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To See You

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Jamie was scrolling through messages on his phone killing time while waiting for Ian. They’d agreed to meet here for a bite and to catch up before joining the bunch over at Murtagh’s pub later where it would be impossible to have a quiet conversation. Ian was notorious for running late but Jamie didn’t begrudge him the inconvenience and marveled at how well Ian managed being married to his sister, Jenny, and their three children especially with Jenny expecting again. He smiled as he thought of the chaotic household the last time he’d been at Lallybroch with the wee demons running amok. He shook his head at the thought of adding another bairn to the mix and feeling a not so small tinge of envy. God bless ‘em.

He’d gone ahead and taken a table close to the entrance and was nursing his whisky while he waited. It was still early and comfortably quiet while folks trickled in, nodding to a few regulars as they passed.

He liked the food here, it was enough like home, and in truth he could prepare it just as well, but he didn’t always care to put in the extra effort when he cooked just for himself. A new chef had brought his own twist to old favorites and the place had been discovered. Once the newbie influx filled it later, the atmosphere would be completely different, and Jamie wanted to be well away from there before then and cringed at the thought of being trapped with the pretentious crowd.

Yeah, he was well acquainted with many of them, and they would identify Jamie as one of their own, but he still liked to hold himself apart refusing to be co-opted to their gathering.

Jamie looked toward the door each time it opened expecting Ian and noticed a couple standing near the entrance that also appeared to be waiting for someone.

“D…don’t say anything, let her take the lead.”

“Right, like I would, Mary. Please give me some credit.” His exasperation clearly evident.

“I…I’m s..s..sorry, I sh…shouldn’t have s.s.said that, I’m just s.s.so nervous for her. This is a big s.s.step.”

“I didn’t mean to be curt with you, I’m sorry. You know her, she’ll be fine.” He pulled her into a hug and gave her a reassuring pat.

Sassenachs. He subconsciously registered at their crisp English accents. Jamie hadn’t intended to listen to their conversation but was bored and decided to settle into one of his favorite past times, people watching. He kept his phone handy should he need to turn to it for cover, but real life was so much more appealing than what he could access on the small screen. Besides, he rationalized, the couple was making no real attempt to lower their voices and his curiosity was piqued with just those few sentences.

The lass, for that’s all she appeared to be, was a mere waif, whose slight stutter had become more pronounced when chastised. The fella to his credit apologized immediately.

The writer in him was always captivated by potential characters and story lines and his imagination took off. Their subject, a friend, a woman, had recently faced some major changes in her life. A break-up? Job transfer, promotion? No, not something happy, deserving of congratulations. Support, she needed them. They were here for her. Concern and belief; the man gave her credit for strength, the woman, hmmm, he wasn’t exactly sure yet, contradictions between the two. Definitely affection, he ticked off in his mind.

His phone rang and he saw the incoming call was from Ian. “Where are ye man?” he asked but continued to observe the pair as a few more patrons wandered in, none being their party.

He listened to Ian’s explanation that there was a traffic back up on the M80 and thought he was at least 30 minutes out. He was a bit perturbed not so much for Ian’s lateness, but that he’d have less time to visit than he’d hoped unless Jenny would unleash him for the night and let him stay over with him and wondered why they hadn’t planned that originally.

“Dinna fash, mo bhràthair, I’ll see ye when ye get here. I have a head start on ye though which I expect ye to catch up to.” Jamie chuckled warmly at Ian’s insult before disconnecting.

As soon as he’d heard the call end, he dialed his sister, Jenny. After five rings he thought the call would go to voice mail but a very harried sounding Jenny picked up the call. “Hey?!” the sounds of frazzled children filled the background and immediately had Jamie reconsidering the purpose of his call. “Jamie? What are ye calling for? Is Ian there with ye yet?”

“Ach, no he isn’t. Just rang up to let me know he was caught up in traffic on the M80 and was going to be late. Doesn’t sound as though I called at a good time. Is everything okay?”

Jenny laughed dismissing his concern. “Tis fine. Mrs. Crook is helping to wrangle wee Jamie into the tub which he does not want to do before he eats dinner, but he stinks to high heaven and I’m no going to let him come to the table until he’s washed up.”

“Did something happen?”

“He was out in the fields with Bran and they came across the carcass of a red deer and Bran decided to have a roll about with it. Well Jamie decided he had to pull Bran off it and Jesus Jamie, I can hardly stand my own child. He’s been chasing Maggie and Kitty about trying to grab ‘em so everyone’s a bit wound up. It’ll be hard getting ‘em down for bed tonight.”

Jamie was laughing at Jenny’s account imagining his nephew chasing his sisters about and the squealing that would be inevitable. “Why’d ye call?”

“Oh well, I was going to ask about whether ye’d let Ian stay over with me tonight since he’s been held up.”

“What, ye have to call and ask my permission? Does my clot-hied think he canna talk to me and ask himself?”

The sounds of laughter approaching drew Jamie’s attention back to the entrance and he cut his call short, “Sorry, I’ve got to go, Jenny, I’ll tell Ian to call when he gets here.” And hung up before hearing her response.

The couple he’d been observing turned toward the door at the sound as well as their faces lit up with expectation. A couple walked in arm in arm, laughing as they entered; the woman wearing a long cloak with a hood over her head against the rain.

“C…Claire!” the woman beckoned with excitement.

“Oo, I’m wet, sorry, just a sec, let me get this off,” as she rebuffed the embrace, she lowered the hood and moved to unbutton the cloak. Her date stepped up behind her and helped to lift it from her shoulders as she turned looking back over shoulder. “Thanks, Joe.” Her face was bright with the smile that exuded warmth and matched her laugh.

Another Sassenach, he registered noting her posh English accent and wondered why he’d even noticed; a detail for a character he was formulating? Jamie’s breath had caught in his chest as the head of glorious dark chestnut curls reaching well past her shoulders turned to reveal the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. Claire, he’d heard her named. She was tall and wore a soft white sweater with a deep vee neckline and he groaned in an exhale as he noted how her trim fitting black jeans clung to the curves of her small frame accentuating her glorious arse. Jesus ….

“Oh, it’s so good to see you, Mary, I’m so glad you could come,” and opened her arms as the young woman stepped into her embrace.

Jamie noticed Claire’s date, Joe, and the other fellow exchange a glance, as they shook hands without speaking and Jamie wondered what it was about.

“Don’t forget me, Claire. Do I rate a hug too?”

Claire turned toward “the fella” and smiled reaching him and running her hands up his forearms to hold his upper arms as she spoke, “Of course you do Alex, come here.” She opened her arms and leaned toward him, awkwardly bumping heads. “Oops!” she pulled back rubbing her forehead and sharing a laugh, hers being the most delightful, clear bell that Jamie’d ever heard. “Sorry about that, I shouldn’t have closed my eyes.” She laughed softly this time and turned and rested her head on his shoulder for a moment as she patted his back as though comforting him.

From where he was sitting Jamie had a perfect view of her aged whisky brown eyes as she looked directly at him. Jamie smiled at her embarrassed to have been caught staring and inclined his head a bit in a silent greeting before she closed them off to his view. She’d paid him no mind at all and he felt an unexpected disappointment, and dropped his gaze to the table though she held his entire focus and now intently eavesdropped on the conversations.

Claire pulled back and faced Alex, “Thank you for coming, though as Mary’s little lamb, I knew you were sure to come and I’m so glad.” She gave him a kiss on both cheeks as she started to break off from the embrace, but he pulled her back.

“He’s a fucking arsehole, Claire.”

Claire pulled back, blinking her eyes furiously staving off her tears, and forcing a smile. “Too right! But hold your darts. Wait until you see what Joe and Geillis have arranged for us at the pub after this.”

Joe’s an arsehole? No – someone else.

Jamie looked up as another small contingent led by a loud brash ginger headed woman, a Scot, entered and joined up with the others, most exchanging hugs. The other woman, an American, went over and gave Joe a kiss before turning to Claire for a hug. So Joe’s not her date. The new fella greeted everyone politely but no hugs were exchanged. The woman, Claire, she’s solo, was evidently the guest of honor for their evening’s gathering and Jamie matched up the group trying to puzzle out the dynamics. (Mary/Alex; Claire; Joe/Gail; Geillis; Denny)

Jamie’s attention was so caught up with the tableau developing before him he hadn’t noticed Ian step in with a group of others now crowding in the entrance until the hostess started escorting Claire’s party to their table. Their departure left an opening and Jamie noticed Ian standing in the door and started to rise from his seat to call his attention to their table. He lifted his hand in a half salute and called out, “Here, I’m here,” just as Claire was passing his table.

He’d been momentarily distracted with Ian’s arrival and missed that she was passing right in front of him until he’d hailed Ian, but now she hesitated in her step and turned her face toward him and gave him an impish smile, “So you are,” before she was led on by her red headed friend who was hugging Claire’s arm and turned and shot Jamie an appraising look over her shoulder after they’d passed him and then bent her head to Claire saying something.

Christ. Jamie plopped back down in his seat, as Ian joined him.

“What’s the matter man?” Ian clapped him on the back as he tracked Jamie’s gaze and an awareness dawned on him. “Oh, Jenny’ll be sorry that she missed this, I canna wait to tell her,” he smirked at his best friend as he shook his head.

“Tell her what?” Jamie dragged his eyes away from the woman and back to Ian and furrowed his russet brows in consternation. “There’s nothing to tell.”

“Oh, aye there is. Ye’ve been hit by an elf dart, a direct hit I’d say and found yer match James Fraser.”

“Dinna be daft Ian, that’s just superstition and folktales.” but Jamie couldn’t help but dare a quick look back at her.

Laughter broke out from his friend. “Jenny’d tell ye to close yer trap or ye’ll catch flies rather than that wee faerie.”

Jamie finished the remains of his drink and clamped his mouth shut as he turned to his friend ignoring his jibes and changed the subject as he signaled for the server to order. “Ye made it a bit quicker than ye said.”

“Aye, turns out a few cows were wandering about the roadway; traffic opened up once I got past the hold-up.”

“Well ye might give Jenny a call; I did and asked her if she might consider letting ye stay overnight since we’d be getting a late start. We dinna see ye enough as it is, what’s going to happen when ye have four bairns? Jenny’ll never let ye loose.”

“Five.”

“What d’ye mean five?”

“Twins… She wanted to wait to let folks ken, she’ll be mad that I told ye,” Ian couldn’t hold back his grin.

“Holy mother of God!” Jamie stared at him for a moment before he reached out and clapped Ian on the back in congratulations, his smile spreading into a wide grin. “I’m never going to catch up with ye. Can ye no give Jenny a breather?”

“Ye think it’s up to me? Ye ken yer sister, weel maybe no the side I do, she’s very “

“SEAS! Enough, I dinna want tae hear about ye impregnating my sister.” Jamie held up his hand with a look of horror on his face. “That’s as bad as thinking about Mam and Da having sex.”

Ian laughed at Jamie’s feigned horror, “Ye’ve got tae come down off the mountain and start before ye can think about catching up, and ye ken what it takes for beautiful, perfect weans as we have?”

“Good genes?”

“Aye, that helps, but practice, practice and more practice,” Ian scoffed and patted Jamie’s arm as he waved Ian off. “What about that lass ye’ve been eyeing, dinna think I havena noticed, she’s awfully bonny.”

Claire, her name is Claire.

Jamie unerringly looked in the direction Ian had and his gaze immediately landed on her. Her party had been seated at a table just a couple down and across from Jamie’s and as luck was blessing him this evening, Claire was seated directly across from his view. She was seated between the redheaded woman on her right and the man he’d thought her date was on her left but next to him sitting at the end of the table was his wife and Jamie noted the way he kept holding her hand though his attention seemed focused on Claire. Actually, everyone’s attention was.

“Aye, she is.” Jamie wanted to say more but was reluctant to endure more teasing from Ian. He’d shelved his love life after the Annalise debacle and aside from casual dates urged on him usually at the insistence of wives of well-meaning friends, no woman had caught his attention or held his interest and he wasn’t sure what had triggered it now. She suddenly looked directly at him and awarded him with a smile that warmed him to his backbone. Christ, how she touched him, his Sassenach, unconsciously laying claim to her.

Chapter Text

“Ye need to do this Claire. I’ve been spending so much time here with ye, hell, I need this.” The get together had been Geillis’ idea; she’d persisted until Claire finally caved in wondering if all Scots were so damned stubborn. One last hurrah, not that that was what it was supposed to be, but how Claire had come to think of it, a chance to put on a good face and say goodbye to a few of her friends outside the confines of the hospital.

The hospital, her home away from home for the last four years, had become her home for the last two months. Once her sanctuary, a place to lose herself in the healing of others it had become her prison forcing her to now find herself – who she was to be and she could not wait to escape its confines.

Geillis assured her it was to be low-key, nothing to get her too excited, or anxious, no vigorous exercise so dancing was off the table, no alcohol, no coffee, in other words, Boring with a capital B. Just keep calm and carry on.

But Geillis had insisted and determined she would handle the arrangements, Claire just needed to show up. Despite her reputation for outrageous behavior that she assiduously cultivated, Geillis was as stalwart and loyal a friend as anyone could ever want, not to mention an incredible neurologist. Despite their differences, they’d been fast friends since university, starting out in the same medical program and Claire was thrilled when she moved to Edinburgh with Frank to find that they’d be working in the same hospital.

“The only good thing he ever did for ye was get ye to move here and that was no for ye, but because it suited his needs.”

“Well you’re here, it hasn’t hurt your professional opportunities and development.”

“No, but this is what I’ve always wanted. I’d never live anywhere but Scotland. When I have a man breathing hot and heavy in my ear, I want to hear him come with that burr rolling off his tongue. Ye really need to try it Claire, nothing gets me off harder. But wait, that’s no what I’m talking about right now.”

“He convinced ye to turn down that Fellowship in Boston because that position he wanted at Harvard fell through, if it was ever even a genuine offer,” she scoffed. “I’m glad ye’re here, dinna get me wrong, but it was yer dream to work with Dr. Raymond. I ken this isna the same, but ye have a rare chance to experience what it would be like to be on the receiving end of his skills. This is yer chance to decide what it is that ye want.”

So, Claire had lain there in the dark for nearly two months weighing her advice and considering the decisions she’d made in the past and where they had led her to this point and which direction she’d take next. Balancing the reality of her options there was only one if she had any glimmer of hope that she might survive and so she determined to be the good patient until her team finally deemed it was time for phase two of her treatment.

She was down to just two days before she’d be leaving to attempt phase two with few expectations of a successful outcome. She convinced herself she was only being realistic, but when pushed, admitted she was scared to be hopeful not wanting to be crushed, so that was how she came to be here. And then she heard him and knew Geilie was right, she wanted to hear him crooning in her ear when he came and felt a clenching in her womb, a feeling that had been absent for a very long time. She mused how some people insisted their relationship had sparked because “they spoke” to each other; this man had literally spoken to her and she felt electrified.

x0x0x0x0x

Ian had finally insisted it was time to leave for the pub, he’d already gotten five texts from the fellas wanting to know what the hold-up was. Jamie had reluctantly agreed and with a final glance over his shoulder at his Sassenach, allowed Ian to push him out the door. He’d practically dragged his feet as Ian shoved him along to the pub wanting to turn back with every step. It was just his ragtag pack of friends, they'd understand, wouldn't they? They’d all been hanging together since they were weans given all the family ties, but friendships continued through school and had stayed as close as grown up lives and commitments permitted.

“Oi! Jamie! Ye gotta come see this!” Angus Mohr called over from the group gathered round the darts station.

“Gimme a minute and I’ll be there. I’m gonna grab a round for Ian and me,” as he waved his hand and made his way over to the bar. “Hey Murtagh, how’re ye doin?” and reached over the bar and clapped his godfather on the shoulder.

Murtagh was already drawing a couple of pints for him as Jamie hunched his shoulders and leaned across the bar. “Well as can be expected I guess.” Murtagh slid the pints across the bar to Jamie, checking him out for the first time. “What aboot ye. Lookin pretty glum there.”

Jamie shook his head not wanting to discuss it, “It’ll pass,” not believing it for a second, lifted his glass and took a swig while he turned and leaned against the bar surveying the crowd, hoping for a distraction. “What’s going on?” Jamie indicated the gang with his chin before he turned back to Murtagh.

“Oh, some group is coming in a bit and wanted to have some special entertainment for their party. I’d said it’d be okay, but I didna expect this,” as he shook his head dolefully and took up a towel and started wiping out some glasses to keep his hands busy.

“What special entertainment? Ye’ve got some dancers tonight?” Jamie’s brows lifted closer to his hairline as his interest returned to the group and thought he’d make his way over to see what the draw was.

That was before he felt a hand smack him in the back of the head and his shoulders shrugged up as he ducked his head in response. He whirled back to face Murtagh with a glare, “What’d ye do that for?”

“Ye ken I dinna hold with those hoochee coochee dancers, sides I’d need a permit to have ‘em. I’m not looking to get shut down or looking for the types of folks they’d pull in.”

Jamie grinned at him, “Ye had a good enough time when we went out for Rupert’s stag night. We had quite a night of it and if I recall, ye did especially. What was her name, Suzette?”

“My point exactly,” Murtagh got busy polishing the invisible spot from the glass he was currently holding. “I couldna stand another night of yer crowd hootin and hollerin and raising mischief; much less every night. I appreciate my quiet. Let’s a man come and contemplate his woes if need be.”

Jamie chortled at Murtagh’s phiosophising and picked up Ian’s glass from the bar, “Ye’re no wrong there,” he nodded in agreement. “Ach, well I guess I just have to go see for myself what’s got the fellas all wound up,” and walked across the room toward the group.

He nudged Ian as he joined the gathering and enjoyed Ian’s chuckle as he turned to take the drink Jamie held out as his eyes widened taking in the sight drawing everyone’s attention and laughed heartily.

“Ye canna breathe a word of this to Jenny or I’ll always be wonderin what she’s up to when she’s got her phone in hand while I’m traipsing about in my all together. Could leave a man with a complex,” he grimaced.

“Weel, I guess we’ll each have our secrets then, I willna tell if ye dinna,” and Jamie lifted his brow in a conspiratorial question as he stared at Ian and waited until he received a reluctant nod of agreement.

Chapter Text

Willie shouted over to Jamie, “So what do ye think he did to deserve this, Jamie?”

Ooooowwww. Jamie had internally cringed when he first saw the two life size images mounted on foam core of a man, front and back stark naked, except for the black executioner’s blindfold over his eyes, bulls’ eye targets superimposed over his upper and lower quadrants and a verra small fig leaf precariously scotch taped over his cock. He took a swig from his glass as he rocked back and forth from his heels to toes and considered what ill deeds, he had committed to warrant such treatment, a few crossed his mind as everyone loudly expressed their own ideas.

“Well, whatever his sin, I’d say the sod definitely messed with the wrong woman.” Hoots greeted his assessment.

“Well you’re quite perceptive, extra points for you if you land a shot.” Jamie felt a shock bolt through him as he felt her touch on his back as she steadied herself, “I’m glad you’re here.” She’d leaned up against him rising on her tiptoes and whispered toward his ear, “Jamie.”

Christ!  It was as if he’d never heard his name spoken before as he felt her warm breath caress his cheek. He held still, collecting himself for moment before he turned, it couldn’t be. “Sassenach,” he breathed out not believing she was here and speaking to him and seeing a brief glimpse of hurt darken those beautiful eyes, realized he’d said it aloud.

She’d lowered her gaze away from him and the smile he’d felt when she spoke, faded away. “I know what that means,” she stepped back, disappointment evident.

IFFRIN! “I meant no harm, truly. It's just when I heard ye speak before, I realized ye’re English, and ...I’m sorry if I offended you, I did not intend to.” Jamie felt himself sinking deeper in the bog with each passing second wondering if he'd be forgiven his faux pas.

“No worries, not today,” she interrupted. If she hadn't known what it meant when he'd said it, she would have thought it an endearment the way it rolled off his tongue. She decided to give him the benefit of the doubt and a small smile crept back, though it was not as full of warmth and teasing as it had been. “I’m Claire; Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp,” and she stuck out her hand and raised her eyes back towards him though not meeting his fully.

He wanted to kick himself; he'd do anything to have her look at him, to see him, smile at him as she had before. Jamie took her small hand, engulfed in both of his and held it for a moment before impulsively lifting it and brushing his lips across her knuckles, and placing a light kiss on it. “James Alexander Malcom Mackenzie Fraser.” He spoke each name distinctly his rich deep burr oozing like warm honey as he spoke. “My pleasure to meet you, Claire.”

She raised her eyes to his with a slight lift to her left brow, her eyes were a bit unfocused as she tilted her head and peered at him as though looking through him, searching his soul, and while he felt terribly exposed, he wanted her to know all of him as he wanted to know her and reluctantly released her hand after giving it a tender squeeze.

“So ye ken my name,” he smiled down at her.

“I asked,” she gave a slight shrug, “I wanted to know who owned your beautiful voice.”

“Och, well ye do me an honor, thank ye. I canna recall anyone ever saying such before.”

“I don’t believe that for a minute. I can just imagine,” Claire halted before finishing her thought or giving voice to it, being lulled to sleep with your voice in my ear.

“Imagine what?” Jamie prodded gently.

“Claire!” she turned toward her name just as a hand grabbed hold of her arm. “Did ye ask the fox to join the party?” Jamie looked at the interloper to their conversation and noted Claire rolling her eyes but her beautiful face shining with a wide smile.

“No Geillis, I haven’t had time.” Claire responded good naturedly.

“Ye’ve had enough time to ask and take him out back and enjoy a good shag, ye just need to manage yer time better.”

Jamie couldn’t help but let go a small chuckle at the brashness of the woman but looked at Claire to see her reaction and if she might be offended by her friend’s suggestion but was relieved that she was smiling.

“Geillis what have I told you about talking to strangers like that?”

“Ye ken his name, so he’s not a stranger.”

“Jamie this is my friend Geillis, though I don’t know why I keep her.”

“Because ye love me, and I’m yer best friend, despite Joe’s claim,” and gave her a quick kiss on the cheek as she wrapped her arm around Claire’s shoulder turning up to Jamie. “So, we’re celebrating tonight, d’ye want to join us?”

“What’s the occasion?”

“Nothing special, just an impromptu get together with some friends I haven’t seen in a couple of months, and I’m going to be doing some traveling, so I don’t know when I’ll see them again.”

Jamie felt he’d been kicked in the gut. No! Ye canna leave now.

Claire heard the quick hiss of Jamie’s breath not sure what was the cause but felt her own disappointment. Timing sucked.

“So, care to join us?” and held her breath, please say yes, please.

Jamie hoped that the wistful look that he noticed flit across her face was for him, that perhaps she was disappointed as well.

“Aye, I would if ye dinna mind a few others joining in. My brother-in-law came into town and we’re meeting up with some friends for darts.”

“Perfect!” Geillis shouted, “we’ll make this a real party. I told ye Claire we’d have some fun. Let’s get started. Hey, Denny go get us a round of shots while I explain the stakes. And keep ‘em coming!”

Claire turned to Jamie and shrugged as she chuckled, “You may as well give in. Once Gellie gets started, there’s no stopping her.”

“Claire?”

“Oh Joe!” she turned to the man that had come up behind her, the one that Jamie’d mistaken as her date. “Hey, this is Jamie. His group is going to join our little party. What say you, …the more the merrier?”

Jamie noticed as Joe moved closer to Claire’s side, he draped his arm around her shoulders and saw the light squeeze and smiled at her. Jamie knew that look, he’d deny her nothing, but even so made sure to take Jamie’s measure as he looked over to his group of mates. Jamie wasn’t offended by the protective gesture. “Sure Jamie, happy to have you join us. Glad she found you, what are the chances? When you and your friend left,” a sharp jab of her elbow stopped him.

“Joe, please,” the blush rose quickly up Claire’s neck to tinge her cheeks a soft rose.

Jamie felt an arm come up across his back as a hand settled on his shoulder, “Jamie, so ye found yer faerie!” Without looking he could see Ian’s grin as he chuffed, “Ye ken the man wouldna stop talkin’ about ye.”

“Ian,” the plea was low and drawn out. Joe looked between the two as Jamie blushed to the tips of his ears.

“My sister’s husband, though I think she’s soon to become a widow,” Jamie growled out while the others laughed at his expression.

“Let’s move this back to the table while Geillis gets things sorted, shall we? Come on Ian, I’m Joe by the way, best friend.”

“Me too!” Ian laughed as he followed Joe.

“Well this is embarrassing,” Claire laughed.

Jamie leaned down low and whispered into her ear, “Some might think so, but I’d rather say this is fate. Shall we enjoy the evening and see where it leads?”

Chapter Text

Claire could only nod as she felt the heat from Jamie’s touch blazing through her as he placed his hand on the small of her back gently pressing her forward.

“Here take my seat, Claire.” The young man stood as they approached and reached out taking hold of Claire’s elbow pulled her toward his chair.

“Ye’re Alex, … and Mary.” Jamie acknowledged the couple having heard their names, earlier, “I’m Jamie. Thank ye Alex, …here Claire,” as he subtly stepped in and took the chair while Claire seated herself and pushed it in slightly, and Jamie assumed a position by her side, not so subtly staking his claim.

“Hey Jamie, I’m Gail, Joe’s wife. Glad you could join us,” she confirmed his thoughts with a friendly wave from the end of the table where she stayed seated. “Mary, come sit here so Jamie can sit next to Claire,” and waved at the vacant seat next to her and gave her a broad grin and a wink that Jamie wondered at while the shifting of seats commenced.

“Denny, …Friend,” casually joined the intros as he set down a tray laden with shot glasses. “Enough?” as he looked around three more bodies joined the gathering.

“Looks to be; we can get the next round. This is Angus, Rupert and Willie,” Jamie pointed to each man. “Dinna mind Angus, his mam dropped him on his head repeatedly when he was a wean, but we take care and look after him,” and gave him a good-natured jab. “And Ian, there.”

“Oi! Jamie. Dinna let the lasses hear ye say that,” Angus rebuffed Jamie’s introduction.

The deep gravely voice of Rupert joined in, “Angus, if we tell ‘em up front, they take pity on ye. Why d’ye think ye get so much attention?”

Geillis stepped up on an empty chair and waved her arms calling the group to attention and claiming everyone’s. “Okay, so ye may have noticed our special set up for this evening, featuring our favorite wanker, who we do have to thank for contributing the prizes. Hold on, let me finish,” she cautioned.

“We have three events in this tournament tonight. We’ll no be rushing through this; we’re going to take our time and enjoy the evening. Ye’ll need to partner up with someone, so find yer buddy now.”

“What’re the games to be?”

“Well the first is darts,” as she waved her hand at the full frontal. “Fig leaf is bull’s eye, triple points. Then,” as she pulled from her back pocket a sizeable black butt-plug and held it up for display, “plug the arsehole,”

Before Geillis had finished, Angus was waving both hands in front of him as he pointed to the instrument she had been waving about, “I’m no touching that.”

“Dinna worry, never been used and if not this, I’ve got a selection of toys for ye to choose from, I’m sure I’ve got yer favorite in there.”

Angus maintained his refusal with a firm shake of his head and crossed his arms across his chest, in a defiant stance.

“No? Perhaps, I can tempt ye a bit. Denny bring me my bag, would ye?“

“Gee Geillis, what’ve you got in here?” as he hoisted the bag closer to her on the table, clinking glass was obvious.

“Be careful!” she huffed a groan of relief as the bag was settled, “Patience all. I wasna going to tell ye before, but yer forcing my hand here Angus, so I’ll just lay it all out. Claire d’ye mind?”

Jamie looked at Claire who had joined in the laughter along with everyone else, but had become quiet in the last few moments, and was looking pensive now and glanced back toward Geillis. With a small shake of her head and a quiet. “Please?”

Something in her expression broke Jamie’s heart and he reached over and laid his hand on top of hers. Claire flinched from the initial touch but felt the warmth of the hand and looked toward Jamie and relaxed turning her hand to hold his. “Sass…Claire? Are ye okay?” he spoke just loud enough as he leaned towards her so that only she could hear.

Claire bobbed her head in the affirmative, but her eyes were glistening and her lips were quivering. Jamie stood and heads swiveled in his direction. “I’m just going see Claire gets some air. Continue on; we’ll catch up when we get back,” and pulled Claire up from her seat and she leaned toward Jamie. “Come on,” and holding her hand led her away.

Geillis saw Claire’s response, and watched her for a moment and looking to Joe and Denny before she continued. “Well, it seems I’ll just have to keep some secrets for the time, but as a wee bit of incentive… We can find a lot of faults with Fr.., the afore unmentioned arse, but ye canna fault his taste in whisky, except,” and she raised her finger and leaned forward, surveying the group making sure she had everyone’s attention, “he squirrels it away for ‘investments’,” she air-quoted, “instead of enjoying it as God intended.” This proclamation was met with a room full of catcalls and boos. “I guess I should mention he’s not Scot and maybe we should hold that against him too,” more jeers greeted her declaration. “Sorry my friends,” she looked around at her small entourage, “ye’re good people even if ye werena born here, ye’re a Scot at heart and we’ll keep ye.”

“So, for each round of games, we have a prize and then an overall winner when all the scores are totted up. To keep ye on yer toes the Grand prize will be a bottle of Mortlach 1951 Private Collection.”

A hush of appreciation fell over the group before a clamor set in from other patrons requesting the chance to be included.

“WHAT?!” a gruff new voice chimed in loudly as Murtagh abandoned his post at the bar and approached.

“For the first round of darts, how about a bottle of Linkwood 1953 Private Collection?” Geilie reached into the magic bag and pulled out a wood and glass sleeve that held the etched crystal decanter and set it down on the table in front of her to a chorus of appreciative oohs and awws.

“Who needs a partner?” Murtagh cried out, “Willie, ye’re with me.”

Cries of others calling for a partner filled the pub.

“Yer office?” Jamie asked as they passed an exuberant looking Murtagh who just absently nodded permission and waved his hand in its direction, and then Jamie called back to him as the excited clamor grew, “Ye best bolt the door if ye dinna want a brawl!”

Claire felt herself being pulled along by Jamie and trusted he would care for her as she had suddenly felt an overwhelming wave of emotions surface. She’d done well keeping them pent up before, but it seemed the dam had been breached and she could hold them back no longer.

Jamie led her into the office and released her hand as he closed the door and leaned back against it and just watched her as his heart thumped in his chest, sure she could hear it.

“Jamie?” she stood still waiting for him to respond but the silence enveloped her.

Finally, his soft rumbling voice came to her, “I’m here.” And she turned towards his light away from her darkness.

Chapter Text

“Ye can have yer secrets, but please dinna lie to me. Ye’re no okay. He hurt ye.”

Claire just stood there lost until she felt his presence move closer and then a pair of arms gently wrap around her and she leaned forward resting her forehead against Jamie’s chest as she nodded silently acknowledging his comment and felt his arms tighten around her and she let hers slip around his waist and held onto him.

“You’re much bigger than I imagined. Geillis’ description didn’t do you justice.” Claire knew he was tall just from where his words originated above her and when she’d touched his back to speak to him the first time as she stood on tip toes and slid her hand up his back, she had a hint of his stature, but she wanted to touch him, explore all of him with her fingers, her mouth, her body. A shiver of suppressed desire ran up her spine.

“Would ye tell me?”

She nodded and whispered back hearing the tenderness in Jamie’s request and knew she needed to tell him, “In a minute. This just feels so good.”

She felt a deep rumble from his chest, “Mmhmm, ye do.”

Roars of protests and laughter penetrated the door and Claire felt Jamie’s head turn in that direction and she started snickering breaking the intensity of the moment and grateful for it. “Well I guess she’s filling them in on more of her rules. You’re stuck with me if she’s gone that far. Do you mind?” as she pushed back and looked up towards him.

“Nah, I’d say ye’re stuck with me. I’ll have no one else.” And she felt his lips press against her mess of hair before he gave her a squeeze and stepped back but holding to her arms. She immediately missed the feel of him, the comfort, the safety.

“Would ye sit and talk with me?”

“Yes, sure, but you’ll have to lead, I don’t know my way around this neighborhood,” she tried to ease the situation with her humor.

Jamie took her hand and led her over to a well broken in leather settee, and gently positioned her so that it bumped against the back of her legs and let go of her and took a step back from her. She understood what he was doing and grateful for the small action. Trusting him, Claire eased down holding her hand out until she made contact with the seat, the only sound in the room was the creaking of the leather as she slowly finished sitting and getting settled.

“I’m gonna have a whisky, would ye like something?” as he moved across the room to Murtagh’s private selections.

“Just water, please, I can’t have anything alcoholic right now.”

“I can make ye some tea or coffee if ye’d like.”

She smiled at his kind offer. “No caffeine either. Water’s fine, thank you.” Claire heard the small sounds associated with the preparation, a bottle being unstoppered, the clink of glass on glass and burble of liquid being poured and finally Jamie moving back towards her. She felt him as he lowered himself to the seat next to her and she tilted in towards him as his weight strained the old springs. He sat facing her with a knee drawn up onto the seat and she turned sideways as well so their knees brushed and accepted the glass he placed in her outstretched hand. She took a small sip of water before speaking, “You seem to know your way around pretty well, spend a lot of time here?”

Jamie smiled in recollection of the nights he’d spent sprawled on the larger sofa. “No as often as I used to. Murtagh’s my godfather and he was always a haven when I needed an escape. Now a days, the lads and I will get together here once a month or so, try to keep up with each other. Ye ken how life gets in the way, ye have to work a bit harder at staying connected to yer friends and family.” Jamie sipped at his drink intently watching Claire moving her eyes about the room, everywhere but at him as she sipped her water willing her to look at him so he could see her beautiful amber eyes. “There’s a table just to yer right if ye’d like to set yer glass down.”

“Thank you.” Claire switched her glass to her left hand as she reached with her right to determine the table’s location in relation to her and when satisfied, set the glass down.

“Do ye mind me asking why? Ye dinna have to tell me unless ye care to.”

She turned toward him then and took a deep breath. “Why the pretense or no alcohol?”

“Whatever ye wish to tell me, I’d like to ken.” Jamie leaned forward and took hold of her hand.

She grasped hold of it, twisting her fingers until they twined with his and bowed her head over it finally speaking. “It’s easier when we’re touching, you’ve got nice hands.”

“Thank ye,” he set his glass down and reached over and laid his other on top of hers, stilling her nervous movement. "Ye dinna need to be scairt of me.”

“I’m not.” She gave him a reassuring smile, but then turned shy as she settled back into the corner of the seat, Jamie leaned forward to not lose hold of her hand. “I know this will sound a bit far-fetched, a bit bad rom-com, but when I walked past you earlier this evening, I felt you were calling to me, they were the most beautiful words I’ve ever heard.” Here. I’m here. She recalled how his voice called to her, a siren song meant just for her.

