It isn’t often that Claire is home late, after Jamie, especially when she knows he’s coming off of working a stretch and finally sleeping uninterrupted. She’d feel guilty about waking him if she didn’t know her surprise would absolve her immediately. There’d been a small reception for a wedding anniversary where she’d been paid to play, the timing of its end putting her home two hours after Jamie. He would try to stay awake, she knew, then fall asleep with the nightstand light on.
Standing in the dark living room, her cello goes down for a moment as she slips off her shoes. Listening to the quiet of the room, she remembers the moment she decided to do this, only a few hours ago. The celebrating couple, married twenty years, had looked at one another and moved around the room to the music as if no others were present. As Claire had played, she’d watched them smile without saying words to one another, as if they were sharing a joke older than the universe itself.
It was the way Jamie already looked at her.
Hefting the instrument case again, she quietly pads to their bedroom. The door is open, offering her the view of a lifetime in the soft glow of her correct assumption: Jamie, naked and sprawled out on his stomach. Even with the scars (or perhaps because of them), he’s beautiful, like a sculpture lovingly molded by hands intimately familiar with his soul.
Putting the case down again, she quietly removes her clothing before reaching up to let her straightened hair tumble down. He doesn’t know it while he sleeps, but she’s never felt more vulnerable. Sitting in her oversized reading chair, she removes her cello, readies herself, and begins to play softly. The notes are low to start, something quiet to wake him, but not startle. She’s naked, playing her instrument for a party of one. The only opinion of her performance that will ever matter again lies in her (their) bed, and her eyes are glued to him as she plays, watching for signs that he’s awake.
His legs move first, and as he stirs, she begins to play with more intent, the volume rising. Instead of keeping her eyes on him now, she closes them, unable to bring herself to watch him watching her.
What she doesn’t see is the way Jamie slowly sits up, unable to move from the bed for a full minute as he first takes in each fluid movement of her bow. It seems one with her hand, the motions intricate but graceful. His brain returns to full awareness, eyes following the hypnotizing back and forth of her arm, and that’s when he realizes she’s not wearing any clothing. He couldn’t take his eyes off of her now if he wanted to, too stunned to do anything but appreciate what he’s seeing and hearing. His mouth opens and closes, wetting his lips before standing, softly walking until he’s able to crouch right by her side. This allows him to see, up close, the way the toned muscles of her arm tense and relax with each note. He watches the delicate bones of her opposite hand move under her skin as her fingers seem to float over the strings. He’s captivated; not just by the music, but by Claire and the beauty and grace she exudes.
This beauty, he imagines, is what God had in mind when He created Eve.
Unable to resist, Jamie’s head ducks, lips pressing to her knee. Her playing doesn’t falter, and so he does it again before slowly kissing up the side of her outer thigh. As her playing increases to full volume (and he thanks Christ her bedroom doesn’t share a wall with neighbors), his fingers drag up her leg beginning at her ankle, circling the bone before caressing his way up her calf. As the notes become lighter, he lowers his head and kisses just under her knee, eyes flitting up to her face in time to see the way her lips part. Smiling, he finds himself back at her thigh. Resting his head there, he doesn’t move until the final note dissipates into an echo.
Only then does he look up at her, finding her unmoving, eyes still closed.
“Mo chridhe, look at me.”
His voice is low, the command making her stomach clench in excitement for what she knows is soon to come.
Doing as he says, she finds his eyes so dark they seem black. When he stands to his full height, she’s greeted with the very convincing evidence that he enjoyed her performance.
“That was a pleasant way to wake up then, I take it?” she asks with a satisfied smirk.
Jamie hums his agreement but doesn’t speak. As carefully as he knows she would, he takes her cello and moves it to its case before taking the now vacant spot between her legs. On his knees, his hands move up her legs, lips pressing to the soft skin of her inner thigh.
“Do ye have any idea how beautiful ye are when ye play? How you could bring a man back to life just to catch another glimpse of ye?”
Reaching down to stroke his cheek, she smiles until her face hurts.
“I’m beginning to learn. You’re a very good teacher,” she promises, settling further back in the chair as his assault of kisses continues. Instead of giving her the chance to part her legs more to accommodate him, she bites back a laugh when he puts them over his shoulders. Wiggling so that his hands are between her arse and the chair, she grins down at him.
“You have plans.”
He’s obvious, he knows it, and has never thought to make it a secret, how badly he wants her. She should know it, and he looks up, meeting her grin with one of his own.
“I skipped my supper.”
Before she can fully appreciate his filthy innuendo, his mouth seals over her, a man on a mission. With one hand at the back of his head, she can only hope he’s well-practiced in holding his breath as her hips jerk uncontrollably against his face. He seems to move with her body, though she can’t go far, confined as she is. Still, he knows how she’ll move and follows her lead, his mouth never leaving her. As his lips and tongue drift upward she nearly begs, aching to feel him curl his tongue exactly right as her fingers tug at his hair.
