated shortly after they married. Claire was surprised to learn that Jamie owned both of them, and was able to connect the two making one an upstairs with an extra bathroom and bedrooms “for the bairns”, and the other a downstairs with a study for Claire, and an office for him.  
After seeing Bree off to sleep, Jamie settled into bed beside his wife.  He sighed, when he saw what she was wearing.  “I’ve told ye a thousand times o’re the last 10 years ye wear too many clothes to bed.”

“I’m freezing!”  Claire tried to scoot closer but Jamie held her off.

“Ye of all people know the power of body heat, Claire.”  He lifted a sardonic eyebrow.  

Claire shivered.  “I can’t.”

Jamie nodded.  “I see.  Well then, I can.”  He dove under the covers to grab at her sleep pants and tugged.  Claire giggled and twisted and tried to stop him, but it was impossible.  He rid her of her pants and then ran his hands up her sides, making her ticklish. Laughing, she bucked, trying to get away. He finally stilled her by taking a breast in his mouth, which allowed him time to get the sweatshirt over her head.  He made his way out from under the blanket, covering his wife’s body with his own and gave her a long, lazy kiss.

“Did she go to bed for you okay?” Claire asked, rubbing the nape of her husband’s neck.

“Oh, aye.  Full o’ stories and pleadin’ to read one more book.”

Claire laughed.  “She was glorious in her Christmas concert tonight, wasn’t she?”

Jamie smiled, “Aye.  She was.”  He stroked her hair back from her face.  

Claire’s smile faltered.  “I couldn’t help but think…”

Jamie stopped his wife with a kiss.  “Me, too, mo graidh.  She’d ha’ been in Primary Three, singing wi’ that class.”  Claire’s miscarriage still haunted them from time to time, rearing its head when they least expected it.  In some ways Claire blamed herself, being a resident and on her feet so much.  No one could have foreseen the ruptured placenta that lost them a daughter.

He bumped her nose with his, knowing what would lighten the mood.  “So. What’s the date, then?”  

Claire shoved at her husband’s chest.  “Honestly, Jamie.  There’s no surprising you.  Ever.”

“How does a man no’ ken his wife is pregnant?”  Jamie was genuinely shocked.  
“Because other men don’t pay attention?  Friends at work have such cute stories of how they tell their husbands they’re expecting, and I can’t!”  She tugged at the red curls at his nape.

Jamie flexed his hips against Claire’s.  “Other men dinna make love to their wives enough, then, if they dinna ken the rhythm of their bodies, or how their breasts change.”

Her legs shifted to cradle him more.  “This summer. June twelfth is my due date.”

Jamie grinned.  Then laughed in joy.  “Ye make me the happiest man on Earth, Sassenach.”  He slid to the side and gathered Claire in his arms.  Their legs tangled seductively.  She was plenty warm enough now.  

“Och, I forgot to tell ye!” he said.  “I got a notice from the Council.  Seems they want to get rid of the fire escapes in the city.  Apparently with new building codes, it isna necessary to have a fire escape anymore.  The city will pay to take it down, but they need my permission first as owner of the building.  And I’ll no’ be givin’ that.”

Claire hugged him tight. “Are you sure?”  

Jamie’s chin rested on his wife’s head, her untamed curls brushing his neck and chest.  His voice was low and contemplative as he spoke. “That escape brought ye to me, Claire.  It brought me this life, this incredible love.  This child, the one before it and the one we’ll meet in Heaven. I’ll never have it removed.”
Claire couldn’t control the tears that flooded her eyes at his words.  She let them spill over onto his chest.  Jamie continued, “Ye came into my life via that iron bridge.  I am forever grateful.  It let me escape a life of solitude, void of love and passion.  It gave me a legacy of my own.”

Jamie ran a hand down his wife’s curves from shoulder to thigh.  “My Da always said I’d ken when the right woman came along.  He was right.”  

Claire smiled against the red curls of her husband’s chest.

“He just never told me the right woman would be a Sassenach wench wi’ a rock solid head, a tongue like an adder’s and a lovely round arse.”

Claire shrieked and pinched her husband’s arse in response.  They tussled and laughed and Jamie managed to turn his wife in his arms and settle her sweet backside against him.  As the night settled around them and a snow gently began to fall outside, Jamie splayed his big hand over his wife’s womb. He kissed the spot on her neck that he’d kissed a thousand times and whispered the words they said on their wedding day, “Then let amourous kisses dwell, on our lips, begin and tell…”

Claire snuggled back into her husband, placed her hand over his and whispered her part. “A thousand and a hundred score, a hundred and a thousand more.”

Jamie sighed. 

“Ah, Claire. Ye do break my heart with lovin’ ye.”

Chapter Text

“Claire.  We’ll just go in and have a wee look, aye?”

Claire stared through the glass.  She bit her lip.  She’d told him no, that it wasn’t practical, not what she wanted. Damn, stubborn Scot.  She was very conscious of him behind her.  Waiting.  Tense.  Him calling her Claire was a sure sign that this was a formal occasion to him, and the topic would not go away. 

Turning, she slipped her arms around his waist, under his jacket.  She rested her head on his chest, feeling the cool of his sweater and the scratch of his scarf under her cheek.  Jamie hugged her, his hands following her spine to the small of her back.  Cold air swirled around them, the breeze picking up the tendrils of her hair.  He watched the strands dance around her head and thought for the millionth time how beautiful she was to him. 

“Jamie.  I love you, but it’s just not feasible for a future surgeon.  I’ll lose it, or misplace it.  I can never wear it to work!  Why should we bother?”

Jamie huffed.  “Because I want to.  I want ye to have an engagement ring. I want….” he hesitated.  How to explain?  He wanted to claim her, which was archaic, he knew, but he also wanted to honour her, which wasn’t modern either.  He was a traditionalist. It felt wrong not to give Claire a ring after asking her to marry him.  He shook his head, hoping the right words would fall out.

“Jamie…”  Claire looked up at him.  She tugged at him, as if to shake some sense in him.  

The stubborn set of his jaw, and his narrowed eyes warned her that she wasn’t going to win this round.  Looking isn’t buying, Beauchamp.

“Alright.  We’ll just look.  Okay?  No buying anything.”

At her capitulation Jamie jumped into motion.  “Aye. Okay. Sure.” He stepped back and grabbed her hand.  “Come, Sassenach.”  


They were all beautiful.  Every one was more extravagant than the last.  Yet none of the rings suited Claire.  Her hands were delicate, her fingers long, and the larger the stone, the more gaudy it looked on her.  Finally Claire had to ask the jeweler to give them a few minutes privacy so they could talk.

She tried again.  “Jamie….”

“Dinna say it.  I get it.”  He leaned forward, and rested his elbows on his knees, hands clasped tightly between his legs. 

Claire tried to get him to meet her eyes.  “Are you angry?”

Jamie blew out a long breath.  “Aye. If I’m honest.  I’m angry that we canna find something to suit ye.  I’m angry that I canna give my future wife a diamond.  I’m angry that I canna get past the idea that ye must have a ring.”

“Jamie, love, I’ll have a ring.”  She rested her hands on his thighs and rubbed gently.  “A band.  A perfect wedding band that I will wear proudly.  But a diamond isn’t practical.”  Claire could see his disappointment. 

“Besides,” she drew the chain out from under her shirt, “I have my key.  This means more to me than you can imagine.  This makes me yours.”  

Jamie reached out a hand and held the key that Claire wore without fail, every day, against her heart.  His lopsided smile eased the tension in her heart just a bit.  She stood to leave, and Jamie stood with her.

As they passed the glass cases on their way to the door, something caught Claire’s eye.  She stopped so abruptly that Jamie had to grab her hips to steady her as he bumped her from behind.

“Excuse me!”  Claire looked up for the salesman, her finger resting on the glass pointing to a ring. 

Jamie looked over her shoulder as the jeweler handed it to her.  That?

“Where did you get it?” Claire asked, examining the ring and turning it around in her fingers.  

“It was from an estate sale,” the man looked at Jamie.  “If I remember correctly, the estate was named Mackenzie.  The ring is verra unique, 16th Century, I believe.”

Claire scoffed, “18th Century at best. Jacobean.”  The salesman blinked in surprise. Jamie smiled.  

He looked at the ring in her hand.  The wide silver band, decorated in the Highland interlace style, had a small thistle bloom in the centre of each link.

Claire turned to face him, and his heart stopped at the smile on her face.  He could see it in her whisky coloured eyes. This was the one; this was the ring.  It wasn’t what he imagined, nor was it what he would have chosen, but if it spoke to Claire then she would have it. They had it sized, then Jamie left explicit instructions, and handed over his credit card.

“Unusual choice, Mr. Fraser.”

Jamie nodded, and glanced at Claire wandering around the shop.  Ye have no idea.  

“Ah, weel, she’s an unusual lady.”

Chapter Text

Jamie hunched his tall frame over his laptop. Sitting at his desk, his body curled lower and lower over the keyboard as he bent to his work, searching for anything, any inspiration at all.  

“Jamie.”  Willie called to his boss from his desk in the outer office.

Nothing.

“Jamie!”  A brief bob of the head, but no real attention.

Willie got up and went into the doorway. “Jamie.”  

“What!”  

“The quarterly meeting, Jamie.  It’s in ten minutes.  Ye need to get to the conference room.”  

Jamie looked up from the screen at his friend and assistant.  He checked his watch and then the clock on the wall.

“Kak!”  He grabbed the file folder on his desk and cast around for a pen.  “Dammit, Willie. I havena even looked at the report.”  He located a writing tool and strode to the door.

He clapped Willie on the shoulder and said, “Come, man.  I’ll need ye to brief me on the way.  An’ bring yer computer.  I need yer help.”  In a last thought, Jamie went back to his desk, shut the lid and scooped up his laptop as well.

Willie collected himself and the two men met at the outer office door.  

“Tell me what I need to know, Willie.”  

As they strode to the conference room, Willie filled Jamie in on what lay in the report. The wines were performing well. The whisky had sold more than projected over the Christmas holidays and had been entered into the International Whisky Competition.  Willie skimmed over the rest and added a few details regarding personnel changes and market trends.

“What did ye need from me, Jamie?  Ye ken Jenny will want an explanation as to why I’m in the meeting.”  Willie tried his level best not to get in Jenny’s way.  Ever.

“I need ye to do research for me.  Ye ken that Jenny doesna like phones in meetings. So I’ll be emailing ye and we’ll communicate that way, okay?”  Jamie shot a glance at Willie and caught his solemn nod.    

They arrived last at the conference room.  As they strode in Jamie pointed to a chair at the corner of the table, and Willie set up silently.

Jenny looked at her brother and then at the clock on the wall.  The move wasn’t lost on Jamie.  He nodded to the others around the table and took his customary seat.   Jenny cleared her throat.  “Morning, Wille.”

Willie jumped.  He smiled nervously, “Good morning, Mrs. Murray.”  He looked at Jamie, who was once again engrossed in his computer, and then at Jenny, who was still staring at him.  He stammered,  “Um…Ja-…Mr. Fraser told me to come.”

Jenny turned her icy gaze to Jamie.  “Brother?”

Jamie met his sister’s gaze, his cat-like eyes narrowed.  “Willie and I are working on something and I need him to be here for this meeting.”

“What’s he working on, then?”  Jenny crossed her arms over her chest, still standing.

“Somethin’ for the CEO of this company, Janet.  Now, let’s gie on wi’ it, shall we?”  Jamie fired off his first email to Willie.

Willie, I’m trying to find honeymoon destinations.  Somewhere warm, but nowhere that Claire has been. She was raised by an archaeologist, so places like Italy and Greece are out.  Ye ken?  No to America, we only have a week.  And no to the tourist places that are too crowded.  

Willie looked up at his boss, mouth open.  He had to be kidding.  Honeymoon?  He’s to find a place for Jamie and Claire to honeymoon?  The sound on his computer pinged again, indicating another email.

Close yer mouth. And turn the sound off, eh?  Jenny’ll be up to high doh with the noise.

Willie quickly muted the sound.  This was embarrassing.  He didn’t know anything about honeymoons.  He didn’t even have a girlfriend, although that Irish girl on the distillery floor was cute. He pulled up his search engine and typed in ‘Honeymoons not for archaeologists’. Mistake.  He tried again with something simple; ‘honeymoon destinations’.  Better results.  He emailed Jamie.

How’s Bora Bora sound?  

Jamie was quick to reply.  Jesus, man, do ye ken where that is? I dinna want to spend an entire day getting somewhere. And another trying to get over the jet lag only to have 3 days and then turn around and head home.

Willie fired back, Jamie I canna do this!  

Jamie looked over at his friend.  His look was desperate.  He typed furiously, Lunch at the pub, on me.  And you’ll get the afternoon and all day tomorrow off.  

Willie blew out a sigh.  As the meeting droned on around him, he tried everything.  He looked at more resorts than he could count. Looking in images he sent Jamie a quick email.  Morocco? Beautiful beaches.  Some history.  Exotic food.

It took Jamie a couple of minutes to finish up his conversation and check his computer.  He looked up at Willie.  Willie turned his computer slightly to show Jamie what he’d found.  

Jamie smiled, and nodded.  

Willie breathed a sigh of relief.  

And then both men jumped like school boys when Jenny roared, “Might we all see?”


“Thanks for yer help today, mate.  I’ve someplace to start.  Load off my mind, if I’m honest.”  Jamie raised his glass of Tennent’s lager to Willie.  

Willie smiled and lifted his pint.  “Happy to help.”

They drank deeply and settled in to wait for their food.  “Jamie,” asked Willie, “did ye ask Claire what she wanted to do for a honeymoon?”  

Jamie rolled his eyes.  “Aye. I did.  She thought a cruise might be nice.”

Willie sat up straighter.  “Well, why not a cruise then?”

Jamie sighed.  “I get verra seasick.  It doesna matter how big the ship, or how calm the water.  I canna do it.  Claire offered to help me get a prescription to help, but I’ve tried them all.  The pills and wee patches make me as sick as the bloody water.”  

Willie sat thoughtfully for a moment.  “I ken Claire has traveled around the world.  I find that fascinating.  I’ve never left Scotland.  I guess I find there’s too much to see here.  Munros, lochs, burns, lowlands, highlands.”  He offered his boss a lopsided smile.  “How much of the country has she seen, Jamie?  She’ll be a Scot once she marries ye, aye?”


The fire roared in the hearth.  Jamie wrapped his arms around his wife and rolled to his back.  Her body stretched on top of him as she kissed him deeply, her hands tangling in his hair.  He could feel her legs spread and slide up his thighs.  He felt those same legs grip him around the hips.  He lifted his knees and ran his hands down her back to cup her backside.  He could never touch her enough.  She moved her lips to gently kiss him up his jaw and down his neck.  

Jamie breathed in the scent of Claire, the heat of the room, the musky scent of their lovemaking.  He turned his head and looked out the large plate glass window of their cabin.  What more does a man need than a mountain out his window, and the woman of his dreams in his arms.  

Jamie looked up at his wife as she linked their hands together.  The moon glinted off the snowcapped mountains of Kintail and Knoydart.  The pale gray light shone through the window, bathing Claire’s luminous skin in shimmering white.  When he’d painstakingly unbuttoned the back of her wedding dress, he revealed the skimpiest of panties and a lace bra that did nothing to hide her and everything to enhance her.  He went weak at the knees looking at her.  

His fingers tightened around hers, feeling the thick antique band around finger, and making him aware of his own wide band on his left hand.  “Are ye sorry it’s not a cruise, Sassenach?”

She smiled at her new husband and rocked her hips slowly.  “No. Are you?”

“Nah”, Jamie breathed.  “I did entertain some fantasies about ye in a bikini, but…” he drew a finger along the top of the lace that barely covered her breast, “I’ll take this outfit any day.”  Claire laughed low in her throat.  Jamie whispered, “Ye ken I like ye in pink, don’t ye?”  

Claire’s answer was to roll hard to the right over the fur rug to bring her new husband on top of her again.  “I seem to recall a certain fascination with the colour once. A deeper pink, if I recall.”  

“Aye.”  Jamie dragged his hand along her thigh and brought her leg higher up on to his hip. “I remember every moment, every second of that day.”  He brought his mouth down and savoured the taste of her.  Champagne and strawberries and heat.  

“When ye graduate from medical school I’ll take ye someplace hot.” Jamie murmured against her lips.

Claire nipped his bottom lip and arched into him. “I’ve been around the world, Love. There is no place hotter than right here, right now.”

Chapter Text

As the sun tried desperately to make an appearance outside, Claire dragged herself up the stairs to her flat after her shift. It was a busy night filled with drunken revelers from some rather overzealous Burns’ celebrations. Her entire evening consisted of cuts, scraps, and broken bones from fights.  She passed by Jamie’s flat, and continued upstairs.  

The night shift meant sleeping in her own bed, and then waking in time to get ready before Jamie got home from work.  They would eat and spend time together before she went in for the second of her back-to-back night shifts.  

She unlocked the door and dropped her bag to the floor, her mind focused on what she could eat before she fell into bed.    

She heard the crinkle of the paper before she saw it.  Looking down she noticed the large manila envelope she had stepped on.  Picking it up, she saw her name typed on the front. Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp.  No postage, no return address, nor any corporate logo.  

She set it down on the counter with a promise to look at it later.  

Fed, rested and showered, she’d forgotten all about the mail until she was ready to leave and head down to Jamie’s. She had her bag over her shoulder, her coat in her arms and made a mental note to grab an umbrella on the way out as the sky had turned ominous.  Going back in to grab her keys from the counter, the brown envelope caught her attention again.

“Bloody hell,” she muttered, and ripped the flap using her key as a letter opener.  She balanced everything she was carrying and wrestled the thick batch of papers out of the envelope.  

It all fell to the floor when she realized what she was reading.  It couldn’t be

The impending storm finally hit and the sky opened up.  The thunder exploded overhead and let loose a torrent of rain.  She looked towards the window as the fat drops clanged off the fire escape and hammered the glass panes in an aggressive fury that echoed the pounding in her head.  Lightening cracked and split the sky as the pain of betrayal split her heart.

Gathering her wits about her like she did in the face of an emergency at the hospital Claire took deep breaths.  She prioritized.  She checked the time, put the papers back in the envelope and tucked it into her bag.  She put on her coat.  She locked up after herself.  

And in her despair, she forgot the umbrella.


“Aye, man, it will be good to see ye, too! Take care.”  Jamie hung up the phone from touching base with his friend John, a fellow whisky distiller.  They each had an entry in the International Whisky Competition and were making plans to get together for dinner at the event.  As he spun his chair around to hang up, he saw her in the doorway.

She was soaking wet.  Her curls were drenched into separate ringlets, the water pouring from each tip. Her eyes were unfocused.  Her face was pale and taut.  Her spine stood ramrod straight.  

Willie stood just behind her, looking over her shoulder at Jamie.  Jamie could tell by Willie’s expression that he had no idea what she was doing there, or what was wrong.

“Claire.”  He rose from his chair slowly.  “Claire, mo graidh.  What’s wrong?”

Claire flinched at the affectionate term.  In response she just reached into her bag and pulled out a manila envelope.  The top half of it was wet where the rain had dripped into her open bag. The bottom half was dry.  She held it out to him, hand shaking.  

She was scaring him. Claire’s usual glass face was gone, replaced by a mask. He couldn’t read her at all. That envelope could contain anything.  The results of a medical test.  A rejection letter from one of the med schools to which she had applied.  A severance package from the hospital.  So many things went through his mind.  He struggled to pull the papers out from the dampness.  

He never expected what he saw.  Never.

“You could have said something, Jamie.”  Her voice was quiet. Sad. Broken.

“Claire.”  He could feel the panic rising.  “Claire, I didna do this!”

“Claire,” Willie said, with a gentle hand on her elbow. “Here, give me yer bag.” He gently took the weight of it in his hand as Claire uncurled her fingers from the straps.  He set the bag off to the side, and led her to a straight-backed chair by the wall.  “Let’s have yer coat, too, aye?  It’s wet.”

“No.”  Claire was firm.  “I can’t stay.  I’m on my way to work.”

That catapulted Jamie into action.  He strode around his desk, picked up the phone and jabbed out a number.  Then he barked, “Janet.  My office. Now.”  

“Here, Claire.  Somethin’ to warm ye.”  A hot mug was pressed into her hand and she wrapped her palms around the heat of it, hoping that it would reach her soul.  The noise of voices buzzed around her and bodies swirled into motion.  She took a sip, and coughed a bit at the strong coffee laced with whisky.

From her vantage point standing in the corner Claire took in the scene.  Jenny had arrived and was gesturing wildly, shaking her head and glancing over towards her.  She now had the offending document in her hand.  Claire knew Jenny was protective of her brother, but she’d thought they had forged a bond over the Christmas holidays at Lallybroch.  Perhaps she was wrong.  

She took another sip of the coffee.  Dimly her brain registered the alcohol, but it seemed to give her the liquid courage she needed to stand her ground.  She really didn’t care what anyone had to say.

Until a voice she didn’t recognize announced his presence.

“I did it.”

Claire turned to see an elderly man, not very tall, with an obvious disability, standing in the doorway.  He had a commanding voice, one that seemed to bring everyone to heel.  They all looked at him, open-mouthed.  The man surveyed the room, his eyes stopping at Claire.

“Ah.  Ye must be Miss Beauchamp.”  He hobbled towards her, hand outstretched.  “I’m Colum MacKenzie.  I am Jamie and Jenny’s eldest uncle. Their mother was my sister.”

Automatic reflex had Claire shaking his hand.  She stared into the dove-gray eyes that reflected a man of confidence, and intelligence, with a shrewdness that made him intimidating despite his stature.  He was sizing her up, taking her measure.  She held her own, and met his gaze.  In meeting that gaze she realized that deep in those eyes was also a man who lived with chronic pain. He was much shorter than his relatives, but that had to be due to what Claire mentally diagnosed as Pycnodysostosis.  It was such a rare disease, and Claire had never encountered it before.  

“I see I’ve caused some upset.” He nodded at Claire in a deferential manner. Then turned to Jamie and continued, “But I did it at the request of someone else.”

 

Chapter Text

Jamie waited on the fire escape for a glimpse of her. Fingers tapping on the railing, he focused his eyes on the street until they watered, he was so afraid of missing her.  The air was damp from a night of rain and his breath came in cold clouds before his face. When he caught sight of her with her head bent, and shoulders slumped, his stomach flipped in fear.  He climbed back in through the window and over to his front door.  He opened it, and waited.  

He heard her climbing the stairs to his landing. Hands deep in his pockets, he watched her dark head rise and catch sight of him.  He smiled tentatively. When she kept walking right towards him, the tightness in his chest eased a bit.  He opened his arms.  Claire dropped her bag, slipped her arms around his waist, and rested her head on his chest.  Jamie closed his eyes in relief, offering a silent prayer of thanks that this woman still had faith in him.

It was his body heat that always surprised her. Enclosed in his embrace, only Jamie could warm her to her bones.  She felt his chin settle on the top of her head as he let out the breath he was holding. As much as she wanted to snuggle deeper, this was far from over.    

She pulled out of his embrace and noticed the suit for the first time.

“You’re rather dressed up, aren’t you?”

“Hmmpf.  Aye.  I have something to do at work today.”  She saw the steel in his eyes.  This was James Fraser, CEO.  She forgot, sometimes, that he ran a successful corporation.  

Which was the root of the problem.  

Claire lifted her bag and turned to go.  

“Claire?”  At his uncertain tone she turned back.  Jamie’s hands were deep in his pockets again.

“I’ll see you later, Jamie,” she said, and continued up the stairs to her flat.  


Everything was in order.  He was ready.  

Jamie looked at Willie through the glass wall of his office, and nodded once.  

Willie picked up the phone, and dialed.  Five minutes later, she came into the office, her face shining.  She looked excited and nervous at the same time. Besom has no idea what’s comin’. Willie shut the door to Jamie’s office behind her, and took up his post at his desk.  He made a second call, then sat back in his chair and waited for the shite to hit the fan from the best damn seat in the house.  

“Sit down, Laoghaire.” Jamie did not stand. He gestured to a chair in front of his desk.  He would give this woman no courtesy.  

Laoghaire smiled at Jamie looking so handsome in his blue suit.  She was sure he was going to transfer her back.  Why else would he ask to see her? She was so glad she wore a dress to work today.  She looked pretty, she thought, and professional. Unlike Willie out there with his khaki trousers and wrinkled shirt.

Jamie got right to the point.  He slid the papers across his desk to rest in front of her.

“Tell me what these are, Laoghaire.”

She froze.  No.  Oh no.  “I don’t know,” she said, trying to keep her voice level as panic clawed inside her chest.

Jamie’s cat-like eyes were narrowed to slits.  Liar.

He counted to ten, took a deep calming breath, and tried again.  “Colum says ye do.”

In that moment she gave up all pretense. Instinct told her to grab for what she wanted the only way she knew how.  “How could ye, Jamie?  How could ye take up wi’ her?”

“Take up wi’ her?”  Jamie said, softly.  He leaned forward in his chair, gripping the armrests tight with his hands to keep them from pounding the desk, punctuating his fury.  “I didna ‘take up wi’ her’ Laoghaire. I met her.  I fell in love wi’ her.”

Laoghaire moaned.  “Ye kent how I felt about ye, Jamie.  And ye felt the same. Ye did!   I waited for ye.  Patiently.  Day after day I sat out there and gave ye all the space ye needed.  Ye were mine, Jamie!”  

Jamie flopped back in his chair, exasperated.  “Are ye suggestin’ I played ye false?”

Desperate to prove her point, Laoghaire continued, voice shrill.  “Ye ken ye wanted me once.  And then she came along and ye threw me over.  Sent me to a different department.  Ye didna even have the decency to tell me yerself!”

A pang of guilt hit him at the truth of her words.  He had been a coward.  He’d had Jenny remove the girl because he couldn’t stand the thought of her crush on him. But dammit!  That wasn’t the point.  What she did was unforgivable.  

Jamie collected himself.  He’d chosen a course of action.  It was time to follow it through.

“Look, Laoghaire.  We’re both adults, and ye ken fine that what happened in that pub was the result of me being drunk and ye being willing.  End of story. We kissed. That’s it.  It never went any further.  I never promised ye more.  I never pursued more, inside or outside this office. Never.  There was no us, Laoghaire.  Ye’ve no claim on me.  I was never yers.  And ye ken that well.”

Her eyes filled with tears.  “That’s no’ true.”

Jamie continued as if she hadn’t spoken.  

“Ye had my uncle draw up a prenuptial agreement, saying I’d asked ye to do it on my behalf.  Ye lied.  Ye overstepped yer bounds.  Ye meddled in my private affairs, and then ye told Colum ye’d bring me the document, but instead ye slipped the envelope under Claire’s door.”

Laoghaire sat still in her chair, gripping and twisting her fingers, nose running. She reached for a tissue on his desk.  “Ye needed protectin’.”

“From what?” Jamie roared.  “The woman I love more than my own life?”

Laoghaire cringed at his declaration.  The thought of him in love with another woman incensed her.

“Oh, please!  Ye’ve been with her, what?  Two, maybe three months?  What if she’s just after yer money?  Did ye think of that?  Truth be told, she should have expected it.  I would have.  I’d gladly sign a document like that.  It means ye can trust me.”

“Och, aye!  Because nothing says ye trust a person like a prenuptial agreement.” Jamie’s tone was mocking.  “This is nothing more than an ill wish. Dinna pretend otherwise.”  

Jamie took a deep breath and calmed his voice. Time to wrap this up.  

“Unfortunately there is no place in this company for that kind of betrayal.  I have no choice but to let ye go.”

At her gasp he pressed forward.  “Here is yer final paycheque.  And this envelope contains a severance package which we are not obliged to give ye, but it will tide ye over for a couple of months while ye look for a job.  Please do not ask us for a reference.”  

Jamie stood up and buttoned his suit jacket.  “Rupert is outside to escort ye to your desk so ye can pack yer things.”

“I’m fired?”  Laoghaire blanched.  When the news sunk in she turned feral. She gripped the desk and spat out the words, “Ye canna fire me.  I’ll sue ye for sexual harassment!”

Jamie looked over her shoulder into the corner of the room.  

It was then that Laoghaire realized they weren’t alone.  All this time Colum MacKenzie had sat in the corner of the room listening to the entire conversation.  She felt the heat of embarrassment flood her face.  

Colum slowly brought himself to his feet.  “There willna be any harassment charges, Laoghaire.  By yer own admission, ye were a willing participant in….well, in my nephew’s lapse in judgement.  And then there’s the matter of requesting a legal document containing someone else’s private financial information without their knowledge, and removing it from the premises.”

Colum hobbled over to the desk and placed a paper in front of Laoghaire. “Now, if ye’ll just sign here, please.”  


“I’m sorry, Jamie.  Tis all my fault.”

While Jamie’s office looked off into the lights of Edinburgh, Jenny’s was on the other side of the building overlooking the distillery grounds.  The view was green and lush in the summer and stark in the winter.  

And the winter scene suited Jamie’s mood.  

Seeking advice, he left his office and headed straight to his sister.  When Jenny caught sight of him coming she poured two drams of their finest single malt.

The siblings stood together looking out at the lawn. 

“Och, Jenny. Ye were just tryin’ to help.  But maybe now ye get why ye need to keep yer neb out of people’s love lives?”  He nudged his sister’s shoulder and took a sip of whisky.  

“Aye.  I just wanted ye to be….less lonely.”  Jenny bumped him back.  “And now?”

Jamie looked down fondly at his sister.  “I never dreamt I could feel this way, Jenny.”

She stretched an arm around his back and hugged him to her side.  Jamie returned the hug, and dropped a kiss on his sister’s head.  

“I will admit,” he sighed, “I have no idea what to say to Claire.”

“Ye’ll find the words, Jamie.”  Jenny turned and took Jamie’s glass from him. She set their tumblers on a small side table and reached up to fix Jamie’s tie. When she finished adjusting the knot she placed a hand over his heart.  “Just speak from here, aye?”  

She paused a moment.

“Oh.  And flowers help.”  

Chapter Text

Money.  The root of all evil.

He’d never thought much about money.  His father made sure of that.  He’d always known he was destined for the Distillery, yet he was made to go to Uni, study hard, and spend holidays and such working with his Da.  Brian Fraser made sure his son learned every single aspect of the business, with no special treatment.  Jamie did every dirty job, every strenuous job, and every boring job. He was even injured on the job.  

His shoulders tensed with the memory.  

But now, standing in the florists shelling out £150 on an arrangement for Claire, he was thinking about money.  Not that he was against spending that much. He’d fill the flat with flowers if it made her smile, but Claire never seemed impressed by money.  She’d been in his car, a luxury vehicle, and never commented. She’d been in his flat with its first edition books and antiques, and never batted an eye.  

Which was why the idea of a prenuptial agreement made him sick to his stomach.  No wonder she was hurt.  

Not hurt, devastated, he amended.  

Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp had a career of her own, and would soon elevate that career and become a doctor.  She didn’t need his money, or his position. He thought about Annalise to whom money was everything. She was in it for the fancy restaurants and the expensive gifts.  Laoghaire was hell bent on snaring him for his position and standing.  Arm candy, as they say.  

I wonder what either of them would have thought about my back.  

As the florist wrapped the huge bouquet, Jamie thought back to the first time he and Claire made love.  She wasn’t the least bit repulsed by his body.  After the accident he never thought he’d find a woman who would look past his scars. Yet he did.  And, God! What a woman!  His groin grew tight as memories of Claire filled his mind, digging her fingernails into his back in passion, or slowly running her hands down his spine in foreplay. She’d even called him beautiful. Twice.  He let that slip to Ian over a beer one night and recalled his brother-in-law’s comment; Now ye ken how yer sister makes me feel. Like a man whole again.  

He was damn lucky to have her.  And he needed to make sure he still did.  


He called her from the florist’s and asked her out on a proper date.  She giggled at his formality and he had to grin when she said, “Well, I was going to wash my hair tonight,” but in the end she capitulated.  She answered the door all ready to go. Then she saw the flowers, and he could tell by her face that she loved his romantic gesture.  Good call, Jenny.  

But she didn’t reach for the bouquet.  

“I don’t care about your money.”  Her whisky eyes bored into his.  There was conviction behind those eyes.  He would take her at her word, or not at all.  A Dhia, the hurt.  The initial feeling that she was going to leave him again came flooding back.

“I never asked for that prenup, Claire.” His blue eyes were clear and steady on hers.  She knew the truth of this yesterday, seeing his reaction to those horrible papers.  God, the betrayal.  The initial feeling that he actually thought it mattered came flooding back.   

“Truly, Sassenach.  I never thought ye were like that.”  He watched her shoulders relax as she absorbed his pet name for her.  He watched her eyes soften as she extended her arms towards the flowers.    


Claire waited until they had their wine, and had ordered before asking.  

“Jamie.  How did it happen?”

He reached across the table, and she met him halfway.  Threading his fingers through hers he told her the story.  All of it.  From the night in the pub, to the scene in his office.  He watched Claire’s expression through it all.  Raised eyebrows during the drunken pub snogging. A smirk during the firing. Finally, a set jaw as he explained Laoghaire’s last ditch effort.  Through it all, she kept her fingers intertwined with his.  It seemed easier to talk when they touched.  As if the touching conveyed the trust.  

“We each have a past, Claire.  I mean, neither of us is innocent.  I ken there are things in yer past, as there are in mine. I’m sure there are things ye’d not wish to tell me.  I’ll not press ye, ever, or insist on knowin’ things that are yer own concern.”  He looked at her then, and saw the truth of what he was saying on that beautiful, glass face.  

“I’ll ask nothing of ye that ye canna give me.  But I promise ye, when I do tell ye something, it’ll be the truth.  I respect ye too much, and love ye even more, to offer ye anything less than that.  And I think that respect has room for secrets, but not for lies.  Do ye promise me the same?”

Claire thought of her past.  The things she’d done as she traveled with Uncle Lamb. The guys at University.  Some of the choices she’d made.  The person she was once that she wasn’t now.  Yes, there were things she wouldn’t want to tell him about herself.  If she was honest, there were things she didn’t want to know about Jamie’s past. His life with his family, as a little boy, sure.  But past loves?  No. Definitely not.  But when those conversations or moments came up, as they inevitably would, she would want the truth.  

“Yes, I promise. I’ll give you honesty.”  

He lifted her hand and placed a kiss on their intertwined fingers.  

After dinner as they were getting ready to go, Jamie’s phone pinged.  He checked it and laughed.

“What?” Claire asked, finishing the last of her wine.

“Willie’s at the pub with Niamh, and he wants us to come down.  Seems he’s running out of things to talk to her about.”  

“Not really dressed for a pub, are we?” Claire gestured to Jamie’s suit and looked down at herself.

“After all he’s done for me?”  Jamie helped Claire on with her coat, and dropped a kiss on her neck as she lifted her curls free of the collar.  “Come, Sassenach. Let’s go to the aid of my best assistant.  He likes this lass quite a lot.  I ken how he feels, wantin’ to make a good impression and all.”


Her girlfriends thought it would cheer her up.  She wasn’t much in the mood, but they said it was better than sitting at home and moping.  It was fun, for a bit. Now, she sat in the corner of the pub and watched them come in and make their way over to that stupid snake who stole her job.  Would she get no peace today?? Why did they have to show up here, of all places?  She watched the introductions and the conversations, and the rounds of drinks.  She watched Jamie put his arm around Claire, and watched that bitch snuggle into his shoulder.  She watched him press a kiss on her temple, and linger overlong. She even watched her caress his thigh under the table.  Slut.

She watched the men play darts, and the women talk.  She watched Jamie stand behind her, still in his suit, tie askew, pressed up against her, arm around her middle, pretending to teach her how to throw.  She looked ridiculous in her leather skirt, and her high heeled boots.  

Through it all her stomach tied itself in knots, tighter and tighter until it felt like she couldn’t breathe.  She had such longing in her heart for that man.  Her eyes burned from a desire to cry tears that had been shed a hundred times before.  A lump formed in her throat. Anger seethed just below the surface. Why couldn’t that be her?  It was her once, in a different pub.  One night, with his hands on her.  His lips on hers.   Damn Claire Beauchamp.  Damn her to hell.  

Jamie liked tipsy Claire.  She laughed more, and flirted openly.  In private, tipsy Claire had zero inhibitions.  As the night wore on, Jamie wanted nothing more than to get her home and into his bed.  She looked posh, and sexy at the same time.  He swore she was wearing the softest sweater in all of Scotland, and the leather skirt - faux leather, he mentally amended  (”I don’t wear animals, Jamie”) hugged her curves. Vixen.  He watched her walk back from the dart board, telling Niamh to “win one for the women.”

She settled her leather clad bum down in his lap. Draping her arms around his shoulders she tilted her head and came in for a kiss.  Jamie was ready.  Zero inhibitions.  She tasted of dark red wine and desire.  Her tongue flicked at his lips.  

She pulled back and looked at him seriously.

“You,”  she tugged his curls, “are very rich.  There were a lot zeros on that duc…document. And that was jus’ if I agreed not to ask for anything else should we divorce.”  

“Aye.” Jamie tried to match her seriousness, even though he found her adorable.  

“You own the building we live in.  You’re my landlord.”  She pointed in the vicinity of his head.  

“I am.”  He nodded, and made to bite the finger she was waving.  

“Is that why my January rent cheque hasn’t cleared?”  Claire wound her fingers around his tie and tugged.  

“Tis.”  

She leaned forward to make her point, resting her forehead on his.  “I pay my own way, James Alexander Mackenzie…wait.  Malcolm Mackenzie Fraser. Cash the cheque.”

“I canna.”  When Claire went to protest he continued.  “On account of the fact that yer to be evicted soon.”

Her mouth dropped open.

“Seems the owner is going to be doing some renovations.  See, he wants to combine the two apartments into an upstairs and a downstairs. Proper bedrooms up, extra bathroom.  And a study and office downstairs.”  

Claire’s eyes widened.  Jamie warmed to his topic, like the Scotsman he was. He pushed her curls behind her ear, and slid his arms down her back feeling the softness of the sweater as it met the smooth leather of her skirt.  He settled his arms around her hips, both hands sliding down further to cup her arse. His body was reacting strongly.  

“Seems the man’s getting married.  Needs the room for the bairns he hopes to have.”  Claire pushed on his chest.  “Oh!  And his new wife will be going back to school so she’ll need her own room to study.”

Claire rolled her eyes at him.  “When were you going to tell me all this?”

“When I had something from the architect to show ye.” He smiled.

“So many secrets, Jamie,” Claire whispered.

He shook his head.  “No secrets, Claire!  Surprises!”  He couldn’t help it.  He needed another taste.  She met him, mouth open.  And nipped at his bottom lip.

“Sassenach,” he rasped.  “Can we go home?  Please?”

She stood up and leaned down to whisper in his ear, giving him a glorious view down the V of her sweater to the swell of her breasts, the dark red of her bra. “Get the car, Jamie.”    

She went in to use the bathroom before leaving. When she came out of the stall she noticed the girl standing by the door.  She washed her hands, and dried them, thinking the woman was waiting for someone.  

“Excuse me,” Claire said, as she tried to reach for the door handle to leave.  

The woman stepped in front of her, blocking her way.  Claire’s fuzzy brain searched her face, trying to recall if she knew her.  She was drawing a blank.  

“Can I help you?”  Claire’s mind went into nurse mode.  Was there something wrong with her?

“Aye.  Ye can give me my man back.”  The blond stepped forward so fast, Claire almost lost her footing in an attempt to move backwards.

Oh, God.  This must be her.  This was Laoghaire.  The realization sobered Claire up quite quickly.  

“Look,”  Claire moderated her tone. She tried to keep her voice calm.  “I know you had feelings for Jamie,” Claire began, “and I know you’re feeling hurt. But the simple truth is, I never took Jamie from you because he was never yours to begin with.”

“That’s a lie.”  Laoghaire spat.  “Jamie Fraser was mine.  And ye stole him away.”

Don’t engage, Claire.  Leave. She tried to step around her, but her path was blocked again.

“Must be why he brought ye to the pub tonight. Must have to get himself right sozzled before he can stand to fuck ye.”

She felt the sting in her palm before she registered the sound of her hand hitting flesh.  She watched the outline of her fingers blossom scarlet over the woman’s cheek.  Jesus H. Christ, I’ve slapped her.  The girl staggered to the left, gasping, tears filling her eyes.  I should say sorry.  

Claire straightened her shoulders.  

“Stay away from me,” Claire said through gritted teeth.  “And MY husband.”

Wrenching open the door, she left.  

Chapter Text

Prelude

“No women.  Do ye hear me?  No escorts, waitresses, exotic dancers, prostitutes, strippers…in short, Ian, if they’ve titties, I don’t want them there. Ye ken?”

“Jamie.  Ye ken I would never – “

“Bollocks, Ian.  I ken ye would!  Just to watch me ears go scarlet.”

 

Main Event

Poker.  And whisky. So much whisky.  

Jenny had massive amounts of food waiting, and Jamie had a crate of the Fraser’s best sent over from the Distillery.  Truth be told he was looking forward to a night with the lads.  One week before he was no longer a bachelor.  One week until he’d be a married man.  Claire’s husband.  Of all the things he was looking forward to, the band on his finger was the most.

Murtagh was tough.  He had a good poker face anyway, and the beard made it even harder to read.  He never bet heavily either, so it was tough to know if he had a good hand or not. Ian was shite at cards.  His uncles were ruthless. They’d go all in just to cripple you for the fun of it. Willie was fast becoming one of the lads and it made Jamie happy to know the loyal young man was fitting in and finding his way in the family business.  Rupert was pretty good, too.  He liked to pretend every hand he had was crap, and then he’d rob you blind with a Royal Flush.

They were well into their cups by the time talk turned to the upcoming nuptials.

“She’s bonny, Jamie, I’ll give ye that,” Dougal said as he raised two fingers and discarded.  “Can’t say the same of my own Maura, God love her.  Even a blind man would say she wasna bonny.”

Ian spit his drink across the table.  

Colum, who could hold his liquor better than all of them, just shook his head.  

Rupert drained the last of his whisky and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, “Aye, she’s bonny, yer Claire.  Although, I like a hen with a bit o’ meat on her.”

Dougal closed his eyes and leaned back in his chair, “I can think of worse things, then holdin’ on to that pair o’ sweet kakin’…”

“ENOUGH!”  Jamie roared.

Silence.    

“Forgive my brother, Jamie.” Colum’s voice soothed a room that went completely still.  “I wish there was a way to muzzle the idiot.”   He pointed a finger at Dougal.  “Maura deserves better than you, man.”  

“Aye, aye, aye….”  Dougal slapped his cards face down, stood and stumbled to the table for some food.

“Wha’ do ye like bessst about Claire, Jamie?” Willie slurred, eyes glazed over in drink.

Jamie, whose eyes were somewhat unfocused himself, swayed a little.  “Her arse.”

The room exploded into laughter.

Willie turned a shade of pink.  “I meant her personality.”

“Oh. Weel.  She’s fun.  And she can talk for hours about anything and everything.  She makes ye feel like ye’ve known her forever.  She’s a way about her that calms me to my soul.”  Jamie looked off into the distance for a minute, then shook his pickled brain.  He clapped a hand on Willie’s shoulder and said, “But she’s got a damn fine ass, man. I mean, Christ, gives me a terrible cockstand just to think of it.”  Chuckles from the older men as Willie started to squirm, “And she’s got this pair of hot pink knickers that….”

“JAMIE!”

Every man froze in place.  

Jamie slowly turned around.  

“Jenny.  Hey.” He waved awkwardly at his sister.

“How dare ye talk about yer future wife like some common hoor.”  She looked about the room.  What a bunch of drunkards.  Time to shut this down.

“That’s it.  Show’s over lads.”  She walked over to the bar, locked up the liquor and gathered the glasses.  She pointed at her husband.  “Show them where the blankets are,” and with a fist full of tumblers she headed out of the room. “Sleep well, gentlemen,” she called over her shoulder.

Ian turned to his friends with a sloppy wave, “Sleep well, gent…men,” and promptly stumbled into the back of his wife who’d suddenly stopped.  “Oof! Christ, Jenny…”

“Where do ye think yer going?”  Jenny said, glasses clinking.

Ian’s head lolled to the side, confusion evident. “To bed with ye, my fair Janet.”

“Think again,” Jenny snorted, and spun on her heels to leave.

 

Postlude

Claire sat curled up in the large leather chair by the fireplace, reading.  

She and Jenny had had a nice night with the children.  They all made their own pizzas, and then she and Jenny gave them baths to get the sauce out of theirs ears and hair and from between fingers.  They played games, and ended the night with Claire tucking in wee Jamie and Maggie, and reading them both a story.  

She’d planned to let Jamie have the night alone with his friends and family, but Jenny called to say she would like the company and told Claire to bring an overnight bag for her and Jamie. “I ken this lot, none of them will be fit to go home tonight.  I’ll not be in stuck in a house with a bunch of drunks on my own!”

She heard the heavy steps in the hall. The door opened, and Jamie came in. He stopped dead at the sight of her and smiled.  His eyes were having trouble focusing.  He staggered to the edge of the bed and struggled to remove his shoes.

Claire didn’t say or word.  Or move to help him.  Foolish prat.  He’ll deserve whatever headache he’ll have in the morning.  

Jamie breathed deeply and staggered a couple of steps forward, swaying slightly.  

“Are ye a dream, my own?  Or real?” he said, eyes narrowed.

Claire decided to stay still, and quiet to see how this played out.   

“Tha thu am boireannach bu bhrèagha a chunnaic mi riamh,” he whispered. “Agus a ‘smaoineachadh, bi thu leamsa a dh'aithghearr.”  Claire wouldn’t have been able to move if she tried.  Jamie didn’t speak Gaelic often, except to swear.  This wasn’t swearing.  The low rhythm of his voice sounded like poetry. 

“Och! “ Jamie flapped a hand at his vision and scrubbed at his face with both hands.  She could hear the rasp of his stubble.  “Mo graidh.  Ye are real, are ye, no?” 

Oh, the temptation to answer. 

“Best ye aren’t.  After what I admitted tonight.”  Jamie attempted three times to pull the tee shirt over his head.  “Talkin’ about yer arse like that.” 

Claire raised an eyebrow.   

“I mean, it’s a damn fine arse, mo graidh.  Drives me mad.  But I shouldna disrespect –“ his voice muffled for a bit as his face disappeared under the cotton, “-air beulaibh mo theaghlach.” 

He finally managed to pull the shirt over his head, and tousled his red curls in the process.  He looked like a child who’d just woken up from a nap.  

He looked at her again.  

“Tha thu taibhse?”   

Claire had never heard Jamie speak this much in his native tongue.  She had to admit, it turned her on.  Big time.   

“Your eyes,” Jamie said.  He smiled softly, and raised a hand as if trying to touch her cheek.  “They’re the colour of our finest whisky, with the sun shining through.” 

Slowly, Jamie stepped backward, trying to find the bed. It took all of Claire’s strength not to call out for him to watch himself.  As it was he hit the edge of the bed with the backs of his knees, and flopped over.  She almost giggled as he struggled to sit up.   He tried to focus on her again, his eyes glazed over.

“One week,” his finger wagged in her direction. “One week, and I’ll be Mr. James Beauchamp.”

Claire snorted.

“I mean, you’ll be Mr. James Beauchamp.  No.  That doesna sound right.”

Jamie placed his index finger against his lips, tapping rhythmically as he tried to make sense to himself.  He tried again, “Mrs. Claire Beau…no…,” he measured every word. “Mrs. James Alexander Fraser Mackenzie….no, wait….”

“Fhalbh,” he swore.

And to Claire’s profound amusement, the love of her life promptly passed out.

Chapter Text

He was in love with her body.

When she rose above him, he could scarcely catch his breath.  Her curves, her soft skin, her freckles all enchanted him.  Those curls that half hid her face, shadowed it in desire.  Wild and untamed tendrils coiled around her breasts. She was a siren, calling to him. And he would gladly wreck himself against her over and over.  So different from the woman who stood before him hours ago.

From the front of the church he could see her glistening eyes.  Watched her hesitate.  Watched her stop and place a hand to her stomach as if to quiet the butterflies.  She stood alone.  No one to walk her down the aisle.  She came to him of her own free will.  He had a brief flash to that moment when she climbed through his window, tentative, yet determined.  She looked like his Claire, but yet not his Claire.  She was draped in white lace.  Elegant, ethereal, she took his breath away.  His heart was touched by the nod to his heritage, a bouquet of Scottish heather tied with a ribbon of Fraser plaid.  He remembered the day she went shopping for this moment….

Jamie rolled over in bed.  He scrubbed his face with his hand and tried to focus on Claire. “Sassenach?”

“Hey!  Give me your opinion on what to wear today.”  She was rummaging through her closet clad in white knickers and a strapless bra.  

Jamie wiped his eyes.  “Ye wear nothin’ and get back in bed,” his sleepy voice rasped.  

“Jamie, please.”  She threw a look over her shoulder at him that might’ve turned him to stone if he cared enough.  

“Sassenach.  It’s Saturday morning.  Normally yer in yer fuzzy robe reading a book wi’ a cuppa tea, or at the very least, under me screamin’ my name.”

“Don’t be vulgar.”  Claire held up a sweater dress.  “I’m off wedding dress shopping and I want to look nice.”

That woke him up.  Jamie sat straight up in bed.

“Ye what?  How is it I never knew this, then?”

“I’m sure I told you.  At least, I thought I did. ”  Claire shrugged, clearly preoccupied.

“What does it matter what ye wear?”  

“Because I’ve asked Jenny to go with me.  And honestly, Jamie, I’m so nervous.  She and I haven’t spent much time together.”  She slipped a dove gray sweater dress over her head.  “She said something about getting lunch, too.  Do I look alright?”  The doorbell rang before she could get an answer. Claire hurried out of the room.

“Who in hell is that?”  Jamie yelled after her.  “Is it my sister?”

He got out of bed and grabbed his sweat pants, listening at the door as he struggled to get his foot through an inside out leg.  “Ifrinn!” Was it Jenny?    

“Jamie, I’m going!”

“Claire!  Hold up!” He cast about for a shirt.  Damn the scars on his back that prevented him from walking out into her flat freely.  “Claire!”

She popped back into the bedroom and almost broke his nose swinging open the door.  

“See you later.  Love you.”  And kissing him firmly on the lips, she left.  

As soon as he heard the door click after her he grabbed his phone and texted Ian.


“I’m not sure what I want, exactly.”  Claire plodded through the racks, dress after dress after dress.  She did know one thing.  “I’m not the Princess, fairy-tale type, that’s for sure.  Perhaps something a little simpler,” she said to the salesperson.

Jenny had cast a practical eye over every dress. A slight shake of her head here, an obvious eye roll there.  Claire was glad she was with her, but she wished she’d say something.  Jenny wandered over to a rack and methodically scrutinized each one.  Claire was disenchanted.  And hungry.  

“This one.”  

Claire turned around.  The gown was pure lace.  No frills, no layers of tulle, no over beading.  It was cut straight though, which made her wonder if her arse would look like the back end of a bus.

“Sorry, Mrs. Murray,” the saleswoman said, “but that’s our hold rack.  We’ve a bride wanting us to keep that one for a bit.”  She tried to take the gown from Jenny’s hands, but Jenny pulled it out of reach.

