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A Beautiful, Wild Country

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I hadn’t realised that I’d been silently staring through my windshield at nothing at all until my reverie was broken by Geillis’ knuckles rapping loudly on my window.

“Where the bloody hell have ye been, Beauchamp?!” She hissed, her eyes slightly crazed.

It was clear that she was fighting the urge to tap her foot impatiently as she stood outside the stairs to our flat dressed in a tracksuit, brandishing my dress bag like it was a weapon.

Switching off the ignition, I extricated myself from the car and fingered through my keys, finding the one for the front door and letting us inside with her right behind me.

“We agreed that I’d be here at nine tae start getting ready! It is now quarter to ten and yer no’ even showered! Do ye want me to have a heart attack on yer wedding day, Claire, is that it? Help ma boab!”

“I just had a little thing to sort at work before taking the next few days off,” I tried to keep my voice light and dismissive, hoping that she didn’t look anywhere near my glass face and see the secrets of the morning that I was trying to keep hidden, “Anyway, I’m here now. I surrender myself unto you.”

Holding my hands out to her, palms facing the sky, I watched her faux-anger melt into gleeful excitement. She grabbed my hands with her own, the dress bag discarded on the sofa and bounced on her toes slightly which made me laugh.

“You get in the shower and I will get everything set out for when you get out. We’re due to leave for Lallybroch at half twelve.”

I let her boss me around for the hour, not really listening as she chattered on incessantly about this and that as her fingers worked in my hair and on my face. She was too preoccupied with making me look like a bride to notice that I was distracted, thank God, and I allowed my mind wander to the morning that I’d had.

I watched Jamie walk towards me with a smile on his face, his long legs making easy work despite the thick the bracken and heather as the burgeoning rays of sunlight began to kiss the landscape that we were surrounded by. He was beautiful in his kilt and thick knit black jumper under his old beaten leather jacket that he’d donned to ward off the cold of the morning. He pressed a kiss to my forehead as his hands settled on my shoulders, pulling the matching Fraser plaid tighter around me to keep me warm. Underneath it I wore a simple ivory crochet dress that had been bought for a holiday and was now standing in as my impromptu wedding dress from the moment that I’d hastily pulled it from my closet in the small hours of morning. We had both donned our muddied walking boots that had luckily still been sitting in the boot of Jamie’s Landrover from our last walk around Loch Muick.

“Ready, Sassenach?” He asked quietly. The sound of his voice amongst the silence of the mountains was music to my ears.

“Yes.”

Our fingers twined together and we turned to face each other. Chasing the dawn as it rose over the highlands, we had driven further and further from Broch Mordha and into the wilderness of the mountains. We parked the car and walked for thirty minutes or so in complete silence, watching as the world woke up around us. We were far from any main roads, any structures apart from the odd croft or bothy that had sat on the land for hundreds of years, their walls now overrun by the unrelenting wild. After climbing over the crest of a hill, we finally stopped walking when we reached one of the most beautiful views I’d ever seen.

“Are ye sure, Claire?” he asked in a voice barely above a whisper.

I nodded.

Clearing the lump from his throat, Jamie produced his sgian dubh from his sock, the blade glinting in the sunlight.

“Just a wee nick, Sassenach,” he promised quietly but I had prepared myself for what was coming next.

Calmly, he opened the skin on his wrist until it began to bleed freely and then pressed the blade against my own wrist. It was so sharp that I barely registered the pain but watched with a detached awe as Jamie put his knife away and moved even closer to me.

Our arms laid against each other’s, Jamie quickly set about tying the strip of Fraser tartan that we’d brought with us, binding our hands together in the same handfasting that I’d seen at Geillis and Murtagh’s wedding, albeit without the blood. He had explained the ritual to me as we’d laid in bed, seeming a little embarrassed at the mere mention of something that could be considered quite primitive and immediately back tracking on the whole idea before I silenced him with a kiss. I told him that I understood what he was asking and that I wanted it too. Not only to tie myself to him in marriage but in blood. A vow that would inextricably link us for the rest of our lives together.