Jamie does that and more, focusing on the poor nerves that don’t stand a chance even while two fingers curve into her. When she cries out, he changes tactics, switching to one finger stroking inside of her, thumb taking over for his tongue. Her body lurches forward in the chair and she feels him grunt, the position causing him to lose his grip on her. That, in turn, makes her cry out in frustration, and his previously unoccupied hand moves to her stomach. Pushing her back in the chair, he goes in once more with zeal, lightly pinning her to the seat as he fills her again with first two fingers, then a third.
With her legs around his head, Claire holds onto the arms of the chair, her pleasure building to a crescendo Jamie can feel. He offers one more well-placed (and torturously slow) drag of his tongue, and when she shatters, her legs tighten once more around him before finally relaxing.
With each residual shudder of pleasure, Jamie presses a kiss to her skin, until she finally seems still. Raising his head, he looks up at this version of the woman he loves; blissed out and unable to move. Quietly, he rests his head on her lap, waiting patiently for her to come back to herself. When he feels her tug at his curls, he looks up again only to find her watching him.
“Any time ye’d like to wake me this way, please feel free.”
She laughs, dragging a hand down her face. “I only felt a little guilty at the idea of waking you. I cared more about your reaction.”
Jamie stands, then braces his hands on the arms of the chair to lean in and kiss her softly. “And did I live up to yer expectations?” he asks, the words mumbled against her lips.
“Mhmm.” It’s a breathless sigh of a response as she kisses him again, leaning forward now.
Easily, Jamie tugs until she’s standing, then lifts her into his arms, coaxing her legs around his hips. Walking forward to the bed, his tongue yields to the playful battle for dominance with hers. Dropping her to the mattress, he kisses a breast now, able to circle her nipple into a tight bud he can suck. Her skin is warm, the soft flesh relenting to his pressure, and the way her back arches makes him groan.
“Christ, I want ye,” he rasps, moving his mouth to her throat, trying not to focus on the feel of his cock nestled against her inner thigh, seeking warmth, searching for home.
“You can have me, Jamie. Now, always.” Sitting up, Claire reaches down to wrap her hand around him, stroking slowly and guiding him closer. “Don’t you know it by now?”
He waits to answer until he’s buried inside of her, panting softly with his head bowed over hers. “I ken that it seems I cannae have ye wi’ out giving myself over fully in return.” He moves slowly, rolling his hips against Claire’s. “And I need ye to have me. All of me.”
Her eyes are wide open, golden and burning, and she stills, reaching out to hold his face between her hands.
“Then give me you, Jamie.”
He pauses to be sure he understands her meaning, searching her face, but he knows.
Pulling out of her, he waits for the span of a heartbeat before thrusting back into her, hard, desperately, and with a groan pulled from low in his belly. His hips drive into her at a punishing pace, letting his mind think of nothing save for the warm, silken heat of her, and the way each muscle seems to ripple around him, beckoning him deeper. Head hanging, he finds it within himself to open his eyes, needing to see her.
Jamie takes pleasure in the arch of her back and part of her lips, the way her brows knit together and then smooth again with each spasm of pleasure. He can feel the sting of her fingernails as her hands tense and relax against his shoulders, and the pressure of her heels digging into his lower back. Unable to resist the long line of her neck, his mouth falls to her skin, leaving wet, breathless kisses until he simply can’t. Burying his face against her skin, Jamie feels the nearly imperceptible turn of her head and hears her strained whisper.
“I want to feel you.”
Claire’s permission is all that it takes, and with another half-dozen thrusts, everything releases; he’s nearly sobbing with pleasure as he spills into her. He feels the way her body tenses beneath his, and when they’re both still, his hearing finally kicks back in, in time to hear one long, drawn-out moan from her — his name he thinks, or something as close to it as she can manage. Panting, Jamie falls onto his side, reaching out after a moment with one hand to drag the pad of a finger down her cheek and slowly along the curve of her neck.
This is his favorite way to watch her: breathless and panting, boneless and skin ruddy with satisfaction. He memorizes the dusted pattern of freckles across her cheeks and the bridge of her nose, the small veins on her closed eyelids. His lips plant themselves against her chest, feeling her heart begin to slow to a normal rhythm, the vibration in her chest when she speaks, before the words make it out of her mouth.
“You have me, too, Jamie,” she begins, opening her eyes to look at him. Reaching out, her palm rests flat against the side of his face, and she’s quiet until he finally returns her gaze. “All of me.”
Gathering her as close as he can, he sighs in contentment, letting her words settle over his heart. “I ken it. Always did, but what ye’ve done tonight was more than just give yerself to me,” he murmurs, fingers gliding through her straightened hair.
“I don’t know what to call it,” Claire acknowledges, reaching out to trace his features, memorizing, as if one day she’ll have to recall him to someone by description alone and each detail matters. “But it felt important to do.”
He doesn’t know what to call what she did either, other than baring her soul to his. Pressing his hand flush to her chest, Jamie leans in to kiss her, feeling that strong, steady beat of her heart against his palm. For a flash of a moment, he remembers trying to find that same pulse desperately, searching for life. Pushing the thought aside, he drops one more kiss to the corner of her mouth before untangling himself and rising from the bed. Quietly, he pads to the bathroom, returning with a damp cloth and sitting beside her once more.