“Weel, if it’s on hold, it’s no’ the dress for her, then is it?”  Claire had to smile at her sister-in-law’s tactics.  “Every woman knows when she finds The Dress.  Ye never put The Dress on hold.  Ye buy it, straight away.  Has she put any money down?”

The saleswoman shook her head.  Jenny pressed on, “How long have ye been holdin’ it? Because if it’s been more’en a day, we’ll just let Claire try it on, and if it looks like I think it will, we’ll walk out of here verra happy today and…” Jenny checked the price tag, “ye’ll have made a hell of a commission.”

The saleswoman blushed and resigned herself. She simply nodded and with a flick of her hand indicated that Claire could have the dress.  


She was in love with his body.

Claire used to roll her eyes at those nurses who would talk about how they made love all night long.  She’d always thought it was an exaggeration.  Until now. Until she realized how tired she was, but so aroused that one more time still wasn’t going to be enough.  She’d fallen asleep, yet he cajoled her with gentle words and gentler kisses, and even though she mumbled her exhaustion she realized he would not be denied. As the sun broke over the mountain one small shard of light came in through the glass setting fire to the reds and golds on her new husband’s chest.  The sun crept along his magnificent torso, rising in the sky but traveling lower and lower down his body, following the path of his blonde sagittal hair until it was fragmented by her thighs gripping his hips.  So different from the man who stood before her hours ago.

She had to stop and catch her breath.  He looked taller, somehow, up at the altar.  Taller and wider.  Serene. His red hair glinting in the sun from the stained glass windows, all amber, and mahogany, and cinnamon.  God, he was beautiful.  Such a strong jaw.  And his eyes.  Those cloudless blue eyes pinning her in place.  The eyes shining with unshed tears.  He gave her the butterflies every single time.  He looked so handsome in his traditional Scottish wedding clothes. Fraser colors.  He looked like home.  Solid, warm, and as inviting as the blanket that covered their bed.  She remembered his self-deprecating humour when telling her about his own wedding clothes…

“Tell me again why we have to do this today?” Ian shouted as he got out of the car. Jamie strode over to open the passenger door and help Mrs. Crook’s out. Ian unstrapped young Jamie and brought him around to the curb to hold Mrs. Crook’s hand.    

“Because I’m a numpty and forgot all about it!” Jamie said, head to head with Ian inside the car unbuckling a wee Kitty while Ian did the same for Maggie.  

“Yer lucky ye promised us lunch.” Ian said, helping Maggie slide free of her seat. “That’s the only way I could convince Mrs. Crook to come with us. Be prepared to spend yer money.  She doesna get treated to this verra often and she plans to make the most of it.”  

Inside Stewart Christie & Co., Mrs. Crook took the kids to the back and occupied them with a big basket of swatches in front of a three-way mirror.  The jingle of the bell over the door had both men looking over their shoulders.

“Willie!”  Jamie turned to greet his friend.

“Have we adopted him now?”  Ian said out of the side of his mouth.

“Whist,” Jamie whispered, and shot a warning glance at his best friend.

Twenty minutes later they were still standing there, staring at the tailor.  Well, Jamie was staring at the tailor.  The other three were staring at him.  “I guess kilts, then?”

“Jamie.”  Ian spoke. “I’ll wear one if ye want.  But it’s a wee bit difficult to keep a sock up when ye dinna have a leg.”

“Well, what then?”  Jamie’s voice rose, the stress evident.

“Ye’ll be wed in a way as to make yer mother proud. In a kilt, in the Fraser colours to honour yer Da, with a waistcoat and jacket, if ye please.  The other two will wear proper suits, with waistcoats in the Fraser colours.  And gentlemen’s ties. Not bow ties.  Those things look ridiculous on a Scotsman.”  

All four men turned to look at Mrs. Crook who was holding Kitty and feeding her a bottle whilst laying down the law.  “Now gie on wi’ it.  The bairns are getting hungry.  As am I.”  And she turned and walked back to the children.  


She collapsed onto his chest, feeling the sweat of their lovemaking under her cheek.  Jamie yawned loudly against her hair.  Same, she thought, and melted against him, spent and boneless.  She had no energy to move.  Her eyelids closed of their own volition.  Her body satiated, her breath quieted.  As the morning sun began to rise and fill their cottage with light, he shifted, reaching for something.  Claire lifted herself to leave him, but he stilled her with a hand to the back of her neck.  He brought her down for a kiss and she couldn’t believe they could possibly do this again when he broke the kiss and slipped something over her head.  Scotch pearls. They belonged to my mother, and now they belong to my wife.  They’re one of the few things I have left of her. They’re very precious to me, Claire, as are you.  She lay back down on his chest as he shifted lower, and covered her shoulders with the duvet.  Lifting the long strand, she marveled as the many teardrop shapes caught the light and glowed luminous.  It made her wonder how long before the wedding he had been keeping these…

Everyone laughed as wee Jamie ran down the aisle shouting, “Come on, Auntie Claire! He’s up here!” pointing at Jamie. That was enough to snap her out of her daydream.  She could see Murtagh beaming with pride.  That sweet man had formally asked if he could have the honour of presenting her to his godson.  She had gently refused him, telling him that she could ask for no better man to escort her, save her father, or Uncle Lamb, whose places she wanted to mark today, even if just as ghosts.  Mrs. Fitz, and Mary Hawkins, Dougal and Colum with their wives, the Murrays and Mrs. Crook, Willie and Naimh.  It was a small, intimate affair as Jamie insisted it be in deference to Claire’s lack of family.  With Jenny and Geillis by her side, and Ian and Willie behind him, she placed her hand in his…  

The pilot laughed when he saw them walk up to the seaplane.  He’d never flown a couple in their actual wedding outfits.  The groom held out his hand to his wife and helped her into the plane, grabbing her arse in the process.  She squealed and slapped at him.  

“Jamie!  Where are we going?”  He didn’t answer.  Just grinned like a fool.  

He smiled at the way she craned her neck from window to window, draping herself across his lap one moment, and plastered against her own window the next.  The night lights from Scotland’s cities twinkled below in the twilight.  She gasped as the seaplane flew over the national parks, lochs and small islands. When they landed she gripped his hand hard and laughed out loud as the water splashed up onto her window as if they’d driven through a puddle.  

“Welcome to the Isle of Skye.” Jamie said, loving the look of unbridled joy on Claire’s face. “Seein’ as yer a Scot now, I’ve brought ye to my most favourite place in the world.”  

Two weeks.  

Two weeks of laugher and falling in love. Two weeks of climbs and caresses, dreams and debates, talks and touches.  Two weeks of solitude and sex.  

He lay on the floor before the stretch of paned glass that marked one wall of their cabin, looking out into the depths of the dark sea that roiled below.  His long legs stretched before him, his hands propped up behind him.  The stars were so plentiful in the sky, it was almost like being in a planetarium.  He felt as if he were on a high precipice, at the edge of the Earth.  He could almost imagine there was no world save this one, so isolated were they on this trip.  

He lifted his eyes to the brightest star, and blinked back tears.  Ye were right, Da.  I knew in an instant.  She’s bonny, isn’t she?  Smart and sassy.  She makes me laugh.  And she loves me.  Loves me, in spite of the scars on my back that I was sure would keep me single forever. I wish you both could’ve met her. Would’ve loved to see yer face, Mam, at the sight of all those curls.  I reckon she’s a bit like ye, as spirited as Da said ye were.  Watch over us, aye? Pray for us.  Pray I have a marriage as strong as yers.  

“We go home tomorrow,” she said.  Jamie started at the words, so deep was he in conversation with his parents.  “Home to chaos.  Me to medical school, you back to work.  Renovations on the flat.”  

Claire padded over wearing his University of Edinburgh sweatshirt.  The cuffs covered her hands just to the knuckles, and the ribbing barely covering her arse.  He wiped his eyes surreptitiously, and lifted a hand to help her sit down. “Chaos doesna bother me.”

Claire settled in his lap, noting how cold he was, sitting there naked.  “You’ve no idea.  You’ll hate me during exams.”

“Aye, maybe.” Jamie sighed.  “What was I thinking?  I could have had a simpler life, had I just agreed to marry Laoghaire.”

Claire burst into motion trying to stand up, but Jamie laughed, rolled and pinned her to him.  “Let me GO!  Laoghaire??? Let me go, James Fraser! I cannot believe… PUT ME DOWN!”

Jamie scooped his wife right up and stood while she struggled.  He let her scream and attempt to kick, keeping his chin away from her butting head until she ran out of steam.  

Claire huffed.  She was still, so he let her slide down his body until they were face to face. Her feet still didn’t touch the ground, so she hiked them up around his hips instead.  “Laoghaire, indeed.” she whispered.  

“Wee joke,” Jamie whispered back.    

“Not. Funny.”  Claire tried to nip his ear, but he was too quick.  He walked forward a few paces until she was pressed against the glass.  

Holding her in place with his hips, feeling her holding on to him, he lifted his hands and brushed her hair behind her ears.  She was framed in the celestial skies, a halo of starlight highlighting the dark spirals with bits of auburn and gold.  

“Truth be told, there was nothing simple about the day ye came into my life, Claire.  I’d dislocated my shoulder. Ye came in through my window,” he chuckled. “And every day after that was like discovering something brand new. Ye offered me a life different from other men.  Ye gave me a direction, a path to follow.  I was given a new way to look at the world.”  He paused as his eyes roamed her face, stopping at her lips.  “You.  Ye make me feel like more of a man than I ever thought possible, and every day I try to find a new way to show ye how much I love ye.”  He kissed her, softly, lingeringly.  He felt her hands slide into his hair.  

“God, Claire, I wasn’t living.  But now, I’ll take every moment of chaos, if every moment can end like this, with ye in my arms and the love of me in those whisky-coloured eyes.”

“Don’t be afraid, Jamie,” Claire whispered.  “There’s the two of us, now.”

Chapter Text

“CAMERAS!” Jenny screamed, and cuffed Jamie round the head.  He was sitting across from her desk, sipping on a coffee, waiting for her to come back from closing her office door.  He hadn’t seen it coming, so she got in a few blows before he reacted.  Coffee splashed on his hand, burning him.  He jumped up and shied away from her.  

“Jenny!  I’m no’ twelve!  Quit hittin’ me!” Jamie snarled, reaching for a cloth to wipe his hand.  

“Ye forgot THE CAMERAS!” she insisted. 

Dabbing at his hand, Jamie looked confused.  Then, shocked.  Then, he blushed red to the tips of his ears.  

“A Dhia,” he breathed.  “Cameras.”

“Aye.  Security brought it to my attention this morning.”  She pulled out her chair, and sat down, lamenting.  “Jamie!  What were ye thinkin’?”

“Who knows?” he asked, panicked.

“Just Head of Security.  Thank God he was on the night shift last night.   The regular guy called in sick.”  Jenny took a sip from her mug.  “I’m going back in a bit to check that he’s deleted it.  I’ve threatened to fire him if it gets out.”  

Jamie sat down heavily.  “Claire will kill me.”

“Claire?”  Jenny leaned on her desk, fire in her eyes.  “I’m ready to geld ye, ye stupid fool!  What in HELL possessed ye?”

Jamie’s hands fluttered as he tried to figure out where to start.  “We came here to taste whisky.”  He still couldn’t meet her eyes.  “To serve at the weddin’,” he mumbled.  

“Mary, Michael and Bride, Jamie!  So ye thought ye’d practice for the honeymoon while ye were at it?”  


“Whisky makin’ dates back to the monks of the 15th Century. Did ye know that?” 

“No, I didn’t.” Claire smiled, interested.  She absorbed the old world feeling in the entry way.  

“Uisge beatha,” Jamie said.  “Water of Life.  It was corrupted to ‘usky’ in the 18th Century, which eventually became Whisky.” 

He took her hand, and walked her through the Distillery showing her where the barley is first steeped in water, then spread out on the malting floors to germinate.  He mentioned how it had to be turned regularly, so she bent down to grab a handful and let it flow through her fingers. Her sweet, round arse bent before him.  

That was the spark.  

He explained how the ‘green’ malt went to the kiln for drying and how peat was added to the fire to impart flavour.  She wrinkled her cute nose at the smell, and he laughed.  

The fire in his belly burned a little hotter.

He showed her the grinder, and the mash house.  He spoke to her of the pure Scottish water and let her taste the wort.  It was sweet, and she licked her lips while she voiced her pleasure at the taste. 

Her tongue fanned the flames.  

They walked slowly to the fermentation area, holding hands, while he explained how they added the yeast, which produced the alcohol by feeding on the sugars.

He felt the warmth of her fingers caressing his.  

Then, he led her up the stairs to the Pot Stills.  He explained how the shape of the pots affected the character of the whisky, and how these stills had been in his family for generations.  She walked up to the shining copper and trailed her fingers down the long, narrow cylinder where it met the wide curvature. She had laughed, and said, “Very sexy looking stills, Mr. Fraser.”  

The fire had exploded in his gut with the heat heading downwards. 

He showed her the distillation process and pointed out the path the amber liquid took on it’s journey.  He’d stood behind her, one hand on her hip, the other pointing.  She leaned back a little, to rest herself against his chest.  She was listening, but that move afforded him a view down her blouse to the curve of her breasts. 

His breath came a little short, and he stuttered a bit.   

He took her to the whisky library and pured them samples in tulip shaped glasses.  He talked to her of maturation, how the whisky became smoother, gained flavour, and developed its golden colour, same as her eyes.  He told her that by law it needed to be matured for at least 3 years, but some lay in their oak casks for up to 15 years or longer.   He spoke to her of blending, and what made Fraser Distillery distinct.   They tasted quite a few. Then, a few more.  Finally, they narrowed down their choice.  

 

Then, he took her into the barrel room.  

Feeling very giddy, and a little drunk, Claire wanted to mark the blend in the cask that they would have for the wedding.  

And when she leaned over the barrel laughing about taking it home, he couldn’t help himself.  A button had popped open on her blouse, and her breasts were swinging free. The jeans hugged her arse tight as she draped herself over the cask, and all he could think of was pulling down the denim, bending her over, and finding as much pleasure inside of her as he could.  

So he did.

He’d stepped forward, pulled her up abruptly to face him, and grabbed her zipper.  He’d driven his hands inside, and made short work of her jeans.  He lifted her on top of the barrel without thought for how uncomfortable it might be. She was just the right height.  Kissing her hard while she fumbled with his belt, he whipped his zipper down, and she drove her hand inside his trousers.  It was all the encouragement he needed.  She pushed down his pants, locked her legs around him as he grabbed a handful of her hair, and they pushed together.  She was more brazen with a few drinks in her, more playful, rougher.  She bit his lip, dragged her teeth across his jaw, and whispered her desires in his ear, hot and breathy.   He groaned at her suggestions, gripped her hips, and let his lips taste every inch of skin he could reach without leaving her.  

It was spontaneous, and dirty, and so very, very good.  


“I’m so sorry, Claire.”  He sounded so contrite.  She couldn’t help but giggle. Just a little.

He was standing behind her, and looked over her shoulder to see her face.  He couldn’t believe she was laughing.  He shook his head, a smile tugging at the corner of his mouth.  “It’s no’ funny, Sassenach.  Jenny was livid.”  

Claire couldn’t help herself.  She tried to hold it in, but a snort escaped her. Jamie broke then, too.  

When he’d returned to his office there was a sealed manila envelope with his name written on it. Inside was a disc, and a note.  The note read, “I’ve deleted everything.  Couldn’t help but wonder if you’d want to see for yourself so I made a copy first.  I know if it were me, I’d be curious.  Don’t tell Jenny.”  It was signed by the Head of Security, Angus More.  

While they watched the grainy black and white footage being broadcast on his laptop, there was no mistaking who it was and what they were doing.  

“Thank God there’s no sound,” Claire chuckled.  

“Aye.  Small mercy, that.”  Jamie wrapped his arms around Claire as the disc came to an abrupt end.  “Are ye no’ mad?”

“Mad, no.  Mortified, yes.” Claire turned in his arms and placed her hands on his shoulders.  “I can’t face your sister.  Ever.”

He nodded, serious for a moment.  Then a sly grin took over his face as he admitted, “Neither can I, mo nighean donn.”

Claire thought for a moment.  “What happens to the barrel?  When the whisky is out of it, I mean.”

“It gets used again.  Why?”  Jamie settled his hands on her hips.  

“I want it.  Here.  In our home.  We’ll stand it upright, and use it as a tabletop or something.  I just want the memory.”  She bit her lip, and looked up at him tentatively.   

Jamie made an amused sound.  “I’ll see to the bottling, and bring it home myself.”  Resting his forehead on hers, he kissed her gently.  

“Do ye think for a time,” he whispered against her lips, “maybe we could leave it on its side?”  

Chapter Text

Two years.

 

Two years without contraception.  

 

And nothing.

Until now.  Valentine’s day dawned with a new hope.  This would be week six. 

She didn’t tell Jamie, but she’d been charting her basal body temperature. One of the older nurses at the hospital had told her to try it, so she did.  She even took a pregnancy test at work and the little pink line showed up.  It was faint, but it was there.

That morning as she lay in bed, Jamie, dressed for work, stopped and sat down beside her.  He splayed a big hand across her abdomen and smiled tentatively.

“Ye think maybe yer pregnant, Sassenach?” he whispered.  He dared to meet her eyes.

“I think I might be,” she whispered back.  

He stroked her flat stomach briefly.  Rested his hand there for a moment, eyes closed, kissed her softly, and left for work.


She spent the afternoon drudging through the cook books in the kitchen. She shopped for what she needed, and tackled a bloody fancy dessert.  It would be a Valentine’s dinner to remember.  She wanted to tell him she knew for sure. Take another test together.

 

And then she went to the bathroom.  

 

Her hopes slashed red.  The feelings of guilt, and despair tore at her.  A fear clawed inside her chest that it would never be her turn. Never have her wish fulfilled. Never have her hope realized.  

She sobbed.  Sobbed for herself, for her foolish belief that she was that lucky. That she was that worthy.  What did she know of motherhood?  

She sobbed for Jamie.  A man craving to be a father, yet every month for the last year steadfastly pretending he wasn’t worried, that it didn’t matter, that it would just happen.  She’d let him down.  Again.

She pulled herself together enough to finish dinner.  


He opened the door carrying the biggest bouquet of flowers he could muster. Pinks and reds and white.  He couldn’t contain his smile.  When she stepped into view from the kitchen he knew immediately.  

She took in his smile.  Her eyes darted to the flowers and widened.  

Then, her beautiful face crumpled before his eyes.  She turned away from him, shoulders slumped and folded in.  Her posture broken and bent.  She disappeared into the kitchen. 

His heart stopped, then pounded double time.  

He brought the flowers to her and she took them.  Tears coursing down her face.  Silent.  Stoic.  Shattered.  She set them on the counter amidst the chaos of preparation.  

“I’m sorry, Jamie.  I’m so sorry.”  The words choked her.

He gathered his wife to him and held her.  He willed his heart to slow.  

“Shhhh, mo graidh.  Shhhhh.  Our time will come.”  

Looking resolutely to Heaven, his mind screamed, When?  When? 

The answer was the same.

No child.  Not this time. 

Chapter Text

He didn’t like him.  Not one bit.  

 

He didn’t trust him.  At all.  

 

But he had vowed to support Claire, so support her, he would. 

The flat was an absolute war zone.  The new staircase was in, and the hole in what was his ceiling was now sporting an iron banister.  It was still crude, and needed the hardwood installed, but it was coming along.  Two were becoming one, in every way possible, and it made him deliriously happy.  

 

What didn’t make him happy was him.

 

In an effort to give Claire the space she needed to excel in medical school, Jamie’s bedroom would eventually become her study.  The upstairs would be converted into bedrooms, with her kitchen being trimmed down to a laundry area.  Until the study was completed, and the upstairs kitchen ripped out, she was studying in his office.  It was the one place where she could leave everything spread out and no one would touch it.  Jamie had moved his things to the living area, which made it cluttered but it was near his drafting table, and kept everything within reach.  He was fine with the interruption to his orderly life.

 

What Jamie wasn’t fine with was her study group. 

 

There were four of them; Joe, a top bloke who was married himself, and had a quick, easy humour; Fiona, young and serious who wanted to be in obstetrics, and then there was Robert Horrocks.

Horrocks.  Who stood just a little too close to Claire.  Let his eyes roam where they shouldn’t.  Stayed longer than everyone else, even when being shown to the door.  

Jamie sat on his sofa reading, like he did every time it was Claire’s turn to host. He did very little reading, to be honest, and quite a lot of listening.  He could hear the study group breaking up and heard Horrocks mention using the bathroom. Like he did every time.  Which allowed everyone else to leave, but allowed him to linger.  

Enough, dammit. 

Chapter Text

“I wish ye could come wi’ me,” he breathed into her ear as he nipped her lobe.

She arched at the sensation of his hot breath in her ear, pushing her hips back into his.

“You know I wish I could,” she panted back, running her hands over his bicep, and up to grasp his shoulder.  

He kissed her like a man beyond thirst.  Twisting behind her she responded like a starving woman, devouring his mouth, pushing back against him, hard. She reached between them and took him in her hand, guiding him home.  He grabbed a thigh to hitch it up higher over his hip.    

Jamie groaned at the hot, welcoming feeling that was his wife.  Claire purred when her husband filled her, rubbing her in just the right places.  

He moved slowly, savouring the last moments with Claire before dawn when he’d have to leave for the International Whisky Competition.  Claire loved when he roused her from sleep, whispering his desire, running his fingers over her sleep warmed flesh, stroking her to a fever pitch.  

He moved deeply, taking his time, feeling the weight of her breast in his hand, the pebble revealing her desire underneath his palm, drawing out the moment when she would shatter in his arms.   Drawing out the moment for himself when he would feel his heart beat faster, and his body vibrate uncontrollably.  

When she moaned his name, he smiled against the back of her shoulder, for there was nothing sweeter in this world than his name on her satisfied lips. Seconds later he called hers, lost in pleasure.  

They held each other until their hearts steadied and both drifted back to sleep.


“Sassenach, have ye seen my shaving brush?”

“Which?  Uncle Lamb’s?”

“Aye,” Jamie was frantic, looking through drawers and the medicine chest, trying to pack his shaving kit.

“God, Jamie, who can find anything in this renovation?  I can run up the stairs and check the bathrooms up there?”

“Nay bother.  Ye’d have to take the fire escape as they’re working on the kitchen and blocked off the stairs inside.” He slammed the door under the sink. 

“Since when?” Claire said as she popped her head around the door frame.

“Yesterday,”  Jamie murmured, preoccupied.  “Maybe I left it at Lallybroch.”  

He zipped up the bag and placed it into the suitcase laid out on the bed.  “I think that’s everything I need.”

Claire grabbed her backpack and met Jamie at the door. She wound her arms around his neck and raised on tiptoes to kiss him.  “I’ll miss you.”

“Miss ye, too, Sassenach,” he bumped her nose with his, “but I’m no’ ready to say goodbye to ye just yet.”  He took her hand, and opened the door.  “Come.”

They walked out onto the street to a black Range Rover waiting at the curb.  An older man, lean and wiry, hopped to attention when he saw Jamie.  He had a black knit cap pulled low over his head, and the collar of his navy blue pea coat was turned up against the cold.  His gray beard was trimmed short, and Claire was immediately drawn to the deep smile lines around his blue eyes.    

“Claire, this is Alec,” Jamie said as he introduced his wife.  “He’ll be yer driver this week.”

Claire reached out to shake the man’s hand, somewhat confused.  “My driver? Jamie.  I don’t need a driver.”

“Aye, ye do.”  Jamie clapped the smaller man on the shoulder.  “Alec is our company driver.  Takes us to the airport, picks up clients for us, takes us to meetings, and such.  While I’m away he’ll take ye to University.  More importantly,” Jamie looked intently at Alec, “he’ll pick ye up from all those late nights at the library.”  

Claire stood up straight and faced her husband.  He could see her stubbornness rise.   “Jamie, I can drive myself.  I can take our car.”  

“Sure, Sassenach,” Jamie chuckled, “because it’s not like ye never fall asleep on the way home or anything when I pick ye up.” He raised an eyebrow and opened the car door.  

Claire had the good sense to look embarrassed. “Well.  Thank you, I guess. It’s nice to meet you, Alec.  But are you sure you want to do this?  My schedule is crazy.”

“Och, no worries, ma’am,” Alec said in a thick Highland accent.  

Jamie and Claire climbed into the back of the warmed vehicle.  As they drove to the University of Edinburgh, Jamie lifted their entwined hands and kissed his wife’s ring.  “Seriously, Claire, call Alec. Dinna try to go home by bus or anything.”

Claire studied her husband’s face.  There was something in his eyes that she couldn’t quite put her finger on.  Seriousness, yes.  Longing, yes, because he wished she could travel to Chicago with him for the competition. But something else.  It looked like worry, but on a deeper level.  There was something darker in his eyes that gave her pause.  

He needed her promise.  So she gave it.

“I promise, Jamie.  I’ll call Alec.”

His eyes flashed briefly, then he nodded his head. “Good.  Give me yer phone, Sassenach, and I’ll put in his number.”

Dropping Claire off outside her building, Jamie stepped out of the car and let her out.  He wrapped her up in a bear hug, and lifting her off her feet, planted a firm kiss on her lips.  Forgetting themselves, their kisses became a bit more fevered until catcalls, and whistles brought them back to their surroundings. Jamie let her slide down his body and whispered, “Call ye every chance I get.”

“Regardless of the time difference.”  She placed a hand against his cheek, “Come back to me, James Fraser.”

“Soon as I can,” he said, and kissed her lingeringly on her forehead.  

He climbed back in the car and watched Claire walk quickly into the old stone building.  Damn, he’d miss that fine arse.  Alec pulled away from the curb and looked at Jamie in the rear view mirror. 

“I trust ye, man.” Jamie said, looking back at him through the glass.  “Ye ken what to look for.”

“Aye,” Alec assured the young man.  “Yer Da was a good man, and a friend of mine.  Ye’ve shown me a world of kindness, as well.  I’ll take care of her.”

Jamie nodded, knowing that the older man understood what was expected of him this week.  When they got to the airport, they shook hands, and grabbing his luggage, Jamie walked away.

Alec watched him go marveling at how much like Brian he was.  Same strong walk, and the same straight set of his shoulders.  He smiled at the memory and climbed back into the Rover. How badly he wanted a cigarette right now, but he would never succumb.  He owed it to Brian.  They had gone to school together and were good friends.  Then, Alec spent some time in the military while Brian went off to Uni. When they crossed paths again years later in a pub, Alec was an alcoholic chain-smoker crying over a recent cancer diagnosis.  Brian had him sobered up in rehab, and gave him a job at the Distillery as a driver.

The irony.  An alcoholic working for a whisky maker.  

Yet, Brian’s actions gave him back his life.  Cancer in remission.  Sober, and non-smoker.  It didn’t help his already broken marriage, but it did give him his self-respect, and that meant everything.  When Brian died he was sure that would be the end of his job.  He approached Jenny and Jamie, literally with his hat in his hand. Jenny had showed him into her office and wandered over to her sideboard, littered with whisky tumblers and decanters, and various refreshments.

She poured three cups of coffee, God love her. His heart melted.

She and Jamie had been talking, she explained, handing him a steaming hot mug.  They’d decided she and Ian should move to Lallybroch, now that Brian was gone.  She was pregnant and their growing family would need the space.  The commute would be a long one, so Alec would be needed to drive her and Ian to work from Lallybroch, every day.  As well, his current duties as driver would remain.  There was a small cottage in Broch Mordha that he could have, so that he’d be close to Lallybroch for the daily commute.  Then, Jamie handed him an envelope containing his new salary.  He had to draw on all of his military training to not cry at the figure on the page.  He stood, shook hands, thanked them for the coffee and stepped out into the hallway.  

At that point he allowed himself a good cry, for the loss of his friend and in gratitude for his children.  Jamie stepped out ten minutes later and handed him a set of keys.  He left him alone to find the Range Rover in the lot.  It was all too much.  From that day forward ‘Old Alec’, as the Murray kids called him, became protector of Brian’s family.  

A family that now included Claire.


She checked her phone thinking she’d calculate what time it was for Jamie. Jesus H!  11:45!  She needed to get home and get some rest before her 8:00 class tomorrow morning.

She quickly texted Alec, then started packing up. Claire was surprised at how fast her phone pinged in response.  

Which door will I find you to pick you up?

She texted back.  East door.  Thank you, Alec.

He pulled the car from its spot on the street and headed towards the library. The rain was steady, but not driving down.  Still, he’d get as close as he could. 

The night was dark as pitch but the streetlights helped.  It seemed like she wasn’t there when he pulled up.  No matter.  He punched the button to start the hazard lights and waited for a glimpse of her before jumping out to get the door.  

Claire bolted down the stairs.  She felt good about how much work she’d gotten done, but she also felt guilty for keeping Alec up so late.  She wondered what Jenny was doing for a ride this week.  If Alec was driving her, he couldn’t be driving Jenny.

In her preoccupation she took the wrong hallway to the door.  Turning quickly to correct her mistake she bumped into a solid wall of flesh.

“Umpf!”  She staggered back, clutching her bag.  “Robert!”

“Claire.”  

Horrocks bent down to pick up the book he dropped in the collision.    

“Sorry.  I didn’t see you.”  She took a moment to step around him, but he stood up and filled the narrow hallway.  She stopped, unsure of what was happening for the moment.

“It’s fine,” he said, in his charming Irish lilt. “I saw you moving like a bat outta hell, and I wondered if you were all right.”

She relaxed.  Of course.  That made sense.

“I’m going the wrong way.” She made a motion toward her head.  “Tired.” She stepped forward again, and this time he let her pass. 

The foyer was well lit and made it hard to see into the darkness.  Everything was reflected back at her in the glass, especially Robert, still behind her. However, she could make out the blinking red hazard lights and knew that would be her ride.

“Night!” she said, throwing the words casually over her shoulder.

Just before she opened the door he grabbed her upper arm.  

She stiffened.

“It’s raining, Claire.  Let me get my umbrella.”  He was standing entirely too close.  She looked up into his blue eyes.  A very different blue from Jamie’s, she thought.  Icy blue. Not the usual warm, ocean blue of her husband’s.  She shivered, and she wasn’t sure why.

“I’ll be fine. My car’s right there.”  Hitching her knapsack higher on her shoulder, she bent her head and stepped into the misty darkness.  

He held the door open as he watched her jog to the car.  

That’s when it hit him.    

He wasn’t sure what, exactly.  But he couldn’t breathe for the weight across his windpipe, and the force pressing his face into the side of the wall, away from the door. He was trying to get his feet under him from being knocked off balance but he couldn’t manage.  Stars swam before his eyes.  

And then, blackness. 

Chapter Text

The phone rang at 12:30 a.m.  Six thirty p.m. in Chicago.  

“Tell me everything,” the voice rasped.

“It’s fine, lad.  I said so in my text.  I was right there.  He didna ken what hit him,” the old man chuckled.

“Did Claire see ye?”  Jamie’s voice was vibrating with anger. 

“No, mac mo charaid,” the old man smiled.  “Yer wife was caperin’ about tryin’ to avoid the puddles, taking the long way by path to the car. I streaked across the grass and had time to open the door before she lifted her head in the rain. She missed the whole thing.” 

There was a long pause on the other end.  The line crackled across the ocean.

“I owe ye, mo sheann charaid.”


Claire’s least favourite class was immunology. Some days it was incredibly boring to her.  Today was that day.  Her phone vibrated and she welcomed the distraction.  Turning it over she unlocked it with her pass code, and looked at it.

Snapchat. 

She hit the little yellow button and gasped.  Holding the phone to her chest she blushed furiously.  Damn you, James Fraser.  She giggled.  She hid the phone under the long table and hit the replay button.  God he was beautiful. He showed just enough of his naked body without exposing himself.  Tease

She took a shot of her notes, then captioned it, “trying to concentrate, thanks.” 

The phone vibrated again.  She dared not look.  Dammit, she couldn’t help it.  He didn’t disappoint.

“Concentrate on this,” he had typed.  Lying back in bed, raised eyebrow, half smirk.  She hugged the phone again.  It was what? Two o’clock in the morning in Chicago?  

Are you drunk? she wrote.  

Maybe, he wrote back.

Claire had an idea.  An awkward one, but an idea.  Pulling out the bottom of her t-shirt she took a couple of pictures.  Not quite…. She tried again.  Bingo. She sent the snap back.  And waited.

It didn’t take long before the ‘screenshot’ notification popped up.  

She giggled, and decided to send one last message.  She held the button, and took a video.  “I miss you, James Fraser. I love you, and I’ll call you later. Good night, my love. Wish I was there.” she whispered, and blew a kiss.  Pressing send she tucked her phone away, and tried to concentrate once more.

Jamie watched the video, smiling, then sat bolt upright in bed.  No. No fucking way. 

He watched it again, focusing on the background this time.  There he was. Horrocks.  Off to her left, behind her.  Horrocks, sporting a very black eye, and a bruise on his neck.  

Horrocks.  Looking at Claire with a mixture of anger and jealousy that made his blood run cold.  

He watched her in class.  All the time. She was so bloody beautiful. Naturally beautiful, and sexy. The worst part was she didn’t even try. She had no idea of the effect she had on men.  Those brown eyes, and curly hair couldn’t help but make most men think of dark nights and tangled sheets.  She was smart, with a sharp wit, and a wicked tongue.  His mind swirled every day conjuring ways to get her alone.  If he could just spend some time with her, flirt a bit, see if he could break through.  He’d tempted women before.  Married, engaged, dating, it didn’t matter.  He was charming, and fairly good looking.  But Claire would be a challenge.  Newly married, she was still in the honeymoon phase.  Ah, well, he liked a challenge.  He hated men like Fraser.  Good looking bastards born into money always getting women like Claire.  He was the son of a blue collar worker from Northern Ireland with little money.  He was making okay grades, but the luck of the Irish gave him a study group that included three of the smartest people in his year.  Claire being gorgeous was an added bonus. The three of them were so sanctimonious, so serious.  He wanted to be a doctor just for the prestige of it.  Just so he could go back to his hometown and be lauded over.  It wasn’t to save people, to help humanity. Fuck humanity. Humanity never served him, living without all his life.  He wanted what men like Fraser had…a posh flat that he could renovate into something even better.  To have a woman like Claire on his arm and in his bed.  He’d have that one day. But he wanted Claire now.  That little exchange he witnessed told him all he needed to know.  Fraser was out of town.  The time to strike was now.


“Dinna leave the flat, Alec.  And keep an eye.  Stay parked outside.  Tell her she needs to text ye when she’s comin’ out, so ye ken if he’s kept her behind. And –“

“Trust me, Jamie, lad,” the old man cut him off.  Alec wished Jamie wouldn’t worry so much.  He’d proved he could take care of her, didn’t he?

“I do.  It’s him I dinna trust. Not as far as I can spit.  A Dhia, Alec. If anythin’ were to happen…”  

Alec was conscious of the conversation he’d had earlier in the day as they drove up to Horrocks’ flat for the study session. He kept a keen eye out for Joe Abernathy’s vehicle, as described by Jamie.  As yet, he didn’t see it.  

“Here, Alec.  I’ll get out here.”  Claire started to gather the bag at her feet.  

“Claire, I’ll no’ be droppin’ ye off until I see that yer other friends are here.”  

Claire was surprised by Alec’s tone.  He normally didn’t speak to her like that.  Plus, he always called her ‘ma’am’.  She looked at him as twilight began to darken the interior of the car.  “What?” she said.  

“I said, I’ll no’ be droppin’ ye off until I ken yer whole group is here.”  Claire watched as Alec’s eyes darted to and fro, taking in every vehicle, all his surroundings.  As nice as he was, she didn’t know much about him.  Seems still waters ran deep.  

He pulled around to the back of the building.  Still nothing. “Ma’am. Would ye do me a wee favour?” He gave her a glance and she nodded. His lighter tone was back.  He really was a puzzle.  “Text one of yer friends for me, please. See where they are?  Maybe just runnin’ late is all.”

“I’ll do you one better,” she said, and pulled out her phone to give Joe a quick call.  He answered right away.  

“Hi!” Claire said.  “Are you upstairs at Robert’s?”

She listened for a minute, and then her head swiveled sharply toward Alec.  He slowed the car and stopped at the corner.  “I see.  So where are you and Fiona now, then?”  Another pause.  

“Yes.  Okay. I’ll be there soon.”  She pushed the button on her cell to disconnect the call.

“Weel, Ma’am?”  Alec raised an eyebrow.  

Claire had to smile, just a little.  Must be a damn Scottish trait, that eyebrow. It’s how they say I told you so.

“Apparently Robert sent out a group text saying he wasn’t feeling well and had to cancel.”  She pulled up her texts and starting going through them all.  He waited patiently for her to figure out what he’d suspected ten minutes ago.  

She looked at Alec.  “I never got it.  Joe said he answered the group text that he and Fiona were meeting anyway, but I never got that one either.”

Alec kept his voice level.  Conversational, so he didn’t scare her.  “So, where to then?”  

“Campus,” she said, distracted.  “They’re at the pizza place on the corner because Joe got hungry.”  She stared out into the falling darkness that was starting to surround Edinburgh. The cold chill she got the night at the library returned.  It didn’t make sense.  Surely, it was just an oversight.  

Horrocks watched the Range Rover from his second story window as it slid past his building for the third time.  Hands clenched into fists, he watched his carefully made plans crumble before his eyes.  The driver was the problem. He knew it now.   As hard as it was to believe that the old man took him down the other night, there was no other explanation for it.  And fuck Joe Abernathy.  He was always checking in with Claire.  He was sure Joe threw a wrench in the plans, as well.  

As he watched the car turn off his street, he made a decision.


Thursday was the one night that Claire gave herself off.  Thursday night she and Jamie always had dinner together and just relaxed.  With him away she decided to catch up on chores. She changed into sweat pants and one of Jamie’s long sleeved Scottish rugby team shirts that was way too big on her, but made her feel surrounded by him.  Smelled like him, too.  She was just throwing a load of laundry in the washer when the doorbell rang. 

What the hell?  She walked over to the door and peered through the eye hole. 

She stepped back, fast.

What the hell was he doing here?  Her first thought was to pretend she wasn’t home. But the lights were on.

The bell rang again and she jumped. Dammit.  Taking a deep breath she opened the door, but left the chain on.

“Robert.  What’s up?”  Claire kept her voice cool.

Horrocks cocked his head to the side and raised his eyebrows.  “Did you not see it was me?”  He waved a hand at the peep hole.

“Well, yes, but I wasn’t expecting you.  Is something wrong?”  

He stood there in his denim jacket and jeans, entirely too close to the door.  He was tall, but not as tall as Jamie.  He wasn’t as big either, yet still intimidating to a woman of her size.  His longish hair and scruffy beard made him look unkempt, but it was the facial bruises that were the most frightening, really. Then he started speaking, and his soft Irish lilt made him seem less intense.  

“I wanted to apologize for yesterday’s mix up. I had such a migraine and Fiona told me today I’d left you off the group chat.  I didn’t mean to, Claire.  I’m sorry I caused you such inconvenience.”  His icy blue eyes stayed steady on hers. He sounded sincere. But, those eyes.  They were so cold compared to the warmth in Jamie’s sky blue ones.  

“It’s fine. But you needn’t come all the way over here to apologize.”

“Actually, I was hoping to cram in a bit of a study with you. Since I missed last night.  If you’re free?” he stammered.  “Joe was busy tonight, and Fiona didn’t answer my text so…I took a chance.  Should I go?”  He took a step toward the stairs, hesitating. Waiting. 

Claire warred with herself.  Jamie would be furious.  But how to refuse? And with what excuse?  She closed the door gently, and paused.  Taking a deep breath she took down the chain.

“Two hours,” she said, in her best no nonsense nursing voice.  “Then I have to get to bed”

Horrocks smiled.  Just what I was thinking.  

Chapter Text

“I thought for sure that Japanese whisky was going to take it,” he said, swirling the amber liquid around in his glass. Jamie shot a glance at his friend, looking for his opinion.

“It seemed so, until you waited thirty seconds….then,” John said.

“The Finish,” they both said together, and laughed.

John Grey and Jamie Fraser sat together at an airport bar, ready to go home from the International Whisky Competition.  The two men had been friends for a couple of years, but were vastly different.  One, a good-looking dapper, slender man with blonde hair and the other, a strikingly handsome, tall red-haired man.

“Damn, Fraser, this whisky is marvelous,” John said, taking another sip. “I wasn’t surprised when you won it.”

Jamie nodded, “Dougal will be ecstatic.  It’s been decades since Fraser Distillery has had a win.”  He raised a glass to his friend, “Here’s to you, Lord Grey’s Single Malt, for winning second place!”  They clinked glasses and drank deeply.

“Ah, Jamie,” John said, “it’s been good to see you.” He nudged his friend with his shoulder. “How’s married life?  I’m still somewhat pissed off you didn’t invite me to the wedding.”

Jamie laughed, “There were naught but, what? Fifteen people at my weddin’, John.  Dinna be discouraged.”

“Still.  Would have loved to meet your wife.  Tell me, does she play chess?” John nudged his friend again.

Jamie laughed.  “No.  No she doesna care for it.  She’s currently in medical school, so she doesna do a whole lot of anything but study.”

“Aw,” John said.  “Bloom off the rose already?”  He put his hand on top of Jamie’s.  “Want to talk about it?”

Jamie looked at his friend and laughed.  “Take yer hand off me, or I will kill ye.” 

John laughed and picked up his drink.  “Come on, Fraser.  I need food to sober up for this flight.”  He motioned to the bartender for a menu.  “King’s pawn to king four.”

Jamie laughed and drained his glass.  “Queen’s knight to queen bishop three.”


Alec had been staying upstairs.  Jamie thought it best he be close by. Unbeknownst to Claire, Alec would drop her off at the front door, park the car, and walk up the stairs to her old flat.  He stayed in the one bedroom, needing nothing more than a place to lay his head.  He was sure to be quiet, used the shower only after she’d been dropped at school, and ate his meals out.  He was not in the way of the kitchen renovation being out tending to his daily duties, and Jamie agreed that with the stairs out of commission, Claire would never know.  

On the plane.  See you in the morning.  Everything okay?

Quiet Thursday night, lad.  See you in the morning.   Sàbhailte shiubhlas ,  mo charaid.

Aye.  Mòran taing .   Taing airson h-uile rud .  

A half an hour later the doorbell rang, and Alec couldn’t believe what he heard from the flat downstairs.  He checked the time.  Jamie would already be in flight.  Dammit. Spoke too soon.


The study session began well enough.  He said he was having trouble with Biochemistry, so they started with that.  Claire wasn’t sure if he just didn’t understand the intrinsic nature of metabolism, or if he just didn’t care.  Either way, it was like talking to a brick wall so she suggested they move on to something else.  
 

He chose Anatomy.
 
That’s when it got uncomfortable.  The first time he brushed her breast, she moved back from the textbook he was showing her, and got up to get her own.  
The second time was blatant.  That’s when Claire got up, and got his coat.
 
“I’m tired, Robert.  As I said, two hours.  I’m sorry, but I’ve got to call it a night.”   
Horrocks slowly closed his book, and gathered up his notes.  He moved at a snail’s pace that was getting on Claire’s nerves.  She dropped the coat on the kitchen counter and gathered up their refreshment dishes to rinse them. Perhaps if she started to clean up he’d move a little faster.

She jumped in shock, the glasses shattering in the sink when she felt his hands slide over her hips.
 
Once again, before she realized what she was doing, her palm was stinging from the slap.  When she looked at him, his tongue was working over a small cut on the side of his lip.  Her wedding ring must have caught him.  Good.
 

“You goddamn, bloody bastard,” she hissed.  “Get the fuck out of my house.”
 
Horrocks pressed the back of his hand to his mouth, then pulled it away to glance at the drop of bright red blood.  She was pinned against the counter and he wouldn’t move.  He looked her up and down.  “Come on, Claire.  We both know why you let me in tonight.”
 
“Wha- what???” Claire sputtered in disbelief.  “I’m married!”  Was he insane? 
 
He shrugged, and laughed.  “So?”  
 
“Leave.  Now.”  She hardened her voice, even though she was shaking.  

Fear.  Panic.  

He was big.  Not as big as Jamie, but big.  He was stronger than her, for sure. Her mind whirled frantically.  What was behind her she could use?  What could she reach for?

The blast of cold air surprised them both.  They turned toward the source in unison.  

Alec.  On the fire escape.

He casually climbed through the window as if it was the most natural thing in the world to enter a flat that way.  

“I suggest ye go now.  As the lady requested.”  

Horrocks studied the interferer for a long minute.  He didn’t seem as old as he looked after all.  Various scenarios flashed through his mind.  He could take him, but Claire was angry, and wired.  In the stramash, it would be two against one. She was feisty, and she’d not stand idle if he tried to get rid of the Old Man. Measuring his options, he decided it was best to retreat, and lay more groundwork. The thought of her struggling underneath him made him hard, but there were too many variables right now.  

So he stepped back, grabbed his coat and went to gather his books.  

Claire picked up his backpack and threw it at him.  “Don’t forget this,” she said.

They all froze when the small, ivory handled brush flew out of the bag and rolled across the floor.  

Claire gasped.  Uncle Lamb’s shaving brush. The brush I gave Jamie as a wedding gift.  She looked at Alec with such shock that it galvanized him into action.  He moved like lightening for an older man.  In one smooth motion he grabbed Horrocks by the hair, knocked his feet out from under him again, and dragged him to the door.  

Startled, Horrocks’ feet scrabbled against the hardwood floor as he tried to stand, yet wrestle the grip from his head.  

Horrocks’ head hit the door frame as Alec flipped the handle, kicked it wider, and threw the younger man out.  While Horrocks stumbled to his feet, Alec was through the door and all Claire saw as it bounced on its hinge and began to swing closed was Alec’s mighty shove and Robert going head first down the stairs.  

Alec stomped back in, grabbed the textbooks and papers and sent them the way of the body.  He grabbed the backpack, searched its contents for more, and threw it, too.

Entering the flat, he pushed the door closed, hard, with two hands, dead bolted it, affixed the chain, and turned to look at Claire.  

The room was awash in frozen air.  Claire was deathly white, and shaking.  He could hear her teeth chattering. 

“Come on, Lass,” he said gently, moving to close the window.  “Let’s have a wee dram, eh?”


When the bastard opened the door, it took him a good three minutes to notice him in the chair.  Even though his face remained the same, he flinched just a bit in the act of taking off his jacket before continuing.  Jamie took pleasure in noticing a stiffness in the man’s movements.  The bruises may have faded from his face and neck, but there were clearly new injuries.  Perhaps from a fall down the stairs… 

“Making yourself comfortable?”  Horrocks sounded much less bothered than he seemed.  Jamie could tell it rattled him a bit to find him in his flat.  “I was wondering when you’d seek me out.”  

“We’ve a lot to talk about.”  Jamie said, voice tight.  

“Not as fine a place as you have, Fraser.  But it’s what I can afford.”  Horrocks spread his arms as if he were showing off a palace. “One day, though, I’ll have what you have.”  He set his coat down on the chair.  “She’s bonny.  Claire. They talk about the luck of the Irish, but you!”  He wagged a finger at Jamie as if this was just some sort of locker room talk.  “You, Jamie Fraser, are the lucky one.” 

Jamie stood up, slowly.  “Ye come to my house, touch my wife, and think ye dinna have to answer for that?”

“Yeah, mate, well, there’s no way to prove that, now is there?  Maybe I was just helping clean up, you know?”  Horrocks smirked.

Jamie took a slow, deep breath.  His control was slipping.  Then the snake spoke again. 

“But here’s the thing, Fraser.  This university is good and all, but it’s not really working for me.  I might be persuaded to study elsewhere, but…” he paused, drawing out the moment.  “There would be the matter of money.  Expenses. Maybe you’d be willing to help with that.”

Jamie nodded, and released a small smile.  Extortion.  How surprising.

“You put up some money now, and I swear, you’ll not see my face again.” Horrocks stared at Jamie.  Waiting.  As much as he’d always regret not sampling Claire, this was fast becoming not worth it.  

Stormy, sky blue eyes met frozen, icy ones.  

Horrocks could feel the hate emanating from Jamie in waves.  Fraser was big. Very big.  Need to pick women with smaller husbands next time, he thought.  In his distraction he missed Jamie’s expression change.  In three strides the Highlander had reached his bookshelf and pulled off an artifact.

The sgian-dubh he’d lifted the last time he was there.  Dammit.  Meant to sell that by now.  

Jamie held the weight of the dirk in his hand.  This was his first Christmas gift from Claire.  It meant the world to him.  It had only ever been handed from her hand to his.  No one else had touched it.  No one knew that she’d inscribed his initials on the tang.  

Until now.  

To find that this… this….scum of the earth had taken it was too much. 

Slowly, he drew the small dirk from its scabbard.  

He hesitated too long.  By the time Jamie turned around, Horrocks was ready.

He swung at Jamie, and managed to connect so that the knife caught him in the throat just above the collarbone as he brought his arms up in a defensive move.  The sharp sting made him hiss in his breath, and only managed to enrage Jamie more. 

The noise started as a growl low in Jamie’s throat and escalated into an all out battle shriek, as he threw himself at Horrocks and they fell, hard, on the floor.   

“Ye know what this is?”  Jamie was inches from Horrocks’ face, sgian-dubh pressed deeply into his shoulder.  Jamie could see the blood start to bloom across the man’s shirt.  “It’s the supraspinatus tendon.  Yer rotator cuff.  If I cut this yer arm will flop from yer shoulder and ye’ll feel a pain like ye’ve never known.” 

Horrocks’ eyes grew wide.  Looking at Fraser, he didn’t doubt it for a minute. He tried to struggle but every time he moved the point of the dirk dug in a little further.   

“Or maybe ye have known.” Jamie continued.  “The pain of never being good enough. Not worthy enough.  Never measuring up to any standards, even the lowest ones.  You,” he enunciated, as he pressed the dirk deeper, “fucked with the wrong man.”

“Ye tried to take my wife.  My Claire.  My life’s blood.”  Jamie’s voice rose with every word until he was roaring in Horrocks’ face.  Spit flew from his mouth as he grew impassioned in his hatred for this man, and the fear he caused in Jamie’s soul.  He shook, his anger palpable.  Horrocks could feel the tremours coursing through Jamie’s body while he was pinned to the floor.  

“Ye dared to try and soil her beautiful body with yer disgusting, filthy hands.  Do ye know how unworthy ye are of her?  I could damn yer soul to hell right now and run ye through.”  Another slight push, and more pain. 

Jamie’s hand forced Horrocks’ jaw up so he was looking at him. His face in a vice grip, Robert squinted through the agony to find a smile on Fraser’s face.   

“So,” Jamie said, as if in casual conversation, “Such a shame ye’ll be withdrawin’ from the university now, isn’t it?”

Chapter Text

She sat on the couch, wrapped in the Fraser plaid blanket that Jenny had given her for Christmas.  

She had spent the night shaking in reaction, and finally drifted off to sleep sometime in the early morning hours.  Her restless mind hadn’t let her sleep long though, and she’d been awake with the sun. 