“Say the words wi’ me,” Jamie said with a smile as I appreciated the way the sunlight played in his eyes.

Together, we spoke the vows that he’d taught me, letting the words get carried away on the wind.

“Ye are blood of my blood and bone of my bone. I give ye my body, that we two might be one.”

Still tied together, Jamie wrapped his free hand around my waist and pulled me to him, our bodies touching at every available point. I couldn’t keep my eyes from him, transfixed by the beauty of the moment and the man that stood in front of me. Our voices came together in the air, as one, as we spoke the final part of the vow.

“I give ye my spirit til our life shall be done.”

Geillis was running around like a madwoman, endless trips from the flat to the car and back again with more bags than I knew that I owned. Jamie had been at Lallybroch since we’d returned from our morning trip into the mountains and I knew that Murtagh, Jenny and Ian were helping to prepare the house for the ceremony. I didn’t know what else could be left in our flat for Geillis to be carting with her but I didn’t ask. I smiled at my reflection in the mirror once more, smoothing the beautiful fabric of my dress just for the sheer joy of watching it shift under my fingertips and took a deep breath, smiling at Geillis in the reflection. She scowled me at playfully.

“What in the hell were ye doing at work anyway?”

“Hm? Oh, nothing. Just wanted to see about some test results that were due in.”

“Canna even leave the place well enough alone on your wedding day, can ye? Well, I hope whatever it was was worth it.”

I smiled to myself, “It was.”

As soon as the tires of the car began to crunch against the gravel at Lallybroch, Geillis had rushed me through the front door with the help of Jenny to ensure that Jamie didn’t catch a glimpse of me. Little did they know that it was all for naught. The scenes of our morning elopement played through my mind like a movie, the sight of Jamie’s crooked smile after a kiss goodbye being the last time I’d seen him.

Now he stood in front of me, the same crooked grin playing on his lips as he finished speaking, our vows to each other echoing the sentiment of the ones we’d shared earlier that morning when it had just been the two of us, committing to one another for the rest of our lives.

I give you my spirit til our life shall be done.

“You may now kiss the bride.”

His hands cupped my cheeks, firmly bringing his lips to mine.

Time seemed to stop and I was only vaguely aware of the sound of our family and friends cheering us on. Wee Jamie’s over excited ‘yaaaaas’, Murtagh’s raucous laughter and Geillis’ hoots when Jamie tightened his grip around my back and dipped me. I couldn’t help but grin against his mouth, our kiss breaking as he began to laugh with happiness.

“Claire Fraser,” he grinned, “My wife.

“My husband.”

We took the short walk through the old ruins of the church on Lallybroch grounds that we had married in, taking a moment to think of our parents who we knew were watching over us. The weather had blessed us and closing my eyes, I leaned back slightly and basked in the warmth of the breeze. Jamie’s grip tightened on my hand and I opened my eyes to see him watching me, his fingers brushing a curl behind my ear and fixing it there with a kiss before we walked the rest of the way to the house, our guests following on behind us.

Even though we were a small wedding party, we were surrounded by all of the people that we loved the most. Settling in the living room at Lallybroch, Jenny relished in the ability to play hostess as she bossed Ian and Murtagh around to organise drinks for everyone. Geillis and Joe sat cackling on the sofa as Wee Jamie fiddled with the belt of his sporran, having gotten over his earlier grumpiness when he realised that he only had a pretend sgian dubh. Jamie was showing him his own as a consolation prize, letting the young boy feel the weight of it in his hand. As everyone buzzed around with excitement in the aftermath of the ceremony, I managed to press myself against the wall and slip into the hallway, mumbling an excuse under my breath for nobody’s ears but my own. Shutting the door behind me, I let myself slip into the brief quiet and I let out a breath that I didn’t know I’d been holding, pressing the palms of my hands against the cool stone to ground myself.

