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Lovers In A Dangerous Time

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     Jamie hoisted her up into his arms and Claire wrapped her legs around his waist, though his ravishment didn't cease even as he maneuvered them up the dimly lit staircase, his growing stubble rasping pleasantly against the sensitive skin of her neck. A particularly sharp inhale turned into a whine as they neared the top of the stairs and Jamie stopped, pulling back to fix her with a playfully scolding look.

     "Will ye quiet yer wee noises for just a moment, Sassenach? I dinna think ye want tae be interrupted by either of the wee lassies sleepin' in there, do ye?" he teased, cocking his head toward their closed door.

     "I do not make wee noises," Claire protested, fighting a smirk as he started to walk again. He didn't return to his ministrations as he carried her down the hallway and she felt the loss acutely, strands of hair getting caught in the wetness he'd left on her neck, but she knew the wait to make it to his room would be well worth it.

     "Aye, ye do," Jamie countered matter of factly. 

     "I do not!"

     "Shh," he admonished with a glint in his eye as they passed the door to the girl's bedroom. "Let me get ye tae bed and we'll see what kind of wee noises ye dinna make, hmm?"

     Claire thumped him on the back, though she blushed hot and pink at his comments. Frank had never hesitated to let her know when she was being too much in bed—too loud, too needy, too eager, asking for things too far outside what he deemed normal. It was unbecoming of a lady her age, or something archaic and insulting like that, to want sex the way she did. When Jamie closed the door behind them, though, and set her on her feet after a slow, controlled slide down his body that left her more than a little wobbly, she thought it was quite possible she'd never think of Frank again. He steadied her with a firm grip on her waist, subconsciously swiping his tongue across his bottom lip, and Claire couldn't help but sigh, her hands smoothing down his neck and over his broad shoulders before they came to rest on his upper arms. Even in the soft light coming from the bedside lamps, she could see that his pupils were blown so wide as to almost eviscerate the bright ocean of blue that she so loved, but as he began to run the tip of his nose from brow to temple to jaw, Claire felt her stomach winding itself into knots. 

     It was so tender, so innocently intimate that Claire lost her breath for a moment, but she couldn't push away the nagging feeling in the pit of her stomach that she was asking far too much of him. How could he take her back so willingly after the hurt she had caused? Being in love didn't simply erase that, it couldn't possibly be that easy. What if, come the sober light of morning, Jamie realized he'd made a mistake, that he couldn't trust a woman like her with his heart, and she lost him all over again? That would be too much to take, knowing that she would be forever burned as a regret in his mind—not even one more night together would be worth it. 

     Jamie leaned in to kiss her again but fear won out with his lips only a hairsbreadth from hers and she stopped him, pulling back and placing two firm hands against his chest.

     "Can you ever forgive me? Truly?"

     Jamie engulfed her before she could even finish speaking, sheltering her with his body from the fear that refused to relent even in the face of the love he so clearly bore for her. He was offering her a wordless promise of security, and in spite of the doubts that she still harbored, Claire took it, locking her arms behind his back and inhaling the quintessentially Jamie scent that she had so sorely missed. His lips caressed the top of her head as he murmured soft Gaelic to her—it was almost as if he'd read her mind to give her exactly what she needed in that vulnerable moment, to bring her back to reality, safe with him. He nuzzled her curls for a lingering moment before he crooked a finger beneath her chin and lifted it gently from his chest to look at her.

{SUGGESTED MUSICAL PAIRING: THIS FEELING BY THE ALABAMA SHAKES}

     "I've already forgiven everything ye've ever done, and everything ye will do, the moment I fell in love wi' ye," he whispered, his voice brimming with emotion that mirrored the unadulterated love shining in his eyes. Selfishly, he wasn't sure how much longer he could stand to see Claire this way, but more than that he needed her to understand, for her own sake, that he meant everything he said from the very depths of his soul. "There isn't a thing in this world that could make me love ye any less, Claire."

     She bloomed under his gaze, her heart clenched tight in her chest as she realized what an utter fool she would be not to believe him. This was a man just as desperately in love as she was, baring himself to her, for her, because she'd dared to give him hope after weeks darkened by their separation. Her world was so much brighter with him in it, and despite everything that had passed between them, she could feel in the fierceness of his arms around her that she brought that same light to him. She'd be a devil to take it away again.

     Infused with a newfound courage and the bone deep need to feel his skin pressed against hers, Claire pushed his suit jacked from his shoulders and he shimmied it down the rest of the way, his hands seeking her again the moment it was discarded. He wove his fingers into her curls as she leaned upward to kiss him, their lips meeting in a frenzied clash that left little room for breath. She fumbled with the buttons on his shirt, though an insistent tug at the roots of her hair stole her attention momentarily as Jamie revealed to himself the long column of her neck.

     Her skin there was so pale it was nearly translucent, the delicate blue of her veins like watercolor just beneath. As he trailed his lips and tongue over her, her throat jumping and tensing as she swallowed the noises that his treatment inspired, he imagined that delicate and deliciously sensitive part of her covered in purple-red splotches, a physical remnant of the way he possessed her. He wouldn't, not tonight, not with Frank coming back to town so soon, but someday. The thought made his cock twitch, blood rushing there as Claire began to rub herself against him.

     "Turn around." His voice was soft but it was not a request, and he left off with one final tug of his teeth below her earlobe before he guided her by the hips to do just that. He took the opportunity to finish what she'd started with his shirt and whipped it off as quickly as he could, his body crying out for her immediately as they lost contact for the first time in several minutes. His cock strained to feel her grinding again, but getting her out of that damn dress would be well worth the loss. One deft hand pulled down the zipper and Claire shrugged off the fabric off, letting it float down around her feet before she stepped out of it. Jamie had never before thought about shoulders, or that fact that anyone could have especially attractive ones, but even that minute detail of her was like a sculpture. Her bones pressed against her flesh creating soft, smooth mountains—when he had more time, when he wasn't spurred on by the desperation of weeks apart, he would play cartographer, charting each hill and valley of her until he was certain he'd never again be able to forget each detail.

     Claire looked down at herself as she turned back to him, and her confidence faltered once more when she was reminded of what she'd chosen to wear beneath her dress that night: a plain tan bra, one she'd owned far longer than was recommended, and a ratty light pink thong. She started to stammer out an apology but Jamie silenced her with a quick but meaningful peck to the lips, trailing his fingertips down the gooseflesh that covered her arms as he spoke. 

     "I love ye all dressed up for me, but God, I love ye even more like this," he assured her, linking their hands as he began to walk her backwards towards the bed. 