Hours later she was holding the ivory handled brush, absently running it over her chin.  The bristles were still soft, and smelled of shaving lotion.  Uncle Lamb. Dear, sweet Uncle Lamb.  When they were on a dig in India he was given an elephant tusk.  Secretly horrified that a magnificent, regal animal had died for this, he decided to honour it by having the ivory made into many useful things, one of which was a shaving brush.  She had found it among his belongings after he’d died.  Out of all his effects, this one brought her to tears. So many memories of him on site shaving in rough conditions, flooded her mind.  Later, it sat on his vanity during his years as a professor.  Giving it to Jamie was only natural.  

Jamie

He would be so angry with her.  Angry, and disappointed.  

The tears welled up in her eyes.  How would she explain?  It was so clear now.  A driver.  Alec.  He taken steps to protect her before she would even admit there was danger.  He’d known.  Secrets.  But not lies.

Caught up in her thoughts, it took a minute for her to realize the door opened. 

Jamie.

He tossed his key in the general direction of the table by the door, eyes on her. Her first thought was how tired he looked.  His cinnamon and copper hair was disheveled, his handsome face covered in day old stubble.  She saw Alec discreetly place the suitcase just inside the door, then close it behind him.  

She was on her feet, and flying across the hardwood.  

Two paces away she noticed the blood from his neck that had soaked into the collar of his dress shirt, and stopped dead in her tracks.  

“Jamie!” she said, “You’re hurt!”

Without a word he closed the distance between them, and sliding his hands into her hair, kissed her.  His mouth hugged her bottom lip.  Nothing more, just a press of his soft lips on hers.  He breathed in deeply, inhaling her scent. Claire. He lifted his mouth only to kiss her again, feeling her hands cup his jaw, her thumb caress his chin.  He tasted the salt of her tears, and felt the shake of her limbs.  Mo graidh.

“Jamie,” she breathed, pulling her mouth from his, “let me see.”  She turned back his collar to see an ugly wound, the flesh cut deeply, skin hanging.  His hands slid down to cup her shoulders and rub them softly. 

“Hurts like the devil, Sassenach.”

“It needs stitches.”  She looked up at him.  “I’ll need to clean it properly.  How did it happen?”

Without taking his eyes from hers, he pulled the sgian-dubh from his coat pocket.  She gasped.  Claire shot a quick glance at the bookcase across the room where the dirk should have been, her eyes widening when she realized it was gone.  She’d never noticed.  “Where did you get it?”

“Horrocks.”

He watched the emotions play across her glass face. Surprise.  Confusion. Realization.  Anger.  Shame.  

“Jamie, I-,” 

“Shhh, Sassenach.  It’s fine.”  He offered her an exhausted smile.  “Can ye get yer wee kit and fix me up?” 

Claire unwound the plaid from around her shoulders, and laid it on the back of the sofa.  As she walked away, Jamie fingered the cloth thoughtfully.


He couldn’t take his eyes off of her.  Looking at Claire, feasting his eyes on her, helped him manage the pain as the needle pierced his skin.  She’d only had a light topical ointment on hand to numb the area.  Watching her face while she worked took him back in time to when he first set eyes on her.  She was then as she was now, with her brow furrowed in concentration, lips pursed, luminescent English skin showing the smattering of freckles across her nose. He watched the sun play through the tendrils of hair that brushed her neck and cheekbones.  He’d fallen for her so easily.  He was still falling, if he was honest. 

Images were swirling in Jamie’s head.  His jaw tensed.  He was so very angry with himself.  To not be here.  To not stop him.

She clipped off the last suture.  “You’ll have a scar.  A triangular scar,” she informed him.  Only then did her hand start to shake.  “God, Jamie,” she whispered, eyes filling with tears, “just an inch to the left and you would have hit-“

“Shhh, Sassenach.  We’ll no’ borrow trouble, aye?”  He slipped his hands over her hips, and under her shirt to rest on the small of her back.

She swallowed, looked him in the eye, and nodded.  “I need to bandage it.” She stepped away to wash her hands quickly at the kitchen sink, and then dug through her bag for a sterile gauze.  Gently, she applied the stark white cloth to her husband’s throat.  She could barely see for the tears clinging to her lashes. She turned her head to blink them away.  The idea of Jamie, or anyonebeing hurt because of her lack of judgement was too much. 

She felt his hand on her face, turning her towards him.  Eyes closed, she felt his thumbs brush the drops away.  

“I’m so sorry,” she breathed, so softly he might not have heard.  

His forehead came to rest on hers.  Leaning into him their breath mingled. Hers hitched as she tried not to sob outright.  His came in long calming breaths as if trying to stay in control.  

“Claire.”  She glanced up at him under lowered lids.  “Look at me, mo neighean donn.”  Swallowing hard, she met his gaze.  

“When we wed, we became one.  You have my name,” he gestured to the plaid draped over the sofa, “My clan.  My family.”  He used a finger to lift her chin higher, “and if necessary, the protection of my body, as well.”  

The dam broke.  

Sobs racked Claire such as he hadn’t seen since that day he found her feverish and exhausted on the stairs between their apartments.  He gathered her in and held her head against his shoulder, rocking her gently while the tension of the week came pouring out of her.  Her long fingers clutched at his shoulders, and naked chest trying to gain purchase, to hold on to something, anything.  

Jamie’s body was responding to its own tension.  Jet lag, adrenaline crash from his fight with Horrocks, and the pain from his wound were all taking its toll on him now.  He needed to sleep.  

“Claire.”  He pressed a kiss to her temple.  “Sassenach.”

She lifted her head, a soft hiccup escaping her as she tried to stop crying.

“Lie wi’ me?”

She nodded.  Grabbing the blanket from the sofa, she took her husband’s hand and walked with him to their bed.


“It was Murtagh.”

“Hmmm?” Claire mumbled, legs tangled with Jamie’s, her head next to his on the pillow.  

They had crawled into bed under twisted, and tortured sheets from Claire’s restless night.  They tussled a bit as Jamie tried to get Claire to shed some clothing layers, teasing her once again about how she wore too much to bed. Then finally, they curled together with the heavy duvet thrown over both of them.  The shared warmth soon lulled them to sleep.  

“Alec, I expected, of course,” Jamie said.  “I wasna so surprised to see Willie.  I thought he just had some papers for me to sign.  Business, ye ken.”  
Claire slowly came awake listening to the low rumble of Jamie’s voice. 

Understanding dawned.

“But when I saw Murtagh, weel, my knees buckled a bit.  I knew.  He’s the closest thing I have to a father.  And I remember thinkin’, why is a man who hates crowds, hates noise, at an airport?”  Jamie paused, and she felt his arm tighten around her waist.  “I never want to feel that kind of fear again.  Never.”

Claire moved then.  She rolled toward her husband at the same time his hand slid down to cup her bottom and lift her towards him.  She sprawled herself on him, finding his mouth and kissing him deeply.  She gripped his hair, turned his head to the angle she wanted and fused her mouth to his.  

She was wild, and a little rough.  He liked it.

Even when the stitches pulled a little, and made him hiss in his breath, Jamie let her take control.  He let her grab his hands and place them on her breasts, let her show him what she wanted.  

He understood.  

She was exorcising her own fears.  Fighting her own demons.  They would come together on herterms.  She would take her pleasure the way she wanted.  She would erase the memories of what that bastard tried to offer, and may have taken had Alec not been there.  If this was what Claire needed from him, then he would give it.  He left himself at her mercy.  It wasn’t easy.  He and Claire shared the same passions in bed.  They danced this dance a hundred times, giving and taking in equal measure.  Yet in this moment he understood instinctively that he needed to surrender himself to her control.  

When he tried to kiss her, she dodged him.  If he moved his hand somewhere else, she slapped at it until he put it back.  She nipped at his lips, scraped her teeth across his hip bone, and bit his thigh.  

It was the sweetest torture.  There was pleasure in the pain.    

She made him ask permission for everything.  To be kissed, to be touched.    

Permission to enter her body.

As their cries echoed around the bedroom, and she collapsed onto his chest, Jamie held his wife and tenderly stroked her back.  He felt the dampness on his skin from her tears.  His heart broke just a little.  “Shh, mo graidh, shh,” he whispered.  “He’s gone, Claire.  Gone for good.”

She stretched her neck to kiss the hollow of his throat, and saw the small red stain on the gauze.

“Did I hurt you?” she asked, caressing his jaw with the backs of her fingers.  

“Aye.  A bit.”  He brushed the damp curls away from her temple.  

“You should have told me to stop.”

“Nah,” Jamie said, giving her that lopsided smile she loved so much, “I was completely under yer power and happy to be there.”

Chapter Text

It wasn’t easy.  He’d bitten his tongue more times than he could count. Lord knew Claire could get sharp tongued when she was stressed, but it was what he promised, and he would not break his vow.  He would support Claire through medical school any way he could.  Emotionally, physically, monetarily, it didn’t matter.

Night after night she spent studying in their flat.  Night after night he checked on her only to find she’d fallen asleep at her desk, or on the sofa with a book spread across her chest or fallen to the floor.  Night after night, he roused his wife, and led her stumbling, half-asleep to bed.

Night after night he let her rest while his body raged for her.  

It never stopped, the wanting her.  Some nights she tossed, muttering and restless. Some nights she thrashed and never fully settled.  He would not take advantage.  He would gather her in his arms, and soothe her with whispered words of love in Gaelic and rub her back until she stilled.  

Some nights she turned to him in desperation, grabbed for him, begged him. Those nights he took his wife in a passion born of abstinence too long observed.  

And then the drought would return.

The night before her anatomy exam Claire asked him to help her study. 

“I’ll do what I can, Sassenach.”  Jamie reached for her textbook.

“No.  I need to you lie down, and just let me name the structures of the body.”

He nodded.

“Naked.”

Jamie’s brows shot up. “Ye want me to be naked?  I dinna see how that helps ye study.”  

Claire flapped her hands impatiently.  “It’s what we do. We work with cadavers and study the different systems in the body.  It helps me if I can just go over it that way.  I’m not much for memorization via a textbook.”

“Ye want me to lay there.  Like a dead man.  Naked as a bairn.”

“Yes. Yes, I do.”  Claire looked up at her husband.  “Please?”

Jamie shook his head.  “I dinna understand it a bit, Sassenach, but if ye think it’ll help ye.”  He pulled off his shirt, and shucked his pants.  Claire had to smile at her Scottish husband.  Never any underwear. Ever.  

“Bottoms up or…?” he gestured to his crotch.  

“On your back first.”  Claire giggled.  

Jamie lay on the bed, and closed his eyes.  Claire got right to work starting with his skull and naming the bones.  While she never actually touched him, he could tell her hands were close to his skin. He listened to her unwavering voice.  He was impressed.  She knew her stuff.  When she finished the skeletal system she started over with the muscles, then the nervous system.  

He was fine until she started in on the circulatory system.  Her finger lightly traced the veins and arteries down his neck, across his shoulder, from his arms and torso to his femoral artery.  He couldn’t help it.  Claire’s touch never failed to arouse him.

“Jamie. Concentrate.”

“Sassenach.”  He cracked his eyes open to cat like slits, pinning her with his deep blue eyes.  “I ken ye want me to be a dead man.  But my, what did ye call it?  My ‘corpora cavernosa’ dinna ken that.”  He closed his eyes again.  

She continued with her work and asked him to roll over. Right. How, exactly does a man in my condition lie on his front, then?  

Again, her delicate hands traced his body, a brush here, a light finger there. All the time naming his body parts with a sure and steady voice.  

When she was finished he breathed a sigh of relief and got up, opening a drawer for his sleep pants.    

“Again.”

Jamie looked over his shoulder at her.  “Nay, Claire.  I’m done.”  She couldn’t seriously expect him to live through that again.

“Jamie. Please.”  

“No, Claire.  I listened to ye. Ye ken fine what yer doing. Ye never faltered. Yer ready for yer exam.  Now, put the textbook away and let’s get some sleep, aye?”

Claire panicked.  She never felt ready for an exam.  If she could just run through it one more time she’d feel so much better.  “Jamie, you said you’d help!”
Jamie took a deep breath trying to control his impatience. He understood her nervousness, he truly did, but sometimes Claire’s fear got the better of her. “Claire. Come, mo graidh.  Ye’ll be fine.”  

“Jamie, please!”  

Her voice was all Nurse Beauchamp, but Jamie was not her patient. Nor was he a practice dummy.  What he was, was a sexually frustrated husband. 

Which is why he snapped.  

“Jamie, please?  Please?  No, Claire, that’s the one thing Jamie canna do. He canna “please”.  I’ve no’ had the pleasure of my wife for weeks.  So dinna make it sound like I’m being unreasonable here.”  

Claire was shocked.  “What the bloody hell does that mean?”  

His voice was a low rasp of need.  “It means, Sassenach, that if ye run yer hands o’re my body one more time I’m no’ gonna pretend to be a dead man for much longer.  I’ll be very much alive wi’ you under me, knickers off, and me so deep inside ye, ye won’t know where I start and you end.”  

She gasped.  Claire stared into her husband’s eyes and saw the truth of it. The banked desire.  That hint of loneliness that she only witnessed one other time in her life.  

But dammit, he knew it would be like this.  She had warned him!  

When the guilt began to claw at her she fought back.  “Fine.  I’ll study downstairs then.” 

She grabbed her textbook, took one step towards the bedroom door and found herself lifted off her feet by his arm around her waist. She shrieked, and dropped the book.  

Jamie fell onto the bed taking Claire with him.  “Nay, lass. Not tonight.  Tonight ye come to bed on time.  Wi’ me.”

Claire pushed at his chest, but he was immovable.  Jamie pushed up Claire’s shirt and fastened his mouth on her breast.  She moaned.  It had been a long time.  The sensation hit her fast and she melted.  She maneuvered her shirt over her head and pressed him to her.  Jamie growled in response and wrapped his arm under her hips to press her to him.

Ifrinn, Claire.  God, I’ve missed ye.”  His mouth covered hers and she closed her eyes to the feeling of Jamie surrounding her.  Her legs were tangled in his and she lifted her hips in silent communication.  Jamie rolled to his back taking her with him.  When she was on top, he unfastened the button on her jeans, yanked at the zipper and pushed them down as far as he could, hooking her panties with them.  He rolled again, Claire under him, as he helped her in her attempt to kick them off.  

Naked.  Finally.  He nudged her knees wide and settled between her thighs. Tearing his mouth from hers he looked at her.  Hair wild.  Whisky eyes dazed in passion.  Mouth swollen.  Breath coming fast.  God, she was the most beautiful woman in the world. And she was his.  

“Jamie.  Please.”  That made him smile. That kind of begging he could listen to all night.

As much as he wanted to draw this out and savour the moment, he couldn’t. Claire’s hands were hot and desperate.  She wound her arm around his neck, pulling his mouth down to her, the other holding his bottom pressing him into her. 

It didn’t take long, and Jamie didn’t care.  They had been too long without. 
Sweet release.  

Claire wrapped her arms around her husband’s back, and hugged him tight. Jamie’s weight was the most comforting feeling in the world. He grounded her, held her fears at bay. She ran her hands down his back, feeling his familiar scars like a talisman.  

“Are ye studying again?” Jamie mumbled, head tucked against his wife’s neck, luxuriating in her touch.  

Claire smiled against his russet curls.  “Latissimus dorsi, external obliques, internal obliques, God, Jamie, you have the most amazing iliac crest.”  

“I do?” Jamie laughed.  “Weel, I have to admit, I’m rather fond of yer gluteus maximus, myself.”  His hand slid up her side, “And yer pectoral muscles are fine, too.”  

They laughed together.   He was her life, her love, her strength, her rock.  
“Thanks for helping me study,” she whispered.

Jamie planted a kiss on her collarbone.  “As long as it ends in a hands-on practice session, it’ll be my pleasure.”

Chapter Text

First thing in the morning.  That’s what the box said.  

She sat there waiting for the result.  She dared not touch it.  The instructions said it needed to lay flat for the duration of the time. 

She watched the stopwatch app on her phone.  It was the longest two minutes of her life.  

In her heart of hearts, she already knew.  She was a doctor, after all.  Her gag reflex was on high alert making brushing her teeth darn near impossible.  She felt fatigue at every turn. She just felt….off.   

She peeked over at the stick as if it were dangerous.  She tried to pick it up, but her hands were shaking so badly she couldn’t hold it, so she set it back down.  

Disbelief, followed by sheer, utter joy.  A grin split her face. 

“JAMIE!”  she shouted. “JAMIE!”

Jamie stood at the bottom of the stairs.  He was afraid to go up.  Afraid of what he’d see. He knew her body had changed. Even if he were blind, he’d know it. He touched his wife far too often not to notice the tenderness, the fullness.  He desired her constantly, so he knew the rhythm of her body well.  

Yet, he’d had his hopes dashed before.  

“THERE ARE TWO PINK LINES!”  

He jumped.  That was good, right?  Ifrinn, he couldn’t remember.  He ran his shaking hands through his hair.  

Should he believe it?  Should he trust it?  He’d read about the false positives.  

The thunder of running feet over his head was a testament to Claire’s excitement. She skidded to a halt at the top of the stairs, dressed in one of his old tee-shirts, and those damn pink knickers he’d first seen her in.  Her hair was a wild mess of curls not yet tamed from sleep, face flushed with elation.

She brandished the plastic stick like a sword.  

“I want it confirmed by a doctor,” he said, brows drawn together.

“Bu- but, I am a doctor!” Claire insisted. “You bloody, stubborn Scot.  They’ll do exactly the same thing in an office!”

“No offense, Claire, yer but a resident.”  

“James Alexander Malcolm Mackenzie Fraser,” Claire said, tone incredulous. “You did not just say that.”  She’d chalk it up to nerves. Or shock. 

They stared at each other across the expanse of the staircase.  He tried to stay calm.  When she started to giggle he couldn’t hold it together. His mouth twitched with just a hint of a smile.  When she laughed outright, it was music to his ears.  He couldn’t help but laugh with her.  

And with that he sprinted up the stairs, two at a time, caught his wife around the waist, and spun her around, peppering kisses all over her face.  

Ifrinn, he was nervous.  

She wasn’t.  She was as certain as she could be.  His fingers tapped restlessly on his thigh.  

She reached over and lifted his big hand into hers, linked their fingers together. He risked a glance at his wife.  She was smiling softly, relaxed and serene.

Her thumb caressed his hand.  He cupped their hands with his bigger one.  He couldn’t stand it.  How long did this take for God’s sake???

She lifted their hands and kissed his knuckles.  He took a deep breath.  
She nodded, and he nodded back.

And then the door opened….

“Congratulations, Mr. and Mrs. Fraser.” said the Obstetrician.  “You’re expecting.”

Chapter Text

Jamie sat with the book open on the round table, colourful post-it notes sticking out at every angle.  He took a huge bite of his sandwich, and talked around the mouthful to his sister, Jenny.

“So that’s normal, then?  The back pain?”

Jenny wiped her mouth before answering.  “The baby is growing.  Her centre of gravity is shifting.  She’s also under stress, what with her hours and such, but yes, back pain is perfectly normal.”  She smiled at her brother as he delved back into her copy of What to Expect When You’re Expecting.  Such a numpty. “Ye worry too much, brother.”

He grunted, and flipped the page.

“And the spotting?  ‘Tis still normal?”

Jenny stilled.  Spotting?  At five and half months?  She took a sip of her water trying to moisten her suddenly dry throat, and kept her voice as neutral as possible.  “Well, how often is it?”

“No’ verra often at all,” Jamie said, “It’s only I noticed it when I did the laundry at the weekend, ken.”

Jenny breathed again.  “Aye, well for some women it’s the way their pregnancies go.  As long as Claire tells her doctor.  She’s on her feet too damn much at the hospital.”   

Jamie made a Scottish noise deep in his throat.  

Jenny went silent.  Her sister-in-law was deep into her residency, and doing well.  Still, she hadn’t been to Lallybroch for a Sunday supper in three weeks. Jenny missed her company, but more than that she just wanted to give Claire a day of rest.  Jamie had come alone, and seemed fine with it so Jenny was trying hard not to judge.  His noise reminded her to keep her opinions to herself. He would be nothing but supportive, which was how these lunches began. Seeking advice, he’d taken to bringing lunch to his sister’s office, and asking her question after question.  At first Jenny found it annoying, so she dug up her old dog-eared copy of her pregnancy ‘bible’ with its notes in the margins, and handed it to him.  When he came back the next week with take away fish and chips, and the post-it note pages she decided to embrace what would become a ritual.  

Jamie closed the book, and began to clean up their mess.  He threw away their trash, grabbed the book, and kissed his sister on the top of her head.  “Thank ye, Janet.  Love you.”  He headed back to his office.

Jenny called after his retreating form, “Love you, too.”  And keep an eye on that wife of yours, brother.

Claire’s bump grew, slowly at first.  A barely discernible curve to her belly. Around the fourth month Jamie was amazed at her suddenly changing silhouette.  And now, towards the end of her fifth month, he loved to rest his hands on the side of her belly and feel the wean squirm and shift in her womb. It’s how he ended every day, and if he was honest, it was the best part of his day.  

Most days Claire got home from the hospital tired.  Jamie would send her to the shower while he finished getting dinner ready, but tonight she came in full of energy.   

Jamie met her at the door to help her off with her coat.  Claire kissed her husband hello, and launched right into her news.  “I wanted to tell you about an opportunity I was given today,” Claire said, dropping her backpack by the door, and shrugging out of her coat. 

“Oh?  What is it, Sassenach?” he said, turning towards the closet. 

“I’ve been offered a chance to study in France for a couple of weeks.  It’s at Hôpital des Anges, in Paris.  I can do a two week rotation with two of the most renowned doctors there, Dr. Foray, and Dr. Raymond.  They are amazing.  Dr. Foray is Head of Diagnostic Medicine, and Dr. Raymond has an holistic approach to medicine that I find fascinating.”

Jamie smiled.  “Weel, it’s flattering, to be sure.  What did they say when ye turned them down?”

Claire watched Jamie hang up her coat.  “I didn’t,” she said, carefully.  “I didn’t turn them down, Jamie.”

Jamie turned slowly to look at his wife.  He took two deep breaths.  

Then two more.  

She couldn’t be serious.  There were dark circles under her eyes.  The stress and strain of her residency was written all over her face. 

Hands jammed in his pockets, Jamie cleared his throat, and said as calmly as possible, “Claire.  Ye’re almost six months along.  I appreciate how wonderful this chance is, but I think it’s prudent to think of yerself and the bairn first.  And while I ken ye are working here, and the hours are tough, ye still come home to me.  I can help take care of ye.  They’ll be no such thing in Paris.”

“You won’t come?”  Once it was out of her mouth, Claire realized how silly that sounded.  But it was too late to take it back.

“Have I no’ a job of my own?  I’m CEO of a company, Claire.  It doesna run itself.”  He would not point out how selfish she sounded.  He would stay calm if it killed him, dammit.

Claire shifted from foot to foot.  She decided to step back from this conversation for now.  “Dinner smells wonderful.  Do I have time for a shower?”

“Aye,” Jamie said.  He turned for the kitchen, wishing to put distance between them for a bit.

Dinner was mostly a silent affair.  They kept the conversation easy, light, and neutral.  Jamie’s usual appetite was markedly different, while Claire just pushed her food around her plate.  She managed a few bites, but only when Jamie broke through her reverie saying, “Claire.  Please eat.  For the bairn.”

After cleaning up the kitchen, Claire announced she was heading to bed. 

Jamie watched her climb the stairs, fatigue in her steps, and disappointment in the curve of her shoulders.  Emotions warred inside his head.

Claire’s emotions were equally at war.  She brushed her teeth, her mind in turmoil.  She wanted to go to France, dammit!  Two weeks was not a long time. Being a resident was so competitive, and she could use this opportunity to give herself a leg up.  She left the bathroom night light on for Jamie, and climbed under the duvet.  Turning off her lamp, she rolled over onto her side, and stared out their bedroom window.  As tired as she was, sleep eluded her.  Her thoughts twisted, turned and swirled around her head like the child inside her womb.  She laid a hand on her belly hoping to calm the baby.  Instead, the difficulty of the situation kicked her heart as surely as the baby kicked her side. She felt at a loss.  How could Jamie possibly understand?  Fraser Distillery was his legacy.  It was his, served up on a platter.  Even if he hadn’t wanted to join the family business, he still had all that love to support him; a safety net, so to speak.  She, on the other hand, had to create her own opportunities.  She had no name, no family, no history.  She was plain Claire Beauchamp, and nothing more.  

Claire rolled to her back, and looked over at the framed photos on his dresser. In the semi-darkness she could still make them out.  Jamie with his father, and Jenny.  A younger version of herself with Uncle Lamb.  While he’d grown up with Lallybroch, she’d had a tent in some far-away country.  They were both destined for greater things, but it was the achieving of these things that was different.  Hers was an uphill climb, alone, with only her inner drive to support her.  His came with a father who taught him the ropes, and family to help him succeed.  Claire knew she could never say this to Jamie, though.  It would hurt him.  He worked hard, never used his family name for his own gain, and she respected him for that.  He was an honourable man, and would be offended by her thinking.  He never asked for his privileged life, and didn’t rely on it.  But that didn’t negate the fact that it was still there. 

She heard the dishwasher start.  Heard Jamie check the door as he locked up. She heard him climb the stairs.  She expected to see him enter the bedroom, but instead her ears caught the familiar sound of the window opening.  He was heading out to the fire escape.  It’s where he went when he was feeling too much.  Whether troubled, grateful, overwhelmed, or overjoyed, Jamie sought solace on that iron platform. 

“Babies are supposed to bring people together, not separate them,” she whispered to the empty pillow beside her.  

He stayed out there a long time.  Just when she thought she should go to him, Claire heard the window close again. 

She stayed quiet as he stepped into the bathroom to brush his teeth. He turned off the light, plunging the room into darkness.  She listened as he shucked his clothes and slid under the cover.   His body brought a chill to the sheets.  

This was their time.  This was the part of the day when Jamie would place his large hand, warm and dry on her belly, and softly stroke her skin.  He would grin at the baby’s movements, and say silly things to their child.  Sometimes he’d speak in Gaelic, and refuse to translate for her.  He would lock eyes with her, and whole conversations would pass silently between them.

He didn’t touch her.

She rolled towards him, willing to make the first move.  “Jamie,” she whispered. She slid her hand along the bed until she found his hand, clenched and cold, and placed it on her bump.  

She heard his breath hitch.  She swallowed, hard.  “I understand what you’re saying, Jamie.  I do.  But I really want to go.  It’s not the same as what I do here.  I’ll be shadowing them, watching and learning, that’s all.  Just during the day.  It might actually be more restful.  It’s such an important opportunity.”

He was tempted to pull his hand back, but a little nudge from his child made him pause.  He closed his eyes, and tried to control the tension he was feeling. It took them five years to conceive this child.  One missed opportunity already on a long ago Valentine’s Day.  

The only thing he’d ever wanted more than this child was Claire.  

He took a minute to gather his turbulent thoughts, his hand absentmindedly rubbing circles on her bump.  “I understand, too, Claire.  I do.  But I’ll no’ pretend I’m not worrit.  I promised ye honesty, so here it is.  Ye get caught up. Ye ken ye do.  Ye do things sometimes without thinking them through.  I’m afraid ye’ll forget yerself, and overdo.”

“Jamie, don’t worry –“ she started to say.

“No, Claire.  Must I bear everyone’s weakness?  Can I no’ have my own?  I do not want ye to go to Paris.”  He voiced his innermost fear, the fear that came to him on the fire escape.  “Bad things tend to happen when we’re apart.”

“Horrocks,” she whispered.

“Aye,” he breathed back.

Claire stayed silent.  Her mind twisted and turned remembering the past. Impulsively, she spoke, “Could you meet me?  Take a Friday off?  Come for a long weekend?”  

A Dhia, she was stubborn.  He didn’t want to argue anymore, so he placated her. “I’ll give it some thought.”

It was a start, she thought.   She scooted closer to her husband.  “I love you, Jamie.”  She laid a hand on his jaw, kissing him softly.

“I love you, too, mo neighean donn,” he said, gruffly, returning her kiss.  “Now, ye sleep a bit.  Yer worn out.”  He tucked her head against his neck, and stared out the window as darkness surrounded Edinburgh.  He shifted the duvet higher around her shoulders, cocooning them both, just as the bairn was safely nestled inside his wife.  He would stay like this for the next three months, if he could, protecting them with his body.

Two weeks.  Not a long time.  

Yet, there was one thing Jamie Fraser knew, and knew well.  Trouble didn’t have a timeline.  Sorrow could come on a sunny day.  One moment you could show up to work, laughing with your best mate, the next scarred for life with no father, your friend an amputee.  

Two weeks.  A lifetime.

Chapter Text

Warning:  This isn’t the happiest of chapters.

Special thanks to @joannclelia for her help. And to anon for the ending advice.


 

“What have ye for lunch then?”  

She turned the phone around to show him her tray.  Pasta, of course.  An orange.  Spinach salad.  Good.  Bottle of water.  Then, just on the edge of her tray…

“Claire.  What was that?”  

She flipped the phone back to her face.  “What was what, darling? You can see I have a very healthy lunch, and I’m sitting down, relaxing while I eat.  With Louise,” she turned the phone towards her companion, a pretty nurse with long brown hair.

“Right there!  Is that a brownie?”  He could hear her giggle, and say shhhh.

Her face was barely straight as she looked him.  “No.  That’s Louise’s, not mine.”

“Non, ce n’est pas le mien!” Jamie heard the indignant voice out of view. 

“Sassenach, I ken ye like the French pastries, but come on.  Ye had a pain au chocolat at breakfast, now this. Last night, some cake.  How about ye not give birth to a diabetic, eh?”  

Claire smiled, and blew him a kiss.  “No pudding at dinner tonight.  Promise.” 

Jamie nodded, pursed his lips, and blew a kiss back.  “Enjoy yer lunch.  I’ll speak wi’ ye later.  Take it easy, okay?”

“I will.” Claire said, as she waved at her screen.

“I love you, mo neighean donn.  Give the bairn a kiss from his Da.” 

“You mean her.”  Claire kissed her fingers and pressed them on her bump. “Love you, too, Jamie,” she said, and disconnected.

When it was time to go back, Claire gathered up her tray, and stood.  

She looked at her chair in confusion.  There was a large mark on her seat. What had she spilled?  

It wasn’t until she heard Louise’s gasp that she realized something was wrong. 

She felt the sticky wetness on her scrubs, but couldn’t really see past her belly.

A moment later she felt the rush of something between her legs.  She could smell the blood.  

Her tray dropped to the floor, bouncing off the end of the table on its way down, shattering everything.  

Far away someone was screaming.

It was her. 


“I just talked to her.  I just talked to her at lunch.  She was fine.  I just saw her.” Jamie kept repeating the same thing.  He sat in one of the chairs in front of her desk, tears in his eyes, bewildered, confused.  

Jenny catapulted into action.  She snapped a finger at her assistant, pointing. The woman already had the phone receiver in her hand.  “I need Ian, here, right now.  For Jamie.  Alec needs to bring the car around right away.  And get a private plane ready to leave for Paris immediately.  Charge the company.”  

“You,” she pointed at Willie, “come with me.”  Willie, who had shown up with Jamie, was pale and panicked.  He stepped into line with her as she strode down the hall.  “We need Jamie’s passport, and -”

“Oh! I have it.  All of Jamie’s travel documents are in his office.” Willie was glad he had that, at least. 

“Good.  Now, gather all that up and, listen carefully, ye need to get his art supplies.”  Jenny stopped, and put a hand on Willie’s arm.  “He draws when he’s stressed.  He’ll need the distraction.  Get it all together and give it to Ian.” She pushed him forward, “Now go!”

Willie streaked off to do her bidding.

Jenny had Alec drive at break neck speed to Jamie and Claire’s flat.   She threw what she could into a bag, jeans, tee shirts, a few socks, trainers, jacket. She threw some things in for Claire as well.  Soft sleep pants and a softer sweater.  Toiletries.  Where the hell was his underwear!?!  She opened a top drawer and rummaged around.  

The small gold object caught her eye.  She hadn’t seen it in years. Instinctively, she grabbed it, and slamming the drawer shut, turned to go.  She was in and out of the flat in 15 minutes.  

Ian and Jamie were waiting inside the small terminal when she got there.  Her brother was turning his phone over and over in his large hands.  She put the bag next to his feet in silence.    

When the flight was ready, Jenny walked Jamie to the steps.  Ian handed the steward the bag.    

“Jenny, I-“

“Shhhh, brother.”  She grabbed Jamie around his shoulders and hugged him tight.  His arms gripped her as he buried his face in her neck.  God, he was burrowing in like Wee Jamie after he’s fallen off his bike. She had no words for him.  She would not lie and tell him it would be all right.  Lord only knew what was happening in France.  “Give Claire a hug for me, and tell her I love her.” Jamie nodded against her neck.  She turned quickly and gave him a kiss on his temple.  

Grabbing his hand, she pressed the small oval piece into his palm.  “I found this.  Take it.  Let it give ye strength.”  

Jamie looked at it, eyes wide.

“Go on,” Jenny said.  “Call me as soon as you know something.”

Jamie let go, wiped his eyes with the back of his hand and nodded, looking at the tarmac the whole time.  

He turned towards the plane, but found himself in a hard embrace.  Ian gripped his brother-in-law, and friend tightly.  No words were exchanged. Whatever one needed, the other would give.  They had been through too much together, their bond understood.  Ian was the one person who knew exactly what Jamie was thinking and feeling.  

How life could change in the blink of an eye.

How you could be whole, and happy, feeling right with the world, and then have your heart and mind shattered like the cracks in a windshield after a crash, spreading out in front of you until you can’t see anything of the world at all. Just fragments.  Fractures.  Shattered pieces.  Or worse yet, missing.  

Jamie sat alone on the plane looking out of the window as Scotland disappeared below him.  He still had the token from Jenny in his hand.  He closed his fist around it, hard, and looked out at the clouds surrounding him. He raised his eyes higher, heavenward.  Lord that she may be safe. She and the child.  


It was all over when he arrived.  

He was ushered to a waiting room, and made to sit by himself.  Finally, a small toad-like man entered, and introduced himself as Dr. Raymond.  His first thought was, Claire said ye looked like a frog.  She wasna wrong.  Jamie’s mouth lifted in half a smile as he stood to extend his hand to the doctor.  

Raymond explained that Claire was currently receiving some units of blood to replace what she’d lost.  Once assured Claire would be fine, Jamie had asked about his child.  

The wee man barely came up to the centre of Jamie’s chest, yet his words had the power to knock him backwards, stumbling into a chair.   

His child was mort-nè.  

Still born.  

Jamie felt fragile, paper thin, like velum, that if he moved too fast or spoke to loudly he would tear in half.   

“Your wife suffered a placental abruption.  This is when the placental lining separates from the uterus.  Sometimes the mother does not feel anything, and sometimes she feels, maybe, some pain in the back.  Unfortunately, the infant was not receiving enough oxygen in utero, so….” The doctor paused, then said in his heavy French accent, “I am sorry for your loss, Monsieur.”

Jamie nodded, and swallowed.  His emotions were so raw, he found himself unable to speak.  His thoughts were a tangle, like a net cast out to sea and caught on a rocky shore.  Fear wrapped itself around his gut, making him wonder if this was, somehow, his fault.  

“Can I ask ye a question?” Jamie said.

Dr. Raymond blinked slowly, and nodded once.    

“Is this my fault?  Should I – “ Jamie stopped.  It was difficult to talk of personal things, private things.  

He thought back to the night before she left, how he drove into his wife, hard and fast, angry that she was leaving, desperate to have her knowing he would miss her, with fear in his veins over their impending separation. More like making a point, than making love. He would rather die than to have been the one to cause the tear.

He gathered his courage, began again.  “The last time, when I had, well, sex with my wife…should I have been gentler?  Maybe….maybe been more considerate of her…of her….condition?”  

The physician simply shook his head, and said quite bluntly, “No, Monsieur. That is not the cause.  You are a fine husband.  It is not possible.”  

Absolved of his sin, Jamie sat back in the chair and exhaled.

But that didn’t absolve Claire.  Jamie took a deep breath, then said what was on his mind next, a thought that was eating at him like a corrosive.  

“I never wanted her to come, ye see.  She…Claire…she doesna do things in half measure, ye ken.  I worried she’d overdo.  So.”  He looked Dr. Raymond straight in the eye, and asked, “Did she?  Did she do too much?  On her feet all hours?  Not stopping, or getting proper rest?” 

Jamie rubbed his hands together, trying to warm them.  He felt ice cold to the marrow of his bones.  “Tell me she rested.  Tell me she took care, that this wasna her fault, either,” he whispered, ashamed, “because I don’t…I don’t want to hate my wife.”  

Dr. Raymond looked at this red man.  The aura around him.  He would fight to the death for the things he loved.  Raymond understood he was fighting now. Fighting for the love that was being consumed by his fear.

“Monsieur Fraser, I can tell you that many times the cause is unknown. Sometimes the placenta does not attach in a place that provides adequate support, and it may not develop appropriately, or it may separate as it grows.” The little man leaned forward in an effort to reassure Jamie, “I can tell you that Dr. Fraser was not reckless or foolish.  Anyone could see that the child in her womb came first.”

The door opened then, and the young nurse he’d seen from Claire’s video called for the doctor. He couldn’t follow all of her rapid French, but when Dr. Raymond jumped up, Jamie instinctively followed.  

He stepped inside the room.  Claire’s room.  A Dhia, she looked so pale.  She was as stark a white as the hospital linens, the dark of her hair like an ink blot on the pillow.  Her arm thin, slack, even though the deep red liquid flowing through the tube in her arm was promising life.  

He understood a few words.  Fever.  Infection.  

Jamie watched in shock as the little man laid his hands on Claire.  Her shoulders, her arms.  Murmuring in French the entire time.  He sent the nurse for another drip, and she scurried out of the room hardly sparing Jamie a glance.  He flinched as the doctor ran his hands over Claire’s breasts, and down her torso, lightly but touching her all the same.  The healer then placed his hands over his wife’s womb, and Claire writhed in pain.  

More blood.  Jesus, God, how could there be so much blood.

And then, his name.

Ripped from Claire.  In pain.  In desperation.  Like a magnet, it drew him.  It was strange, how his name dragged from her remaining strength reverberated in his soul.  He took a step towards her before he’d realized he’d moved, and found himself stopped with a vise grip on his arm.  He turned to find a large woman, Hildegard according to the name tag, telling him, “Vous devez partir, Monsieur.”


When she woke up she was a bit disoriented.  Memory surfaced.  Grief washed over her like a tidal wave.  For a moment she could not breathe.  

Turning her head she saw her 6’4” husband folded into a tiny chair beside her bed.  She had no memory of his arrival. 

He was sketching.  He looked tired, wan, pale.  His eyes darting over his drawing as his big hand moved in strong sure strokes.  

“Do you hate me for it, Jamie?” she whispered, wanting to know.  Her biggest fear, that Jamie would blame her.  What was more pain?  Better to roll it all into one great big ball of grief, and deal with it.

He jumped.  “Didna realize ye were awake, Sassenach.”  Jamie set down his computer.  

Claire relaxed at the use of her nickname.  

“Jamie, I’m so sorry.  So very, very sorry.  I put myself before our family.  This is all my fault.”  

“Shhh, mo neighean donn.  Yer a doctor, ye ken well it’s no’ yer fault.”  Jamie moved his chair closer to her bed, and took one small, weak, long-fingered hand in his two large ones. Tears slipped from her eyes at his gentleness.  

Jamie didn’t have any words.  There was nothing to say.   He couldn’t fix what happened.  He couldn’t change the loss.  He could just share it.  

They sat like that for some time.  Glancing at each other.  Letting their hands speak for them, thumbs stroking, fingers squeezing, softly rubbing.  Jamie’s thumb touched her ring from time to time.  

Finally, Claire spoke.  “I want to see her.”


“My wife,” Jamie stopped.  Cleared his throat.  “My wife wants to see our child.” He stood in front of the nurses’ station, hands clenched into balls at his side, standing as tall as he could.

“Ce n’est pas possible, Monsieur,” said Nurse Hildegarde.  It wasn’t the answer Jamie wanted.  He had been powerless to this point.  This, however, he would control.  

“I didna ask yer permission.  I didna say can she, I said she wants to.  So she doesna have to imagine.”  He willed himself not to raise his voice, to keep his anger in check.  

The young nurse, Louise, looked up at him.  She looked at her superior. Stand-offs like this were rare.  Usually no one questioned Nurse Hildegard. Everyone stopped to look at the large, grieving, red haired man.  Nurse Hildegarde opened her mouth to speak again, but caught sight of the little practitioner behind Monsieur Fraser.

“Soeur Hildegard. Presénter l’enfant à Dr. et M. Fraser.  Vous avez ma permission.”   


Claire was sitting up in bed when he entered the room.  The bundle in his arms was so tiny.  A pink blanket.   As he came nearer she could see the tiny face peeking through.  Sleeping.  No, Claire remembered, not sleeping.  

“Her hair,” Jamie said, smiling sadly, “she’s got my hair.”

Claire raised her arms for the baby, and Jamie gently handed her their child as if handling fragile glass.  There was that awkward bobble of a new dad not sure what he’s doing to a new mom too eager to hold her baby.  They both chuckled at that.  Jamie sat on the edge of the bed, his arm around his wife, the other under her arms that held the baby.  They stayed like that, silently, as Claire unwrapped parts of their bairn, counting ten fingers, and ten toes. Stroking the luminescent skin.  She chuckled at the tiny ears, which stuck out a bit, like Jamie’s.  He nudged her in understanding, chuffed.  So beautiful.

And then Claire began to sing.

When Nurse Louise came in an hour later she was moved by the tableau before her.  Her friend, Claire, rocking slowly, humming.  Jamie, her husband, sitting stoic beside her.  Neither taking their eyes from their child.  

She approached the bed. 

“Ma Chere, Claire.  Il est temps.”

When Louise left the room closing the door behind her, Claire thoroughly and completely went to pieces.  

Jamie held his wife across his lap.  

And did the same.


Sitting on the private plane to go home Claire looked out the window at the terminal traffic.  Everyone so busy, oblivious to the people they were shuttling on to planes, the bags they were loading, the lives they were moving along. Jamie sat beside her, holding her hand.  They spoke little.  She still couldn’t believe they were alone on this plane.  Jamie insisted.  He said he’d had enough of strangers.  

“I don’t want to forget her face,” Claire whispered, head back, curls pressed against the head rest.  “I’m afraid I’ll forget her face.”

Jamie let go of her hand.  “I ken it may be strange.  I’m sorry if it bothers ye. But I had to,” he said, quietly, apologetically.  He fumbled in his pocket.  “For Jenny.  For my sister.  She would want to see, ye ken.  She’s all I’ve got for family, other than you, Claire.”

There, on his phone screen, looking as if she was sleeping peacefully, was Faith Elizabeth Fraser. 


One year later

They walked slowly through the cemetery.  Jamie’s hands deep in his pockets, as he did when he was nervous.  Claire’s arms were crossed in front of her, as she did when she was nervous, a bouquet of tulips gripped in her hand.  They walked as if they really didn’t want to arrive at their destination, lost in their own thoughts, steps hesitant.  

It was the first time they would visit her grave.  One year to the day when she passed.  

“She should be over here.”  Jamie hung back and let Claire step up first. 
Claire’s gasp was audible from where he stood.  She dropped to her knees, and laid a hand reverently on the stone.  A stone.  She hadn’t expected a stone.  They hadn’t ordered one.  She expected a simple marker, not this beautiful, pale pink granite slab. 

Jamie crouched beside her.  He cleared his throat.  “A Da can only give what he can to his bairn.  I’m an artist.  So.  I gave her a resting place, wit’ her name and our names, and placed her in the care of her grandparents.  Yers and mine.”  He brushed a leaf off the corner of the stone.  “And I left a bit of Scotland wi’ her.”

She traced the tiny gold medal imbeded in the stone under Faith’s name. “What is this?”

“It’s St. Andrew,” Jamie said.  “My father used to carry the medal around in his pocket. It would remind him to pray, to ask for intercession when he needed it. It became mine.  Jenny gave it to me when I left for France.  When I ordered the stone I gave it to them, along with the design.”  

They stayed for a long time, holding hands, lost in their own thoughts.  
Jamie stood, and pulled his wife to her feet.  Wrapping his arms around her shoulders he buried his face in her sweet smelling curls.  The sun shone warm on their faces, as Jamie swayed from side to side.

“So.  Now would be a good time to tell me something, Claire Fraser,” he said, next to her ear.  “Anything ye like.”  

Claire butted backwards and hit her husband in the crotch.  He let out a soft “oof” and laughed.

“I have nothing to say, James Fraser,” she said, in her haughtiest tone.   

“Hmpf,” Jamie made a Scottish noise, and turned Claire around to face him. “Yer sure, then?”  

Claire stood on tiptoes and kissed her husband full on the lips. “Five days is not a long time, you know that.”

“Aye, but yer never late.”  He grinned at her.  “It’s fine, Sassenach.  I’ll wait. Besides,” he said softly, “I have you.  And faith.”  

Chapter Text

“What have ye for lunch then?”  

She turned the phone around to show him her tray.  Pasta, of course.  An orange.  Spinach salad.  Good.  Bottle of water.  Then, just on the edge of her tray…

“Claire.  What was that?”  

She flipped the phone back to her face.  “What was what, darling? You can see I have a very healthy lunch, and I’m sitting down, relaxing while I eat.  With Louise,” she turned the phone towards her companion, a pretty nurse with long brown hair.

“Right there!  Is that a brownie?”  He could hear her giggle, and say shhhh.

Her face was barely straight as she looked him.  “No.  That’s Louise’s, not mine.”

“Non, ce n’est pas le mien!” Jamie heard the indignant voice out of view. 

“Sassenach, I ken ye like the French pastries, but come on.  Ye had a pain au chocolat at breakfast, now this. Last night, some cake.  How about ye not give birth to a diabetic, eh?”  

Claire smiled, and blew him a kiss.  “No pudding at dinner tonight.  Promise.” 

Jamie nodded, pursed his lips, and blew a kiss back.  “Enjoy yer lunch.  I’ll speak wi’ ye later.  Take it easy, okay?”

“I will.” Claire said, as she waved at her screen.

“I love you, mo neighean donn.  Give the bairn a kiss from his Da.” 

“You mean her.”  Claire kissed her fingers and pressed them on her bump. “Love you, too, Jamie,” she said, and disconnected.

When it was time to go back, Claire gathered up her tray, and stood.  

She looked at her chair in confusion.  There was a large mark on her seat. What had she spilled?  

It wasn’t until she heard Louise’s gasp that she realized something was wrong. 

She felt the sticky wetness on her scrubs, but couldn’t really see past her belly.

A moment later she felt the rush of something between her legs.  She could smell the blood.  

Her tray dropped to the floor, bouncing off the end of the table on its way down, shattering everything.  

Far away someone was screaming.

It was her. 


“I just talked to her.  I just talked to her at lunch.  She was fine.  I just saw her.” Jamie kept repeating the same thing.  He sat in one of the chairs in front of her desk, tears in his eyes, bewildered, confused.  

Jenny catapulted into action.  She snapped a finger at her assistant, pointing. The woman already had the phone receiver in her hand.  “I need Ian, here, right now.  For Jamie.  Alec needs to bring the car around right away.  And get a private plane ready to leave for Paris immediately.  Charge the company.”  

“You,” she pointed at Willie, “come with me.”  Willie, who had shown up with Jamie, was pale and panicked.  He stepped into line with her as she strode down the hall.  “We need Jamie’s passport, and -”

“Oh! I have it.  All of Jamie’s travel documents are in his office.” Willie was glad he had that, at least. 

“Good.  Now, gather all that up and, listen carefully, ye need to get his art supplies.”  Jenny stopped, and put a hand on Willie’s arm.  “He draws when he’s stressed.  He’ll need the distraction.  Get it all together and give it to Ian.” She pushed him forward, “Now go!”

Willie streaked off to do her bidding.

Jenny had Alec drive at break neck speed to Jamie and Claire’s flat.   She threw what she could into a bag, jeans, tee shirts, a few socks, trainers, jacket. She threw some things in for Claire as well.  Soft sleep pants and a softer sweater.  Toiletries.  Where the hell was his underwear!?!  She opened a top drawer and rummaged around.  

The small gold object caught her eye.  She hadn’t seen it in years. Instinctively, she grabbed it, and slamming the drawer shut, turned to go.  She was in and out of the flat in 15 minutes.  

Ian and Jamie were waiting inside the small terminal when she got there.  Her brother was turning his phone over and over in his large hands.  She put the bag next to his feet in silence.    

When the flight was ready, Jenny walked Jamie to the steps.  Ian handed the steward the bag.    

“Jenny, I-“

“Shhhh, brother.”  She grabbed Jamie around his shoulders and hugged him tight.  His arms gripped her as he buried his face in her neck.  God, he was burrowing in like Wee Jamie after he’s fallen off his bike. She had no words for him.  She would not lie and tell him it would be all right.  Lord only knew what was happening in France.  “Give Claire a hug for me, and tell her I love her.” Jamie nodded against her neck.  She turned quickly and gave him a kiss on his temple.  

Grabbing his hand, she pressed the small oval piece into his palm.  “I found this.  Take it.  Let it give ye strength.”  

Jamie looked at it, eyes wide.

“Go on,” Jenny said.  “Call me as soon as you know something.”

Jamie let go, wiped his eyes with the back of his hand and nodded, looking at the tarmac the whole time.  

He turned towards the plane, but found himself in a hard embrace.  Ian gripped his brother-in-law, and friend tightly.  No words were exchanged. Whatever one needed, the other would give.  They had been through too much together, their bond understood.  Ian was the one person who knew exactly what Jamie was thinking and feeling.  

How life could change in the blink of an eye.

How you could be whole, and happy, feeling right with the world, and then have your heart and mind shattered like the cracks in a windshield after a crash, spreading out in front of you until you can’t see anything of the world at all. Just fragments.  Fractures.  Shattered pieces.  Or worse yet, missing.  

Jamie sat alone on the plane looking out of the window as Scotland disappeared below him.  He still had the token from Jenny in his hand.  He closed his fist around it, hard, and looked out at the clouds surrounding him. He raised his eyes higher, heavenward.  Lord that she may be safe. She and the child.  


It was all over when he arrived.  

He was ushered to a waiting room, and made to sit by himself.  Finally, a small toad-like man entered, and introduced himself as Dr. Raymond.  His first thought was, Claire said ye looked like a frog.  She wasna wrong.  Jamie’s mouth lifted in half a smile as he stood to extend his hand to the doctor.  

Raymond explained that Claire was currently receiving some units of blood to replace what she’d lost.  Once assured Claire would be fine, Jamie had asked about his child.  

The wee man barely came up to the centre of Jamie’s chest, yet his words had the power to knock him backwards, stumbling into a chair.   

His child was mort-nè.  

Still born.  

Jamie felt fragile, paper thin, like velum, that if he moved too fast or spoke to loudly he would tear in half.   