“It’s not a dream, Beauchamp. But you’re not a Beauchamp anymore, are you? You’re a Fraser now. You are married to the love of your life.”

I could do nothing to contain the laughter that bubbled inside of me. I closed my eyes and let it happen, my cheeks aching from the sheer enormity of joy that I was filled with.

I heard the door creek open gently and immediately knew that he’d found me.

“There ye are. Murtagh was joking that ye’d ran off.”

Jamie had loosened his tie and rolled up the sleeves of his white shirt. I rested my hands on his forearms, being careful of the cuts that had bonded us together that morning.

“Well, it hardly seems worth it now,” I joked, my thumb running across the band that now rested on the ring finger of my left hand. Jamie pressed his lips against my forehead, mumbling his words against my skin.

“Have I told ye how beautiful ye look?”

“Only a thousand times but don’t let that stop you.”

He pulled away to look me in the eye, “Then ye are beautiful, mo nighean donn.”

“So are you.”

My husband’s lips found mine and we kissed slowly, savouring the moment of quiet that we were sharing together. My fingers played in the curls of his hair and I earned a groan when I scratched my nails gently against his scalp. He pulled away from me, smirking at me promisingly.

“Enough of that, ye wee minx. They’ll notice if we’re gone too long. Let’s go back, we’ll sit ye down and get ye a drink. Geillis is dying tae open the very large, very expensive champagne that she brought wi’ her.”

His hand caught mine as he turned away from me and I couldn’t keep my secret anymore.

“Okay but only one small glass. I really shouldn’t.”

“I’m sure she’ll put it away just fine on her own,” he grinned wryly before really hearing what I’d said. He stopped suddenly and turned to face me head on, “What are ye on about, Sassenach?”

My heart was thundering in my chest at the look on his face, his eyes searching every inch of my own to try and confirm his suspicions. I looked down as I closed the gap between us, taking his hands in mine before placing them on my stomach.

“I’m pregnant.”

It was the first time I'd said it out loud, even to myself. I hadn’t been prepared for the wave of emotion that crashed through me at the sound of those words leaving my own lips. Words that I never thought I would be lucky enough to claim as my own. The tears began to fill my eyes.

“Pregnant?” His question left him in a burst of breathlessness as he stared at his hands on me, “But I thought ye could not…?”

“It seems that I was wrong.”

His mouth was hanging open slightly as his fierce blue eyes blazed into me from under furrowed brows. Not for the first time, I wished that I had his ability to intuit exactly what he was thinking. I’d expected jubilance and was met with only stunned silence.

“When did ye know?” He asked in a whisper.

“I had a feeling this morning, after I left you. I can’t quite explain it but something just felt… different. So I ran to the surgery and took a test.”

Jamie stood so still that only the movement of his chest and shoulders betrayed that he was breathing slightly heavier than usual. I placed my hands on his cheeks and forced him to look at me.

“Are you happy?”

He moved faster than ever before, scooping his arms around my body and pulling me up onto my toes and tightly to his chest. I could feel his whole body shake as he pressed kiss after kiss to whatever skin his lips could find and couldn’t stop myself from laughing with joy. His cheek found the top of my head as he tucked me against his chest, against his heart.

“Happy? Claire, happy does not even begin to explain how I feel right now. I dinna even think a big enough word exists.”

I closed my eyes and let myself bask in the moment as tears began to flow freely down my face.

“Jamie, we’re having a baby,” I sobbed. He began to rock me where we stood, letting the sounds of gentle Gaelic sentiments fill the space around us. One he kept repeating more than others.

“M’annsachd,” he whispered as he moved his hands between our bodies, roving lightly over the fabric that encased our budding new addition.

“What does that one mean?”

He brought his eyes to mine and I saw for the first time that they were filled with tears, his lips curled into a smile,

“It means ‘my blessing’.”