“Silly isn’t it?” Finally, she was looking directly at him as she spoke and her smile radiated and Jamie had to take a deep breath, he’d been holding his too long caught up in watching her and hearing that she’d also felt the connection.

He shook his head in disagreement as he returned her smile until it registered and spoke, “Ach, no silly a’tall.”

“Honestly, I about drove Geillis crazy asking her to tell me what you were doing, how you looked when you laughed, every bite you took. If I could have followed you when you left, I would have,” a small tinkling laugh accented her truth, “but Joe put his foot down. He has plans for me in a few days and doesn’t trust me to stay away from trouble, I seem to have a knack for finding it, and well… here you are. Are you trouble, Jamie?” She tilted her head and smirked at him.

“Could be the worst kind for ye if ye’ll have me.” The words came unbidden, but he meant them, offering himself. Elf dart indeed, Damn ye Ian! Putting such thoughts into my head, more likely it was Da’s promise that I would just know. And he did.

“Have you?” In a heartbeat, right here. Jamie watched as her expression shifted from hopeful to neutral when she started speaking. “I’m flying to Boston day after tomorrow, part of the reason for no alcohol, adverse reaction with some meds I’m taking. I’ve been in the bloody hospital for the last two months, hoping it might resolve on its own with meds. It’s responded but it’s been a stubborn bugger and well I need to have surgery or accept that this is permanent for as long as I live, and that…, I can’t accept that, not without trying. I’m scheduled for a surgical procedure with hopes that it will reverse my current situation.”

“Can ye no say it?”

“I can, but tonight is supposed to be about escape, about being who I used to be – well almost, or as much as possible, so I’ve been pretending.”

“Ye’re verra good at compensating.”

“Well you saw through it, what gave me away?”

“It was just some small things, on their own would be verra easy to miss. Yer friends take great care of ye. I dinna think anyone else would even have noticed.”

“But you did.”

“Aye, well, tis as Ian said, I’d no taken my eyes off ye since ye first came through the door at the restaurant, and then when ye touched me, …what a wonderful surprise to have ye find me here. I hated to leave ye there. Ian told me I was acting like one of his bairns being dragged away from their play toys to go to the dentist, but I’d made a commitment and needed to stick to it. He said if it was meant to be, we’d meet up again.” He couldn’t help the grin that lit up his face.

“So, fate is it?”

“Ye’ll no find me thumbing my nose at it since ye’re here.”

Claire imagined she could hear the earnestness in his comment and laughed. “Well, maybe I’ll be a convert, throw caution to the wind.”

“Would that be so bad, to take a chance?”

She didn’t have an answer for that and let the quiet pull them together.

“And him? I could see ye were upset when Geillis was speaking about the arsehole.” Jamie thumbed over his shoulder in the direction of the raucous celebration continuing outside their haven and finished with a deep rumble that Claire interpreted as disapproval of said arsehole and laughed.

“Him? No, no that wasn’t it really, Geillis and I have different ideas about how I should deal with it. I hide – no canes, no dogs – I’m not ready to admit no hope yet, but she’s in my face. I love her, but she’s very opiniated and has a very forceful personality, if you haven’t noticed. This is my first outing since the accident and I needed to escape the pity that I’ve been drowning in. I know it’s well intentioned, but difficult to be on the receiving end.”

“What about yer accident, what happened?”

Claire shook her head gently from side to side as she considered Jamie’s question. “You know the expression ‘There is none so blind as those who will not see.’ Well I could be the pathetic poster girl for it.

I wouldn’t unpack my baggage now, except for the elephant in the pub; kind of hard to miss I’ve been told,” as she waved her hand dismissively. “I’d been with my now ex for a few years, we’d been engaged, but never set the date and that was okay, we both had other priorities, just evidently not to us. A few folks, friends included, had insinuated that Frank was straying. I don’t know if I didn’t believe them or just didn’t care enough to confront him until I walked into his office and saw him with my own two eyes fucking his TA.” She clenched her eyes shut against the memory, if only that would work to shut it out.

“You know, if he wanted to break it off and be with someone else, fine, just do it, but Jesus H Roosevelt Christ, what I can’t forget is how he looked when he saw me – he barely paused before grinning at me and continued slamming into her, the fucking bastard.”

Her calm had been replaced by anger as she opened up and Jamie could see her shaking. “Yes, I was hurt, and I couldn’t get out of there fast enough and because I was a klutz I slipped and fell down the stairs and took a good knock, several of them on the head. The result is I now have a compression of my optic nerve.” She couldn’t tell the whole story, that was enough. “So keep fingers crossed.”

“Aye, all of ‘em.” He selfishly thanked God that Claire could not see his face crumble at her news. His eyes glazed with tears. He could not trust his voice to not break with the grief for her that filled him. He could fill in the blanks that she was leaving out. He took her hands between his two and with his thumbs traced infinity symbols on the back of her hands and in doing so pledged himself to her for whatever time they might have, knowing he just needed to convince her. Then lifting her hands, bent and placed a kiss on the back of each, sealing his silent pledge. Claire leaned toward him and he rested his forehead against hers.

A tap at the door pulled their attention along with the voice, “Hey Claire, you’re missing your party. You and Jamie are going to have to forfeit your turn if you don’t come out soon.”

Claire took a deep shuddering breath before calling out. “Just a minute Gail. We’re coming.”

She pulled her hands from Jamie’s and tentatively moved them to his face cupping his cheeks. “May I? I’m curious if you look like I imagine.”

Jamie just nodded and she shifted her position to her knees and his hands automatically rose to grip her hips and steady her as the cushion shifted with her weight. “Steady,” he said under his breath, not sure whether intended for Claire or himself, felt the soft give of her as his fingers tightened their grip, and eased up when he realized what he was doing but he didn’t release his hold on her.

She leaned closer as her fingers began to explore the contours of his face. A minute? Did I really just say a minute?  Hours would not be nearly enough time to memorize the planes of his face, as her fingers traced his high cheekbones back to where his jaw met his ears and then down the length brushing the stubble on his cheeks. She tilted her head and quirked her brow, “Nordic? you’ve definitely got Viking ancestors, as tall as you are and those beautiful cheekbones.”

“Aye, my family goes back a longways.” She changed from using just the tips of her fingers to skretching through the bristles along his jaw with her trimmed nails, back and forth as her thumbs brushed away the traces of an errant tear.

“Don’t cry, please,” she whispered, and it took all the strength he had to honor her request and not let more spill.

Her fingers met at the base of his chin and felt the small cleft there and she smiled as she traced it up to his lips and ran her fingers along their length as it curved up into a smile. His lips puckered out to catch it and smiled when he’d succeeded with a small chuckle. She gently withdrew it and placed it in the center, and he gave it a quick kiss. She smiled as she continued her exploration, moving to his brow. Jamie closed his eyes as she traced the shape of his eyes. “Cat’s eyes. What color are they?”

“Blue.”

“Oh? but what shade of blue? There are so many… How would you describe them?”

Jamie was finding it hard to think of anything else but Claire’s touch as she peered at him so closely, watching the tip of her tongue touch her lips as she bit her lower lip while concentrating and feeling her breath on him, counting the freckles that were spattered like flecks of paint across the alabaster skin of her nose and cheeks.

“I dinna ken, …blue?” I’m a writer for Christ’s sake and all I can come up with is blue?

“Alright,” she snorted a breath through nose and smiled and tilted her head to the other side, “blue they are, but I’ll use my imagination.”

“Oh? And how would ye imagine them?”

“Mmmm,” her fingers paused in their exploration, thinking as she stared into their depths and smiled, “maybe like the waters off Ibiza or along the north coast of Egypt.”

“Ye’ve seen them?”

“Hmm, hmm, they’re beautiful, could just spend the whole day lazing away in them.”

He closed his eyes as she continued her exploration as she ran her finger along the straight ridge of his nose then surprised him when he opened his to find her in kissing distance with an odd look on her face.

“Did ye just sniff me?” he chuckled as her face bloomed a delicious pink.

“Well,” she pulled back as the blush deepened, “when you lose one sense, the others become more sensitive and you smell delicious, citrusy and woodsy. What is it?” This time she leaned in until her nose was nuzzling his neck and breathed deeply.

A Dhia! “Ah, um, I dinna remember, something Jenny bought me.” And without thought, he found he was turning his head and leaning forward as his fingers tightened their hold as she pushed back the collar of his shirt moved her nose to the juncture of his neck and shoulder. “Ye like it then?”

She pushed herself upright away from him, Iffrin. Dinna stop. “I do, but there’s something else…”

Jamie found himself a bit short of breath and his heart pumping a little faster, “I’ll look up what it says and tell ye.”

Claire smiled at him and swatted at his shoulder in a familiar gesture, “I very much doubt they have eau de Jamie listed as an ingredient. It’s you  that makes it so very appealing. Now if you could bottle that, you’d have it made.”

“If that’s the case, I’d be verra happy to let ye have a sniff whenever ye wish,” his hands slowly slid up from her hips where he’d been holding her steady to her ribcage and eased her forward as he leaned in wanting to close the distance.

“That’s verra kind of you,” she tried to imitate his accent teasing him, “I’ll keep it in mind.” She stretched her fingers up into his hair and ran them through the length of it and Jamie practically purred as she twisted her fingers through his curls, “Gellie says you’re a ginger, but not a carrot top, darker, richer, more auburn with glints of copper. So soft,” she whispered to herself, until her fingers came to rest at the nape of his neck and unconsciously kneaded the tenseness that was there.

“Hmmm,” he relaxed his head back into her hand, “I would have ye do that all night, feel yer touch on me.” Jamie finally opened his eyes to see hers closed. Her lips were slightly parted. “Would ye open yer eyes for me? I want to see ye looking at me.”

Jamie waited a moment until she responded, lids fluttered and blinked before remaining open but searching for him. “Yer eyes are so beautiful, the color of fine aged whiskey with little flecks of honey,” he released one hand to trace her brows with one finger and trailed it down her cheek watching as her pupils enlarged further and smiled seeing her arousal reflected in them. “Claire, I’d verra much like to kiss ye. May I?” They’d come so close, but he held himself back wanting very much to take her to himself, but she’d had so much taken away he would wait, he thought.

“Not yet.” It was a breath.

Damn it, he’d not really expected that as he had already started to move toward her lips, but she continued with the next breath.

“Once we start, I will not want to stop and well I guess there are some folks,” she nodded her head in the direction the knocking had come, “that may be a bit impatient. Can you. . . will you wait? Will you come home with me?”

Jamie nodded and then spoke, “Aye,” knowing he would deny her nothing, but asked, “but d’ye understand what ye’re asking me, what this means?”

In truth she had no idea what it meant to him, but here she was ready and willing to take a chance, give herself over to a him, a stranger, but remembered Geilie’s comment, she knew his name, but it was more. “I think so.” There was a hesitancy when she spoke.

Jamie pushed a lock that had fallen across her face back and tucked it gently behind her ear then wove his fingers into her hair and pulled her face so close she could taste the whisky as he spoke, “Well, it means, I am yers as ye are mine.”

“Oh.” It escaped on a breath, totally unprepared for that. God, why now?

He pulled away from her gently untangling his fingers from her tresses, “Ye think on it. I need ye to be sure.”

Another knock, more insistent, “Hey, I’m calling time!”

Jamie reluctantly stood and pulled Claire up, “Ye ready to beat the pants off of ‘em?”

Claire laughed as he led her to the door, “You haven’t heard the rules yet.”

Gail stood on the other side of the door a look of concern flashed across it momentarily, as they passed but then a smile as she exchanged glances with Jamie, noting his blush as he finger-combed his hair and Claire’s stunned expression. “The boys are getting restless.”

Chapter Text

Rupert called out as the pair approached the group noticing Jamie’s arm wrapped securely around Claire and wearing a wide grin. “Ye certainly took yer time, did he let ye get enough air, Claire?”

Claire had been a fog as Jamie led her back to their friends obsessing over what he’d said and wondered how she could think of anything else.

Realizing her name was being called, she looked toward it. “I’m sorry, what did you say?”

“I asked if ye got enough air,” Rupert bellowed sharing a laugh with the folks around them.

She realized she needed to focus on what was happening around her if she was to keep up her pretense. “Just coming up for it,” her coy grin was greeted with hearty laughter as Jamie blushed at the jeers and combed his fingers through his hair.

Wondering how he was going to help Claire keep up her pretense through the game asked, “Okay, so we’re shooting darts, what’re the rules?”

“Each partner gets a flight of four darts. Ye must decide between you who is taking the upper and lower quadrant targets as laid out. First ye gotta take a shot before each throw and since Claire canna drink, ye must take hers Jamie.”

“Oi! What d’ye mean she canna drink?” someone shouted out, “we’ve all taken our own shots before we took our turns.”

Silence hit the group as Jamie turned toward the pugnacious patron and glowered at him but before he could speak, Claire beat him to it. “If you had a pregnant wife or girlfriend, would you really expect her to drink?”

A vigorous shaking of the objector’s head accompanied his apology, “Begging yer pardon, ma’am. No, ma’am,” as he observed a wall of Highlanders take up position behind her.

“Too right, you wouldn’t. So, let me get on with my toss, and my partner here will double his handicap. That should be satisfactory don’t you agree?” Claire turned on her heel to face Jamie who she had felt standing right at her back.

“Is he looking?” She whispered.

Jamie leaned down to her ear with a very low chuckle appreciating her tactic at turning the tables on the lout, “Ye’re a canny one,” until a thought occurred to him…and felt his heart race a bit. “Ye’re no, are you?”

“Def…in..it..ely not, but let him think what he wants,” she whispered back.

“Shall we get on with it then?” her voice returned to being commanding.

“Aye, we shall,” he couldn’t help but grin down at her and catching the smiles from her group of friends and looked over the target. “Alright, it doesna seem so difficult. Sassenach, d’ye want tae go high or low?” Claire turned and quirked her brow. “It doesna matter,” he offered in attempted reassurance, “I’m verra good, and tween us I’m sure we’ll do fine.”

“Eh Jamie, I think she forgot to tell you one of the rules. We all have a handicap, one of us has to wear a blind fold,” Willie announced laughing.

Claire shot her hand in the air grinning, “I volunteer.”

“Nay, Claire,” Geillis put her off, “ye have to abide by the rules like everyone else has. We draw cards to see who wears the blind fold, high card loses. Ladies first.”

Geillis presented her with the deck of cards and let her cut. “Queen of hearts! Wouldn’t ye just ken, come on.”

“Alright yer draw Jamie. She’s left a lot on the table for ye, always somehow manages to self-sacrifice. Do yer best!”

Jamie reached out and took a deep exaggerated breath for the benefit of the group, before he made his cut and held it up. “King of Hearts! Did none of ye not see that coming?” she turned and looked in amusement.

“Oh aye, not just hearts, he’s the King of Men,” Willie chortled, “just wait til ye get to know him.”

“Willie,” Jamie admonished him but turned and bowed all around at the good-natured jibes that greeted him. “Aye, that’s me, at yer service.”

“D’ye want to go first, Sassenach?”

“That’s fine, but may I have a word first, …alone?”

Holding her hand, Jamie pulled her aside and leaned down to hear what she had to say. “Why are you calling me Sassenach?”

Claire felt his warm hands, large hands that nearly spanned her back, slide down to her hips and hold her securely as she felt him take a step closer and felt his heat radiating from him. He bent low to her ear, speaking only to her as she felt his gentle grip increase. “To remind ye that ye’ve accepted me and have invited me to yer bed. And whenever ye should hear it ken that ye’re my English woman, no one else’s. Aye?”

Claire turned her head toward where the party was congregating hearing the murmurs of conversations, bursts of laughter and imagining her friends watching them and blushed. She’d always been so damned independent, never needed, nor particularly wanted anyone in her life, she could hear Frank’s accusations echoing from her memories, and that was the crux of the problem. She hadn’t wanted him!

Yet here she was, at probably close to the lowest point in her life standing toe-to-toe with a man, stranger though he was, to whom she was inextricably drawn. And he was right.

“Dinna look to them, Sassenach,” she felt his fingers gently grasp her chin and lift it toward him, “Here, I’m here, Look to me.”

If it had been possible, she would have seen the blaze in his eyes as he looked at her and a look of hope brush Jamie’s face as his brows furrowed in question. Instead she had to concentrate on keeping her balance as her knees went weak.

Who was she to question the fates, and gave him a brilliant smile, “So you are.”

She felt Jamie’s warm fingers brush a curl behind her ear, and his hand cupped her cheek. “So ye understand? Ye agree?” his voice was low and husky and full of want.

“Yes, I do,” She breathed out, and felt the heat of her flushed face and suddenly a pair of lips were pressing against hers then pulling back slightly before pressing in again a bit harder before pulling back reluctantly. Her fingers went to her lips.

“Sorry, I ken ye wanted to wait; I shouldha asked, but God Sassenach, ye’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen.”

“It’s alright.

“Alright, let’s show them,” he reverted to his playful encouragement and led her back to the target area ignoring the inquisitive looks and thanking the saints that his friends were holding their tongues for once, though he didn’t miss Ian’s smug look; perhaps it was thanks be to Ian.

He walked Claire forward, speaking quietly, just for her as the others milled about drinking and laughing. “Reach out yer hand, up just a bit and to yer right. Aye, now that’s yer goal.”

Claire looked at the target as though examining it and brushed her fingers lightly across where she knew his heart should be if he had one. She reached up with trembling fingers and remembering well how it had felt to stroke his cheek. It had not always been bad.

She felt Jamie lean low, his breath hot on her neck as he whispered, “Are ye done with him? . . . I’ll no want to share ye with a ghost.”

Claire paused for only the briefest of moments before turning and facing him with a smile. “I’m sure, Jamie.”

“Okay, Sassenach’s going high and I’ll go low. We’ll alternate throws. Gimme those shots.”

Jamie helped Claire find her position and leaned low giving her a word of reassurance as she fiddled with her dart. “Ye can do it. Just have courage and let it fly.” And she did just that and flung her arm wide and let loose her dart sending bodies diving.

“Sweet Jesus, Mary and Joseph! Are ye blind woman?!” Murtagh bellowed in indignation as he plucked the dart from his arm.

“As a bat!” Claire crowed and clapped her hands together trying to stifle a laugh. “I’m sorry. Did I hit someone?”

“Just Murtagh, he’s had worse,” Jamie’s laugh boomed as he wrapped her in his arms from behind and rocked her. “Ye’re a brave wee lass. I’m proud of ye.”

“Atta gurl, Claire!” Geillis cheered “Denny, look at Murtagh. See if he needs medical treatment. Ye’re lucky ye’ve got four of the best surgeons in Scotland in the house!”

Questions and comments flew through the group as Claire’s entourage sat in bemused silence, but the expressions on their faces ran the gamut between Joe’s concern, and Mary’s admiration.

“What d’ye mean? Are ye truly blind?” Rupert waved his hand in front of her face and pushing it close to see if he could garner a reaction.

“Dinna be an infant Rupert,” Jamie chided him, pushing his hand away.

“Did ye ken, Jamie? I couldna tell, could ye tell?” Ian wrapped his arm around Jamie’s shoulder in amazement and then looking closely at his friend, “Elf dart, I told ye,” and smacked him on the back.

“If she canna see me, d’ye think I have a chance?” Angus took a step closer.

“Get away with ye, Angus.” Jamie gave him a gentle shove.

“Hey, then does she have a friend?”

Geillis called the group back to attention. “Okay ye all ken it now that Claire’s had a little set back and sidelined for a bit, due to this wanker, but she’s on her way to full recovery so this is a celebration that she is free from this idiot. So, join us!” and started chanting “Freedom! Freedom! Freedom!” which everyone in the pub raucously joined.

Claire laughed and turned to Jamie her face flushed with the excitement and the encouragement she’d gotten, “Can you tell she’s a holdout for the Free Scotland movement?”

“We willna hold that against her.” Willie retorted.

“Aye, we commend her for it,” Rupert voiced his support, nodding at her choice.

After several rounds, Geillis quieted the chant, “Okay, now that the bat is out of the cave, let’s let team Claire continue. Just mind that everyone step back behind the firing line when it’s the lady’s turn.”

Jamie took the blindfold offered by Mary and tied it around his eyes. “No cheating now Jamie,” Rupert warned, but stepped back when Jamie turned toward him.

Jamie paused and turned back and regained his position, setting his feet. He felt a wave of anger roll through him at this man that had treated Claire so poorly. On her behalf he would debase this worm. Jamie visualized his image as it stood propped against the wall. He raised his arm and rested the dart against his shoulder and closed his eyes against the dark of the blindfold wanting to see as Claire did and let fly his dart.

“OOooooos” from most of the men greeted his shot as he slipped the blinder off. He was a bit north of his goal, but happy enough with his first toss.

“Yer turn Sassenach,” and pulled her forward as he was presented with his next two shots, which he downed without pause.

He pulled Claire to the line and stood behind her adjusting her position, she could feel his heat radiating off him, and resisted the urge to lean back into him. She allowed him to lift her arm and bring the dart back and then followed to release position while keeping her hand clasped around the dart. “Remember when ye’ve got it there, release it and let yer hand follow through. Ye’ll do fine.”

Jamie stayed planted in his position while she made her toss and hit the target to the cheers of everyone encouraging her. She felt a hand grab her and let it pull her forward and recognized Angus’ excited gab. “Here feel, this is your dart. Ye did good, ye landed it.” As her fingers touched it, he gently brushed them across the target and stopped a foot or so away to the right and a bit lower and tapped her fingers repeatedly on the target. “This is where ye want to hit. Ye’re pulling yer arm slightly across before ye release. Let it go a heartbeat sooner and see if ye dinna come closer.”

“Thank you, Angus, I’ll try to remember,” and squeezed his hand when he returned her to Jamie’s care.

“Alright, your turn. Ready to do better?”

Jamie adjusted the blind and took the dart breathing slowly and deeply as he readied his toss, pulling to mind the target and let fly. “Nice one!”

“Get me positioned, would you? I’m ready,” Claire announced with confidence as she felt Jamie at her back. Closing her eyes as she had done all through medical school while memorizing pages of anatomy, she pulled at them and visualized the image of Frank, standing there in front of her. He was a prick, and he might have hurt her years ago when she thought she loved him, but right now she just felt contempt for him. Whether he cared for her or not, he revealed his true self in his behavior after her injury. Not once had he come to see her when her life was very much in the balance. He’d packed his bag and left for a conference “that he could not miss” with his assistant in tow, “Claire would understand.” She now believed he would not have mourned if she’d died, had perhaps hoped for it and it was only because they were living together in her house that Joe had arranged to have the locks changed and the house secured against his return and Geillis was now serving up his prized collection. “PRICK!”

Laughter and cheers broke out as her toss hit home.

“No way!”

“Wot? Did I hit him?”

“It doesna count! She was off target!”

“She called it before she let fly, she should get bonus points!”

The deep rumble of Jamie’s chuckle was tickling her ear. “Remind me ne’re to get on yer wrong side Sassenach. Ye were to aim high, but I think ye made yer point. Ye got him in the fig leaf,” and kissed her temple.

Claire’s hand moved to where Jamie’s lips had just been and caressed her skin and felt a warmth flood through her. “I did?!” She beamed, pleased with herself, “beginner’s luck.”

“I think we can move on to the next round. What d’ye say?” Geillis called for everyone’s attention, “Gail will tot up the scores for darts by the time we finish this round.”

Chapter Text

“Alright now, this round should move much faster. It’s every person for themselves, just like him,” as she jabbed her finger at the new target, the rear visage of one Frank Randall. “As I said earlier this is 'Plug the Arsehole'. Now Angus I hope ye might reconsider yer tender sensibilities as I would hate for ye to miss out on one of my favorites.” Geillis lifted the bottle displaying it next to her face playing it up like a game show model, eliciting a chorus of wolf whistles. “A little magic in a bottle – Bruichladdich Black Art 1990.”

“Ye’re a witchy woman, Geillis, I tell ye, tempting us mortals.” Angus crossed himself and made the sign of the devil as though warding off demons and shaking his head and giving her the evil eye.

“I do my best,” she countered with a salacious wink. “Well ye think on it while I call out the rules. Everyone is blindfolded this time, one shot and three spins, then ye go forth and do yer best. Simple enough.”

“Who’s first? Come on up and grab what suits yer pleasure…” Geillis pulled back a cover revealing an assortment of toys and Mary jumped up determined to go first selecting a little lavender model dildo and proceeded to carefully examine it to everyone’s amusement. “I..I’ve never s..s.seen one before.”

“Ye just need to pull off the little tab on the tip so it’ll mark where you stick it.”

“Ye mean it’s been chalked like a billiards cue?”

“Aye, just so. And with as many as are playing tonight, ye’ll have to share yer toys, dinna be bashful. I’ve got plenty more chalk.”

“Alex y.y.you come hold m.m..mine and I’ll h.hold yours for you.” Guffaws greeted Mary’s innocent comment while she took her shot and tied on the blind and was spun around three times before being set loose to find her target.

“Hey! Watch where ye go poking that thing!”

x0x0x0x

Jamie had led Claire to a vacant table the other side of the darts stations, a bit away from where most of the party was now congregating as they milled about chatting and drinking as they awaited their turn; no one seemed to be in much of a rush this time.

He pulled Claire into his lap and wrapped his arm around her waist and another rested in her lap where she held onto it and twined her fingers with his. He was so very grateful to have her in his arms so close that he could just watch the expressions change on her face while the festivities continued around them.

“Tell me what’s going on. I hear a lot of laughing.”

Distracted from his contemplation of her, Jamie looked toward the center of attraction and chuckled, “Yer friend Gellis is a temptress spinning her spell on Angus, and every other bloke in the place. She’s like the eye of a storm and everyone is milling about her as they get wrapped up in her. Even Murtagh, I’ve not seen him grinning like that since…” he chuckled again as he thought about it, “well ever that I can recall. Course, for him it’s more likely the prospect of being in the presence of such a collection of fine whiskies.”

Claire laughed picturing the familiar scenario. Geillis was beautiful, passionate about her chosen interests and brazenly forthright with her sexuality, and always had a collection of men buzzing around her. “I can just see Geillis perfectly, what about Murtagh?”

“Curmudgeon…that’s what ye think when ye look at him, not one to be running his own pub, but it’s his own piece of Scotland and he’s the ruler and takes great pride in it. He’d no appreciate me revealing the truth of him, but ye’ll no meet a kinder, more generous man should ye ever be in need.

He’s a throw-back and wears his kilt most days and being a true Scotsman ye may have the misfortune of viewing his skinny arse when my nephew and nieces are crawlin all over him when he’s on the floor playing with em. And then he’s more facial hair than should be allowed, but when he smiles on occasion, it shows through like a lighthouse beacon. And his brows…, they are historic. He can tell a story or issue commands with them without uttering a word. When were kids we’d always bedevil him seeing if we could make em disappear into his hairline. And he’d give me a skelping if he knew I told ye this,” he paused leaning in close placing his lips right next to her ear, his breath hot against her cheek, “but I think he dyes his hair.”

She couldn’t hold back her laugh and turned to face him, “No! Honestly?” amusement bursting from his totally unexpected reflection. Jamie’s hands tightened on her as she rocked in his lap keeping her steady and his easy laugh joined hers as he continued.

Claire had told Jamie the truth earlier and was suffering the full effects of it right now. In the time since she’d lost her sight her other senses had gone into hyper-drive. It wasn’t because she couldn’t see that she couldn’t keep her eyes open, they drifted closed of their own accord as she pulled into herself, relishing the warmth of his voice as he spoke, it enveloped her. Jamie was a born storyteller and humorous in his observations, but it was the deep timber, the cadence that had her vibrating and recalled Geilie’s words, and could hardly wait to hear him crooning in her ear; it’d been far too long since she’d…

“It’s the truth, he’s my Da’s cousin and best friend, so they’d be the same age, but my Da’s was full of grey when he passed a few years back, and Murtagh? Not a one, though I’d given him enough cause for it to be gone white.”

She’d heard the comment about his father’s passing, but couldn’t speak of it now, she’d talk to him about it later, she wasn’t callous, but she was feeling selfish for once and did not want to allow any sorrow into their bubble.

She had laid her arm across the back of the chair and her fingers absentmindedly twirled the hair at his nape and then combed through his hair. “White, huh? Will you do that to mine if I hang around long enough?” she knew she was teasing on a level she would not even have considered possible only hours ago.

She felt Jamie tug on one of her curls but remained quiet. The noise from the pub, bits and pieces of conversations that had been lost began to intrude and she suddenly felt uncomfortable, knowing he was looking at her and she had no idea of what he was thinking. Beauchamp you had to put your foot in it didn’t you.

She turned her face back toward where the gaming was supposed to be taking place trying to regroup, embarrassed at what she’d implied.

“Should have had little Frank heads instead Geillis since he’s got his so far up his ass.”

“Where were yer two pence when we were planning this Alex? It could have been Frank ‘n beans!”

Mo nighean donn. When she turned away from him, the curl he’d twirled around his finger pulled free. He took her chin between two fingers and gently turned her toward him as he finally gave voice to his thought.

“His should have been from the vagaries of my youth, yers, mo caiman geal, will be from a well-loved life, and I shall be happy to see them.”

Sitting as she was, Claire was almost on eye level with him and her breath brushed across his face. So, close he could almost taste her lips and felt himself leaning closer, he needed more than the brief kiss he’d stolen. He dropped his hand to rest on her thigh, his fingers unconsciously massaging it with small strokes briefly tightening, pressing her closer to him. He leaned his forehead against hers, “Claire?” It came out as an almost pained whisper.

x0x0x0x0x

“Rupert! It’s Rupert isn’t it?” Gail beckoned to Jamie’s friend that was standing close by laughing over Angus’ seeming obsessive examination of Geillis’ selection of toys.

“Aye, what can I do for ye, Gail?”

“I need something cold to drink, a gin and tonic. Could you get me one?”

Rupert followed her gaze landing on Claire and Jamie, and then turned back, “Mary? Anything for you?”

“I’ll take one too.”

Geillis walked up to the table, rejoining the group, “Well if ye’re fetching drinks, might as well get me one as well, a double of whatever will do it.”

Gail looked at her as she sat down taking in her smug expression for her evening’s efforts. “Geillis, I know we wanted to get Claire out of her headspace, but is that okay? I mean…” nodding toward the pair.

“I’d say it’s more than okay. Looks as though the fox is not only working on getting her out of her headspace, but those jeans, sweater and knickers as well. And good for him. She needs a good shagging.”

“Honestly would that be good for her?”

“Look at em for God’s sake,” and five pair of eyes turned to the couple in question.

“I’m sitting on this side of the table just so I don’t have to,” Joe quipped. “I’ve seen enough to wish them more privacy.” Joe had been sitting with his mouth clamped shut and rolled his eyes when Geillis called on him. He rubbed his chin and then hunched forward onto the table as they all huddled together.

“Tell me, in all the years we’ve known Claire, have ye ever seen her so… relaxed? Happy? Even facing what’s ahead? I ken ye think Tactless is my middle name, but before her accident, Claire was blind to what was in front of her, I’d say at least now her eyes have been opened to possibilities. And this is not just about her injury, but the damage the prick perpetrated on her psyche. Sorry Alex.”

“No apologizes to me! I just wish I’d been more aware, I feel like such a fool, but he’s rather good at being two-faced. Glad he’s just a cousin and hope you don’t hold him against me. I’m here with Mary to offer whatever support Claire needs.”

“We all have to admit that Claire’s a grown woman, able to make her own decisions, but what about his guy? What do we know about him?”

A tray of drinks appeared, and three pair of hands reached for theirs before it was set down and the bombardment began.

“Jamie, is he married?”

“No.”

“Got a girlfriend?”

“No.”

“Why not… is he gay?”

“Definitely no. If ye’ll give me a minute to catch my breath, I’ll tell ye anything ye want to ken. Hey, Ian, come over here.”

x0x0x0x0x

A sudden burst of activity caught Jamie’s attention and he glanced over to see his crew of mates pulling up chairs and joining Claire’s friends. Shite! 

Claire felt Jamie stiffen below her. She literally pulled his momentary lapse of attention back to her, giving his hair a tug, “I like it longish like this, something I can wrap my fingers around.”

Resigning himself to being set upon by well-meaning friends before the evening was over, he turned his attention back to Claire.

“Jenny’s always minding me to get it cut.”

“Jenny?” Claire sat up straight and pulled away.

“My sister, Ian’s wife. Now come back here.” Jamie moved his hand from her waist and into her curls and pulled her face close to his and growled low into her ear. “I want ye so badly Sassenach, I can hardly breathe. Please dinna pull away from me.” Claire felt his heat running through her and shifted in his lap to straddle him and could feel just how badly he wanted her and heard the low moan she pulled from him with her movement as his body responded to hers, hips thrusting up to meet hers.

Giving up her self-imposed constraint, she leaned in and kissed him softly, breathing him in, she parted her lips and touched her tongue to his lips and felt an explosion of hunger as he opened his mouth to her, groaning and swallowing his moans as he did hers and felt his arms pull her closer.

She pushed away from him and felt the heat of her blush and unmet urges flood her face. “Stop, please,” she whispered, but kept her forehead leaning against his as she caught her breath, feeling his fingers flex and press into her. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have done that. I want you too, but I’m too old to grind away here in your lap in a bar in front of a bunch of people, and I can’t even blame it on the drink. Will you wait?” she was breathless herself as she asked.

She heard Jamie swallow as he pulled his face away and took a deep breath and exhaled. “Aye, I’m sorry.” He pressed a kiss against her forehead and tilted his head back as he looked at the ceiling, his lips moving silently, before coming back to face her. “Have I told ye about my sister?”

“You mean Jenny, the one you just mentioned? No, but what would you tell me about her? Why would you bring her up now?”

“Well if I’m to get rid of this cock stand, in a less than pleasurable way, talking about her will shrivel me up faster than a cold shower. Otherwise we’ll be closing down the pub with ye still here in my lap and everyone giving me chaff.”

Claire laughed at his logic, “I’m not sure if anyone would notice at this point but do go on then.”

“Well Jenny and Ian have the three bairns already and she’s pregnant again. Ian just told me tonight that she’s expecting twins.”

“Twins?! I can’t even imagine. Do twins run in your family?”

“No that I’m aware.”

“Good, I don’t think I could manage twins.”

As soon as the words had escaped her lips, whether it was an innocent comment or something more, Jamie wanted the more and could see it… Claire standing with her hand on her swollen belly laughing. “Christ Sassenach, please, I need ye to get up while the getting is good,” and shifted to gently set her on her feet.

Confusion etched her face, “Why?” as he moved to settle her back in the chair.

Jamie knelt down next to her and took her hand. “I dinna care to keep talking about Jenny, but when ye said, …When I had the thought of ye growing plump with our bairn in yer belly. …I need to take a walk. Will ye wait here?”

“Oh okay. I’m not going anywhere.” Claire wasn’t sure just what had happened but felt the absence of his sudden departure and then it hit her. Oh God, I didn’t just say that. Shit, shit, shit.  She dropped her face into her hands praying no one would see the blush that set her face ablaze.