“Your wife suffered a placental abruption.  This is when the placental lining separates from the uterus.  Sometimes the mother does not feel anything, and sometimes she feels, maybe, some pain in the back.  Unfortunately, the infant was not receiving enough oxygen in utero, so….” The doctor paused, then said in his heavy French accent, “I am sorry for your loss, Monsieur.”

Jamie nodded, and swallowed.  His emotions were so raw, he found himself unable to speak.  His thoughts were a tangle, like a net cast out to sea and caught on a rocky shore.  Fear wrapped itself around his gut, making him wonder if this was, somehow, his fault.  

“Can I ask ye a question?” Jamie said.

Dr. Raymond blinked slowly, and nodded once.    

“Is this my fault?  Should I – “ Jamie stopped.  It was difficult to talk of personal things, private things.  

He thought back to the night before she left, how he drove into his wife, hard and fast, angry that she was leaving, desperate to have her knowing he would miss her, with fear in his veins over their impending separation. More like making a point, than making love. He would rather die than to have been the one to cause the tear.

He gathered his courage, began again.  “The last time, when I had, well, sex with my wife…should I have been gentler?  Maybe….maybe been more considerate of her…of her….condition?”  

The physician simply shook his head, and said quite bluntly, “No, Monsieur. That is not the cause.  You are a fine husband.  It is not possible.”  

Absolved of his sin, Jamie sat back in the chair and exhaled.

But that didn’t absolve Claire.  Jamie took a deep breath, then said what was on his mind next, a thought that was eating at him like a corrosive.  

“I never wanted her to come, ye see.  She…Claire…she doesna do things in half measure, ye ken.  I worried she’d overdo.  So.”  He looked Dr. Raymond straight in the eye, and asked, “Did she?  Did she do too much?  On her feet all hours?  Not stopping, or getting proper rest?” 

Jamie rubbed his hands together, trying to warm them.  He felt ice cold to the marrow of his bones.  “Tell me she rested.  Tell me she took care, that this wasna her fault, either,” he whispered, ashamed, “because I don’t…I don’t want to hate my wife.”  

Dr. Raymond looked at this red man.  The aura around him.  He would fight to the death for the things he loved.  Raymond understood he was fighting now. Fighting for the love that was being consumed by his fear.

“Monsieur Fraser, I can tell you that many times the cause is unknown. Sometimes the placenta does not attach in a place that provides adequate support, and it may not develop appropriately, or it may separate as it grows.” The little man leaned forward in an effort to reassure Jamie, “I can tell you that Dr. Fraser was not reckless or foolish.  Anyone could see that the child in her womb came first.”

The door opened then, and the young nurse he’d seen from Claire’s video called for the doctor. He couldn’t follow all of her rapid French, but when Dr. Raymond jumped up, Jamie instinctively followed.  

He stepped inside the room.  Claire’s room.  A Dhia, she looked so pale.  She was as stark a white as the hospital linens, the dark of her hair like an ink blot on the pillow.  Her arm thin, slack, even though the deep red liquid flowing through the tube in her arm was promising life.  

He understood a few words.  Fever.  Infection.  

Jamie watched in shock as the little man laid his hands on Claire.  Her shoulders, her arms.  Murmuring in French the entire time.  He sent the nurse for another drip, and she scurried out of the room hardly sparing Jamie a glance.  He flinched as the doctor ran his hands over Claire’s breasts, and down her torso, lightly but touching her all the same.  The healer then placed his hands over his wife’s womb, and Claire writhed in pain.  

More blood.  Jesus, God, how could there be so much blood.

And then, his name.

Ripped from Claire.  In pain.  In desperation.  Like a magnet, it drew him.  It was strange, how his name dragged from her remaining strength reverberated in his soul.  He took a step towards her before he’d realized he’d moved, and found himself stopped with a vise grip on his arm.  He turned to find a large woman, Hildegard according to the name tag, telling him, “Vous devez partir, Monsieur.”


When she woke up she was a bit disoriented.  Memory surfaced.  Grief washed over her like a tidal wave.  For a moment she could not breathe.  

Turning her head she saw her 6’4” husband folded into a tiny chair beside her bed.  She had no memory of his arrival. 

He was sketching.  He looked tired, wan, pale.  His eyes darting over his drawing as his big hand moved in strong sure strokes.  

“Do you hate me for it, Jamie?” she whispered, wanting to know.  Her biggest fear, that Jamie would blame her.  What was more pain?  Better to roll it all into one great big ball of grief, and deal with it.

He jumped.  “Didna realize ye were awake, Sassenach.”  Jamie set down his computer.  

Claire relaxed at the use of her nickname.  

“Jamie, I’m so sorry.  So very, very sorry.  I put myself before our family.  This is all my fault.”  

“Shhh, mo neighean donn.  Yer a doctor, ye ken well it’s no’ yer fault.”  Jamie moved his chair closer to her bed, and took one small, weak, long-fingered hand in his two large ones. Tears slipped from her eyes at his gentleness.  

Jamie didn’t have any words.  There was nothing to say.   He couldn’t fix what happened.  He couldn’t change the loss.  He could just share it.  

They sat like that for some time.  Glancing at each other.  Letting their hands speak for them, thumbs stroking, fingers squeezing, softly rubbing.  Jamie’s thumb touched her ring from time to time.  

Finally, Claire spoke.  “I want to see her.”


“My wife,” Jamie stopped.  Cleared his throat.  “My wife wants to see our child.” He stood in front of the nurses’ station, hands clenched into balls at his side, standing as tall as he could.

“Ce n’est pas possible, Monsieur,” said Nurse Hildegarde.  It wasn’t the answer Jamie wanted.  He had been powerless to this point.  This, however, he would control.  

“I didna ask yer permission.  I didna say can she, I said she wants to.  So she doesna have to imagine.”  He willed himself not to raise his voice, to keep his anger in check.  

The young nurse, Louise, looked up at him.  She looked at her superior. Stand-offs like this were rare.  Usually no one questioned Nurse Hildegard. Everyone stopped to look at the large, grieving, red haired man.  Nurse Hildegarde opened her mouth to speak again, but caught sight of the little practitioner behind Monsieur Fraser.

“Soeur Hildegard. Presénter l’enfant à Dr. et M. Fraser.  Vous avez ma permission.”   


Claire was sitting up in bed when he entered the room.  The bundle in his arms was so tiny.  A pink blanket.   As he came nearer she could see the tiny face peeking through.  Sleeping.  No, Claire remembered, not sleeping.  

“Her hair,” Jamie said, smiling sadly, “she’s got my hair.”

Claire raised her arms for the baby, and Jamie gently handed her their child as if handling fragile glass.  There was that awkward bobble of a new dad not sure what he’s doing to a new mom too eager to hold her baby.  They both chuckled at that.  Jamie sat on the edge of the bed, his arm around his wife, the other under her arms that held the baby.  They stayed like that, silently, as Claire unwrapped parts of their bairn, counting ten fingers, and ten toes. Stroking the luminescent skin.  She chuckled at the tiny ears, which stuck out a bit, like Jamie’s.  He nudged her in understanding, chuffed.  So beautiful.

And then Claire began to sing.

When Nurse Louise came in an hour later she was moved by the tableau before her.  Her friend, Claire, rocking slowly, humming.  Jamie, her husband, sitting stoic beside her.  Neither taking their eyes from their child.  

She approached the bed. 

“Ma Chere, Claire.  Il est temps.”

When Louise left the room closing the door behind her, Claire thoroughly and completely went to pieces.  

Jamie held his wife across his lap.  

And did the same.


Sitting on the private plane to go home Claire looked out the window at the terminal traffic.  Everyone so busy, oblivious to the people they were shuttling on to planes, the bags they were loading, the lives they were moving along. Jamie sat beside her, holding her hand.  They spoke little.  She still couldn’t believe they were alone on this plane.  Jamie insisted.  He said he’d had enough of strangers.  

“I don’t want to forget her face,” Claire whispered, head back, curls pressed against the head rest.  “I’m afraid I’ll forget her face.”

Jamie let go of her hand.  “I ken it may be strange.  I’m sorry if it bothers ye. But I had to,” he said, quietly, apologetically.  He fumbled in his pocket.  “For Jenny.  For my sister.  She would want to see, ye ken.  She’s all I’ve got for family, other than you, Claire.”

There, on his phone screen, looking as if she was sleeping peacefully, was Faith Elizabeth Fraser. 


One year later

They walked slowly through the cemetery.  Jamie’s hands deep in his pockets, as he did when he was nervous.  Claire’s arms were crossed in front of her, as she did when she was nervous, a bouquet of tulips gripped in her hand.  They walked as if they really didn’t want to arrive at their destination, lost in their own thoughts, steps hesitant.  

It was the first time they would visit her grave.  One year to the day when she passed.  

“She should be over here.”  Jamie hung back and let Claire step up first. 
Claire’s gasp was audible from where he stood.  She dropped to her knees, and laid a hand reverently on the stone.  A stone.  She hadn’t expected a stone.  They hadn’t ordered one.  She expected a simple marker, not this beautiful, pale pink granite slab. 

Jamie crouched beside her.  He cleared his throat.  “A Da can only give what he can to his bairn.  I’m an artist.  So.  I gave her a resting place, wit’ her name and our names, and placed her in the care of her grandparents.  Yers and mine.”  He brushed a leaf off the corner of the stone.  “And I left a bit of Scotland wi’ her.”

She traced the tiny gold medal imbeded in the stone under Faith’s name. “What is this?”

“It’s St. Andrew,” Jamie said.  “My father used to carry the medal around in his pocket. It would remind him to pray, to ask for intercession when he needed it. It became mine.  Jenny gave it to me when I left for France.  When I ordered the stone I gave it to them, along with the design.”  

They stayed for a long time, holding hands, lost in their own thoughts.  
Jamie stood, and pulled his wife to her feet.  Wrapping his arms around her shoulders he buried his face in her sweet smelling curls.  The sun shone warm on their faces, as Jamie swayed from side to side.

“So.  Now would be a good time to tell me something, Claire Fraser,” he said, next to her ear.  “Anything ye like.”  

Claire butted backwards and hit her husband in the crotch.  He let out a soft “oof” and laughed.

“I have nothing to say, James Fraser,” she said, in her haughtiest tone.   

“Hmpf,” Jamie made a Scottish noise, and turned Claire around to face him. “Yer sure, then?”  

Claire stood on tiptoes and kissed her husband full on the lips. “Five days is not a long time, you know that.”

“Aye, but yer never late.”  He grinned at her.  “It’s fine, Sassenach.  I’ll wait. Besides,” he said softly, “I have you.  And faith.”  

Chapter Text

Claire returned to work.  She did rounds, ran labs, and even had a hand in a couple of surgeries, but she avoided the fourth floor at all costs.  If she had to go up, she used the stairs because she wouldn’t risk the elevator opening by accident.  She didn’t want to see the balloons, and teddy bears.  She didn’t want to hear the laughter, or the tiny cries. Not yet.  

Joe and Fiona had taken the time to fill everyone in, so there were no awkward moments.  The ones she was close to just gave her a comforting squeeze, the others, a polite yet heartfelt condolence.  No one spoke of it again after a week.  

It helped heal Jamie and Claire to be around family, so Claire began to accompany Jamie to Lallybroch for Sunday suppers again.  It was a balm to their battered souls to read to their nieces and nephews, play with them, and just wander around the estate hand in hand.    

Yet some wounds have a way of developing an infection under the skin when you least expect it.

“Oh, sure.  She’ll come for Sunday supper now.”  Jenny threw the utensils in the sink with a crash.  “I mean, why come before when yer pregnant.   Come now, after ye’ve lost the child.”  She turned on the water full force to rinse the dishes before loading the dishwasher.

“Jenny,” Ian admonished, “don’t judge.”

“Don’t judge?  Ian, listen to yerself.  She ran herself ragged!  And to what end?  Tell me!” Jenny spun around to face her husband.

And found Claire standing in the doorway to the kitchen.  


Monday afternoon Jenny presented herself at Jamie’s office with take away curry.  “Ye’ve fed me lunch every week for 20 weeks.  Figured it was time I returned the favour.”

Jamie flinched internally.  Twenty weeks.  “T’was not a favour, Janet.  Ye dinna need to do that.”  Jamie didn’t even lift his head from his desk to look at her.

Janet. Oh, yes, he was angry.  “So.  I’m Janet now, am I?  For how long?”  In true Fraser fashion she faced the conflict head on.

“Until I’m done being pissed at ye.”  Jamie set down his pencil, and leaned back in his big leather chair.  He shook his head, then raised his arm and waved her in.  She shut the door behind her.

“I’m sorry, Jamie.  Truly.”

“Dinna apologize to me, Janet.  Apologize to my wife.”  Jamie was not going to make this easy.  He loved his sister, but what she did was not easily forgiven.

“What even possessed ye?”  Jamie said, incredulous, as he made his way over to the conference table, hand outstretched for the bag of food.  

Jenny raised her chin.  “I was angry.  Angry at the situation, and if I’m honest, angry at Claire for going to France when ye didna want her to, for doing too much, and risking the baby.”

Jamie sighed, exasperated.  “I explained this to ye.  I told ye on the phone from Paris, and I told ye when we got back home here.  There was nothing anyone could do.  Not Claire.  Not a doctor. No one.  And frankly, Janet, thinking a weekly Sunday dinner would have made a difference is madness.”

“It’s not just ‘Sunday dinner’ Jamie.  It’s our family tradition!”  She sat down hard in her chair.

Jamie stopped unpacking the food and leveled a look at his sister.  “No, it’s yer tradition. Ye started it after Da died.  That was yer choice.  I came because I had nothing else to do.  And if ye remember, when Claire and I first got together, I missed a few dinners. So, whatever that was yesterday,” he waved his hand in the air, “that lashing out at Claire, it wasna fair.”  He walked over to his small refrigerator, and pulled out two waters.  

Jenny sat and absorbed what her brother just revealed.  The dinners were a means to an end.  She needed something to keep them together after yet another family death.  Jamie, and Ian needed to heal together after the accident. Somewhere along the way she’d lost sight of what she was actually trying to do.

“Maybe,” Jenny hesitated. “Maybe I just wanted her around more, to share pregnancy stories, and build a kinship with.  I never see her anymore.”  

“Ye’ve a funny way of building a kinship.”  Jamie pulled out his chair, and sat down.  “Would ye begrudge my wife her dream?  Hmmm?”  Jamie took a bite of his food.  

Jenny said nothing.  She poked around in her container for a moment.  Then, looked at her brother.

Jamie raised an eyebrow.  “What if it were wee Kitty, wantin’ to be a doctor? Would ye tell her no because it might take away from her family for a time? What if Maggie went back to school at the same time she was pregnant, wantin’ a career and a family?  Would ye turn yer venom on her?”

“Oh, don’t be dramatic, Jamie!  Venom, indeed.”

Jamie set down his fork, and wiped his mouth. He crossed his arms over his chest.

“Did ye ever think, Janet, that in all the ways it matters to a woman, ye’ve had it easier than she has?  Do ye ever think, period?”

“What does that mean?”  Jenny’s voice rose in indignation.

“Ye grew up on an estate, with parents who loved ye.  She lost her parents at five years old.  Dammit, she canna even remember her mother!”  He leaned forward to make his point, “Ye had siblings, she grew up alone.  Ye were given a place in the family business, and she’s still trying to find her place in the world.  Ye’ve had bairn after bairn, no problem at all.  And Claire and I,” he swallowed, hands braced on the edge of the table, “Claire and I canna manage to have one in our four years together.”

Jamie looked hard at his sister, voice controlled but quivering.  “I’ll never forget what Claire said after they took Faith away. She said, we didna just lose a child. We lost a lifetime with someone we’d never even met.”

Jenny reached across the table and laid a hand on her brother, squeezing his forearm.  

“I am sorry, Jamie.”  

Jamie covered his sister’s hand with his own.  “I keep tellin’ ye.  It’s no’ me ye need to apologize to.”


Claire walked out the front doors of the hospital hearing the swish of the large glass panes close behind her.  She heard a sharp whistle off to her left, and turned her head.

“Alec!”  She strode over to the black Range Rover happy to see the man who was both friend and protector.  He came around the back of the car, accepted her kiss on his cheek, and opened the back door for her.

“What’s this?” Claire asked.  “Where’s Jamie tonight?”  

Alec just inclined his head towards the interior of the vehicle.  Thinking Jamie was inside, Claire grinned and poked her head inside.

“Hello, Claire.”  

Jenny.  

Claire cut her eyes to Alec.  He stood stoic, looking over her head. “Coward,” she whispered.

“Aye,” he whispered back.  

Claire shoved her bag at him, hard, making him grunt in the process, and climbed inside.


They tucked into a pizza, both using the distraction of food to break the tension.  Two pints later the surface chatter was abandoned.

Jenny took a long swallow of her beer, fortifying herself.  “I’m very sorry for what I said, Claire.  I didna mean a word of it.”  Jenny looked her sister-in-law in the eye, hoping Claire saw her sincerity.

Claire returned the solemn gaze.  “That’s the problem, Jenny.  I think you did.”

Jenny’s eyes glistened. It seemed she would have to open up to Claire as she did to Jamie.  She took a deep breath. “A small part of me blamed ye for the miscarriage.  When Jamie told me what happened I thought ye must have done something to bring it upon yerself.  Worked too hard, not thinking of the consequences.  And then I thought, if I had made ye come to Sunday suppers so I could get ye off yer feet a bit, it may have made a difference.”  

Claire sat still, hands in her lap, letting Jenny work through her feelings.  The noise of the pub surrounded them with soft chatter, the clink of glasses, knives and forks hitting plates.  If there was one thing Claire learned as a doctor, it was to listen to patients.  

“I think,” Jenny continued honestly, “I think a small part of me is wanting to replace what I lost.  A brother, mother, father.  I want a big family, and perhaps that’s why.  When Jamie married ye, I was thrilled to have a sister.”  She wiped at her nose.  “Never had one of those,” she chuckled.  She was relieved to see Claire’s small smile.  “And I know my brother wants bairns.  I want them for him.  And for you,” she added hastily.  “So. So when Faith was lost, I got angry. Angry at the both of ye, but maybe mostly angry at God for taking yet another one of my family members away.”  

Jenny wiped her eyes, and looked at the woman who was sister and friend to her. “But since my parents always told me it was a sin to be angry at God, I got angry at you instead.”

Claire reached across the table to took both of Jenny’s hands in her own, and squeezed them tightly.  

“I am very sorry for what I said, Claire.  I didna mean a word of it.”

“I accept your apology, Jenny.”  The women gazed at each other in silent understanding.  They, just like Ian and Jamie, would have each other’s backs from this point forward.  

“Now,” Claire said, letting go of Jenny and lifting her glass, “Let’s get drunk.”


He heard her well before she arrived at the door. He heard her stumble and the backpack skitter down the stairs. “Fuck!”  

He opened the door to their flat and peered over the banister.  She was trying to turn around to go back down.  

“Leave it, mo graidh!  I’ll get it.”  He stepped quickly down the stairs, passing his wife in the process.  “Christ, Sassenach, ye smell like a brewery.”  He grabbed the bag, then strode up the stairs and tucked an arm around Claire, leading her up to their flat.  “Had a good time wi’ Jenny, then?”

“Oh, aye,” Claire said.  Jamie laughed loudly.  Aye?  She was completely sozzled.

He escorted her slowly up the stairs, catching her every slip.  Claire kept up a slurring commentary of her and Jenny’s evening.  When he finally got her in the flat, she turned and wrapped her arms around his waist.  

“You’re half naked,” she said, eyes unfocused. She leaned forward and kissed the middle of his chest.

“I’m ready for bed, that’s why.”  He breathed deeply.  “And you,” he said, pushing her away from him, “need a shower.”

“Too tired.  Too drunk.”  She smiled up at him, “But maybe if you helped me?  Washed my back?”  

Jamie smiled.  Vixen.  “It’s not been six weeks yet, Claire.”  

He locked the door, flipped off the light switch, and bustled his wife off to the bathroom.

But only two more weeks to go.  Not that I’m counting.

Chapter Text

Claire sat cross-legged on the bench outside of the hospital.  She was trying to decide if she should call Jamie or take the bus home after her appointment. Her OB-GYN had given her the all clear today.  

Six weeks.

Six weeks since she’d lost her daughter.  Six weeks since her body had survived a bloody nightmare.  

You can resume a normal life, her doctor had said.  

There was nothing normal about her life, except for the hospital.  Her life as a doctor was normal in that chaotic, hectic way.  

Her home life wasn’t normal.  Jamie was quiet, and distant.  Some nights she would see him at his drafting table gazing off, unfocused, his face a mix of sadness, and introspection.  Some nights she would get home from working late, and see him on the fire escape sipping from his tumbler of whisky.  He was a strong man, yet even he had his limits.  

She wasn’t normal.  She felt and looked different.  She was softer now.  Her mind, her body, her strength all so much softer than before.  Her stomach was far from the flat plane it once was.  Her mind was plagued by insecurities, what ifs and why me. 

You can resume a normal life.

It was time to reconnect.  Reconnect with her husband, with herself, and with her dreams.  

Claire unfolded herself from the bench, gathered her things, and began walking to the bus stop.  She was standing at the corner waiting for the light to change when the small shop caught her eye.  Normally she would walk past. That was for other women.  Life was no longer normal, so maybe a trip to that shop would be what she needed.  A suit of armor, so to speak.  

She crossed the street and pushed open the glass door.  


Jamie was waiting for her text.  He’d asked her to tell him what the doctor said, and she nodded absentmindedly.  He didn’t want to badger her, so he waited. He checked his phone obsessively, and fought against the impulse to call her and ask. By three o’clock he’d had enough of waiting.

“Gu ifrinn le e!” Jamie said, and started to pack up for the day.

 “Willie!” he shouted to the outer office.  

His assistant lifted his head.  “Aye, Jamie?”  

“We’re done for the day, mate.  Let’s go.  It’s Friday. We’re knocking off early.”


Jamie walked into the flat laden down with his computer bag, and two grocery sacks.  He bustled in banging into the door frame, his keys wound around a finger, and the post in his mouth.  

“Claire!” he said, and dropped the envelopes in surprise. He laboured over to the kitchen trying not to drop anything else.  “What are you doing home so early?”

“I could ask you the same thing?  And what’s all this?”  Claire got up from the sofa to check out what her husband had brought home. The floppy leaves of fresh leeks were sticking out from one of the brown bags, and in the other she could see the tiny spears from a bunch of asparagus peeking over its edge.

“Ach.  It’s been a long week.  Willie and I skived off early.  Also,” he said a little sheepishly, “I saw this dish on Instagram today and I wanted to try it.”  

“Jamie Oliver?” Claire laughed.  Ever since she started her residency Jamie had done the cooking, and once she got pregnant –

You can resume a normal life.

“Aye.”  Claire’s breath caught at his smile.  Jamie really did have the most beautiful smile.  “Risotto.”

“Oooooo!”  Claire started removing the foodstuffs.  

Jamie looked at this wife.  She was freshly showered, her curls drying around her face. She had on one of those wee dresses she found so comfortable, and that he found sexy.  He could see most of her legs, and the fabric clung to the curve of her bottom.

“Ye look beautiful, Claire.”  

She paused for a moment, and glanced up at her husband.  It was his voice that stopped her.  That mixture of wonder and awe that sometimes crept into it. She could see truth in his eyes.  After all he had witnessed, after all the ugliness, he still found her beautiful.  His compliment was a soothing balm to her mental wounds.  She walked around the counter, and placing her hands on the sides of his jaw, kissed him softly on the mouth.  

“Thank you.  Now go change.  I’m starving.”  


Dinner was amazing.  The risotto was delicious, and it did his heart good to hear Claire laugh as he tried to juggle the recipe on his phone and imitate Jamie Oliver while he cooked.  They’d had wine, and talked.  Claire told stories of people at the hospital that made him laugh until he ached.  He caught her up on the recent projects at the Distillery and showed her a couple of his newest designs.  

When he sat down on the couch with a beer and turned on one of his many recorded rugby games, she stole upstairs.

You can resume a normal life.

Jamie stretched his long legs out in front of him. He sipped from his beer, still content from dinner and the fact that Scotland was winning.  It took him a minute to register the shape at the top of the stairs.

“Jesus.  God.  Claire.”  He fumbled trying to put down the bottle without knocking it sideways.  He almost missed the table because he couldn’t tear his eyes away from her.

Her breasts were plump over the barest of lace cups.  He couldn’t tell from this distance but there was no way they covered her areolas.  The panties hugged her low on her hips.  Her hair was a riot of curls dancing over one shoulder, thick and full.  She smiled like the devil herself, twirling one curl around her index finger.  Well, if that wasn’t a damn metaphor for how he felt right now.      

Red.  She was wearing scarlet red lingerie.  

She set him afire.  

Mesmerized he walked slowly, one bare foot in front of the other, to the bottom of the stairs.  

“Holy Mother of God.”

Claire laughed out loud.

“What?  What did I say?  Are ye laughing at me?”  Jamie’s brain was completely addled.  

“Yes, I most certainly am!”  She couldn’t stop giggling.  

What had he said that was so funny?  

“You can call me Claire, darling,” she added, teasingly.

Jamie bit his lip.  Aye, she wasn’t exactly the image of an angel.  “Don’t make fun, Claire, or ye’ll get what ye deserve.”  

“Promise?”  The vixen turned, and walked away.  The scrap of lace from behind framed her bottom in such a way that her bare skin resembled the shape of a heart.  

He groaned and missed the first step, swearing as he stubbed a toe.  The sight of her bare arse swaying in front of him was too much.  He sprinted up the stairs two at a time.  

Their bedroom was dark, just the light from the hallway seeped through his first few steps into the room.  He moved to turn on a lamp but she stopped him.

“Please don’t.”  Claire stood by the foot of the bed, twisting her fingers.   She was nervous.  She had been offered so many opinions. Women telling her it would be different.  It would hurt.  Don’t expect too much.  

“What’s this, then?”  Jamie approached her cautiously.

She shrugged.  Her eyes begged him to acquiesce to her request.    

Jamie moved to the window and opened the curtains. The pale gray light of the streetlights coupled with the moon bathed her in a pearly glow.  She was luminescent.  Claire covered her tummy, just below her belly button.  Ah. So that’s how it is.  Jamie moved toward her slowly, linked his pinky fingers through hers and slowly drew her hands away from her body, and the flesh they covered.  One red striation snaked down the left side of her tummy.  Her belly button was droopy.  Jamie looked at his wife, and saw the insecurity in her eyes.  

“It’s ugly,” she whispered.  

You can resume a normal life.

“Aye,” Jamie whispered back.  “I ken a wee bit about scars, Sassenach.”  He let go of her hands, and pulled his shirt over his head, tossing it to the side.  “I ken how they make ye look at yerself.”  He turned his back to her, and spoke over his shoulder.  “Because I once looked at myself, and felt ugly, too.”  

Claire made a small noise that made him turn around and face her once more, fingers tapping nervously on his thigh.  Claire needed his reassurance.  He would give her the same gift she gave him years before.

“I remember every minute, every second of that first time we made love.  Ye walked around me, and ran yer hands over my back.  I waited to see revulsion in yer expression, and when I looked at ye, weel, I saw lust.”  Jamie chuckled. “Ye’ve no idea how relieved I was because by then I was so turned on I couldna bear it if ye walked away.”  

Claire smiled at the memory.

He ran his index finger lightly down her stretch mark, and hooked it under the lace edge of her panty.  He heard her breath hitch.  He tugged at the fabric, just enough to knock her off balance so she had to take a step toward him.  He placed his big hands on either side of her, and slowly ran them over her hips and down her backside.  He cupped her, lifting her slightly.  Her face was close to his, her mouth a fraction away.  “Now kiss me, mo neighean donn, and let me show ye how beautiful ye are to me.”

Claire grabbed her husband’s shoulders, and hung on. He kissed her, pouring all of his love into that first meeting of their mouths.  She ran her hands over him, feeling his familiar scars.  The scars that made him Jamie, and no one else. This big man who was the gentlest of lovers when she needed him to be. 

Tonight, she needed him to take the lead.  She surrendered herself to him, let him turn her around in his arms and hold her against his chest.  Let him run his hands over her body, feeling the weight of her breasts as he kissed the side of her neck.  Let him slide a hand down over her soft stomach, and find the heat between her legs, making her feel warm, and sexy while he nipped at her lobes.

Jamie led her by the hand to their bed.  He slid off her panties, murmuring in Gaelic, his eyes hooded.  He worshiped her body, kissed every inch of her skin.  He ran his tongue down her stretch mark, and kissed her misshapen belly button.  He took her slender legs and placed them over his shoulders, making her writhe and buck, and finally shatter.  

Then, he stood and shucked his jeans.  Climbing onto the bed, he nestled himself between Claire’s thighs before she could catch her breath.  He balanced on his elbows, and kissed her again.  

He felt her tense beneath him.

Jamie pulled back and looked at her.  “What’s wrong, mo graidh?”  

“I’m scared,” she breathed.  “I’m scared it will be different for you.”

You can resume a normal life.

“Och, aye.  After 2 months without my wife, it’ll feel different right enough.  It’ll feel like Heaven.”  He bumped his nose against hers, waggling his eyebrows.  

Claire did not smile.  “They say,” she swallowed, rubbing the back of his neck. “They say after you give birth that it’s….it feels….looser, down there.  To a man.”

A Dhia, she was struggling. Jamie had no idea that Claire had all of these thoughts battling inside her head.  While he appreciated her honesty, she picked a fine time to reveal her anxieties, when he was fit to bursting.  He took a deep breath, and brushed her hair away from her face.  Laughing through dinner relaxed her.  Their banter on the stairs relaxed her.  He’d carry on with the humour.  

“Is this yer way of saying size matters, Sassenach?”  He teased her with the tip of himself.  “Are ye afraid ye’ll find me lacking?”

Claire grinned, and slapped his bottom.  “That is not what I meant, and you know it!”

Jamie took that moment, when her legs relaxed, to enter her.  She arched her back, and gasped.

“Can ye feel that?” he asked, breath hot against her neck.  “For I surely can.” He kissed her, licking her bottom lip.  “And it feels like I’m home.”

You can resume a normal life.

It did feel like home.  Jamie was right.  He was in her arms, and in her body, and it felt like it had a hundred times before.  It didn’t matter what she looked like, how many stretch marks she had.  Even the damn lingerie didn’t matter. This was right.  This was perfect.

In response Claire locked her legs around his back.  She shifted and settled him deeper between her thighs. Reaching up, she brought his head down for a scorching kiss that had him rocking instinctively.  She gave him all of herself and took nothing in return.  When Jamie shouted and stiffened above her she felt the joy of loving him fill her heart.


Jamie’s head was pressed against her neck as he tried to catch his breath.

“So, where did ye find this?”  He pulled at the strap of her bra.  

“At that lingerie shop near the hospital bus stop.  The doctor said I could ‘resume a normal life’ and I wasn’t sure I could without a bit of help.  A suit of armor, so to speak.” She ran a hand over his bicep.

“Christ, Sassenach.  Dinna show up to battle like that again.”  He dropped a kiss on her shoulder, and mumbled sleepily.  “My heart canna take it.”  

Claire woke up some time later to the sound of cheering. Slipping out of bed she stole downstairs to find the television still on, and Jamie’s beer warm on the table. She hit the button on the remote, and silence fell. She took his bottle to the sink, and turned off the lights.  

Darkness in the flat allowed her to look out the window at the lights of Edinburgh.  She could see the fire escape that mirrored their stairs inside. She had taken those outside steps, cautiously, years ago, not knowing where it would lead her.  Now, she was on the inside, having taken those steps towards love, marriage, medical school, and a family.     

As she climbed up on her way back to bed she laughed softly thinking of how Jamie had bolted up these stairs tonight at the sight of her.  Honestly, why had she worried so much?  Scars be damned. They didn’t change how she looked at him, how could she have been so shallow as to think hers would have mattered to him?  Resuming a normal life had made her think that how they had been living for the past six weeks was somehow abnormal.  Wrong. Flawed.

It wasn’t.  

They would carry their scars together.  The ones on their bodies, and the scar of losing Faith on their hearts.  Together.  Forward in life.  

She crawled into bed next to her husband,and stroked the russet coloured curls back from his forehead.  He smiled briefly, and her heart melted. Jamie was still Jamie.  They still found pleasure in each other’s bodies.  They still had the same dreams.

Everything was normal.  

Chapter Text

“It hurts,” she whimpered through her breaths. 

“I know, mo graidh.”  

The wind was howling outside, and the rain was pelting at the window. 

It was time for her to sit up, but she couldn’t manage because she was too tired. The bed only went up so far, so she had asked Jamie to sit behind her, and prop her up when it was time to push.  It was her twelfth hour of labour, and she was exhausted.  The contractions started at 7:00 in the evening, and it was 7:00 in the morning now.  

“You don’t know!  You don’t have any idea,” she scoffed.

“I do not.  Sorry.”  Just keep her happy.

“I should have had the drugs,” she said through gritted teeth.

“Ye said ye didna want them.  Ye said ye wanted a natural birth.”  She’d made him promise not to let her give in.  

“Well, I was wrong!”  She tried to breathe through the contraction that threatened to rip her in half.  “Oh, God, I need to push.” 

“The doctor is just putting his gloves on.”  He tried to keep his voice calm.

“Tell the doctor to fucking hurry up, it hurts.”  She couldn’t believe she was waiting for a man right now.

“He’s almost ready.  Breathe, Sassenach.” Jamie spoke low into her ear.  

“Tell him!” Claire snarled.

“Oi!  Put the fuckin’ gloves on a bit faster, aye?”  

“Thank you, Jamie.”  She sounded like herself again.

“Whatever ye need, Claire.”  He’d move Heaven and Earth, if necessary.

The doctor settled himself on the small stool between her legs.  “Ok, Dr. Fraser. Ye can push with the next contraction.  Let’s meet yer wee one, aye?”

Claire didn’t dare open her eyes for fear of losing her concentration.  The bustle of the delivery room was lost to her.  But one thing penetrated her brain, and lodged itself there.

Jamie’s voice. 

His voice in the moment the baby crowned would stay with her.  

“Oh…my…God.”  

Each word said softly, and reverently.  A true prayer.  It was the voice of a man who was witnessing a miracle.  

Claire kept her eyes closed until she heard the cry.  A very healthy, lusty cry. Relief flooded through her.  Finally, she could look.  She saw the shock of red hair, and heard the doctor ask Jamie if he’d like to cut the cord.  Jamie’s big body moved from behind hers, so anxious was he to participate.

“Is it a boy?”  Claire asked, unable to see. 

She watched Jamie cut the cord grinning from ear to ear.  

“Is it a boy?” she asked again, louder.  

The doctor held up their child.  “Ye have a beautiful baby girl!”

The nurse took the baby then, to clean her up, and test her Apgar scores. Jamie followed as if entranced.  It was as if in cutting the cord from Clair, the child had created some invisible tether to him.  

Claire laid her head back against the bed as the doctor went about helping her deliver the afterbirth.  

A girl.  

Another girl.

She was so sure it was going to be a boy.  A boy to name Brian, after Jamie’s father.  She was so certain it was a boy she didn’t even bother settling on a girl’s name.  

She felt a twinge of guilt because in truth, she was kind of disappointed. She didn’t want a girl.  She didn’t want a replacement for Faith.  Faith was her daughter.  She was supposed to have a son so she wouldn’t miss Faith all over again.  She was supposed to have a son so she wouldn’t constantly be thinking about all that Faith had missed.  All that she and Jamie had missed.  Now, she would be thinking about how two little girls should have grown up together.  

We lost a lifetime with someone we’d never even met.

She turned her head, and felt the tears slide into her ear.  

“Are ye ready to hold yer wee lass?” the nurse asked. 

Claire nodded, and held out her arms.  

The nurse handed her the squirming bundle.  Claire received her daughter, and immediately counted her fingers, and toes while Jamie chuckled deeply.  Ten. Ten of each.  

Jamie placed his big hands on either side of her on the bed, and kissed her gently on the lips.  

“Thank ye, Sassenach.  Thank ye for our child.  Our daughter.”

She smiled then, at his joy.  Her tears welled up anew.  She found her joy in his. She looked down at the pink, warm body resting against her skin.  Little fingers splayed over her chest, with the same crooked right pinky, just like Claire’s.  The tiny knees were drawn up, and the cheeks were impossibly chubby.    

“What should we name her?”  Claire couldn’t tear her eyes away.  She was big! And that hair!  So much like her dad.  So much like Faith.  

She was Faith, but more.  She was her sister.

“Christ!  We didna decide, did we?”  Jamie’s eyes widened.

“Honestly, Jamie. I was convinced it was a boy.”

“Canna very well name her Brian, now, can we?”

“No,” Claire paused, and thought.  “But we can name her Brianna.” 

Jamie tried to say the name, stuttered, tried again.  Claire corrected him and he tried again, his tongue getting in the way of the shift in syllable.  Claire laughed out loud.

“How do ye spell it, then?” Jamie’s brow was furrowed.

“B-R-I-A-N-N-A.”

“Brrrr-eye-ah-na.”  Jamie spoke slowly.  “That’s a horrible name for a lass.”

“Can you say Mary?”  She spoke as if talking to a toddler.

“Oh, ha ha, Claire.”  Jamie raised an eyebrow.  “It’s that damn English spelling.  In Gaelic we would say it ‘Bree-ahnna.’”  He looked down at his newborn, hands still braced on either side of Claire. “’Tis different, right enough.”

Claire lifted a hand, and placed it against Jamie’s cheek.  His attention broken, he looked at his wife.  His tired, pale, physically, emotionally exhausted wife.  

“We can call her Bree, for short.” Claire smiled like the Madonna.  “I think it’s beautiful.”

“I think yer beautiful,” Jamie whispered.  “God, Claire.  A daughter.”  His breath hitched, a catch in his voice.   “A second chance.”

“No,” she said, a little more forcefully than she meant.  Jamie narrowed his eyes.  

“No,” she said in a gentler tone.  “She’s our first chance.”  She cupped Brianna’s small head.  “Our second daughter, but our first chance.”  

Jamie nodded.  “Aye.  I get yer meanin’ mo graidh.”  He kissed the top of the baby’s head, lingeringly.  Then, kissed his wife in the same way.  

“Weel, ladies,”  Jamie heaved himself up, proud as a stallion.  “I’m going to call Auntie Jenny.  A Dhia, Sassenach, she’ll be beside herself wi’ excitement!”  

He strode through the door, then grabbed the frame at the last moment, and spun around. “Tha gaol agam ort.”  

“I love you, too, Jamie.”  His grin was blinding.  She could hear him whistle tunelessly as he walked away to the lobby for better cell reception.

Alone, Claire looked down at Brianna.  She shifted the baby to cradle her in her arms, and swaddled her more snuggly in the pink blanket.  Bree opened her eyes for a moment.  

“That, my darling, was your father, James Alexander Malcolm Mackenzie Fraser.”  Bree blinked sleepily.  “A long time ago I crawled through his window, and fixed his shoulder.  And then, not long after that, he took care of me when I was sick.  He said to me once that ‘I had his name, his clan, his family, and if necessary, the protection of his body’.  It’s a promise he’s always kept.  It will be the same for you, little one.”  Claire smiled at the memory. 

“Your father will love you more than you ever thought possible.  He will encourage you to be anything you want to be,” Claire promised fiercely.  

Bree’s little mouth stretched into a yawn.  “I wonder if you’ll prefer art to science?  Although I secretly hope you’ll grow up to be an archaeologist like your Great-Uncle Lamb.” 

Bree’s eyes drifted shut, her little hands curled under her chin.  

Claire shifted the baby up onto her shoulder, and settled back, holding her close.  

Closing her eyes, she yawned just as her daughter had done a moment before, and drifted off to sleep.

When Jamie stepped into the room ten minutes later, his two best girls were fast asleep.  He pulled out his phone, and snapped a picture of the moment.  

A moment he never wanted to forget. 

Because in that exact moment, he felt as if his heart was going to burst. 

Chapter Text

Jamie woke up to the sun streaming through the window.  He blinked, and checked beside him.  No Claire. 

How had he not heard Bree?  

Padding down the hallway on bare feet he stopped at the small kitchenette he had put in upstairs.  When he converted his and Claire’s flats into a two story home he’d insisted on this space for just this reason.  A child.  No going downstairs in the middle of the night to heat a bottle, or grab milk from the fridge, or one more glass of water.  It would all be right here.  

The space was undisturbed.  

She had to be somewhere.

He continued his search for his family.  

His heart started to pound when he noticed no Bree in her crib, and no Claire in the rocking chair.  The room, tidy.  It was like they’d disappeared.  

Jamie sprinted down the stairs.  Not on the chesterfield, not in her study, or his office.  Dammit, Claire.  No note on the kitchen counter.   He looked around for his phone, and realized it was charging on his night stand.  He took the stairs two at a time.  He hit the top, and glanced out the window.  

Jamie stopped cold, and breathed a sigh of relief.  

He caught sight of the stroller as it passed by the alley, with Claire’s dark curls bouncing in step.  What in the hell was she doing out with Bree this early?

Phone forgotten he walked back down the stairs, and opened the front door. He heard the key in the street door, and started across the landing.  He heard her wrestle the carrier through the entry way, and then her voice. 

“Sorry, Bree.  Bumpy steps!  At least you’re awake now, huh?  With luck your Father will still be in bed, and we can surprise him.”

Surprise? Jamie thought.  O mo chreach.  Father’s day.  He couldn’t contain his grin.  Now what?  Sneak back inside?   

He leaned over the banister to look down the stairwell.  Claire had a large bag hitched over her shoulder, a bakery box tied with string poking out of the top, and was trying to unharness the baby to carry her, as well.  

He made his choice.

“There’s my two best girls!” he said, and watched Claire’s head snap up.

“Jamie!  Go back to bed.”  

Bree couldn’t contain herself at the sound of her Father’s voice.  She looked up, and began to kick her chubby little legs, arms extended.  He laughed.  

Light footed he trotted down the steps.  “Now why would I do that?  I get up for breakfast, and my loves are gone.   The flat sounded like a library.”  Undone, and in Claire’s arms, Bree lurched for him when he got to the bottom of the stairs.  He caught her up, and raised her above his head chuckling along with her baby giggles.  

“And no note from Mummy either,” he gave Claire a sidelong glance.  “What’s the deal?”

Claire pushed the bag farther up her shoulder, and grabbed the stroller to carry it up the stairs.  “Don’t be obtuse, Fraser.”

She walked ahead of him.  

“Obtuse, my beautiful red heided lass,” Jamie said, as he pulled the knit cap from Bree’s head, and smoothed her wispy bangs, “is a big fancy word yer Mam likes to throw at me to scold me.  Luckily, I’ve a nice view of her magnificent arse, and I’m happily distracted.”

Claire snorted.   

She set the stroller outside their door, and strode in wrestling the bakery box from the bag.  She set it on the counter with great fan fair.  Reaching back inside she produced a pale grey envelope, and laid it on top.  

Jamie couldn’t pretend any longer.  He hitched Bree up higher on his hip, and slid over to hold his wife.  His first celebrated Father’s Day.  Dammit, he was a Dad.  Had been a dad already, quietly, in his heart.  Today was a chance to commemorate it overtly.  Overwhelmed, he shook his head, a half smile on his face.  

Claire reached up, and rubbed her thumb against the stubble on his chin. “Happy Father’s Day.”

With a firm hold on his loves, he placed his lips on Claire’s, trying to pour all of his thanks, and gratitude for this title into his kiss.  Claire rose on tiptoes, and wound her hand into the curls at the nape of his neck.  She reached her other hand around his arm across Bree’s back.  

Not to be left out, Bree leaned in, and mushed her face between theirs. Laughing, Jamie bussed a kiss on Bree’s cheek, and handed her over to her mother.  

Opening the card he read the sentiments, smiling softly.  “I love you, too,” he whispered, looking at Claire.  She smiled at his quick change in tone.  

“Is this yer name, we’en?” Jamie said to Bree, pointing to a scribble at the bottom of the card.  “Hm?  Did ye write yer name, for Da?”  He popped another kiss on the end of the baby’s nose, and Bree grinned.

He set down the card, and pulled the white box toward him.  Untying the string he raised an eyebrow at his wife.  “I ken what this is.  I could smell it from the top of the stairs.” 

Claire laughed.  “Well to be fair, you were supposed to be in bed, and it was to be delivered with a coffee.”  

He lifted the lid.  Fresh scones, and shortbread.  The only bakery in Edinburgh that made them like his Mam did.  He breathed deeply.  “Thank ye, Claire. Truly. These are Heaven.”

He broke a piece off a scone, and placed it reverently in his mouth.  He closed his eyes savouring the taste.  Bree watched carefully.  He took a small corner of the shortbread and placed it on her tongue.  Bree’s eyes widened, and she smacked her lips.  

“Good, in’t it?  More?”  He broke off another piece, and like a baby bird Bree opened her mouth wide.  He laughed, and fed her again.

“That’s enough.  Time for a nap, you.”  Claire kissed the red curls at her daughter’s neck.  

“Can I do anything?” Jamie said around another mouthful of scone.  

“Yes. Make coffee, and save me one!” Claire threw back over her shoulder as she mounted the stairs.

“Never a chance,” Jamie mumbled.

He brought the coffee and scones, but they sat untouched for an hour.  The sight of his wife placing their sleeping daughter in her crib did him in.  Claire’s bare breast was displayed through the opening in her shirt, the tip wet from suckling.  When she saw him staring from the doorway, she smiled knowingly. Minutes later her nipple was in his mouth, her naked legs straddling him.  He took from her, unwrapped her like a gift, and promising her a Father’s Day present of her own, made her gasp, and cry out.  


They had a late lunch at Lallybroch, and Jamie was pleased to see his sister so happy with so much activity in the house.  He took Bree to the barn, and showed her the horses, played some footie with his nieces, and nephews, and drank beer with Ian.  Through it all he kept one eye on his wife, his heart full to bursting.    

Later that night, Claire tidied up after Jamie gave Bree her bath.  She headed downstairs, but what she saw made her sit down on the top step, and watch.

Jamie was reclining on the couch with Bree, who was clad in a soft cotton sleeper.  She was sitting on Jamie’s lap, laying back on his chest, watching the TV intently, while holding on to Jamie’s index fingers with her little hands.

“Now, that one, he’s a fly half, and a good one.” Jamie pointed at the screen, “But he needs to get the ball to the winger, just like that!”  Bree’s eyes widened as her daddy’s voice rose in excitement.  “Go, go, go!  Yes!”  

Bree squealed, and Jamie laughed.  He waved her arms for her.  “Aye, Bree! That’s a try!  And that braw lad just put us ahead by five points!”

Claire felt the tears come, powerless to stop them.  This.  This was all she wanted.  Being so alone for so long, she just wanted to feel a part of something, of someone.  She did not remember if she’d ever had this.  While she and Uncle Lamb had been close, they didn’t have this.  This warmth.  This unity.  

This sense of family.  

The “blood of my blood, bone of my bone” ancient Scottish promise that she and Jamie had made was sitting on his lap, blue eyes wide, red hair the same bright copper shades of her father’s highlights, with her two bottom teeth smiling.  

Jamie caught sight of her then.  He inclined his head, silently inviting her to join them.  As she came forward, he handed her Bree, patted the spot between his legs, and had her sit there against his chest, with Bree now in her lap, laying back.  Jamie’s long arms came around both of them, and Claire tucked her head on his shoulder, just under his chin.  

“Have you had a happy Father’s Day?” she asked, placing a kiss on his jaw.  

“I have, mo chridhe.  I have.”

Chapter Text

It was late in the afternoon, and Claire hadn’t kept her eyes open for more than 5 minutes at a time.  The only thing she’d eaten was a piece of toast, and some orange slices all day.  

“Claire.  Wake up, mo ghraidh.  Bree needs fed.”  He shook her, trying to balance a crying baby in one arm, while jostling a deeply sleeping wife with the other.  “Claire!”  

Finally, her eyes fluttered.  She registered Bree’s cry, and tried to sit up.

“What time is it?” she mumbled.  

“Four.  Can ye sit up a wee bit more?”  Brianna’s pitch was rising now that she was within range of her mother.

Claire shook her head, clearing out the cobwebs.  She raised herself against the headboard, and began to unbutton her sleep shirt as Jamie fetched the nursing pillow.  Once adjusted, Claire raised her arms for Bree.  In seconds the wee gomeral was pulling hard, tears forgotten.  

Jamie watched as Claire leaned her head back, and let her eyes close again.  

“Sassenach,” her eyes opened, and focused on him.  “Tea?”

“Oh God, yes.  I’m starving.”  Claire adjusted the pillow, and stroked her daughter’s fine hair.  Satisfied she would not drift off to sleep again, Jamie went to cook.  He scoured the fridge.  Dammit, he’d need to get food soon.  

He scrambled some eggs, and threw some fruit on a tray with a pot of tea for both of them.  

“Milady,” he announced as he maneuvered the tray through the doorway, “Your dinner awaits.”  Claire craned her neck to see as he placed the tray on the bed.

She snorted.  “Some feast, milord.

Jamie grinned.  “Best I could do on short notice.”  Claire smiled.  She had managed to contain her curls in a hair tie, but she was pale which made the dark circles under her eyes even more pronounced.  

“I’m sorry, darling.  I know there’s not much food in the house.”

“Nay bother, Sassenach.  We’ll go tomorrow.  Family shopping trip.”

“You’ll have to go back to work at some point.”  Claire sipped her tea.

“I own the company,” he smirked, and got raised eyebrows for his cheekiness.

He ate quickly, then took Bree to burp her while Claire devoured her eggs.  He gave the baby back to her to nurse for a second time while he poured his wife another cup of tea, and set a peeled banana in front of her to eat. He took their daughter back afterwards, while Claire used the bathroom.  Padding down the hall to the nursery to use the changing table, Jamie gave Bree a new nappie, and got a final burp as he walked back into their room.   He discovered Claire asleep.  Again.  

Worry ate at his mind.  Bree was up two to three times a night, and he knew Claire was tired.  Hell, he was tired.  But this.  It didn’t seem right.  

“Claire.”  She didn’t stir at all.  He ran a hand over her head, brushing back curls.  “Claire!”  

Nothing.

He took Bree downstairs with him, and set her on the sofa while he folded laundry beside her.  He took her with him to the kitchen while he put things away using his one free hand.  He talked to her, and when she got fussy, he set her against his chest and rocked, humming tunelessly until she fell asleep.  He dragged the bassinet into his office, and sat down to work for a bit.  

But his mind was on Claire.  

He startled when his mobile rang.

“Hey,” he said by way of greeting. 

“How’s everyone doing?” Jenny asked.  

“I dinna ken, Jenny.  It’s Claire.  She canna keep her eyes open today.  I wake her up to feed Bree, try to stuff some food into her while I can, and before I’ve changed a nappie, she’s dead asleep again.”  Jamie let out a long breath.  

“She healing, brother.  Her body is trying to repair itself, at the same time that it’s trying to make milk.  It’s exhausting.” Jenny said.  “I ken those days well.”

“Aye?  This was you then, too?”  Jamie was relieved to hear it.

“Weel, no’ so sleepy as that.  But I had Mrs. Crook, remember.”  Jenny reminded him.  

“Do I need to find us a Mrs. Crook?”  Jamie hadn’t thought about help.  