“Did I ever tell ye about the time I thought I was in love, Sassenach?” he asks, pushing the sheet aside and reaching out for her.
Beginning with her inner thighs, he wipes tenderly, and Claire bites back a soft smile of appreciation, shaking her head. “No. It’s never come up before.” She can’t help but be curious, especially at his verbiage.
His hands continue to clean her gently, with care, even as he speaks.
“Her name was Geneva. Met her in Paris during my gap year. She was my cousin’s secretary, and I was there to work for him over the summer, see if I might want to get into business wi’ him.”
“I see you didn’t,” Claire points out. “But you did appreciate the benefits,” she can’t help but tease.
“Can ye hold all yer wee snide comments until the end?” he requests, rolling his eyes to try and hide his smile. “And no, I’m no’ bad at business, but being in an office all day wasna verra appealing. Still, Gen made the days brighter, and I cannae say I minded seein’ her every day.”
Less comical and more interested in his story, Claire watches him for a moment as he wipes her skin clean. “How old were you?” she asks quietly, assuming he was still a teenager.
“Eighteen,” he confirms. “When ye’re that young, ye think ye ken everything, aye? So, when she asked me for coffee and we had a pleasant time, I asked her on another date, then another. By the end of the summer, I was convinced I loved her and I would take her home wi’ me to Lallybroch for the holidays.”
“But you never did?”
Jamie shakes his head. “She rang me a few weeks before I was to leave and informed me what we’d had was fun, but not verra deep. So, we went our separate ways and I was a sad and confused lad. I moped around a bit, until my sister called me an eejit over the phone and asked what I even kent about love.” He smiles as he finishes doting on Claire, bending to drop a kiss to her hipbone.
“I thought love could only build over time, that eventually, everything would feel as grand as I’d always thought. Now I know it happens all at once and when it’s true, ye cannae stop it even if ye tried.”
Sitting up, Claire looks at him, the question resting on her lips.
“I did try to forget ye, but I couldn’t. No’ completely,” he answers before she has a chance.
“You knew, then?”
Again, he shakes his head, letting the cloth drop to the floor as he reaches for her hand, tugging it to his lips to kiss along her knuckles. “Only my soul, Sassenach.”
He makes her heart ache with loving him, and she reaches out, drawing him back down into her arms to hold him close, a hand lightly petting his curls.
“Then perhaps mine did, too. And when we met at that banquet, it was because we called out to one another.” She doesn’t know if she believes in such things, but Jamie certainly makes it easier to try.
“I’m willin’ tae believe that,” he decides with no hesitation, settling comfortably against her.
Both of them are quiet for a few long moments, idly caressing random places on the other’s body until Claire speaks.
“Frank was a good husband. But we married so young, and it’s as you said. When you’re barely an adult, you believe you know what things are. We thought we knew love, and my uncle was so happy to know I was taken care of.”
Jamie kisses the center of her chest, lips lingering.
“Did ye love him, then?”
She sighs, letting go of a long-held secret. “I loved the idea of being with someone who wouldn’t leave me. I enjoyed his company, and I loved moments with him. I loved that he could make me laugh and that he was as passionate about history and learning as my uncle was.” Her fingers move along the criss-crossed scars on his upper shoulders. “When he died, I mourned. I lost a friend, someone I confided in and trusted. But I was never sad about the loss of my spouse.” When she pauses, she tugs gently at Jamie until he raises his head to look at her.
“Does that make me sound like a terrible person?”
“No,” he murmurs. “Makes ye sound exactly as ye already said: like a woman who was marrit young and realized after her husband’s death that love is more than both of ye thought.” He has no judgment for it, and drops soft kisses along her ribs. “Ye’d already been alone sae long, my Sassenach.”
His now, to love and protect, to reassure with all the love she can stand.
“‘Tis no wonder ye married someone who made ye feel those things. That doesna make ye anything terrible in my eyes. So ye can let go of it.” Settling again, he listens to the beat of her heart.
“You know that I do love you?” She can’t help but ask. “Very thoroughly, in fact.”
Jamie hums, a smile curving his lips. “I had a suspicion, but I’ll never tire of hearing ye say it.”
“You’re not upset that I woke you?”
The way he looks at her makes her laugh, not needing his verbal response. “Alright. But you should sleep. I have plans for you in the morning,” Claire offers coyly, sitting up and tugging until they can resettle spooned together, Jamie snugly behind her.
“Does it involve leaving this bed, Sassenach?” he asks as he presses a soft kiss to the nape of her neck.
When her shoulders shake against him, it’s as much a shiver as it is a quiet laugh. “No. Not until food becomes a priority.”
“Oh, good. I can find myself plenty to eat here for hours, I’m sure.”
Her laugh is louder this time, and after he joins her, they let it echo in the room, filling the walls with the sound. Reaching for his hand, she draws him more firmly around her, closing her eyes.
“Dream of me,” she murmurs, a small smile turning the corner of her lips up.
With one more soft kiss, this time to her shoulder, Jamie lays his head to rest on the pillow beneath him.
“Every night, a nighean.”