“Having a good time, sweetie?” Claire looked up toward Gail’s voice only moments after he’d left and pulled back from her errant thoughts rubbing her cheeks hoping it was enough to cover what was going on in her brain and put on her brightest smile and laughed.

“Geillis is at her awful best, but yes, I really am. Thanks for dragging me out. Who would’ve thought?”

“What? That Mister Tall, Ginger and Handsome would walk into your life? Mm mm mmmm.” Claire could hear Gail’s smile with her hum of appreciation of the man. “Want some company?” as she sat in an adjacent chair.

“Or walk out of it.”

“Oh, I don’t think so.” As she looked across the room to see Jamie, head bent engaged in a conversation with Joe but catching his glance as he looked toward Claire.

“Dinna fash, Claire, that’s just Jamie. Here, Jamie thought ye’d like something to drink.”

“Ian?”

“Och, sorry, aye. It’s no whisky but see if this suits ye,” and placed a glass of sparkling water in her hand.

Claire accepted the glass and took a tentative sip. “God, I’d love a whisky right now. I miss good whisky, but this is nice, thank you, that was very thoughtful.”

“He’s a trekker, ye ken?”

“No, what’s that mean?”

“When he needs to think, he has to walk. Used to drive his mam crazy until she understood what he was about, he’d just disappear into the fields or the woods until his mind was settled. He’ll be back.”

Jamie had detoured to speak to Ian briefly before he walked over to Joe but kept watch over Claire, “May we talk?”

Joe nodded and got up and followed Jamie to a quieter spot. “She told you, didn’t she?”

Jamie stood rubbing the back of his neck as he stood in front of Joe but kept looking back toward Claire before resting his hands on his hips. “Aye, she did, at least most, but I think she’s holding back. Ye’re her doctor as well as her friend aren’t ye?”

“I am. What can I help you with?”

“I dinna expect ye to break yer confidence with Claire, or tell me anything ye shouldn’t, but I need to ask, I need to ken if I’m to take her to bed to give her pleasure, will I be bringing any harm to her?”

Joe choked on his cough which he had to clear before he could continue. “By pleasure, you mean orgasm?”

“I hope so,” Jamie looked Joe boldly in the eye, not shying away from what he was saying.

Joe scrutinized the young man standing before him and debated whether to answer him first as her doctor or as her friend. “Do you understand about aneurysms?”

Jamie felt as though he’d been kicked in the gut and barely nodded. “Aye, more than I ever wished,” he paused before continuing. “I was working the horses with my da, when he dropped at my feet. We had no idea he had any problems before. He was just gone, there was nothing to be done, no goodbye, no time to say I love ye.” Jamie was watching Claire, it pained him to be apart from her, he did not want to take his eyes from her as she chatted with Gail and Ian now, but he needed to attend to what Joe was telling him.

“So, you do understand. In Claire’s situation, because of her accident we are aware of it and able to treat it. She’s stable for the time being and it has responded much better to the treatment than she accepts because her vision has not returned. She’s lost the life that she loved, and I don’t mean Frank. She lives to care for others and without her sight she can never be a surgeon again, and she believes her life would be meaningless.”

“A surgeon?” Smart and beautiful.  He grinned with pride as he looked at her.

“She was a very talented, gifted up and coming surgeon. I’ll be brutally honest with you. This surgery will give her a chance to regain her sight. The Bringham team has had very good results and that’s why we’re going there for her surgery. But the reality is there are no guarantees. We could lose her on the table, the aneurysm could be repaired, but still not regain her sight. Even if all is a success, chances are high that it will not be restored sufficiently to continue as a surgeon. Once there is a weakness it could go at any time, just as with your father, I’m sorry to say. Claire doesn’t feel as though she has anything to lose if the surgery doesn’t go well. She has no living family. She has friends and colleagues through work, that care for her but she’s private and only a few who she looks to as family. She hates to be pitied, to be perceived as weak. Watching her open to you, be vulnerable and happy will do her more good than any prescription I can write.”

Joe followed Jamie’s gaze before continuing. “Honestly Geillis would be a better reference for your questions, it’s more her field, and she considers herself a ‘sexpert’. I tend to be more cautious, but that may not be as helpful in this situation. There are studies showing elevated risks associated with sexual intercourse and well, the vigorous exercise but there are other ways to bring her to orgasm that do not seem to have the same risks and possible effects. She’s on meds that might counteract that. As her friend, feeling an intimate connection with you could be extremely beneficial. She’s missed having that, for a long while.”

“If she didna have the surgery, would having a bairn be too much for her body, the pregnancy and delivery?”

Joe couldn’t speak for a moment, just staring, “You just met and you’re already considering babies?” his brows lifted in amazement.

“Aye. She’s told me she leaves day after tomorrow and if I only have til then, I’ll take all the time God will give me with her, but I want more. I want a lifetime with her and bairns if we can have them, but her. I need her and for her to be safe and happy and fulfilled.”

“You love her.” It was a quiet observation of fact.

“I do.” Jamie had responded without hesitation, more sure of his feelings for Claire than anything he’d ever felt in his life.

“Jamie, for the life Claire wants to live, deserves to live, and what it sounds that you want to live with her, having this surgery really is her only option. And you must understand with any surgery, there are risks. You need to be prepared for those risks. She has a support group in place; we are prepared to care for her needs come what may. You’ve just met Claire, but I - we see the connection between you two. Do you think you’re capable of giving her your support, joining us?” Joe studied Jamie’s eyes noting the questions. “We can be there for you as well,” Joe clamped his hand on Jamie’s arm in reassurance.

“Aye, I would be grateful if ye let me, thank ye.” Jamie nodded his intentions but looked away again at Claire.

“I’m Abernathy, Joe Abernathy by the way,” and reached out to shake Jamie’s hand grinning at him.

The smile had thrown Jamie for a moment but accepted it as Joe’s approval of him sealed with the handshake.

“Trouble, with a capital T, but most everyone kens me as Jamie Fraser,” he returned the gesture, certain a bond of agreement had been reached.

“You know, you can talk to Claire about this too, she is a doctor and very well aware and informed about these issues and the changes she’s had to make. She’d probably appreciate the fact that you’ve taken it all into consideration.”

“I just want to have a better understanding before we get to that. If I had the time, I’d be doing research on it. I want it to be more, but it gives a whole different perspective to wanting to fuck her senseless.”

“Or as Geillis would call it, ‘mind-blowing’ sex,” Joe offered with a chuckle.

“Christ! Am I a Neanderthal?”

“No, I don’t think so. You’re facing a very difficult decision with a lot of unforeseeable factors, and you’re trying to make it intellectually informed as well as balance all the emotional issues involved. Whatever the two of you decide, just be gentle with her and careful of her heart. Good luck.”

Jamie was just as certain of his feelings but no less confused as to what was the right path to follow as he returned to Claire. He wanted her so badly, but he wanted to protect her. She somehow sensed his approach and turned toward him. He did not break eye contact with her as she followed him from across the pub, having difficulty believing she could not see him as she smiled at him all the way. He stopped in front of her grinning down, “Sorry, I didna mean to be away so long. Have ye taken yer turn stickin it to arsehole?”

“Not yet, I thought I’d wait for you. We seem to do well, bringing up the rear,” she smirked up at him.

“Ye didna just say that,” he chuckled at her and leaned down and gave her sweet sloppy kiss leaving his hand on her shoulder as he stood up.

“It seems the women have a better hand at wielding the weapon of the evening than the men, especially your Highlanders. They seem to be a bit on the squeamish side. How about you? Shall we put it to the test?” Claire held her hand up to him and he pulled her up against his chest and held her there not wanting to lose the feeling of her.

Jamie approached the implements remaining on the table and studied them with an air of concentration before selecting a largish pink dildo and hefting it in his hand and thrusting his arm out in several quick stabbing movements.

“It’s no a dirk, ye moron,” Murtagh grumbled.

“I ken, just testing it. Never thought to have my hands on one of these.” Despite his attempt at bravado, with his lopsided grin, Jamie’s bright pink ears betrayed him.

Claire’s muffled laugh pulled him around as her hand was covering her mouth and Ian was straightening up from her ear wearing a big grin.

“Are ye laughing at me?”

Claire nodded, “Definitely; Ian certainly has a way with words and describing what’s going on for me. Tells me you’re very cute when you blush.”

“Ye must be careful with what ye believe passing through his lips; Ian here is a master storyteller and no beyond stretchin the truth.”

“I’ve heard that said about most Scots. So tell me about Sandringham,” she couldn’t quite finish without a giggle.

“Just what tales have ye been fillin’ her head with?” Jamie raised his brows at Ian.

“Sandringham!” Rupert shouted and loud guffaws greeted the name. “I havena thought of that old poof in years!”

“Remember that terrible rug he wore, like anyone would think it his hair. Looked like a rat up and died on top of his hied.”

“Well with that squeaky voice he had, one might have just thought it was being called home.”

“He was a proctor at school but seemed to have an affinity for proctology. Missed his calling didn’t he Jamie?”

“He certainly had a likin for the boys, but specially for young Jamie.”

“Och, I managed to avoid his attentions just fine, thank ye and my . . . well I can happily say it remains a maiden.” Jamie grinned and darted a glance at Claire, forgetting that she couldn’t see him and was relieved to see her biting her lip attempting to hold back her grin. “Mind yer manners lads, there are ladies present.”

“Ye must forgive us Sassenach, we can be a bit rough when we get together.”

“It’s alright. So what are my choices? Any good ones left?” Claire ventured bending over the table.

Jamie met Claire’s question with what she determined was a definite Scottish grunt of derision, “I dinna ken what constitutes a ‘good one.’”

Claire let her hands wander over the selection that had been spread over the table. Pausing to pick one up and examine it with her hands, her face devoid of expression. “Oh, you know, nothing that would cause a great deal of pain, perhaps just a little . . .discomfort?” She turned holding up her selection and twirled it a little between her fingers as she lifted her brow before setting it down. “You know a little pain can enhance the pleasure.”

Jamie was blushing to the roots of his hair as he looked over toward the snickers that were threatening to burst out from his group as he waved them away with a threatening glare. Ah Dhia, could they have no privacy?!

“So ye’re familiar with these then?” he asked her cautiously examining her face for clues and seeing the twitches starting at the corners of her lips before a laugh escaped and a grin spread across her face. She reached out finding Jamie and running her hands up until she found his face and cupped his cheeks in her soft palms.

“I wish I could see your face!” and she giggled. “But no. Only what Geilie seems determined to over share, but she seems to have a very good time.”

“Claire! Ye can take all the toys home to play with afterward, but ye’re holding up the game, . . .again. Let’s get on with it. Jamie, ye’re first this time.”

“If ye insist. Do I get Claire’s shot again? I’m no sure I can live this down without it and the blinder.”

“Oi Jamie. We’ve all had our turn, even Angus, though he kept going for the kidneys.”

“Are we taking death blows then?” Jamie’s face lite up at the possibility.

“No just give him something to get it out of your system.”

Jamie knew it would really just be luck wherever his “dirk” as he decided he must think of it would land, though he’d really prefer to incapacitate the jerk, see how it felt to put his life into the hands of others to care for him, rely on them.

"All right then..."

Chapter Text

“NOOOO! Jamie, what are ye doing?!” Groans and raucous laughter mingled through the spectator group with the unexpected turn of events.

“Wot! Wot’s happened?” Claire reacted to the jeers, chuckling tentatively along with everyone else though not understanding and calling on Geillis for an explanation. Geillis had hooked her arm through Claire’s keeping her company as Jamie prepared to take a stab at the new challenge, chattering away, providing her own version of color commentary for the event and was now nearly bent over with laughter herself as Claire felt her tugging on her arm and jostling her body.

“Oh Claire, yer Scot…” she huffed gasping for breath. “Ye should see his face.”

My Scot? He’s not…what…do you mean?” and felt herself blushing as she stammered through her denial, rather liking the sound of it, but not ready to share.

Geilies’ laughter quieted to soft sniggers, “Christ, Claire, he looks at ye as though he’s going to eat ye for supper, have ye for a mid-night snack, and start the morning with a full Scottish breakfast and with the size of him, I guarantee ye there’ll be no leftovers.”

Claire felt the heat of her flush, run south and center in her core thinking about her invitation to Jamie and how she’d felt sitting in his lap and felt squirmy.

She wrapped her arm around Claire’s neck and pulled her close and whispered in her ear. “Ye’d have to be blind not to see he’s besotted with ye. …Oops, ye are …and from what I can see, the only one in the pub that is,” and Claire felt Geilies’ lips press a kiss on her cheek. “But we’re going to see that fixed so ye can see that braw lad for yerself, aye?” and gave her a squeeze and held her tight waiting her acknowledgement. Geillis had been her staunchest cheerleader, helping her fight back against the frustration and darkness that kept nibbling at her hopes.

“You’re right, thanks.” Claire forced a smile she didn’t completely feel and nodded, doing her best to embrace Geillis’ optimism. She was lucky, she knew it to have such good friends. There might not be a great many that she truly counted as close, but those she did were loyal to the core and would do anything for her, and that was part of the rub. She had always been fiercely independent, and self-reliant but here she was, rather than being the healer, she was now having to rely on someone, anyone else to know and tell her what was going on.

“Damn right, I am! And yer best friend, dinna forget it. Now ye better clear that glass face, because that braw man of yers is headed this way looking all the world as though he lost his puppy. Be nice!” she hissed as leaned back.

“Jamie, Jamie, Jamie,” Geillis shook her head in mock disappointment at the approach of the red man. “Ye ken ye pulled yerself right out of the prize running with what ye did there.”

“Och, dinna fash about me Geillis. I’ll leave that to the rest of the clanners to determine who takes the whiskies,” he reached past Geillis, appropriating Claire from her hold, and stepped in to wrap his arm about her shoulders, “I’ve already staked a claim to the best prize.”

“Oh, you have, have you?” Claire felt an all too elusive bubble of happiness, rare and unexpected fill her as she leaned into his embrace thinking all the while how perfectly she fit in the snug of his arm as it tightened around her for a moment.

“Ye ken I have, Sassenach.” She could hear the smile in his words as he leaned in and lowered his voice just for her. Always calm, always in control, Claire felt as much as she heard the intent emphasized and didn’t mind one bit. For once she was ready to just let go and give herself over to him, the voice in the dark.

“Well soldier, when do you intend to claim your prize?” She smirked at him with a lift to her brow.

Fuck!  “Are ye ready to leave? I’m ready,” Jamie felt as though a hive of bees had crawled under his skin.

“No so fast!” Geillis raised her hand to halt their immediate departure. “Ye promised the evening to us Claire, ye’ll stay through the end of the tournament, then ye can go off with yer mountain of a man here and spend the rest of the night, crawling all over him exploring every plane, crack and crevice of him, but ye’re going to see this through.”

“Stubborn Scot,” Claire grumbled which elicited laughs from both Jamie and Geillis.

“Which one? I think it’s a genetic trait in us all, Sassenach, some more so than others,” he glowered at Geillis.

“Jamie!” Rupert bellowed from across the room, “If ye two are quite through with yer blethering, can we get on with it and finish this round? Ye’re last up Claire.”

“Hold yer wheesht, man! We’re discussing important things here,” Jamie bellowed back without turning to face the man.

“Yes, yes. I hear you too. Alright! Give me a just a minute.” Claire listened as Geillis’ steps carried her away, then turned to Jamie. “So, what happened? She said you were looking pretty glum, but not why.”

Jamie looked down at her and rubbed his neck not sure how much he was prepared to share – to explain, “I ken the man’s a bastard to treat ye the way he did.” Christ ye are so beautiful, mo nighean donn, how could he?  He reached forward and pushed a curl that was hanging in her face and tucked it behind her ear, leaving his palm to cup her cheek, “He had someone precious he did not value and he hurt ye and ye bear the scars for it that we can all see, but there are others that run deeper. I see he hurt yer heart, yer pride as well.” He gazed at her so tenderly, letting his eyes wander freely over her lovely face, her soft lips just beggin to be kissed and swallowed hard, closing his eyes gaining a bit of calm, “I ken this is just a bit of fun to show contempt for the wee man. I would do anything to protect ye from him, but I was taught that if it comes to a fight, ye fight a man honorably – face to face; to attack someone from behind, is cowardly. I thought I could play along, be yer champion, but I couldna do it, no like that, no from behind, him defenseless,” he trailed off with his explanation, watching her face transform. “I’m sorry to have disappointed ye.”

Claire blinked several times in surprise at Jamie’s astute observation and explanation and a snort erupted through her nose at his apology as she tried to hold back her laugh covering her face with both hands as she swung her head from side to side, breaking his hold.

“What was that?!” Jamie startled at her reaction and began a soft chuckle until she turned toward him. Lifting her face, he could see the tears in her eyes and felt his heart break for her. “I’m sorry, Claire, I made ye cry.” Believing he’d caused her grief, he reached for her again and gently cupped her cheeks in both his hands, thumbing away the tears that had started to slip down her cheeks as her own hands lifted to hold his wrists.

“Disappointed?! That’s what you think, you, ridiculous man! Don’t you dare apologize Jamie Fraser for being a worthy man and keeping to your convictions!” and she let loose the peal of laughter. “Good Lord, you’re right, it’s just a bloody game and you…, you,” she rose on her tip toes, her hands tracing his arms to take hold of his face, “better kiss me right now you, numpty.”

Completely unmindful of the other patrons, Jamie Fraser needed no further encouragement as she pulled him to her as forcefully as he leaned into her, their mouths crashing together. This was no gentle pressing together of lips; this was a desperately needed relief as she opened to him, inviting him as her tongue thrust into his mouth, swallowing his groan and they began the dance of intimacy. Jamie dropped an arm to her waist lifting her up and pressing her to him as Claire’s arms slipped around his neck and wrapped her long legs around his waist securing him to her. She clung to him as though a lifesaving buoy in a raging sea. With her maneuver, Jamie dropped his hand to secure his hold on her and came to be grappling her fine arse. Oh Jesus.

He hoisted her up more firmly and started mindlessly, blindly moving forward, bumping into a table, progress halted. His eyes popped open looking for an escape route and turned with Claire still attached to his mouth like a limpet, to find the pub’s entire group of patrons gone silent, standing shoulder to shoulder three deep in some places, holding their beverages, staring at him with varying looks of awe on their faces from smirks, to gaping maws and ear splitting grins.

“Ye clotheid! We’re none of us blind, WE CAN SEE YOU!!” Murtagh’s gruff reproach. “What’s gotten into ye lad? Yer mam would be spinning in her grave if she were died.”

Jamie slowly eased Claire down as she unwound her legs til her feet were touching the floor before he finally released her mouth, and she buried her face in his chest gripping his shirtfront in both her hands. “Sassenach?” he whispered, his chest vibrating with barely suppressed chuckles. “Ye heard?”

She nodded refusing to look up, “Blind not deaf. I’m sorry Jamie.”

Chuckling aloud now, he replied, “Ye dinna get to say ye’re sorry either or I’m going to insist ye kiss me first this time,” and hugged her tight to him.

“Murtagh, draw everyone a pint on me,” and he jerked his head toward the vacant bar, hoping to disperse the onlookers.

With a disgruntled shake of his, Murtagh turned on his heel, “Ye heard the man, ye gommerals, Jamie’s treating.”

Claire finally relinquished her hold and stepped back as she heard the shuffle of feet moving away, her face a shining pink. “I seem determined to make a spectacle of myself this evening. I’m sorry. Are my mates right here?”

Jamie couldn’t help the small snigger, “Aye, as are my mine. Buck up Sassenach, I’ve enjoyed every moment with ye and will do it again in a heartbeat. Shall we face them together?” he took hold of her hand but waited for her agreement. “

“I suppose we must,” she let go a huge sigh.

Jamie grinned at her, “D’ye feel as though ye’ve been sent to the Headmaster’s office?”

“No, I never went to a school until University.”

“Ye didn’t?! How’d ye manage to do that?”

“Threw a tantrum.”

“Can ye do it now?” he mock whispered at her out of the side of his mouth.

“We’re adults, we can manage this.”

“Speak for yerself, I’m only 18.”

“Wot!?”

“I’m teasing ye Sassenach,” Jamie swung her into his arms and held her tight as he swayed them back and forth.

Claire pushed back and hit him on his chest with her free hand, “That’s not fair! How old are you?”

Jamie grabbed hold of the offending hand and held it flat upon his chest over his heart. “Old enough. D’ye feel that? It’s beating for ye.” His voice was low and rough and only meant for her.

Claire felt the heat of him just beneath the fabric of his shirt and the buttons her hand lay upon. She wiggled her fingers free and slid them through the placket between two buttons and brushed against a light furring of chest hair and rested upon hot skin. And felt it, the spark of hope ignited with her touch.

“What’s he saying Ian? I canna hear! Get closer with the damn phone.”

Claire turned her head, “Who’s that? What’s going on now?”

Jamie turned to look at their group of friends sitting and standing around the table; Joe with a small smile, shaking his head, Mary a bright smile thumping on Alex’s shoulder, Gail and Geillis, grinning to beat the band, Angus standing with an arm across his belly while scratching his beard as though taking notes while carefully observing them, Rupert lifting his glass to them, Willie and Denny looking a bit confused and Ian grinning as he held his phone out at arm’s length.

“Iffrin Ian! Really?” and stepped in front of Claire. “How long have ye been running that now? I thought we had an agreement.”

“On my life Jamie, ye ken this trumps any agreements we might have had.” As Jamie took a step toward him, Ian pulled the phone back to his ear. “Listen Jenny, love, I best go, he’s looking pretty mad, tah!” and quickly stuffed it in his pocket.

Jamie turned his back on the group and firmly took hold of both of Claire’s hands and held them between his. He took a deep breath and exhaled, “Claire I think what we have here is a hostage situation and until we complete the tasks assigned, we willna be released. To secure our freedom, are ye prepared to complete this challenge? Nod once if ye accept.”

She could hear the humor hiding in his command and Claire bit back her smirk as she gave him a definite nod and threw in a salute to boot.

“I canna assist ye on this one, but he canna harm ye ever again. Just do what feels right to ye.”

What feels right? What feels right is not wasting another moment of thought on the bloody bugger. She felt a surge of love and gratitude for her friends and as ridiculous as it might seem, to special new friends. “Alright then,” she parroted his own earlier send off. “Show me the way.”

“Willie? Will ye assist Claire, please?” He placed her hand in Willie’s and moved to join the group at the table, sitting next to Mary where he had a clear view of Claire’s movements. More of the patrons were drifting back to the targets, drinks replenished and anxious to see how the night’s drama continued to play out.

“This is s..so exciting!” Mary blurted out as he sat down next to her.

“Oh, aye?’ not wanting to be rude, Jamie gave her a spot of attention as he focused on Claire now examining the available tools. She smiled at something Willie said that he could not hear and wondered about moving closer.

“Yes, it’s because of Claire that Alex and I are together, a six-degrees, sort of thing, but she’s the common thread.”

“Rather amusing, really,” Alex added.

Claire evidently had made her selection but laid It back down and taking Willie’s hand had him lead her to the target. He was now guiding her hand up and down the bastard’s back. Twice now they stopped at the same spot and her hand reached out and lingered as though memorizing the position.

“Is it?” From Alex’s dry tone, it sounded anything but amusing and cut him a quick glance as he droned on.

“Oh Alex, I think she’s ready to go,” Mary rose to get a better view and thankfully cut off Alex’s story.

Geillis resumed her role as carnival barker for that’s what it all was seeming to be at this point. Jamie was beyond frustrated and just wanted to leave to be able to spend as much time alone with Claire as he could.

“I think we can dispense with the twirls for Claire and send her on.”

“No,” Claire stopped her, “I’ll take the twirls, same as everyone else, just make sure I get headed in the right direction.”

“As the lady says, then,” and gave her three hearty spins which left her swaying just a bit.

Jamie rose to his own feet to see her better as she started and then stopped, regaining her balance. Not being able to focus on something it took her a moment before hesitantly starting up again.

“Step with yer right foot Claire,” he heard Willie call out. “Aye that’s right, slide it, again. Ye’re doing brilliant.”

She turned and flashed a smile in Willie’s direction and took another step giving an exaggerated sway to her hips, showing off her fine arse and groaned at her tease which was for him.

Jamie listened with mounting pride as Claire followed Willie’s directions and moved more assuredly toward her goal. “Ye’re there where ye wanted to be now. It’s up to you.”

Claire stood for only a moment before she thrust her arm forward making a resounding thud as she made contact with the target. Jamie was raising his hands clapping and whistling at her success though she was off a good bit from the “eye of the arse.”

“Doctors, if you please. I need a consultation.”

Denny, Joe and Geillis moved forward and huddled around the target, closely examining it. “It’s awfully close but looks like the T11 or T12.” Denny confirmed the point of contact and Joe, the subsequent prognosis. “Paraplegic.” “Not to be too crass, but oh hell, ye’re always calling me on it, Limp Dick could be his new nickname,” Geillis offered.  

Claire clenched her fists in the air claiming a momentary success, reflected in her face as she swung around looking for someone and suddenly appeared unsure.

Jamie had been enthralled watching her, so confident with her determined actions, he’d raised his hand signaling to her as he moved toward her before he remembered having momentarily forgotten and dropped it and approached her, taking hold of her elbow, “So ye’re happy with yer mark. Good.”

“Yeah, I know it’s a bit high, but he would probably have enjoyed it if I’d hit the target area. That was just for me, to put him behind, so to speak.”

“Glad to hear, that’s where he belongs, in the past. So, let’s move forward now,” he took her hand and led her back toward her friends. “Mary wanted ye to sit with them for a bit. Might be a good idea until we leave, Sassenach. Ye said this was yer first outing, are ye tiring?”

Claire was touched by his consideration, “Honestly, a bit. I want…” she could hear the wistfulness in her tone, “Let’s see what we can do to move this along.”

She asked as Jamie led her to an open seat, “Gail, where are the standing so far?”

“Round 1, decision by Peer review Team Claire,” groans, and “No Fairs!” greeted her announcement, “Hold on now, let me finish, Triple Points to Claire for her lucky shot, BUT,” finger raised, “she withdrew herself from consideration for anything other than the fun, - sorry Jamie,” groans transformed to nods of approval, and good lass praises, “so the next team up for the Linkwood 53 is Lesley & Hayes… come forward.“

“Lesley & Hayes, …anyone?” Crickets greeted the announcement while folks looked to each other, confused and shrugging. “Did anyone leave?”

“Not that pair of bunglers! Please,” an oath of exasperation escaped Murtagh. “Ye ken who they are. Come in once a week, each have a pint, nurse it all evening… They got yer refill, Jamie, a treat Hayes said so they’ve got to be around.”

“Well I guess we’ll have to hold it. We didn’t have any contingencies for that, Let’s say Murtagh holds it for 48 hours and if they don’t show up to claim it, it should go to the runners up who happens to be, …And surprise, Rupert and Angus are next up.”

Gail’s announcement was exuberantly greeted by the pair backslapping each other and laughing, and immediately arguing who would take custody of the precious prize, should it really be theirs.

“I’ll keep custody of it and ye clotheids can having visiting rights, so there’ll be no abuse of such fine spirits,” Murtagh offered and seemingly forestalled a brawl.

“Alright now, before we start the final round, we have the results for Round 2. Gentlemen, I would caution ye to be careful and not turn yer back on Miss Mary here, especially her being a novice and all; let her get a little more hands-on experience and she’ll have ye squealing like a stuck pig.” Geillis turned her smile on to the laughing group, but saved her salacious wink for Alex, who too familiar with Geillis’ antics just smiled good naturedly and squealed, setting Mary’s cheeks ablaze like a Roman candle. There were several shots close to the prime target area. Close but no cigar, however, Duncan Innes, ye're the closest, so step up and claim yer Bruichladdich Black Art 1990.

A jovial fellow stepped forward claiming his prize, graciously expressing his appreciation to Claire. "My wife lost her sight some time back, but she finds it most soothing to sleep with a velvet pillow filled with lavendar. Ye might try it mistress."

"Thank you Mr. Innes, it sounds like a fine suggestion."

He bobbed his head at her and walked away holding the vintage bottle as though carrying a live bomb that was going to detonate in his hands.

Everyone drifted back to their seats while Geillis prepped for Round 3, Final Round.

“Ye shouldna feel bad Jamie,” Willie gave Jamie’s shoulder a conciliatory pat as he passed.

“Aye, Jamie,” Rupert guffawed at the sight of Jamie hunched over his drink, eyes cast down, “we all have performance anxiety every now and then, though I never thought to see ye suffer it right before my own two eyes!”

“Get on with ye, man,” Jamie shoved at him good naturedly across the table and relaxed back into his seat. “D’ye think I look unhappy?” In truth he’d never felt as content in his life. Two hands were wrapped around his arm until one slipped down tracing the inside of his until it found his hand pressing into his palm, slipping hers to fit laced with his. Jamie looked over at Claire as she leaned her head pressing into his upper arm and bumping it as she tried not to laugh.

He tightened his grip on her hand, feeling such pleasure in her touch; her wee hand fit perfectly within his.

“Sassenach, not ye too, please. Ye ken fine well, why…”

She could hear the humor in Jamie’s exchanges with his friends giving him a hard time even as he grumbled about it, the chuckles were right there tangled with his words. Since she’d lost her sight her world had constricted, and she resented the confines placed on her though she “knew” it was for her own good. She’d looked forward to the outing with mixed feelings, glad for the escape and admittedly fearful, it could be her last.

She listened to her friends as they chatted with Jamie’s getting to know each other and realized with the exception of Geillis, they were all distinctly English, well except for Joe and Gail being Americans. It wasn’t that she wasn’t friendly with her co-workers, it was just that for the most part it was on a surface level, Her social life had been for the most part dictated by Frank and his colleagues and never the relaxed banter that was going on around her now.

It’d been sorted out that the quiet doctor, Denny, was also a member of the Society of Friends, who with his wry since of humor liked to introduce himself as …Friend. Alex turned out to be Frank’s cousin and had met Mary at a holiday open house Claire had hosted when they both happened to be in town. Mary’s, friend, Louise back in Paris, had asked Claire to take the young woman under her wing while in town. The two had hit it off and married within six months, much to Frank’s dismay.

Claire heard the quiet side comments about Frank and wanted to put an end to them. “All right, you blokes, tell me something about Jamie that I don’t know.”

There was a brief awkward silence before Willie offered up. “I bet ye’d never guess that Jamie here used to be a fencer. Competed internationally he did, he was really top notch.”

“Ooo, you were? Do you still fence?” Mary gushed.

While not exactly a topic he would have preferred, Jamie was glad for the change as well, “Aye, I did for a while, but not anymore. Had a bit of a growth spurt one summer that put me off of it. Ye talk about growing pains… Never quite got back the speed and agility for it, but I do a bit of coaching and fight training for it when I have the time.”

“I find that quite fascinating.” Alex noting Mary’s enthusiasm inquired, “how did you happen to take it up?”

Rupert leaned in, “Our Uncle Dougal got him started. He’s got a fight school that teaches the art of swords play. Depending on interest and skill students may choose to compete. But for the lot of them it’s just for fun; most are just interested in kenning a bit more of their history and such.”

“But sometimes Dougal also hires out the more accomplished students to production companies for reenactments or film. Sometimes they’re just extras in the background or stunt doubles, doing fight scenes. Jamie here, has done quite a few films. Could do it for a living if he wanted.”

“Is that where you honed your morals?” Claire guessed.

“Morals from Dougal?” Rupert interrupted and Jamie’s crew all broke into loud guffaws, each trying to out do the other with tales of his philandering ways.

“Ye ken that’s no what she’s meaning. There are rules of a sport that ye apply to yer life that could be morals, fight fair, for one.”

“But really? Is that what you’d like to do?” Claire peered up toward him.

Jamie shook his head, “Nah, it’s okay every now and then, but I have other interests.”

“Like what? Tell me, you’re being very secretive. Should I be worried? Someone lurking in the sidelines?”

Her suggestion was greeted with a burst of denial from Jamie’s companions in his defense. “Jamie?! Hardly, he…”

“I write a bit,” he interjected quickly, cutting his eyes at the others to stop them from saying more.

“Anything we would know?”

“Probably not, and I don’t write under my own name, so dinna try googling me,” he laughed as Alex pulled out his phone.

“A man of mystery… a nom de guerre…, a soldier of fortune, I like it better than nom de plume,” Claire mused letting her imagination run.

“Aye, if ye like. It affords some privacy, little enough of that these days.” He nodded at Alex and his phone as a prime example.

“Hmmm,” she leaned close whispering in his ear, “but Jamie Fraser is your real name, isn’t it?”

“Tis the one my parents gave me.” Claire Fraser.

Ian had been watching the interaction between Jamie and Claire all evening. It was like watching a faerie tale come true. All his life Jamie had been pursued by the lasses. He’d always been kind and polite, but never had one turned his head like Claire. It’d be a challenge he conceded, given Claire’s current sight issues and his heart hurt with the thought that something might go wrong with her surgery. He wasn’t sure Jamie would recover. He needed time with her.

“Hey Geillis, ye said there were to be three, what’s the last?” he called out wanting to get the show on the road.

“I did, before I was interrupted by the most uptight Highlander I ever came across,” and looked directly at Angus.

Geillis shouted out, “Alright then, it’s time for the last game. This one is in honor of Claire’s Uncle Lamb. He’d appreciate a good scavenger hunt especially those that ye have to do a little digging. I warn ye though, this no for the faint of heart.”

“First to find Frank’s balls gets a bottle of Reproach 35 Year. Of course, they’re the size of a harem’s eunuch’s, so it’ll help if ye’re really near sighted.”

The evening’s challenges had been fun, if not an outright assault to the virile sensibilities of most of the men in the pub, not just those participating, but the latest game had them shifting and squirming uncomfortably and not a few surreptitiously groping for their packages. 

Angus who had taken a seat next to Claire bumped her shoulder and leaned into whisper, “I didna think eunuchs had any bawls.”

“Ding! Ding! Ding!! Congratulations,” Claire laughed heartily. “We have a winner!”, grabbing and raising Angus’ arm while he stared at her in bemusement. “They don’t and neither did Frank.”

“Ye mean he was a eunuch, …for real?!” Angus backed away from Claire looking at her in disbelief.

“Only metaphorically, Angus, but if he comes around again, I’ll offer my services to correct that situation. Even blind, I think I could manage a pretty neat job of it.”

“Now as the provider of said prizes, I’m calling this tournament fait accompli. Gail will finalize the tote, distribute the prizes and let me know how you enjoyed them next time I see you.” Claire stood up, pulling a grinning Jamie up beside her, “I hope you all stay and enjoy yourselves, but WE are leaving, now.”

“Ready?”

“Aye, ye’ve no idea, Sassenach,” and pulled her in for a quick kiss. “just a minute while I settle a couple of things. Ian, do mind crashing with Angus tonight?”