“It’s no’ like ye can pop ‘round Tesco and pick one up in aisle seven, brother.” 

“I ken that, Janet.”  Thank God she couldn’t see him rolling his eyes.  “I meant, how helpful was it to have Mrs. Crook?  What did she do all day?” 

“At first I didna ken what to do with her.  But she was very helpful.  She did the food shopping, the cooking.  Kept up the laundry, and tidied about the house.  I remember I was able to just be with wee Jamie, and sleep when he did. Gradually, as he got on a schedule, I did those things, and she tended to Jamie. Then when I went back to work, the bond was there between them and I felt good about leaving him with her.”  

Jamie made a Scottish noise.  

“Just a thought.  Ye’ll obviously need to discuss it with Claire, for when she’ll be wantin’ to head back to work.”  

“Aye.  Thank ye, Jenny.  Truly.”  

They talked a bit more, and finally Jamie hung up.  He glanced over at this sleeping daughter, and smiled.  Maybe that would be just the thing, to have help.


By 11:30 at night Jamie was exhausted.  It had been a long day. While Claire fed Bree, he went downstairs to lock up for the night. He turned off the lights, and looked out the window at Edinburgh.  The outside world looked the same, but inside his world everything had changed. 

There was the three of them now. 

He heard the shower start, and headed upstairs.  Bree was tucked into her bassinet, and Claire had found the energy to change their sheets. He shed his clothes and crawled into bed to wait for her, yawning widely.

She emerged with her towel dried hair piled up in a knot on her head and fresh clothes.  He shook his head as she sat down on the bed.

“Ye never learn.  Ye’ll be kicking those sweat pants off in ten minutes,” Jamie said.  “Ye always wear too many clothes to bed in winter.”

Claire laughed, and swung her feet under the covers.  “And you never wear enough.”

“Complaints, now is it?”  He raised an eyebrow.  “Honeymoon is over.  My wife is suddenly offended by my arse.”  Jamie pretended to be hurt, and laid down turning his back on her.

“Not true,” she giggled, and snuggled up behind him.  They lay in the quiet for a moment before she said, “I’m sorry about today, Jamie.  I was no help around the house.”

“Och,” he rolled over onto his back, cradling her closer, and tucking her head into the hollow of his shoulder.  “I’m glad ye got some rest.  Do ye feel any better?”

“Yes.  Still tired though, but I do feel a bit more myself.  It’s like my worst weeks as a resident all over again.” 

“Jenny called today, askin’ after ye.  Said she remembered days like this after wee Jamie was born.”

“But not the other children?”

“Weel, she had Mrs. Crook.  Which got me to thinkin’, Sassenach.  Would ye want help?  I mean, someone like Mrs. Crook?  Jenny said she helped with the bairn and light housekeeping.  Then, when she was ready to return to work, there was a bond formed and she felt confident wee Jamie was in good hands every day.”  

Claire pulled out of Jamie’s hold.  “Wow.  One day out of commission and we need a housekeeper.”  And Jenny can shove her calls to check on me up her ass.  “I’m capable of taking care of Bree, Jamie.  I was just tired today.”

“I’m no’ upset about today, and ye damn well know it.”  She was testy, and he wasn’t sure why.  “I was concerned for ye, I’m no’ gonna lie, but ye have to admit we should talk about what to do when ye go back to the hospital.”  Jamie paused, and took a deep breath.  He voiced something he didn’t want to consider.  “Are ye thinking a day nursery then?”

“I’m not thinking about anything.”  Claire rolled over, her back to Jamie.  “Bree will be awake in a couple of hours.  Let’s get some sleep.”

Jamie said nothing.  He turned off his lamp, and settled back into bed, one hand behind his head, the other on his chest, two fingers tapping nervously.

Housekeeper.   I’ve weeks before I have to go back and he wants to decide when she’s three weeks old?  Honestly.  Five years to become a mother and I’m supposed to give over to a stranger.  I think not.

Claire thought back over the day.  Jamie had handled everything.  Bree.  Her. His work.  Cooking.  Laundry.  She wasn’t being very fair.  She rolled over towards him once more.  

Jamie didn’t move.

She reached over, and put her hand over his active fingers curling hers around his palm.  She felt him enclose her hand.   

“Thank you for today,” she whispered, rubbing her thumb across the top of his wrist.  

Jamie turned his head towards her.  She could barely make out his soft smile.  

“No need to thank me, Sassenach.”  He brought their hands up, and kissed her fingers.  “I’m a family man now.”

She let go to place her hand along the ridge of his jaw.  Slowly sliding her fingers behind his neck, she pressed him slightly to come her way.  He shifted onto his side, and kissed her gently.  

“My family man,” she whispered.  “Good night, Jamie.  I love you.”

“Good night, mo nighean donn.  I love you, too.”

Fingers intertwined between them, Claire listened to the soft breaths of their daughter across the room, and the deeper breaths of her husband beside her.

Tomorrow, she thought.  Tomorrow will be better.  Tomorrow she would show him that she was a more capable mother.  

Chapter Text

She walked into the National Museum of Scotland with a three month old Bree strapped in her baby carrier.  It was a cold morning in March, and Claire was out for her daily walk.  

The flat felt like a prison lately.

Every day she walked a different route trying to clear her head.  She loved being a mother, but she missed being a doctor.  Somehow that felt traitorous.  The war inside her head was ongoing.  She found that being outside helped.  It also helped to get her body stronger.

Now if only I could find a way to get my mind stronger.  Claire pushed away that dark thought.

Some days she walked to Edinburgh Castle.  The first time she stood there she cried.  Being at the top of the city gave a visual to her feelings.  The loneliness and isolation, the sheer feeling of being overwhelmed was all there in front of her.  The vastness of the city at her feet, with its twists and turns, its unknowns and dark corners.  The view mirrored her mind, and that feeling of being so alone, and responsible for a child.  She had no idea what it meant to be a good mum. She hadn’t a clue if she was doing everything well, or right.  The city spread out like a maze, a clear metaphor for parenting.  Should she make this choice, or another?  Lead Bree this way, or that?  How would she know what was right for her daughter?    

The conflict was never-ending.

Today she sat in the Museum’s Grand Gallery, the glass ceiling above her trying its best to brighten the Atrium from the dull grey light.  She rested her head against the wall and looked up.  Scotland’s weather mirrored her mood. Everything in her life seemed grey.  Food seemed bland.  Her desires were banked.  Everything was such an effort.  So, she tried to combat her listlessness with exercise.  

Claire timed her walks with Bree’s schedule and ended up places where she could discreetly nurse her.  A bench in the corner of the gallery quickly became one of her favourite places.  Brianna  was growing so fast, all rolls, double chins, and bright blue eyes.  This was the only source of Claire’s joy, her daily delight.  Most days it felt like Bree was her only reason for getting up in the morning.  

That’s what scared her.   

Claire tried not to cry with gratitude every time she looked at the baby.  Brianna was alive, and strong, and had the sweetest smile.  

Plus, she adored her Daddy.

Claire wished she felt the same.  

She also wasn’t prepared for the sheer drudgery of early motherhood.  The clutter, laundry, nappie changes, and feedings.  My God, the feedings!  Claire had never sat down so much in her life.  It drove her crazy to have to sit while looking around at everything she had to do.  Trying to keep everything clean, and picked up was becoming a worry.  Everywhere she looked she saw a task, be it folding clothes, cleaning, or putting things away.  Just the thought of Bree finding something to put in her mouth and choke had Claire scrubbing floors at 5:00 in the morning, and vacuuming around the clock.  

Jamie thought she was being ridiculous.  While he never said so, in many ways he wasn’t as careful as she’d asked him to be.  In her corner, discretely draped by a baby blanket she thought of Jamie. He’d gone back to work eventually, and when he got home all he wanted to do was spend time with Bree.  

The first time he dangled his keys in front of her and the baby tried to put them in her mouth, Claire lost it.  She felt bad afterwards for what she’d said to him, but it made her mad that he seemed to have no common sense on the matter. She was a doctor for God’s sake.  She had explained the dangers.  

Claire peeked under the blanket to check on Bree.  The little monkey let go, and looked up at Claire with a sweet, milky smile.  Claire had to laugh.  She really was a delight.  Her only real peace came when they were together.  Mother and daughter.  

Claire shoved down the thoughts that came to the forefront of her mind so often these days.  Thoughts of how it would be so much simpler if it were just her and Bree.


“Sunday for dinner, then?”  Jenny said, poking her head into Jamie’s office for a quick word.

“I’ll let ye know,” Jamie said, looking up briefly.  He gave his sister a strained smile.  

“Jamie,” Jenny stopped, and filled the doorway.  “What’s wrong, brother?”

Jenny crossed her arms over her chest.  He’s hiding something.

“Nothing.  Deadlines.”

Maybe.  That could be it.  “Can I see what ye have so far?”

Jamie straightened from his drafting table, and blew out a long breath.  Finally he nodded, and waggled his fingers to wave her in.  He held up his MacBook to show her what he had completed.  Jenny was impressed.  She smiled as she held it up.  

“Jamie, these are beautiful!”  

“Aye. They’ll do.”  Fraser Distillery was coming out with a new Blended Scotch Whisky, and Jamie was designing everything from the shape of the bottle, to the label and packaging.  

“Here,” he said, and took the MacBook back.  He opened up a new file, and handed it back to Jenny.  Her face softened at the drawings.  Bree asleep.  A sketch of her tiny shell of an ear.  Her little hand curled up on a blanket.  

If there was one thing she knew about her brother it was that he drew in times of great stress.  The sheer number of drawings had her concerned.  She handed Jamie back the computer.  He looked sheepish and shy, but proud at the same time.  “Are ye happy, brother?”

Jamie nodded, then shrugged.  He wouldn’t meet her eyes.  “It’s hard, Jenny.”

“Oh, aye. The hardest thing ye’ll ever do!” She set her hand on his arm.  “But worth it, I promise.”

Jamie said nothing.

“How’s Claire?”

Jamie opened his mouth to speak, then closed it again.  He scratched the back of his head, and leaned his elbows on the table.

“Testy.  Sharp-tongued.  Withdrawn sometimes.  And she cleans non-stop.”  His voice held a mixture of confusion, and frustration, tinged with fear.  “Jenny-” he stopped.

She waited patiently for him to continue.  

“Jenny, I dinna ken what’s going on.  I’ve been changing nappies since wee Jamie was born.  One minute she’s fine with how I do it, the next time I’ve done it all wrong.  One minute I’m a savior for getting food from the market, the next I’ve put it away wrong.  How can a man put food away incorrectly?”  He swiveled in his chair and faced his sister, blue eyes stormy.  “It’s daft.  The mood swings are doing my head in!”

Memories flooded through Jenny.  Ah, piuthar mo chridhe.  Her heart broke a little for Claire.  She knew from experience that Jamie couldn’t deal with this.  In fact, if he tried he would only make it worse.

She could help, however.  She could lift both their burdens.  

Despite her mind now planning and working overtime, Jenny turned and walked toward the office door as nonchalantly as possible.  “Aye.  ‘Tis normal.  Tell her I said hello, kiss the bairn for me, and let me know about Sunday, aye?”

Jamie acknowledged her request with a shouted “Aye!” but Jenny was already through the door, and into the hallway.

She returned to her office, shut the door, and picked up the phone.  

It was answered on the third ring.

“Claire!  Glad I caught ye.  Listen, are ye busy this week?  Let’s meet for lunch.”

Chapter Text

Claire looked up sharply as the knock sounded.  Who could have gotten in the street door without a key?  She set aside the diaper bag she was packing and went to check the peephole.  Alec. The only other person with a key.  She threw open the door.

“What’s wrong?  Is it Jamie?”

“Nothing wrong, ma’am.  ‘Tis raining.  I’m here to take ye to the Distillery for yer lunch with Mrs. Murray.”

Claire was confused.  “Lunch isn’t for another two hours.”

“Aye.  But I ken yer morning walks.  Didna want ye to try walking in the rain with the bairn.  Wanted to catch ye before ye left.”

Claire studied the old man carefully.  His ever present knit cap covered his head, and his hands were buried deep in his jacket pockets.  He stared at her steadily. 

“You know about my walks?  How?”  

Alec sniffed, and rocked back on his heels silently.  His face betrayed nothing. 

Claire waved him in, shutting the door behind him.  Knowing Alec he probably followed her.  Also, knowing Alec he would never admit it.  He’d been her silent guardian since her medical school days.  “Sit, I’ll get you a coffee.”

He sat on the chesterfield sipping the hot brew, and watching three month old Brianna playing on the floor.  Eventually, he slid down off the cushions, and sat with her.  In no time he was shaking rattles, and keeping her entertained. Since she wasn’t going to be able to leave, Claire buzzed about the flat while Bree was being looked after getting the kitchen tidy, folding a load of laundry, and actually cleaned a bit.  However, she was suspicious of Alec.  Did Jamie send him?  Or Jenny?  It’s not like she was going to walk the whole way.  She had planned to take the tram for part of the way.  She had a cover for the stroller, so Bree would have been fine. She couldn’t stand being cooped up, and her daily walks made her feel so much better.  Without them she felt caged, pigeon-holed, stifled.  The walks kept her mind clear, and she felt she could think better.  Now it seemed Alec was here to take that away from her, and while she knew it was ridiculous, she couldn’t control the angry feeling it stirred.


When the elevator doors at Fraser Distillery opened, Jamie was right there.  A huge smile graced his wide, generous mouth.  Bree cooed at the sight of her Da.  

As Claire stepped out Jamie scooped his daughter from her arms.  He peppered her face with kisses, and delighted in her giggles.  He cradled her against his chest, while Bree’s little fingers grabbed at the collar of his shirt, opening and closing, her tiny fingertips brushing along his strong neck.  

Finally, Jamie turned his attention to Claire, giving her a quick kiss.  “Hi.”

Bree first.  Always Bree first.   Claire checked her thoughts.  

“Hello.  How’s your day?”

“Better now that my two best girls are here.”  Jamie turned and walked toward his office.  Claire felt like a pack mule carrying her purse, and the diaper bag as she trailed behind her husband.  She said hello to Willie, who stood to give her a quick hug. They talked for a moment, and Claire realized how good it was to see him again.  She had missed seeing him and Niamh.  

Jamie was standing impatiently beside his desk waiting for her, and grinning like a fool.  Claire saw the object of his delight right away.

“What’s this?”  She was surprised to see a travel cot tucked into the corner of his office.  A blanket, teddy bear and some soft toys were inside.  He’d never told her he had one.  She set down the bags to investigate further.

“For Bree.  Any time ye want to come to the office, she’ll be comfortable.  This doesna have to be yer first lunch visit now.”  Claire was touched.  She hadn’t expected this at all.  Yet at the same time it felt like a criticism.  Like she should have made more of an effort to visit.  

Jamie leaned down and pulled the teddy bear out of the cot.  He rubbed the softness against his daughter’s cheek and laughed as she leaned into the stuffy. “We’ll be fine here.  Go on to Jenny’s office.  Enjoy yer lunch.”  

“You want me to leave Bree here?  I can’t Jamie.  She’ll get hungry.”  

Jamie’s smile faltered for a brief second but he recovered quickly.  “Feed her now then, and I’ll see her down for a nap.”  

“I can’t very well -” she gestured toward the outer office at Willie. 

Jamie stepped around her, shut the door and pulled the strings on the blinds. Blinds that had never been there before.  

Just like that, she had her privacy and no more excuses.


Claire and Jenny sat at a table by the window.  The rain had stopped momentarily but the steel gray sky would not yield to the sun.  It was destined to be another overcast day.  At first Claire wanted to have food brought in because she didn’t want to stray too far from Bree.  Then Jamie had texted her a picture of their daughter sleeping peacefully in her little cot, and Jenny had pounced. They’d have a good two hours.  Bree always took her longest nap in the afternoon.  

Jenny ordered their drinks, and when the crisp white wine was delivered she raised her glass and toasted her sister-in-law.  Jenny spoke of how proud she was of Claire as a mother, how beautiful Brianna was, and how happy she was to have another woman in the family who had the same colouring as Ellen.  It made Claire tear up.

It wasn’t too long before Jenny turned the conversation to Claire, and how she was feeling.

“I’m good,” Claire said around a mouthful of bread.

“No blues, no funny moods?” Jenny narrowed her eyes daring Claire to fake her way through this one.  

Claire wiped her mouth, the bread feeling thick in her throat.  Dare she admit it? She dropped her head to try and gather her thoughts but in the end, she didn’t need to.  Jenny reached across the table and ran a hand down her arm.  

“Claire.”  Jenny’s voice was comforting, but firm.  “Did I ever tell ye the story about Maggie?  It was right after I’d had Kitty.  I came home one day, I canna even remember where I was.  Anyway, in I walk and Wee Jamie runs over to me to say hello, wee Maggie is in her high chair, and gets so excited she gasps. Next thing I know, her eyes are huge, her face is getting red, and she’s clearly having trouble breathing. Meanwhile, Ian is blathering on, not paying the least bit of attention. I remember dropping whatever I’d had in my hands, and trying to get around him to get to Maggie.  Wee Jamie was clamoring to be picked up and Ian was just in the way.  

Next thing I know, Mrs. Crook pulls Maggie from the chair, holds her upside down by the ankle, and whacks her on the back. This thing, this small red thing, comes flying out of her mouth and is skitterin’ across the kitchen floor.  When I finally get around the boys to pick it up, it’s a piece of hard candy.”

Jenny threw her hands in the air in a ‘what the hell?’ kind of gesture.  

“Ian Brainless Murray gave our bairns hard candy.  Honestly, Claire, it was all I could do not to rip off his prothesis and beat him ‘round the head with it.” Jenny’s eyes were bright with the memory, her cheeks flushed as her fear revisited her.

“I was so scared.  I couldna forgive him.  All I could think of was how useless he was.  From that point on I was worrit about everything.  Every time I thought about it, I’d have a panic attack.  I kept planning my kids’ funerals in my head.  I wouldna leave him alone with the children.  I didna trust him.  It was terrible.”  

“How did you get out of it?” Claire asked earnestly. 

“I threatened to divorce Ian.  Said if he couldna care to keep the bairns safe, he could leave.  God, what a row.  Ian said things about me being a control freak, and I said he didna have the sense God gave a fly.  Worst fight we’d ever had.” Jenny shook her head, remembering.  “It was after that outburst that Mrs. Crook sat me down and talked to me.  She thought perhaps I had a ‘touch of the blues,’” Jenny made quotation marks with her fingers.  

“She noted all my feelings from inadequacy to anxiety.  She let me say horrible things about Ian. Never tried to correct me, just let me talk.  She promised me that the feelings would pass, but if I still felt the same way in six months time she’d move Mr. Murray out herself.  Then, she called my doctor, and made me an appointment.  She was right.  Six months later things were so much better.”

Claire stared at Jenny.  Competent, organized, strong Janet Fraser Murray once felt like Claire did now.  

“I thought it was just me.  I thought the anxiety was because,” Claire paused, swallowed, and tried again.  “Because of Faith.  That I was just afraid it would happen again.  I feel crazy.”

“Yer no’ crazy.  As a doctor ye ken this is normal.  Many, many women feel this way after a baby.”  Jenny held up her hand and started ticking reasons off on her fingers, “Ye canna sleep because yer afraid of not hearing the bairn cry.  Ye have a routine during the day, just the two of ye and then the Da comes home and winds the baby up, or just brushes off the schedule ye’ve worked so hard to establish.  I got so sick of Ian being the ‘fun parent’ while I had to be the harsh one to insist on a steady bedtime or what they were allowed to eat, and when.”  

Claire nodded.  She reached across the table, and gripped Jenny’s hand.  “Can I tell you something else?  Sometimes Jamie comes home, and it’s like I’m invisible.  He walks in the door and it’s all about Bree.  It’s like I’m not even there!  All day I’ve been up to my ears in nappies and feedings and chores and I look forward to seeing him, but he’s just focused on the baby.”  

Claire looked at Jenny, her embarrassment hot on her face.  “I’m ashamed to admit I’m jealous of my own child.”

“It’s strange.  Fatherhood, I mean,” Jenny patted Claire’s hand, then leaned back in her chair.  “They really have no place until the bairn is born.  They canna do a thing while we’re pregnant, and then there’s nothing they can do while we’re in labour but wait and try to offer moral support. Then, when the bairn is finally born they can hold it, but they canna feed it.  There’s always something they canna do.  Except maybe talk to them.  They can say whatever they want, secretly and quietly without us being any the wiser.  It’s their turn then, to have something just between them and the bairn.  They can share their hopes and dreams, what might be, what might never be.”  Jenny’s smile begged Claire to be sympathetic.  

“Imagine feeling useless for nine months, and then still feeling useless for a few more.  It’s hard for them to find their place.  But around Bree’s age when the bairn is smiling, and cooing and laughing, they can finally bond.  And they’re starving for it.”  

Jenny waited while that sunk into Claire’s head.  She watched as Claire’s glass face came to grips with all they had talked about.   

The food finally arrived, and Jenny took the chance to move on to her other topic.  

“Do ye miss the hospital, Claire?” Jenny asked.

“Yes.  I do.  Some days more than others.” Claire smiled briefly.  “But I’m worried about going back.  I’m worried about what to do with Bree.”

“Have ye discussed it? With Jamie?”  

“No.  I can tell by his voice he won’t consider a day nursery.  But I don’t know what else we can do?  There’s one at the hospital.  Lots of doctors use it.” Claire didn’t sound convincing, even to herself.

“Perhaps ye can find yer own Mrs. Crook?”  This was the delicate part of the lunch that Jenny had been dreading.  She’d need her managing skills for this.  

Brazenly, Whisky coloured eyes met Coffee coloured eyes.  “Jamie mentioned that a couple of months ago.  Said the idea came from you.  At the time I thought you could shove it up your ass.  I took it as a personal slight.”  

Jenny laughed.  “Ye wouldna be the first to tell me what to do with my ideas!” 

The tension defused, Jenny continued, “I love ye like a sister, Claire.  And I ken what yer going through.  So, if I may be so bold, let’s make an appointment with yer doctor, and then let’s talk about how we can get Bree the best nanny we can.  Because at the end of the day, Claire, it’s no’ about you not being good enough.  It’s about finding someone who’s good enough for yer family.”    

Claire’s mouth trembled with relief.  The tears that were always close to the surface spilled over.

“And Jamie?” she whispered.  “What do I do about Jamie?”

Chapter Text

She opened up the cloth bound journal.  The journal that she had picked up from the stationary store on her walk the day after her lunch with Jenny. 

A gratitude journal.

Jenny had suggested she write just five things a day for which she was thankful.  The only stipulation was that she had to write one thing about Jamie. In the beginning it had been difficult, but after a while, she was able to see all the things he did do for her around the house, all the attentions he paid her. They were small, but nonetheless, they were there.  

One entry mentioned the dinner he had brought home unexpectedly.  Another noted the three loads of laundry he did one Sunday while she napped with the baby.  Today she would write down how Jamie had held her after dinner.  There was no particular reason.  He had come up behind her, turned her in his arms, and held her, swaying slightly.  

It was helping.  Claire felt less like a maid, and more like a partner.  She felt less jealous, and more supported.  

Claire was falling in love with her husband all over again.

Now she needed to work on the next part of her plan.


Jamie trudged through the door on a Friday afternoon, exhausted.  All he wanted was dinner, some time with his family, a cold beer and a rugby match on the telly. He dropped his backpack by the front door, then thought better of it.  He knew clutter seemed to bother Claire now, so he picked it up and took it down the hall to his office.  

Heading back into the kitchen he skidded to a stop.

“Jesus. God, Claire.”

Her jeans were skin tight.  Her black top, form fitting.  Jamie was an ass man, but her figure these days was downright sinful.  Because she was nursing her breasts were nothing short of spectacular.  For the first time in a long time her hair was down, the soft curls bouncing around her face, shiny and thick.  

She took his breath away.

“Hi!  How was your day?”  She came toward him, smile bright, while Bree kicked her little legs in anticipation of seeing her Da.  

He was helpless at the sight of her moving towards him, hips subtly swaying. “Wow, Sassenach. You look gorgeous.”

Claire’s steps faltered just a little with surprise, and she felt her face get red. She giggled, eyes downcast, lifting Bree up to him.  Except he didn’t take her. He was still mesmerized by his wife, and instead of taking the baby he ran his fingers up her throat, and gently forced her chin up with his thumbs toward his waiting mouth. He inhaled deeply as he kissed her.  

“We have a babysitter coming,” Claire whispered against his lips.  

“What? When? Who is it?”  Jamie snapped to attention and finally took hold of his daughter.  

“Any minute.”  Claire spun around towards the kitchen.  His groin reacted at the sight of how those jeans hugged her arse.  “And it’s your sister.”

“Jenny?  Really?  Why?”  Jamie was genuinely confused.  

“We’re going on a date, Fraser.”  And with that, the buzzer sounded.  


“I want to talk to you about something.” They’d had a nice meal with relaxed conversation.  It was time.  Claire’s hands were clasped tight in her lap. 

Jamie could not believe the change in Claire.  Slowly, over a matter of weeks his wife had seemed to come back to him.  She seemed less tense, more willing to accept help, and more affectionate.  Dinner was at her favourite little Italian restaurant close to their house.  They had walked there on this crisp, clear night with the moon a giant ball of shimmering light.  They walked close together, just as they had in the early days of dating and marriage with her hand slipped into his back pocket, and his long arm draped around her shoulders.  The idea of a night out alone with his wife was enough to give him a second wind and banish the thought that Bree was too young for a babysitter.  

“Something wrong, mo neighean donn?”

“No. Nothing’s wrong.  It’s just….I want to go back to work.”  Claire rushed through the next part of her prepared speech.  “I know it’s sooner than I need to, and I know it’s sooner than you hoped, but when Bree is six months old, I want to go back at least two days a week.  I want to talk to Dr. Gowan and see if that’s a possibility.  I think it would be good for me.”

Jamie took a sip of his wine.  He didn’t want to think about this yet.  “Ye seem in better spirits lately, Claire.  Is this why?  Because yer thinking of going to work?”

Before, Claire would have been angry at his response.  Now, she tried to take his comment in the spirit for which she hoped it was intended.   Claire knew she didn’t have a hidden agenda, and that Jamie was dreading this moment.  “No. I’ve been really trying.  The walks help.”

“Walks?” Jamie leaned forward, elbows on the table, so he could look her fully in the face. “When do ye walk?”

Claire laughed.  “I walk every morning, Jamie.  With Bree.”  She didn’t understand his surprise.  If Alec knew, Jamie must know.

“Where do ye walk?” Jamie was pleasantly surprised by this information. Clearly that’s how she had gotten her figure back so soon.

“We have our favourites.  The Museum.  The Castle.  The Library.”

“What?”  Jamie reared back against his chair.  “Christ, Claire, some of those are 15 kilometers round trip!  With Bree?”

“No, Jamie, I leave Bree at home to do the washing up.”  She rolled her eyes.  “Of course with Bree! Sometimes I get on the tram for a bit, then walk.  Depends on my mood, and the weather.”

Jamie was stunned.  How did he not know this?  “What about her feedings? And her naps?”  

“Some days I take the pram.  Some days I wear the baby carrier.  And she naps just fine.  As for feeding her, it’s still very portable.”  Claire gestured to her breasts.  Jamie glanced down and subconsciously licked his lips. 

“I stop in some familiar spots.  One of them is a great little bistro on the other side of Dean’s Village near the Gallery.  The people know us there.”  Claire sat back in her chair, mildly annoyed but trying to keep her anxiety at bay.  

“Come on, Jamie.  Are you telling me you didn’t send Alec out to keep watch? Because he knows about my walks.”

“He DOES?” Jamie sat bolt upright while his voice rose in shock and indignation. Claire leaned forward and laid a hand on his arm, shushing him.

“Are you seriously angry, Jamie?  Because you can see Bree is growing well, and she’s fine.  And I can’t tell you how much it’s helped me.”

Jamie took a deep breath.  This was not the point of this conversation.  She had asked him about work, so he tried his best to refocus.  I’ll be havin’ a long conversation with Alec in the mornin’ however. 

“No.  Not angry, Sassenach.  Just embarrassed at how much I’ve no’ paid attention to what ye do all day.  I’m sorry for that,” he offered.

Claire smiled.  And there it was.  The entry for her gratitude journal tonight. 

“Talk to Dr. Gowan, Claire.  See what he says first.  Then, when we ken what yer schedule might be we’ll talk about the next step.”  He reached over, and pushed a tendril of hair behind her ear.  “I dinna mean to ruin anything.  I’m havin’ the grandest time tonight, mo ghraidh.”

“Good, because we’re off to Deacon Brodie’s.”

Jamie laughed and picked up his glass to drain it.  “Snooker?”  He leaned in close, his lips almost touching hers. Claire closed her eyes in anticipation of his kiss.  Instead she heard him whisper, “I’ll mop the floor with ye.”


Jamie turned away for about the dozenth time that night and tried to readjust his jeans to get comfortable.  Claire wasn’t the best at pool but the woman wasn’t bad either.  She kept telling him it was really just Geometry, and that she was good at math.  Of course, when he was young and single he had spent a lot of time in snooker halls.  He loved the game.  But how the hell was he to concentrate when she would bend over the table and that perfectly round arse would rest there in front of him?  

Ifrinn, the fantasies she aroused.  He’d have her right there if he could.  And the vixen knew it.  

The third time she leaned over and sunk a ball, she’d looked back over her shoulder leaving her arse right where it was.  Oh, she knew.  

So he’d moved to stand in front of her when she took her shots.  That idea was even worse because then he was privy to the way the tips of her breasts would brush the green felt when she leaned down to sight the ball.  

His body reacted like a 23 year old virgin.  

He drained his Tennent’s lager and motioned for another.  Two could play at that game.  

When she bent down again, he walked up and pressed himself against her bottom. She gasped at his hardness, the length of him revealing his arousal. Claire flinched so much that her cue hit the felt and popped the white ball up and over the edge of the table.  She stood quickly.  “Jamie,” she whispered furiously, “What in hell are you doing?”

Jamie spoke softly next to her ear, all the while pressing her against the length of himself, his arm around her waist.  “Lettin’ ye know that if you win this game it’s only because I’m thinking of later, when yer naked ow’er top of me with my tongue on yer breasts and my cock - OOF!”

Claire elbowed him in the stomach.

Jamie staggered back a step, taking deep breaths.  The look he fixed on her when he regained his breath showed no interest in any more games, sexy or otherwise.  

“That was yer shot, Lass.  Now, step away.”  

Claire watched as Jamie proceeded to run the table, sinking coloured ball, then red ball, then another coloured ball.  He moved quickly and decisively, like a big cat sighting it’s prey.  Once in a while he’d spare her a glance full of simmering heat and banked desire while he took a sip of his lager, or surveyed the table. Then, he’d set down the glass, and the run was on again.   

When he sank the last ball he put his cue in the rack, drained his glass and turned a lustful gaze on Claire.  “I’ve had enough, mo neighean donn. Get yer things.  We’re leavin’.”


Jenny was bouncing a fussy Bree when he opened the door.  “I told ye Mummy would be here soon,” she said, and kissed Bree’s chubby cheek.  The baby squealed and wriggled in her aunt’s arms at the sight of her parents.  

Jamie watched as Claire hugged Jenny and thanked her for giving them this evening together.  She took Bree and disappeared up the stairs.  Jamie helped Jenny on with her coat, then walked her down the stairs to her car, both sharing details of their evenings.

“Jenny,” Jamie said, holding the car door open for her.  “I canna thank ye enough. Tonight was the most fun we’ve had in months.  Thank ye for watching Bree. Truly.”

“Och, Brother, ye’ve watched my bairns enough time.  I’m excited to be able to return the favour.”  Jenny raised an eyebrow, “Now get inside, lad.  That child was hungry and tired.  She won’t be long to bed.”  

She paused a moment and said, “And by the looks of you and Claire, ye won’t be either.”

“Wheesht, Jenny.  Dinna embarrass me,” but his grin implied anything but embarrassment as he closed the door.

Claire met him in the corridor as he hit the top of the stairs.  Without stopping he took three strides and grabbed the waistband of her jeans.  Her hands had already been there though, popping the button and sliding down the zipper. In one smooth move he peeled off the denim, then lifted her up, one hand around her waist, the other under her thigh.  She wound her legs around his hips and tangled her hands in his hair.  

Their kisses were hot, open mouthed, and desperate.  

He moved toward the wall, oblivious to the fact they were steps from Bree’s room.  As he walked Claire stripped off her top and tossed it.  Jamie groaned at the sight before him.  A Dhia, her breasts were plump and soft, straining to be free of the bra. He lifted her higher, and bent his head, kissing the tops, tongue tracing the edge of the fabric, then dipping under to reach a nipple.

“Talk to me,” Claire breathed.  She grabbed his head tighter forcing him to look at her.  “Tell me you love me,” she whispered against his lips.

“More than my own life, Claire.” His tongue licked her upper lip before he kissed her.

“More than anyone?”  She pulled at his curls, harder now.

He paused and looked deep into her topaz eyes.  He saw lust, to be sure, and love.  He knew Claire, knew her well, and he saw insecurities as well.  What demon was she facing now?  

She bit her lip, waiting, panting, hoping he would say the right thing.  

“Are ye suggesting I’ve played ye false? Because no, mo graidh, never.”

He caught the barest flicker of her eyes towards Bree’s room.

Holy Mother of God and all the Saints before Her.  I’m throbbing for her, and she thinks…I love her less than Brianna?

Jamie pressed her back against the wall as one hand came up to cup the side of her face.  

“Nèamhan, Sassenach.  All I have comes from you.  Our marriage.  Our family. Yer my one and only.  Mo graidh.  Yer face is my heart, Sassenach, and the love of you is my soul.”  

Claire whimpered, and kissed him again, fiercely, almost violently.  

Jamie grabbed her hair and forced her head back.  “I love Bree with all my heart. But I love Bree because she has so much of you.  She has yer smile. She has that way of taking her wee fingers and stroking my neck like ye do. Like yer doin’ now.”

Claire’s fingers stilled and she breathed a small laugh in reply.

She kissed him again, his jaw, behind his ear.  She ground herself against him. “Help me.”

“Help ye what?”  God how he wanted her.  Jamie reached down and undid his belt and jeans.  He shifted Claire so that he was poised, ready to enter her.  

She moved restlessly, trying to hurry him, to get closer to him, as close as possible.  

“Help ye what, Claire?  Tell me.”  Claire groaned and twisted her head from side to side.  Jamie had never seen her like this.  

“I hate feeling jealous,” she said, between gritted teeth.  “I hate myself for it.  I want to be free of it.”    

There she’d said it.  Out loud.  For a moment she watched his eyes go wide, and then narrow like the cat’s eyes they were.  

Then he was in her.  With one solid thrust, he filled her.  Claire arched her back, and let her legs slide down to encircle his thighs.  

“Now ye listen to me, Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp,” he said, driving into her slowly and steadily, his mouth next to her ear, “Jealous, is it?  Did ye no’ see those men in the pub?  Eyein’ my wife.  My sexy…” he pushed into her, “beautiful…” then out, then in again, “strong wife.” Every word was punctuated by his body.  

His breathing was heavy, his words measured.  “Ye’ve no idea the nights I sit up watching over ye.  Yer in my dreams, asleep and waking.”  He kissed her then, his tongue finding hers in a lover’s dance.  

“I will never love anyone the way I love you.  I think of no one else when I’m with ye.”

Claire could feel the pleasure building.  His voice was raspy, and rough, cleansing her, washing away the darkness in her mind.  The sweat between them made their bodies slick.  God, he felt so good.  She risked a look and saw that his eyes were as dark as the ocean during a storm, heavy-lidded and sultry. 

His words washed over her like holy water, forgiving her sin.  

“I just want to be the Claire you fell in love with.”

Jamie ground his body into her again.  “Nay, lass.  That Claire is gone.  But this Claire.  A Dhia, this Claire is more seasoned, more fiery, more…” Speech was getting hard for him.  His body was screaming for release.  

“More of everything….GOD. CLAIRE!”

He felt her legs shake, felt her shudder around him, felt her nails bite his flesh. Felt the groan that tore from her chest.

Felt himself get lost in her.  


Later, in the wee hours before dawn he woke to her touch, as she climbed back in bed.  A light stroking on his back, tracing his scars.  Her mouth soft on his shoulder.  

“Tell me again,” she whispered.

Jamie smiled sleepily and rolled over on top of his wife, coaxing her to open her legs.  

He settled himself between her thighs.  

Leannan, I was just dreamin’ about ye….”

Chapter Text

Ifrinn!”  

Jamie turned from the changing table, and marched towards the bathroom holding Bree away from him like hazardous waste material.  He turned on the taps to run a quick bath.  When the temperature was right, he popped her into the tub. 

He took an earbud out, speaking directly to his daughter, Now ye listen here, ye wee gomeral.  I’ll no’ change a nappie again after this. That’s twice ye shit in as many minutes. I have a meeting to listen to!”

Bree stared at her father as he spoke, her clear blue eyes wide.  She slapped a hand down into the water and blinked at the splash that hit her face.

“Jamie?”

He fumbled with his phone to unmute it so he could talk, slipping it back into his pocket.  “Aye. Right here.”

“What do you think?” Jenny asked.

“I agree the numbers look good.  I’m anxious about bottling that blend too early though.  I dinna think we should be -”

Bree’s shriek and subsequent babbling hit the airwaves.  

“Sorry.  Bree says hello.”  Everyone laughed, and Jamie booped Bree’s nose. “Anyway, I dinna think -”

Bree flung her hand again and splashed Jamie in the face.  His wide mouth snapped shut, and he took a calming breath.

“I dinna think we should compromise the quality,” he said quickly and muted the phone again.

“Ye wee besom,” he laughed, and rubbed his nose against his daughter’s.  He finished washing Bree’s bum, rinsed her off, and wrapped her up in a towel.  

As the call wound down, Jamie unmuted, signed off, and pulled the earbuds out of his ears.  

“Listen,” Jamie said, making Brianna focus on him as he diapered her.  “I get yer no’ jazzed about this.  But Mam is a doctor, and she needs to be doctoring.” 

Bree made a razzing sound, then babbled, “Da da da da da,” at him.  

“Aye. Da. That’s me,” Jamie said, pointing at his chest.  “Dinna change the subject, Lass.  So.  We need today to go smoothly so she doesna worry.”  He slipped the onesie over her head. 

“And, nighean bhreagha, we need to really get on, so yer Mam willna fash about me staying home wi’ ye at least two days a week.”  He zipped up her fresh sleeper.

“Otherwise,” he whispered seriously, getting close to her face, “It’s the day nursery for ye.  Where they’ll be holdin’ ye prisoner.”

Bree reached up and grabbed Jamie’s nose.  “Ye ken my meanin’ then.  It’ll stink.”  

Jamie picked up his daughter and turned to head downstairs to his office.  His foot hit something and sent it sliding across the floor.  He bent down to pick it up from where it had flipped open.  He wouldn’t have read it except he saw his name. Glancing through it, he saw it more than once.

His name was on every page.

He felt his stomach flip, and sat down hard in the rocking chair settling Brianna on his lap.  Perusing the journal he read his wife’s daily thoughts.  

“Oh, Claire,” he whispered.


Claire took the bus to the hospital.  She wanted today to be like every other work day before Brianna was born.  She felt it would calm her if she repeated her routine.  

Getting off at her stop she looked over at the big building that was so much a part of her life.  She had missed it.  All of it. While she worried that she was leaving Bree too soon, she also knew that working would be good for her.   

Taking a deep breath she pulled her ID badge out of her bag, hung it around her neck, and headed in.  

She had barely made it into the Employee Entrance when she spotted a pair of red trainers barreling towards her.  The bright red hair from her assailant’s high pony tail whipped around her head, and she was caught up in a bear hug.

“Geillis!” Claire laughed, and hugged her back.  Hard.

“Yer here!”  Geillis gave her one extra squeeze and stepped back to look at her, holding her at arms’ length.  “Dammit, Claire, ye look good!  Have ye seen Dr. Gowan? What did he say?”

“Not yet.  On my way there now,” Claire linked arms with her friend.  “Walk with me and tell me all the gossip.”

Heads bent together the two women moved through the corridor, Geillis talking, and Claire nodding hello at those she knew.

When they got to Dr. Gowan’s office Geillis gave her another quick hug making Claire promise to text her with his decision.  

Sitting in Dr. Gowan’s office was a bit of a homecoming for Claire.  He was Chief of Staff, and Claire’s dealings with him had always been of a positive nature, even when she had been reporting Dr. Randall. 

He sat back in his chair, relaxed and in good spirits.  “Of course, Dr. Fraser, whenever yer ready to come back is fine.  The Emergency ward misses yer excellent skills.”  

Dr. Gowan leaned forward and looked through his bifocals at his computer. “Now, if it’s two days a week ye want, we can set that up.  I’m afraid ye’ll still have to do on call one day a week, and take a shift one weekend a month.”  He raised his eyebrows at her, making sure she knew all she had to consider.

“I understand, Dr. Gowan.  As long as we could make my two days consistent,” Claire said, “just for the sake of scheduling a babysitter.”

“How is yer….daughter?  Have I got that right?”  

“Yes.  Brianna.  And she’s well, thank you.  In fact, I’m heading down to look at our day nursery after our meeting.  I want to see the facility and check on availability for her.”  

She ignored the sharp pang in her stomach.  

“Ah. Weel, I won’t keep ye.  Tuesdays and Thursdays, then. With, of course, yer other duties.  I’ll have yer schedule sent to ye soon.”  He slapped the arms of his chair, and made to get up.

Claire stood and shook his hand feeling relieved, excited and hesitant, all at the same time.


Jamie pulled into a parking spot and sat for a moment thinking.  He thought again of Claire’s last entry in her journal. It was from this morning.  

Looking forward to my meeting with Dr. Gowan this morning, and the appointment to tour the nursery, even though I wish Jamie would come with me.

The part about him was crossed out until it was almost illegible.  Still, it broke his heart.  They were on opposite sides of this topic. Jamie wanted a nanny for Bree.  Claire thought it best their daughter be at the hospital nursery where she could check on her throughout the day.  

Seeing her cross out the words made him realize that while she was trying, he was not.  So, he bundled up Bree and drove over to the hospital.  He owed Claire his time.  It cost him nothing to look at the nursery, and truth be told if he didn’t see it he couldn’t argue against it.  Sighing deeply he opened the door of the car and climbed out.  Gathering Bree from the backseat, he headed inside.

Jamie came through the double doors and turned to the left.  Halfway down the corridor he noticed Claire standing off to the side looking into the nursery window.  

“There’s yer Mam!” Jamie said to Bree, turning her in his arms so she could see her.

“Mamamamamamamamama….”  Bree babbled. 

Claire spun around.  “Jamie!”  He watched as the shock on her face softened into gratitude.  “You came.”

“Aye,” he said, and kissed her quickly on the lips.  “I realized I canna discount something I’ve never seen.  I wouldna do it in business, mo neighean donn, so I shouldna do it at home.”

Claire reached up and brushed a wind swept curl away from Jamie’s forehead, her hand lingering on his cheek.  

Sky blue eyes met amber ones.  

Thank you for coming. For considering my thoughts on this.

I’m sorry for not agreeing to come sooner. 

If there was one thing Claire valued most in her marriage, it was their ability to communicate without words.  

As Jamie passed the baby to her, he pressed a soft kiss to her forehead.  He smiled as Bree nestled into Claire’s shoulder.  

“Shall we go in?” Jamie asked, hoisting the backpack higher on his shoulder.

“Wait.”  Claire looked through the window again.  

Jamie followed her gaze.  He knew immediately what she was thinking.  He cast around in his mind trying to find a compliment.  

“Tis bright enough!”  That sounded lame, even to him.

Claire turned to look at her husband, disappointment etched in her features. “It’s very crowded.”

Jamie nodded and said nothing.  

“Maybe it’s too soon for me to come back to the hospital.”

“Claire,”  He turned her to face him, his hands resting on her shoulders.  “I ken sometimes ye try to stay…” he paused trying to find the right word.  “Ye try to stay humble, maybe, but I’m no’ ashamed of the fact we can afford a nanny. We work hard, Claire.  And it’s okay to want Bree to stay safe and loved and comfortable in her own home.  And no’ just Bree, but any bairn to come after her.”  

Keeping an arm around her shoulders, Jamie guided his wife towards the door to the parking lot.  

“We can’t just hire anybody, Jamie,” Claire said, looking up at him.  

“Aye. I ken that.”  He made a Scottish noise that indicated he was thinking.  “It will take a while to find a young blonde nanny from Sweden.”

Claire stopped short.  “James Alexander Malcolm Mackenzie Fraser!” she said and shoved at his chest.   

“Claire?”

Both turned around at the sound of the familiar voice.  “Mrs. Fitzgibbons!”

Claire rushed down the hallway to see her old friend and supervisor.  They embraced warmly.

“Is this yer we’en, Claire?”  At Claire’s nod, Mrs. Fitz cupped Brianna’s head in her somewhat wrinkled hand, smoothing down her hair.  “Och, Claire, she’s the spit of her Da!”

Much to Claire’s surprise Bree launched herself at Mrs. Fitz, arms outstretched. Despite her surprise the older woman reacted quickly, and reached out to hold the bairn.  In no time Bree was smiling and cooing while Mrs. Fitz nodded and talked in a sing-song voice.  

“So,” Mrs. Fitz looked at Claire, “Geillis tells me yer to be back soon.”

Claire smiled, and nodded.  

“And did she tell ye I’ll be retired soon?”  Nurse Fitz turned to hand Bree to her father.  

“What?  No!” Claire took both of Mrs. Fitz’ hands in her own.  “For selfish reasons I wish you weren’t, but I understand.  Congratulations, it’s well earned.”

“Mrs. Fitzgibbons,” Jamie said, his face a polite mask.  “Can I persuade ye to join us for lunch?  Our treat.  Celebrating yer retirement, ye ken.”

Claire looked at Jamie.  His voice held an undertone that she couldn’t quite place.  There was a tilt to his head, and a smile playing around his wide mouth. The slanted clear cat-eyes held a hint of mischief.  What are you up to, you wily Scot?

Equally fascinated by the change in her daddy’s tone, Bree placed her chubby hands on either side of Jamie’s face and strained to look into his eyes. 

Jamie just smiled, and deftly maneuvered all three females toward the door.  

Chapter Text

6 Months Later

 

When Claire thought back to the early days with Bree she could only describe it as if she were climbing out of a fog.  Fog so dense, so thick, you couldn’t see your outstretched hand in front of your face.  Like the red tail lights of a car in front of you that you can see, but then disappear, and no matter how far you drive you can never catch a glimpse of the thing that you know is right in front of you.

Slowly though, the mist had cleared.  

Through her own determination, her sister-in-law’s support, and Jamie’s unfailing love, she managed to find joy again.  Claire’s joy was in her work, if only part-time.  She loved the energy of the Emergency Ward, the fast pace, the split-second decisions, and the challenge of performing a different surgery almost every day.  

“Suction.”  Her field of vision was cleared immediately.

“I need another clamp, please.”  

The instrument was in her hand before she was done asking.  But that’s how it was with her and Geillis.  They knew each other so well that they anticipated each other’s needs.  

She looked up and smiled at Geillis.

“Hocus Pocus,” Geillis giggled.

“Time to focus,” Claire admonished with a wink.  

Everyone agreed that Geillis was an excellent surgical nurse, but put she and Claire together in the O.R. and you had real magic.  

Her joy was in Jamie.  He was happy he had provided for his family’s needs. He moved mountains to prepare their home for a Nanny.  Her husband had charmed Mrs. Fitz at their first meeting, then invited her to dinner at their home, and asked her to care for Bree.

“Honestly, Mrs. Fitz, I’ve no’ seen anything like it.  She went to ye as natural as she would her Auntie Jenny,” Jamie smiled at their guest.  

“Och, she’s a sweet child,” Mrs. Fitz said as she stirred sugar into her tea.

“So, we were hoping that ye might consider being her Nanny three days a week. Not full time, mind.”  Jamie poured on the charm.  “Seein’ as she has no Grandparents, ye really would be filling a huge void in her life.  Someone who could teach her the songs and stories that our mothers would have done. The presence of someone with such strong character and values. Do ye ken my meanin’?”

“Aye,” the blue eyes twinkled, “I ken fine what ye mean.”

But Mrs. Fitzgibbons had said “No”.  

She was getting on, she explained, and her knees were sometimes sore.  After years of wandering hospital halls she’d had enough.  It was the stairs, she explained, the ones leading up to the flat, and the others inside.  She knew she would never be able to manage.

Jamie understood her decision.  He just didn’t accept it.  

The same drive, determination and stubbornness that drove James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser to rehabilitate after his accident, to be successful in business, to tenaciously fight for Claire with every folded piece of origami when they first met, did not take Mrs. Fitz’s ‘no’ lightly.

One week later he showed her the flat on the ground floor that Claire hadn’t even known existed.  Apparently, Jamie had been using it as a storage space for years.  He rattled on to Mrs. Fitz about all the amenities, promised her whatever features she wanted, made it rent-free, and finally convinced her to take the position.  

The minute their daughter reached her little arms out for Glenna Fitzgibbons, Jamie had seen it as Divine Intervention.  

And Jamie Fraser was not one to spit in God’s Eye.

He’d opened his wallet, and opened it wide to ensure the peace he and Claire needed as working parents.  He cleaned out the space, designed and oversaw the renovation, even going so far as to have a lift installed in his building.  

“Where are ye goin’?”  His blood ran cold at the sight of the suitcase and the clothes Claire was jamming into it.

“Dammit, Jamie, this is getting ridiculous!” Claire was furious. “The noise is unbearable.  Bree can’t nap, and I can’t keep her out all day while they put in a fucking lift that costs a small fortune!”  She walked into the bathroom to pack up her toiletries.

“Claire,” Jamie followed her, “Claire - wait!”

She stopped and looked up at him, her face close to his, her whisky eyes dark and threatening.  “I’m going to Lallybroch.  I’ve taken two weeks off and Bree and I are going to your sister’s.”  

Jamie breathed a sigh of relief, and turned to the closet to grab some clothes.

“What do you think you’re doing?”

“Well…I thought,” Jamie stuttered.

“Think again.”  Claire spun around and threw her bag of creams and lotions in the suitcase.  “You have two weeks, James Fraser.  We’ll be home Sunday next after supper,” Claire poked her husband hard in the middle of his chest, punctuating every word.  “I. Want. It. Finished.” She paused, then added with a tug on his sweater, “Stat.”

“Aye,” Jamie whispered.  “Ye have my word.”

Her joy was in Bree.  Their daughter was happy, and thriving.  She was crawling, cruising along the furniture, and babbling. She watched everything with solemn eyes, taking in every word, every action.  Intelligence brewed behind that angelic face.

“Dada!” Bree shouted when Jamie came home.  Hell, she said it every time he entered a room.  

“Halò, mo leannan!”  

Claire’s 12 hour shift from 5:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. allowed her pick up the baby, while Jamie did the dropping off.  Mrs. Fitz was packing up the diaper bag while Claire was tidying up the toys that stayed in Mrs. Fitz’s flat.  

As all three adults watched, Brianna Ellen Fraser turned from the chair she had used to pull herself up, and took three solid steps forward before landing on her bottom.