     "How did I find such an exquisite man?" she wondered aloud, squeezing tight before she disentangled their fingers and went for his trousers. She had him undone in moments, shivering at the clank of belt buckle against the floor. Her chest heaved, and she flicked her eyes up to meet his with an open mouthed grin as she cupped him through the shiny black fabric of his briefs with one small hand. Jamie groaned and rested his forehead against hers, his breath coming quick as he looked down to watch her touch him. He strained against the fabric but Claire took her sweet time teasing before she finally showed a little mercy, easing the band of his briefs down just enough for his cock to spring free. She seemed content to leave it at that but Jamie had other ideas. He pulled the briefs down his legs and tossed them aside, swelling with pride at the needy little breath that escaped Claire's lips when he stood naked before her. She dropped down to take him in her mouth but Jamie caught her by the arm before her knees could even touch the floor, pulling her back to him.

     Claire huffed, clearly frustrated at his diversion of her plans, and was thus caught completely off guard when he pushed her by the shoulders just hard enough that she landed with a whoop of surprise on his deep blue-green comforter. 

     "I'm through waitin'," he murmured hotly, observing with hooded eyes as she sat up, wriggled out of her knickers and released the clasp of her bra. Jamie crawled up onto the bed after her, nudging her legs apart with his knees as he followed her up toward the headboard. He dragged his gaze slowly down the length of her body as she settled against the pillows, over her pebbled nipples and the soft skin of her stomach, and finally to the apex of her thighs, spread open and glistening. 

     The weight of him on the bed, hovering on his hands and knees over her, was familiar enough to feel like home but still new enough to send a thrill rippling through Claire's body, made only more intense by the way he stared at her. She squirmed beneath him, made restless by the throbbing between her legs, and ran her hands up his well muscled arms, grasping at his shoulders in a failed attempt to pull him down atop her. 

     "Yer ripe as a peach, Sassenach," he hummed, low and lusty, his tongue darting out to wet his lips as he drew one finger through her slit, slicking it with her wetness to ghost over her throbbing clit. "And all for me." 

     "All for you," Claire echoed breathlessly, pushing her hips into his teasing touch. "Please, Jamie, I want you so badly." She wasn't above begging, not with his cock standing hard and proud, just out of reach, and she almost delirious with the want of him. "Will you have me?" 

     The question dripped with honeyed suggestion and Jamie reveled in that tone, dark and sultry. He loved every iteration of this woman, everything she had ever been and everything she ever would be, but the Claire who took him to bed was something otherworldly. She was as needy as she was generous, vivacious and unconcerned with anything but their pleasure, always so completely present with him. He wondered briefly if that would ever change, if it would be different once their lovemaking was no longer a novelty, but as he fisted his cock and sheathed himself inside her he knew without a sliver of doubt that they would burn this way til the end of time.

     Claire cried out his name at the welcome stretch, only barely sating the ache, and even with stars bursting behind her eyes she managed to keep them open and fixed on Jamie's. She couldn't miss a moment of this, of him, not after so many nights alone with only the smoldering memories.  

     "Och, I'll have ye," Jamie responded darkly, bracing his hands on either side of her head so he could lower herself over her as he began the slow thrusting of his hips. "I'll bury myself so deep in ye ye canna take any more."

     Claire gasped at that, grabbing him by the curls and pulling him down so his lips could swallow up every last incoherent moan he was forcing from her. She devoured him fervently, sucking roughly on his bottom lip until he bit hard enough to make her release.

     "You feel—so good," she panted as quietly as she could manage while Jamie made good on his promise, thrusting hard and deep, claiming every last inch of her for himself. Claire wound herself around him, her legs locking behind his back as she found purchase with her nails digging into his shoulders. 

     "Aye," Jamie groaned in agreement, already dangerously close to losing himself. He'd dedicated so many hours to the remembrance of what it was to make love to her, trying to conjure the image of her laid out beneath him, the whiskey rimmed blackness of her eyes and the feel of her quim, tight and slick around him, but nothing could ever compare to the real thing, to Claire, hot and vital in his arms, the essence of her invading his every sense. She was like a drug, one he would all too willingly go bankrupt for. How he had ever convinced himself that he could live without her, he didn't know. 

     Claire could see in his eyes that Jamie had gone somewhere far away in his mind, though his body was still very much present with her, and she took advantage of it to roll them over, still joined, and settle herself astride his hips. Possessive annoyance flashed in his eyes—he wanted to be the one doing the taking tonight, she knew—but it was quickly replaced with the familiar desire that looked so succulent on him when his gaze lowered to the place of their joining. Feeling especially wicked, Claire reached back and braced herself on his legs, leaning back and spreading her legs wider to give him a better view. Jamie's mouth dropped open as he watched her ride him, mesmerized by the way she swallowed him over and over. 

     "How do we look?" Claire asked huskily, her own hooded eyes trained on his face to drink in his lust addled reactions. 

     A groan was his only only answer, and Claire would have stayed like that til he spent himself just to watch the unrestrained hunger his face were it not for the growing crick in her lower back. She sat up again, taking him deeper and circling her hips in a figure eight that had his eyes rolling back in his head. No longer satisfied with so few points of contact between them, pleasurable as they were, she draped herself over him, nipples puckering as they dragged across the springy russet hairs that dusted his chest. Jamie stretched up to meet her lips as his hands found their way to her hips, guiding their ceaseless rolling as he lost himself to her soft, breathy noises and the feeling of her pressing him into the mattress. 

     Though this new angle was shallower, it also meant that, with each thrust of Claire's hips, her clit rubbed against his pelvis, and she buried her head in the crook of his neck as she felt those first telltale tremors of orgasm low in her belly. He tasted of salt and sweat as she fastened her lips there, flicking her tongue against his skin and sucking hard as her body tensed above him.

     "Look at me," he urged, wrapping his arms around her back and holding her tight to him when his balls drew close to his body. "Look at me while we burn together, Sassenach."

     Claire did as she was bid, lifting her head and forcing her eyes open to watch him come apart. Jamie kissed her just in time to swallow the cry that left her lips when she let go, hurtling through searing white space and clenching around him as spilled himself inside her in hot, spurting ropes. She took up his name as a chant, quiet yet trenchant, as she rode out her pleasure, planting her hands on her chest and pushing herself up to rub herself shamelessly against him. Jamie was entranced by the sight, Claire with her head bowed and her fingers flexing against his pectorals, completely lost in the abyss and so beautiful he could feel his heart swelling in his chest. Finally, she began to float back down to earth, her body relaxing as she collapsed in a heap on his chest, sticky with sweat and panting to catch her breath.

     She would have been more than satisfied to bury herself in his arms and bask in the glow of their togetherness, but Jamie had other ideas. He wanted to see her lose herself to his touch again, feel the way she shook and clung to him. He reached between them, entreating her, "One more for me, Sassenach?" as he drew two fingers through her wetness and rubbed them in soft circles against her, just the way she liked. She had never shied away from asking for what she wanted or telling him what she liked, and he had committed each of those delicious details to memory with the seriousness of a priest studying scripture.

     Claire jerked at the unexpected stimulation but answered with an affirmative nod, her cheeks pinking prettily at her own brazenness. She was already singing out those little whines that drove him mad as Jamie rolled her off of him, never breaking contact as he settled tight against her on his side and propped himself up on one elbow to watch her. 