“Jamie?” he felt Claire squeeze his wrist and turned to her. “Would you mind if we go to my place? I know the layout and I haven’t been home in so long, I’d really like to before I have to leave town.”

“Of course, whatever ye want.” Jamie dug in his pockets pulling out his keys and handed them over to Ian. “Murtagh, settle up the tab,” and handed him a credit card.

“Claire, I need to make a stop by the loo, come with me?” Gail’s not too subtle ploy was met with a roll of the eyes.

“Sure,” and let herself be led off.

“Give me your phone, Jamie.” Joe took it when he handed it over and entered his contact info, Gail’s and Geillis’ and called his own to sync the numbers. “Remember what we talked about, call if she experiences any trouble at all; severe headache, slurred speech, weakness in the body, unsteadiness when she walks. I think you’ll recognize any changes to be concerned. Might need to turn up the heat when you get in, not sure about food in the cupboards. Nothing’s in the fridge.”

“I dinna know exactly what Joe told ye, but whatever Claire wants is fine, she’ll be fine, dinna worry Jamie. She’s been off the pill, do ye have condoms?” She made a grab for her bag and pulled out another smaller one. “These are the meds she needs to take; just follow the schedule. She’ll ken it too.”

“She likes her coffee black. She won’t want to, but make her eat something… I’ll call in a delivery in the morning.”

“Add a box of condoms to the delivery,” Geillis eyed him, “Magnums? …XLs?”

Jamie was a bit stunned by the flurry of contradicting information and instructions and the particularly intrusive questions being thrown at him. “Christ, I can take care of my own…” Jamie was suddenly losing his temper now being subjected to the scrutiny they were giving him.

“She needs this, Jamie, just give it to her.”

Jamie couldn’t respond immediately and had to take several deep breaths before he could, looking between the pair, “Need this…. Ye mean a good shag?” he cut his eyes to Joe to whom he’d laid out his heart then back to Geillis. He was leaning close to the pair, keeping his voice low, measured, but the shift in his eyes from the clear blue to the dark angry blue was measurable.

He didn’t wait for an answer before he turned away feeling the heat radiating off his cheeks focusing on remaining calm before facing them again to continue. “As the good friends I ken Claire holds you to be, I hope yer intent for her was something more than to procure a one-night stand because that’s no what I – what we – will be.”

Jamie was losing the battle to contain his emotions as he took deep breaths, his heart racing at the thought he voiced, “I heard what ye said Joe, the risks we’ll be facing and the truth of it terrifies me, but if… if something should happen, God no, please keep her safe, …and that’s all the time with her, I’m granted, I’ll be grateful for it. But I want more than that and I believe Claire deserves more as well. I need..” he halted unwilling to justify himself or to explain the inexplicable.

Jamie felt a warm hand on his back slide up and grip his shoulder as Ian stepped to his side, “Tha mi an seo bràthair, tha sinn uile.”  

Jamie took a quick glance over his shoulder to see his “brothers” standing shoulder to shoulder in support and gave them a small nod of acknowledgement and smile. “Tapadh leat. Tha e ceart gu leòr, dìreach a ’glanadh an èadhair.” 

“I’m here for Claire for as long as she’ll have me. I will care for her and protect her. And trust me when I say that anything that happens between us will remain between us and will no be shared to satisfy yer salacious curiosity, Geillis. Am I clear regarding my intent?”

Joe looked at Geillis who opened her mouth but closed it quickly opting for once to bite her tongue. She just nodded in agreement, but she couldn’t disguise the wheels turning in her brain as she leveled an appreciative look at Jamie despite his dress-down.

Joe recognized the look and interceded before she could open her mouth. “Perfectly. I’ll touch base with you tomorrow regarding her travel itinerary.”

“Good. Now, would ye please give me Claire’s address, I need to arrange a transport.” Jamie walked a few steps away and placed his call.

Watching Jamie walk away, Ian addressed not only the pair standing in front of him, but her other friends that had been drawn to the scene, “So, I see ye’ve just met James Alexander Malcom Mackenzie Fraser. Ye may not realize it yet, but he’s one of the finest men ye’ll ever have the honor to know.”

Joe looked at Jamie responding, “There certainly seems to be a lot more yet to know about him.”

“Aye, ye’re right there. Dinna fash about Claire, she’ll be safe with him.”

It was only moments before Jamie returned and began firing off his own questions with the assurance of one adept at researching any subject and getting answers.

Jamie’s face suddenly brightened as he saw Claire coming back with Gail, and immediately put on his jacket, anxious to be gone. “Where’s her bag and coat?”

“Will ye make sure to include information about the hospital and doctor there she’ll be seeing. When is her surgery scheduled? I trust ye’ll let me know if anything else occurs to ye I should ken.”

Alex appeared holding out the coat to him, “Thank ye, Alex.” Then Jamie noticed that everyone had gathered for what appeared to be a send-off. Christ, so much for slipping away.

“Interrogation over?” Claire smiled up at Jamie as he leaned in and surprised her with a brief kiss.

“Not by half, but we’ve called time on it. Are ye ready, Sassenach? Let me help ye with yer coat.”

“Alright, got yer bag, yer meds and I’ve got ye,” and wrapped his arm around her as he led her to the door.

“Yes, you do.”

Chapter Text

“Okay, spill. I got Claire out of the way for you, so what’s going on Geillis?” Gail looked from Geillis back to Joe, waiting for someone to answer her; something was percolating in that brain of Geillis’ and she was not going to be left in the dark. Everyone else had drifted back to what was now their joint table except Ian who had stayed firmly ensconced should something of import be said.

Geillis had been chewing on her thumb, something she did when deep in thought, then dropped her hand and a sly look washed over her face, her emerald green eyes full of mischief. “I was wondering if it’s too soon to start planning a wedding.”

Ian coughed as he choked on her question, “Yer outta yer mind if ye’re going to be having any discussion regarding Jamie’s wedding without including Jenny. Ye should be afraid, verra afraid of that woman if ye try to exclude her on her best day with anything concerning her little brother, but she’s pregnant with twins and begging yer pardon,” as he looked between Gail and Geillis, “she’s a bit on the hormonal side right now.”

“Joe?”

“Blind jokes aside, we all saw what was happening right before our eyes, but arranging a marriage, that's going a bit far? I’m not sure that’s up to us.”

“Ye idiot, marching ‘em to the altar with a shotgun is no what I’m suggesting. I just think we should be prepared for when they come to the same conclusion where we stand. Am I right? Gail? What did she say when ye had her off in the loo?”

“Well, I wouldn’t say marriage was at the top of her bucket list, but she did say,” Gail looked to each standing there, “swear to God, raise your hands, I mean it, swear to God that what I’m about to say will not be repeated beyond the four of us. And Ian, I know this is unreasonable to ask, but I insist that includes Jenny.”

“Ah hn!” she stopped him from speaking as shook her head and raised her finger in caution with her vocal warning. “This is about Claire, not Jamie, …at least not yet.”

Ian reluctantly nodded his concession and raised his hand. “I swear. Hey, you too,” looking at Joe and Geillis.

All three stood before Gail, hands lifted swearing their silence before God Almighty that what she was about to tell them would go no further. Oaths made, hands dropped, they collectively leaned in closer. Still Gail looked about making sure no one else had wandered into hearing distance before she almost whispered as though divulging a state secret. “She likes him …a lot.”

“We swore an oath for that?” Geillis scoffed as she squinted her eyes at Gail. “I thought ye were going to tell us she boffed him in the office. Tell us something we dinna ken, Gail. There’s more to it.”

Gail nodded, “She said if she had only one more chance to be with someone, to be with Jamie specifically, she wanted to know how it felt to be loved like that, to give him all that she has, even if it blows her mind. She didn’t want to have lived without knowing, sharing it.”

Geillis broke the silence as she stood up straight and back-handed Joe’s arm and pointed her finger at him all the while smirking, “What did I tell ye? Mind-blowing sex, that’s what she’ll be having.”

Ian’s expression changed to one of horror. “Ye mean it? Truly…she might, Claire might die in his arms tonight?” Ian dropped his head, running his fingers through his hair, pivoting away, before turning back as though his foot was nailed to the floor. “Is that a feckin’ song?” and shook his head coming back to focus, “…Christ, ye mean I just sent my brother off to be some sort of sacrificial lamb? It’ll kill him, ye ken that and then it’ll kill my wife to lose her brother again; and then my bairns willna have their mam. And Ellen she’s getting up in years and losing her two remaining kids much less helping with the three Grans will kill her and ye’ll have wiped out a whole Fraser family, d’ye understand?!” he grasped his chest, it hurt. “Christ, I canna breathe, I think I’m having a heart attack, ye’re killing me too.”

“Ian,” Joe reached out and touched Ian’s arm as he threw Geillis a withering look. “Sit down,” and maneuvered him into the seat right behind him. Now take a deep breath, slowly in and then out. Again, until I say stop but listen, please.” Geillis knelt down next to Ian and took his wrist in hand, checking his pulse. “You’re not having a heart attack, maybe a little stress induced panic, but you'll be fine.

It’s not going to be like that, but Jamie knows the situation. We talked about it and I laid it out for him. You’re hearing Geillis’ twisted, all about sex perspective; we’re used to her spouting off about it.” Joe glanced at Geillis, who gave him a reassuring smile, and Ian a good pat on the back as she stood up.

Murtagh came up to them, “What’s going on with the lad? Is he okay?”

Ian looked up at him with his eyes wide and face pale, taking deep breaths.

“He’s just learned that Jenny’s expecting twins! Isn’t that exciting? Such big news…” Gail trailed off.

“TWINS!” A big grin broke his gruff exterior startling everyone about. “Ellen will be over the moon. Congratulations, boy, this calls for a celebration! I’ve got just the bottle, I’ve been holding in reserve for just such an occasion, let me fetch it from the back.”

Ian looked up at the threesome that surrounded him as Murtagh left. “Ye’re diabolical, all of ye, ye ken that? Jenny will kill me for sure now for spilling about the twins.”

“Give it up Ian. Ye’d think ye were dead man walking, the way ye go on. Ye’re safe. Jenny’s no going to get rid of the bairns’ father, she’s going to need yer hands helping with the extra nappies.”

“But for Claire, since this happened, she’s been afraid to hope, but this, this is good news. It’s her way of saying she’s not giving up hope or the fight for it and you cannot underestimate the effects of attitude in a recovery from a procedure such as the one Claire is facing. She will certainly have the skills of one of the most imminent surgeons in the world on her side, but knowing that she’ll have Jamie waiting for her… I wouldn’t take that away from her for anything in the world. He loves her already, admitted it and knowing Claire as I have for all these years, I’d bet she loves him back, but isn’t ready to admit it yet, at least not to us.”

Ian felt Gail slip her arm around his shoulders. “She’s worth the fight and from what I’ve seen tonight, I think Jamie is too. I know you want to tell Jenny, but it wouldn’t be fair to cause her unnecessary worry. How far along is she?”

“Uh, almost four months, but we have three more already. It can be pretty stressful.” Ian looked into her dark brown eyes and could see the compassion there and could hear the wisdom in her words. “Ye’re right. Best to keep it between ourselves and do not let on to that lot,” he thumbed over his shoulder at his mates. “Christ, Where’s Murtagh? I need a drink. It’s going to be a long night.”

Gail hooked her arm into his and pulled him up from his seat and led him back to the bar where Murtagh had resumed his post opening a bottle. “Agreed, but wouldn’t it be good to head home to bed after this? No need to keep sit a vigil if that’s worrying you. You seem to do a lot of that.”

“A vigil is exactly what it will be if Jamie’s finally going to lose his virginity. There’s no way I’m going to bed before I ken he does,” Ian finally relaxed enough to let loose the grin he’d been afraid to show.

He was stopped in his tracks by Gail pulling back on his arm who was now just gaping at him. “Well aren't you just full of surprises! So many secrets to keep, no wonder you're feeling stressed, you ought to see someone about that. You'd be surprised how much it would help you. As for that last bit of information, it definitely stays between just us,” as she shot a significant look in Geillis’ direction, “unless you want her breaking down the door giving directions and calling the shots.”

“I have no doubt Jamie will do just fine by Claire. I said he was virgin, no a monk.”

“Now that, I can believe.”

“He did consider it for a while though; he was trekking in Nepal and…”

x0x0x0x

Jamie was practically carrying Claire out of the door by the time they made their escape from the crowd that had materialized to send them off. His ears were still burning with some of chaff he’d received on the way out.

Claire was laughing as Jamie settled into the seat next to her, sliding his arm along the seat behind her. “God, that was almost like being sent off to our marriage bed. I’m surprised no one tried to come witness.”

“Only Rupert and Angus,” he teased as the car started to pull off, which was greeted with another round of Claire’s laughter. He loved to watch, to hear her laugh, no reserve to her.

“They’re quite the pair. Best buds, are they?”

“Aye always have been. I dinna think Nellie realized they were a package deal when she agreed to marry Rupert, but she’s a good soul.”

A shyness seemed to settle on them with the quiet. “Would ye mind just driving around for a bit before we head ta home?”

Home, bed...  “No, that’s fine.”

“Seamus, would ye give us a bit of a tourist trap ride? But ye can put the gab on mute if ye dinna mind.”

“Whatever ye say, just give me a heads up when ye’re ready for yer destination. D’ye want some music?”

“Thank ye no, just need a bit of quiet for now.”

Jamie took Claire’s hand in his and gently turned it this way and that, examining it as best he could in the limited light that made its way into the car and then closed his eyes shutting out the world of sight. He pulled his arm from around her and took her hand in both of his. Stroking it with his long fingers, taking each of hers, examining it, moving on to the next. Running his thumb across her knuckles, testing the fit of her hand in his. He lifted it to his face and rubbed his cheek against it, feeling the softness of her. He turned it over and pressed his nose against her wrist and then his lips pressing against her pulse holding there before leaving a trail to the center of her palm marking each step with a kiss, and a shaky breath.

Claire twisted her hand out of his grasp and cupped his cheek with it feeling the moisture of tears leaving their own trails downs his cheeks and collecting where her hand lay. She leaned forward until her forehead was resting against his lips and felt his benediction upon her brow.

He wrapped his arm around her and pulled her snuggly into his side and broke the silence with his husky whisper into her ear, his brogue deeper than before. She recognized his call to her as she’d first heard him only hours before.

“One day, I’ll take ye to the heights overlooking the city and share with ye the sight of the glimmering and twinkling lights, sparkling as a firefly with the gloaming, announcing its presence. Its signals to its mate, Here, I’m here, come find me, …and amongst all the millions of lights, it miraculously does. And like that wee bug, in the dark of night ye’ll realize ye have yer own spark that calls me to ye, ye willna need a light to find me, ye’ll need only to reach out yer hand and I’m there, beside ye."

"Jamie, that is the kindest, sweetest thing anyone has ever said to me."

"I mean it, I’m yers, Claire. Will ye have me?”

Tears were tracking down her own cheeks now in a greater flow than Jamie’s, at least she thought as she sniffled loudly, and bobbed her head unable to speak for the moment and finally choking out a response, “It is so incredibly tempting; I want to say yes, Jamie, but to be fair are you sure you want a broken bit like me? The doctor may not be able to fix me.”

“How can he fix someone that is already perfect?”

“Now you’re just being ridiculous, again,” she pushed his shoulder and gave a final sniff along with a smile, the tension broken.

“Ye seem no to believe me, but I’ll have ye any way that I can, Sassenach, and a few that have yet to be imagined.”

Claire could feel the heat rising in her cheeks at his suggestion, "Have you listened to yourself?"

"Aye, Mam says I love to hear myself prattle, but if ye'd like me to give ye a wee demonstration and I'm certainly open to suggestions, if ye'd like to share."

"I'll have to think about it..."

“So, ye have a lot on yer mind then. Have ye thought about it?”

“About what? ”

“Our marriage bed. …Being marrit.”

“Oh.” She had said it; a slip? “In general, or you specifically?”

“Let’s start with general.”

“Well, of course I’ve thought about it, I think we all do at some point and I was planning to get married before.”

“So ye’re no opposed to the idea of it, just the previous person involved.”

“I suppose you could say so. I really like the idea, but I don’t think it’s in the cards for me at this point, and do not tell me your asking if I’ll have you is tied to a marriage proposal.”

“Weel, I’m no saying it is or it isna, but I’m certainly no opposed to calling ye my wife.”

Claire felt the stutter in her chest as he said the words. “We hardly know each other; I’d need more time.”

“How long does it take for ye to ken the worth of a person, does that amount of time exist, or is it truly kent only in yer heart?”

He had her there. She’d known Frank for several years, but obviously not in reality, and admittedly held back on the final commitment. And in the short time she’d known Jamie, she felt she knew him far better than she ever had Frank.

“A year.” It seemed like a reasonable amount of time to know someone before taking a leap, and a lot could happen in the next year.

“How about ye give me a year and a day to convince ye. Will ye hand fast with me?”

“Hand fast? What’s that mean?”

“It’s an old, verra old tradition, dates back to when priests were no so readily available mind ye, but a couple would commit to being marrit by speaking their vows to each other and if after a year and a day, they didna want the marriage to be permanent, they would go their separate ways. If ye decide ye dinna like me, ye can kick me to the curb.”

“You’re just making that up.”

“No, I’m not, I would never lie to ye Sassenach. Here let me show you.”

“Hey, Seamus!”

Jamie got no reaction from their driver, “Seamus,” and gave his shoulder a light nudge.

“Eh?” he pulled an ear bud out. “Sorry, thought ye’d wanted some privacy. Just one, though,” and held it up. “Are ye ready to head home?”

“No yet, but would ye pull over?”

Seamus pulled over to the curb, the traffic on the streets was light and only a few pedestrians were out. “What can I do for ye?” he turned around as best he could from his seat.

Claire jumped in before Jamie could speak. “Is there such a thing as hand fasting?”

“Hand fasting? Aye, well there was… it was the unofficial official marriage way back in the day. A year and a day is what it took. Ye still hear about someone doing it every now again before moving in together. Gets the Grans off yer back, if ye ken what I mean.”

“So? What did I tell ye?” Claire could hear the grin in Jamie’s voice. “Will ye do it?”

Not fully convinced she turned back to Seamus, “What’s required?”

“Ye mean besides two people willing to commit to each other?” He tried to turn a bit more fully in his seat to look at the couple, the conversation taking a very interesting turn.

“Just a witness, and a ring.” He looked at Jamie. “Have ye got a ring, man? I’ll be yer witness,” he offered grinning. This would be a great story for his gran.

“Just a minute there!” Claire stopped the seemingly imminent proceedings. “Tell me what he looks like. I can’t see him. Does he look respectable?”

Seamus looked again from one to the other. This was getting better and better. “Well, he looks clean, nice clothes, like those Barbour ones, with the plaid shirts and such. Some might say he’s a good-looking fella, handsome really if ye like the outdoorsy, rugged looking type. He’s dark ginger hair, could use a trim up unless ye like it long. He's still prone to blushing if what he’s doing now is any example. Can control his temper, because he’d like to take my head off. He’s got pretty eyes, sorta like a cat, canna tell the color so well in this light, but blue. And he's got some crinkles around his eyes, like he smiles a lot, like he’s doing now. A big smile, nice straight teeth. He’s a big fella though which can be good as long as minds not to squash ye.”

“Hey! That’ll be enough with yer mouth.”

“He’s back to wanting to take my head off, but I dinna think ye can go wrong with him. But does he have a job? Hey, can ye care for her if she canna see? She deserves to have all yer support if she needs it. In sickness and in health… Can ye promise her that?”

Claire lifted her brow as she was hopefully peering at Jamie, “Can you?” and hoped he'd take it in the teasing manner she intended.

“Aye, I can. I will. I do.” Not a hint of sarcasm tinted his reply as he gave her hand a small squeeze.

“Do you understand it’s going to be a rough patch ahead? I won’t make promises I can’t keep, and you shouldn’t either.”

“I’m a man of my word, Sassenach. I dinna make an oath lightly, but I give ye mine, that I’ll be by yer side as long as ye’ll have me.”

“And Boston?”

“I dinna say it would always be easy. I need to make a few adjustments to my schedule, but I think I can be there before yer surgery if it’s no before the end of the week. And I can write from anywhere. I’ll be there as long as we need to be.”

Claire could hardly accept what he was saying, “Truly, you’d do that? Upend your life – for me?” her chin was starting to quiver as she struggled to hold back her tears.

“I’d do anything for ye, Claire. Believe me. Will ye allow me to be a husband to ye, love ye and call ye my own, my wife?”

She was almost beyond being able to respond. If this was a real proposal, she couldn't imagine one any more sincere as she thought about him and his generosity, his kindness toward her in just the short time. This was the time for being brave and she’d meant what she’d told Gail. It seemed a pretty one-sided bargain. She didn't have much to offer him except she knew she wanted to share herself with Jamie. There were no guarantees, but if love was possible in the moment, she loved him. “I will.” It did not come out as strong as she wanted, her throat raspy with emotions, and repeated it again. “I will, Jamie, I promise.”

“A ring man, d’ye have a ring? Because I’d testify ye have just committed yerselves to each other, and God’s blessing be on ye.”

“Aye, I have this for now,” Jamie pulled and twisted at a worn gold signet ring that was firmly holding to his pinky. He finally managed to dislodge it with a grunt and a bit of hand lotion from Seamus.

“I havena taken this off since it came to me from my father near to six years ago. It was his great uncle Elon’s, who wore it until the day he died at 96 and my Da wore it until he died. There’s a lot of Fraser love that comes with this token, Claire.” Jamie took her trembling hand and slipped it onto her ring finger and then kissed her finger where the ring rested.

When he’d lowered her hand, Claire grasped it with her other hand as she tested its fit. It was just the slightest bit loose but fit amazingly well but best of all it carried Jamie’s warmth and that spark of hope she’d felt earlier. “Thank you, Jamie, I’m honored.”

She felt Jamie’s warm breath on her face and turned toward him. “I’d verra much like to kiss ye, may I?”

Given the teasing nature of their exchanges, she almost asked him, “What? Again?” but this was a changing point, a milestone and deserved something more. “Only if you let me kiss you first.”

As she leaned forward Jamie saw the sweetest smile she’d borne him since they’d met and felt the warmth of it to his backbone. I love ye Sassenach, thank God ye found me.  When her lips missed their intended target, but made contact with his skin next to his mouth, he couldn’t resist a small chuckle as he adjusted his position and lightly licked his lips. “My turn,” and his lips claimed hers.

Chapter Text

Claire felt Jamie’s breath upon her as his hand cradling her head pulled her closer, the brush of his lips tender against hers before settling in to taste, nip and devour hers and met with her own mounting urgency that had her shifting in her seat pushing against his shoulders and attempting to straddle him.

And done!” The thwap of a hand smacking against the seat penetrated their bubble and pulled their focus back to their forgotten companion. “That’s it, sealed it with a kiss, a very fine kiss from all appearances.” Seamus’ comment coming from the front seat changing as he turned away from the backseat gymnastics. “And shall we be off to home now? I think you’ll be much more comfortable there. I know I will.” He finished quietly, but not enough that it didn’t register with Jamie, who started chuckling with delight as he held Claire against his chest. Seamus shifted the car into gear readying to start off, and suggesting affably, “Back in yer seat, Missus. Want to get you home safe and sound.”

Claire pulled her leg back around and made a point of settling in her seat with a loud huff that morphed into her own giggle. “Alright home it is and make it quick!”

“Sorry, two quick stops before go.” Jamie looked out the window trying to get oriented to their location. “Are we far from the Castle Esplanade? I canna see.”

“It’s just up the hill, we’re on Lawnmarket.”

“Is there an apothecary between here and there ye could stop by first?”

“A quick detour around the corner to one that’s still open if that suits ye.”

“Aye, that’ll do, and would ye put yer bud back in? I have some things I would say to my missus.” Jamie could not keep the smile from his face or his voice as he pulled Claire back against him, kissing her forehead and leaning in. “Did ye hear him call ye Missus? My heart felt like it would burst from my chest. I ken it’s no official yet, but Missus James Alexander Malcom Mackenzie Fraser. How does that sound to ye?”

Claire couldn’t help but be caught up in his enthusiasm and laughed along, “Like a mouthful; all those really belong to you? Jamie..." she could help another peal of laughter, "How about …Claire Beauchamp-Fraser?”

“With a hyphen?" he paused as though considering, "Well that might do, but ye…ye could shorten it to Claire Fraser, that would be even easier. I like the sound of that, Claire Fraser,” he rolled the r’s dramatically off his tongue, savoring it, and leaned over kissing her smiling lips. “Ye like it too, I can tell.”

“I admit it has a certain ring to it, especially when you say it,” she teased him. Claire Fraser, Claire Beauchamp-Fraser, Claire Fraser…she tested it out the sound of it in her mind then said it aloud. “Claire Fraser. Hello, I’m Claire Fraser.”

Jamie thought his face would split with the smile that spread across his face as he heard Claire saying her name. Never in a million years would he have imagined his day ending so magically when he woke this morning. Dia taing dhut!

“Here we are,” as the car pulls up to the apothecary.

Jamie looked out the window and back at Claire. “I’ll be but a moment, mo chridhe. Ye keep practicing. See how many times ye can say it before I’m back,” and dashed into the shop.

Claire Fraser, Claire Fraser, Claire Fraser, …Jamie Fraser, Jamie Fraser, Jamie Fraser, Jamie Fraser,

Seamus’ question finally broke into Claire’s reverie, “I’m sorry, did you say something?”

“Aye, I was wondering if ye dinna mind my askin’, from what ye’ve said ye two only recently met, but ye act as if ye’ve kent each other for a long time. Which is it?”

Which indeed? …How do you explain the inexplicable?  Claire felt the smile curl her lips as she thought about him. She couldn’t have held it back if she’d wanted and she didn’t, never would she forget the moment, the feeling of recognition… “Here, I’m here.”  Then worried if she said it aloud, it might come off sounding like a Jerry Maguire  cliché, Jamie was anything but…. Gah!  Her feminist induced guilt washed over her for a moment before she was able to stick her finger in the breach. She’d been reared to be a fully evolved women in her own right, self-sufficient, relying on no one else to define her self-worth and yet …He, Jamie Fraser, had appeared in her life filling a void she hadn’t realized was there until he was. He completed her. Was it as simple as that?

“He completes ye.”

“I’m sorry, what?” She’d been so lost in her contemplations she didn’t register what Seamus said.

“He completes ye,” Seamus repeated.

If she had sight, she would have been guilty of staring, her mouth gaped before closing it. “Are you a traveling, mind reading, psychic Uber driver?”

Seamus guffawed joyously at her suggestion, “Now for that maybe I could charge extra for the fare, but no. It’s just yer face is clear as glass and it’s written all over it when ye’re thinking about him.”

She’d heard that before; she was horrible at concealing her thoughts. Claire hesitated, “Have you ever worked on one of those puzzles with a thousand pieces? You take weeks, working on it a little bit at a time, here and there when you can, you know? And then finally, finally you get to the point where there’re only a handful of pieces left in the box and everything is fitting perfectly into place and ”

“The last piece is missing.” Seamus interjected nodding his head, “right there, right in the middle. It canna be to the side where ye maybe can ignore it. It’s right in the blasted middle,” and he released a huge sigh.

“Absolutely!” she laughed. “Sometimes I think they do it on purpose, but this time though I was lucky, he’s like that puzzle piece that got lost and only got found under the chest when rearranging the furniture. He… Jamie’s a part of me that’s been missing. We just fit, so maybe that’s why I feel like I’ve known him forever.”

“That’s lovely to hear, a true romantic tale, gives me hope. Ye’ve certainly made my …well the pair of ye are the best ride I’ve ever had. It was an honor to be yer witness. Heads up, here comes yer mister.”

My mister…her heart thumped wildly as she almost laughed and then it hit her. Oh God, what am I going to tell everyone? Geille will laugh her head off.

Jamie slid into the seat and tucked his package onto the floor, “Sorry for taking so long, how high did ye get?”

“I lost count,” she snuggled into him.

“Dinna let her fool ye.” Seamus answered from the front. “She only got out three before she slipped to calling out Jamie Fraser, Jamie Fraser, over and over…like she was saying a prayer chant. Just so ye ken, ye’re the answer to her prayers.”

“Snitch!”

“He! He! He! Ye’re right! So up the hill?”

Jamie looked out the front windshield and then back to Claire. He’d been so sure, but perhaps it was too soon. “Nah, it can wait for another day. I think it’s time we head for home; what d’ye say Sassenach?”

“I’m definitely good with that. Ear bud in, Seamus!” Claire giggled as Jamie pulled her closer, chuckling as he did. “Is it the truth? Would ye have told me if he hadna?”

“Maybe, I don’t know,” she admitted. “I certainly didn’t say what he claims though. He’s taken liberties with the interpretation. I think my analogy was a missing puzzle piece. But I guess either would be accurate.” The side of her mouth turned up in a half smile as she conceded the point.

“Will ye call my name as I make love to ye?” his voice was low and sultry as he whispered in her ear, nuzzling her neck, “Jamie…” came out on a shuddering breath. He left kisses wherever his lips could reach. “Probably…definitely.”

His hand reached inside her cloak and cupped her breast and gently kneaded it. She felt the vibrations of his moan against her neck before withdrawing his hand, and clenching it tightly as though holding in the remembrance of her contours and pulling his mouth away from her. “Sorry that was a mistake, I shouldna have done that.” He rested his forehead against hers and held her palm against his cheek. “I just want ye so badly, but canna start it here, it’d no be right. Okay?”

“Well I don’t think you can put that genie back in bottle, you’ve definitely got me started,” she huffed as she attempted to turn away, but his hold on her tightened.

“As have ye, but I dinna wish to try poor Seamus’ sensibilities further. He’s been a sport.” Jamie’s voice was low and rough as he whispered in her ear. “Would ye care to see?”

“Why do you say… oh, OH,” Claire’s hand came into contact with firm evidence that she did indeed have Jamie started as he laid her palm against him and his hand covered hers. Jamie dropped his head back against the seat and closed his eyes as Claire’s hand caressed him and a groan deep in his chest rumbled.

Christ! His hand snaked out quickly and took hold of her nape and pulled her mouth to his, “D’ye see now?” he stilled her hand, “As badly as I want ye, I dinna intend to introduce ye to my cock in the backseat of an auto.”

Claire nodded against his head and then rolled back away, head and shoulders resting flat against the seat. Jamie released a deep breath, but not her hand. He gripped it tighter after giving it a squeeze.

They rode in silence only their hands stroking each other’s.

He felt the car slowing and opened his eyes, not recognizing the neighborhood street as Seamus pulled into an open spot at the curb. Seamus announced their arrival and pointed at the brownstone two doors up.

Something was wrong and every hair stood up on Jamie’s neck. “Ye have a lovely home, Sassenach. Would ye wait here while I go open the door and turn on the lights?” Jamie met Seamus’s eyes in the rearview mirror.

“I don’t need lights for heaven’s sake,” Claire laughed, excited to be home.

“I ken ye’d do fine without them, but ye wouldna want me tripping over something in the dark as I carry ye in would ye? That might no be the best start to our evening. I can think of more pleasurable ways to have my back going out than falling down.”

“Jamie…,” she blushed.

“So now ye’re embarrassed? I think Seamus kens verra well what we’re about and we’ll be inviting him to our wedding. Please let me do this.”

“Oh, all right,” she fished in her purse and pulled out the keys holding them out for Jamie. He took them but lifted her hand and kissed it first and then her lips briefly.

“Seamus will keep ye company until I return,” and accepted his nod in acknowledgement.

“Aye, we’ll be right here until ye return, dinna fash.”

Jamie opened the door and stepped from the car, pulling his phone from his pocket as he did closing the door. He took his eyes from Claire’s home only long enough to place a call as he stood on the sidewalk.

“Joe?”

“Is everything all right? Is Claire okay?” Jamie heard the alarm in Joe’s question.

“Aye, Claire’s fine. We just arrived to her home and … Did ye leave the lights on? The house is ablaze with lights.”

“No. Geillis and I were there a couple of days ago to retrieve the whisky, but no, we didn’t even need to turn on the lights.”

“Tell Rupert and Angus to call it in, give them her address.”

“Why? Just call 999 yourself, we’re on our way,” Joe looked at the group gathered about him listening in to the call as he started to stand, looks of concern and confusion on every face as they all started pushing back from chairs, moving in preparation to respond to an emergency.

Rupert had pulled his phone out hearing Joe’s comment and started speaking before Joe had finished. “Give them the address.”

Joe took the phone and relayed the address before handing it back to Rupert. “Go in silent, we’ll meet ye there.”

“Willie, can ye drive? Rupert and I…”

“Aye, I’m fine, but gimme yer keys.” They started moving together in practiced unison, “Joe, ye’re coming with us.”

“We’ll I’m no fucking waiting here!” Geillis punched Denny in the shoulder, “Ye’re driving me.”

Shouts, of “Me too!” were met with confusion as they all started moving toward the door and Gail volunteering, “I know the way.”

 

Jamie approached the house cautiously. He studied the surrounding area and didn’t see any movement before he proceeded to climb the few steps to the front stoop. Keys in hand, he tested the knob and felt it turn freely.

Iffrin! Pocketing the keys, he slowly opened the door and stepped inside.

Seamus had kept one eye on Jamie and the other on Claire as she attempted to pick up the small talk that had come to them so easily, but she could tell he was distracted, and she was anxious to get inside and home, herself.

“Do you see any lights come on?”

“Oh aye, seems to be the foyer light, I would guess.” Seamus was not given to telling tales, but the light spilled out the door as Jamie entered and left the door ajar and feeling anxious himself with the growing tension. He had clocked Jamie’s concern immediately and pulled his own phone to hand ready to call for reinforcements, should the need arise. “I can imagine, he might be a wee bit curious. Never been there before, ye say... Might want to get the lay of the place, ye ken.” He tried to keep his tone light and reassuring but felt he was mucking it up.

“So have ye been there long?”

Claire wasn’t exactly sure how she felt about Jamie exploring her home without her. She started fumbling for the door handle determined to wait no longer.

“Missus! He asked ye to wait. I assured him, … please, ye canna.”

“I can and I will.” She was climbing out of the car now and Seamus made to hoist himself out as well.

He looked toward the door where Jamie had entered and saw a man start to mount the steps, carrying some bags and paused, as though waiting. Where had he come from?!

Shitte!  At that moment Claire tripped on the curb and stumbled a couple of steps before regaining her balance. There were tears of frustration shining her eyes when he reached her as she tried to find her orientation. “Please….”

“Of course, here let take yer arm?” he offered gently.

She nodded and held out her hand, and he took and placed it upon his arm. “There’s cracks in the walkway, dinna need to be tripping on them,” he cautioned. “We’ll go slow and by the time we get there, I bet yer mister will be coming back to get ye. We’ll just surprise him a bit.”