The adults gasped.  Mrs. Fitz clapped.  Claire squealed and ran over to Bree. Jamie grinned and dropped down on his knees.

Claire lifted their daughter up, and set her on her feet again.  “Go to Da, Bree. Get him!”

“Come, mo nighean brèagha,” Jamie cajoled, “Come to Da.”  Their clever girl did it again.  Three more steps, then down she went.  Once more, and she made it into Jamie’s waiting arms both confused and thrilled that she’d managed to impress the most important people in her life.

While Claire still felt the odd pang of guilt at leaving Bree so young, the pangs were like wisps of fog clouds, feather light, hardly lingering, being burnt off by the sunshine in their lives.    

Tonight, as Jamie aroused her, whispering his words of love and lust, it was difficult to remember why she had ever shut him out.  When he ran his hands over her flat stomach and down to cup her between her legs, she was unsure as to why she ever thought she could be happy alone.  

Taking him into her body, she had leaned down to him, chest to chest, kissing him deeply.  

Gratitude.

She could taste it.  She could feel it.  She desired it.  For everything that her life was now, she was grateful.  Her job.  Her friends.  Her home.  Her husband.  His love.  His child.  

Both children.  

She found she could even be grateful for Faith because Faith made her realize just what a miracle they had in Brianna.  

And as she lay on top of him, his hands at her hips trying to urge her to move, she stayed still.  She thread her fingers through his mahogany curls so dark against the pillow, holding his head still.

“Don’t move,” she whispered.  “Just feel.  Feel us, Jamie.  Feel what we have. Feel all that had to happen to get here, to this place.  Us, together.”

She kissed him again and felt him smile through it.  

“I’ve never been more grateful for an open window and a dislocated shoulder,” he whispered back flicking a thumb over her nipple.

The silence of the night surrounded them.  The lay entangled now, Claire running her fingers lightly over Jamie’s chest, Jamie rubbing her arm slowly, each lost in thought.

“Ye were right about gettin’ back to work.”  

“You were right about having a nanny.”

“Are ye happy, Claire?  Truly?”  She could hear it in his voice now, just as she saw it in his face when she was packing her bag for Lallybroch a few months back.

Uncertainty, tinged with fear.  

She untangled herself, and rolled over on to her stomach to face her husband.

“Did I worry you that much?”

“Scairt me, more like,” he reached out and brushed her curls behind her shoulder, his hand lingering.  “I thought….once or twice…ye were gonna leave me.”  He said the words softly, bravely, honestly.  

“I scared myself,” she admitted.  “To be completely honest, Jamie, you can thank Jenny.”  

Jamie nodded.  “I have.”

He hugged his sister, hard.  Hugged her like he did when they were bairns. Except now he was such a size she could barely reach him.  

“Dè tha ceàrr, bràthair?”

“Nothing’s wrong.  Now,” he said.  “Jenny.  Ye’ve been so good to Claire.  To me.  I canna thank ye enough.”  

He could feel the tears, but he breathed deeply, finding control.  

“When I think back to Mam and Da, and how their marriage wasn’t supported by her brothers, I just feel so grateful that ye love Claire like a sister.  That yer there for her.  And for me.”  

“Jamie -”

“Nay, Jenny.  I found the journal.  First page, she wrote the story of how ye encouraged her to do this.”  He shook his head in disbelief.  “Jenny.  Ye need to understand.  I’m damn certain that ye’ve saved my marriage.”

“To answer your question, yes.  Yes, I’m happy.  And lucky.  And grateful.  And in love.  So very, very much in love.”  Claire held Jamie’s gaze.

“I wish I could have fought that darkness for ye,“ he said abruptly, his eyes dark and intense.

“It wasn’t your fight, it was mine. But you won it anyway,” Claire said, dropping a kiss on his shoulder.

"Aye, but that’s not what I meant. I hate that ye may feel any regret over it,” he said.

"There aren’t any regrets,” Claire said. “I thought of every one of them over the past few months, and here I still am.”

“Thank God,” he said, smiling, “and God help ye.” Then he added, “Though I’ll never understand why.”

Claire laid back down, snuggling up against her husband’s side.  She pulled the duvet up around them both.  

“Because,” she said, “I bloody well can’t do without you, Jamie Fraser, and that’s all there is to it.”

Chapter Text

Claire put her hands to the small of her back and stretched.  She curved her spine backwards, stretching the muscles that had cramped during surgery.  All she wanted to do now was go home, take a shower and stretch out on the floor, letting the unforgiving hardwood realign her back.  

She discarded her gown and mask from surgery and headed to her locker.  

“Call me if anything changes, but I expect he’ll be fine.”  Finished giving her last minute instructions to the day nurse, Claire slung her purse over her shoulder and walked down the corridor. She turned the corner to see a very tall man wrestling to pick up a small, red-headed sprite. 

There were times when Claire would be walking from the bus and see a man coming towards her from down the street, and think “he’s handsome” only to find it was Jamie coming to walk her home.  Or to have him look down at her as they cooked dinner side by side, and realize just how good looking he really was. 

This was one of those times. 

His strong jaw was set in determination, highlighted by the stubble of his beard. The morning sun lit his hair on fire, contrasting with the brighter strands of their three-year old daughter who he’d now corralled into his arms.  Identical curls at the nape of their necks.

Seeing them together was her greatest joy.  

“What are you doing here?” Claire asked, pleasure evident in her voice. 
Jamie’s head swiveled in her direction.  His smile was broad.  His blue eyes were dark, and laughing.  

“Och.  The wee heathen woke up at 5:00 and wouldna go back to sleep.  So I thought, might as well meet Mam at the hospital and take her out for breakfast.”

“Heeeevan!” mimicked Bree, struggling against Jamie’s hold. 

Claire had to smile at the futility of the fight.  Wee Bree was no match for her Da’s arms.

“Really.  And you didn’t just let her lay in bed and talk to her stuffies like she always does?”  Claire saw the tell-tale twitch in his eye.

“Weel,” Jamie said, slowly, “She was most insistent.”

Claire reached up on tiptoe for a kiss and whispered against his lips, “You let her sleep on my side again, didn’t you?”

Jamie pulled back, just slightly, and met Claire’s eyes. He dropped his head in shame.  “Aye. I did.  We were watching rugby and both fell asleep.” 
He finally met her gaze.  “I was too lazy to carry her to bed.”

Claire chuckled and rubbed the back of her husband’s neck in solace.  She kissed him, and dropped another kiss on the top of her daughter’s head.

“So the plan is breakfast, then?”

“Aye,” he sighed.  “Canna have her fall asleep and completely ruin her schedule.  This will keep her awake for a bit.”

Claire reached out to take her daughter.  Bree launched herself into her mother’s arms.

“Oh my goodness!  You’re heavy!”  Claire pretended to drop Bree.  The little girl shrieked as they headed out the Emergency Room doors.  


“I wan’ waffles,” Bree said, for the tenth time, tapping a chubby hand on her father’s arm.  “Da! I wan’ waffles.”

Jamie had wrestled Brianna into the café high chair, and was trying to get her settled.  He took off her hat and smoothed a hand over his daughter’s curls. 

“Da! Waffles, ‘kay?”  

“Aye, Bree, aye.  I ken ye want the waffles.”  She’s like her mother, he thought. Single-minded.  

He tried to take off her coat as she grabbed for the menu.  

“D’ese here Da, d’ese ones!”  Her tiny fingers pointed to the colourful picture.

“Brianna!”  He could hear the annoyance in his tone. Jamie took a deep breath trying to find patience, and finally pulled the coat free.  He loved their daughter but the demands of a three-year-old could test even the strongest man.

Claire pulled a book from the backpack they toted filled with Bree’s things, and tried to get her interested in it as Jamie ordered for them.   

By the end of the meal Brianna had syrup in her hair, and all over her face and hands.  Claire dug in their bag for some cloths to clean her up while Jamie took care of paying.

After signing the receipt he turned to put his credit card away.  

His heart jumped into his throat.

“Brianna!” His voice was sharp.  “No!”

Claire’s head snapped up at the tone of his voice.  

While Jamie and Claire had been distracted, Bree had taken his wallet, and was holding the most important thing in it.

“Bee!” she shouted, delighted to have discovered herself.  She held the picture precariously over the syrup laden plate.

Claire reacted first, as calmly as possible.  “No, darling,” she said, reaching for the photo, “That’s not you.”

“Bee!” Brianna said again, shoving the picture higher in the air, grinning.

Jamie’s hand shot out fast.

He grabbed Bree’s tiny wrist, and holding the picture between his large fingers, he shook her hand, saying, “Let go. Now.”

For a long moment there was silence.  

Claire watched as their daughter’s eyes widened in shock, her body shrink back in fear, then as she started to cry in her confusion.

Jamie was deaf to it.  His attention was focused on the photo.  He gently, carefully cleaned the corner off, and opened his wallet to put the picture back.

Claire stood, released Brianna from the high chair, and held her as she cried.  She rubbed the child’s back, “Shh, it’s all right, darling.”  

“Stop, Claire,” Jamie said.  “Dinna stare at me like that.  She needs to learn.”

“She’s three,” Claire hissed.  

“She’s fine,” Jamie hissed back.  


Claire laid a sleeping Bree in her cot in Mrs. Fitz’s flat.  Their wee girl had drifted off on the way home.  

The silent and tension-filled way home.

Jamie had pulled up to the curb, saw them to the door of their Nanny’s flat, and left straight away for the office.   

She stroked a light hand across the toddler’s brow, brushing away the fine red hair from her high forehead.  

“Thank you, Mrs. Fitz.  I’ll be down to get her later.” 

“Rest well, m’dear,” Mrs. Fitz said. 

Claire moved towards the elevator that connected their living quarters.  While she hated it when it was under construction, it was a blessing after a weekend of night shifts. The elevator would open on the second floor where Claire only needed to stumble into her bedroom and fall into bed. 

Dropping everything in the upstairs hallway, Claire stripped off her clothes and climbed under the covers.  She wanted to talk to Jamie, but she was too tired. 

Years of marriage she had taught her some things. 

One of those being if she confronted her husband right this moment, it would not go well.  

Chapter Text

Jamie sat in his office, his chair swiveled to face the floor to ceiling glass window behind his desk.  

The view over Edinburgh was fantastic, yet he saw none of it.  

His mind was back at breakfast in the small, over-warm café.  He couldn’t shake the image of Bree holding the black and white photograph over her messy, sticky plate.  

The photograph of Faith.

The photograph he’d taken as a keepsake.

His heart beat double time just thinking about it again.

He knew he’d reacted too strongly.  After all, the picture was saved to his computer, and he could easily print out another.  

But that was the first picture he’d printed of her.  It was worn, dog-eared, and creased but it was the original.  He’d printed two after that.  One for Jenny, as promised.  And one for Claire.  Hers sat framed on her dresser in their bedroom. 

But this one.  This one was special.  

And Brianna should learn that some things were not to be touched.  

His phone buzzed and Jamie blinked.  He reached behind him and picked it up.

“Aye. What?”  He knew he was being rude, but he didn’t care.

“Are you coming home any time soon?”  

Jamie sat bolt upright at the clipped English tone on the other end of the line. 

“Sassenach! Sorry, I thought it was Willie on the phone.  What time is it?”

“Late,” Claire said.  “Dinner is ready, I’m afraid.”

“Sorry,” Jamie turned toward his desk. “Lost track of time.  I’ll be home as soon as I can.”

“Don’t be too long.  Bree will want to say good night.”  He wasn’t surprised at how fast the line went dead.    

Jamie packed up as quickly as he could, only just noticing that Willie was still at his desk.  Assistant, yet friend, Willie still never left the office until Jamie did. 

As they walked towards their cars Jamie asked, “Were ye ever spanked as a child, Willie?” 

“Aye,” Willie laughed, “Who wasna?”  

“Claire.  Apparently,” Jamie shrugged.  He unlocked his car and threw his  rucksack in the back.

“Really?”  Willie was genuinely surprised as he walked two spots over to his car.  
“Is tha’ an English thing, ye reckon?” Willie called back over his shoulder at Jamie.

“Dinna ken,” Jamie yelled back.  But I’m sure to find out, he thought.


He could smell the remains of Mrs. Fitz’ lamb stew as he came into the flat.  Dinner had been cleaned up, although he could see the stew pot on the stove and a place setting on the counter.  

He could hear Claire bathing Bree in the bath upstairs.  Normally he’d head up to say hello, but after breakfast this morning, and the recent hang up of the phone, he decided to wait.  

Taking his things to his office he padded back into the kitchen and heated up some food.  

He took his bowl and a glass of whisky out to the fire escape.  

There were a few things in life that Jamie Fraser found irresistible.

His wife, for one.  A drowsy Bree with her head against his neck.  A good whisky from his own distillery.  The sight of Lallybroch from the crest of a hill.  

And his fire escape.  

He retreated to it often, regardless of the weather.  It’s where he would sit with his family and watch fireworks on Burn’s Night, or slow dance with his wife holding her so close he could feel her breathing.

It’s where he would go to think, to pray, to ponder, to worry. 

Discipline.  

The subject had never come up between he and Claire before.  Bree was a good baby.  Just when they thought they’d bypassed the Terrible Twos, enter the Defiant Threes.  

“Daaaaaa?????” The little voice rose in surprise.

He turned to see his wee daughter poking her head out the window.

“What doin’, Da?”  She crawled out onto the iron landing in flannel footie pyjamas fresh from a bath.

He stood then, and walked down the few steps to scoop her up in his arms.  He buried his nose into the softness of her damp hair, closing his eyes to savour her fierce, wee hug around his neck. 

“I had my dinner out here, a leannan,” he said.  “Ye smell good.  Ready for a story?”

He saw Claire quickly reach through for his dirty dishes, and then disappear.

“Rubby?” she asked, hopeful.

“No rugby tonight, Bree.  ‘Tis late.  Time for bed.”

“Noooooo,” she whined.

His feisty, red-headed daughter liked to say the word ‘no’, but didn’t like to hear it.    

“Brianna,” he said, firmly, “I said no.  Now, ye can have a story if ye like.  Which one should we read?”

“Moony Moon!” she said.  

Jamie turned to go in, but Bree protested.  “Here, Da? See? Moony Moon!” She pointed into the night sky at the bright orb.  He understood.

“Ye wan’ yer story on the fire escape?”

“Aye.  Peese, Da.”  Bree could be an absolute charmer when she wanted to be.

“Och,” Jamie smiled softy, “Fine.”

He went back up the flight of iron stairs and opened the upstairs window.  He placed Bree on her feet inside.  “Go on, then.  Get yer wee book and blanket.”

He chuckled as she toddled off to her bedroom.  Jamie reached into the large basket to the right of the window that held a number of blankets.  He grabbed one for them to sit on, and a Fraser plaid for them to wrap up in.  

Bree rounded the corner of the hallway dragging the baby blanket her Aunt Jenny had made her, the small board book in her hands, and her favourite bunny under arm.  “Here I is!” she shouted.

He laughed out loud.  “Aye, lass.  Here ye are.”  He settled himself, then Bree, wrapped her in the plaid, and began to read.

“In the great green room, there was a telephone, and a red balloon….”

Bree felt heavier and heavier on his lap.  He read it three times before he insisted she head to bed.

She stirred then, and turned her body to face him.  She placed her hands on his face, looking at him solemnly.

“I sorry, Da,” she said, serious.

“For what, mo neach beag?” 

“For me,” she said, and tried to reach for where his wallet would have been. 

Jamie could feel the press of tears to his eyes.  He felt his lip quiver as he tried to smile.  Brianna apologizing for herself was not what he ever wanted to hear.  The sharp pain that stabbed his heart at her words made him feel terrible.

He pulled out his wallet, then, and carefully extracted the picture.  Bree tried to take it from him, but he held fast.

“No, Bree, ye mustna take it from me.  ‘Tis mine, aye?  Ye can hold it wi’ me, though.”  

She did as she was told, studying the picture carefully.  

“That’s yer sister, Faith.”

“Fayff?”  

“Aye, Faith,” Jamie said.  “She was born before you, but she’s no’ wi’ us now. She’s in Heaven with the angels.”

“So’s Grandad and Granny,” she said.  

A long moment passed. Jamie wiped a tear from the corner of his eye.  “Aye. Them, too.”

He gently took the picture and went to put it away.  “Can I see ‘gain?”

“Tomorrow, leanabh.  Time for sleep.”  And scooping up his child, blanket and all, he stepped through the window and carted her off to bed.


“Claire?”

“Out here, Jamie.”

A night for thinking, he thought.  Claire was wrapped up in a long sweater sitting on the blanket he’d left outside before putting Bree to bed.  He folded the plaid and placed it back in the basket before joining her on the fire escape.

“Yer angry, still.”

“Somewhat, I guess.”  Claire didn’t look at him, but sat still staring out over the city.  

“I may not have had parents like you did, Jamie, but I did have Uncle Lamb.  He was a father to me.  And I’ll admit that the prospect of being a mother overwhelmed me at first, but it doesn’t now.  I’ve got Jenny, who’s a wonderful mum, and I’ve got Mrs. Fitz.  I’ve friends at the hospital who are mothers, and I’ve got my own instincts.

“My Uncle never raised a hand to me, Jamie.  Not ever.  I cannot think of a single time when he grabbed me in anger, or laid a hand on me.  I do remember the times I was denied privileges, or made to apologize publicly for something I’d done.  I remember having to take back an artifact I stole from another dig we were visiting.  I remember the shame in that.  I remember him telling me right from wrong, and why.  But I do not ever remember him yelling at me, or reaching out to me in anger.”

She risked a glance at Jamie.  His arms were crossed over his chest, his jaw clenched.  He was staring out into the distance.  She was on fairly thin ice, and she knew it.  But what she needed to say was important.

“Do you remember when we first met?  Dr. Randall?  And how he treated me?  I was the only nurse who would stand up to him.  In a hospital full of women, I would not give in to him.  Do you know why?”

Jamie made a Scottish noise deep in his throat.  He still didn’t look at her.

“Because the only man in my life treated me with respect from the moment I could remember.  He looked at me when he dropped me off at that boarding school and he knew.  He knew I was not going to be happy there.  And he loved and respected me enough to take those feelings into account.  And even though I turned his life upside down, he took my feelings into consideration, and I never forgot that.  I was never afraid of him.  Of any man.  I’m still not intimidated by men.”

Here’s where I need to be careful.  She took a deep breath and said, 

“Because the first man who mattered in my life never gave me a reason to be afraid.”

She heard Jamie take a deep breath.  She saw the pulse jump in his jaw.  

“You are the first man in Bree’s life.  What you do makes an impression on her.  If she fears you, she will learn to fear all men.  Consciously, subconsciously, it doesn’t matter.  You introduced that fear today.” 

She stood up then, and brushed off her jeans.  

“Besides all that,” she said firmly, “if you ever raise a hand to her again, James Fraser, I will cut your heart out, and have it for breakfast.”

And with that, his wife disappeared through the window into the warmth of their home, leaving him feeling chilled.  

In more ways than one.   

Chapter Text

“Jamie?”

Claire woke to find the room dark and his side still empty.  He had obviously turned off her lamp, and taken the book she was reading from her hands.  She had tried waiting for him to come to bed.  He’d stayed outside for a while as evidenced by the chill air that had crept under the door to their bedroom.  She could hardly focus on her book, but the last thing she remembered thinking was that she’d said her piece….

“Jamie!” She said a little louder. 

“Here.”  His voice was soft, but firm.  

She knew that tone. 

He was laying on the chaise that fit into the corner of their bedroom.  Her eyes adjusted and she could see that he was covered in a blanket, his bed pillow behind his head.  The faint light coming through the small slit between the window and the curtain highlighted his shirtless form.

“You’re angry.”  Claire sat up, tucking her pillow behind her back, and drawing her knees up under the covers.  She wrapped her arms around her legs.  

“I am,” Jamie stated.  Forever honest, she could count on him not to lie to her.  

Jamie sighed and threw one arm over the back of the chaise.  

“Jamie, I -”

“Nay, Claire. Ye had yer say.  And ye turned tail, and walked away wi’out a backward glance.”  He ran his hands through his curls, tousling his hair.  “But that’s no’ really what I’m angry over.  It was yer parting shot.”

Claire shook her head, trying to wake up and remember what she’d said.

Jamie decided to refresh her memory.  

“Ye said ye’d cut my heart out and eat it for breakfast.”  He paused to let that sink in.  “Really, Claire?  Ye’d speak to me that way?  Yer husband?”

She didn’t mean it.  He had to know that.

“I have never,” he said the word harshly, “never spoken to ye that way.”

Claire nodded.  She couldn’t look at him.  

“We’ve had our disagreements, Claire, our differences of opinion.  It’s one of the things I love about ye, the fact ye challenge me to be a better person, and to consider new ideas.  But that,” he tossed his hands in the air, a gesture of surrender, “I dinna ken what that was.”

“I was angry,” she admitted. 

“Maybe,” Jamie said, “Or maybe ye thought ye’d bully me to parent yer way.”

She stayed silent.  There was nothing she could say to contradict that.

“We’ve never discussed discipline, Claire, we -”

“Stop calling me that,” she interrupted.

Jamie cocked his head to the side in confusion.  “Call ye what?”

“Claire,” she said.  

He took a deep breath, and let it out slowly.   

He pushed back the blankets and swung his long legs to the floor.  He leaned forward, clasping his hands between his knees.  The pillow lay stark white in the corner catching the artificial light from outside, a beacon highlighting how distant she felt from him in that moment. 

“I’ve been laying awake thinking about my childhood.  Willie and I, we got the crack of my father’s belt across our arses more times than I could count.  I never liked it at the time, but I dinna think I turned out so bad as a result.” 

He dropped his head, then, and spoke even more softly.

“And Jenny.  God, Jenny had a mouth on her.  She would talk back, all vinegar and sarcasm.  She would never shut up, always had to have the last word.  She was sharp-tongued, and mean.  Drove my father crazy.”

The silence grew.  

“I willna have Bree growing up spoilt.”

“Well,” Claire said, “Too late for that.  We spoil her already with love, and attention, material things notwithstanding.  Mrs. Fitz, too.”

“And that’s my point, Claire.”  

She flinched at the use of her name again.  He really was angry.

“We are people of means, and I’m no’ goin’ to apologize for that.  We have a nanny for God’s sake.  Brianna wants for nothing.  Her Mam is a doctor, and her Da runs a very successful corporation.  Aye, she’s spoilt that way.”

As he warmed to his subject, his accent got thicker.   

“And she’s spoilt in other ways.  We dinna have the same stresses that other parents have.  Even tonight, Mrs. Fitz made our dinner!  Thinkin’ back on my parents, and thinkin’ of what Jenny and Ian have to contend wi’ even having Mrs. Crook!  What happens, Claire, if we are blessed with another child and she’ll have to share that attention?  Does she no’ get reprimanded if she antagonizes her sibling?  If she doesna share?  If she throws a tantrum and hits us?  If we tell her to stop and she ignores it?  What about when we may be bone tired from being up all night wi’ a newborn and she decides to touch something she’s no’ supposed to?  Or she talks back disrespectfully?  How about the day she tells ye she hates ye?  Hmmm?  Are we to just smile and nod and say, ‘Oh Bree ye dinna mean that!’”

“Jamie, I’m not saying we can’t discipline her, I just want us to agree on how we discipline her.”

They sat silent for a while, each lost in their own thoughts.  

Jamie watched his wife hug her knees tighter, resting her forehead on them as if she were trying to disappear. 

“My life, growing up, was steeped in tradition.  Custom.  Ritual.  My father was a rigid man.  He wouldna bend for anything.”

Claire lifted her head to look at Jamie.  

“What ye said earlier about yer Uncle Lamb made me mindful.”

“How so?” she whispered. 

“Children obey their parents.  Parents discipline them when they don’t.  Well, that’s how it was wi’ my father, and his father, and on, and on, and on back.  But maybe-”  He hesitated.  She saw him take two breaths.  “Maybe for you and me it has to go a different way.”

He stood and walked back to bed, carrying his pillow.  

He slid under the covers, and gathered his wife close. 

“Sassenach,” he whispered, and kissed her forehead.  Claire wound her arms around his middle and laid her head on his chest. 

“I’m sorry, Jamie,” she whispered. 

Claire placed a kiss on his chest, and squeezed him tighter.  His fingers made small circles on her skin. 

“I’m sorry, too.”  His voice was low, and sincere.

She couldn’t stop the tears that slid down her cheek and on to his skin.  How did she manage to win this man’s heart?  

More to the point, how did she manage to keep it? 

“I just want us to try, Jamie.”

“Aye.  I ken that.”  He waited a moment before he said what was really on his mind.  

“I just need ye to understand, that even if we come to an agreement, I canna promise never to raise my voice, or that she willna be frightened of me from time to time.  We can have all the good intentions in the world but we are human.  And try as we might to keep our emotions out of discipline, sometimes they may get the best of us.”

He felt her nod against his chest.

“I mean, I admire what ye said about yer Uncle Lamb, but he never had to live wi’ you as a three-year-old, now did he?”  

As the breath from his wife’s chuckle blossomed against his chest, Jamie finally settled into sleep.  

Chapter Text

Six months later

Claire woke to the sound of pots clanging.  The dark, strong smell of coffee hung in the air.

She rolled to her back listening to the noise below.  A loud bang had her sitting up quickly and throwing back the duvet.    

“I said, not yet, Brianna.”  His voice was low, but firm.

Claire hit the top of the stairs just in time to see Jamie setting a fallen stool back into place.  She smiled softly.  The same stool she’d righted so many years ago after he’d fallen and dislocated his shoulder.  The same stool that caused them to meet.

“But I cook, too?” the little voice asked.

“Aye, Bree but ye must wait.  I need to get things ready first, and the stove is hot, eh?”

Claire sat on the top step to watch.  The table was set for a Sunday morning breakfast.  She could see the thick slices of Brioche, and the bowl of beaten eggs on the counter.  Seems French toast was on the menu. 

“I see, Da?  I see?”  Their daughter patted a hand against her father’s leg in an attempt to get his attention.  She’s like her father, she thought.  Single-minded.

Jamie took a deep breath, doing his best to stay on task and not let Bree distract him.  Finally, he wiped his hands on a cloth, bent down and picked up their daughter.

“Okay, Wee’n.  Put the butter in the pan now and watch it melt.”

Claire watched Bree lean down from her perch and drop something in the pan. She sat back up and rested her head on her father’s shoulder.  

Red waves flowed into each other.  Bree’s longer, brighter hair streamed over Jamie’s shoulder contrasting with his darker mahogany curls. 

“Den we put in Fancy Toast?”  Bree asked. 

“Aye,” he chuckled.  “We can make the Fancy toast.”  He turned then, and placed her on a chair.  Together they dipped the bread in the egg mixture and Jamie transferred it to the hot pan.  

As she watched her loves together, Claire thought of the months of conversations, arguments, back slides and discussions that brought them to this point.  Bree was a handful.  She could be loving and sweet one minute, and an absolute she-devil the next.  

When Claire suggested they put the things they valued higher up on their shelves at home, Jamie insisted they stay where they were and teach Bree not to touch instead.  

“Brianna.  Ye ken ye canna touch that wee piece of glass.  It’s special to Mam.  It’s Uncle Lamb’s. Now leave it.”  Jamie’s voice was low and firm.  Bree’s eyes were wide as she slowly drew her hand back.

When Bree threw a tantrum and Claire tried to cajole her out of it, Jamie would make Claire walk away and let Bree’s fit run its course without the benefit of an audience.  

“Come on, darling.  Want to read a book with Mummy?  Hmmm?”

“Claire.  Leave her.  She wants to throw a fit, let her.  We leave her to it, she’ll soon learn she’ll no’ get our attention over it.  Come.  Wee Jamie used to do this all the time.  The minute we’d leave, he’d stop.  Come, Claire.  I promise.  She’ll stop on her own.” 

If they were out and Bree acted up, Jamie would just grab their things, scoop up his daughter and leave, be it in a restaurant, shop, park or Lallybroch, which really surprised Claire.  

“Brianna, ye must share wi’ yer cousin, Kitty.  She’s sad that ye willna let her play, too.  If ye dinna share, we’re leavin’.  We willna stay for dinner.  Now, which shall it be?” 

“No.  Dese mine!”

“Are ye sure ye willna share?  We will go, Brianna.”

She placed a hand on her father’s knee, hugged her toys tighter, and pushed at him as if to say, go away.

“Right.  Come then, Wee’n.  We’re leavin’.  Claire!  Grab our things.  Brianna isna behaving like she should.”

“Och, Jamie!  Ye canna leave!  It’s Sunday dinner!” Jenny’s shocked voice made Claire pause.

“Aye, Janet. We can. And we will.  She’ll learn by consequence.”  

And they were gone, leaving Jenny’s mouth hanging open as she watched the car roll down the drive with Bree wailing in the back.  

Claire also learned just how hard it was to keep her anger at check.  When she found Bree climbing up the bookshelves she yelled ‘STOP’ louder than she meant, and Bree flinched and fell.  Concerned, she ran to her, but when she discovered one of the Origami turtle doves Jamie had made her from their first days together clutched and ruined in Bree’s tiny fist, she lost it.  

“Is she hurt?”  Mrs. Fitz asked.

“She’s bloody lucky she didn’t break her neck!  What in God’s name?”  She pried open the small fingers.  “Oh, Bree!  What have you done!  That’s Mummy’s!”

When Jamie got home later that day he absolved his wife of her actions, knowing how hard it was to keep your cool sometimes, and sat his daughter down with him in his office.  

“Right.  We must fix what ye ruined, Brianna.  Ye must help me make yer Mam a new one, and ye must take it to her and say yer sorry.”

It wasn’t easy keeping emotion out of discipline.  Her husband had been right about that. 

The one promise they never broke was to raise a hand against Brianna, or touch her in anger.  Many times Jamie would just walk away, or in the midst of his anger would shoot a quick glance in Claire’s direction that said, deal with this or I will.  She was grateful that Bree learned fairly quickly what she could and couldn’t do.  

Except for The Picture. 

Brianna was fascinated by the picture of Faith.  Over and over, regardless of how many times she’d been told, Jamie would find her reaching for his wallet.  She would even try to climb her way up Claire’s dresser to reach her copy.  It was the one, consistent habit of hers they could not break.   

The giggles at the stove brought Claire out of her reverie.  

“Okay, Wee’n.  Can ye go get yer Mam now?”  

Jamie set Brianna down on the floor.  The little girl took off running and stopped at the bottom of the stairs, spying her mother sitting quietly. 

“Der she is!”  She began to climb up the stairs, two feet per step before tackling the next, hands on the step above her.  

“I’m here,” Claire laughed.  “Have you been cooking?”

“Fancy toast!” Bree shouted.  

Claire scooped up her daughter and brought her back down the stairs to the kitchen.

The table was loaded with toppings of maple syrup, butter, jam, and whipped cream. Settling Bree in her high chair Claire smiled at Jamie.

“What’s the occasion?”  

“Ye’ll see,” Jamie confided.  

They ate, and laughed and praised Bree’s cooking.  When it was all finished, Claire wiped Bree’s face and hands while Jamie disappeared for a moment. 

He returned with a brightly wrapped package in his hand.  He placed it down on the table in front of Bree.

“Me?” she squealed.

“Aye, Leannan.  Open it.”

Bree tore at the paper with Jamie helping her.  Claire sat back in her chair and took a sip of her coffee, wondering what her husband was up to.  

She gasped when she saw what it was.

“Fayff!”  Bree’s voice held every bit of the excitement that showed on her face.

In her tiny hands was a simple, yet colourful wooden frame.  Instead of glass there was a plastic covering making it child-friendly.  

“That’s yers, Brianna.  No need to take Da’s from his wallet, aye? Or to touch Mam’s.  Ye have yer own now.”  

“Mine?”  she looked up adoringly at her father.  “Dis Bee’s?”

Bree grinned at the frame, and continued to look down at the picture of her sister.  Her tiny fingers tapped at the image, as if trying to wave hello.  

Claire couldn’t see.  She couldn’t breathe.  Tears blinded her, and the love she felt at that moment choked her.  


Jamie lay stretched on the sofa, one hand behind his head under the pillow, watching rugby.

“Come on, Scotland,” he mumbled, disgruntled at another failed try.  He vaguely registered Claire coming down the stairs after putting Bree down for her nap.  

She stepped in front of the TV, blocking his view of the screen.

“Oi,” he frowned, “we’re playing England here!”

“You gorgeous, sexy -” Claire said, straddling him.  

“Oh, yeah?…keep going,” he smiled, placing his hands on her hips.

“…amazing, man.”  She grabbed the remote and paused the action.  Tossing the gadget somewhere in the vicinity of the table, she slid a hand down his sleep pants.

“Christ, Sassenach, what’re ye doin’?” he asked, shifting his hips to give her better access.

“You genius,” she said, voice husky.  His arms came around her as she placed kisses down his jawline to the juncture of his neck and shoulder.  “What made you think of giving her her own photo?”

He could barely think with her hand working it’s magic.

“Oh.  That.” He gasped.  “I, uh….I….it just came to me. Ooooh, Sassenach, wait.”  He breathed in deeply through his nose.  

She kissed him, sliding her tongue in his mouth, while sliding her fingers down the inside of his thigh.

“Well it was generous, and thoughtful, and made her so happy.  However you thought of it, it’s perfect.”  She rubbed her nose against his, her hand up finding his hip and the flat plane of his stomach.  “She went to bed like a dream.  I just had to prop the picture up against the pillow so she could look at it.  She drifted right off.”

Jamie slid his hands under her shirt, along her ribs to cup her breasts.

“So this is my prize?”

“This,” Claire groaned as his thumbs brushed her nipples, “is a thank you.”

Slowly, she pushed his shirt up, her tongue drawing a light line down his torso.  Along the way she placed soft kisses on his body.  She slid along his body, and inched his pants down his thighs.

Jamie threw back his head and tangled his hands in her curls as her mouth found him.

“If I’d known…” he grunted, feeling her hand cup him, “a simple frame….Oh God, do that again….”

He could no longer speak.  

Compromise has its rewards was his last thought before his wife made him forget where he was, what he’d been doing and what he’d had for breakfast. 

Chapter Text

She sat on the edge of the step, waiting as one after the other, her school mates left the yard.  Her mum should have been here by now.  It was a Tuesday, so it was definitely Mum picking her up. 

Brianna Ellen Fraser was 8 years old, and in Primary 4.  She was smart, serious, stubborn and, at times, impatient.  

This was one of those times.  

Chin resting in her hand, Bree huffed, blowing a hank of red gold fringe off her forehead.  Squinting into the sun she checked down the street to see if she could spot Claire.  Instead she saw a long black Range Rover slowly making it’s way down the road.  

Yes! she thought, and sat up straight in anticipation.  As it settled at the curb she hopped up.

“See ye tomorrow, Miss McGregor,” she said, and made her way down the stairs, slinging her pack over her shoulder.

“Brianna, wait,” Miss McGregor said.  “That’s not yer Mam.”

“No, Ma’am,” Bree answered.  “It’s my Uncle Alec.”

Miss McGregor stood slowly and watched as a wiry older man came around the front of the vehicle.  Long, serious face, he tipped his hat at the teacher and then winked at Brianna.  Taking her pack he opened the back door of the Rover and stood at attention waiting for Bree to climb inside.  Bree stepped up onto the runner of the car and looking Alec directly in the eye said, quite seriously, “Since I’ve had to wait, I believe an ice cream is in order.”

“Mary’s Milk Bar it is,” Alec said with a small bow. 

“Seatbelt,” he reminded her, then closed the door sharply.  Turning, he nodded to Bree’s teacher, and got inside the vehicle, tossing her backpack in first.  


“Why couldn’t Mummy come to get me?” Bree asked before she shoveled a large portion of ice cream into her mouth.

“The doctor was backed up with appointments.”  She watched Uncle Alec.  He had a funny habit of putting the spoon in his mouth, then flipping it upside down and sucking off the ice cream.   

Bree tried it herself.  It was fun.

“What’s wrong with him?” she asked after a moment. 

“Oh, nothing.  He just needed his vaccinations updated.”

Bree shuddered.  “I hate jabs.”  She thought for a moment more.  “Did he cry?”

Alec shrugged.  “Dinna ken.  Suppose he did.”  

Alec narrowed his glance at Brianna.  He.  Him.  Lately she never called her brother by his name.  He picked up his spoon then, dipped it into the bowl and took another bite.