     "More," she choked out, her hips bucking of their own accord against the insistent press of his fingers. Unable to deny her anything, Jamie rubbed tighter, harder circles against her until her whole body began to tremble and she tucked her face against his chest, grasping at his shoulders as he pushed her over the edge once again. She bit her lip so hard she tasted iron, her thighs a vice grip around his hand as she gasped and mewled. When they fell slack once again Jamie started to rub her in featherlight strokes but she reached one heavy hand down to pull his away, having had more than enough for the time being. 

     It felt as though she was moving through molasses, but still she managed to push Jamie onto his back and curl up against his chest, one leg slung over his hip as she wiggled herself closer and closer into his arms. Jamie, who unlike her had had a chance to catch his breath, chuckled, low and lazy, and pressed a kiss to her forehead.

     "Yer like a wee shrimp," he murmured, though his arm around her tightened to keep her exactly where she was.

     It was then that she felt the lump in her throat and the hot sting of tears, and she nuzzled her cheek against his chest, her thumb smoothing tenderly over his clavicle. 

     "I just can't get enough of you," she answered, her voice pinched as she tried to conceal the fact that she was crying.

     But Jamie would have none of it, and took his hand off her hip to cup her cheek in a bid for her to look at him. Never again would he allow her to secret herself away from him, knowing what it had very nearly cost them. 

     "I'm not—I'm not upset, I promise, I'm so—happy, and—"

     "Ye get emotional after sex," Jamie answered for her, pressing a chaste kiss to her trembling lips before he added, "Ye cried the first time we were together, too."

     "I did." She couldn't help the soft smile that graced her lips at that sweet memory; both yesterday and lifetimes ago. "Maybe I loved you even then," she mused softly, sniffling and wiping beneath her eyes with the thumb and middle finger of her outside hand before letting it rest against his chest again.

     "Perhaps ye did. I ken I loved ye that night."

     He passed it off so casually that Claire was torn between the fluttering sensation in her gut and the desire to smack him for offering that kind of information as if it were nothing.

     "You did?" she asked, her brows knit together just slightly as she lifted her head and fixed her eyes on him, resting her chin on his chest.

      "Aye."

     The tips of his ears were a deep red as he smiled softly and tucked a curl behind her ear, but he didn't say anything more.

     "How did you—you hardly..."

     "I wanted ye from the moment I laid eyes on ye. Thought ye were the most strikingly beautiful thing I'd ever seen—still do, mind ye—but I kent I loved ye that night on yer porch, wi' the champagne bottle."

     Claire snickered, shaking her head as she leaned forward to kiss him, long and slow. 

     "You just wanted to fuck me," she replied with a smirk when she pulled back, her brows arched almost in challenge. Despite the genuine shine in his eyes, the honest knit of his brow, Claire found it difficult to fathom, but the lovesick teenager who'd apparently taken up residence in her heart when Jamie took up his next door was eager to be proven wrong. 

     "Oh I did, badly. I'd have—Christ, that pink robe...but more than that, I wanted tae hold ye in my arms and make sure ye never looked so upset again in yer life. Ye told me about Frank, what had happened, and I—I just couldna believe that anyone with a woman like ye waitin' at home would no' be out of the office the second the clock struck five. And then I had tae do a little reckonin' wi' just how often the thought of comin' home tae ye had crossed my mind and...ye held my hand, and sat so close I could feel ye pressed up against me, soft and wee...and I missed yer curls sae much I could feel it in my wame...I just—I loved ye, and that was that."

     "Jamie," she whispered when he'd finished, sniffling a little as she ghosted her hand over his hair and face before it came to rest tenderly on his cheek. "I never...really?"

     "Aye," Jamie answered, sighing as she wiggled up just enough to kiss him. "Wi' my whole heart. I never stopped."

     "I didn't either," Claire breathed urgently, "not for a moment." 

     Propping herself up on an elbow, she peppered his face with kisses, her thumb caressing the stubble along his jaw all the while. 

     "I remembered what ye said," Jamie murmured after a moment, "about movin' with grief, no' through it, when we were apart. And I tried so hard, but...God, I could never seem tae do it."

     "You should never have felt that grief in the first place," Claire answered when the pang in her chest had subsided. She spoke so softly he almost couldn't hear her. "Leaving you was the biggest mistake of my life, Jamie, I'd give anything to take it back. Jocasta did what she did but I should never have—I let her get to me and I almost lost you and—I'm so, so sorry."

     "Dinna fash, yer here now," Jamie murmured, pulling her back down to rest on his chest. His arms verged on crushing but Claire only buried herself deeper into the embrace, feeling only a touch of guilt that Jamie was comforting her for what she had done to him. "Jocasta kens well how tae manipulate people. Ye only did what ye thought you had to, what she convinced ye was right. And ye hurt too, Claire, twas plain as day. Broke my heart, seein' ye so." He shimmed down the bed and cupped her face in both hands, staring at her intently until she met his gaze.  "Yer not tae blame, Claire, and I dinna blame ye."

     The room went quiet for a long time, the two of them far too content comforting and being comforted to do anything else. When Jamie resumed his aimless stroking of her body, though, and his fingertips ghosted over her ribcage, he was taken aback by just how easily discernible they were beneath her skin. In their weeks apart, he had worried about her all the time, but tonight, somewhere in the heat of the moment, it had been lost to his mind. With lust no longer clouding his mind so completely, Jamie recognized that it was lost past time to take care of her the way he had planned to, if she ever returned to him.

     "Let's fix ye somethin' tae eat, mo sorcha. Ye hardly touched yer dinner tonight."

     Jamie attempted to disentangle himself from her but Claire only clung harder, her leg tightening over his hips as she buried her face in his neck and pressed her lips there.

     "I'd like to stay exactly as I am, thank you," she replied, and he could feel her lazy, sated smile against his skin.

     Her lips sent a tingle through his body, and Jamie was tempted to give in and stay there, wrapped up with the woman he loved. He could go on living in that moment for hours, relishing the feeling of her naked body pressed against his, the coarse hairs on her mound tickling his hip when she shifted, her breath against his skin. But there was a lifetime for that, years and years sprawling before them to be spent together. It would be a disservice to this precious, precious person to stay there with her in his arms, even if that was what she wanted. 

     "Come on, lass, up ye go," he said a little more insistently, and began the process of wriggling out from under her hold. "I'll no' have ye all skin and bones. I like ye nice and supple." He winked and swatted her on the arse, which proved to be just enough of a distraction to allow him to slip out of bed. Claire's eyes followed him with a playful glare as he went to the dresser to fish out something to wear, tossing his blue button up in her direction on the way. She brought it to her nose and inhaled, but made no further move to go anywhere.

     "Meet me downstairs," he said, throwing a final dazzling smile over his shoulder before he disappeared into the hallway. 