“Ye ken I had to stop a few doors down from yers to find an open spot here.” Seamus trying his best to slow their progress and noted the man was no longer on the step. Not sure if this was good or not, but the door remained opened, so hoped he'd left. Something was not right about him but didn't want to scare the lady, Claire.

Jamie had stepped into the foyer and heard rustlings in a room beyond. He wondered if he should wait for the police or confront Frank, the bastard. He did not want Claire to have to face the man, never again, but not especially today, on her first return to her home, not on their first day.

He took a step forward, but his foot hit something hidden in the shadow and it skittered across the floor.

“I’m in here!” a feminine English voice called out, surprising him. “Did you bring the extra wrap? I’ve about run out.”

Jamie stood in the doorway watching a young woman seated on the floor surrounded by taped boxes, wrapping what appeared to be small trinkets in bubble wrap.

Sensing him, she looked up, her smiled fading as her eyes went wide with surprise and then fear. “You’re not Frank.”

“No, madam, I’m not.” James Fraser stood at his full six feet four inches, hands clenched at his sides and fury etching his Viking features. It had only taken a moment to realize what was happening and in the next, she’s expecting the bastard.

“But I would expect ye to be Frank’s trollop, Candy is it? No, Brandy? ah, I recall now,… Sandy.” Jamie made no effort to cover his disdain. “So, he has ye doing his thieving now. Nice guy, ye’ve tied yerself to.”

“No! These belong to Fr,” her denial was cut off.

“Nothing in this house belongs Frank, nothing!”

Jamie whirled around at Claire’s shriek to see a man standing behind her with one hand wrapped in her hair, pulling her head back at a painful angle, the other evidently in her back, pushing her forward. Her face showing nothing but fury.

It was all Jamie could do to not charge the man but concern for Claire held him back for the moment. “I’ll thank ye to take yer hands off my wife! "

Chapter Text

Seamus had been gently holding Claire’s arm as she’d gripped his as they navigated the distance from the car to her own walkway avoiding cracks in the pavement and protruding tree roots. Never before had she realized what a treacherous obstacle course was her own neighborhood sidewalk. The reality almost made her regretful of her decision not to wait for Jamie’s return, and damned her stubbornness which had gotten her into trouble more than a time or two. It was not a good trait when paired with her sometimes impetuous nature.

Once she’d turned into her own yard, the familiarity set her at ease and the tension in her muscles evaporated. She let out a breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding and turned smiling at Seamus showing her relief, “Thank you, I can manage from here,” and let loose her grip on his arm. Claire could walk this path with her eyes closed – literally as she had done trudging home from late night shifts, half asleep on too many occasions to count.

“I think ye should wait, until Jamie comes to fetch ye.” Seamus tentatively followed on her heels encouraging her to wait and wondering what the hell was taking Jamie so long. Not liking the vibes he was getting one bit, he pulled his phone from his pocket and pushed the dial button he had queued.

Claire thought she had heard a step from behind them and started to turn when she heard the sickening thunk and nearly fell as Seamus went down pulling her with him.

She was saved from the fall only by a hand savagely wrapping in her curls and yanking her back on to her feet. It had happened so quickly she’d been so startled she’d not cried out only managed with a quick intake of breath. And then her right arm was being twisted and up behind her back. The pull on her hair and pain in her shoulder had her dancing on her toes in counterpoint to the two sources of pain that brought tears to her eyes.

“You truly have a gift for showing up at the most unexpected times, Claire,” Frank’s familiar and once dear voice, whispered with deadly calm into her ear.

Claire’s attempted retort was hushed with a tug at her hair, “Shush now, none of that, or your friend here might regret your lack of cooperation.”

“You’ve gone mad,” she hissed through clenched teeth and received a twist to her arm.

“Ah, ah, ah…,” she received in warning.

You, my dear, seem to have the ability to bring out the best in me,” he chuckled just a bit in acknowledgement. “If only you’d…,” but stopped without finishing his thought exhaling his frustration. “Shall we proceed darling? It seems your other friend may have interrupted Sandy. Not a word now or he may well be next,” and with a rough push got her started up again.

You best Jamie? Now that, I’d like to see!

Claire stumbled up the first stair and found her footing, mounting the remaining two, quietly feeling Frank’s threat with each step his fingers tightening in her hair. Jamie? She wanted to call out to him but felt assured he wasn’t at risk at the moment but thought her arm likely to be broken. She could hear voices through the open door and then as they stepped through, hearing Sandy claim she was packing Frank’s things, sent her flying over the edge.

By God, enough is enough!  “Nothing in this house belongs to Frank, nothing!”

Claire’s shriek of protest had struck Jamie like a knife to the gut. It had been only a short time ago he was vowing to protect her and now right before his eyes he saw the very scum of the earth, the man that Claire had once loved, hurting her.

Jamie saw defiance on Claire’s face echoing her words even as tears began to course down her cheeks. It was then he realized Frank was leveraging her arm – her right arm, behind her, controlling her movements.

“Frank? What’s going on? What are you doing?” Jamie heard Sandy whimper from behind him as his attention remained lasered on Claire.

Jamie’s eyes darted from Claire to the man behind her, his hands clenched into fists as his heart hammered, contemplating a move that would not jeopardize Claire further. He had uttered his command with a deadly calm he did not feel, hoping to distract him and staking his claim to her. “I’ll thank ye to take yer hands off my wife!

The silence paced two heart beats before it registered a response. “Wife? I don’t think so,” Frank huffed with a scoffing laugh.

“You think not? …Husband,” Claire raised her left hand and waggled her fingers; the gold ring Jamie had slipped on her finger catching Frank’s attention, fixing her eyes on Jamie’s, “…wife,” she stated firmly.

Jamie could still not see the man well, except for the brown hair topping his head and his shadow darkened eyes darting at him as he peered over Claire’s shoulder using her as a shield, but Jamie took a determined step closer. Every fiber of his being was itching to assault the man to within an inch of his life. “How dare ye lay a hand upon Claire? Are ye mad?”

Husband. Jamie heard Claire claim him and If his heart could have melted more in the moment it would have, but he noticed the tension on her head relax as Frank released it instead reaching out and grabbing her ringed hand. And then she was slumping forward momentarily when he released her arm until he whirled her around so she was now facing Frank.

“When?” Disbelief, then accusation flung at her, “Just how long have you been fucking this Scottish bastard?” His assessing gaze flicked from Jamie’s glare, back to Claire’s neck as he leaned closer to her ear. “No one’s going to find pleasure with you, at least not for long.”

Attention distracted, Jamie closed the distance in three quick strides and wrapped his hand around Claire’s waist mindful of her arm that was hanging in a pained attitude and pulled from her from a stunned Frank’s hold. “I told ye to let her go!”

And settling her behind him; with a continuous movement and without a thought his right hand smashed into Frank’s startled face, releasing a deep grunt with the effort.

Claire had been feeling like a rag doll being pulled between the two men, the sudden yanks and grabs were too disorienting, and her body tensed in anticipation of the next when she heard the smack of flesh on flesh.

Who?!

Frank almost went down but came back up, holding his face with both hands, squawking from behind his fingers, “You broke my nose!”

“No, if it’d been broken, ye would have heard a terrible crunching sound and ye’d be bleeding like a stuck pig.” Jamie railed at him, his fists still clenched, and breathing hard through his nose, anger radiating off him in waves. “Ye dare to lay hands on Claire after all ye’ve done to her? Come into her home, hurt her again!?”

Ignoring Jamie’s vitriol, Frank tentatively removed his hands and looked down his nose as he tenderly fingered it and didn’t see the next swing coming his direction. He hit the floor this time and with the blood that flew from his nose, Jamie crowed as he stood over his still form pointing a finger, “Now that’s broken.”

“Claire?” he turned and pulled her shaking body into his arms, tenderly touching her head where he believed Frank had been pulling her hair and kissed her temple. “Ye must sit down, mo nighean donn,” and lifted her in his arms, cradling her against his chest and started down the hall where the woman, Sandy, bearing an anxious expression was bouncing on her toes as though deciding whether to run.

He halted in front of her, scowling as she backed away from him into a corner, slumped against the wall and slid down to the floor looking up at him with wide eyes. “Ye stay put,” his tone tolerating no insolence.

“Christ, the police should have been here by now,” Jamie muttered as he set Claire in a chair and crouched down next to her looking back toward the door listening for footsteps.

“You called the police? When?”

“The lights were on when we arrived, it didna seem right so I called Joe and he told Rupert to call it in.”

“But,”

“Sassenach, would ye please let me see to you? Are ye alright? Does yer head hurt?” He held her face between his hands looking into her unfocused eyes, her pupils looked even. “I dinna ken what I should be seeing, but ye still have the most beautiful eyes, I’ve ever seen.” She blinked at this and a small smile turned up the corners of her lips.

“I think I’m okay,” she relaxed her head tilting her head forward as she reached to the back of her head and ran her fingers through where Frank had been yanking her hair. Her fingers came back with a small handful of strands curling around her fingers. “Bastard, he’s really gone over the edge,” she muttered as she pulled them loose shaking her hands free of them.

Jamie’s stomach roiled at the sight and leaned in placing a kiss on her forehead as he tenderly touched the back of her head.

“I thought ye were with Seamus. What happened, why’d ye leave the car?”

“Oh, Seamus! ….go check him, please. Frank hit him with something when we were coming up the path.”

“I dinna want to leave ye. Help is on the way.”

“No, Jamie, go. I’ll be alright,” she gently pushed him away insisting. “I’m not going anywhere, please.”

Jamie looked about, "Only if ye promise to stay here; there's boxes littering the floor and I dinna want ye tripping."

She acceded with a nod, "Go," and gave him a gentle push.

He recluctantly tore himself away from her side, pausing in front of a shaking Sandy still pushed up against the wall and looking up at him. “If ye, either of ye, ever so much as harm another hair on her head, ye’ll regret it. … just dinna move from there while I see what other damage he’s caused.,” he pointed at her as he stepped over the still inert body of Frank, that lay across the hall, barely resisting the urge to give him a boot in the bollocks.

It only took a glance through the entry and he could see Seamus lying a short distance from the foot of the stairs. Taking the flight in a single bound, Jamie landed next to the driver and shook him gently calling his name. He checked that he was still breathing and tenderly felt about his head and feeling a lump pulled his bloodied fingers away and wiped them on his pants. Just to the side was a branch that appeared to have been used to club him.

Kneeling next to Seamus, “Seamus, do ye hear me man?” he patted his cheek hoping to rouse him, “help will be here shortly,” Jamie was reluctant to try to do more until help arrived. Jamie pulled out his phone and called Rupert.

“Jamie! Talk to me!”

“Where’s the patrol, man?! I thought ye’d get yer guys here quicker than me. It’s a mess, and we need medical, an ambulance, There’re two down.”

“Claire?!” He heard the alarm in Joe’s question, but glad they were still together.

“He hurt her, Frank did, but she says she’s fine, she’s inside. I need to get back to her, but…”

“We’re on our way there, Jamie. Gail’s driving us. Take a breath man. I ken it seems to be taking forever, it always does, that’s the adrenaline. I don’t ken where the fat fucks are, they shouldha been there. Angus heard and has called for medic, keep an ear out. Stay with me and tell me what happened.”

Jamie got up and walked back toward the steps, he could see Frank still laid out on the floor and Sandy’s foot, but Claire was out of sight.

“I found Frank’s girl inside packing and boxing up stuff and then Frank came in manhandling Claire, pulling her hair and twisting her  arm up behind her back. Her head is tender from her hair being pulled, but she says otherwise she’s okay, but if Joe’s coming, he can see to her, can’t he?”

“Yes! We’re all on the way. We’ll take care of her, Jamie.”

“Who’s down then?”

“Seamus, our driver, he’s been hit in the head with a branch and is out. Has a good lump on his head and bleeding from it. And Frank. I broke his nose and he’s out, but he’s inside with Claire and Sandy. I dinna want to leave her alone with them, but she ordered me to see to Seamus.”

He couldn’t help vent his frustration on the man that had inadvertently contributed so much to his and Claire’s evening. “Why did ye leave the car?” He was feeling torn, helpless here and with Claire inside.

Finally, a police vehicle with flashing blue lights roared to a stop in front of the house. "They're here, I gotta go." Jamie disconnected and stood and waved then pointing down at Seamus. “He’s hurt and there’s another inside.”

“Stay where ye are! Put yer hands behind yer head and kneel down!” came a shouted command from a shadowed voice.

“NO! Claire’s inside, I must get back to her,” and turned toward the stairs.

Chapter Text

What the fuck? Is that me? He was not dead. At least the spasms coursing through his body and the groans led Jamie to believe so. The smell of mouldering leaves and earth filled his nostrils, his cheek and palms resting in their bed on the damp ground.

It seemed hell had erupted about him as a stampede of feet and disjointed voices ran past him and up the stairs, he could make out three pair halted next to him and heard more behind him as he blinked his eyes open. The strobe of red, blue and white lights reflected off the surfaces before his eyes drifted shut again.

A pair of rough hands shaking his shoulders. “Jamie, man, you’re alive, you’ll be okay.”

He managed to whisper, “If ye say so. Shite, Rupe, did someone shoot me?” came out with a litany of curses a low groaning as he tried to roll over, he grabbed for his arse cheek, the source of his pain. CLAIRE!  “Where’s Claire?”

“Ye,” Rupert growled at someone standing behind him, “check with Angus inside and report back to me.”

“Denny, will ye see to him?” as Rupert continued to offer comforting pats, “Just stay still Jamie.”

“Ye ken him, …ye recognized him!” Rupert had taken command of the situation and was fuming at his patrolman. 

“He didna stop! I ordered him to halt, but he moved to enter the house. He ignored my order, I didna think I had a choice given the call in.”

“So ye tased him? Christ man, …Stay here and take notes McNabb, until the Lieutenant gets here.”

x0x0x0x

Claire sat in the dark, alone, willing back the tears that threatened. Tears of anger, frustration as she massaged her tender shoulder. Why had she done it? Why had she sent Jamie out instead of holding him close as she had wanted to do. She was concerned for Seamus, it was her fault he’d been hurt.

“Why didn’t you let him go …before?”

“Pardon me?” She’d been so focused on Jamie and what was happening outside, she’d forgotten her presence, it had been so quiet. The buzzing of words brought her attention back inside. “I didn’t hear what you said.” And despite her reluctance turned her head toward the voice.

“I asked why you didn’t let him go… Do you even realize how incredibly selfish you are?” Her tone accusatory.

“He never asked. Which, if he told you otherwise, he lied. He’s very good at it, though you should know,” Claire stated bluntly, her own voice cold and bit back further response. All he had to do was ask. She pushed herself up from her chair and turned, determined to leave this woman and her intrusive questions behind. Her foot struck something as she stepped and halted.

“Be careful! That’s priceless!”

Claire stooped down and reached out feeling for the object until her fingers found a small clay cat figurine and wrapped her fingers around it, stood holding it against her chest stroking it and smiled with the memories that flooded her. “Beyond measure; you have no idea.” Bastet. She leaned down and slowly made her way forward until there was nothing else in her way and walked into a back, sitting room. She collapsed into the settee and pulled the blanket from the backrest and snuggled into it as she let the tears flow.

Pity Party – table for 1… She’d wanted Jamie to see her, not as she was now, someone vulnerable but as she was brave, still independent.

Footsteps, many feet and voices hurried down the hall. “Jamie?” She swiped at the tears and looked up expectantly.

“No, it’s me, Joe, and Gail and Mary, too.” She felt his gentle hands on her, could feel his breath on her as he leaned in close, knowing he was looking into her eyes.

“Where’s Jamie?”

“He’s outside. Too many folks in here for now. Willie and Angus are in the hall with Frank and her.”

“Sandy,” she breathed quietly. “But why are they here?”

“Would you believe they’re some of our finest?” and everyone chuckled, “Rupert, too. He’s with Jamie. Now tell me what happened.”

Claire could feel Gail’s gentle hands on her shoulder encouraging her and Mary’s hand taking hers and felt a wealth of gratitude for the loving friends she had.

“JAMIE!” a muffled cry came from inside the house.

x0x0x0x

Claire! Christ, Claire!  Her cry registered with him as he struggled to get oriented and unable to right himself, his leg numb.

“Jamie, ye eejit!” a pair of hands pushed down on his shoulders effectively flattening him, chest on the ground. “D’ye no understand when an officer orders ye to halt, ye HALT?!”

“Rupert, get off me! I need to see to Claire!”

“No, ye need to stay right where ye are. Angus and Willy are dealing with Randall while we get things sorted; Joe’s seeing to Claire and she has Gail with her too. Foster is on his way and can deal with this mess.” Rupert lowered his voice leaning low to Jamie, “Truth is, Angus, me and Willie, we shouldna even be on this...ye ken?”

“Listen to him ye clotheid. Jenny is goin’ to kill ye, goin’ and gettin yerself tased,” Ian added his hands to Jamie’s shoulder, trying to calm and keep him still while Denny attempted to examine him.

“Christ, is that why my arse hurts like hell?” He glared up at Rupert, “Who did it?” he turned his glare on those standing about him.

“You?” His gaze landed a smug looking Rabbie McNabb. Fuckin arsehole.

“Jamie, hold still; I’m going to remove the lead. Really need to examine you later for puncture wounds and clean them. Are you up-to-date on your shots?”

“Aye, need them for my traveling. I’ll do. It’s not hurting so much now.”

“Geillis, how’s the driver doing?” Denny asked, while he plucked the lead from Jamie’s seat, and examined it closely. “You’re lucky you were hit where you were, facing away. Officer?” Denny looked at the officer standing behind Rupert, “How were you so off target?”

Jamie turned his head trying to look back over his shoulder where Seamus was emitting some low noises. Geillis kneeling on the ground and bent over him, lifting his eyelids, using the flashlight on her phone to check his pupillary reactions. “Even and responsive; he’s coming around.” She dropped her phone on the ground next to her. “Sir, hold still.”

Seamus blinked his eyes as he tried to turn his head and groaned reaching for his head, “Ma heid.”

“Seamus, his name is Seamus.”

She placed her hand flat on his chest, “Seamus, ye’ve had an accident, quite a knock to yer head. EMTs are going to be taking ye to the hospital. I need ye to stay still till we can get loaded.”

His gaze shifted focusing on Geillis and smiled, “Och, ye’re so beautiful.”

“Nothing wrong with his vision, seems his mental acuity has not been harmed,” Geillis chuckled as she continued a cursory physical exam of Seamus’ extremities, “make sure ye get that in yer notes,” she glanced up at the patrolman and winked.

“Leave it be Geillis.”

Rupert continued addressing Seamus, “Now, can ye tell me what happened?”

“Hmm? Oh, aye,” a smile spread across his face, “Marrit, they got marrit and I was witness. So romantic.”

A chorus of JAMIE? rose to a crescendo accompanied by a mixture of disbelieving guffaws.

CLAIRE ELIZABETH BEAUCHAMP!  WHAT DID YE DO?” Geillis’ green eyes locked on Jamie’s as she shouted her question before pushing up and away from Seamus.

“FRASER! It’s CLAIRE FRASER!” Jamie called after Geillis as she ran past him headed toward the house.

“Oh Christ.” They certainly had not discussed making their news public, but Jamie intended to make it known in no uncertain terms, she was his. “For Christ’s sake, let me up, would ye? My leg is cramping – I need to move.”

The wheels of a stretcher pushed up the walkway, pausing next to Seamus, “The other’s right behind us, there’s two?”

“Go ahead inside, we’ll catch the next ride.”

“Sounds to me ye’ve been moving pretty fast already,” Ian shook his head from side to side, grinning ear to ear. “Just how did ye manage to get yerself marrit in the short time since ye left the pub? It’s no possible.”

Jamie turned his head and looked sheepishly at Ian who was now sitting on the ground next to him waiting for an explanation. “Weel, we’re handfast until we can make it official, but she’s wearing my ring. We dinna want to wait. …Ye ken why.”

“Aye, he completes her, he’s her missing puzzle piece.”

Jamie bowed his head, blushing at Seamus’ comments, but couldn’t hold back his smile. “She said that? Come on Rupe, I need to see Claire, …please. I’d promised to protect her and right off the bat, I failed her.”

“No surprise there. Ye think ye’re some great white knight, don’t ye Fraser, always coming to the rescue,” McNabb taunted Jamie.

Jamie heaved off from the ground, hopping up on his good leg and lunged at him, but Rupert adroitly stepped between them as Ian grabbed at his leg.

“Shut yer gob, ye pissant!” Jamie growled at the man, trying to push his way around Rupert as McNabb stepped back keeping his human shield between them.

“Jamie,” Ian stood behind Jamie gripping his shoulders, sounding frustrated shook his head and lowered his voice, “Ignore him, Claire’s fine.”

“How’d that go for Willie? …Hunh?” he jeered baiting Jamie.

“ENOUGH!” Rupert roared and shoved McNabb back and jabbed at him with his finger, berating the man. “One more wurd and I’ll deck ye myself. I suggest ye go start writing up yer report on why it took ye so long to respond to the call and then why ye tasered Mr. Fraser. And while yer at it, I think ye best address Dr. Hunter’s question regarding yer poor aim in yer report. Ye have a lot of explaining to do, should keep ye outta more trouble.” Rupert kept his eye on McNabb as he backed away until he finally turned and strode off to his patrol car all the while listening to Jamie breathing like a bull ready to charge behind him.

Slowly Rupert turned around and faced Jamie reaching out and grasping his shoulder. “It’s easier said than done Jamie but pay him no mind. He’s an arse, always has been, always will be. Lad, I ken ye need to see Claire, but ye’ll do her no good being so riled up.”

Denny had moved to tending Seamus after Geillis had taken off. Handling the transfer to the EMTs, gave them a quick assessment while they checked Seamus out and loaded him onto the stretcher. “Abernathy, Duncan and I are unavailable tonight but have whoever is on call do a complete workup starting with a head CT.”

“That’s good, my heid doesna feel so good. Truth be told, I’ve a massive headache.”

Denny looked at Ian during the exchange and quirked his brow knowing there was a history between the two driving Jamie’s reaction, but to see him lose his temper as he had was still alarming.

Ian acknowledged the inquiry but would address it later; there was no getting around it.

Jamie slowly nodded his head and relaxed his clenched fists and spoke in a hushed voice, “Would ye please let me see Claire?”

Rupert looked to the house, “Let me see about getting Randall out of there, ye dinna need to be crossing his path again tonight. Will ye wait here?”

“Aye, but could ye hustle him up a bit?” Jamie brushed at the leaves and debris clinging to his clothes as he limped around, pacing if it could be called that, testing his leg, watching Rupert mount the stairs and enter the house.

“Seamus, how are ye? I’m so sorry ye got mixed up in this, anything I can do for ye, call anyone?”

“D’ye see my phone about?”

Jamie handed his phone over, “Here, call it and then I’ll have yer number too.”

“I’d just called 999 when he hit me, and I must have dropped it.”

Another officer had joined them, “He? So you saw someone?”

“Aye, it was after ye’d gone in the house, Jamie, a man started up after ye, carrying something, but then he was gone. I thought he’d left. Yer missus was very stubborn about not waiting, I tried, honestly.”

“That sounds like Claire,” Denny offered his voice of experience.

“Aye and that sounds like you, Jamie. Frasers, stubborn as rocks the lot of them, ye’re a match made for each other.”

The ring directed them to it a short distance away in the dark, lying next to branch on the ground.

“Dinna touch that branch sir,” the officer called out to Jamie as leaned over to pick up the phone. “It could be evidence. This whole area needs to be surveyed, as well as the house. I doubt anyone will be staying here tonight.”

“The devil ye say!” Jamie turned on his heel and limped his way up the steps, pausing momentarily at the front door before pushing it open and walking in.

“Jamie!” startled at his sudden appearance Rupert and Angus moved to stand in front of Randall laid out on the stretcher in the over-crowded hall.

“Jamie! In here…” Hearing his name Claire called out to him. He paused, then ducked into an open doorway on his right seeking an alternative passage.

His step faltered as he rounded the corner and saw her sitting surrounded by her friends, her arm in a sling and felt a physical ache at the sight. “Sassenach, mo chridhe.” He cut his eyes to Geillis who was standing just to her side, assessing him closely.

He dropped to a crouch in front of Claire and lifted her free hand and placed a kiss on its palm before pressing it against his cheek and felt her fingers shift and cup his cheek. Leaning into her touch his eyes closed. “It pains ye,” he observed quietly.

“It’s not too bad. This is more to just relieve the strain.”

“Her shoulder will be tender for a few days but should heal quickly as she’s no likely to be using it too much. If it’s still causing her discomfort when we get to Boston, we’ll look at it further then.”

“I’m sorry Sassenach, I didna intend to be gone from ye so long. Seamus is doing okay and on his way to the A&E.”

“Jamie, did ye hear me before?” Rupert had followed him and was standing in the doorway. “I asked ye to wait outside.”

“Aye, ye did, and I have, but I’m done waiting.” Jamie stood up but held onto Claire’s hand. “I promised this woman that I wouldna leave her side, that I’d be there when she needed me. It’s a promise I broke, but I intend to mend it now. All she wanted was to come here and spend a bit of time where she was comfortable, knows the lay of the land before she has to go face something unknown. It was no too much to ask, but this …” Jamie waved in the direction of Randall and took a deep breath, swallowing the ire that was churning in his gut.

“I hope to God ye’ve got her statement; ye have mine, and Seamus’. If ye need anything else, we’ll talk to ye tomorrow - maybe, but we’re leaving.” Jamie felt Claire rising from her seat and turned to assist her and wrapped his arm around her waist.

“You heard him gentlemen, you’ll have to pardon us. I’m useless and will only be in the way if I stay here. It’s late, I’m tired and my husband is going to take me home …to bed; doctors’ orders.”

“Of course, you heard the lady, Detective Sargent,” a new voice spoke out, “we should be able to manage for the time being. Right?”

“Oh, aye sir, Lieutenant Foster.”

“Well Sassenach, it sounds as though ye’re coming with me,” and he swooped in giving her a kiss before laughing and suddenly hoisting her over his shoulder.

Claire’s own whoop of laughter burst out joining his, “Jamie! whatever are you doing? I can walk.”

“I ken that fine, but you’re no so heavy,” and he gave her a teasing test jounce, “and I’m an impatient man, and I intend to get my wife home, to see you in bed where you need to be. And begging yer pardon, but to help ye maneuver past all the obstacles would take more time than I’m willing give up. So?”

“On your way soldier,” she patted him on the back, but it was only after a few steps she asked him, “Why are you limping?”

“Oh, seems I got tasered in the arse, did Geillis no tell ye?” He dropped a hand and rubbed at the soreness. “Still a bit tender, but maybe ye can kiss it and make it better,” he chuckled as he secured his grip on her thigh.

“Did you just suggest that I kiss your arse?”

“Well better ye than McNabb. He might bite me given the chance.”

“And what makes you think I won’t.”

“I suspect ye will at some point, but when ye lay down with a vixen, ye expect to get bit.”

Jamie ambled his way out of the house and down the walk where there was a small group still gathered.

“Ian.” Jamie couldn’t help but notice Ian eyeing Claire’s fine arse that was at eye level for him when he stopped and lifted his brow at him.

“Oh, yea aye. So ye’re verra fine Claire, I can see.” Jamie lifted his other brow.

“Ian.” Claire giggled lifting her head and trying to turn toward him.

“Change of plans, ye’re back with Angus, we canna stay here the night. Can ye give us a lift to my flat?”

“I’m sorry Jamie, I rode over with Gail.”

“Iffrin,” Jamie mumbled.

“I’ll can give you a lift,” Denny offered. “I’m headed back that way now and I can run Ian by the pub to pick up his car.”

“Thanks, Denny,” Claire answered, “Can we go now or else Jamie you’re going to have to let me down.”

“Ian,” Jamie leaned into whisper something Claire couldn’t make out. “Meet you at …?”

“Just over there,” Denny pointed at his car as they started walking the short distance down the block.

Jamie lowered Claire to the ground but held onto her waist as she held onto his shoulders and pulled her to him resting his forehead on hers. For all the world it would appear as though two lovers were peering into each other’s souls and Denny turned away at his inadvertent intrusion and slid into his car.

Ian’s footsteps broke into their reverie as he approached. “Let’s get this show on the road,” and lifted two packages rounding the car to take the front seat while Claire and Jamie slid into the back and Denny quickly pulled off.

The silence was broken by Ian’s phone chirping at him, “Jenny,” he said without even looking or answering.

“Ye’re no going to answer?” Jamie expressed his surprise.

“And tell her what? Ye ken she’s going to be full of questions and mad as a broody hen if I don’t tell her everything that’s happened. Do ye want me to do that?”

“Ye ken she’ll torture ye til ye do. Ye will anyway and ye ken it. Ye might as well get it done with.” Jamie reached forward and pushed on Ian’s shoulder affectionately while he kept Claire wrapped in his other arm.

“Jamie ye ken that’s my wife ye’re talking about, yer own sister, and Claire’s good sister now. What’s Claire to think of her when ye speak like that?”

Jamie looked at Claire and laughed at her expression, “Aye, Sassenach, ye get a whole family when ye got me. A package deal, a ton of love, but small doses from a distance.”

Oh my God… A family? I hadn’t even thought about that. “Just your sister? The pregnant one?” her voice cracked with nervousness. “Will she like me?”

“I like ye Claire.” Ian piped up, “and she will too. Ye managed to capture Jamie’s heart and well, that will mean the world to her.”

“Aye that’s Jenny, and their weans and my mam, Ellen, and Murtagh, and Rupert, but he’s a cousin, lots of cousins. Ye get a whole clan, but dinna fash.” He turned her face towards him and traced the curve of her cheek before leaning in and kissing her. “There’ll be plenty of time to meet all of them later. For now,” he kissed her ear and whispered, “it’s just the two of us. …Ignore Ian ...and Denny.” He moved to peppering kisses down her neck dragging his tongue along her skin between them as she turned wrapping her arms around his seeking his mouth and loosening a moan from her that was quickly muffled.

Ian snuck a quick glance over the back before leaning over to Denny, “It’s no exactly what I meant by getting the show on the road. It's no far, thank God.” Giggles from the backseat let him know they’d heard.

“Gimme yer mouth Sassenach.”

Chapter Text

“Just there,” Ian pointed to an opening at the curb close to Jamie’s flat.

Denny pulled over and put the car in park while the pair disembarked from the car, an amoeba-like tangle of legs, arms and faces. Ian had preceded them up the walk to the door, opening it and setting the packages inside. Meeting the pair in transit halfway up the walk, he stepped to the side pulling away as though fearful of being sucked into the amorphous pairing. He dropped the keys into Jamie’s extended hand as they passed, reminding him, “Dinna forget to lock it up.” And then almost in after-thought, “Ah, ...Goodnight Claire, …it was nice meeting ye.”

A muffled giggle, with a “too…” escaped with a limp wave before returning to Jamie’s neck.

Ian slid into the seat next to Denny and watched the pair, mesmerized as they finally reached the steps. Jamie bent and swept his arm beneath Claire’s knees lifting her up and holding her against his chest as she reached up to wrap her arm about his neck.

They remained still for a moment before Jamie leaned down and tenderly kissed Claire then turned and carried her up the steps, and across the threshold. Giggles carried back to them as the door closed behind them.

Denny and Ian sat in silence, Ian shaking his head and broke into a loud chuckle. “That was almost embarrassing, but I couldna take my eyes from them. Never have I ever seen the likes of Jamie Fraser in love and truth is I was wondering if I ever would. And married? Thanks, be to God!”

“It’s a fine sight indeed, friend,” Denny agreed and returned Ian’s smile and genuinely happy for the couple and ready to accept their marriage commitment to each other. May it be a long and joyous time for them both.

“To the pub then…, so what is it between Jamie and that McNabb that set Jamie off like that? Is that usual?”

“For Jamie? No, not at all. Ye see we come from a small community further north – Broch Morda…”

x0x0x0x

Jamie backed into the door pushing it closed, shutting out the immediate press of the world beyond and leaned against it for support. He’d just carried his bride…My bride, across the threshold and felt an unexpected weakness in his knees. His heart was thumping strongly in his chest with the momentous of the occasion. Christ.

He lowered Claire until her feet were firmly planted on the floor and straightened up, one arm wrapped around her waist, pulling her against him as the other blindly reached out dropping his keys on the table. and with his now free hand pulled Claire closer against him, evidence of his aroused state, firmly present.

He had lost himself in her kisses, strong, demanding, challenging. Jamie was shaking with need for her and wondered if she could feel the tremors in his hands. Their laughter had quieted, replaced with Claire’s whimpers becoming more insistent as she ground against him, his hips thrusting to meet hers in response, his hand on her arse, pressing her against him. Their mouths fused together, tongues tangling, a growl coming from deep within his chest as warring thoughts intruded carried through nerve endings to the tips of his fingers as they tightened, Be gentle with her… I canna… I dinna want to be.

Reluctantly he pulled his mouth from hers, heaving for breath, his heart pounding in his chest pressing his forehead against hers. “No here, Claire.” He dropped lower kissing her neck, his voice husky, “will ye come to bed, let me love ye properly?” He was determined to do right by her, by them.

Claire took her own ragged breath as she struggled for air and calm, an impossibility as his lips sucked at the tender spot where her neck met her shoulder. “Jamie,” she inhaled his name with life-giving air. She who had always been so independent, self-sufficient, was lost – in a dark that had offered no light, no answers as to who she now was, who she might become.

And yet here was this man, Jamie, tendering himself, an answer to a prayer she hadn’t known she’d offered up. A stranger who had stepped into her shadows not only offering her an escape from the trauma of the past, but an overwhelming promise of hope if she would accept him. She was balancing on a tightwire ready to take a step, let go and fall for him, “God yes!”

Jamie lifted her with a joyful laugh as she wrapped her long legs around his waist and leaned into him draping her free arm around his neck and kissed him before burying her face in his neck as he started walking.

Her hand gripped him a more firmly as she pressed closer. Ah… Jamie stopped; he hadn’t voiced it but the small sound that came from his throat announced itself well enough for Claire to hear his concern.

“Jamie?” She whispered lifting her face in question at his stop, a slight crease between her brows and felt the deep exhale of his breath upon her.

“Ye dinna need to be scairt, Sassenach.” He eased his hold on her, so she slowly slid down his body until she was firmly landed on her feet but held onto her.

“I’m not,” she protested unconvincingly, “Not of you.”

“I ken that, but still I can feel yer trembling mo chridhe, and, I dinna want this fear ye have niggling at yer peace – for it to be between us, not now.” Jamie rubbed his thumb over the crease between her brows, “Besides, ye canna deny it; ye show yer thoughts on yer face as clearly as though it was made of glass.”

“Not fair,” Claire ducked her blushing face into Jamie’s chest gripping his shirt tighter, as he chuckled at her.