He watched his young charge as she mimicked his way of eating, all the while pondering what might be bothering her.

~~~~~~~~


“You know,” Claire said, “you had a pretty severe reaction to one particular vaccine.  Did I ever tell you?”

Bree sat up in bed.  “What’s that? A reaction?”

“Well,” Claire explained, “it’s when your body has trouble adjusting to the medicine in the jab.  You reacted to the vaccine for Measles, Mumps and Rubella.  You ended up getting very swollen under your jaw, and you had a high fever.”  She took her daughter’s face in her hands, “And your cheeks were bright red.”  

Bree’s eyes were wide.  

“Your father was so worried about you that he held you in his arms all night. He wouldn’t put you down.  He kept feeding you ice pops since it was the only thing you could eat.  It soothed your throat and kept you cool.”

“Da did?” Bree smiled.  “Were you worrit, Mummy?”

“Yes, darling, I was.  It was my job to keep a close eye on your fever.”  Bree felt her Mum’s kiss on her forehead, and let her tuck her in.  

“Good night, darling.  Sorry I wasn’t there to get you after school.”

“It’s fine,” Bree said.  “I love Uncle Alec.”

Claire laughed.  “You love Uncle Alec because he’ll take you for a treat and ruin your dinner!”

Bree grinned.  “Aye.  I do.”  She looked over at the door.  “Is Da coming in?”

“Give us a minute, love.”  Claire walked to the door and called for Jamie. Bree could hear her mum and dad talking, and could hear her Da making his way down the hallway towards her room.

“Did ye say yer prayers?” Jamie asked as he knelt by her bed.

“Aye, with Mum,” she confirmed.  

“Good girl.  And did yer 20 minutes of reading?”

“Aye.  Downstairs with ye.” She rolled her eyes.

“Och.  More like 5 minutes.  Because ye kept watchin’ the rugby and yellin’ at Grigg.” Jamie raised one ruddy eyebrow.

“He’s got no place being there.  He’s from New Zealand.” 

“Oh? And who would ye put at Centre, then?”

“Peter Horne.  From Aberdeen.”

It was Jamie’s turn to roll his eyes.  “Mary, Michael and Bride.  I keep tellin’ ye, it doesna matter where they were born.  They’ve all got good Scots blood and deserve to play for Scotland.  As One.  It’s our motto for a reason, lass.”

“But-” she was cut off by him.  Crying, again.

Jamie leaned in close and gave his daughter a kiss on her forehead.  

“I love ye, a leannan.  Sleep well.”  He turned off her lamp, and giving her hair one last brush off her cheek, he walked out of the room, and back to the nursery. 

Bree lay thinking.  She missed the nights when her parents tucked her in together.  Still, they love me a lot, she thought, or at least they used to. 

 

Chapter Text

“Here comes another contraction.  Och, it’ll be a big one.”  Jamie was looking over at the Tocometer, which measured her contractions.

“Stop talking!” Claire said through gritted teeth.  She rode the wave of the contraction, breathing through it like she was supposed to.  When it passed she looked over at Jamie.  

She was beautiful.  Her curls damp from exertion, cheeks flushed, her golden eyes flashing.  A Dhia, how he loved her.  

“Get… away… from the fucking machine.”  

Jamie stepped around the bed to sit on her other side.  She may be beautiful but she wasn’t to be crossed in the throes of labour.

“We need to decide on a name,” she said, panting.

“I told ye.  I like Dalhousie.  Dalhousie Lambert Fraser.”

The nurse chuckled, and quickly hid her face.

“Right?” Claire said.  “It’s ridiculous.”

“It’s a good strong name,” Jamie started, but quickly shut up when another contraction took over.  He knew better than to continue.

When Claire relaxed again the nurse looked over and said, “A good, strong name.  Aye.  Until the kids at school get a hold of it.”  She started to laugh again.  “They can call him Dalie Lama for short!”

Claire shot Jamie an “I told you so” look and braced for another contraction.

Jamie let her crush his hand.  

“So what then, Sassenach?”  He knew when he’d been beaten.

“You got both your parents’ names for Brianna.  I get this one.” She stopped talking to ride out another wave of pain.  When her breath came back to her she clearly and succinctly stated,  “He will be Henry Julian James MacKenzie Fraser.” 

And twenty minutes later, with his dark, curly hair and strong lungs, Henry made his way into the world.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“And he’s verra beautiful!” 

Brianna rolled her eyes.  Her friend, Iona, had been blethering on about her new baby brother for ten minutes.  Apparently he was born over the weekend, and Iona was allowed to miss school the day before to help bring him home.

Bampot.

“They aren’t beautiful,” she said sharply.  “They’re rather wrinkly, and does he have all those white bumps on his face like my brother did?”  She turned up her nose.  

Iona looked shocked.  “He’s newly born.  Mam says those will go away in a couple of days.” 

“They dinna,” Bree said.  She knew she was being mean, but she couldn’t help it.  Iona was being annoying. 

“Babies are stupid.”  Bree decided it was important the Iona be prepared for what was to come.  “All they do is cry and sleep, and then when they get older they crawl into yer room and mess up yer stuff and rip the pages in some of yer very favourite books.  And then when ye complain yer told they dinna ken any better and to be understanding.”  She drew out the last word with a sneer.  “Just wait.  Ye’ll wish he’d ne’er been born soon enough.”

Iona gasped, then started to cry.  “No, I won’t!” she shouted, then gathered up her lunch, and left the table.

Bree looked around at the faces staring at her.  “What?  It’s true!”  

Her friends stayed silent.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Bree never minded having to sit outside the Head Mistress’ office.  She always brought a book and it was great to be able to sit and read instead of doing maths or writing.  She also knew why she was sitting outside the office.  Because Iona Cameron was a crybaby.  

What she didn’t expect when the door opened was her Da.  

He towered over the Head Mistress, and when he saw her he raised one red eyebrow with an expression that said ‘There will be consequences coming.’

“Brianna,” Head Mistress said, “yer father will be taking ye home.  There have been far too many outbursts lately.  Miss MacGregor says yer argumentative in class, and yer refusin’ to do some of yer work.  As I’ve explained to yer Da, there have been too many calls from other parents about things ye’ve said, or names ye’ve called their children.  Making Iona cry by calling her new baby brother ugly was the last straw.”

“I didna say he was ugly,” Bree said.  “I said he was stupid.  All babies are.”

“Brianna,” Jamie chastised, “That’s enough.”  Her Da had a way of drawing out the first half of her name, Bree-anna, in the Gaelic.  That’s when she knew she was in trouble because mostly she was just Bree to him, or We’en.  

Bree hung her head.  She didn’t mean to do those things.  She just felt angry all the time.  And some of her classmates were bloody eejits so it wasna all her fault.  Still.  Her Da was disappointed.  And she didn’t like it when she disappointed him.  

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Jamie swallowed the chip in his mouth, and wiped his fingers on a napkin before answering his daughter. 

“Because I got to name ye after my Mam and Da, Mum decided she should get to use her parents’ names.  That’s how he ended up bein’ Henry Julian.  Her father was Henry, and her Mum was Julia.”  

“Just like I’m Brianna for Brian, and then Ellen for my Gran.  Do ye like our names, Da?”  

Jamie shrugged.  “Between us, Henry Julian is a wee bit English for my taste,” he whispered, conspiratorially.  “I reckon that’s why yer mum made sure to put the name MacKenzie in there.  But, yer Mum is a Sassenach, so….” he trailed off and smiled at her like they were sharing some great secret. 

She reached over and snatched one of her Da’s chips.

“Hey!”  He frowned at her.  “Ye’ve had yer lunch.  Na gabh a-steach!”  

Bree laughed.  “Mummy says ye shouldna eat like this.”

Jamie sighed and wiped his mouth.  “She’s right.”  He pushed the plate toward his growing child.  

“Is it time to go back?”  Bree looked out the window of the small cafe they were in.  Her father hadn’t had a chance to eat before he had arrived at the school.

Jamie looked surprised.  “Back where? To school?”

Bree nodded.

“Oh, no, mo leannan.  Ye heard the Head Mistress.  Yer no going back for a bit.”  Jamie frowned.  He thought she understood. 

“So, I canna go back to school?”  Bree tried hard not to cry, but the tears fell anyway.  

“Och, no, mo ghràidh,” Jamie slid out of his side of the booth, and went to sit beside his daughter.  He wrapped his large arm around her tiny shoulders and hugged her to his side.  Gently brushing the fringe from her eyes he leaned down to look at her.  “I told Head Mistress that we wanted ye to have a long weekend with us.  Just to sort out what’s troublin’ ye.”  

Bree sniffed and pressed her fingers to her eyes.  “But everyone at school will think I’ve been excluded,” she wailed.

“No’ if we go somewhere, or do fun things.”  Jamie planted a kiss on the bright red head leaning against his chest. 

“Like what?” Bree asked.

“Weel,” Jamie sighed, thinking.  “I dinna ken.  We could call yer Mum and ask?”

“She’ll want to bring him,” she mumbled, burying her face in his side.    

Jamie took a deep breath, eyes narrowed.  His fingers tapped on his thigh.  

So that’s what this was about.  

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Jamie finished brushing his teeth and rinsed his mouth.  Turning off the bathroom light he headed to his side of the bed, then took a sharp detour.  Right before Claire slipped her feet under the duvet he grabbed one slender ankle and wrestled the sock off her foot.  

“What are you doing?” she squealed, twisting her leg to break his grip.

“Ye wear too many clothes tae bed,” he sighed, exasperated.  

“My feet get cold!”  She gave up fighting when the second sock was past her heel.  

“Dammit, Jamie!  Get to your own side,” she said, laughing as her husband muscled his way under the covers after her.  She stopped laughing and smiled softly when he settled himself on top of her instead.  

“I’d rather be inside, than over on my side.”  He raised an eyebrow, and gave her one of those half smiles that turned her stomach to butterflies and automatically relaxed her hips so that her legs spread wide open.  He settled between her thighs as she placed her arms loosely around his neck, her ankles wrapped around his calves.

He jumped at the contact.  “Christ, yer feet are blocks of ice!” 

“You were warned,” Claire laughed and kissed the curve where his neck met his shoulder.  “Mmmmmm,” she hummed against his skin.  She brought his head down for a long, lingering kiss.  “Warm me, then.”

“I want to talk about Brianna,” he said, bumping his nose against hers.  

She kissed his jaw and ran her hands down his back, settling them on his bum.  “Go ahead.”  

Jamie shifted to his back, and gathered Claire close.  “She’s jealous of the bairn.”  

Claire nodded against his chest.  He was right, of course.  She knew it.    

“I thought as much.  I talked to a child psychologist at the hospital today.  She said it’s normal and that siblings can show jealousy in all kinds of ways.”  Claire lifted her head up and placed her arms across Jamie’s chest.  “She said children may start acting out because they want more of your attention. They’re just trying to reassure their presence in the family.”

Jamie made a Scottish noise deep in his throat.  He was deep in thought, his two fingers drumming a tattoo on her back.  

“Or sometimes it’s more subtle,” Claire continued.  “They might just be in a bad mood or they might lose it over things that don’t normally bother them.”

“What’s her best suggestion, then?” Jamie asked.  

“To understand that it’s normal, first off.  And that we’ll get through this,” Claire smiled softly.  “And to look for ways to provide reassurance to the older child, and to spend time with her.”

“Then I have an idea.  Let’s leave wee Henry wi’ my sister tomorrow and take our wee lass out for an adventure.”  He pushed the curls back from her forehead.  

Claire was silent for a moment.  When she spoke, her voice was low and serious. “Maybe we should bring him along.  She needs to understand that Henry is part of this family.  If we keep excluding him she’ll never accept him, Jamie.”

Jamie grunted.  “Aye.  Ye make a fair point.”

He looked down at Claire and smiled.  Slowly he grabbed the hem of her shirt and tugged upward.

“The conversation isn’t finished,” Claire said, trying to roll over to her side.  “What sort of adventure did you have in mind?”

Not one to be deterred Jamie caught her mid-roll and wedged his hips between her legs once more.  

“ ‘S no’ so important right now,” he whispered, licking her bottom lip.  

Claire reached up for a deeper kiss.  She slipped her hands down his pants, cupping his bum.  

Jamie shifted and let her push his sleep pants down past his hips.  He worked them off the rest of the way himself.  Slowly, he ran a hand down her ribs, hooked a thumb in the waistband of her panties and tugged.  He rolled over bringing her on top of him.  

Sitting up he took a nipple into his mouth and flicked his tongue over the nub.  God, she tasted so good.  And it had been a couple of weeks.  Parenthood was great but it played hell on their sex life.  

Claire reveled in the feel of her husband.  She ran her hands through his chest hair, tugged at his nipples until he groaned, grabbed a fistful of curls at the nape of his neck as he suckled her, urging him closer, his mouth wider.  

Breathing heavily he reached a hand between Claire’s legs and slipped in a finger, then another.  Warm, and wet.  He didn’t need to wait.  He lay back and pulsed his hips signaling for Claire to lift up. 

One last long kiss as she raised her hips and -

Henry cried.  Loudly.  Urgently.  

Claire sat up, head turned toward the door. 

“No, Claire, don’t,” he begged.  “He’ll be fine.  He needs to learn to get himself back to sleep.”

“It will just be a moment.”

“Claire!  Come on, love.”  He tried to hold on to her hips to keep her there but she wriggled free, one foot already on the floor.  Grabbing her robe she walked from the room.

Jamie rolled on to his back with one arm flung over his eyes.  

“Fuck!” he mumbled.    

He was hard and hot and needed his wife.  

Bree was right.  Her brother was a wee bit annoying at times. 

Chapter Text

The morning dawned bright and clear.  And unseasonably warm. 

Jamie stretched slowly and untangled himself from his wife.  She’d come back to bed after calming Henry and picked up where they left off.  She’d quickly aroused him again with her mouth and tongue, and Jamie made certain they’d finished before the wee terror interrupted them again.  

It was early, and he wondered what his chances would be for Round Two, The Morning Edition when he heard a small voice asking, “Is anyone awake?”

He smiled.  They were usually up by now, getting ready for school and work.  Clearly Bree’s internal alarm was functioning properly, but like a good girl she wouldn’t get out of bed without permission.  He nudged Claire awake.  

“What?” she mumbled.

He loved that.  After fourteen and a half years, he still loved how she said ‘Wot’ in that English accent of hers.  He patted her arse.

“Come, Woman.  Adventure awaits.”  He kissed her lips and rolled his naked body out of bed.  

“But what are we doing?” she mumbled, pulling the duvet up higher over her bare shoulders.  “We never decided.”

“Leave it to me,” Jamie announced.  He slipped on his sleep pants, grabbed a t-shirt and headed out the bedroom door calling to Bree.  “Okay, We’en, up and at ‘em!”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Sweetie and Sunshine??” Bree squealed, “That’s what their names mean?”  She threw her head back and laughed out loud as the sun caught the reddish gold strands in her high pony tail.

“Aye,” Jamie said, chuckling.  “And they’re the only Giant Pandas in the UK.”  

With 18 month old Henry in his arms, and 8 and a half year old Bree standing on the railing in front of him, Jamie’s heart was full.  

The Edinburgh Zoo.  That was their adventure.  He smiled over at Claire as she stood behind the stroller, trying to fit everyone in the frame, along with the Pandas. 

“Smile, everyone!” Claire shouted.  Bree turned and immediately grinned.  Jamie juggled Henry, trying to get him to cooperate.  She took the picture.  Trying for another she called “Henry!” trying to get him to look at the camera, as well as cajole a smile out of him.  

Henry looked everywhere but at his mother.

That’s when Bree snapped.  “Henry, look at Mum!”  Her voice was harsh.

Claire clicked the picture, and sighed.  

Most of the day had been great.  Bree was overjoyed at the news they were going to the zoo for the day, until it took too long to get ready and packed up.  Thinking quickly Jamie enlisted her help in the kitchen to make up a picnic for them while Claire got Henry and the diaper bag ready, and that seemed to help with Bree’s mood.  

But as the day progressed little things annoyed her.  Henry fussing when being put in the stroller.  Having to stop to change a diaper.  Having him shout “Up!” and interrupting her conversations with Claire or Jamie.  The little looks Claire and Jamie passed between them meant that Bree’s temper was not going unnoticed.  

But it was after their picnic when things really exploded.  Henry was tired, and needed a nap.  Bree wanted to move on to other exhibits.  

“Oh, WHY didna we just LEAVE him wi’ Mrs. Fitz?” Bree shouted when she was told it would be a bit before they could move on.  Jamie froze in the act of rubbing Henry’s back and swaying rhythmically, trying to lull him to sleep.  

“Breeeeanna,” he started, saying her name in that Gaelic way which usually meant trouble.  Claire shot him a look that made him snap his lips closed.  

“Bree, come sit by me,” Claire said gently.  “I want to show you something.”

Bree plopped herself in her Mum’s lap.  Claire’s arms came around her as she held the cell phone in front of them both.  “Look, darling.  Look at these pictures I took today.”

Bree took the phone and swiped through them.  There were quite a few.  Some were just of animals, some were of her, Da, and Henry, and some were of all of them.  Claire slipped a hand in and swiped back a couple of pictures.

“What do you notice about these ones?” she asked, moving through them slowly.  

“That Henry ruined them.  He isna paying attention.  Like he never does,” Bree said.

“Well, yes, but what’s he looking at?”  Claire rested her chin on her daughter’s head, arms coming around her middle.

“I dinna ken,” Bree said sharply.

“Look again, darling.”

Bree looked at the pictures closely.  She swiped back a few.  Then forward to more.  Claire felt her little body tighten as she finally saw what Claire wanted her to see.

“Is he looking at me?” Bree twisted around to look her mother in the face.  

Claire smiled.  “He is.  He loves you, you know.  Very much.  He watches everything you do.  He copies you all the time.  You are his favourite.”

“I’m WHAT?” Bree was incredulous.

“His favourite,” Claire reiterated.  “See this one? This is the one where he wouldn’t look at the camera until you told him to.”

Bree sat silently looking through the pictures.  She’d never thought about that.  That her brother would love her.  That didn’t make him less annoying though.

“If he loved me he wouldna have chewed my Good Night, Moon book.”

Claire looked over at Jamie.  He was a few feet away, walking in a slow circle with a light blanket over half of Henry’s face.  She could hear his voice reciting Burns, low and speaking in Gaelic, soothing their son to sleep. 

“Bree.  He’s only a year and a half old.  He doesn’t know any better.  And I know that’s hard for you to understand but it’s the truth.  It’s like the time you grabbed Daddy’s picture of Faith from his wallet and got syrup all over it.  You just didn’t realize how special it was.”

“I did that?” Bree asked.

“You did.  And it made Daddy very upset because that picture was special to him.  But he didn’t want to stick you with Mrs. Fitz over it.”

Bree’s eyes were wide, searching Claire’s, trying to understand.  

“Henry is part of our family, Brianna.  Daddy and I never wanted you to grow up alone.  We wanted you to have a brother or a sister.  I never had one, you know.  And I hated it.  Hated being alone with no one to play with.  Daddy had Aunt Jenny, and even though they used to fight sometimes he would tell you he was glad to have her.”

“Da’s like me,” Bree said.  “One brother died, and one sister lived.  I’m the opposite.  My sister died and my brother lived.”

Claire smiled sadly, ran a hand down Bree’s leg to tickle an ankle.

“Yep,” Claire nodded.  “And now he and Aunt Jenny work together.  And they’re best friends.”

Bree looked over at her Da as he tried to settle a sleeping Henry in the stroller.  She hopped up and bounded over to him.  Jamie lifted his head as Bree took the blanket from his shoulder and stood by.  When Jamie laid the boy down, she covered him loosely with it, placing the flannel up near his cheek the way Henry liked it. 

She watched Jamie ruffle Bree’s fringe, then get behind the stroller to push it.  Claire rolled to her knees and began gathering their things.  

She hoped they’d cleared at least one hurdle today.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Baths were done, kids were in bed, and Jamie was feeling particularly proud of himself for their excursion.  In the kitchen he poured two fingers, neat, of Fraser Distillery’s finest for himself, and one finger on the rocks for Claire. 

He sauntered up the fire escape to where Claire was standing, looking out over Edinburgh.  

“It was a really good day,” she said, hearing his footsteps on the metal.

“Aye,” he agreed.  Jamie handed her a glass and placed his lips on her neck. He let his teeth graze just behind her ear, then flicked his tongue over the spot to soothe it.  

“She loves that game you play,” Claire sighed with pleasure, taking a sip of her drink. She felt Jamie’s chuckle as she leaned back against his chest.

After showering Bree always called for her dad to help dry her hair.  Jamie would put the towel over his daughter’s freshly washed head and rub vigorously, causing her to wobble back and forth and lose her balance, only to mock admonish her to “stand still fer the love of St. Michael!”  Bree would giggle and grab at Jamie’s legs trying to balance.

“Giggles every time,” he said, smiling into his wife’s hair.  “When she was having her snack she asked me why I didna do that to Henry.  I told her he was too wee. Said maybe that’s just something I’d keep for the two of us.  That maybe, when he was older, Henry and I, we would have our own game.”

“That made her happy?” Claire asked.

“Aye.  Surprised her, too, it did.”  Jamie pressed against his wife’s fine arse and took a drink himself.  He wanted her to feel his growing need. Claire leaned back and rubbed against him.  The feel of her through the denim hurt so good. 

“Ken what would make me happy?” his voice, hushed, low, and sexy in her ear.

“I’ve a fair idea,” Claire’s breath hitched as her husband’s hand slowly popped the button on her jeans, and drew down the zipper.  He slipped his hand down her stomach, fingers seeking the warmth between her legs. 

“Two nights in a row,” Claire whispered, leaning her head back on his shoulder, turning her face into his strong neck, “we haven’t been this spoiled in a long time.”

“Mmmmhmmm,” Jamie’s mouth came down on hers, fingers stroking, arousing, teasing.

“Excuse me!” the tiny voice asked.

Jamie and Claire jumped apart.  Whisky sloshed over Jamie’s hand.  

“Holy Christ Child in the Cradle!” 

Jamie shook the droplets off his hand and looked at his daughter whose head was stuck through window, “Why …. are… you… out… of…. bed?” he said through clenched teeth.

“Ye were kissing,” she said, eyeing up the situation.  “Why do I have to go to bed at the same time as Henry?”

“Aye, we were,” Jamie said.  “And ye go tae bed when we say.”

“Well, yes,” Bree started, ignoring her father’s tone and the impending trouble she may be in.  In true Fraser fashion negotiation was first and foremost on her mind.  She climbed out onto the fire escape, her young coltish legs getting tangled in her nightgown.  “But he’s one and I’m eight.  Eight and a half, really.  So,” she sat on the sill, “I shouldna go tae bed at the same time as a bairn.  I should get to stay up later.”

Claire, finally put together, hoping her face wasn’t flushed red, turned to face her daughter.  “You’re right.”

Jamie sputtered, his aroused body rejecting what he’d just heard.  “Say again, Claire?”  

“She’s right.”  Claire stated, trying not to laugh at her husband’s face.  “Henry goes at 7:30.  You can start going to bed at 8:30.  One hour later.  Fair?”

“Fair,” Bree grinned.  

“Now, back to bed,” Claire looked at her watch.  “It’s 8:35 which is now after your new bedtime.  But,” she held up a hand at the protest that was to come, “you can look at a book for a bit, and then turn off the lamp and go to sleep.  Ten minutes.”

Bree swung her legs around through the upstairs window, and walked off to bed satisfied with her outcome.  

Claire downed the last of her whisky, handed Jamie her glass, and placed a quick kiss on his lips.  “Meet me in the bedroom in fifteen minutes.”

“Christ, Sassenach, we’ll be back to having sex in the car when the next bairns come, just for the privacy,” Jamie laughed.

“Oh, there won’t be any more babies,” Claire laughed, then disappeared into the house.

Jamie stood frozen in place.  

No more bairns?  

He turned to walk down the stairs, trying hard to remember the conversation between them when this had been decided.   

Chapter Text

Jamie met her in the bedroom as promised.  He made love to her but she could tell something was wrong.

Her husband was a very good lover.  Incredible, even.  When he was lost in her, lost in the moment with nothing on his mind but them, their bodies, and chasing satisfaction, the sex was amazing.  When Jamie was ‘present’ he listened to every little thing, her sounds, the way her body reacted, what she wanted.  And his kisses.  God, his kisses made her weak.  

Often, in the operating room, Geillis would start talking about her latest conquest and she’d carry on about whether the guy was good, or selfish, horrible, or sloppy.  Claire would silently tune her out thinking about how lucky she was that Jamie wasn’t like that.  He was just good in bed, be it rough, or tender.  And he was good company afterwards.  

Since the kids were born his new motto became “Quality over Quantity, Sassenach!” because quantity wasn’t always possible.  They were busier, interruptions were plentiful, and they were generally more tired.  All of this led to a natural decrease in intimacy.  How many times had she heard a colleague say, “if we just had more sex” as an excuse for an affair or a divorce?  Claire was living proof that it was bullshit.  

Quality over quantity.    

But something had changed between the fire escape and the bedroom.  

Jamie was ‘there’ but he just wasn’t ‘present’.  He touched her body, but not her soul.  

He met her needs, then met his own, but his mind was elsewhere.  She could feel it.  She could feel it in his kisses that were a little more distant than loving.  Could feel it in his caresses that were a little more static than sensuous.  Could feel it afterwards, when he held her in cold silence.

“What’s wrong?  We had such a nice day at the zoo, and now you’re …. I don’t know.” Claire tried to get him to look at her.

“Nothing.  Just tired.”  His eyes rested steadfastly on the ceiling.  

“Liar,” she whispered.

“Not now, Claire. Be still, aye?”

He hugged her tight for a moment, pressed a kiss on her forehead, and laid a big hand on her head to keep her against his shoulder.  She would get no more out of her stubborn Scot tonight.  Resigned, Claire closed her eyes and tried to sleep.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Saturdays were for chores.  Market shopping, cleaning bathrooms, hoovering floors, with a nice walk in the late afternoon to round out their family centered weekend.  Claire put Henry to bed while Bree and Jamie spent the next hour playing a card game in front of a rugby game on TV.

Bree went to bed at 8:30 feeling rather special.  

“Who knew all she needed was a few perks of the job to settle her into the big sister role?” Claire said, laughing as she came downstairs.  

Jamie smiled absently, eyes still on the game on TV. 

Claire sat next to him on the sofa.  She slipped her hand on top of his, pressing her fingers between his, linking hands.  

“What is it, Jamie? Why are you upset with me?”

Jamie sighed, and squeezed her hand. 

Still looking at the TV, he spoke.  “I’ve been thinkin’, since last night, about what ye said.  ‘There’ll be no more babies’.  And for the past 24 hours I’ve been tryin’ to remember when we had that conversation.”  He looked at her then, his eyes a cool blue.  “And for the life of me, I canna think of it.”

He let go of her hand.

Claire blanched.  She barely remembered making the comment.  

“Jamie.  Come on.  You know my pregnancies are high risk.  After Henry was born you said you were grateful that God had given us perfect and healthy children.  You said we made a beautiful family.”

“We do make a beautiful family.  One of each, so far.  But I dinna recall saying that we were a beautiful, finished family.”  His eyes were back on the TV. 

Claire’s heart started to pound.  She closed her eyes and tried to calm herself.  She could not believe what she was hearing.  For a man who had forever been in tune with her body he was being ridiculously obtuse right now.

“Jamie.  You do know how old I am, right?”  She sat up and grabbed the remote, paused the game.  “I’m 41!  You know the risks of having children after 40!  I’m not willing to take that chance.  We’ve been blessed, Jamie.  Why can’t you be satisfied with what we have?”

“Have ye done something, Claire, that ye didna tell me about?”  Jamie decided to get to the meat of his concern.

Claire was confused.  “What do you mean?”

“Ye said, ‘there’ll be no more babies”.  I ken I’ve not done anything to prevent them.  So.  That leaves you.”  He crossed his arms over his chest.  “So, I ask again, have ye done something that ye didna tell me about?”

Claire sat very still.  She didn’t know whether to be angry, insulted or ashamed.

“I’ve done nothing either.”  

Jamie made a Scottish noise deep in his throat.  

Claire shifted to sit on the large trunk that served as their coffee table.  She faced him squarely placing her knees between his.  She leaned forward so that her head blocked his view of the TV, forcing him to look at her.  She put her hands on his knees, gripping tightly.  

“You know what’s so great about being an orphan, Jamie?  I have no medical history.  None.  Zero.  No idea whether cancer runs in my family, or high blood pressure.  Not to mention the myriad of other things that could develop because I’m a woman, such as fibroids.  I don’t know when my mother started menopause.  Well, may have started,” she amended.  “Because she died before even she could know that.”

Jamie’s lids lowered.  He couldn’t imagine.  

Claire pressed her lips tight, composing herself so she could continue. 

“I don’t know if she had trouble conceiving, or if she ever….ever…miscarried.  I have no idea if her pregnancy with me was high risk or not.  If she was on bed rest, if she had preeclampsia.  No idea if she ever had the risk of placental abruption.  Like me.”  She took a deep, calming breath.  “I want to be done, Jamie.  We have two beautiful, healthy children, and I will not tempt fate.”

“Jenny had her last in her forties.”    

“Oh, come ON!”  Claire lost her temper, throwing her hands into the air.  “I am not Jenny!  Jenny had no problem with her pregnancies.  None.”  She ticked the next points off on her fingers,  “No trouble conceiving, no trouble carrying.  And you know as well as I that if you have a history of healthy pregnancies, there’s no issue for a woman in her forties.  And even Jenny was worried with the last one.  Not that you’d know.”

He made the mistake of pushing too far.    

“Ye promised when we married to accept children lovingly from God!”  

“And I have!” she shouted.  “For Christ’s sake, Jamie, I have!”  She stood up, towering over him for a moment.  

“I’ve accepted three children from Him, but maybe the fucking priest should have highlighted the fine print where it said that God could take one back before it was born!  No vow said I had to be okay with RETURNING a gift.”  

She was visibly shaking now.  

“Claire -”  He couldn’t have regretted his words more than he did right then.

“No.  Stop.  I don’t want to hear it right now.”  

She walked over to the kitchen, pressing her hands to her head, flattening the curls.  “I need to make a dish for Sunday dinner at Lallybroch,” she mumbled.

She rested her hands on the kitchen counter and spoke to him one last time. 

“I don’t want to fight.  I don’t.  But dammit, Jamie, you need to think.  I carry these children, not you.  It’s my body that gets big and bulky, my back that gets sore.  It’s my age we have to contend with.  And myanxiety over every twinge, every pain, every cramp.  My being forced to bed rest.  And I can’t anymore.  I physically cannot.”  

Her caramel coloured eyes were swimming in tears.

“And for the record, he gave us two girls, and one boy.  Not ‘one of each’”. 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Jamie stood by the fence at Lallybroch watching the horses.  

Sunday dinner was the usual.  Loud.  Chaotic.  But he hadn’t enjoyed it.  The tension with his wife was eating away at him.

Claire had made what she needed to contribute to the dinner and had gone to bed.  He’d heard her sniffing while she cooked.  He knew she was crying.  And it made him feel bad.  She would always blame herself for Faith regardless of what the doctors said; regardless of what she knew as a doctor.  He also knew she worried during her pregnancies.  He knew she hated the bed rest, especially when she was carrying Henry because she couldn’t play with Bree or do the things she wanted with her.  And yet he still didn’t get off the damn couch to fix the situation.

He needed to say he was sorry, but he hesitated.  And it took him well past midnight to figure out why.  He needed to grieve first.

Jamie turned and looked down the hill at Lallybroch.  He watched as Claire came out the back door, basket on her arm, heading toward the kitchen garden.  And he made up his mind right then and there.

His long strides carried him down the hill and through the gate.  When he reached Claire he softly took her hand, and lifted her chin up so she was looking at him.

“Come wi’ me?” he asked softly.

She nodded.  

He walked her back up towards where he had been standing, entwining his fingers with hers. 

“I had envisioned having a entire team of kids, when I was a lad.  An even dozen.”  He huffed in embarrassment.  “I dinna ken what I was thinkin’.  That’s a lot to ask of a woman.”  He raised an eyebrow at Claire and she smiled.

“I wanted a big house with lots of noise, and room to roam.  This house, if I’m honest,” he waved a hand around the property, “but it wasna long before I realized that was impossible, but still.  Dreams die hard, aye?”

They’d reached the fence again, and Jamie turned towards his wife, and gently placed his hands on her waist.  She grasped his shoulders in confusion.  He lifted her up, and placed her on the fence rail.  She wobbled a bit, clutched at him and laughed.  He leaned in and kissed her, gently.

“When we were marrit, Claire, I was 23.  Everything I wanted was all there, right in my hands.  We were young, and healthy, and in love.  But we never conceived.  Five years, and nothing.  A miscarriage on a fateful Valentine’s Day.”

He wiped a tear from the corner of her eye.

“I was as heartbroken as ye were.  But,” he said doggedly, “we kept trying and finally, Faith.  And we went home empty handed.  My dream…”  Jamie stopped to clear his throat.  “My dream floated away with every year that passed childless.  Finally, Bree.  And then six years of barrenness.  Again.  And then Henry, our final miracle.”

“Jamie-” she whispered.

“Nay, Claire, let me speak, aye?”  He swallowed hard.   “Every month that passed without a child in your womb I watched ye become more and more disappointed.  I watched ye embrace life as Bree’s mother, and as a doctor.”

“And now I’m embarrassed at my own selfishness.”  

Claire reached out and hugged her husband tight, brought his bright red head against her chest and held him there.  “Dreams die hard,” she whispered into his ear.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered back.  “Sorry for accusing ye of something ye hadna done.  Sorry for being an absolute arse over the whole situation.  I should have just asked ye what ye meant back when ye said it instead of lettin’ it fester.  I kent the truth of it, in my heart.  I just didna want to face it I guess, and I lashed out.”  

Jamie looked at her, pushed a curl behind her ear.  “Can ye forgive me?”

“Forgiven,” Claire said, and kissed the tip of his nose.

Jamie lifted his head and gave his wife a long, lingering kiss.

“And now,” he said, smiling against her lips, “I believe it’s time to take my perfect family home.”

 

Chapter Text

“Aye, We’en, snip it just like that…now, gently, open the folds on the back.  Gently, now!” 

The twin red heads were bent over their work, one large hand hovering ready to help, the other smaller hand tentatively trying to pry apart the delicate paper feathers.  

On the drive home from Lallybroch the Frasers had discussed Bree going back to school the next day, and how and why she should apologize to Iona for her comments.  Bree was the one who suggested she make Iona a small origami figure to hang over her new brother’s crib, just as she and Jamie had done for Henry.  They all agreed it would be a good idea.  

“Ye’ve got it, Bree!” Jamie said, pleased.

As she and Jamie admired her handiwork, they didn’t notice the tiny hand reach up until it was too late.  The chubby fingers grabbed at the paper, and ripped some of the feathers.

“Henry!” screeched Bree.

“CLAIRE?” Jamie shouted, scooping up his son, long stomping strides carrying him from the room wrapped in one big arm while the toddler cried in protest.

Claire’s head popped around the corner of the hallway.  “You bellowed?”

“Can ye keep this wee beastie from the room, please?  He’s just destroyed an hour’s worth of work.”

Claire could hear Bree crying in the distance, and tsked at her son.  “What have you done, eh?” she crooned as she walked away with the boy perched on her hip.  Henry fought his mother’s arms trying to get down and back to where the action was.    

Jamie walked back to his daughter, shaking his head.  The poor girl was distraught.

“It’s fine, Bree,” he assured her, “We’ll just do another.”

“I ken I shouldn’t say it, but sometimes, Da, I just wish he’d no’ been born.”

Jamie sat down on the floor beside his daughter.  Her face was streaked with tears, the small origami bird lying broken on her knee.  “Never say it, We’en, because it’s no’ right to wish someone away.  He doesna do these things out of malice, he just wants to join in.”  Jamie smoothed back her hair.  “He’s just clumsy about it.” 

Bree sighed.  “I suppose.  But he’s ruined it!  He ruins a lot o’ things.” 

She waited a heartbeat.  “I dinna want any more brothers, or sisters.  Okay, Da?”

“I willna promise anything, a leannan,” Jamie said.  “It isna up to me.  It’s up to God.”  He chucked a little.  “Weel, God and yer Mam.  And God knows, He better check with her first.”  

Bree looked at him, confused, then turned her attention to the origami.  

“This is ruined!” she lamented, again.

“Nay, lass.  Not ruined.  Let me show ye how we fix it.”  Jamie got up from the floor and walked to his desk.  “In fact,” he said, rummaging around in a drawer, “what we do now will give it a 3D effect.”  

He smiled over his shoulder at Bree.  “Trust me, Iona’s gonna love it.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Claire, dressed in a t-shirt and underwear, was in front of the bathroom sink brushing her teeth when her husband came in.  

“Crisis averted, then?  Is the origami fixed?” she asked after spitting out the toothpaste, and wiping her mouth.  

Jamie stood behind her, catching her eye in the mirror.  He kissed her neck and wrapped his arms around her middle.

Claire blushed, trying to pull down the t-shirt.  

Jamie pulled it up, placed a large hand on her belly with its stretch marks, and small pouch of loose skin.  He placed the other hand on the curve of her hip, running it down her thigh and over her buttock.

“Christ, Claire, yer beautiful,” he whispered.  “I want this lovely, round arse wedged tight between my thighs, and my-”

“I doubt either of them are asleep yet, so unless you want to risk being caught like we were on the fire escape, I suggest you slow down.”  She smiled.  

“Wee beasties,” he said, chuckling, planting another kiss on her neck, and allowing himself another squeeze of her arse.  “And aye, crisis averted.  It actually turned out better than we planned.  But she did have something to say on the subject of siblings.”

“Oh?” Claire was curious.

“Aye,” Jamie said, taking off his shirt and throwing it in the general direction of the hamper.  “She said-”

He turned to see Claire’s raised eyebrow and pointed look at the shirt.  He stopped in the act of popping the button on his jeans to pick up the laundry and put it where it belonged.  

“She said she doesna want any more.”

“Not surprising,” Claire said.  “What did you say?  Did you explain to her why there won’t be any more?”  She picked up her sleep pants.

“Ye dinna need those pants,” he said softly, trying to take them from her hands.  “And I told her that God was in charge and we’d ken the answer after He checked with you.”

“Oh, ha ha,” Claire said, tugging her clothes from his fingers and sashaying out of the bathroom.  “That, Mr. Smart Mouth, won’t get you much in the way of action.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The next day at lunch Bree sat down with her friends at their table.  She sat very carefully beside Iona, and placed her lunch box in front of herself.  

“Iona, I wanted to say I’m sorry for what I said about yer wee brother,” Bree began, serious and proper.  “And to show ye how sorry I am I made something for ye to give to him.  Or you can keep it for yerself, it’s no matter.”

She opened her box and carefully extracted the origami bird.  

Iona gasped.

“I made something like this for my brother when he was born to hang over his crib, like a mobile,” she explained holding it gently, “except it wasna as good as this one.  This one’s better.”

She placed it in Iona’s cupped hands.  

“I hope ye like it.  And-” she continued, “I hope ye can forgive me.”

“Oh, aye, Bree, I forgive ye,” Iona said, smiling.  “This is beautiful.”  

Her friends all said it was lovely, asked her how she made it, and how long it took.  Bree recounted the story and ending by telling them how Henry had ruined it but her Da had helped her make it even better.  

“Anyway,” Bree finished, “Thanks for accepting my apology.”

“Och, to tell ye the truth, Bree, I didna get to do anything this weekend because my Da had to work, and Mam wouldna play wi’ me because the bairn was crying all the time on account o’ the wee rash on his bum and I didna get to do anything fun.”  She looked at Bree with narrowed eyes.  “By Sunday I got yer meaning.  Sometimes wee babes can be annoying.”

“Get me! Right?” Bree exclaimed.  “Just wait until they can WALK!”

Chapter Text

Claire didn’t know which was worse, the shock of finding herself sitting at a gate in Edinburgh’s departure terminal, or the annoyance she couldn’t tamp down.

Her phone pinged.  She looked down and scoffed.  Bloody Jenny Murray.

On a scale of 1 to Wishing Me Dead, how much do you hate me?

I’m planning your funeral.  What’s that tell you? she texted back.  Claire closed her eyes, and inhaled deeply.  I hate surprises, she tapped out quickly on her phone. You know that.  How could you?

Because I knew you’d never agree to it otherwise, the answer flashed back.

Remind me, Jenny, how you went on a trip with Ian when your kids had just started back to school, the youngest in Primary 1? Remind me how you just let your husband plan your leave from work?  Oh, that’s right! YOU DIDN’T.

Claire waited for a response.  Silence.  Got you there, Jenny Murray, she thought.

She looked up to see Jamie striding towards her.  His eyes were pinned on her, and she knew he was gauging her mood.  Her initial reaction to being “ambushed” wasn’t a good one.  Smart man that he was, he was walking softly and carrying a large, hot beverage.  

She watched as women walking past did a double-take at her tall, handsome husband, while others watched him as he moved past their gates.  She shook her head and smiled.  His response was immediate, clear blue eyes crinkling, his big smile making him look even more handsome.  Honestly, seventeen years later and he still had the power to make her heart beat faster with just a smile.

Her phone pinged.  She ignored it.

“Peace offerin’,” Jamie mumbled, handing her a Chai tea latte.

“Is this it?” Claire raised an eyebrow, teasing gently.  

Jamie procured a brown paper bag from his jacket pocket.  “Nay.  Pumpkin loaf.  Yer favourite.”

She snatched the bag, and took a sip from the paper cup letting the warmth and fragrance of the drink calm her.

“You should have told me,” she said, her tone softening.  She gave him a sidelong glance as she tried to balance the hot drink on the seat next to her.

“Ye’d have said no.  And made a dozen excuses.”  Jamie stretched his long legs out in front of him and put his arm around her.  “Besides, I thought it was more romantic this way, is it no’?”

Claire popped a piece of the pumpkin bread into her mouth, and answered with her mouth full.  “No.  It isn’t.”

Jamie leaned over, placed his lips against her temple, and mumbled, “Ye may not think so now, Sassenach, but once we’re over on the other side o’ the pond, I’ll show ye how romantic it can be.”

Claire nudged her shoulder into her husband.

He chuckled, and nuzzled her ear, then whispered, “Or maybe I’ll show ye in first class, aye?”

“You wouldn’t dare,” Claire chided.

Jamie laughed and withdrew his arm.  They sat in silence for a moment until Claire asked, “Have you ever had sex in an airplane bathroom?”

Jamie barked out a laugh.  “Christ, Claire, look at me.  I barely fit in an airplane bathroom to take a piss, how am I goin’ to have sex?  God.”

Claire giggled, and fed him a piece of the pumpkin bread from her fingers.  He gripped her wrist, flicked his tongue against the tip of her finger, and gently closed his teeth on it.

Claire narrowed her eyes, a small smile playing at her mouth.  Charmer.

“So, am I forgiven?” Jamie said, swallowing his bite.

“Hmmm.  Maybe.  Jenny isn’t though,” Claire snapped.

“Ah, Claire.  Dinna blame Jenny.  She only did what I asked of her.  To watch the kids, help me pack for ye and keep her mouth shut.  I contacted their teachers, they have Jenny’s number should they need to call for any reason, Alec is on duty to pick them up from school every day, she’s made up their bedrooms at Lallybroch, they’ve got all their blankets, and stuffies and everything they need.  If I’ve forgotten something she’ll go ‘round ours and pick it up.”

“And the hospital didn’t say anything?”

“No.  Ye had the time comin’.  And then some.  Christ, they were excited to see ye use up a few days, so they wouldna have to pay ye.  Ye’ve got a ton of days banked.”

Claire’s her mind whirled with questions as to the how, and when her husband had pulled this off.

The boarding announcement came on, and Jamie began to gather their things.  Claire reached over and picked up her phone.  She checked the message that had come in before he sat down.

He just wanted some time alone with you, Claire.  Thank the good Lord he’s still interested in you.  Plenty of husbands aren’t after that many years of marriage.

Claire closed her eyes.  Touché, Jenny.  Touché.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Claire woke at 2:17.

She sat up, and looked around the room, momentarily confused as to where she was.

She dragged herself to the bathroom, tired and disoriented.  My God, she thought, jet lag sucks.  

She washed her hands, turned off the light, and headed back to bed.

That’s when she noticed him.

Jamie was watching her carefully, one arm behind his head, the other resting on his chest.

The way the Chicago street lights were shining through a crack in the curtains and falling on his chest took Claire back 17 years.  Back to a night when she was newly married.  Back to her honeymoon.  Then, the sun was cresting over the mountains on the Isle of Skye.  Back then it came sneaking through the window hitting Jamie on his chest in the early morning.  She had watched the light dance down his body as she straddled his hips, rocking above him.  The artificial slash of light highlighted the reds and golds of his chest hair now, as the natural light did back then.  At the time, she had thought he was the most attractive man she’d ever seen.  Her husband was still broad shouldered.  Still trim and firm.  Still beautiful.  They’d made love countless times since that morning.  So why did this small streak of light make her feel so nostalgic?  So moved?

“What’s wrong, mo nighean donn?” Jamie whispered.

“Nothing,” she whispered, swallowing back tears she didn’t understand.

“Something,” he said, shifting in the bed, his arousal becoming obvious in the faint light.

“It’s just…you look the same,” Claire said softly.  “Exactly like you did the day I married you.”

She moved to his side of the bed, and slowly drew back the sheets to reveal his body.  Jamie didn’t move.  She reached out, and placed a hand in the center of his chest.  His heart was strong, and beat steadily.  She knelt on the bed, and threw one leg over him.  She sat low on his hips, not moving, just feeling him stir under her.

Claire ran her fingers lightly through the curls on his chest, grazing his nipples. Jamie drew a deep, shuddering breath in through his nose, but kept his hands behind his head.

“Sorry if I woke you,” she said.

“Was already awake,” he mumbled, his eyes traveling over her body, lingering on her breasts and thighs, “thinking of ye.”

“I think the jet lag woke me,” she said, smiling down at him, touching him.

“Or maybe,” Jamie said softly, “maybe ye just heard my heart calling out to yers.”

He watched her eyes glisten again with unshed tears, and knew she felt the truth of his words.  Their hearts had always called to each other, from the moment they’d met.  From the moment she felt compelled to crawl through his window in answer to his pain, to the moment he watched her leave his flat that same day and felt the acute ache of her absence.  Through years of disagreements, full out fights, and sorrow, their hearts had never strayed, had never divorced each other.  

In one quick move, he sat up, and wrapped his arms around her, enveloping her.  The desire to touch her was overwhelming.  He pressed himself against her as his mouth joined hers.  

In that moment, Jamie had his wife right where he wanted her.  He wanted for them to be alone, with no distractions, no texts or calls from the hospital or from Willie at the office, no late nights, no missing weekends with her on call, no deadlines pressuring him, no kids calling out in the middle of the night, or during intimacy because of a bad dream, or wanting another story.

He wanted to be alone.  Just him, and her, a king-sized bed and 3,000 miles between them and responsibility.

He peeled off her shirt and practically ripped her panties in his haste to get her naked.

He had her right where he wanted her, laying diagonal on the big bed, her legs over his shoulders, and his head between her thighs  His mouth was fastened at her apex, drinking her in as she climaxed, with her shouting out his name, pulling his hair, and bucking underneath his hands.  

He was right where he wanted to be, sliding up her body, wiping his mouth on the inside of her thigh.  His knees nudged her legs wider so he could bury himself inside her.  She hummed as he entered her, still not completely recovered from her orgasm.  Her eyes were closed, and there was a faint sheen of sweat above her lips as she worked to catch her breath.

“Open yer eyes,” Jamie whispered.  He kissed her, hard.  “Look at me, Sassenach.”

Her eyelids fluttered like a butterfly opening its wings to the world for the first time, slowly, sluggishly, and carefully.

“Jamie,” she breathed.

“Aye,” he said because he knew it, too, felt it.  Seventeen years and it still felt special.  Still felt like she was made for him, and he for her. This was what he had dreamed of for months as he planned this trip.

He moved in her slowly, savouring every stroke, until he couldn’t stand it anymore.  There were times when the need of her clawed at his belly, and compelled him to surge into her until he couldn’t hang on one more second, his thirst unbearable right before it was quenched.

There was nothing in the world to compare with the feeling he got making love with Claire Beauchamp.

He kissed her then, smiling his way through it.  He rolled to his side, and brought her with him.  

They slept a while more, wrapped in each other’s arms.

They woke up again around 4:30 in the morning with no hope of falling back asleep.  They showered, dressed and went out in search of breakfast.  Claire marveled at how modern everything looked.  All glass and steel, the city was a complete contrast to Edinburgh.  They walked arms around each other through the mostly empty streets like they did in the early days when it was just the two of them with no plans, content to just wander.  He took her through Millennium Park just as the sun was breaking through the skyscrapers, the towers shimmering in gold and sparkling silver as the sun hit them.  They took a picture of themselves reflected in The Bean and sent it to Jenny to show the kids.

Finally, Jamie led her to a diner he liked.  They sat on one side of the booth together like teenagers on a first date, and Jamie couldn’t stop chuckling at the way Claire ate her waffles, with mmmms and grunts as if she’d not had a meal in weeks.

“Shut it, Fraser, I’m hungry, okay?  And these are amazing.”

“Aye, yer like a wee white sow, all snuffles and grunts,” he threw his arms up to deflect the blow she aimed his way, but he wasn’t about to stop teasing her.  “Ye’ve syrup on the tip of yer snout, Sassenach.”

Claire made to rub her nose on his shirt and he jumped back.  “Oi!”

She laughed and wiped her face, scooped up a forkful and held it out to him. “Taste these, and try to tell me I’m wrong.  Bree would kill for these.  You know how she loves waffles.”

Jamie took the bite, and nodded.  “Aye, they’re good.  Not orgasm good, like yer havin’ over there, but good.”  Claire bumped his shoulder, shushing him.

They held hands and walked back to the hotel as the streets were filling up with people on their way to work.  The traffic was getting heavier, the city coming alive.

Jamie led her to the elevator, then tugged on her hand to bring her around and into his arms.  “I’m off to taste some whisky,” he announced. “What will ye do today, then? I saw ye eyein’ up the art museum.”  He kissed the tip of her nose.

“First on my list,” she said, rubbing her nose against his.  “When shall I expect you back here?”

“I’ll be back around 5 to change and get ye for dinner.  Remember we’re meeting John Grey.”

“No,” Claire said, pulling her head back from his to look him full in the face. “You never said we were meeting him.”

“Course I did.  He’s dying to meet ye.  After all these years it was the first thing he said when I told him I was bringing ye.  That we had to have dinner.”

“You failed to tell me anything, remember?” Claire stressed as she stood up on tiptoes, a failed attempt at trying to intimidate him. “Where are we going?”

“Dinna ken. He just said it’s a nice place, and he’s payin’.”  Jamie tilted her head up for a kiss.  “Have a good day, love you,” he said, then reluctantly let her go, and moved towards the hotel lobby.  

When Claire got to the room she went through her suitcase.

“Are you fucking kidding me?” She announced her frustration to the empty room.  

He’d packed a dress that she’d worn six years ago.  When she was pregnant with Henry.  He’d packed a bloody maternity dress.

“God, I hate surprises.”  Talking to herself, she went through the rest of the suitcase tossing out clothes and mumbling about how they either didn’t fit, or were too casual.  She took a deep breath.  She understood.  She did.  Jamie wanted to be romantic, plan a surprise, and take care of all the details.  She’d gotten past that.  But bloody hell, would it have killed him to let her pack her own bag?  Now she was stuck.  Because there wasn’t anything in the suitcase that was even remotely suitable.  And didn’t he say Jenny had helped?  She felt ambushed all over again.

She flopped back on the bed surrounded by her clothes.

There was only one thing to do.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Claire wasn’t consciously frugal. She’d just never had time to shop for herself.  Like most working mothers, she bought what she needed, then spoiled her kids.  She wore scrubs provided by the hospital.  She wore jeans and leggings and sweaters and t-shirts at home.  She owned a dress or two, and that was the extent of her wardrobe.  Faced with it now, she realized just how pathetic her wardrobe had become.  

Especially her undergarments.

Claire looked at herself in the mirror of the Lingerie store’s changing room. She’d always had full breasts, but she’d given up on her waist the last couple of years because she’d thought gravity was taking over.  Turns out all she needed was a good bra with solid straps to lift them up and prove she still had a figure. She bought five of them.  She tossed in some panties too, thinking that if the salesgirl had seen her current knickers she would have died of embarrassment.  When a hot pink pair caught her eye she dug deep for her size, the memory of them making her grin.  She honestly didn’t know where this nostalgia was coming from.  

One shopping bag in hand, Claire made her way down The Magnificent Mile in search of a dress for dinner.  If nothing else, she’d not meet Jamie’s friend looking like a slob.

Five shopping bags later she walked back to the hotel and dumped the lot of them on the suite sofa.  She now had new jeans, a couple of dresses, skirts, several tops, three pairs of shoes, a brand new bag, and a Burberry trench that she could have gotten at home but what fun was there in that?  She’d never spent so much money at one time.  

But what she was most excited about was her new DVF wrap dress.  

A dress that showed off her curves with just enough cleavage to send Jamie’s mind into conflict over wanting her to cover up in public, or allowing himself to enjoy the view.  She smiled thinking of how he’d narrow his eyes, and emit a low growl of Sassenach, what in Christ’s name do ye think ye’re doin’?

She got exactly that response when he showed up to change.  

He saw the bags strewn around the lounge area first.  “Christ, Claire, what the hell happened?  Have ye bankrupted us?”

Claire waiting patiently for him to wander further into the suite.  When he caught sight of her he stopped dead, mouth open, his next words dying in his throat.

“Ye look…Sassenach….Claire….are ye mad, woman?”

“Considering everything you packed was inappropriate, old, or maternity wear,” she paused to let that sink in, “I had to go shopping.  Missed the museum today, I’m afraid,” she went for a casual, nonchalant tone, as if she didn’t notice how his fingers drummed on his thighs, or how hard he was swallowing.  She bent to pick up her new purse from the floor showing him a rear view of the dress and how it hugged her curves.  

He took a deep breath.  Then, another.  His cat-like eyes narrowed into dark blue slits as he stripped off his jacket.

“Right.  Take it off.  Now.”  He advanced towards her, his fingers working the buttons of his shirt, pulling it out of his pants as he went.  

She stepped backwards, placing a firm hand on his chest.

“Oh no, Fraser.  I worked a long time on this makeup.  You’ll not ruin it, or my hair.”  She laughed at his petulant expression.  “Get in the shower, or we’ll be late.”

“I dinna give a fuck when we get there,” he growled, throwing his shirt on the bed.  “This won’t take a minute.  Stay standin’ for all I care.”  Jamie grabbed for her.

“Later.  Promise,” Claire giggled, as she danced out of reach.  She watched as Jamie’s body stilled.  His eyes locked on hers.  The playfulness was gone, replaced by something deeper, something more.

“Christ, Claire.  Ye’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen.”  

Those damn nostalgic tears that she’d felt this morning rose up again.  She cast her eyes downward, smiling softly, subconsciously running her hands over her hips and settling them across her stomach.  He never failed at that.  He never failed to make her feel like she was the only woman in the world, even after all these years.  

“Get dressed, Jamie,” she said, voice husky with emotion.  “Or we’ll be late to meet your friend.”

Chapter Text

John Grey was aware of the very minute his friend walked into the restaurant. He was head and shoulders above every other person there.  What he didn’t see was Jamie’s wife.  He stood as Jamie got closer and opened his mouth to chastise him for leaving Claire behind when the redhead suddenly stepped to the side to reveal his wife walking close behind him.

Jamie had talked about Claire often, but nothing prepared him for the sight of her in the flesh.  She was shorter than he imagined, and far more beautiful than Jamie was capable of describing.  He’d seen pictures over the years of her, and the kids, of course, but Claire in person was something else.  She smiled warmly and extended her hand.  

“Hi, John.  I’m Claire.  It’s such a pleasure to meet you.”  Her voice was so properly British that John laughed out loud.  Claire looked confused.

“I’m so sorry,” John teased.  “I’m so used to the unrefined tones of your husband’s voice that I’d forgotten you were raised in a civilized part of the UK, like myself.”

Jamie shook his head and pulled out a chair for his wife.  Claire sat gracefully, throwing a look and a smile up at Jamie in the process.  

“Told ye,” Jamie said, feigning disgust.  “He’s obnoxious, and pretentious, and…”

“And yet one of your closest friends,” John finished for him.  

The conversation started out with John asking questions of Claire such as where she grew up, and about being a surgeon.  Soon they were on to talk of the children, and finally, business.  

“How did you two become such good friends?” Claire asked.

“It was a couple of years after Brian died, wasn’t it Jamie?”  John wiped his mouth with his linen napkin, and took a sip of wine.  “Brian would come to the competition and judge.  When he passed and Jamie was in hospital, Fraser Distilleries was represented by Dougal MacKenzie.”

Jamie snorted, and rolled his eyes.

Claire looked from one man to the other.  “What?” she asked.  “There’s definitely a story there.”

John laughed.  “When isn’t there a story when it comes to Dougal?”  He rested his elbows on the table and leaned towards Claire as if he were about to share the world’s darkest secret.  “Dougal was caught…in an indelicate position? Shall we say?  With the wife of another judge. Two years in a row.  Different woman each year, mind you.  He was asked not to return.”  

“Weel,” Jamie chimed in.  “He also got his ass scalped by Colum when he got home after the second time, and was forbidden to ever come to one of these events again.  That’s when I got appointed to be the face of the Distillery at these things.”

Claire looked at Jamie.  “I didn’t know that.”  

Jamie shrugged, the memory of those days etched in his brow lines, and in the worry lines at his mouth.  

“So much responsibility, so early.”  Claire reached over and placed a hand on her husband’s cheek.  Jamie turned slightly, and kissed her palm.

“All right, you two!” John announced.  “I’d say get a room, but I’m rather certain you have one, and have been using it.”  He watched Claire blush, and continued his teasing.  “Jamie is always lukewarm about having to attend the Competition but this year he was ridiculously excited about it.  I can see why.  You’re lovely company, Claire.”

Claire thanked John, smiled, and excused herself to use the bathroom.

John and Jamie watched her walk away.  When she was out of sight John turned to his friend with a smirk.

“What?” Jamie asked, curious.

“I see the wine label so clearly,” John said, then grinned as Jamie’s ears turned red.  “The Merlot called Sassenach?  It’s Claire.  It’s got a soft finish, smooth, full-bodied, a little dry with just a hint of acid.”

Jamie was now blushing down his neck. “Watch yerself, Grey.”  

John laughed uproariously.  “This is such a new side to you, my friend.  Who knew you were so pussy whipped?”

“Aye,” Jamie laughed.  “I’ll not deny it.  I’m completely under her power, and happy to be there.”

After dinner Jamie and Claire walked back to the hotel slowly, arm in arm, enjoying each other’s company and the cool of the night.  They passed a jazz bar and Claire insisted they head inside for a drink, the slow, sultry music enticing her.  

“Dinna ask me tae dance,” Jamie warned as his wife tugged at his hands, walking backward on her high heels.  She was biting her lower lip, and smiling, in a very successful attempt to coerce him inside.  

“You can slow dance,” she said, stopping suddenly so they were chest to chest.  “We’ve done that on the fire escape plenty of times.”

“Aye, but out there no one is watchin’,” he said, wiggling his eyebrows suggestively.  

The place was crowded so they sat at the bar, with Claire perched on the only available stool leaning back onto Jamie’s torso as he stood behind her.  His arms settled around her waist, and he rocked slowly to the live music, content with having his wife in his arms.  He stole glances at her, pleased that she seemed more relaxed than he’d seen her in a long time.  She was smiling softly at the music, her foot slowly bouncing to the rhythm of the bass.  Jamie gave her a little squeeze and she answered in kind, rubbing her hands over his as they lay across her waist.  They hadn’t been this spontaneous in a long time.  If there were out to dinner, they got home as soon as they could to relieve Mrs. Fitz or Jenny from watching the kids.  There was no stopping for a nightcap anywhere.  

It was dark, and warm inside the Club, the music hypnotic.  Jamie bent his head and kissed Claire softly behind her ear.  She dropped her head to the side, inviting more.  Jamie chuckled against her skin.  She reached back and placed a hand on one strong thigh.

“Dinna forget where we are, Sassenach,” he growled in her ear.  

Claire rubbed his thigh and threw a look over her shoulder.  A look that shot right to his groin.

She spun around on the stool so quickly it took Jamie by surprise.  She grabbed his face, and gave him an open-mouthed kiss right then and there.

“Ye wee vixen,” he growled, throwing money on to the bar.  “Let’s go.”  

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The ride in the lift up to their room was torture.  She couldn’t help it.  As more and more people crowded inside, Claire found herself being pushed up against Jamie.  When she accidentally rubbed her bum up against his arousal, she couldn’t help the laughter that escaped her when he sucked in a breath, and banged the back of his head against the elevator wall a couple of times in an attempt to control himself.  

“It’s no’ funny, Claire,” he said, sternly.  The other riders shifted uncomfortably, not sure of what was going on.  Claire tried to control herself, but a small giggle spilled out.  

When the doors opened on their floor, Claire quickly walked down the hall towards their room ahead of her husband, fumbling in her purse for the room key.  She barely managed to get the door open before he’d slammed it shut, shot the dead bolt, and pushed her up against the wall, all hot kisses and tugging hands.

She managed to get her wrap dress untied, and spread open while Jamie tugged at his belt and zipper.

“Christ,” his eyes raked her body.  “New pink knickers.  Are ye tryin’ to kill me?”  He worked at his shirt buttons.  “Take ‘em off,” he ordered between kisses.

She moved quickly, as desperate for him as he was for her. 
Jamie slid his hands under her bum, and lifted her in one smooth move.  He spread his legs wide for balance, and drove into her.  He couldn’t contain the groan that ripped from him.  

Now it was Claire’s turn to bang her head against the wall, the sensations too much, the desire strong, the need stronger.  God, she thought, when was the last time they were this out of control?  When was the last time they’d been this blindingly hot for each other?  She clung to him as he pushed into her, over and over, her ankles locked behind his back, her hands gripping his shoulders.  Jamie was wild, his mouth was devouring hers, his tongue trailing along her skin, and in her mouth tangling with hers.  His hands were everywhere, running along the backs of her thighs, and up her sides to fondle her breasts roughly.  

“Claire?”  It was a question she knew.  

“Almost, love,” she panted. “Just…a little more.”  She could feel the tension building but Jamie was too far gone.  

He finished before her, dropping his head on to her shoulder.  He shook his head in frustration.  

“I’m sorry, Sassenach. I’m sorry,” he panted.

“It’s fine,” Claire whispered, kissing his cheekbone, and running her fingers through the curls at his nape.  “You can catch me up later.”

Jamie let her down slowly, then rested his forehead on the wall, hands braced to support himself as Claire slipped into the bathroom and shut the door.  

Catch me up later.  

Jamie clenched his jaw.

There were times in their marriage bed just after Jamie brought his wife to orgasm that Henry would cry, or Bree would be heard wandering down the hall.  Jamie would quickly step into the bathroom and run a cold shower, forgoing his pleasure.  There were times when Claire would be willing to make love after a long shift, but was just too tired to respond fully. Jamie would get her close but a strong release would allude her.  There were times when they would start out on the sofa late at night, getting each other all hot and bothered when Claire would get a call from the hospital and have to leave, or something on the Distillery floor would need Jamie’s attention after hours.  It happened sometimes. And they’d always said they’d take care of the other ‘later’.  

But “catch me up later” was not part of Jamie’s current plan.  He had his wife to himself, and by God, there wasn’t going to be any catch me up later moments.  

With renewed determination Jamie pushed himself away from the wall, stripped down, and tossed his clothes toward his suitcase.  He opened the bathroom door, surprising Claire.

“What are you doing?” she asked, the towel she was using to dry her face held motionless in her hands.

“Catching you up,” Jamie said as he scooped her up into his arms.

“Jamie!” she shrieked as he maneuvered her out the bathroom door and towards the bed.  “Honey, it’s fine!”

“It’s no’ fine, Claire.  Do ye ken what a gift we have here?”  He stopped at the foot of the bed, and looked at her, their faces inches apart.  “There’s no Henry.  No Bree.  No hospital, no Distillery, no interruptions. There’s me.  And you.  And a lot of hours left before mornin’.”

He fastened his mouth to hers, robbing her of breath.  “And I mean to use up every one them making ye scream my name.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Throughout the night, Jamie and Claire laid in each other’s arms, talking quietly. Claire couldn’t remember the last time they’d stayed up late, indulging in pillow talk.

They reminisced, laughed, and talked honestly about parenting, and marriage.  They shared stories of friends whose marriages had ended, and wondered aloud as to how they had gotten so lucky.  

In the darkness of the room, with only the bathroom light throwing a soft glow into the suite, Claire lay in the warm, protective circle of Jamie’s embrace.  Legs tangled, her fingers slowly caressing his shoulder, Claire hesitated for a moment, then laid bare her thoughts.  “Have you ever met someone you were attracted to at these things?”

“What do ye mean?” Jamie asked while drawing slow circles around her hip bone.  

“Well,” Claire said honestly, “Like Dougal.  Someone who caught your eye.  Someone who you were interested in getting to know better.”

“Are ye asking if I’ve ever played ye false?”  Jamie said, tightening the arm around her shoulder in an effort to see her face.

“No,” Claire said, rolling over, half leaning onto his chest, her naked breasts pressing against him.  “I’m asking if you’ve ever felt tempted.  All these years married, have you never met someone and thought…I don’t know…thought about what it would be like to be with her?  Someone new. Something exciting.”

Jamie wasn’t sure what was going on with his wife.  He cocked his head to the side, and watched her choose her words carefully.

“I mean, you are a very handsome man, James Fraser.”  Her index finger made lazy circles around his nipple.  She watched him purse his lips in an effort not to smile at the compliment.  “I’m sure there’s been offers throughout the years.”

Jamie drew a deep breath.  We’ve always promised each other honesty, Jamie thought.

“Aye.  Offers.  Propositions.”  He looked her straight in the eye, “But never once accepted.  Never once interested.”  He ran his hand down her back, settling it on her bum.  “I know it’s happened to ye.  That bastard from yer study group…the one I beat the shit out of…what was his name?”

“Robert Horrocks.  And you and Alec both gave him what he deserved.”

“Aye.  Fucking Horrocks.  Since him, have there been others who’ve tried it on with ye?”

“Sure,” she kissed his abdomen, then returned his stare to make her point.  “Mostly Doctors at conventions.  But never once accepted.”

“Why are ye askin’, Sassenach?  What’s goin’ on in that heid of yers?”

“It’s just…we’ve been married a long time.  People get bored.  I’m not that same girl I was when you met me.  I’ve changed.  You’ve changed.”

“Och, but Claire, that’s the thing.  In my mind, ye’ve no’ changed one bit.” Jamie rolled her over onto her back and raised himself above her.  “Right here,” he placed a kiss on her chest, over her heart, “yer exactly the same.  Yer still kind, and caring.  Ye love fiercely.  Ye still own my heart.”  

Jamie took a handful of hair, and rolled the tips between his fingers.  “These are the same curls that I saw when ye first showed yerself at my window.  There may be wee bits of grey in there now, mo calman geal, but it’s still the same. Still frames that beautiful face of yers.”

He kissed her forehead, leaving his lips against her skin as he explained.  “Yer the most intelligent woman I know.  Ye can hold yer own in any conversation, talk about any subject.  I’m always impressed when I listen to ye.”

He kissed her eyelids softly, as she fluttered them closed.  “And these are still the colour of fine whisky.  To this day, I find myself comparing the whisky in our barrels to yer eyes, and thinkin’ ‘Och, not ready yet, still too pale’ wi’out even tastin’ it.”

“And this,” he kissed the tip of her nose, “still crinkles when I make ye laugh really hard.”

She giggled then, proving his point.

He moved his mouth slowly down her throat, across her chest, to her breasts. Claire found herself laying as still as possible, mesmerized by her husband’s voice, by his words.  “I’ve always loved yer breasts.  But to know that these nursed our bairns?  They’re even more beautiful to me.”  He circled one nipple with the tip of his tongue before taking it into his mouth and pulling hard.  

Claire felt the sensation deep in her womb.  Her hips squirmed under him.  His thumb flicked and rolled her other nipple as he kissed his way across her shoulders to the soft skin on the inside of her elbow.  

“These arms have held our bairns, in life, and in death,” he whispered, “and they’ve held me, in comfort, in lust.  Held me in joy, and in companionship.”  

At that, her eyes began to prickle with tears.

Jamie continued his ministrations.  

He picked up her hands, and kissed each palm in turn.  “I love these healing hands.  I canna imagine the number of lives these hands have saved.  The number of patients ye’ve touched, cared for, calmed.  The times they’ve soothed our children.  The times they’ve mended my wounds.”  

He continued to move his mouth further down her body.  

She sucked in her stomach as he stopped there.  The looser skin and the stretch marks always bothered her.  “And this is where ye carried our bairns.  All three of them.  I’m in awe of yer body, Claire.  In awe of the gifts ye gave me.”  

He lifted himself up, then, to cover her body with his and look into her eyes. “Ye’re my Eve.  I’m yer Adam.  We were created for each other.  And from here,” he placed a large hand over her womb, “came life.  Blood of my blood.  Bone of my bone.  I ken ye feel like it’s yer worst feature.  I ken that because ye’re always tryin’ to cover it up wi’ yer hands, even when we’re alone.  But I need ye to know, Claire, that I love this part of yer body the most.”  

The tears that were gathered at her lashes fell.  

“Well,” he grinned, wanting to lighten the mood, “almost the most.”  He flipped her so quickly that she squealed.  

Jamie grabbed her ass with both hands.  “THIS,” he announced as he fondled her.  “This is the part of yer body I love the most.”

Claire laughed, then gasped as his mouth came down to place a kiss on the rounded part of her flesh, his tongue dragging a path to her inner thigh.  “This part gives me the worst cockstand in the most inappropriate of circumstances.” He nudged her legs apart, and slowly ran his hand between her legs. He cupped her gently, then slowly inserted two fingers inside her.

“Oh, aye?” Jamie whispered, into her ear from behind her.  “It’s like that now, is it?”

“It’s always like that around you,” she whispered, “and you know it.”

“Aye, I do.”  Jamie kissed the back of her neck.  “So dinna ask me about temptation, Claire.  Ye’re the only temptress in my life.”

He slid a hand under her hip bones, and tugged upward, making her lift her hips off the mattress.  He braced himself on one forearm as he placing himself at her entrance, and slid into her.  

A Dhia, she felt amazing.    

He kept one hand under her, gripping her mound, giving her something to grind against, allowing her to work herself into a frenzy, letting her set the pace.  He loved when she was in control, loved how she would roll her hips so that his cock would stroke her just right.  Her breath came quicker, her moans longer, and higher pitched, while her movements quickened.  

Jamie grit his teeth in an effort to hang on and wait for her.

Claire let herself go as the wave crashed over her, making her sink into the mattress feeling entirely boneless.  Jamie felt heavy against her back, but it wasn’t the least bit uncomfortable.  She felt surrounded, secure, and loved. Well loved.  

After a few moments, Jamie slid off of her, leaving his legs tangled with hers.  

“Sassenach.  Adam be damned.  I feel like God Himself when I’m inside ye.”

She giggled at that, and closed her eyes in satisfaction.  

In the morning, she woke to an empty bed.  She blinked her eyes open, trying to focus.  She didn’t see the note telling her that Jamie had left for the tasting. Instead, her eyes were drawn to the two twisted pieces of paper on her nightstand.    

Origami.  Jamie’s calling card.  

Two swans, one much bigger than the other, their necks rubbing together, like lovers.  

“Oh, Jamie.” Claire smiled softly, and reached out to gently touch the taller of them.  “You did promise me first class romance.”

Chapter Text

Claire was lucky.  

Luckier than most.  She knew that.

As she stood on the skydeck of the Willis Tower on her last afternoon in Chicago, Claire couldn’t contain the tears that had been threatening to fall all week.  

In the distance the sun was sparkling off the surface of Lake Michigan.  She was here in this city, enjoying this view because of Jamie.  And he had to ambush her to make her see what she was missing.  

Not really missing.  Ignoring.  Taking for granted.

Jamie.

She felt ashamed.

She had a husband who loved her.  

No, not just loved her, but was in love with her.

It showed in the way he held her hand as they walked to dinner, and in the way he worshipped her body at night.  It showed in how he only had eyes for her even when other women openly flirted with him.  It showed in how he spoke to her, laughed with her, held her in his arms.  It showed in the conversations late into the night where she could talk with him about anything and everything.

It even showed when they fought. It didn’t matter the disagreement, or how heated it got.  What mattered was that Claire always knew that she could say anything to Jamie.  She could stand toe to toe with him in an argument and not feel like she didn’t have a right to her opinion.  She could stand up for herself and not fear the outcome. He wasn’t going to leave.  He wasn’t going to threaten her, or hurt her.  He wasn’t going to use their argument as an excuse to cheat, or lie.  

She pushed herself away from the view with a resolution.  

The next time a chance like this came around, Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp Fraser would never have to be ambushed again.

That night they stayed in and ordered room service.  After dinner Claire hit upon one of her favourite films just as it was starting.  Jamie indulged her, not saying much, but laughed in the right places, and sometimes snorted in ridicule.

“Did you like it?” Claire asked, gesturing at the television where the end credits were rolling.

“It was okay,” Jamie shrugged.

“Go ahead,” Claire challenged.  “Ten things you hate about me.”

“Ye think me daft, woman?  I’ll no fall in tae that trap!”

Claire moved from the corner of the sofa where her feet had been resting in Jamie’s lap, to straddling his hips where he sat.  

She hung her arms loosely over his shoulders.  “I hate the way you make me laugh.”

Jamie rolled his eyes.  Knowing Claire, she would have her way.  He settled back, and crossed his arms.  He pursed his lips, thinking, and then said, “I hate the way you talk so posh, and how ye make me feel.  I hate how ye’ve upset my life, and I can’t believe yer real.”  

“Oh, wow!” Claire laughed.  “Okay. Ummm,” she thought for a moment.  The light danced in her eyes as she continued.  “I hate the way you talk to me, and your accent when you speak.  I hate the fire escape at home, and your sentimental streak.”

Jamie raised an eyebrow.  “I dinna have the accent.  You do.”

She giggled as he pinched her bottom, then placed his hands on her hips, tapping the two fingers of his left hand against the curve of her bum.  

They stared into each other’s eyes, smiling softly, thinking of how they could turn a phrase to say what they really meant, but as if it wasn’t at all what they admired.

“I hate that yer a doctor, how ye never take my call, I hate the way I met ye, when I had that stupid fall.”    

“Well, I don’t hate it,” Claire said.  

“That doesna rhyme, Sassenach.”

Claire leaned forward, and rubbed her nose against her husband’s.  “You know what I really hate?” she whispered.

“What’s that now?” he whispered back.

“That I made such a fuss about coming on this trip.”  She gripped the curls at the nape of his neck.  “I am sorry, James Fraser.”

“Dinna fash, Sassenach.”  His lips met hers in a soft kiss of forgiveness.  “Now,” he said, smacking her bum playfully.  “Let me up.”

She shifted her weight so Jamie could stand.  He walked over to his jacket hanging on the back of a chair, palmed something from its pocket and came to sit back down, patting his thighs in a silent request for her to straddle him again.

In his hand was a tiny, very distinctive bright blue box tied with a white silk ribbon.

“What’s this?” she asked.

Jamie just smiled, the tips of his ears turning a faint pink.  

Claire pulled at the ribbon, and carefully lifted the lid.  Nestled inside, sitting atop the soft cotton was a sterling silver necklace.  

“It’s no’ much,” Jamie mumbled. “A wee memento of our trip.”

Claire put down the lid, and placed the tip of her finger on the tiny pendant.  “It’s just like The Bean in Millennium Park,” she said.

“Aye.  Reminded me of our first morning here.  Walkin’ together in the quiet of the city.  Watchin’ the sunrise.  Breakfast.”

She lifted the chain slowly.  Jamie took the box from her so she could put it on. She met his gaze, smiling gently, as she rubbed the smooth surface of the design.

She stood to go see it in the mirror.  The bean sat just below the hollow of her throat.  Oddly shaped, with just a small depression in its middle, it looked like a miniature version of the sculpture.  

Claire teared up. Again.

“Christ, Claire, ye’ve spent more time getting maudlin on this trip than I’ve ever seen ye,” Jamie said, coming up behind her and wrapping his arms around her middle.  He rested his chin on the top of her head.

How could she tell him everything that she was reminded of today?  How could she find the words to tell him what his love had meant to her for the past seventeen years?  

She couldn’t.  But she could show him.

“It’s beautiful, Jamie.  Thank you.  I love it.”  Claire tried to turn in his arms to give him a kiss but Jamie stopped her.

“It’ll look more bonny against yer skin,” he said in a low voice, deep with desire.  He grabbed the hem of her shirt and pulled up as Claire lifted her arms.  

A Dhia,” he said, his thumb lightly circling her nipple through the lace of her bra while his other hand splayed across her abdomen.  “What colour do ye call this one?”  

“Buttercup,” she breathed.  

He unclasped her bra, and she shimmied out of it.  

He filled his hands with her breasts, all the while watching her in the mirror. Claire dropped her head back onto his chest.  

He hooked his thumbs into the waistband of her leggings, and drew them down, settling himself on his knees in front of her.  He hissed in a breath when he noticed the matching knickers.

He swallowed hard, his eyes on hers as he leaned forward and placed a kiss on the small, dark triangular shadow between her legs.  He ran his hands over her hips and slowly removed the lace panties.

“Come to bed wi’ me, Sassenach,” he said when he stood up.  “And leave the necklace on.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Alec picked them up at the airport.  He didn’t say anything, but just lifted an eyebrow at Jamie in the rear view mirror when the lad climbed in the back seat to sit with Claire.  

Jamie just grinned.

They made it to the landing of their flat before the front door flew open, and Henry and Bree tumbled out to meet their parents.  Claire gathered both of her children in her arms.  She met Jamie’s gaze over their heads, saying with her eyes what she felt in her heart.  It’s good to see them.  Good to be home. But she had loved their time alone.  

They distributed gifts to Alec, Mrs. Fitz, Mrs. Crook, the Murray clan, and to Bree, and Henry.  They told stories about their trip over a huge lunch that had been prepared in their honour, and then everyone headed home.  

Henry was still telling stories about his week with his cousins as Jamie and Claire walked him up the stairs to bed hours later.

Claire could feel her jet lag kicking in, so she left Jamie to tell one more story, and made her way down the hall to her bedroom.  She spied Bree sitting at the top of the stairs.  Her daughter sat up straighter when she appeared.  

“Mum, can I talk to ye?”

“Sure, darling,” Claire said, settling down beside her.  “What’s wrong?”

“Are ye and Da okay?”  Bree looked earnestly at her mother.  Her eyes began to fill up with tears.  “Are ye gettin’ a divorce?”

“What?” Claire was shocked.  “No, Sweetheart!  Why would you think that?”  Claire put her arm around Bree’s shoulder and hugged her to herself.  

“Iona said her parents went away on a trip like you and Da did hoping it would help them get along.  Iona said her Mam and Da fight all the time and so they went on holiday and came back sayin’ they were gettin’ a divorce.  She said you and Da were probably doin’ the same.”  

The words came spilling out of Bree, in between the short breaths and hiccups, as she tried not to cry.

Claire spied Jamie out of the corner of her eye.  He was leaning against the wall behind them, arms crossed, listening.  

“Iona couldn’t be more wrong,” Claire said, smoothing Bree’s bright strands back from her brow.  She kissed the top of her head.  “In fact, Bree, your father and I had an amazing time.  It was a wonderful trip.  Look what he bought me.”  Claire pulled the necklace out from under her shirt.

“On our first day we went to see The Bean.  Remember the picture we sent?”  

Bree nodded, and lifted a hand to touch the necklace.

“Well, Daddy found this and gave it to me as a reminder of our trip.”

Claire cupped her daughter’s face in her hands.  “Brianna.  Daddy and I are fine. More than fine.  We aren’t getting a divorce.  Promise.”

Bree nodded again, and wiped her eyes.

“I was so scared, Mum,” she whispered.

“I’m sorry, darling.  I’m sorry Iona is hurting and that her parents aren’t getting along.  I’m sorry she scared you.  But we are fine.  Aren’t we, Jamie?”  

Bree turned her head sharply, surprised to find her Da nearby.  

“Aye.  It’s always been forever for me, Sassenach.”  He gave Bree a lopsided smile.  

Bree took a deep breath, and let it out in a huff.  She hugged Claire, then stood up.  

“I’m going to read in my room for a bit, okay?”

Claire stood, too.  “Sure.  This will have to be good night, I’m afraid.  We’re heading to bed at the same time as Henry.”  She winked at her daughter.  “Jet lag sucks.”

Bree gave her father a hug, kissed him good night, then walked down the hall to her room, and gently closed the door behind her.  

Claire slipped her arm around Jamie as they made their way to the bedroom.

They undressed, lost in their thoughts.  Jamie settled into bed, then waited for Claire.  She stepped out of the bathroom, turned off the light and made her way to her side.

“What’s this?” Jamie asked, one eyebrow cocked.  “I was certain I’d see ye wrapped up head to toe in flannel.  Was sure ye’d been missing yer layers of night clothes.”

“I’ve decided to turn over a new leaf,” Claire said, sliding into bed.  “Since you didn’t pack any for Chicago, it only took a week to realize the power of a good duvet, and the furnace that is my husband.”

Jamie grinned, and rolled towards his wife.  “Miracle of Miracles,” he whispered, nuzzling her neck.

“MUM!”

Jamie froze.  Claire sighed heavily, and crawled out of bed, grabbing a robe.

Jamie lay back, hands behind his head.  Home, sweet home, he thought.  

But he never expected to hear what he heard next.  

“Henry Julian James Mackenzie Fraser.  Your Auntie Jenny told me that you went to bed for her every night for a week without a fuss. Not one time did you call out for her.  So, guess what? You will do the same here for your father and I. You are fine.  You’ve had three stories, a drink of water, and a lot of cuddles. It’s time for sleep.  Sweet dreams.  We love you very much.  We will see you in the morning.”

Jamie raised himself on one arm as he heard Claire walk back to their room.

“Sassenach.  Ye hit him with yer doctor voice,” Jamie said quietly so as not to be overheard.  “Not even yer Mam voice, but yer doctor voice.”

Claire draped her robe over the chair by the bed, and climbed back under the covers.  “New leaf.  In more ways than one.”

She slid over towards her husband, their heads close, legs tangled together.

Jamie kissed the tip of her nose.  “I like this new leaf.”

“I should tell you,” she admitted shyly, “Jenny and I had a chat before lunch.  I told her we’d watch her brood one long weekend so she and Ian could get away.  Since the kids got along so well we decided maybe we could switch off more.  That maybe we all could get more time alone now that the kids were older.”

Jamie couldn’t help the smile that split his face.  “And she said?”

“I believe her exact words were, ‘Fuck, yes!’”

Jamie laughed, and kissed his wife properly before tucking her head under his chin, and settling into sleep.

“I love ye, mo nighean donn.  More than I did the day before.”

“I love you, too, Jamie.  More than I can say.”  She waited a beat, then said what was in her heart.  “I had a lovely time,” she whispered against his neck.  “It really was a wonderful trip.”

Jamie ran a hand down her back, stopping to rest on the curve of her hip.  “It was, Claire.  It truly was,” he whispered back.  

She woke in the wee hours of the morning, jet lag claiming her rest once again. In the darkness of the room she could see the outline of her husband next to her.  She could hear his soft breathing as he slept.  She reached out a hand, and gently combed her fingers through the curls at his nape.  He didn’t stir.

Seventeen years, she thought.  

She was grateful that she had been enough, that she had held his heart for that many years.

She was grateful that she was all he needed, and promised to be more for him throughout the next seventeen, and the seventeen after that.  

More present.  

More willing.  

More accommodating.  

She wished she had the ability to say what she felt as easily as he did.  Her Scot had the gift of words.  She did not.  

But she took comfort in one thing.

He was still here with her, thank God.  Tall and graceful, strong and loving.  The long straight bridge of his nose, and the auburn wave of his hair.  

Still mine, she thought.

Thank God

Chapter Text

December 23rd

Jamie unplugged the Christmas tree lights, and sighed heavily. He was bone tired.  He worked late that night knowing that the Distillery would be closed the 24th and 25th.  

Henry had been a challenge to get to bed.  He’d been poking and prodding at the gifts under the tree all night until Claire threatened to take every last gift back to the store if he didna stop.  She finally got him upstairs under threat of calling his Auntie Jenny and cancelling Christmas at Lallybroch.  

Jamie climbed the stairs, footsteps heavy, ready for bed.  

When he hit the top step, her small voice stopped him.  

“Da?”

“Aye, We’en.  Somethin’ amiss?”  

At 17, Bree was tall, and slender with long, wavy red hair, and ice blue eyes. She was a beautiful young woman, and it made Jamie both proud and sad to see how grown up she was.  The fact that he still called her ‘We’en’ was proof that he wasn’t ready to let his wee lass go. 

She motioned with her finger for him to be quiet, then beckoned him into her room.

He stopped in the doorway.  She grabbed his arm and pulled him inside, shutting the door behind him.  He looked at her quizzically.  Bree motioned toward her desk with such a forlorn look on her face he was immediately concerned.

“What?” he asked, genuinely confused.

“This!” she said, tears threatening.  “Look at it!”

Jamie picked up the ceramic vase that was laying on her desk. Blue and white, it had a gorgeous abstract floral pattern and was finished in a high gloss. She’d inherited her artistic talent from him, and he was always surprised at how good she was with minimal training.

“It’s beautiful, Bree.”

“Da!” She wrenched the piece impatiently from his hand and stood it on the desk.  It wobbled dangerously.  No matter how she tried to place it, it wouldn’t stand.  “It’s horrible. I dinna ken what happened!  I worked for weeks on this in class and now when I go to wrap it for Mam, it isna level!”  Her eyes filled with tears.  “I canna give her this.”

Jamie pursed his lips.  “I like it. It’s like a Lei Xue.” 

“It’s nothing like that.  It’s crap.”  Brianna looked up at him.  “Can ye take me tae the Christmas Market?  So I can get something else for her?”

“Now?”  Jamie looked at his watch.  “Bree, it’s 10:30 at night!”

“I ken that, Da. But we leave for Lallybroch tomorrow and I willna have time to go if we dinna go now.  It’s open ‘til midnight.  I checked.”

Jamie rubbed his eyes.  Christ, he was exhausted.  He looked at his daughter. The expression on her face was pure anguish. 

“Fine,” he sighed, unable to bear her pain, “Get yer coat.”

He left his daughter, and wandered down the hall to his bedroom.  Claire was asleep, table lamp still on, the book she was reading resting on her chest.  

He gently took the book, and placed it on the table.  She stirred.

“Coming to bed?”  She smiled sleepily, reaching for his hand.

Jamie sat down beside her.  “Believe it or no’, Bree and I are headin’ to the Christmas Market.”  

“What?  Why?”  Her eyes blinked open. 

He raised an eyebrow, and whispered, “Secret Christmas Mission.  Dinna fash,” he kissed her surprised mouth.  “We’ll be fine.”


They walked along the darkened streets, both silent and lost in their own thoughts.  Jamie couldn’t help smiling. 

“What’s funny, Da?” Bree asked.

“Nothin’,” he said, dropping his head in embarrassment. “I’m reminded of yer Mam, is all.  We shopped this market our first Christmas together.  Ye’ll remember I proposed to her at Christmas?”

“Didn’t ye break up for a bit?” Bree asked, hooking a hand through Jamie’s arm. 

“Aye,” he nodded. “But I wasna givin’ up.  Won her heart back in 12 days.” Bree laughed at her Da’s smug tone.  

They moved through the market, Jamie hanging back letting Brianna find her way.  By the determination in her step she knew exactly where she was going.
She stopped in front of a stall outlined in faerie lights, the glass ornaments glistened with the reflection, sending out hundreds of bright shards.  She looked back over her shoulder at him.  He hurried to catch up, and caught the tail end of her question.

“Do ye still have any glass vases?”  Her voice was polite but the desperation was obvious.  

“No’ verra many, lass,” the woman said, standing up from her chair.  “Let me see.”  She rummaged through boxes at her feet.  She yelled to someone behind her through a flap in the tent, then continued to look.

Time stretched.

She produced three from the boxes.  Bree sighed.  “No, thank you,” she mumbled.  “I was hoping for –“

The tent flap opened and an old man stepped through.  “Found this one.  All I’ve got,” he said.

Bree gasped.  Jamie laughed.

The vase was done in golden tones, from a sunflower yellow to a deep topaz.  It was like staring into Claire’s eyes.

“How much?” Bree asked, excited.  Jamie reached for his wallet.  She waved his hand away and produced a wad of cash.  She paid what the artist asked, declined the gift-wrapping option and accepted the bag.  

“Where in Heaven’s name did ye get all that money?” Jamie asked. 

“Babysittin’ Henry,” Bree said.  “Mam pays me.”

“Oh, she does, does she?”  Jamie frowned.  “News to me.”

“Aye,” Bree smiled up at her father.  “She said never to tell ye on account of ye saying,” she dropped her voice an octave and furrowed her brow in imitation of Jamie, “I’ll no’ be payin’ anyone to be a part of this family.”

Jamie rolled his eyes, then shook his head.  “The women in my family plottin’ against me.  I’ve no authority in my own home.”

They laughed together, Bree in relief of finding a gift she loved for Claire, and Jamie with the joy of spending rare alone time with his daughter.  

They started the walk home, Bree’s step noticeably lighter.

Not wanting the evening to end, Jamie stopped at the corner.  When the light changed Bree stepped off the curb, then stopped suddenly realizing her father wasn’t with her.  She looked back over shoulder.  “Da? Coming?”

Jamie inclined his head toward the pub to his right.  “Come, We’en.  Let’s have a dram in celebration.” 

Bree stepped back on to the street.  “Da.  I’m 17.”  

Jamie opened the pub door.  “I ken yer age, and I ken the law, Brianna.”

She stepped inside.  The place was practically empty at 11:30 at night two days before Christmas.  She laughed as the barkeep called her father’s name in greeting.

“Come here often?” she ribbed him, knocking him on the shoulder.

“No use denyin’ it,” Jamie laughed.  He motioned her to a seat, and went up to the bar.  A few minutes later two beers appeared, and minutes after that, a plate of fish and chips.

They shared the meal, sipped the golden lager, and talked.  And laughed. Jamie listened to her tell about school, complain about Henry, and tried to keep the drama straight as she gossiped about her friends. They talked about university and possible courses of study.  

When they shouted last call at 12:30, Jamie just about jumped out of his chair. “Christ, Bree, yer Mam will skelp my arse!  We need to get home.”

Goodbyes and Merry Christmases were shouted on their way out the door, and they walked the few blocks back home in companionable silence.  Jamie unlocked the front door, and let Bree head up to bed.  He hung up their coats, then turned in time to see his daughter coming back down the stairs.  She ran to him, and hugged him tight.

“Thanks, Da.  Ye’re the best.”  She dropped a light kiss on his cheek.  “Love you.”

And she was gone.  

“Love you, too, We’en,” he managed to choke out before she disappeared.  He had to swallow hard to tamp down the emotion.  

For the second time that night, Jamie climbed the stairs.  

He entered his bedroom, stripped quickly, and crawled into bed.  Claire stirred.

“What time is it?” she asked, sleepily.

“Late,” he whispered, snuggling up against her.

“You’re cold,” she said, shifting around to face him.  “What have you been up to? Playing Father Christmas?”

“Och.  That’s not a very sexy thing to call yer husband,” he teased.  

“Santa Claus, then?”  

“Christ.  That’s worse.  I’m no’ so plump and auld as that.”

Claire rubbed a hand across the stubble on his chin.  “There’s a bit of white in that beard.”

“Ye wound me, mo nighean donn,” he muttered, leaning in for a kiss.

Claire tasted her husband’s lips.  “You’ve been drinking?”

“Took my lass to the pub.  Christmas cheer,” he admitted, trying to steal another kiss. 

“You did what?” Claire pulled back.

“Sassenach.  I’ve taken her to her first movie.  Her first dinner out as a young lass.  To the father/daughter dance at school.  Now, her first drink at a pub.  If I canna show her how a man is to treat her, how will she learn what she deserves?”

Claire’s heart fluttered at the idea of what her husband had been doing over the years.  Jamie had never shared this before.  She rolled herself over and straddled him.

“James Fraser,” she whispered, taking his face in her hands and rubbing herself against his growing hardness, “It’s officially Christmas Eve.  I think you deserve to unwrap a gift.”

“Can I choose which one?” he said, low and sexy, hooking his thumbs on the waistband of her panties.

“Oh, I think so…you’ve been a very good boy…”

Jamie slid his hands under the silk fabric and grabbed his wife’s arse with both hands.  “I’ll start by unwrapping this…” he whispered.


December 25

Jamie smiled at Brianna as they watched Claire open the golden glass vase.  Claire’s delight in the gift was obvious.  She hugged her daughter tight, thanking her.

He slid the next box over towards his wife.  “One more, Sassenach.”

Claire opened the gift and reverently lifted out the blue and white ceramic vase.  “Jamie,” she breathed, “is this a Lei Xui?”  

Bree gasped.  She couldn’t believe her mother had mistaken her work for an artist like that.  

Jamie shook his head, then inclined it towards his daughter.

“Bree!” Claire turned her head slowly.  “You made this?”

Bree nodded shyly.  “It’s no’ verra good, Mam.  It won’t stand.” 

“Darling.  I thought this was…”

“Told ye,” Jamie interrupted smugly.

He sat back and watched as Claire praised their daughter, her style of art, and where she was going to display it in the house.  He watched Bree move over to sit with her Mam on the floor, shyly explaining what went wrong, and how she’d hoped to do a better job.  

Jamie welcomed Henry as the lad snuggled up beside him on the couch clutching his new rugby ball.  He held his son close as he listened to Bree recount the story of their trip to the Christmas Market.  

The early morning excitement of Christmas, coupled with Christmas Eve midnight Mass was catching up with Jamie.  He rested his head against the back of the sofa, feeling tired, but content.  His gaze travelled upwards, catching a glimpse of the portraits lining the second floor hallway.  His mother was smiling down at them all, the Frasers and Murrays crowding the lounge, colourful wrappings torn and strewn about the room.  Boxes and bows piled in corners.  

She’s just like ye, Mam, Jamie thought.  She’s a talented artist.  Stubborn.  Yet underneath it all lies a tender heart.  And God help me, when I look at her, I see you.   

He felt Henry getting heavy against him.  Jamie closed his eyes, and like his son, slowly drifted off to sleep, the warmth of his family, and his home, surrounding him.  

Chapter Text

“I’m nervous.”

“Och,” Jamie chided, watching his son try and knot his tie.  “Ye’ve better rhythm than yer father.  Ye’ll be fine.”

“Bollocks! Da, do I have to wear a tie?” Henry huffed.

“Mind yer language,” Jamie stepped behind 13-year-old Henry who stood facing the mirror.  He reached around him to adjust the ends of the tie so his son could try again. ‘What did the Headmaster say?  Are ties to be worn?”

Henry made a very Jamie-like Scottish noise in response.  Clearly, that was a yes.

While Jamie was still a good head and a half taller, Henry was growing fast.  He had a gorgeous mop of dark hair that Claire kept just short enough at the back to keep the hair off of his collar as per the school rules, but long enough that the curls were loose.  Henry also inherited Jamie’s sky blue eyes.  He was a good-looking lad, if Jamie did say so himself.

Even if he was a bit on the scrawny side, still. 

After the third attempt, Jamie took over.  Henry watched carefully.  When Jamie let go, Henry pushed the knot up around his top button and surveyed himself in the mirror.  “Can I untuck the shirt?”

“Christ, man, no ye cannot.”  Jamie shook his head.  “Step over, ye look fine.”

In fact, Jamie thought, ye’re dressed just like me.   Khakis.  Pale blue Barbour shirt with the cuffs rolled up mid-forearm, showing off the light-coloured plaid pattern.   

He reached for his aftershave and spritzed a bit on his hand which he then slapped on his neck.

“Does Mam like that?”  Henry raised one dark eyebrow.

Jamie’s lips twitched.  “Aye.  She does.”  She liked it just fine, if he were to tell the truth.  And hopefully she’d like it fine enough after work to take his clothes off so she could nuzzle his neck in that way that made his cock hard.

Jamie took a deep breath, and stamped his foot a bit, tamping down his obvious growing desire.

“Can I borrow some, Da?”

Jamie turned his head slowly.  He narrowed his cat-like eyes at the boy.

“Henry,” he said as casually as possible.  “What’s her name?”

“I dinna ken what ye’re on about,” the boy answered quickly.  Too quickly.  “I’m just…it’s my first dance and I just want to look nice.  Smell nice.  For dancin’.”

“Not too much, mind,” Jamie said, handing Henry the bottle.  “A little goes a long way.”

He watched as Henry mimicked his own actions, smiling softly.

“We should go.”  He let Henry lead the way, and turned off the light as they left the bathroom.

They rode to the school in silence, the February night already dark around them.

“Da,” Henry asked quietly, “How do ye ask a lass to dance?”

“Weel,” Jamie said, “Ye must be polite.  Invite her by her name, ken?”

“Like how?” Henry pressed.  “How would ye ask Mam?”

Jamie inhaled slowly.  “ ‘Claire, would ye like to dance wi’ me?’ Just like that. Simple.  Easy.”

“And if they say no?”  Henry’s voice broke on the last word and he cleared his throat.

“Ye say, ‘maybe another time’ and ye walk away.  And ye dinna ask again.” Jamie wanted to assure the boy that it would be fine.  That his first Valentine’s Day dance at school wasn’t going to be as serious as he’d built it up in his head.

“I’ve a tip for ye though,” Jamie said.  Henry adjusted himself in the seat so he could look at his dad, and give him his full attention.  “Ye must ask the taller girls to dance the slow ones, okay?”

“Why?”

“Because.  Ye’re tall for yer age.  There’s very few lads like you who are taller than the girls in their Form.  And tall girls are usually the ones standin’ on the wall wishin’ they were asked and cursin’ their height.  So, ye’ll never get turned down askin’ a taller girl to dance.”

Henry thought in silence for a moment. 

“What if my hand touches their arse by accident?”

Jamie’s head swiveled to look his son full in the face.  “I’ll thank ye to no’ let that happen.”  He turned his attention back to the road.  “Keep yer hands on their back.  And yer cock back, too.”

“DA!”  Henry looked out the window.  “Ye’re embarrassin’.”

“I’m not.  Happens by accident.  Just…just mind yer manners.  Be a gentleman. Girls love a gentleman.”

They pulled up in front of the school.

“Have ye money?”

“Aye, Da.”

Jamie smiled at his son.  “I’ll be here at 11:00.  Have fun.”

Henry went to open the door, then hesitated.  “Thanks for helpin’ me get ready, Da.  And for the advice.  I think.”

They laughed together, then Henry climbed out of the car, gave his father a brief wave, and bounded up the steps of the school.

Jamie watched his boy until he went in, then turned the car in the direction of the hospital.

He stood in the lobby and presented Claire with a bouquet of pink tulips, and the promise of an upscale dinner.  She leaned in for a kiss, inhaled deeply of his scent, and told him she’d prefer Chinese take-away and the promise of an empty house instead.

“Besides,” she said, “Shouldn’t leave these beautiful flowers in the car without water.”