 

     Claire snuck quietly as she could down the stairs, stopping short when Jamie came into view around the corner and she realized he hadn't heard her coming. He had incredibly keen senses, some Highlander remnant built into his very marrow, so it wasn't often that she got the opportunity to observe him without his knowledge. Tonight, it was made all the more sweet by the healing that had already taken place, and the knowledge that they belonged to each other completely. He moved easily about the kitchen, setting a pot to boil and sprinkling herbs and basil leaves over a bowl of what she figured was crushed tomatoes, for pasta sauce. 

     Of course he cooks.

     She should have known, what with him being a single father, but watching his effortless work had a gooey warmth spreading through her chest. He'd never cooked her a meal before. He'd never taken her on a date, either, or held her hand as they strolled down some cobblestone side street, or been introduced to anyone as her boyfriend. Was that what he was? It seemed far too trivial a term for what was between them. He couldn't be her anything, not officially, not yet. Still, she couldn't help but imagine what it would feel like to present him to the world that way—her boyfriend, her fiancée, her husband. Her heart itself seemed a much more fitting designation. 

     "Are you sure we won't wake the girls?" she murmured softly as she stepped into the dim overhead light of the kitchen. 

     Jamie startled a little and his head snapped in her direction. Almost as if in slow motion, she watched his pupils grow big and inky as he dragged his eyes from her face, all the way down her legs, and back up. 

     "Ah dhia," he groaned, his breath hitching in his chest when Claire pushed one knee in front of the other and jutted her hip out, topping it off with pursed lips set in a cheeky smirk.

     "What, this?" she teased, with flirtation in the raise of her brows and the cocky glint in her eye. "You knew just what you were getting yourself into."

     Jamie crossed the floor in two long, silent strides and grasped her by the hips, his eyes still stuck on her small frame drowning in his messily buttoned shirt. 

     "I didn't realize just how gorgeous ye'd look til I saw it, though," he uttered, hoisting her up onto the counter island as though she weighed nothing at all. He sipped one button from its hole, then the next, and the next, and winked as he added, "Yer buttons are a wee bit sloppy, better fix them." Somewhere in the back of her mind Claire surmised it probably wasn't wise to let this go much further, but then Jamie pulled the fabric aside just enough to reveal the swell of her breast and no more, and licked a long, hot stripe from its bottom to her clavicle, and responsibility was all but forgotten. She arched her back, pressing her chest out, and Jamie devoured her, eyes shut as he closed his mouth over her covered nipple and sucked. Claire gasped, threading her fingers through his curls to hold him there, his pleasured groans muffled by fabric and the firm give of her skin. She was following the gentle tugs of his teeth when she heard the hiss, and her eyes popped open to search the kitchen for the source of the noise. They landed on the frothy white bubbles sloshing over the edge of the pot to meet the burning hot stovetop, but Jamie didn't seem to notice.

     "Your water's boiling over," she panted, her voice low and husky with renewed desire. He raised his head somewhat reluctantly and pressed a quick kiss to her waiting lips before he hurried off to turn down the heat. As Claire re-buttoned the shirt, careful that each button made it into the proper hole, Jamie broke a handful of spaghetti noodles in half and dropped them in the pot, pushing with a spatula at the ones that stuck out over the sides before he strode to the refrigerator. 

     Watching hime move, Claire felt the familiar pull just to be near him, and she slipped off the counter with a squeak and a dull thud, followed his path across the floor and wrapped her arms around his middle as he dug through the fridge. 

     "What are you searching for?" she asked, the words almost lost as she rested her forehead between his shoulder blades. 

     "Och, I've found her," Jamie replied, looking back at her with a sparkle in his bright blue eyes.

     "Cheeky."

     Still, Claire couldn't help but smile, her tongue darting out to lick the corner of her lip as she watched him turn back. He located the item a moment later, and held out a bottle of champagne for her to see as he stepped them both back and closed the doors with his free hand. 

     "Can I give ye a job?" he asked, slipping out of her arms to check on the noodles. Claire was beside him again in an instant, leaning against the counter next to the stove.

     "What's my reward?" she asked suggestively, thrusting her chest out and circling a lazy fingertip around the wet mark he'd left on the shirt. She mewled a little at the touch and Jamie felt his cock twitch against his thigh wish a slight rush of blood. 

     "Wee-noise-maker's choice," he smirked, his eyes locked on her hand as she continued to pinch and swirl until her nipple stood out clearly against the fabric. "Now pop that champagne and pour us both a glass, will ye?"

     "Mmm, I like that answer," Claire hummed, clearly pleased as she turned to carry out the task. She squeaked in surprise when Jamie reached out to smack her arse, imbuing her hips with an extra sway as she retrieved the bottle across the kitchen. When she disappeared onto the deck, Jamie felt a warm, familiar clench in his chest at the gesture. It was simple, but spoke volumes about the very part of her that had stolen his heart so quickly—she was so conscientious about his daughters, thinking of them just the way a mother did. A damn good one, at that. She didn't want to risk disturbing them with the cork popping, so she'd taken it outside. Watching her though the glass, he thought of her at the party, cradling wee Michael in her arms. He'd looked at her with such heartbreaking melancholy in that moment, mourning the fact that he would never get to see her with a bairn of her own, of their own, aching in his very soul. It was difficult to believe that that had been the same night as this; the world had spun so fast on its axis since then that it was all he could do keep himself upright. 

     Claire returned with the bottle and cork, none the wiser to what was running through his mind, and delivered his fizzing glass along with a kiss on the cheek and an arm slung low around his back. 

     "I'll take my reward as soon as you're ready."

     Her tone was dark and melodious, seduction itself as she pressed her body into his side and slipped her left hand beneath the waistband of his underwear to rest on the swell of his arse. Jamie kept his eyes trained on the food and his hand busy stirring the pot. 

     "Will ye get me a sauce pan first?"

     "I don't know where they are."

     "Well ye'll have tae figure it out sooner or later."

     "Oh, why is that?"  

     "Because," Jamie replied rather matter of factly, plucking his champagne flute from the counter and taking a sip before he continued, "someday you're going tae live here, with me, and the wee ones. And this will be our kitchen, and that upstairs will be our bed, and we'll grow a wee vegetable garden out back, and ye'll need tae ken where we keep the pots and pans."

     That was more than she had bargained for, and Claire found herself without a witty retort in sight—not that she really needed one. She'd never known someone who lived so wholeheartedly. He had opened himself to her in such a profound way, starting on the night he told her about Annelise, and he never stopped. Asking her to lay with him on their first night together, sending her that bouquet, confessing to her just how much her pulling away in its wake had frightened him. Even in the simple way he smiled at her from across the yard, he had been telling her how much he loved her, how badly he wanted her, all along. After so many years of subconsciously protecting her heart, she thought perhaps she'd have to pull those unread Brené Brown books off the shelf to teach herself how to be the same way with him. She wouldn't settle for giving him anything less in return. 

     That was for tomorrow, though, all the work it would take for their love to come to fruition the way it ought to. For now, Claire let herself revel in playing house.