He tilted her chin up, “Open yer eyes to me, mo chridhe.” He waited until she did. “I ken it’s no what ye were expecting – where ye really wanted to be this evening – at yer home, and I’m sorry for that, but I’ll be with ye while we find our bearings.”

Our bearings,” she repeated in a whisper considering what it meant, “that certainly leaves a lot of room for defining.”

“Aye, I s’pose it does,” Jamie swallowed hard, “be it ye learning yer way about here, so ye dinna feel lost or afraid,” his speech faltering with emotion, “Is this too soon for ye? I dinna want ye feeling I’ve rushed ye into something that ye might regret.”

His sincerity touched her, “Hardly. I really want to be with you, I promise,” she rose up on her tiptoes, her grip tightening on his shirt. “I guess it’s all just a little disconcerting not knowing where I am, losing all sense of direction when you carry me.”

“Here let me have yer hand, I can draw the layout in yer palm just to give ye an idea, get ye oriented.”

“Alright, have at it, Leonardo.”

Jamie took her hand and examined it for a moment before placing a kiss in her palm. “Tis pretty much a box and no verra large at that but it’s suited me when I’m in town.” As Jamie described the layout, he traced it in her palm. “So just behind us is the front door and at the end of this hall is our bedroom. Another step or two takes us out of the vestibule area to an opening on yer right. When ye face it, to yer right is a lounge area and to yer left is the kitchen. It’s all pretty open, an island separates the spaces. On the far wall there’s lots of windows, there’s a fireplace along that wall and seating and a door that opens to a wee sitting area when it’s nice out, and a bit of a side yard garden. Gives the bairns a space to run about when they’re visiting. D’ye want a walk through to get a feel for it?”

She shook her head as she leaned into him, turning her head as though following his directions, trying to imagine. “No, I think I’m good for now; we can save the rest of the tour for later. Actually, what I really need now is to freshen up. Can you show me where the loo is, please?”

“Of course, sorry, I should have asked. The bath is off the bedroom.” He took her hand leading her down the hall. Their footsteps changed from the echoes of a hardwood surface, quieting immediately as they stepped onto a carpet.

“Let me guess,” she stopped him and looked up with a coy smile, “…the bedroom – our bedroom.” She had noted that he named it theirs.

As nervous he was suddenly feeling, he couldn’t help the huge grin that spread across his face, “Aye, it is,” and his hands dropped to her waist turning her to face him. He’d imagined carrying her in here before, dropping her onto the bed and…, but reality was what it was. There’d be time soon enough.

“Do ye need some help with yer, ah fastenings or anything?” Jamie wasn’t sure why, but he was blushing to the tips of his ears.

“No, I think if you help me with the sling, I can manage the rest.”  This was hardly turning into the romantic interlude she had been expecting, well …

“Aye, I can do that.” He began undoing the Velcro straps then helping slip the sling off her shoulder and arm and unwrapping it from around her torso.

It felt good to lose the restrictions of the sling, but Jamie remained close to her and silent. Claire felt the tip of his finger ever so lightly push a wayward curl behind her ear then trace her jaw before his hand rested there cupping her cheek. For such a big man, he could be incredibly gentle, and she leaned into it relishing the warmth of his touch.

“The loo? …Please.”

“Okay, here.” He led her a few steps until she was practically bumping into the bed. “From this corner here, with it at yer back, ye just walk straight forward, and then ye come to the door. There’s nothing in yer way, just hold yer arm out, chest high at an angle, dinna walk too fast. I’ll be right with ye.”

Even with Jamie’s encouraging presence, Claire’s steps were cautious until she came to the door and felt for the handle, pushing it open slowly.

"The vanity is just in front of ye, the commode is to the right, the shower enclosure beyond that.”

“Thanks, I’ll call you if I need anything,” Claire slowly closed the door smiling up at him.

Jamie stood there for a moment staring at the closed door until he felt creepy lurking outside the door. Christ! He raced out of the room to the front door, making sure it was bolted, collected the packages that Ian had deposited there and stopped by the kitchen for a couple of glasses and a decanter of water. He dropped Claire’s bag on the bed and opened the apothecary bag with the box of condoms. Opening it he considered the contents, How many?  before dropping a handful on the table and depositing the remainder in the bedside drawer.

He switched the bedside lamp on low and looking about the room and moved to the hamper / cum basketball goal and picked up the clothes littering the floor that had failed to land or hung draped over the edge. Glancing at the bathroom door he felt a momentary gratefulness that Claire hadn’t seen the disarray of the room. He pulled up the bedcovers and folded back the corner closest to the bath and wondered what side of the bed Claire liked to sleep on.

Sleep?  Jamie was feeling nervous, wanting to do right for Claire, what was best. Would she be too tired? The evening had been traumatic for her to say the least, maybe she just needed to rest.

“Jamie?” she called out to him.

His head whipped around at the sound of his name, “Are ye alright, d’ye need something?” he returned through the closed door.

You… Come in here, please. It’s alright.”

Jamie twisted the handle and slowly pushed open the door, not wanting to bump Claire if she was close and stuck his head into the darkened space trying to locate her. He spotted her clothes neatly folded and laid on top of the counter. His breath caught in his throat in realization.

Peering deeper into the room he beheld her. “Sorcha,” the breath he’d been holding escaped. Her curls hung free grazing the tops of her bared breasts. She sat there, long legs demurely tucked to the side, crossed at the ankle, as regal as any queen sitting on her throne hands folded in her lap  until she extended her arms to either side and braced herself on her hands and leaned back.

Dear God!  Her breasts tipped with darkened nipples beckoned him closer. He moved forward caught in her spell, a mindless hand outstretched, ready to fall to his knees in adoration.

Hearing his slow steps, she smiled brilliantly, “Is this what I think it is? You failed to mention it.” She sat on the edge of his tub, and started rubbing her hand along the lip, “It’s huge, Jamie! I think we can both fit.”

All he wanted was to gaze upon her, well no, that was definitely not all, but to see her there as she was completely unabashed at her nakedness, he lost his words.

“Jamie?... I can hear you breathing, panting rather loudly, are you alright?”

“Ye’re naked…”  

“Well yes, I am, I thought that’s where we were heading. What are you going to do about it? Are you going to just stand there all night?” Her words ran rampant, but Jamie said nothing and in the ensuing silence, suddenly unsure of herself sitting there in her altogether, shifted where she was sitting, and moved to cover herself, turning her face away.

“Dinna cover yerself, please,” he was finally able to gasp out. “Ye’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen.”

“You said that before.”

“Aye, and I’ll say it again, every day.”

“You can see that well in the dark?” she laughed, nervously.

“It’s no dark at all.” He corrected her stepping closer into the space she made spreading open her legs for him. He lightly stroked her shoulder following the path of light down her arm, leaving a wake of chill bumps. “Ye look like a fairy queen bathed in the moon Goddess’ rays streaming in from the skylight above. I would venture the sun is jealous of his sister to have the honor of casting out the dark from around you and showing off yer beauty.” Fingers twisted a dark curl around them, “Ye’re hair is crowned with glints of silver; yer skin, yer beautiful skin, so much beautiful, bare skin is as luminescent as the rarest of pearls.” Jamie cupped her breast with one hand, and felt his bawls tightening as he gently squeezed it caressed her peaked nipple with his thumb. Claire heard his low groan of pleasure from deep in throat as he touched her and leaned forward into him and took her own ragged breath, her stomach clenching.

Claire loved to hear Jamie speak but was embarrassed by the intimacy of his compliments and attempted to deflect them, “You’re acting like you’ve never seen a naked woman before.”

“I have, but not one so close nor one that’s mine.”

Claire barely digested Jamie’s words before she was swooped up into his arms, her legs automatically wrapping around his waist, as his mouth crashed into hers, forcing it open as his tongue plunged into hers, claiming her even as she was yielding to him. His fingers felt on fire as the gripped her naked arse, his arm across her back, his large hand pressing her close.

She slipped as she moved against him, “Fuck! ...Your buckle,” and pushed away from him.

“Ouch, I’m sorry,” Jamie immediately pivoted on his heel and took the seat on the edge of the tub, creating a lap for Claire as she straddled him. His hands were all over her feeling her naked flesh as she pressed against him. His hands settled on her arse, as she started moving against him, her hips undulating under his hands as the settled on her

“Jamie,” It came out as a frustrated breath, she reached out grabbing the first thing that came to hand, “One of us has too many clothes on, fair’s fair, time to take them off.”

“Oh aye. Yeah, sure.” Startled into action, he couldn’t help grinning as he fumbled with the shirt buttons staring at Claire’s perfect breasts, right there –while Claire’s deft fingers made quick work of his belt buckle and moved to his zipper.

He leaned in quickly and kissed her, “Wait,” he breathed into her mouth as he balanced her with hands on her waist and toeing off one shoe and then the other. “Okay.” Then continued with the buttons as he tried to keep his lips fused to hers now that he had her, feeling her press into him deepening the kiss as he pulled the shirt off and tossing it to the floor behind Claire.

Claire started pushing the hem of his tee shirt up then stopped kissing him, “What did you mean before?”

“What?” He barely registered the question, “I need to set ye on yer feet.” And moved to shift her from his lap.

“Why?” she tightened her grip instead.

They were stalled, looking at each other.

“What do ye mean, Sassenach? …So, I can lose my trousers.” He leaned forward and kissed a small furrow that had developed between her brows. “What has ye worrit, mo chridhe?”

“What you said, …did you mean, about naked women? Are you…?” she could hardly think it much less voice it above a whisper. “A virgin?”

Jamie took over removing his shirt that she’d started on but held off as her expression shifted, “I am, does that matter to ye?”

The look of disbelief was broadcast on her face as she finally spoke, “Well, …no, but how, why?” she stammered out her questions.

Jamie couldn’t help but chuckle, as he took her face between his hands, “How?... and ye’re a doctor?” he gave her a brief kiss, “I’ve chosen not to stick my cock into anyone before… and why?” He pulled her face to his and gave her a deeper kiss that left them both breathless, “I was waiting for ye.” He rested his forehead against hers.

Claire attempted to stifle a laugh, “You’re so full of cheese,” but her heart was brimming with his response wishing to give into the fantasy of it. Did he really feel the same as she did, as she had shared with Seamus?

“Aye, perhaps I am, I just hope ye’re no lactose intolerant, because I mean to share every heart-felt cheesy rumination with ye.”

“You’re lucky I’ve developed an especial affinity for Scottish cheeses,” she leaned forward and he met her lips, “share all you will, I’m greedy. But Jamie, I want you take me to bed. Now.”

x0x0x0x

Claire didn’t know if she enjoyed anything more up to this point in her life than kissing Jamie Fraser as he picked her up and carried her to their bed, gently settling her down on the edge so her legs dangled over.

“Stand there,” she quietly instructed as he moved to step back. She reached out and felt the bulge of his erection pressing through his pants and palmed it a few times before lowering the zipper.

Jamie straightened up but dropped his head to his chest after pulling his tee shirt off watching as Claire now cupped him through his briefs. She slipped her hands inside the waistband of his briefs taking care to pull them away from his cock and pushed them down his legs brushing her lips against his cock, Jamie and Claire both froze at the contact until Claire straightened up and Jamie finished stepping out of them and kicking them back and pulling off his socks.

He did not want to think about it, but she knew what she was doing and had to slam the door on the threat of jealousy he was suddenly feeling.

“I want to see you, touch you first, Jamie. Will you let me?”

He nodded, standing now before her naked, hands half clenched at his side, cock flush against his abdomen with want of her. “Aye, I’ll try.” He reached for her hands and pulled her to her feet stepping back, making room. “Just a minute, a nighean.” Turning he bent down and grabbed up the clothes he’d shed and hurried to drop them in the hamper. “I dinna want ye to trip over anything,” as he returned to his spot and reached out toward her but dropped his hand.

“Alright,” Jamie nervously cleared his throat, “je suis pret.”

“Are you?” She couldn’t help the laugh that bubbled out “You’re not facing a firing squad you know. Do you trust me? Because this is new for me too Jamie.”

“Aye, I do trust ye, Claire. But tis torture to see you, have ye so close and no be able to touch ye,” he exhaled in a huff.

“I want …,” she stretched out her hand, her fingers touching his chest first, ”to look up and see you looking back at me from across a crowded room and know you’re only seeing me,” and paused before she flattened her palm against him feeling the strong beat of his heart. “I want to roll over in bed in the morning, open my eyes to see you sleeping next to me and know you’re happy to be there. I want…” she splayed her hands across the broad plains of his chest, playing with the light furring of chest hair, feeling the heat of him, knowing she was playing with fire, “to see you as your face falls apart as you come in me.”

Jamie’s chest was rising and falling in quick measure as she ran her hands over him, his hands fisted to hold back from touching her. He closed his eyes and inhaled deeply, catching her scent, her name escaping as a low drawn out groan ending with his last breath, “Claire. I’ll do as ye ask.”

“I feel like I have the keys to the museum after dark and with no one watching, and I can touch those beautiful marble statues that you have to keep your hands off, but now,… now I have my own Viking god that I can touch to my heart’s content and no one can tell me otherwise.”

Jamie stood doing his best to restrain himself, to not reach out and touch her back, every muscle was rigid as both her hands stroked the breadth of his shoulders and one hand wrapping up around his neck, curling into the hairs there, while the other continued down his arm seeking his hand, twining her fingers with his and lifting it to her face rubbed it against her cheek.

She felt him bend toward her, his breath on her face, “Kiss me Sassenach,” urgency drenching his voice and her as well, moisture collecting between her legs.

She dodged her face and pushed at him, “No!” it came out harsher than she meant, “just not yet, it’s still my turn,” she softened her voice. “Mouths come into play next, because when you kiss me Jamie, I lose all restraint if you haven’t noticed. So, when I kiss you, take you into my mouth, I want you to lose yourself in me.”

Her hand skated across the ridges of his abdomen, barely avoiding his cock, slipping down his hip to his upper thigh as she twisted her body coming around behind him to press against his back and felt him tense as he shifted on his feet.

“You have the nicest bum,” she ran her hands up and down his arse cheeks, laughing as she now pressed her lips to his back. Something didn’t feel right, it wasn’t the smooth skin she expected, was accustomed to feeling. She slid her hands up his beautiful, strong, broad back, feeling his muscles tense beneath the skin bearing a lattice work of healed thin welted scars. She felt his shoulders slump as she pressed her lips to him, tracing a line with her fingers.

“They dinna hurt anymore,” he responded quietly to her unspoken question. “I forget about them now. …Do I repulse ye?”

Something awful had happened to him, this beautiful man, he seemed whole, but like her was still healing and she had an epiphany about the game he’d refused to play. We all have our scars, some more evident than others.

No.” Claire traced every line, following it where she could reach with soft feathery kisses and the touch of her tongue, willing him to feel her love. She pressed her cheek into his back as she wrapped her arms about him. She’d intended to keep playing to learn each other, but she needed him now and he needed her.

She found his hand and twined her fingers with his and pulled him down toward her as she stepped back, “Kiss me Jamie.”

x0x0x0x

Jamie laid sprawled out, half covering Claire with his body, his weight supported by his free arm. A leg hitched over one of Claire’s spreading her open to his hand as his fingers tenderly explored her hot wet core.

They’d touched and kissed, and tasted driving each other to distraction.

Claire’s skin was heated and damp with moisture. His hand rested on her mound as she squirmed under his touch, pressing up to meet his touch and withdrawing as it became too much. His mouth nearly holding all of her breast as he suckled at it, stroking her cherry stone of a nipple with his tongue. He couldn’t help but grind against her, his cock stand past painful proportions and needing release or else it surely would snap off.

Never had he felt this way, in his heart, in his body, as Claire responded to his touch, her fingers trailing through his hair pulling him closer to her. Her soft sighs and whimpers of need and want music to his ears.

He needed to be in her, to complete their coupling, but this moment was itself so exquisite, that to stop it was almost incomprehensible. And then his head started bouncing on her chest, her soft moans shifting to light chuckles.

He pulled his mouth away with a light pop to look up at her to see the beautiful smile on her face marred with a furrow as he stilled his hand between her legs. She pressed into his fingers encouragingly.

“Don’t stop, please. It feels sooo good,” the creased brow smoothing out as he started pressing deeper into her.

It was hard for him to speak, “Did I do something to tickle ye, Sassenach? To make ye laugh?” he dropped small kisses across her chest, before he navigated to her other breast and suckled her into his mouth, moaning a bit with the pleasure of her as he did so.

She slowly shook her head back and forth against the pillow as she chuckled softly again before taking in a deep breath as he nipped at her nipple with his teeth, demanding an answer.

“I was just thinking if you’re not careful, you’ll be suckling milk if you keep that up.”

“Aye? Ye can do that?” looking up at her, his mouth still next to her breast grinned full and wide. Christ ye’re beautiful.

“I can.” She was grinning as her gaze was fixed on the ceiling before she closed her eyes and hummed with her thoughts.

Jamie dropped his mouth back to her, taking her in and suckled at her more determinedly while his body pressed against hers in a building rhythmic need.

She laughed again at his response, “Not immediately.” One hand stroked the breadth of his shoulders, occasionally crossing one of the welted scars, her touch only lingering momentarily, the other gently pressed against the back of his head.

“How long?” he paused only long enough to breathe out the question before resuming taking his pleasure of her.

“About nine months – thereabouts, I’d say, but you’d have to share.” The words left her mouth on the breath of a laugh as a tease, but they took life from being shared and immediately rooted in her heart.

Claire felt him still under hands and the cool air dimpled her damp skin as his mouth parted from her breast as he lifted up. She didn’t need sight to know he was staring at her.

It took several moments before he responded hardly above a whisper. “Ye mean with a bairn?” He pulled his fingers from her and moved up against her, cupping her face in both hands, stroking her cheek with one moist finger.

She turned her head capturing it in her mouth as it came close and sucked on it tasting herself.

Jamie’s cock twitched as she sucked on his finger and prodded her lips with the other that had been inside her, offering it to her. She opened her mouth and he slipped it in. “Ye’re sweet as honey… D’ye like the taste?” She nodded as her tongue stroked between his fingers as she sucked them off, then pulled away from him.

“Give me a baby, Jamie.” Her arm tightened around his neck and felt him nod.

“Aye, I will after ye’ve recuperated from yer surgery, I’ll give ye a bairn.” Jamie leaned down and kissed her taking her mouth with his, shifting his body, pulling her to align with his, wrapping her in the warmth of his embrace, wanting to never let her go.

As they broke apart for air, she gasped against his lips, “Now, Jamie, please. I need you to do it now.” She pressed herself against him feeling his cock pressed firmly against her leg and tried shifting to bring him to her.

“It isna safe, no yet, mo nighean donn.”

“It is,” she pressed harder and felt tears collecting at the corners of her eyes. “With everything… it would take a miracle to take root, I know, and I don’t expect that, but I need the hope, something to hold onto. That one day…. We can just pretend, can’t we, here in our Neverland?”

He could hear the fear behind the plea in her words and knew he could deny her nothing. If he could share hope with her then he would. His heart was hammering as he rolled her onto her back and shifted to cover her. “I’ll no pretend, Claire. I want a life with ye. I see a future for us, and should we make a bairn tonight, ye must agree to make it official, marry me before the year is up.”

“You ridiculous man,” she laughed, joy that she hadn’t felt in ages, spilling out, “I already assumed I would, but put it in writing if you must, I’ll sign it. You told me you write, didn’t you? Think you can manage something?”

“Christ! I do love ye Sassenach!” Jamie was practically overwhelmed as he leaned down and kissed her mouth, then her eyes, face and her neck; everywhere he could without lifting his body from hers.

“Mind what Seamus said! Don’t squish me!” she squeaked out giggling as she felt his weight bearing down on her.

He stilled and cupped her face while lifting his weight from her a bit with his elbows and knees. “Open yerself to me, mo chridhe. Welcome me into yer sacred space.” His voice was deep and husky as he asked permission to enter her. Claire snaked a hand down between them and took hold of him, sliding her hand up and down the length of him as he hissed with an intake of breath at her grasp. She relaxed against the bed, opening her legs as she pressed his tip against her slit sliding it up and down before leaving him pressing against her opening.

“Come to me Jamie.”

Jamie’s forehead rested against hers, sweat already collecting on his brow with the strain of holding himself back. Gentle, he’d been told. Take care of her. All he wanted was to plunge into the depths of her, bury himself fully to his hilt.

She was pressing up onto him, taking him into her. “Stop, dinna move. Let me…” He swallowed hard wanting to memorize this moment, cherish it as he did her. His da had been right and he wished he could tell him so, admit he now shared the truth.

Slowly Jamie lowered himself, sheathing his cock in her slick warmth, low moans joining hers as he pushed into her. Claire’s hips started rocking against his encouraging him to join her and he did. First just rocking with the motion like waves lapping at the shore. He felt her fingers stroking his sides and move up to his back, not even pausing as they crossed his scars. She traced the length of one across his back trailing down reaching her grasp for his ass. He shuddered as she spread her legs wide, lifting them to his back and digging her heels into his buttocks as she pulled at him.

He rose a bit onto his knees adjusting his position, grabbing her arse with both his hands, kneading it until he was afraid, he’d leave bruises. He pulled from her until only his tip remained within and then thrust, not hard but felt the need to take her building in his bawls. He would not last long at this and rose up away from her staying buried deep. She lost her grip and instead started stroking his arms as one of his hands moved to start stroking where they were joined, feeling him moving in and out of her.

“Here,” he took her hand and placed it where they were joined. “feel this.” He shuddered as her fingers stroked the length of him, tracing his entrance into her. “God it’s so beautiful, I wish ye could see me taking ye. Yer lips are like dark roses, petal soft, full and swollen kissing my cock, swallowing it.” He felt a sudden surge push through him and pressed hard to the hilt, hitting her cervix.

“No yet,” he whispered to himself, feeling ready to spill into her and pulled back, “Show me,” he placed his thumb on her clit as he spread her lips and pressed against it starting with slow circles.

“Like that, just like that,” and pressed her fingers onto his, feeling the restrained strength of them. “Fuck, Jamie, I’m going to come,” she breathed out and he pulled out from her.

“Wot?! No!”

He dropped to his knees and pressed his lips against her and his tongue into her as deep as he could reach and fucked her with his tongue as his thumb kept up its work. She’d grasped onto his hair and was pulling him into her lifting a leg onto his back.

Between gasps for air she demanded, “Don’t you dare stop.”

“Scream Sassenach, dinna hold back,” Jamie, pulled back against the pain of her hold to take in the sight of her in thralls, before burying himself face first into her only to feel her fall apart around him moments later as she let loose, calling out his name.

He rose up kissing her thighs and pressed his fingers into her feeling her clench them as her orgasm continued to roll through her with spasms of pleasure. He moved up her body kissing her along the way, until he found her mouth and took it, swallowing the hmms and mewlings that continued to seep out until he eased his fingers out of her as she stilled.

“So ye liked that.” Jamie chuckled against her lips.

Claire closed her eyes but smiled, “I did, Jamie and you know it very well, you bloody scot, but you held out on me. I thought we had a deal.” She could taste herself on Jamie’s tongue as they’d kissed and thought she’d never experienced anything so erotic.

“Aye, we do and I’m a man of my word. I just wanted make sure I’d served ye well before…well, I’m afraid I will no last very long once I’m inside ye again, but if ye want to come again, ye’re welcome to join me as many times as ye like.”

“Now open yerself for me, mo chridhe, tis my turn.”

Chapter Text

“Are you alright?”

It came as a whisper carried on Claire’s sweet breath caressing his cheek then her lips pressed a kiss to the corner of his mouth. His lips curled trying to form a response, but hers were gone before he could. Her body shifted dragging her lips and butterfly light kisses across his jaw before starting down his neck, her curls trailed along, tickling his nose but he didn’t have strength to brush them aside.

He could hardly believe her real, but Claire, his own, was snuggling against his sweat drenched body, her arm draped across him as he lay sprawled across to the four corners of the bed, huffing as though he’d sprinted the last 500 meters of a marathon, yet it was though she was as alive as a hive of bees, fingers fluttering across him stroking, playing with his tempered nipple.

“Aye, I think so,” he let go with a breath before lifting her fidgeting hand to his mouth and pressing his lips to her knuckles, keeping them there until he drew enough breath to speak, “I thought my heart was going to burst,” he managed to get out between gasps for air as he held her hand over his still racing heart.

Airson tiodhlac a ’bhoireannaich seo tha mi a’ toirt taing dhut Dia .” 

“What did you say?” she rose up above him and he finally pried one eye open then the other to see her peering down at him, the bedside lamp exposing her glory to him as she smiled.

Thank God for that too, she doesna look unhappy. Maybe it wasna so bad after all.

“I was wondering how d’ye still have the energy to move?” His own smile was lazy and satisfied with the efforts of completion.

Soft laughter answered him as Claire rolled on top of him wrapping a leg over his hip, pushed upright and began to gently work herself on his softened cock, “You did all the work.”

With a soft groan of appreciation, his hands had moved to take hold of her hips, his fingers pressing into the softness of her arse as she rocked against him, then worried he hadn’t satisfied her.

“I’m sor”

“No!” She stilled her movements immediately, an expression he didn’t recognize momentarily fanned across her face, stopping him speaking as much as her command.

She leaned down, pressing her soft breasts into his chest as she felt for his face and held it between her hands. “You do not need to apologize, if that’s what you were starting to say – I’ll not have it! For what? For giving yourself to me? For sharing, for bringing me great pleasure? I should be thanking you.”

“I did?” Jamie was feeling better and reached out to caress her cheek, “but ye’re squirming around like ye didna finish.”

“Oh, I did – what you did with your mouth,” she leaned in until he met her smiling lips and lifted pressing in for a deeper open-mouthed kiss, tongues tangling until she withdrew, pulling back from the hand that was now entangled in her hair, “but,” her own breaths harder to control, “you lit the fuse Jamie, we’re just starting.”

His heart stuttered as she pushed back up, holding still as she gazed down in his direction. He found himself moving his head slightly so he could pretend she was seeing him as she wanted to, as he wanted her to.

“I need you, Jamie. I want you inside me,” and resumed her gentle rocking.

Ah Dhia.

Chapter Text

Jamie had worries about how resilient he might be but Claire’s sensuous movements against his groin, soon alleviated those concerns as he hardened. She made no move to take him into her, and he wondered if this was as she intended or if he should initiate a change. Claire seemed content to set a tortuously slow pace as she rode him. There was no rush, none of the urgency that had compulsively taken over him before driving him to a finish and determined to let her ride him out to her heart’s content and he gave himself over to her.

“Claire?” was carried with a groan as she gave a deeper thrust with her pelvis his hips pushing back. He closed his eyes and ran his hands along the length of her thighs, feeling the taunt muscles just below the surface of her silky skin.

“Hmmm?” She was slick with her own wetness mixing with his seed easing her glide. He was tempted to close his eyes, to join her in darkness, to explore her with his other senses, but if he had he would have missed it. There was a secret lurking behind the tender smile that graced her beautiful lips and he wanted to know.

I married a virgin! A damn good bloody virgin…

“Sassenach… what are ye thinking?”

She cocked her head to one side as her smile widened before she leaned down and met his lips whispering, “Tell me what it was like… Was it what you expected?”

Jamie reached up taking her face between his two hands grinning as he kissed her, then chuckling, “Yes and no,” before dropping his head back to the pillow and closed his eyes and letting his hands wander down her neck, tracing her collarbones then cupping the globes of her breasts, those beautiful breasts he’d been suckling before.

“No? why’s that?” she felt a moment of doubt and started to pull away but was stayed by Jamie’s hold.

“God, Claire, when…,” Jamie paused trying to find the words, the right words to share his experience with her, but his heart was starting to race again as he looked up at her, his cock twitching beneath her seeking her out, and his stomach muscles convulsed with the memory of spurting his seed deep into her and his hips hitched upwards, nearly jettisoning her from her perch with his buck.

Claire laughed with his sudden move. “Whoa there boy, settle down,” and stroked his chest.

He steadied her returning the smile, then took her hand and pressed it against his heart again, “D’ye feel what ye do to me just thinking about ye? Ye’re so wee, and I’m well…,” he hesitated to continue.

“Very well proportioned?” she leaned down and kissed him with her smile and gave him a generous thrust of her hips as she pushed back up.

“God Claire,” he groaned out, “Aye, if ye say,” not sure why his face his heating up, “…I was afraid I’d hurt ye,” and then the words just tumbled from his lips punctuated with low moans and deep breath as he recalled for her. “But then when I started to put my cock into ye, yer quim was so ready for me, and tight and I thought I’d come right then when I started to move in ye if I kept it up and I didna want that, not at all, and seeing my cock in ye like that, it was … beautiful; ye have no idea the effect ye have on me Sassenach.”

Jamie could stand it no longer and reached up taking her face between both his hands and pulled her down to him and gave her a deep penetrating kiss with his tongue before he lifted her face from him. “So, I took ye with my mouth thinking maybe then I could last longer, and when ye came, I'd never tasted anything sweeter in my life. But by that time I was fit to bursting so I took ye hard and too fast. So yes, it was like heaven to be in ye, but no. I imagined I could go slow and take my time, enjoy the pleasure of yer gift, but I was no better than some randy teen spilling himself in his jeans. I wanted to feel ye climax again, to feel yer pleasure while I was inside ye. I’m sorry if I disappointed ye.”

You  have no idea,” Claire squirmed her way back until she was sitting atop his thighs.

“Where are ye going?” he reached for her.

“how, un-disappointed,” and took his engorged cock in her hands, “I am,” pulling a groan from Jamie as she did and her smile widened and she measured him with her hands as she stroked him and rocked her clit against his shaft, hearing his sharp intake of breath.

Then she let released her hold on him and bent her head over pressing kisses on his torso working her way up until she lay flat, trapping his erection between them as he continued to roll his hips into her, but it was slow gentle rocking rythm that she had set. He watched as she smiled at him  and he was grinning back and reached out slipping his fingers into her curls gently stroking the silk between his fingers pressing her to him. She took one of his nipples in her mouth teasing him with her tongue until she nipped him with her teeth, startling him, and giving him a wicked smile. "Do you want me to stop?"

Jamie let out a strangled, "No," as his fingers tightened in her hair.

"Good, because I was thinking," she moved to his other nipple and teased the tight bud with her tongue and sucked on him as he had done to her, "fair's fair, I would like to take you into my mouth to "

Fuck, Fuck, Fuck, "Christ Sassenach, ye're killing me with yer talk, putting thoughts like that in my heid right now. It's me that's to give you, aaah."  His words lost to him as she raised her hips and took hold of him and squeezed gently.

"This is giving me pleasure," but she pushed back up and away, pulling Jamie's hands to her hips as Claire reclaimed his cock in hand. Claire tipped her head from side to side as though visually examining him as she explored him with her fingers, stroking the prominent vein from his root to the tip, rubbing the drop of moisture collecting there between her fingers before glossing her lips with it and sucking on the bottom lip running her tongue along it.

He gently placed his hand on top of hers croaking out in his rough voice, “If ye keep doing that Sassenach, ye’re going to find yerself with a palm full of my spunk."

Claire closed her eyes in response and her smile softened, “I won’t let it go to waste like that.”

"Come here,” pulling her forward he slipped his finger into her cleft and began to rub circles onto her clit. She let him stroke her fanning the flames that had already been ignited until she felt it, so close and rose on her knees bracing on him with her uninjured arm while holding him against her slit with the other and rubbed him against her. She’d momentarily looked at him with her mouth open as she took in a breath before dropping her head. Her curls fell blocking his view of them and so lifted her mass of hair up to either side of her face as she slowly descended on him, taking him into her.

“Does that feel good?”

Jamie had held his head up from the pillow as he watched his cock slowly disappearing into Claire but had to drop his head back to the pillow, as he struggled for breath to answer as her inner walls clutched at him as she spasmed in her release. “Sooo good.”

She collapsed onto him as he wrapped his arms around her holding her tight and pressing kisses into her crown of curls until she quieted and let out a satisfied sigh. She straightened up pulling her face out of his reach as she resettled her seat wiggling her bum about adjusting to him in this position, “it did,” sharing a low chuckle as she agreed. “and you fit perfectly.”

Chapter Text

Jamie woke not sure how long he’d been asleep but the bedsheets next to him were vacant and cool, at some point Claire had slipped out of bed unnoticed by him and he felt a quick jolt of adrenaline as the emptiness registered with him. He started to call out, but instead jumped out of bed and saw the bathroom door was open but stuck his head in just in case. He quickly padded barefoot to the hall and heard a small noise alerting him to her locale and quietly walked toward her in the dark.

He felt a relief as he made out her naked silhouette against the lighter grey of the windows standing in front of a bookcase running her fingers over the spines of books before picking up a small piece from the shelf. Head bowed over it, she turned it over and over in her hands thoroughly examining the small piece of hand molded, roughly formed crockery wee Jamie had made for him for his last birthday. Jamie prized the azure blue bowl and his nephew’s attempt to paint the saltire inside as evidenced by their slightly lopsided, wiggly lines, but Claire wouldn’t be able to see those or the effort made yet, but he’d tell her about it.

Jamie held his place watching her, grateful to be able to see her safe even in the dim shadows and felt a stab of pain for her loss. Claire carefully returned the bowl to the shelf and continued letting her fingers roam along the length of it before Jamie slowly approached announcing his presence. “Canna sleep?”

She released a deep breath and turned her head in his direction and smiled, happy that he’d finally announced himself. She’d heard his quiet steps on the hardwood floor pause and aware with his stillness that he was watching her but wouldn’t begrudge him. She’d woken from her doze after their lovemaking, her mind kicking into hyper drive with too many crowding thoughts.

Jamie. Maybe she'd give Gellis the satisfaction of knowing she was right. She'd not understood the stream of words that had coming stuttering out of his mouth as he poured himself into her, but dear god, Gellis had been right, she had never before heard anything more erotic, nor left her wanting for more. And here he was lying next to her, her senses of him near to overflowing. His breathing was deep and even though occasionally punctuated with a small puff of breath leading her to believe his mouth must be slightly open. His scent, his sweat, cologne, his seed, their mixture that even now she could inhale and have her feeling heady and needy, bordering on desperate had her pulling away before she climbed on top of him again, though she didn't think he would entirely mind, but he needed rest even if she couldn't.

This giant of a man that had been so incredibly gentle and accommodating with her, laughing as she had him roll over on his stomach and stretch his arms to the side while she lay spread out on his back, stretching her body along his, her fingers only reaching to his wrists and if she extended her toes, she could touch his ankles. She'd pressed her face between his shoulder blades and kissed along the scars on his back as he revealed to her their origin not because he wanted her sympathy, but because it might help her to know him better, but the tears still came.  

But the laughing, her stomach almost hurt – she could not remember laughing so freely in what seemed forever, except the rare occasion she was off with Geillis, certainly not with Frank. She recoiled at the thought of him, but there would truly be no full escape from him at least for a while but she determined to banish his specter and not let him ruin this for her.