~~~~~~~~~~

He’d gotten his wish.

After shutting the door to their flat Claire had leapt into his arms, her lips on his neck and her nose nuzzling the underside of his jaw.  All the while she worked to strip herself of her bulky coat, and pulled at Jamie’s, as well.  

When she’d started in on his shirt buttons, his cock was indeed, quite hard.  

“Slow down, Sassenach,” he chuckled, smiling into their kiss.

“We’ve got less than 4 hours.”  Her voice was husky, and urgent.

She yanked the tails of the shirt out from his trousers, and went for his belt.  

“So much for trying to look smart for our date tonight.”  He wasn’t really complaining.  This date was going exactly as he’d hoped.

“You did look nice,” she said, between kisses. “You smell incredible.”

They made it as far as the living room couch.  He’d gotten all of his clothes off, and Claire managed to lose half of hers, her undergarments the only barrier.  He sat back against the cushions, spread his long arms along the back of the sofa and watched his wife wiggle out of her panties.

“Yer bra,” he whispered.  

She reached behind her, and with a quick flip, the silky straps slipped off her shoulders and revealed herself to him.

“Dinna move,” he said, his voice raw.

Claire watched his eyes travel the length of her body.  He took his time, a small smile playing at the corners of his mouth.  He knew every inch of her body. None of what he was seeing was a surprise, yet he looked at her as if he was seeing her naked for the first time.

“Turn around,” he rasped.

She raised an eyebrow, but did as he asked.  

“Christ,” he moaned as she presented her backside.  “Ye always did have the finest arse in all of Edinburgh.”  She looked back at him over her shoulder.

“Seen enough?”

“Aye,” he bit down on his bottom lip.  

She came to him then, slowly straddling his lap, and gripped his face in her hands.  She pulled him to her, mouths meeting, tongues tangling.  She was boiling with want, urging him to meet her there, in the heat of her desire.

He gathered her to him, his arms wrapping themselves around her, pressing her to him until he could feel her breasts rub and flatten against his chest.  He consumed her, kissed her with a passion that rose in every fiber of his being.

Her hands were everywhere.  Tugging at his hair, clutching at his shoulders, sliding down the sides of his body.  

He could feel the heat of her, the warmth and wetness against his skin.  He lifted a breast to his mouth, rolled the nipple around his tongue until he coaxed the sweetest noises from her.

“Claire.”  His voice was a plea.  

She rose up slightly, took him in her hand, and lowered herself so agonizingly slow that he thought he would die from the torture of it.

She was tame, at first, working herself up until she craved more, then rode him hard.  Pressed herself against his body, rocking her hips until she shattered into a million little pieces.  He let go with a shout, Claire’s arse in his hands, and her lips against his throat.

Later, they fed each other Chinese take-away, all the while talking, laughing, exchanging kisses.

“Was he excited?” Claire asked, biting into an egg roll.

“Nervous, more like.  But he looked quite good, actually,” Jamie took the other half and popped it into his mouth.

“We need to get him soon,” Claire said, looking at the clock over the stove.  

“Aye,” Jamie nodded.  “Will ye come wi’ me to pick him up?”

Her answer was to nuzzle his neck again.

~~~~~~

When Henry climbed into the car he was buzzing with excitement.  Claire smiled when she noticed that he’d dressed just like Jamie.  He smelled a little like him, too, but more like a boy who’d danced so much he worked up a sweat.

“Was it fun?” Claire asked him.

“Oh, aye.  Great fun!”  As Jamie pulled away from the curb Henry looked out the window and waved goodbye to a few of his friends.

“How many slow dances did they play?” Jamie asked, catching his son’s eyes through the rearview mirror.

“Four.  Maybe five,” Henry answered.  He winked at his Da.

“Oh?” Claire turned around in her seat to look at Henry.  “Did you dance with anyone?”

“Aye,” Henry answered.  He quickly changed the subject.  “What did ye do for Valentine’s Day?  Anything special?”

Claire quickly turned back around to look out the front window.  After all these years, she was well aware of her glass face.  “Flowers from your father. Chinese take-out.”

“Ah bummer,” Henry said.  “I was hoping ye did something fun, as well.”

Jamie snorted.  

“Dinna fash, son,” he said, looking over at his wife who refused to meet his eyes.  “Yer Mam made sure she got exactly what she wanted for Valentine’s Day.”

Chapter Text

Claire slammed the door behind her with her foot, arms full.  She walked over to the couch and dropped her load.  Purse, doctor bag, an awkward sized garment bag, and her laptop case went tumbling over the arm of the sofa, and sprawled on the cushions. 

“Anybody home?” she hollered.

“Aye! Up here!” Henry’s voice carried down the stairs, followed by the thundering sound of his footsteps.  

Claire shrugged off her trench, and hung it on the coat rack.  She turned around just in time to see her son jump off the bottom three steps.  

“What in God’s name are you supposed to be?” she laughed, hands on hips.  

“Kylo Ren!  Do ye ken who that is, Mum?”  He was dressed all in black, complete with black cape.  His dark curls were pushed back off his forehead, and one long, jagged scar was painted down the left side of his face. He brandished his lightsaber menacingly, and with a small flick of his thumb, it lit up a bright red.

“I do know who that is,” Claire said, smiling.  “And I have to say, you nailed it.”  She looked him up and down.  “Whose boots are those?”

“Da’s.”  Henry grinned.  “He wears them with his kilt and he’s no’ gonna like that I nicked them but they’re perfect for this!”

“They are, indeed,” Claire agreed.  “Finish getting ready.  I’ll handle your father if he protests.”

Henry bounced over to his mother and gave her a quick kiss on the cheek.  “Yer the best, Mum.”  

Claire happily accepted the affection.  Henry was growing up so fast.  At 17, he looked more Beauchamp than Fraser, except for his father’s height and eyes.  Years of playing rugby had him built like a Fraser, as well.  

“What’s in the bag?  Yer costume?”  Henry indicated the garment bag on the sofa with his chin, the gesture mimicking his father perfectly. 

Claire threw her purse and medical bag in the closet.  “Yes.  It’s your father’s idea, and frankly Henry, I think he’s lost his bloody mind.”

“What are ye going to be?”  he asked, swinging his lightsaber back and forth. 

“I’d rather not talk about it.”  Claire sighed.  

“Need help?” her son asked.  

“Yes, if you don’t mind.  Just put that in my room.  I’ll be up in a bit.”

She watched fondly as her son grabbed the heavy bag, tossed it over his shoulder easily, and bounded up the stairs two at a time.

~~

Claire checked the clock.  Forty-five minutes.  For someone whose curls had been wash and go since she was 12, she was exhausted.  She tossed the flat iron onto the vanity, and smoothed her fingers through the straight strands.  A stranger gazed back at her from the bathroom mirror.  

Huffing out a breath she cast her eyes to the pièce de résistance reflected in glass.  

“Damn you, James Fraser,” she mumbled.  

She stood, ripped the offending garment off its hanger, and sighing deeply, stepped into it.  

~~

Henry turned his attention from the TV when the front door opened.  He couldn’t believe what greeted him.  His father’s red hair was now a dark black.  ““What did ye do to yer hair, Da?!  Ye look like that picture of Grandda over there!”

Jamie smiled at the thought of looking like Brian Fraser.  He slipped off his coat and hung it up.  “It’s one of those temporary things.  Supposed to wash out.  Or so I’m told.” 

Henry’s eyes widened at his dad’s costume.  He laughed, then started to hum and snap his fingers in imitation of the theme song to an old television show.  Henry shook his head at his father’s quizzical expression, realizing that to his tone deaf Da his performance wouldn’t sound like anything more than a buzzing noise. 

That’s when the realization of what Claire was supposed to be hit Henry.  No wonder his mother seemed so angry at his father. 

“What’s all that?” Jamie gestured to Henry’s clothes.

“Kylo Ren!”  He jumped up from the sofa, and struck a pose, lightsaber at the ready.  

“Christ.  Could ye no’ be Han Solo? Or Skywalker? One of the good guys?”  Jamie stepped into the living room to get a better look at his son.  “And are those my boots, ye wee gomeral?”  

“Aye.  Mum said I could wear them.”  Henry schooled his face into the picture of innocence at this slight bend of the truth.  Jamie watched his son carefully.  Clearly he was full of shite, but at least he had a better poker face than his mother.

“Where is yer Mam?” Jamie asked.

Before the words left his lips he caught sight of some movement at the top of the stairs.  One foot stepped down, and then disappeared again with a muttered “Damn you to Hell and back, James Fraser.”

Jamie raised an eyebrow at Henry, who shrugged in response.  A few moments later the elevator swished open onto the main floor.

Jamie gasped.  

Henry whistled.  

Claire stepped out in the tightest dress she’d ever worn.  All curves and angles, with her dark hair sleek, and shiny.  Her eyes were narrowed, glowing amber.  Jamie knew that look, and in truth it made him nervous.  

But dammit, if she didn’t look like sin herself.

“Sassench,” his voice cracked.  

“Are ye okay, Da?” Henry laughed.

“Haud yer wheesht,”  Jamie snapped.  He cleared his throat, and tried again.  “Ye look perfect.” 

“I can’t walk down a flight of stairs, Jamie.  God only knows how I’m going to go pee in this…this…contraption!”  

Jamie bit the inside corner of his lip to keep from smiling.  Claire was enunciating every word, which meant only one thing.  She was well and truly pissed off.  

“This is ludicrous,” Claire announced, and turned on her heel toward the elevator.  “I’m going to change.”

“Claire, NO!”  Jamie leapt forward.  “Mo ghràidh, please.  I’m beggin’ ye.  I’ve no’ won a Halloween contest at the Distillery party ever.” Jamie stepped in front of his wife, and bent his knees so they were eye to eye.  “Jenny’s been insufferable all week.  So’s Ian.”

When Claire raised her eyes to his, he pressed his advantage.  “I need ye.  Without ye I’ll suffer the humiliation of yet another staff meeting with my sister crowing over her win.  Just once,” Jamie said earnestly, “Just once, before I die, I want to best her in this.  Just once.” 

Claire closed her eyes, and pressed her fingertips to the bridge of her nose, sighing deeply.

“You and your sister, and your infernal competitions drive me mad.”  

“I ken that,” Jamie agreed.  “I do.”  He waited a beat, then asked again.  “So.  Can we go?  Will ye keep the costume on?”  

Claire opened her eyes, and took a good look at her husband.  “You rarely ask me to keep my clothes on.  This is serious.”  She heard Henry fake vomit.  

“It is,” Jamie confirmed. 

“And you dyed your hair.  Shaved, too.” 

“I did.  I went all in, Sassenach.”  Jamie stood tall in his striped suit.  

“Hold this a minute,” Claire said, shoving her purse into Jamie’s hands.  She opened it and rummaged around in the bottom.  Pulling out her eyeliner she expertly darkened the bit of moustache Jamie had left.  “There.  Now you’re perfect.”

Jamie spun around, and offered his arm.  “Ready, Querida?”

Claire rolled her eyes at her husband, already in character. 

“I have no idea how I’m going to get into the fucking car,” Claire bit out.

Henry choked, hearing his mother’s language, and stepped forward to open the door. 

Jamie continued to bite whatever part of the inside of his mouth that didn’t already sting.  

~~

It was the red rose that got her in the end.  

When they arrived at Fraser Distillery Jamie directed Henry toward Warehouse 3 where the party was in full swing.  Then, he took Claire to his office.  

He opened the door, and flipped on the light switch.  A long, thin, white box was on the table in the middle of the room, tied with a red ribbon.  Claire smiled shyly up at Jamie as she untied the bow, and lifted the lid.  A long stemmed rose was nestled into white tissue paper. 

“Jamie,” she whispered.  “How perfect.”  

“Who is Morticia Addams without her roses, aye?”  Jamie said, the lopsided smile she loved so much on his face. 

“So.  A prop, is it?”  She raised her eyebrows in mock disappointment.

“In the words of Gomez Addams, ‘To live without you, only that would be torture,’ so not really a prop.  More of a ‘thanks for being my partner in crime’ kind of rose.  I ken ye dinna feel comfortable in this get-up.  But for what it’s worth, Sassenach, ye take my breath away.”  He placed his hands on her hips and turned her toward him.  Slowly, he ran them around to the small of her back, and then down over her backside.  “Ye’ve no idea how fine this arse looks in this dress.  If I didna think the damn thing would split from tip to toe, I’d take ye right here in my office.”  

“Promises, promises,” Claire teased, and stood on tiptoe to kiss her husband soundly on the lips. 

An hour later, standing on the edge of the dance floor, she heard Jamie sigh heavily behind her.  Turning her head, she looked up at him.  “Wot? You don’t honestly think they’ve won.”

“Och, Sassenach, look at them,” he said, shaking his head in defeat.  “Mary Poppins and Burt, complete with a dance number?  She’s done it again.”

Claire turned to watch her sister and brother-in-law take their bows.  Yes, the number was cute, and the costumes pretty spot on, but no couple was more iconic than Gomez and Morticia Addams.  

Claire reached behind her, and cupping Jamie’s head brought it down so she could whisper in his ear.  “It means that much to you?” 

“I ken it’s silly,” he said.  She felt his shrug.  “But aye, it does.”

“Fine,” Claire stated.  “Channel that inner Gomez, and follow my lead.”  She took a couple of steps, then turned back around to face her husband.  “And don’t be shy.”

He watched as Claire spoke briefly with the D.J. then walked into the centre of the dance floor.  She crooked her finger at Jamie, much to the amusement of the bystanders.  When the music started he realized right away what she was doing.  

The Tango scene from the movie.  

She placed her hand in his, and with the barest quirk of her eyebrow, she lifted his arm and took tiny little steps around him.  Just like that she’d become Morticia Addams.  The crowd went crazy.  

When she spun around in front of him, and held out her arm to the side presenting herself for adoration, he did what Gomez would have done.  He kissed her hand, then all the way up her arm.  His lips traveled across the sensitive skin at the base of her neck, and he felt her shiver.  He nipped her gently, then darted out his tongue to soothe.  He heard his wife inhale sharply before he continued down her other arm.  He heard Henry shout, “Get it, Da!” and thought, Och, son, if ye only knew.  

Jamie didn’t know how to Tango, but by Christ, he was going to fake it for all he was worth.  Claire did most of the work, dipping and turning, all the while keeping her face as unemotional as Morticia’s.  At one point she gripped his shoulders and brought her mouth to within an inch of his. It stopped him in his tracks.  Unsure of whether to kiss her, he hesitated.  Claire slowly caressed his arm, and taking his hand she planted it squarely on her ass.  He could see the mischief in those amber eyes, and throwing caution to the wind he let his fingers flex into her flesh.  The laughs and cheers deafened him.  

When she grabbed him by the lapels and pressed herself fully against him, he couldn’t help it.  He kissed her senseless.  

~~

“I cannot believe you two!”  Henry announced when the front door shut behind them.  “Makin’ oot in front of everyone. Ye’re too auld for that.”  

Jamie waggled his eyebrows at Claire.  She snorted in response.

Henry wielded his labersaber one last time.  “Auntie Jenny was some ticked off.”

“Oh, aye?” Jamie asked, taking Claire’s coat and hanging it up.  He hadn’t stopped grinning since they’d taken the prize for best costume.  “What did she say?”

“Said ye’d never have won if Mam hadn’t,” Henry made air quotes, “ ‘acted like a hussy’. What even is that?”

“We gladly feast on those who would subdue us,” Claire announced, smugly.  “Addams’ family motto.  She’s a sore loser, that’s all.”  She held onto Jamie as she kicked off her shoes, sighing with relief.  

“Aye, well, I couldn’t have done it wi’out ye, Sassenach.” Jamie reached for her, and planted a kiss behind her ear. 

“Not in front of the boy, Gomez.”  

It didn’t matter, Henry was already in the kitchen raiding the fridge.  They bid their son good night, and headed upstairs. 

Jamie closed the bedroom door behind him.  

“Unzip me, please, darling?” 

He stepped up behind his wife, and with agonizing slowness drew the zipper down, his index finger trailing a path along her spine.  

Shrugging out of the dress, Claire shimmied and shook until it was off, then kicked it into a corner of the room.  Jamie licked his lips, admiring the parts of her that were finally free. 

He reached up and ran his fingers through the straight strands of her hair.  “Felt almost like I was steppin’ out with another woman tonight.  Ye look so different.”

Claire turned to face him.  “And I kept looking for my Scot.  I never realized how much I rely on your red hair to find you in a crowd.”    

“Yer Scot?”  He traced an indentation on her hip from a too-tight seam, her words clearly delighting him. 

“Yes, thank God.  All mine,” Claire whispered.  She made a face as she ran her fingers through his dark locks, mussing up the perfection that was Gomez’ hair.   

“It’s no’ so bad as all that, is it?”  

“Tell you what,” Claire said, reaching for the striped jacket and slipping it off her husband’s shoulders.  She tossed the coat into the pile with her dress.  “How about,” she continued, tugging at the bow tie, “we take a shower, and watch our alter egos disappear.”  She reached for the top button of his shirt while Jamie made short work of his trousers.  

“Aye,” Jamie’s pulse started to hammer.  “Fun fantasy, though, while it lasted.  Querida.”  He drew a finger along his dark moustache.  “Cara mia.”

“Well,” Claire grabbed Jamie’s hand and tugged him toward their bathroom.  “Call me whatever you want, if you want, when you want…as long as you call me Claire when I make you come.”

She turned on the light, and stepped into the shower. 

Jamie smiled, snapped twice, and turned it off.