     "Alright then, where do we keep the sauce pans?" she asked, the sentiment sending a little chill though her body. 

     Jamie only turned to her and smirked, nodding silently. Sensing that he wasn't about to make this easy for her, Claire unwound herself from his side and took a long sip from her glass before setting to work. She scanned the kitchen, looking with a critical eye for the cabinets most likely to house such items. She wasn't against a little competition, and she wanted to get it on the first try just to show him up. But when she headed for a large double doored cabinet just beside the stove, Jamie tsked and shook his head. 

     "Wee bit chilly," he informed her, leaning back against the island and watching her intently. 

     "You're ridiculous."

      She stood looked around, this time at the cabinetry set into the wall above the counter. Colder. They'd likely be close to the stove, but none of the cabinets looked right, so she focused her attention below the counter once more. She began to drift down toward the fridge, but that was getting colder, too. She turned back to Jamie with her hands on her hips, ready to lambast him for making her play such a foolish game, but then her eyes landed on the shiny silver knobs affixed to the cabinets beneath the island. Warmer. None on her end were even close to the right size or shape, so she began a slow journey back down the kitchen towards him, getting warmer each time. 

     A few steps before she reached it, she noticed that Jamie was resting just in front of a large, rectangular, double doored cabinet, set directly across from the stove. Perfect for pots and pans. 

     Games were always better when played with two, weren't they?

      "Yer hot," he hummed when she stood before him, not touching though she was well into his personal space.

     "You flatter me," she retorted with a knowing look. She bit her lip as she lowered herself onto her knees before him, her eyes wide and suggestive, locked on his. When she caught sight of his fingers flexing against the cold granite lip of the counter she knew she'd won, but she bat her eyelashes for extra measure before she spoke.

     "Excuse me, I'd like to get in here."

     "Get in where now? Ye'll have tae be more specific, lass."

     "As much as I'd love to take my reward right here, I hardly think it's fair to give it to me before I've finished my job, Jamie."

     His name fell breathy from her lips and Jamie was tempted to abandon their meal altogether and let her have her wicked way with him. Claire enjoyed giving head, another magnificent little tidbit about her that he'd tucked away, so neither party was likely to be upset about it, but then she cocked her head to the side as if to tell him to scoot, and, as if under hypnosis, he obeyed.

     "I don't like my pasta sauce cold," she explained with a saucy wink in his direction, and crouched back to pull open the cabinet, revealing two pull-out trays of shiny copper pots and pans. She retrieved a small sauce pan and handed it to him with a victorious smirk that earned her a pinch on the behind as Jamie set back to work. 

     With the sauce set to warm on the stovetop and the noodles nearly cooked, Jamie turned his attention back to her, taking his glass off the counter and clinking it against hers before they each took a sip.

     "Here's to lookin' at ye, Sassenach."

     He smiled, but Claire nearly choked on her champagne and sputtered out a laugh. 

     "That's a remarkably terrible quote for the moment!" She set her glass back on the counter and wiped at the champagne on her chin with his shirtsleeve, looking at him with more than a little incredulity. 

     "Why's that?" Jamie queried, stepping closer and wrapping his arms around her waist.

      "Well—it's Casablanca. Rick says it after he's convinced Ilsa that she ought to get on the plane with her husband, whom she doesn't love, and leave him. It's heartbreaking, really. He loves her so much he can't bear to put her in harms way, and if she stays with him she'd be in danger. So he has no choice but to lose the woman he loves." She wrapped her arms around Jamie's neck and let her head rest on his chest with a sigh, content in the knowledge that she would not meet Ilsa's same fate. "Uncle Lamb loved old movies," she offered by way of explanation, looking up at him once more. "You've...seen Casablanca, right?"

     "Ah, no, that I have not," he answered, tightening his grasp on her as she tried to pull away, doubtlessly to criticize what she thought was his terrible taste in movies. She gave up all to easily, softening back into his embrace, though she tugged roughly on a curl at the nape of his neck.

     "Don't quote movies you haven't seen, fool."

     "Never again, cross my heart." Jamie chuckled, and she could feel it right against her cheek, rumbling under the sculpted muscle of his chest. 

     They were quiet then, the only sound in the kitchen the whir of the fan above the stove as Jamie began to sway. It took Claire, who could have melted happily in his arms, a while to realize that they were dancing. They had never done that before, and somehow it felt more intimate than anything they had shared, than even taking him inside her body or the feel of his seed dripping surreptitiously down her inner thigh at her birthday party. Even as their hips began to undulate together, it retained the innocence of new love, of two people finally finding each other the way they were meant to, and she let one hand slip from the back of his neck to rest over the steady beat of his heart.  She wondered if it felt like hers, swelling so full in her chest that she worried it would shatter her ribcage. 

      "I love you, Jamie," she murmured as his hand came to rest over hers, grasping it lovingly. She squeezed back, and leaned in to nuzzle the tip of her nose against his pinkie. Jamie sighed happily in agreement, his thumb caressing her lower back through his shirt. 

     "I want ye here always, like this, with me," he said after a moment, resting his chin on the top of her head. It was Claire's turn then to offer her wordless concurrence, coming in the form of a low hum and a kiss pressed to the line of his jaw, soft and lingering.

     "I suppose we ought tae talk about...exactly how we're tae make that happen."

     Claire sighed and held him closer for support, though she knew he was right. Tonight had been so easy, after the fight blew over and they gave in to the truth between them. Her hesitation had melted away with each kiss and caress, and Jamie's perfect, loving, forgiving words. Those always came easier to him, it seemed. A moment of rightness in a stormy sea, because she was sharing it, and herself, piece by piece, with him. But this was just the eye of the hurricane, the placid, sweet calm before what was to come. 

     "I...fantasized about this, so many times," she admitted quietly, still buried in his chest. If she just stayed there everything would be alright; it had to be. "I thought about telling you everything, telling you how much I loved you...and you, holding me, and kissing me again. You are—the greatest comfort I have ever known. But it always stopped here."

     Jamie could feel her pulling away emotionally, the weight of reality creeping back in between them, and squeezed her tighter, caressing her back and bringing her hand to his lips. He let them linger there on her knuckles for a long time, hoping that if he was her greatest comfort, as she said he was, he could override the worry.

     "Dinna go away," he pleaded, placing her hand back on his chest, just over the beat of his heart. 

     Just feel that, Sassenach. Feel the way it beats for ye, stay here with me.

     "I won't," she promised, though her eyes looked weary when they met his. "Please don't let me. Can we eat first? And then we'll talk?"

     She hadn't realized how hungry she was until the smell of Jamie's pasta sauce began wafting up from the stove, but he was right—she'd been too lovesick to stomach much of anything at dinner that night, or in the weeks leading up, really. Sustenance would do her well. 