She and Jamie had laughed and tussled as Jamie wrapped her in his arms and pinioned her legs with his as she made at best a half-hearted attempt to squiggle free, even when he latched onto her neck with his mouth. She was certain as she raised her hand to the spot, eyes would be rolling when she had her pre-surgical exam but realized she didn’t care; maybe if she was lucky, she’d get another.

She’d felt such a need to see Jamie, to look at him, but she couldn’t without touching him, running her fingers over him. She needed him to fill her to help erase thoughts about what had happened earlier and her fears of what was to come. Meeting Jamie had somehow changed her attitude, ironically opened her eyes about what her future might really be. She hadn’t harbored fears before, but now she had someone to lose. She removed her restless self from the bedroom rather than risk disturbing his sleep after a quick stop in the loo.

She was grateful for the care Jamie had taken in getting her somewhat oriented upon their arrival and made her tentative way across the bedroom finding the door slipped out into the hall. Using the walls as a guide she trailed her fingers along it before she reached the opening and then turned left continued her exploration following the perimeter of it into the kitchen area.

Claire was relieved Jamie was sleeping so she could just explore without feeling self-conscious about her limitations. She’d hated the confines of the hospital, the constant supervision of the staff - friends and colleagues - who she knew were just doing their jobs, but it was suffocating. All the rationalization in the world didn’t make it any easier to accept but tonight for the first time in months she felt an exhilaration, not only of freedom, but being with this man.

“No,” she shook her head as he approached her, “my circadian rhythm is screwed.” Jamie’s arms wrapped around her from behind and pulled in close to his chest.

“Yer chilled,” he whispered low into her ear, his arm about her waist pulling her closer as he stroked her arm attempting to rub some warmth into her.

“You’re not,” she hummed as she squiggled backwards against his heat. “I'm sorry, I didn’t want to wake you. I hope you don’t mind that I made myself at home. It was nice to be able to get up and move about without being watched like a hawk.”

Jamie felt a thrill rush through him and couldn’t hold the delight from his voice, “Och, of course, it’s yer home too. As for the other…, well, ye’re out of luck there. I have the eyes of a hawk and intend to watch ye every moment I can, especially if ye parade about in yer altogether,” he chuckled as he nuzzled into her hair and kissed down her neck, his hand roved north to cup her breast and his fingers toyed with her pebbled nipple with an appreciative hmm.

“You, I don’t mind. You,” she twisted in his arms until she was facing him, “my sweetheart,” pressing a kiss against his chest before tilting her head back, “have full access privileges.”

“Well then,” he leaned down kissing her, and opening his mouth as she parted her lips welcoming him. Jamie tightened his hold around on her as he took hold of one of her cheeks and pulled her against his blooming erection. “Will ye come back to bed with me?”

Jamie may have technically been a virgin, but the way kissed, and knew how to use his hands, he’d definitely not been a monk. He’d promised to kiss his way through the alphabet using her body as his primer and she was anticipating this particular anatomy lesson.

Yes, No!  Claire dropped her head back in frustration, wanting him, not wanting to hurt him, but dealing with her reality. She closed her eyes and took a couple of deep breaths preparing to answer.

Jamie anticipated her impending rejection like a punch to the gut. “We dinna need to do anything, …just sleep?”

“I wish I could,” she reached up wanting to hold his face, but winced when a shot of pain hit her shoulder, “Fuck!” she stepped back twisting and grabbed at her arm with a soft groan, “mmmmm," and taking a deep breath, "well can’t do that, sorry.”

Jamie cringed along with her, “Claire, what can I do?”

“Jamie, it’s alright.”

“It’s no alright, ye canna expect me to stand by seeing ye in pain and do nothing," he reached for her and pulled her close, avoiding the strained shoulder. "Tell me what to do."

She tried to reassure him, “That’s just going to happen sometimes if I move it the wrong way until it heals. Lucky for us it hasn’t happened before with all our activity, I’m surprised. I should probably put the sling back on, can you get it, and maybe a blanket? And do you have an icepack or frozen peas?”

“Aye, I’ll be right back.” Jamie hated to leave her but turned on his heel to quickly retrieve her sling. He snatched on a pair pj bottoms and grabbed a shirt and robe for her as well.

She was patiently standing where he’d left her, but looking even smaller, somehow more fragile than she had moments ago and felt the need to protect her surge through him.   

“Alright, let’s get this harness on ye, do ye want a shirt underneath it?”

“No, I want to keep as much easily accessible bare skin as possible if that’s all right with you,” she lifted a brow at him with a coy smile and in moments like that he would have sworn she could see him perfectly or at the very least know exactly what he was thinking.

“Well,” he was smirking back at her as he turned the sling this way and that trying to focus on it rather than this beautiful naked woman, his woman, standing in front of him, “ye’ll get no complaints from me there, but Iffrin, how does this thing go?” finally losing his patience dropped his hands in front of him.

Claire couldn’t help but laugh at him as she took command finally wrestling her arm into it with his help. “That doesna seem right,... was that how it was before? Ye’re getting to fondle yer own breast instead of me.”

“I wasn't naked before, but this is rather convenient," she teased twirling her fingers around it and gave it gentle squeeze.

Jamie could only grunt at the inequity of it as she giggled. He picked up the robe from the chair where he dropped it and stepped behind her rubbing the fabric against her.

“Ooo, that feels nice, what is it,” fingers reaching out.

“It’s a whole lot of red, with a fluffy white collar. Jenny gave it to me thinking I could play Father Christmas for the bairns.” He helped slip it on and settled it on her slight frame reaching nearly to the floor, “Ye look bonny, Sassenach, ye can be Mother Christmas,” and cinched the belt, stealing a kiss as he freed her hair from beneath the collar. “It may swallow ye whole, but it’s a good snuggle for now. I’ll turn up the heat a bit, canna have ye catching a chill.”

“You don’t need to do that, between this and you, I’ll be nice and toasty,” she stroked the soft fabric.

“That may be, but in case ye should want to go traipsing about in yer birthday suit, I wouldna be opposed to that, but dinna want ye shiverin, speaking of… follow me while I check on that ice pack.”

“Jamie?”

“There’s nothing between us that ye might trip over, ye just need to come forward til ye reach the island. There’s some stools ye can sit on if ye want, or ye can continue to explore. Ye wanted to learn yer way around, best way is to carry on. I’ll warn ye if anything is in yer way.”

Jamie stepped backwards keeping his eye on Claire as she made up her mind. He was struggling with his inclination to be over protective and wanting her to be comfortable here, feel independent.

“Would ye like some water or I have some cranberry juice?”

“Water’s fine, thank you.” She’d turned away from him and was tentatively moving forward toward the sitting area near the windows.

“There’s a couple of chairs, a floor lamp behind the chair to yer right, side table and an ottoman a few steps in front of ye and to yer left. I dinna have bottled water, is tap okay? Chilled?”

“Fine! I’m just a tap water girl in a bottled water world,”  she sang out, “a couple of ice cubes would be good if you have it. You’re very detail oriented, aren’t you?” 

Jamie laughed at her answer, “Well I need to ken what ye like, so I best ask ye, right?”

When was the last time Frank had asked her about something she liked? It seemed he was always imposing his taste onto her, insisting she try it his way and because she might acquiesce once as a courtesy, then forever after that was the way it would be. She realized she had lost her voice; she had become dumb – mute because it had become easier not to speak up, to avoid the conflict. No more.

It had been a simple question, but so much more.

Claire listened to Jamie rustling about in his kitchen hearing some quiet mumblings and a bit of a curse as something hit the floor. “It’s alright!” he called out reassurance. The clink of ice in glass, glasses on the countertop, a bottle? And turned her attention back to her exploration while Jamie busied himself.

“Hey Sassenach, ye said ye were having trouble sleeping, I have some chamomile, Jenny must have left it, may I fix ye a cuppa? It might help ye relax, ye need to rest.”

She paused her steps, suddenly overwhelmed again and turned in his direction. You lovely, dear, sweet man,  the thought rang loud but just shook her head slightly, “Thank you for offering, you’re so sweet, but would you believe even that has potentially adverse reactions with some of the medications I’m taking, so as much as I would love a cup, not tonight. Raincheck?” holding onto hope.

She felt her way to the chair and ran her hand over it getting the feel of the fabric's texture. That surprised her, she had him pegged for leather and couldn’t help smiling at her miss. She walked around the chair and small end table and sat in it experimentally testing out the generous seat and surprisingly comfy cushion. She put her feet down and pushed up, then sat again tucking her feet up on the seat and covering them with the robe. “It’s really comfy. I can see wasting a Sunday afternoon right here, lost in a good book.”

Jamie watched as Claire had cautiously made her way about and testing the chair like Goldilocks, claiming her spot and his heart settled seeing her there, hopefully finding her place. “It’s just a cast off from home, but I always liked it. It was in my Da’s study, it’s good to read in, put yer feet up and relax.”

Claire dropped her head back against the chair and closed her eyes and opened the dark of her imagination so she could see. When she’d first had her accident, she spent much of her time with her eyes closed constantly recalling images, afraid she’d forget, but people frequently mistook her for being asleep and kept silent. But laying there in the bed with her eyes wide open in the totally enveloping dark was worse. Each time she blinked she half expected the light to reappear, the picture to change like those stereoscopic toys that blinked black between images, but nothing - yet.

"Do you smoke?" She turned her nose into the wing of the chair and sniffed.

"Da...," Jamie allowed himself a smile, "Ye can smell that too? I thought it was just my imagination remembering. He'd have a pipe, just one bowl, in the evenings. It's the one thing I can remember my folks ever fighting over, not that they had words mind ye, which can be worse. There'd be times Da would come in looking forward to his quiet time after dinner and be greeted by a deep freeze when he opened the study door. Sometimes Mam would throw open the windows to 'Air the place of the stench.' Da would just put on his overcoat, close the window, take his seat, light up his pipe, open his book and never say a word. I never understood it myself. I kinda liked the scent, but I think it's because I associated it with Da."

"It's sort of appley," Claire took a deeper whiff, "not bad, really."

“If ye can stand the smell, any time ye want, it’s yers. I’ll set yer water on the table til I finish getting you iced down, my tap water lass. I like that,” he chuckled as set down the glasses. He leaned down and kissed her on her cheek, but she felt his breath as he hovered close not moving away and tilted her face up as he pressed a soft kiss to her lips then pressed more firmly once again before he withdrew.

“Can’t claim it, unfortunately, but it’s a great title of a book I like, and it’s just stuck with me.”

“It is.” Jamie pulled the ottoman up close to her. “I’ve a couple of sizes of gel packs, d’ye think the larger would do better? Just lay it across your shoulder, let the robe hold it in place?”

Claire reached out as Jamie offered them running her fingers over them. “This definitely would be better, and it’s already sleeved, nice.”

She moved to take it, but Jamie insisted, “Let me, please.” He gently pushed the robe back and positioned it, confirming it was good before covering her back up. “Fifteen minutes, no longer.”

“Yes, doctor,” she teased as she reached for her water glass.

“Just experienced, unfortunately.”

Jamie started to rise thinking to move to the other chair, she was so close, he didn’t want to move out of easy reach of her but she had seemed reluctant to go back to bed with him and wanted to find out why, so he’d bide there for a bit. 

“Where are you going?” There seemed to be a bit of alarm coming off Claire with her question, and put out her hand.

“Thought I’d just move to the other chair.”

“Would you be more comfortable there?” the way she phrased the question, she had him – he needed to be honest.

“No really, but ye’re so close and I dinna want to stop touching you, and then ye dinna want to come back to bed. I dinna want ye feeling uncomfortable if that’s what it was.”

Claire could only shake her head, “If I might quote a very wise man, ‘I need to ken what ye like, so I best ask ye.’  She tried on her best imitation of his deep burr which only had the pair of them laughing as he sat back down. “I really like it when you touch me and I like touching you, but when I woke up that’s all I wanted to do, but you need your rest and I do too, but I just couldn’t. I thought if I came out here for a bit, I might settle down. It had nothing to do with not wanting to be with you.”

“So ye’re having a hard time sleeping?” he prompted her relieved by what she’d said, but still concerned.

“Partly it’s a side effect of the vision loss, unfortunately, no sense of the day, loss of my routine and since I’ve been unable to move around, get worn out, I don’t get tired. It’s almost like a baby getting days and nights mixed up. We’re managing it pretty well with the melatonin, but I feel just so wired tonight, like I’ve been double fisting high octane coffee. It’s the adrenaline from the party, being with you, and well what happened earlier with Frank. It’s like an earworm, stuck in my brain. I know I’ll have to deal with it tomorrow, but it’s there and just won’t go away.”

“Well, if it willna harm ye, I’ll wear ye out. I’m a pretty good storyteller and a certain beautiful lady complimented me on my voice just this evening, so maybe I can drown out that worm. But mo nighean donn, I intend to sleep with ye in my arms and ye can touch me as much as ye need.”

“Then take me to bed, Jamie.” Claire held up her hand and smiled as he took her hand in his and pulled her into his arms.

“To sleep.”

Chapter Text

Their bodies had naturally entwined once they’d made it into bed, Claire slipping under the covers with Jamie into the shelter he offered her. Resting her head in the crook of his shoulder she wrapped her arm about his chest as if he had always been hers, tangling her legs with his, she claimed her place.

Jamie bent his head to meet her lips’ sweet good night and dropped his head back onto the pillow relishing the weight of her on him as much as the fullness that was now in his heart. A smile pulsating across his lips with each new thought of her; his own lids fluttering closed for just a moment, not yet ready to let go as he tried to comprehend how this wisp of a woman had turned his world upside down in the blink of an eye.

Ye were right Da and ye too Willie. Thank ye.

 XOXOXO

She lay in the dark, eyes opened, still hoping – always hoping for a glimmer of something; maybe this time when she opened her eyes it would be there… Along with her sight, she’d lost all concept of time, it’s meaning, it’s passage. Instead of being driven by the external demands of time, she had more time to pay attention to her own internal clock. The irony did not escape her. But now she was awake. She must have slept, because she didn’t feel groggy, but wasn’t sure for how long. Jamie’s chest moved up and down in a steady rhythm, she could hear the occasional deep breath pass through his lips, but he wasn’t snoring. She wondered if he was truly as steady as his heartbeat.

She’d lain down with Jamie, grateful to be with him, held by him, and when she’d closed her eyes she was content, to feel the warmth of him against her skin, to breathe in the scent of him. He’d laughed at her when she’d done it before, but now she could take her time, unnoticed – her secret and pressed a kiss to his shoulder as she nuzzled closer into his neck and inhaled closing her eyes by habit, eliminating visual influences. Heated by his skin his cologne was still present – notes of bergamot and cedar?, sweaty musk, semen, no that was coming from her, his gift to her, but his. His.

She liked the moistness he’d left behind in her, the messiness as it ran down her leg, evidence of their lovemaking. She’d asked but he’d given it to her with all those little buggers swimming around. Hope. Even when she’d been on the pill, Frank wore a condom, not partial to damp sheets or the aftercare required otherwise – always neat and tidy – zip it up, toss it out, no fuss, no muss. Fuck Frank.

A surge of irritation pressed down on her and she turned away from Jamie onto her side to escape it, struggling even with that seemingly easy natural maneuver with her shoulder as it was. Fuck Frank. But as she finally settled so did Jamie, rolling with her, wrapping her in his arms spooning into her, his forehead bracing the back of her head, calming her. She could feel his wiry curls pressing against her bottom, his little partner nestled up there too, but quite tired out it seemed. His little partner.  She smiled wondering if Jamie had a name for his cock, And, well little was certainly not giving him due justice. She squirmed as she recalled how Jamie had pressed into her, stretching her, filling her for the first time. The wonder it had been for him, for her. Jamie.

Such dreams. James Fraser’s lips curled up as he exhaled a deep breath of drowsy contentment as he was slowly nudged into consciousness by the loveliest round arse snuggling enticingly into his lap, the back of silky thighs caressing his with their languorous rocking. His mind wandered back into the fog not ready to relinquish the memory of sensations, but there was something else. He inhaled deeply as he nuzzled into the mass of curls right there in his face – something herbal, lavender and… Claire.

Claire felt Jamie’s fingers tentatively push aside her hair and the damp strands that clung to her neck. His body shifted closer then seemed to change, adjust his position. Breath and warm lips caressed her, they are warm and soft and pliant. She turned her face more into the pillow offering more and hummed as his lips hit that spot just below her ear and returned to it again with a nibble and tongue dabbing at it earning an extra squirm.

“Hmmm?” How can a simple syllable, not even that – a sound, deep and sleep roughened at that, shoot currents of aching want straight to her core, again.

Her smile deepened as she gave a small nod of agreement and her fist tightened on the pillow. Kisses and nibbles and tongue moved at a tortuously slow pace down her neck until he reached the juncture at her shoulder and latched on with teeth and lips, sucking at the tender skin there, marking her. His hand moved from caressing her breast to her hip, holding her position steady against him as he rocked into her, growing hard with the friction of their joint motion.

Words escaped her as she panted her need for him, feeling him pressing against her back, No good, “In me…” she reached down but it wasn’t right; she couldn’t reach. “Move.” Even as a whisper it came out harsher than she’d intended. There was an awkward shift as she lifted her leg and moved it back resting on his thigh, opening herself to him, “please.” She didn’t want to break the spell she was under to turn this into an instruction period, instead silently pleading that instinct would take over and he would find her.

Jamie’s hand left her hip as he shifted away from her grabbing his cock and pushed it lower between her cheeks. Ooops, as he nudged her and she curled forward until he found her and eased in; it wasn’t the perfect position, but he was home and relief filled her as he did. Jamie shifted again seating himself within her better and curled back around her holding her tight.

“Better?”

Words were unnecessary as she pressed her head into his chest and nodded and resumed rocking them back to sleep as Jamie whispered what seemed to be a lullaby of nonsensical words in her ear.

Her whole body was too warm, and he gently placed his hand on her forehead. “Ye’re feverish, Sassenach,” concern carried through as he rose on one arm to look down at her as she rolled onto her back into the space he’d vacated.

“Says the human hot water bottle,” she smiled blinking open her eyes because he liked to see them and tried to focus where she thought his would be. Reaching up she stroked his chest and moving her hand up his body to cup his cheek before brushing his own damp curls away from his face. “But I’m not, really; that’s all you.”

Claire laid her head back and closed her eyes, a smile curling her lips as she chuckled, “Of course it could be from you having your way with me, again… You’re quite insatiable.

Me?” he smirked at her with his own recollection but was more than happy to oblige her.

She hummed a bit as she considered. “Don’t tell me you don’t remember.”

Jamie felt a flood of heat race through him, “Correct me if I’m wrong, it could well be as perhaps I was just dreaming… but as I remember it was yer sweet round,” he extended the r as he rolled it off his tongue, and leaned down and kissed her, “arse, inviting me to join with ye again. And how could I not accept such an invitation, it would have been rude. No?”

“Put that way, most definitely yes,” she pulled on him til she felt his breath on her face and ran her fingers through his hair, knotting them in the curls at his nape, “Sorry if I woke you, but thank you for coming, it was …lovely,” she sighed.

Lovely? I guess it was. “Ye can wake me from the dead for that.” Jamie collapsed back into the pillows beside her. “So,” he began hesitantly rolling onto his side facing her, pushing curls from her face and continued stroking down her shoulder hesitating at the sling strap, wishing to remove the obstacle it presented, Fuck Frank, then past it to her arm and gently grasping her hip.

Jamie gathered Claire close to him smiling and kissed her temple as it was coming back to him and started chuckling softly.

“Soooo?” she encouraged him to continue, “mind sharing?”

“Nah,” he chuckled a bit more, “it just … it sort of brought to mind my first encounter with sex.”

“I thought I was your first,” she struggled up on her elbow looking down at him one fine dark brow arched in question.

Jamie hooked his arm around her neck and pulled her down to his mouth, taking her lips grinning kissed her, “Aye, it’s true, ye are my first experience. But I meant growing up on a farm with lots of livestock, cats, and dogs, running about, there’s always breeding going on, it’s just part of the life. It wasna until Da let me help while Donas was standing at stud that …well I got it stuck in my head that ye did it the back way …like horses do, not face to face.”

Claire laughed, completely caught by surprise, “You didn’t did you? Really?”

To hear her laugh, even if it was at his expense filled him with joy. “Aye, that’d be Willie’s fault; he convinced me that’s the way people did it too. And verra fierce the way the stud would cover the mare and bite down on her neck to hold her in place, nothing lovely about it.” Jamie traced the bite he'd left on her shoulder, maybe there was something to Willie’s secret.

“Willie? Who’s he?”

“He was my older brother, died a couple of years after my da.”

“I’m sorry Jamie.” Well there goes that…

“Dinna fash, I’m no inviting any sorrow into our bed, Sassenach, especially today, I only wish ye had the chance to meet the both of them. They would have loved ye too. But I ken they’re happy for us, celebrating I found ye. And ye can thank Willie for setting me straight some years later about the proper way to …a …ehm.”

“Introduced you to porn, did he? Well we’ll just have to see how thorough his instructions were. Geillie’s toys seemed to put you off a bit.” She teased him as she recalled his reaction.

“Oh aye? Tis verra bawdy talk for a marrit woman. I may no have much experience yet, but I’ll always do my best to serve ye well, to please ye, always.”

“You will, will you?”

“Aye, I will and I like hearing ye ask for what ye want, but now ye’ve got me thinking of ye on yer knees before me presenting yer beautiful arse to me, to have my hands spreading yer cheeks like a ripe peach, while I thrust into ye.”  Claire had become a squiggling mass of giggles as he groped her ass and pulled her against him, “sounds verra intriguing so,” he gave her ass a light smack, “if ye’ll just roll over on yer knees, lass we’ll get this over with.” Jamie let her loose and was biting his lower lip trying to keep from laughing out loud at Claire’s expression, but Claire could hear the humor in his voice.

“In your dreams!” she smirked at him edging backwards her feet searching for the edge of the bed.

“I imagine so, day and night!” he lunged and grappled her around her waist, trying to avoid her arm as he pulled her into his lap, “since that’s where ye began,” he chuckled now, kissing her neck moving to her shoulder, “but Sassenach here, ye are like a wee sparrow with yer wing trussed up. I’d never want to hurt ye, ye must ken that.”

Their flirty banter had taken a turn, become more tender, serious and Claire felt Jamie’s gentleness as he embraced her, traced her features with his finger, wanting to do the same. “I do Jamie,” she reassured him and leaned her head back against his shoulder her hand playing with the curls on his chest.

All the while Jamie couldn’t help but stare at her, see her beauty in the light of day as she smiled in response or thought, noticing the little creases that appeared at the corners of her eyes when she did. He traced the fullness of her lips and couldn’t bear not pressing a soft kiss to them, just to feel them against his. He touched the barely visible cleft in her chin and wondered if their children would also bear the trait since he did as well. Would they have her amber eyes or his blue. Jamie pulled one of her curls out examining it, definitely curls between the two of them, but dark like hers or red like his? “I couldna see it all last night, but in the daylight ye’ve got all sorts of colors in yer hair; auburn, dark brown, a bit of blonde even; it’s beautiful.”

“If you say so,” she shrugged off his compliment. In her memory brown is brown and rather dull and not filled with the colors as he’d described.

“I do and I dinna want to hear ye disagree,” he bent and took her mouth with his, as she tilted her head to better their fit. Slow as the dream had been her hand stroked his cheek, feeling the scruff of his beard, remembering the feel of it as it scraped against her inner thighs.

“Jamie, I want,” her words were interrupted by a loud rumble from her stomach, there was no ignoring that and they both laughed.

“Ye want something to eat.” Jamie turned his head to check the clock, “Christ! It’s going on noon, no wonder, ye must be starving and yer meds! I need to check the schedule.”

“They’ll be fine, but now that you mention it, I am ravenous,” she turned and bit his shoulder teasing. “Have you got toast or I might take a bite out of you?”

“Toast!? If ye can wait just a bit, I can do better than toast for our wedding breakfast, mo chridhe. Do ye like drop scones with all the toppings?”

“Well I do like pancakes.”

“Och, these are so much better, my mam taught me her recipe and I always have the ingredients on hand for when the bairns visit. And then since the day is ours, what do ye say if I take a quick rinse in the shower and shave and while I fix us breakfast, ye can take yer time getting ready, but I’d like it if ye just wore the robe today.”

“You would, would you?” Not like I have a lot of choice…I’ll have to talk to Geillis - fuck no, not today! “Okay, I’ll wear the robe, but you,” she leaned in rubbing her nose and cheek against his, “do not get to shave.”

Jamie rubbed a hand against his whiskery cheek before brushing it up and down against hers chuckling, “Ye like that do ye? Then as ye say.”

“Oh definitely,” she whispered and kissed him lightly on his cheek. “Thank you,” she laughed back as she peered at him, “but do I have time to take a bath?”  

“Ye do if ye wish, but I thought after we eat, we could try out the tub together and then I’d bring ye back to bed and impress ye with my knowledge of yer anatomy as I kiss my way around yer body.”

“Alphabetically, I think you claimed,” she poked his chest with her finger and quirked her brow in challenge.

“That or ye can challenge me and toss out random letters.” Jamie pushed up and separated from climbing over her out of the bed, “D’ye need the bath before I shower? I’ll be quick.”

“Mmmh hnnn. I went earlier while you were asleep, but do you have a spare toothbrush?” She scrunched her face at him.

“I think I have some extras squirreled away.”

She listened to him pad away wondering what he looked like, trying to imagine. She heard him rustling about before poking his head out the door, “Purple or green?”

She rolled her eyes, “Purple!” as if, but couldn’t hold back her smile as she heard the water come on.

XOXOXOX

Jamie. In truth, everything about the man made her smile or laugh or both, things she’d done little of in the months even before the accident. He’d been incredibly kind, thoughtful beyond belief, attentive and generous as a lover, even if he was a virgin. A virgin? She didn’t want to doubt him, but he was so very good and felt her face heating up with a flush as she thought about his touch upon her, how it sent a current, a rush of life through her and how much she was missing it – him, even now.

The shower was running and she was tempted to join him but decided it best to let Jamie have some necessary time – how were they going to manage domestic life, little things like sharing the bathroom and periods, much less household chores and children? Children – how in her ever-living mind was she going to be able to manage caring for a child?! And felt her heart wrench, how could she possibly if she couldn’t contribute? God, was this a mistake? How could she contribute? What could she do? How could she really expect him to make room for her in his life. What would happen when her novelty wore off – when he grew tired of her?

Stop! She flung back the covers and got out of bed and started feeling for the robe she’d discarded and not finding it, started wandering the room feeling for it. Tears of frustration threatened, she was losing it and stopped and gulped for breaths before she was completely overwhelmed.

“Sassenach?”

She turned her face toward his voice unaware the water had stopped.

Jamie felt a punch to the gut as he saw her, huddled with her arms crossed, the look of a lost child and the tears that started trailing down her cheeks. God, no.

“Dinna leave me, please.” He was next to her in moments, reaching for her, afraid to touch her, yet needing nothing more in the world than to hold her close.

“Jamie?” Claire turned and reached out her arms and that was all he needed before sweeping her up and pressing her against his chest, burying his face in her neck as she held onto him as though he was her life buoy as she was drowning in her fears.

“Shhh, shhh, you’re okay, I’m here,” he whispered trying to soothe her, holding her closer. He could feel her heart racing as trembles ran through her body, “Ye’re cold.”

“You’re freezing,” She realized his usually heated skin was cold and hair still dripping wet. He carried her to the bed and sat on the edge setting her down next to him. He leaned back and away from her and she tightened her grip. “Did you take a cold shower?”

“Aye, thought it would be prudent. Here, this will help,” and eased the robe around her shoulders and she snuggled into it. “What’s the matter, mo chridhe?” he guided her face towards his before reclaiming her hands. “Tell me.”

Tell him the truth. “I was left alone with my thoughts – too inside my head and it’s a scary place. I’m afraid you’ll come to your senses and regret this, …meeting me.”

“Is that it? I was thinking the same thing, and then Christ, when I came out and saw ye, I thought ye were looking for a way to escape that ye wanted to leave and I felt as though my guts were being ripped out. But ye dinna have to be alone, let me in,” he leaned his forehead against hers.

“I’m not sure how to do this with anyone else.”

“I dinna ken how to do this without ye, Claire.”

Chapter Text

“Sassenach, well that’s all sorted,” Jamie called out not hiding his excitement as he walked down the hall heading back to Claire after readying the tub, having left her to finish the treat of a third cup of coffee, “are ye ready to join me? I’ll deal with the clean-up later.”

They’d enjoyed a long leisurely brunch, soft touches and kisses and teasing as they got to know each other. Their earlier mutual collapse was behind them for the time being, fortuitously stalled and redirected with renewed rumblings from Claire’s tummy and tears evaporated into nervous laughter as Jamie hugged her close assuring her he’d never let her go hungry.

“You’ve yet to see me when I’m really hungry.” Claire had given him a full-throated laugh with that and swiped at her eyes, before leaning in and stealing a kiss. “Better watch out or you may find the only thing you have left to eat are your words,” she grinned at him.

“Oh aye? I could always take a bite out of ye,” he’d teased her back.

“I think you’ve already done that,” it came out as more of a whisper than she intended as she swallowed hard and flushed with the memory of his mouth, his ravenous mouth on her.

Jamie had delighted seeing in her pinking up as he thought of how he’d taken her and his cock remembering as well, “I have, and I look forward to doing it again. Christ Sassenach, I could feast on ye for days, and never have enough of ye.”

A new cascade of rumblings emanated from Claire, causing both to chuckle. “Come on Sassenach, ye go take care of yer needs and I’ll get to seeing ye’re fed.” Taking her hand, Jamie pulled her up from her seat on the bed, and hugged her close leaning his forehead against hers. “I heard ye mo nighean donn, I ken we have more to say, but we have time, alright?” She had begun to open to him, and he was determined not to let her fears get a foothold and become an obstacle between them.

Claire had snugged him close as well, her hands finding their way to his firm bare bum and squeezed it appreciatively as she felt his firming cock pressing against her thigh. “We do, we will, but in the meantime, I don’t think you should do any cooking in the buff. Could prove potentially disastrous consequences which I would like you to avoid, I have plans for you,” she leaned back giving him what she hoped to God was a salacious look.

“As ye say, Sassenach,” Jamie smirked back and leaned in kissing her, “let me hang up my towel and grab my bottoms.”

“I’ll do that!” She bit back her retort, missing how he grinned back at her over his shoulder. He’d thought he’d feel more awkward walking around in the buff, then remembered… again. Why did he keep forgetting?

Claire settled the robe around her shoulders listening to Jamie’s footsteps and followed him to the bathroom bumping into him as he came out. “Take yer time and I’ll be in the kitchen,” and accepted the quick kiss on her forehead as he moved around her and followed his footsteps as he retreated across the room.

She was feeling much better than just a bit ago; Jamie had had an incredible calming effect on her. There had been a major crack in her bravado and fears she had refused to acknowledge bubbled to the surface demanding her attention at the most inconvenient time. Jamie had done much to comfort her, just holding her, letting her begin to share her concerns, acknowledging his own, fears that he would not be enough for her. It would not be the last difficult conversation they would face, but they’d resolved to face the challenges together, the two of them.

She smiled as ran her fingers along the countertop, finding the purple toothbrush, paste, washcloth and towel and the sling that he thoughtfully laid next to the sink. She ran her fingers through her hair wondering what godawful mess it looked like and tried to finger comb it into some semblance of order wondering if she had her special comb or brush in her purse – did she have her purse? Stop it!  This was not a time for worrying about such mundane things, more important did she look like a raccoon with mascara smudges that Geillis had insistently applied the night before in preparations for their night out? Her fingers running over her eyelids, Oh God…

XOXOX

Twice Jamie had stopped in the short walk to the kitchen, pivoting to return to Claire to assure himself she was real, his wife. He collapsed against the counter gripping the concrete edge with knuckles gone white with the effort anchoring himself. I’m fixing breakfast for my wife, a wedding breakfast. He took a deep breath trying to calm his racing heart and focus his thoughts. Christ, I need to call Mam!  No, she’s probably already heard from Jenny,” and felt a pang of guilt knowing full well Jenny would have already weaseled everything she could from poor Ian. His mam would understand and wish them well, he was not so sure about Jenny. Jamie knew where Ian’s true alliances lay and couldn’t blame him; truth be told, Ian was a good example for a husband, but knew Claire would be a different sort of wife. Focus!  With a practiced skill, he started pulling out the makings for their first breakfast.

XOXOX

Using the wall as her guide once again, Claire followed the sounds of Jamie’s putterings to the kitchen and paused at the corner opening wishing she could just spy on him a bit in his home environment, how he moved about without her interference. He’d helped her through that rough spot, rough – she scoffed internally at the word, totally inadequate but unwilling to allow it any more power than it had claimed, but she felt a greater sense of peace and calm than she could recall in well – forever it seemed.

Jamie. Claire went soft inside thinking about him, how he had pulled her onto his lap and wrapped his arms about her holding her to him assuring her she was safe as she held onto his arm. He was whispering things she had no idea what they meant as he nuzzled into her neck, punctuating his words with small tender kisses on her temple and cheek until she had settled, resting her head on his shoulder. Switching to English, he convinced her he would be there by her side come hell or high water to face their future with her.

She didn’t understand it a bit, this connection between them but never had she felt this way about anyone else before, it was more, much more than just the physical pull between them, and with that thought couldn’t help tightening her thighs missing his presence there. Not a particularly spiritual person, Claire threw out a fervent prayer of gratitude, Whatever I did to deserve having Jamie placed in my path, let me know and I’ll do it again and again.

“Is that bacon, I smell?” announcing her presence, Claire stood at the corner near the hall, eyes closed as she breathed in deeply before blinking open and looking in his general direction.

Jamie grinned at the sight of her, surprised he hadn’t heard her approach and breathed a sigh of relief. “Aye, ye like that do ye?” As he spoke, she turned her head just a bit and her eyes seemed to focus on him and moved towards him with a brilliant smile and held her hand out. The robe though tied plunged open to her waist, offered him a bountiful eyeful.

“I do.” Jamie stepped toward her taking her hand and guided her forward, kissing her fingers and then her lips as she hummed against them.

“It’ll be ready in a bit. I thought ye were going to wear yer sling? D’ye need help with it.”

“Maybe later,” she dismissed his concern, holding it out to him, “it’s okay right now, I want to help.”

“Good.” Jamie took it and laid it aside. He’d been prevaricating between being overly solicitous and wanting to encourage her sense of independence, the loss that she had been bemoaning. “Scoot around to the other side and make yerself useful. Ye can hull and slice the berries while I pull the rest together.”

Jamie watched as Claire found her way to other side of the island, her fingers brushing along the edge of the counter and settled into a seat. “Good enough. Here’s the strawberries and a paring knife,” he set them down in front of her, placing her hand on top of the cutting board and knife and giving her hand a gentle squeeze before moving onto another task.