     Jamie nodded, and took her with him by the hand to fix them up a bowl to share. She hovered close to him the whole time, anticipating his movements like a shadow. He was grateful for it—if she was anything like him, the closer she stayed the less everything hurt, the safer they both were. With fresh parmesan grated over the top and one fork poking over the side, Jamie reached for her hand once more and brought it to his lips.

     "Bed?"

     "Please."

 

     Jamie slid in after Claire and pulled the covers up around them, reaching for the bowl of pasta from the bedside table before he settled himself back against the pillows and opened his arm to her. Careful not to jostle the food, Claire snuggled herself into his side like a rabbit in a burrow, pulling his arm further around her shoulder so his hand could rest warm and heavy in the center of her chest. They ate mostly in easy silence, interspersed with a kiss here or a contented hum there, and every once in a while an unprompted I love you, as if making up for lost time. Claire could feel her eyelids growing heavy, her breathing slow and even as she finished her share of the pasta—how blissful it would be to simply let herself fall asleep, safe in Jamie's embrace, and wake up to that same beautiful face in the morning. It was more than a little temping, but she'd told him they would talk, and at the very least she owed him that. She wanted to give him so much more—her entire life, laid willingly at his feet—but for now, her heart and a talk would have to suffice. 

     "Frank and I have been separated for—a while, now. I was going to leave him already, even if..." she trailed off, not wanting to even speak aloud that awful almost reality. Even if we never got back together. How execrable that would be, to deny either of them this kind of love. That seemed to be against nature itself. 

     "Ye dinna have tae explain yerself tae me, Claire. No' about that," Jamie assured her softly. He wished, of course, that they didn't have to deal with such a hurdle before they could be together, but it was hardly his place to shame Claire or be upset with her about it. They were in the wrong, technically speaking, that wasn't up for debate—not that he harbored a single regret. He would do it all again, would commit far more grievous sins, if it was her he was fighting for. 

     "I—I don't know—I want to. I need you to know that you are all there is for me, and you have been for....for a long time. I'm sorry I made you wait for me to catch up." She looked sideways at him with a melancholy kind of smile, but in Jamie's eyes she could see that he harbored no ill will, no anger or upset about the fact. He looked at her like one would look at something hallowed, and Claire couldn't help the heat that climbed up her neck and settled into the apples of her cheeks. She could never have imagined feeling so completely loved. 

     "I'd wait longer if I had to." He turned his head and nuzzled her curls, his eyes slipping shut to more fully savor the scent of violets and herbs that he once thought he would never know again. Women like Claire, who always smelled of flowers, nurtured gardens to blossom and kissed every time like it was the most precious, important thing in the world, were supposed to be a myth, invented by novelists and Hollywood movies. Yet here she was, soft and warm and perfectly curved to fit in his arms, eating his second-rate-at-best pasta as if it were Michelin starred, and loving him. That was the best part; it would always be the best part. 

     "I'd file the papers tomorrow if I could, but...I need his Visa. Mine is spousal, provided by the Historical Society, and if I'm no longer a spouse..."

     "Ye'd be an ocean away," Jamie finished for her, sounding pained at the mere thought. His arm tightened around her and Claire reveled in their closeness, gratefully taking the strength he offered her. "I canna have that."

     "No, I couldn't either," Claire replied, forcing her heavy limbs to move in service of being closer to him. She lifted the empty bowl from his lap and leaned to push it over the edge onto the bedside table, wincing a little at the clattering sound. She would have to get used to living with children, to being cautious and quiet in the nighttime hours so as not to disturb them, but it was a learning curve she would undertake joyously. They hadn't talked much about it, but the commitment she had offered tonight was just as much to them as it was to Jamie, and she wouldn't have it any other way. Nora and Fiona, unwittingly, had been so much a part of her own healing. They had brought her back to life with their toothless smiles and infectious joy, and they had brought her to their father. It didn't feel like a coincidence, nor was this merely the meeting and melding of two souls. From the very start, it had been the four of them. 

     She could feel Jamie moving about as she rid them of the obstruent dining ware, and when she turned back she found he had tossed all but two pillows over the side of the bed and was now lying on his side looking up at her, arm open and waiting for her to crawl into. She did so happily, tangling their legs together and snuggling her front tight against his. Jamie wrapped his outside arm around her back as her hand came up to rest against his cheek, stroking the soft skin and stubble. 

     "Better," Jamie burred, running the tip of his nose down the bridge of hers before he kissed her.

     Claire hummed in agreement. Holding him like this, and being held in return, the burdens they carried felt so much lighter.

     "If I pass my licensing exam in—"

     "If," Jamie mocked with a snort, and rolled his eyes at her. She laughed, the sound like a bow on his heartstrings, making his very soul sing. What he wouldn't do to make this woman laugh.

     "Yes, if," Claire replied, brows raised. "They take these things very seriously in this country, it's a difficult test. But, provided that I pass in March—" God, to think about what would happen if she didn't. It was very possible she wouldn't, but it hardly felt like an option with everything that was now riding on that one test—"I'll be applying to residency programs, and I can stipulate on my applications that I'll need to be sponsored for a Visa. I'm—I'm a good doctor, with an impressive track record, and references, so—I don't think that will be much of a problem. I'm sorry, that sounded so—"

     "I like it when ye talk that way about yourself," Jamie interrupted her, though his voice was soft, settled low in his belly, and full of adoration. "Like ye ken just how incredible you are. Because ye are, an incredible woman, Claire."

     Her cheeks flushed pink and Claire averted her gaze, a little smile tugging at her lips, and Jamie couldn't help but lean in and kiss her again. She really had no idea, did she, how absolutely magnificent she was. Maybe, with the next forty or fifty years stretched out before them, he'd be able to convince her someday. 

     "Were you invented by a romance novelist or something? Be honest," she teased, blinking slowly as she returned to herself after a long and languid kiss that left her feeling a little like Jell-O and breathing harder than before. 

     "No ma'am, just a plain old run of the mill man, madly love with ye. Tis all."

     Claire narrowed her eyes and looked at him for a long moment, smirking a little. 

     "I'm not convinced, but we can discuss that later," she said finally.

     Silence stretched between them, and eventually Claire spoke again.

     "So, back to...essentially, I'm stuck. I have to be legally married to Frank to stay here, until I can secure a Visa elsewhere. There's no easy way for me to get a Visa until I pass my licensing exam—I wonder if there is an earlier test date that I could switch to...I'll look into that."

     Silence again, and Claire began to get a little nervous. Though the gentle caress of Jamie's thumb over the rise of her hip was just as loving as every other way he had touched her that night—the entire time they had known each other, really—there was something about him that seemed far away. Twice, he opened his mouth to speak, but he closed it quickly, his eyes set just over her shoulder. The third time, Claire began to get well and truly scared and though she didn't want to pressure him she desperately needed him to say something. When the silence became too much she broke it, tentatively, her voice small.