Claire took up the knife, hefting it in her hand, taking undue pleasure in such a small thing. It had been too long since she’d been separated from any kind of instrument that she had so identified as an extension of her hand. Jamie watched surreptitiously her careful examination of the small knife and selection of a strawberry setting aside his worries with her deft maneuvers as she set to work.  

She heard him set down a bowl on the counter and pull something from the fridge. “Joe had said ye like yer coffee black, but ye said ye couldna have the caffeine. So what is it?”

“Before the accident, I was pretty much a coffee fiend, but now with everything, I usually allow myself one cup in the morning with what they call breakfast.” She grimaced slightly at the recollection, “Geillis or Joe would bring me one, but I need to avoid too much caffeine, you remembered that?”

“Of course. I have some verra good Ethiopian decaf if that would serve ye… or regular medium roast, I prefer that myself, but I keep some strong blend for Jenny when she comes by.”

Claire shook her head, smiling. “Let me try the decaf and then maybe I’ll have a second cup.”

“Would ye like some music while we work?” he asked over his shoulder as she listened to him rustling in the cupboard.

“Only if it’s acoustic and not too loud while we talk. Do you have a bowl for the sliced berries?”

“Right…here ye go.” Another bowl was placed next to her hand. “See if ye like this.”

Claire paused her slicing waiting for the music, a round of applause started fading into a the warm strains of an orchestral piece joined by the penetrating notes of a flute solo and stringed instruments came up, “I would not have taken you for a classics guy,” she smiled surprised.

“Oh? Well ye never know… Wait now, listen….” A deeper, richer string joined the other instruments.

Claire’s eyes widened in disbelief with the first notes, sitting straighter in her seat, a smile spreading across her face, her voice excited now, “No…. Hauser? You know Hauser? I love him! and Luka when they played together. I want to see him play in person.”

“Ye should, he’s brilliant, and 2Cellos ye mean, they were amazing when they played together.” Jamie enthused, thrilled he’d immediately found musicians they both liked, what were the chances?

“Don’t tell me you have… I don’t want to hate you.” Claire shook her head as she slumped back into her seat.

Jamie dialed back the volume letting the orchestral music fill the silence between them but would not be too loud for them to converse when she was ready. Jamie moved about pulling a pan out, a scrape of metal on metal as he set it on the range. A staccato of beans being poured into a container and a sudden grinding joined the notes and the aroma of freshly ground beans filled the air. Claire slapped down her knife finished with her task.

“You grind your beans too?

“Aye, tis better when I do.”

“Alright, I’m sorry, I promise not to hate you, tell me, please?” she rested her chin on her palm.

Jamie continued preparing coffee as he thought back to that summer smiling and set the coffee to brewing, the fresh aroma filling the kitchen. “I was doing some trekking in the Učka Mountain range in Croatia and a group I’d met on the trail convinced me to go down to Pula to hear this local guy play. They were meeting up with some friends and were sure they could get me a ticket. I had no idea what to expect, but they insisted I would like him, the old arena, the music – the people, it was amazing!”

“Stop! …You were there when this was recorded? … I do hate you. I watch that concert on youtube all the time.”

“I wish ye’d stop telling me ye’ll hate me Sassenach. I canna stand the thought of that, it makes my wame ache,” she felt Jamie’s lips on her neck as he wrapped his arms around her and nuzzled into her neck. “I promise I willna go again until ye can come with me.” He squeezed her. “A date?”

“How can I say no to that? It’s a date, thank you.” she leaned back into him before he suddenly let her go followed by quick steps.

“The bacon!” the oven door slammed open and curses quietly muttered as a pan clanged down on the stove top. “It’s okay, it's good! No too crisp.” She could hear the relief in his voice – so not too crisp bacon and filed that bit of info away for the day when she could cook for him.

Jamie poured their coffee and set a cup and piece of bacon down in front of her, her nose tweaking with the heavenly scents, as he gently guided her hand again. It was a real cup and saucer, the old-fashioned kind judging by the delicate handle, not a mug as she’d somehow expected, trying to imagine Jamie’s large fingers managing something so fragile. Tentatively testing the rim with her lip, she gently blew on the hot brew before taking a sip. “Oh, it’s perfect,” she closed her eyes as she relished the first taste, “thank you, Jamie. Do you have yours?”

“Aye, I do. Now there’s a whole rasher of bacon ready if ye want more but give me a few minutes to prepare the scones. Ye can nibble on the strawberries and we have blueberries too if ye like.”

Claire picked up the bacon and held it to her nose sniffing it, real Scottish bacon, not the streak o’lean stuff and took a bite, “Hmmm,” her stomach growling in appreciation. Jamie watched the smile curl her lips as her eyes closed and slipped another piece on to her plate.

“So tell me how ye managed to avoid school throwing a tantrum.” He started measuring out the dry ingredients for the dropped scones and poured them into the mixing bowl, whisking them together.

Claire bit her lips together and dropped her face, her hair cascading down but not before Jamie caught a glimpse of the smile she was trying to hide, betrayed by her snorting laugh. “Oh God, I must have been awful…” she finally admitted shaking her head. “My vagabond, very much confirmed bachelor uncle inherited me when I was five after my parents died in an accident.” Jamie’s heart lurched at her words, but her smile and the manner she offered the information defied the sadness he expected.

“I’m sorry, Claire.” He was himself much too aware of the effects that loss of family could have. It’d been hard enough on him as a young adult losing his father and brother and couldn’t imagine her loss so young. His heart resonated with the ache he’d felt just a short time ago when he thought he was losing her even for a moment.

“Oh I’m sure he was too at the time,” she laughed again breaking into his morose thoughts deliberately choosing to twist his words, “but we were all the family we each had in the world and he had noooo idea what to do with a little girl. We’d only met a couple of times before I was suddenly foisted on him, really not much more than strangers but he stepped up and accepted me, he didn’t have to... You heard Geillis mention him during the games last night – the tribute search for Frank’s balls? He was an archeologist and had rarely been in residence in England.” Jamie stopped his activities and just watched as Claire talked, as she pulled him in giving her his full attention.

“Living as he did, he thought he was doing his best by me, attempting to park me at a boarding school. I somehow managed to convince him via a magnificent tantrum and clutching his leg as though my life depended on him, that leaving me was not in my best interest nor his. And that is how I avoided brick and mortar schools until I started university.”

Jamie shook his head in amazement at her bravado even then, his lip curling up imagining the scene.

“I mean education was paramount with him, the whole of his life was in the pursuit of knowledge. I always had tutors, usually grad students that were in attendance with the excavation or local teachers, - he thought I needed to be aware of the cultures and traditions where we were living. It was perhaps an odd symbiosis, I was always treated as an equal, my age less of a factor than you’d think. Of course, in trade, I learned quickly how I could be of use around the dig. And I know how it might sound, but it suited me, and we really got on well. He never made me feel like an imposition and I know he loved me, but I accepted early on that I needed to be able to take care of myself. He could be a bit forgetful at times that I was a child.”

Jamie picked up his microplane rasp and began zesting the orange trying not to take his eyes off Claire, as he digested the insights she had shared, experiences, her beliefs that had helped mold her to being the woman she was. Her uncle was obviously dear to her.

“He sounds like an amazing man to have had in yer life. What was his name again?”

“Quentin. Lambert. Beauchamp.  – Uncle Lamb or Lamb, and he was amazing and shared an amazing life with me. You remember those Indiana Jones movies? Well, he was the very essence of Indiana Jones – even had a fedora like Harrison Ford wore. That smells good.” Claire leaned forward her arms laying on the counter and sniffed the citrus essence.

“Was he really? Bullwhip and all? Ye must have had quite the adventurous life.” A crack of an egg and liquid pouring into the bowl accented the orange, as Jamie whisked the ingredients together, the pan heating.

She laughed at the suggestion, “No, not really, nothing quite so dramatic, only in his mind, but he had a great imagination. Less rugged, more dapper, the epitome of professorial you would say. He had these little wire-rimmed, round lensed glasses that resided on top of his head unless needed for examining something up close.” Jamie watched her face soften as she silently chased memories of her uncle.

“It shouldna be too long now, sorry for making ye wait so long, hope ye’re no starvin’. Here’s another piece of bacon.” He reached out and waved it under her nose enticing her back to him.

Claire laughed as she grabbed at the moving target, taking hold of his wrist and raising her brows at him, “Such a tease,” and nipped his finger before taking the bacon. But kissed his finger before releasing him.

It was all Jamie could manage not to round the island again and kiss her senseless. Every time he looked at her his heart stuttered just a bit.

“Ah,” he cleared his throat, “I best get these on,” and reluctantly backed away. The batter sizzled as Jamie ladled it onto the hot griddle, torn between needing to watch the scones cook and wanting to watch Claire’s expressive face as she talked more about her uncle, though now sipping at her coffee. “D’ye care for an egg or two with yer scones?”

“Can you do two over easy?”

“I can do ‘em however ye like,” Jamie spoke confidently of his cooking skills as he plated the first batch of scones putting them in the oven to keep warm and ladled in another batch. Things were moving quickly now as he opened the jars of his mother’s preserves, pulled the honey from its warming bath on the stove, and the clotted cream from the fridge.

“How many scones are you making? It sounds like enough for an army!”

He smiled at her quizzical gaze, “Well I’ll finish cooking up the batter and freeze what we dinna eat. That way ye can pop them in the toaster for a quick breakfast or with yer tea later on.” He pulled another pan out and turned on the fire under it.

“I wish I could be of more help.”

“Having ye here, yer company is the best.” Jamie stared at her knowing it was the truth, he’d never felt so relaxed.

Claire listened as a pat of butter sizzled in the hot pan, quickly followed by the cracking of eggs and pop as they hit the heated pan. The music continued playing, background to the aromas filled the kitchen and Jamie quietly muttering to himself in Gaelic as he moved from one thing to another, pans shuffling, spatula grating on the surface, as eggs flipped. A clatter of plates punctuated the room, it was all lovely music to her ears. The ease between them was comforting.

“And all done, here ye go, mo chridhe,” Jamie slipped a plate onto the counter in front of her. “Are ye ready for another cup of coffee? No too bad is it?”

“Yes to the coffee and it is really good.” Jamie poured them each another cup and then came round and settled in the seat next to her, their knees interlocking as they faced sideways toward each other.

“You’ll have to tell me where to begin,” as she seemed to scan the scattered serving dishes that now cluttered the island surface.

“Well there’s some of my mam’s raspberry and blackberry preserves if ye like, there’s the fresh berries, and honey, some clotted cream though that’s store bought.”

“Honestly? You serve me store bought clotted cream? Is there any other kind?” she teased him back.

“Mam makes it, but I dinna have the patience. When I want it, I want it. Would ye like me to give ye a dab of everything so ye can try it? Or ye can serve yerself, I dinna want to be overbearing.”

“You’re not, just watching out for me right now. How do you go about it?”

“Well I’m no sure ye’d want to use me as an example, it’s probably a good thing ye canna see me right now.” He chuckled self-depreciatingly. “I usually heap a bit of everything on and dive in. Ye really canna go wrong, it would only be if ye really didna care for something. Here, open yer mouth, this is the raspberry preserves.” Claire opened her mouth and Jamie fed her the tip of his fork with a bit of the preserves. The flavor was fresh and tart, not too sweet, and it was impossible not to hum. “When it’s mixed with the honey it’s tastier if that’s too tart. The blackberries are sweeter.”

“If you’ll help me, I think I’ll just go with everything too, I can’t wait, my mouth is watering.”

“Ye willna regret it,” as Jamie scooped dabs of everything onto both their plates.

Claire took up her cutlery and poked at her plate a frown furrowing her brows, “You won’t laugh if I make a mess, will you?”

Jamie set his own down and reached forward wrapping his fingers around the back of her neck, his thumb stroking her cheek, “Never… but should ye make a terrible mess of yer face, dinna fash, I’ll kiss it clean, and if yer mess is too much and I canna handle it, we still have that big bath waiting for us after this,” he leaned forward and kissed her gently as he chuckled, “but I promise I willna laugh at ye.”

She dropped her utensils and turned her face so he couldn’t see the embarrassment that had suffused it, her voice low as she spoke, “I don’t want you thinking of me as a child that needs to be taken care of.”

Christ what did ye say? Fix it!   Jamie rose up taking his place between her legs and “Claire? Mo ghaol? Will ye look at me?” He saw the small movement as she started to turn back to him and taking that as encouragement, gently cupped her precious face between his hands and tilted her chin up so he could look into her eyes. He thumbed away the crease between her brows as she let go and relaxed into his hands.

“I assure ye, a child is the last thing I think of when I look at ye, Sassenach, except the one I hope to give ye one day,” reaching down he placed a hand on her stomach and felt a flood of relief as she pressed her hand down on top of his holding it there.

“When ye care for yer patients that need yer help, d’ye think of them as children, or are ye grateful ye can help someone? Are they less because they may need help and ye can give it?” She shook her head and mouthed No.

“I dinna have the skill to take up a scalpel and heal someone the way that ye do but I can hold ye, and love ye and be here as ye need me if ye’ll let me. I didna mean to make ye feel small or incapable, because we both ken that isna the truth. My tease went too far, and for that I’m sorry.”

She lifted her head from his cradling hands and fell forward burying her face in his bare chest and pressed a kiss there. Jamie looked down at the mass of Claire’s curls leaning against him and brushed them back wanting to see her face, but she was shaking her head resistant to his efforts. “No, that was entirely my fault. You just hit a raw nerve, I guess. It’s just that I’ve always somehow felt that I had to prove myself, to justify my existence, and now I worry that I’ll never be who I was.”

“Oh leannan, Is mise an duine agad, tha thu ann dhòmhsa mar a tha mi ann dhut.”

No one to let ye just be a child.  Jamie choked on the thought. He wanted her to know the joy, the freedom of a young child with no particular responsibility other than just to be… loved.

“Ye best listen to me well, Wife...” Jamie stepped back pulling her from her seat and held her tightly about the waist, waiting.

Claire sniggered and finally raised her face to him, “You really get a kick out of saying that don’t you?”

“Ye have no idea just how much,” Jamie was beaming in agreement with her observation, “but,” his tone adjusted with a mock solemnity, “Sassenach, ye’re definitely no a child, and ye dinna have to justify yerself for me. I’m yer husband because ye chose me, as I chose ye. And as yer husband, I get to do these things, to help ye because I want to, because I can. And as my wife you will let me because ye love me as I love ye. As yer husband, I’m telling ye that we will talk about this later, because if ye dinna eat now yer meal will have gone cold and I’ll have to cook ye fresh eggs.”

Claire blinked back tears, When you put it that way…, she lifted her chin and cocked her brow at him. “Just so you know, I’m not usually the meek and obedient type, but I’ll concede this time. I wouldn’t want the eggs to go to waste.”

“Fine, as long as ye ken who’s in charge.” Jamie had to smother the humor from leaching out, he kent fine enough who would be in charge once she was on her feet again. He was completely under her power and happy to be there. “Now sit down and eat.”

Who’s in charge?  Claire’s expression shifted from certainty to perplexed with his statement as she resumed her seat and picked up her fork. “Jamie? … Would you poke my eggs?”

“Is that some sort of sexual euphemism that I should ken?” he chuckled.

Claire blushed, “No, I just like to dip my pancakes in the runny yokes.”

Jamie reached over and poked the yokes stirring them up a bit, hoping they weren’t too cold, “There ye go, now dig in.”

“Yes sir,” she saluted him, and they set to enjoying the meal and each other.

XOXOX

The ding of the doorbell rang, turned Jamie’s attention as he returned to collect her for the bath he’d prepared, scavenging through the cupboards for some of the bath products Jenny insisted on gifting him. She must think he lived in the tub. He momentarily considered ignoring the chime, but ingrained courtesy wouldn’t allow him and continued toward it.  

“Expecting anyone?” Claire called out.

Jamie paused his passing in front of the entrance to the kitchen area, turning his head to answer as Claire came into his view. Christ!  His goddess was relaxed, reclining with her beautiful legs stretched out, feet propped on the other chair. Her curls seeming to have doubled in mass as they framed her radiant face.

Taing Dhia. She was nearly fully exposed to his view as the robe had parted falling open on either side of her and slid off her shoulder to one side as she rested her head on her hand, elbow on the counter, smiling in his direction.

Fuck, the bath can wait, as he determined the stool was the perfect height and she could rest her legs over his shoulders. Can feet be elegant? As she flexed and pointed her toes.

“Jamie?” her prompt brought him back.

He stepped back in her direction when the bell rang again.

“The door.”

Iffrin “Nobody.”

“Then send them away,” she imperiously waved her hand giving him a naughty grin leaning in his direction, her breast escaping the last remnant of concealing fabric. If she’d noticed, she ignored it and Jamie thought it was deliberately for his benefit.

He detoured back towards the door, puzzled as he was not expecting anyone, especially today. I’ll kill Jenny. His only plans were to spend as much time as possible with Claire, preferably naked, loving on each other.

Jamie reluctantly opened the door, his hand reaching out to grip the door frame. Still dressed in only his pj bottoms he stood partially behind the door and stuck his head around the door’s edge. There stood an attractive, blonde headed man about his own age casually but well-dressed staring up at him, his eyes widening as Jamie spoke to him. “Aye, what can I do for you?”

The man stood there for a moment his mouth opening and closing as he stared at the most magnificent model of a man as he’d ever encountered face to face, shirtless no less, exposing his sculpted physique, raising his eyes back up, he met glacial blues scowling at him beneath furrowed russet brows .

“I think ye must have the wrong place,” and Jamie started to shut the door. Eejit.

Suddenly aware of the movement, the intruder collected himself and put his hand out stopping the door - “No! I’m sorry, I was told Claire Beauchamp was here.” Did I just blurt? for God’s sake!

“JOHN?! ...Darling?! Is that really you?” Claire heard the exchange and excitedly called out to the unexpected visitor.

DARLING?! Who the hell??  Jamie’s head snapped in Claire’s direction hearing the endearment. “Who?” he uttered in confusion and his arm dropped as he turned toward Claire.

Chapter Text

“I’m in here John!”

“That would be me,” and John, darling lifted his hand with a little wave before slipping through the opened door giving Jamie a dazzling smile and raised his eyebrows at him as he squeezed past him before heading in the direction of Claire’s summons.

Jamie closed the door and was right on his heels when he saw Claire now perched on the edge of the chair preparing to stand up, but the robe gawped open leaving nothing for the man’s imagination. She was a vision Jamie fully appreciated but had no intention of sharing.

Jamie stretched out his arm grabbing the wee bugger’s shoulder with his large paw staying him in midstride. “If ye dinna mind,” he barked as he pushed John, darling  behind him as he reached Claire first stepping between the two.

“Christ, Claire,” Jamie growled out in a stage whisper as he adjusted the robe, overlapping the front flaps so she was wrapped and covered as tightly as the Sisters at school. “Ye seem to have a visitor.”

Claire was initially stunned by Jamie’s actions then realized what he was doing, smiled, but not in embarrassment. She reached up for his cheek and rubbing her thumb along his lower lip, stood up on tip toes and kissed him until he melted into her. “Thank you,” she whispered then felt his lips on her forehead as he released a deep breath, and stepped to her side, feeling his arm slip possessively around her back and turned to face said visitor.

John stood staring at the silvery web of scars crisscrossing Jamie’s back overlaid with fresh, red claw marks as he adjusted Claire’s clothing, muscles shifting beneath the marred skin, and felt a wave of pain course through him at the wanton vandalism of such a beautiful back.

He adeptly managed to school his features turning his face away from the marital scene before Jamie turned toward him. John stepped forward extending his hand, keeping his gaze focused on the intense blue eyes scowling at him and consciously avoided focusing on the several red welts marking Jamie’s neck and shoulder. You naughty girl!  He remained poised, patiently waiting as Jamie looked at his hand until he reluctantly let go of Claire to accept it. “John Grey.”

“James Fraser.” He shook it firmly before releasing it and slipping his arm back around Claire, tightening his fingers.

Neither had a problem hearing Claire’s exaggerated huff before she spoke, “God! I wish I could see what was going on between you two!” Claire turned her head back and forth as though watching a tennis match through the awkward silence. “This is ridiculous. Jamie, John is an old friend and my attorney. And John,” Claire slipped her arm behind Jamie’s back running her hand up feeling the heat of his bare skin, …the scars as realization kicked in that John must have seen them as well and pressed into Jamie’s side as her fingers caressed him. Tilting her face up at Jamie smiling proudly, “This is my husband, James Alexander Malcom Mackenzie Fraser.”

Jamie grinned back at her, his heart overflowing, “Ye remembered it – in order!” and chuckled as he pulled her close and kissed her again through the grin.

John watched and waited through the extended introduction until they finally pulled apart like two pieces of velcro, “My dear, I’m delighted for you.” John hesitantly stepped forward with his arms spread as though to hug her, glancing at Jamie, seeking his permission.

“He wants to hug ye, Sassenach.”

John startled a bit, his brows beetling at the name; he knew what it meant as did Claire but was curious that her smile morphed in tenderness.

“Of course, he does, we’re huggers,” and she let go of Jamie and stepped forward holding out her arm to John letting him close the distance.

It was momentarily awkward as limbs tangled and adjusted while Claire maneuvered to wrap her good arm around John’s neck as he pulled her in tight, cheeks pressed together and speaking loud enough for Jamie to hear, “You look much better than I expected, someone’s seeing to your happiness,” looking up and catching Jamie’s eye, then lowering his voice barely containing his excitement whispering in her ear. “It’s HIM! HIM!” before releasing her and stepping back.

“What?” Claire hadn’t fully understood him, but smiled in agreement anyway, “Someone definitely is…, but what are you doing here? When did you get back?”

“Just this morning. Got back earlier than expected so I stopped by the hospital to check up on you and got the news. Surprise, surprise!” his hands waving, body rocking in mock astonishment, “but the place is buzzing.”

“Oh God,” Claire moaned and rolled her eyes, “Geillis.”

“Well she is the queen bee, but she’s not solely responsible. I don’t think you could toss a dart, Oops I think that’s how this got started isn’t it? And not hit a culprit, Oops you did that too, didn’t you? And you know how it is, once the gossip dam starts to leak, it’s almost impossible to plug the hole.”

“Enough John,” she laughed shaking her head, cutting him off and looked to Jamie, “when he gets like this, you have to stop him before he gets too far gone and he loses all sense of that stiff upper lip British aristocracy he’s been injected with, Am I right?”

John rolled his eyes, “Accident of birth, I assure you, much to my step-father’s chagrin,” he shrugged his shoulder dismissively, the hilarity of the previous moments tempered.

“But you should have been there, John, I wish you had.”

Jamie didn’t care for that particular sentiment, and felt a churning in his wame as he thought how differently things might have gone, if John had been there.

“I really am sorry to have missed it. Perhaps if I had, you wouldn’t be here like this now.”

I knew it!

John felt rather than saw Jamie’s stiffening reaction to his comment and looked over to see the man now seeming to have grown several inches, his face a stoic mask, but his chest heaving with the effort to control what John determined with wariness was a temper roiling just beneath that beautifully sculpted form.

“I didn’t mean, here, here. I meant,” he attempted to clarify seeing Jamie’s reaction and waving his hand toward Claire’s injured shoulder, reaching out as though to touch it, but stopped short, curling his fingers into a fist and dropping it to his side. Jamie saw the wash of pain and relaxed his demeanor, understanding better as John continued. “Hurt. …Fuck Frank.” John released a deep breath and compressed his lips. “And with that said, I think we do need to speak for a few minutes to sort some things out before you leave for Boston.” John glanced up at Jamie who was standing sentry behind Claire.

“Well John, I hope you understand, we sort of have some plans, that don’t include company.” Claire leaned back into Jamie who wrapped his arms about her and pressed a kiss into her curls.

“Aye, that’s true.” Jamie quietly concurred.

“Today or tomorrow before you leave, but I’m here now.” John locked eyes with Jamie, keeping his face placid.

It took a moment, but Jamie conceded suggesting to Claire, “If it would ease yer mind, ye should go ahead and speak with him now. I’ve some calls that I can make while ye talk.”

Claire nodded her head in resignation, “Alright I guess so,” but John could see she wasn’t happy about it.

“We’ll keep things as short as possible. I’ll try not to take up anymore of your time than needed.”

Jamie nodded reluctantly but knew it was probably for the best. He looked around at the mess littering the kitchen, the leftover drop scones, toppings, and such. “Sorry about the mess. Ye’d probably be more comfortable sitting over there,” and pointed John toward the sitting area. Claire likes the upholstered chair, not the leather club.”

“Leather! I knew you’d have leather,” her smiled radiated smug, self-satisfaction.

“Ye did, did ye? Think ye ken me that well already?” Jamie’s deep chuckle resonated through his chest. “Well, if ye’d kept exploring, ye’d have found it, but then ye seemed to settle on that old relic, but if ye prefer leather, the couch is as well.”

John was invisible to them and regretted his intrusion but took advantage of their distraction to take a quick look around the surprisingly sleek décor with a few eclectic furniture pieces and rugs softening the modish interior and wondered who’d helped him decorate. Atop the imposing polished concrete island the remnants of their breakfast, were scattered on the incongruous place settings of delicate vintage bone china decorated with the Scottish thistles. He looked sideways to find Jamie staring at him with those unsettling blue cat eyes.

“Here is fine if it suits you Claire. This does looks rather delicious Jamie,” as he reached for a bite left on Claire’s plate. “Do you mind?” and popped it in his mouth with a hmmm of appreciation. “I can never eat on the flights.”

Jamie frustrated as he was with the way the day was now faring, couldn’t resist his instincts to offer hospitality and ran his fingers back through his hair and huffed, “That’s cold. If ye’re hungry, there’s more warming in the oven ye’re welcome to. Coffee’s there, it’s decaf for Claire,” he turned away and pulled out a mug and a plate from a cupboard and set them on the counter. “Just, just help yerself. I’ll leave ye to yer discussions.”

John couldn’t hold back his smile noting the disparity between the mismatched Glasgow Warriors mug, white crockery plate and their lavish breakfast setting; he’d gone all out for her, even if Claire might not have known, he appreciated Jamie’s effort. “Thank you.”

Claire had been too quiet, and Jamie worried if she truly wanted to do this now, heaven knew he didn’t want to leave her especially with the wee John darling  bugger that Claire had not mentioned, but felt she’d speak up if she felt otherwise. He kissed Claire’s cheek, his hand trailing down her arm before turning to leave.

He couldn’t help but notice that as soon as he’d left Claire’s side, John moved to step into the space he’d vacated and began speaking to her in a hushed whisper. “Oh my God, you bitch, I cannot believe you…” 

Jamie’d barely made it halfway to the hall when the word hit him surely not intended for him to hear, but he had and wouldn’t ignore it. Pivoting on his heel he was standing in front of John within three strides, cutting off his next words as he clutched John’s shirt at his throat in one hand, forcing him to his tiptoes to face him eye to eye.

“What did ye call my wife?” steel blue eyes pierced John. “Ye think to disrespect Claire speaking to her like that?” Jamie’s lips were compressed into a tight line, muscles twitched in his clenched jaw as he heaved air through his nose causing his nostrils to flair in and out.

John’s eyes were bugging in disbelief as he was coming as close to facing a raging bull as he was ever likely to in his life. His gaze darted from Jamie’s face flushed red and russet beetled brow, inches from his own, to Claire’s wide eyes, unseeing yet trying, to Jamie back to Claire, Jamie’s hand tightening his hold as he spoke, and John barely gurgling out, “Claire?”

“Jamie!” She reached out for Jamie flailing, a panic rising in her voice hearing the altercation, “Whatever you’re doing, Stop! Stop it now! It’s a pet name, it’s what he calls everyone he loves.”

Jamie looked in disbelief from John’s reddening face to Claire’s startled, pleading eyes back to John’s fright and took a deep breath as he loosened his hold letting his hands drop to his sides. “I suggest you find a new one for her, such as Mrs. Fraser,” but he stayed firmly planted in front of John. He loves her too?

John coughed a bit as he cleared his throat and breathing deeply, “Of course, my apologies, to you both,” as he brushed at his shirt front trying to straighten his appearance and regain his tattered dignity. “Never again, I promise.”

“Jamie,” Claire reached out, worry still evident in her expression, her fingers finding Jamie’s arm, muscles bunched as she stroked him trying to soothe him, surprised she wasn’t angry, “sweetheart, would you come here please?”

“I’m sorry Claire,” he stepped closer to her as he felt the red mist evaporating from his mind.

She kept stroking him, feeling the tensed muscles continue to relax and he finally turned to her, her calm easing into him. “John, can you give us a minute?”

She missed John’s nod, but heard his steps recede as he removed himself to the farthest corner of the room. Jamie tracked him with his eyes as John took up a post looking out the window with hands clasped behind his back.

“Jamie, love, what am I going to do with you? ” she pulled his head down to hers as his hands now rested on her hips, his thumbs massaging circles there and she wanted nothing more than to wrap her arms about him, hold him close, protect them from his misguided inclinations. “I love you,” she spoke quietly and felt his fingers tighten and head nod against hers but stayed quiet, “and you love me,” and again he agreed. “I don’t understand it, can’t explain it, don’t want to or need to because it’s just rightthat I do know.” Claire felt him press a kiss to her forehead, and barely heard his “Aye,” that came out on a sigh.

“And I want to keep it right, I didn’t before with Frank, but not again.”

Jamie lifted his head from hers then, “What d’ye mean?”

“I want you to trust me, like I need to trust you. There can be no room for doubt.”

“Ye doubt my feelings, my love for ye?” Jamie felt his heartrate quickening, what had happened? And glanced over toward John, who he saw had turned his head and was now blatantly observing them.

Claire pulled his face back to hers, “Eyes on me.” She actually smiled at him as she shook her head, “No, I don’t doubt you, your feelings or mine. He’s just the first prick from the outside world that’s going to try to burst our bubble, Jamie, intentionally or not. I assure you John is…”

“A prick? Well I canna fault your observations there,” he couldn’t help chuckling at his wee joke.

“Jamieeee,” Claire laughed now, “Not that, you ridiculous man; he’s not a threat. John can be irritating – he knows it, and I have no problem letting him know when he’s hit a nerve, but I meant you know, poking at, testing this, our relationship. Us choosing to be together is going to take some people by surprise, even upset some and, their expectations – for you and for me; what they see as best, thinking they know what’s better, they will intentionally try.”

“Well we willna let them succeed, there’s the two of us now.” Jamie wrapped her in his arms and pulled her close, even as he heard the truth in her words he was preparing to defend and protect her.  

As though reading his mind she pronounced, “Jamie,” she laid her cheek against his chest and stroked his back, fingers tracing the vestiges of his Paris attack, “I know you’re a Viking warrior to the marrow of your bones and it goes against your nature to not stand in defense of someone needing help. But I can’t have you getting outraged on my behalf at every thoughtless or hurtful word that comes out of someone’s mouth. Words I can handle, believe me; I’m made of sterner stuff than to let that get to me. Ignorant people say stupid things all the time, even before this happened. I can’t have you losing your temper and getting tossed in jail for hitting someone, that wouldn’t be good for either of us.”

Jamie took a deep breath, letting Claire’s words seep in, “If ye say so, Sassenach. But I’m no sure I can just stand by and watch someone hurt ye – insult ye like that. It’s a vile, hurtful word to be used against a woman.”

A litany of words she considered more offensive ran through her mind, sexualized slurs hurled like grenades, but Jamie was on the right track.

“And some men like John.”

Jamie glanced in John’s direction, “Oh, aye?” 

Claire nodded her head, “And some might say the same thing about Sassenach.”

Jamie felt the heat of the blush as it raced up his cheeks, “But ye ken that’s no how I intended it, mo chridhe.”

“I do because you told me, and I hear it in your voice when you say it; you’ve changed the meaning of it for us. And for John, we’ve changed the meaning of bitch and other degrading words for him. It may only be a bit of bravado, it may very well be hypocritical, but he owns them and taken from them the power to hurt, so you might hear him say it, and between us, for me, it’s okay, because I know what he means.”

“If ye say so,” he sounded unconvinced even to himself. “Ye’ll help me understand then, what’s important to ye?”

“Yes, and I expect you to let me know the same for you; we’ll figure it out, right?”

“Aye we will.” Jamie took a deep breath, sighing as he released it, “I’m sorry to have upset ye and yer friend. I should go apologize to John, and then leave ye to yer talk. Sit back down,” he gently guided her back to her seat.

“Wait, Jamie,” she held onto his arm. “I don’t want you to misunderstand and think I don’t appreciate your wanting to protect me, because I do. If I’d listened to you last night and waited as you asked, but I can be stubborn.” Her words faded, facing her own recriminations.

“Nah Sassenach, if I’d told ye I thought there was something wrong, perhaps ye would have, but I didn’t, so ye couldna ken.”

“It means a lot to know you’re with me, by my side and have my back if I need you, and Jamie, I’m so damn proud that you stood up for me, tried to protect me from Frank, God, I just wish I could have seen you punch him in the nose!”

“Would ye like me to do it again?” Jamie’s lip curled up as Claire’s face flushed.

“Probably wouldn’t be a good idea.”

“As ye say, mo chridhe,” Jamie chuckled softly and pressed a kiss to her lips, knowing she was right, but just let the bastard come close to her again… “I need to speak with John.”

XOXOX

“John,” Jamie approached him quietly, calling his name. He could feel Claire’s eyes on him. John had turned his gaze if not his attention back out the window but was clearly ignoring Jamie as he got closer. Jamie waited until John finally faced him. “I’m sorry for my reaction to what ye said, Claire explained it to me. I’m not sure that I can explain my behavior – excuse it, except to say that there are so many words that have been weaponized, used to poke, prod, injure others… It’s - I have a sister and I never liked that word; the way girls would use it against each other. I never understood it, but I hated to see Jenny cry because of it. And then hearing it directed at Claire? It set me off. I’m sorry for laying hands on ye. Forgive me?”

John stared at the man he’d had a fantasy crush on for the past couple of years, standing there apologizing to him for protecting Claire, for coming to her defense. HIS wife. Ugh, that was totally unexpected and would take some getting used to, but Claire was his friend, and he’d get over it – eventually, hopefully.

It had been fascinating watching them; Jamie was astutely aware of his presence but didn’t seem to let it interfere as he spoke quietly with Claire. Claire was entirely focused with Jamie, though he knew he was a subject of their conversation. It proved a unique experience being able to observe her in the light of a new relationship - thank God for that! Her exquisite hands fluttering and lightly landing on Jamie, touching for a moment, stroking then off to a new spot as he hovered over and around her, keeping him grounded to her always.

“Of course,” the beginnings of a smile tweaking his lips, “since her I’m rubber, you’re glue attitude is not always as effective as she believes …I’m glad you’ll have Claire’s back.” John held out his hand, “Bygones?”