     "You can say anything to me, Jamie; please. If this—if it's all too much, the waiting, the uncertainty, me—still married to Frank, that's not—I—you have to do—"

     She was starting to ramble, her stomach sinking as she faced the prospect of losing him all over again. She was asking so much of him, what if it was too much? Her obvious and rising panic pulled Jamie back from wherever he had been, and he hushed her with soothing Gaelic, his hand cupping the back of her head and guiding it to rest just below his chin.

     "Dinna fash, lass, dinna fash. Nothing would be too much, so long as yer waitin' for me on the other end. Nothing, I swear to ye. Tis only—it's a bit mad, but...weel, I'm a citizen...ye could marry me."

     That rendered Claire well and truly speechless, and she jerked her head back from his chest and stared at him with wide, almost disbelieving eyes. Jamie looked adorably bashful, and Claire could have wept at the gesture. How could she ever have doubted how deeply he cared for her? 

     "Jamie," she breathed, stroking from his temple to his jaw as though she was worried he would disappear in a puff of smoke, far too good to be true. Thank God he didn't. "I love you, for offering that, but that—I don't think it would work. Not the way we'd want it to, at least. We'd have to jump in to everything, with immigration in our hair, have a real wedding, and move in together, all that."

     When she saw the hurt and confusion in his sweet blue eyes, she realized that hadn't come out at all as she'd intended.

     "It's not that I don't want that," she added quickly, imploring him to stay with her, to understand what she meant. "If it were just the two of us—I'd do it. In a heartbeat. But Fiona and Nora—that would be so much change for them in such a short time, and they're so young, I don't think it would...I don't know that that's the best way to go about things, for their sake. I mean, they know Frank, they know that he's my husband...I imagine it would all be very confusing for them. Oh, god. Am I—am I overstepping? I hope I'm not—I didn't mean—"

     "Would ye stop with that?" Jamie cut her off, though his voice was infused with tenderness as he held her gaze. "Of course yer no' overstepping. I love ye even more, for thinkin' of them like that. Ye'll be such a good mom tae them, Claire. Ye already are, really. Tis one of the first things that made me fall in love with ye—I watched ye fall in love wi' them, and they with ye, and I couldna help but think that mebbe ye were meant tae be ours."

     Claire sucked her bottom lip between her teeth, fighting to control her breath as her eyes stung hot with tears unexpected tears. 

     "Do you—really?"

     "Of course. I've seldom looked at the three of ye together and no' thought that that's where ye belong. I canna think of a single thing in the world that would make the lasses happier—in good time though, yer right. If we explain everythin' tae them, and give them space to ask their questions and understand what's happened."

     Blinking back tears, Claire buried herself in his neck once more, clinging tight as she pressed a kiss to the hollow of his throat. 

     "How do you manage to say such beautiful things all the time?" she wondered aloud, a little hitch in her voice as she sucked in a much needed breath. 

     "Just love," Jamie answered, simple and honest, working his hand beneath the shirt to stroke the bare skin of her back. "Can I tell ye a secret?"

     "Yes," she breathed, kissing gently up the front of his neck til she reached his chin and then snuggling back against him. She was no longer quite so worried that she didn't deserve to be loved like this, by him. The divinity of it all seemed far bigger than the two of them, and though she didn't really believe in God something told her she ought to give up on holding so tight to all the reasons she wasn't worthy. Jamie seemed terribly certain that she was.

     "Ye looked so bonnie, holdin' the wee ones in yer arms tonight. Nearly drove me mad," he murmured, his hand finding its way beneath the blue button up to rest flat against her stomach. "I had this picture in my mind, so clear I could almost touch ye, cradlin' our bairn in yer arms. I'd like a wee Fraser wi' big brown curls, don't ye think? And seein' ye grow full wi' my child just beneath yer heart."

     Claire choked back a sob and it was clearly not due to the same joy Jamie felt when he thought about growing their family together, but when he tried to maneuver her to look in her eyes she fought him. He gave up, not wanting to pressure her into something she didn't want, or wasn't ready for, and held her close against his chest. 

     "What is is, my luaidh?" he asked somewhat urgently, his hand coming up to stroke her curls. With her dark locks tucked behind her ear he caught a glimpse of the anguish on her face, reddened from the effort to keep from crying, and he ghosted his lips over her temple. 

     "Jamie, I can't—oh, I should have told you before...all this. I...don't think I can have children, Jamie. I'm sorry." He could feel the effort it took to get those words out, her small body hard and tense against him. He felt like such a fool, making what he now realized was a massive assumption. "I got so caught up I didn't even think about it, I let you—if this changes things, I—I understand.  You are a magnificent father, and you should have more children, and—and I can't give you that."

     "I told ye that nothin' could make me love you any less, and I meant it. If ye canna, that doesn't change a thing for me. I should have—that was presumptive of me, tae even think that ye wanted more children. I'm sorry, lass. Please, dinna cry, it breaks my heart."

     Claire sniffled, though she didn't make any move to come out of hiding. 

     "I do, that's—that's the worst part. When Frank and I were trying it wasn't...it was sort of just the logical next step. But then I met you, and the girls, and...I thought about you, like that, about having a baby with you. I'd never wanted it that badly before." 

     "Gettin' pregnant is hardly the only way tae have a family," Jamie reminded her softly, easing the top of his body away from her just enough to finally met her eyes. She looked hurting and hopeful. "If that's somethin' ye want, there are so many ways tae go about it."

     "Are you sure?" she asked softly, and took in a shuddering breath. 

     Jamie answered her wordlessly, stroking her cheek as he leaned in and pressed their lips together. It took a moment, but finally Claire kissed him back, her body softening into his embrace, and Jamie reached between them once more to release her from the blue button up. It wasn't overtly sexual, fueled merely by the desire to be closer. Claire could sense it in his unhurried motions, and reached down to work on the buttons at the bottom. They met in the middle and Claire grasped his hand tight in hers, bringing it up to ghost her lips over his knuckles.

     "I love you," she murmured, her voice muffled by his hand, and kissed him again. "I'm lucky you love me." She released him only to sit up and shed the button down, and smiled when she found Jamie beside her, pinching the grey fabric of his t-shirt at the nape of his neck and yanking if off. He leaned over, hands in his lap, and planted a quick kiss on her waiting lips before dropping his forehead to rest against hers.

     "I do love ye," he murmured, watching her closed lids intently. The flutter of her lashes against her cheek, the little crinkles around her eyes, were just as mesmerizing as the glowing whiskey orbs they concealed. Eager to feel her skin against his once more, he left her with a kiss on the tip of her nose and laid down again, shimmying his boxers and—Claire noted with a smirk—kicking them down to the end of the bed beneath the sheets. Claire wriggled downwards, swiping her leg about until she found them, and pinched them between her toes. Bending her leg, she reached beneath the covers and grabbed them, pulling them out victoriously and dangling them over his face.

     "I won't stand for this in my bed, you bachelor," she teased with a grin, and tossed them onto the floor. Jamie pulled her down into his arms and Claire put up no fuss, absently stroking his chest as he snuggled her in closer.

     "Dually noted," he chuckled, though he pinched her arse for good measure. Claire gasped at the unexpected touch, and felt a flush spreading through her body. Perhaps she'd been a bit silly to think that they could both get naked and remain innocent, but when Jamie's big hand palmed the tingling skin and gave it a gentle squeeze, she found she didn't mind at all. They had weeks and weeks to make up for, after all.  As he brought his other hand up to cup her breast though, she stopped him with a gentle hand on his wrist.

     "So we—we have something of a plan, then? And it's alright with you?" she asked, not wanting to leave any of that uncertain before they moved on from the subject. 

     "Aye, tis," Jamie answered, easing his hand out of her grasp and holding her by the jaw. He kissed her slowly, tongue teasing her lips open as her breath began to quicken, her body growing hot in his arms. "I never thought God would give me another woman to share my bed," he added in a low hum, wiggling down a bit so he could drag his lips down the length of her neck. "And certainly no' one so easy to love."

     "God, you really are a God person, aren't you?" Claire huffed out a breathy laugh, her fingers finding their way into his curls as he mouthed the juncture of her neck and shoulder. She knew they went to church, but every once in a while a comment like that would pique her attention—she'd never been close with anyone else who talked about God quite like he did, like he had some longstanding personal relationship with Him. 

      "I am." His unabashed answer was muffled by her skin as he continued along, peppering the sensitive skin with nibbles and sloppy kisses, though eventually he popped back up to meet her eyes. "I ken it's a little—old, I suppose. And the Catholic church is certainly...weel, let's say I dinna grace them wi' my donations any longer. But that's all earthly, ye ken? God's sae much more. And I ken he delivered me right tae yer doorstep for good reason."

     "That's—kind of beautiful," Claire mused, her cheeks pink. 

     "I think so," Jamie replied, smoothing his hand along her side with just enough pressure that it didn't tickle. "Yer certainly well worth all the sin. And ye've inspired me tae no few, Sassenach," he added with a smirk and a well placed pinch to the front of her thigh that made her jerk against him. 

     "Sorry for the fall from grace," she purred in return, running her hand over his chest.

     "Och, I'm no' sae worried about all that," Jamie answered, skimming his fingertips over the tops of her breasts. "Though I do covet my neighbor's wife."

     Claire couldn't help but laugh, though when she met his eyes the heat in his gaze was enough to stop her in her tracks.

      "I covet her lovely brown curls, slipping between my fingers and tickling my nose when I hold her." He ran a gentle hand through her curls while the other remained on the small of her back, holding her close. 

     "Rather a dull color, brown, I've always thought," Claire murmured, though when he cupped her cheek she nuzzled happily into his touch. 

     "No, no, not dull at all," Jamie replied quickly, taken aback that she would say such a thing. "It's like...the water in a burn—the way it ruffles off the rocks. Dark in the wavy spots, with wee bits of auburn when the sun touches it."

     He grasped the end of one curl and tugged gently, watching, mesmerized, as it sprung back into place.

     "They bounce just like her fat arse," he added with an almost wink, "and Christ do I covet that."

     Claire squeaked when he reached behind her and squeezed her fat arse none too gently, her breath coming faster as she realized just what a seduction he seemed to have in store for her.

      "And her strong, small hands, healin' me wi' but a single touch." He took her hand in his and brought it to his lips, kissing each fingertip in turn before he turned his attention to her palm. He dragged his tongue from the base to the center and then pressed a wet kiss there. Claire felt wobbly and pliable, grateful that they were laying down. If not, she was certain her knees would have buckled right out from under her. Still holding her hand up to his mouth, Jamie spoke again, his eyes boring into hers.

     "And they look sae bonnie, sae soft and silky when she wraps them round my cock." He sunk his teeth into the fleshy mound at the base of her thumb before he released her hand and she gasped, his coarse language a pleasant surprise that had blood rushing to her core. Her senses already verging on overdrive, torn between his lips and teeth wandering over her clavicle, the unrestrained lust in his eyes and the feeling of his cock growing hard against her thigh, a promise of what was to come, once he'd had his way teasing her. 

     "I covet her breasts, pressed against my chest when I hold her, and sae soft tae lay upon when she holds me." His eyes stayed locked on hers as he scooted further down the bed, taking the covers with him so her top half was bared completely. Her nipples, already pebbled from his attentions, puckered further with the chill, and Jamie wasted no time. He cupped one breast in the v of his hand and ghosted his lips over its wanting peak, teasing her with featherlight kisses and licks until she moaned from low and deep in her belly. Not taking his eyes off hers, he pressed his finger to her lips, a reminder the keep herself quiet, and closed his lips over her nipple, sucking intently as she squirmed against him. He lavished her with attention that had her almost blind with pleasure, her core growing wetter with each deliciously painful tug of his teeth and soothing swirl of his tongue. When she tried to curl in on him, though, to keep him there, Jamie caught her by the wrist and forced her onto her back, fixing his lips quickly to her other breast to give it the same treatment. After a moment, confident that she wouldn't try anything, he released her arm and began to flick and twist the now neglected nipple, reveling in little gasps that caught in her throat. 

     Jamie had lost himself joyously to pleasuring her, his eyes slipping shut as he suckled, and when he released her breast with a soft pop he found her looking absolutely drunk with lust. Her eyes were open, intent on him, but with that dazed look that drove him mad, her lips falling open now that she wasn't in danger of crying out so she could catch her breath.

     "Mmm, and I covet the noises she makes, just for me, when I suck on them," he added huskily, moving back up the bed to capture her lips. She kissed him in that slow, gooey way she did when she was already heavy with hedonism, her tongue flicking deep in his mouth as she greedily swallowed the low groans that came from deep in his belly. When he pulled back, he noticed that she'd brought her own hand up to replace his, playing with her nipples much harder than he had.

     "Is that how ye need it, lass?" he hummed, mesmerized by her movements and the way her body responded, her hips rolling with increasing desperation against nothing.

     Claire whined out a desperate yes, her eyes popping open when she felt the bed shifting. Jamie spread her legs and kneeled between them, batting her hand out of the way to imitate the way she had touched herself. He pinched and twisted roughly, his eyes trained on hers to watch her reaction. She didn't disappoint—she never disappointed—and Jamie felt his cock straining for her, so achingly close. 

     "Ye ken what else I covet?" he asked darkly, releasing her nipples with one final tug and fisting himself in hand. He pumped a few times, watching Claire watch him with jet black eyes. 

     "What?" she asked breathlessly when he didn't continue, a hint of frustration in her voice.

     "I covet her snug wee cunt," Jamie growled, finally drawing his tip through her slit, slicking himself in her slippery wetness, "sliding over my cock and making me feel like God himself." Looking absolutely wicked, he positioned himself at her entrance and began to press inside, stopping at just the tip, much to Claire's annoyance. She tried to wiggle her hips against him, to take him deeper, but Jamie wouldn't allow for it, not yet. 

     "How would ye like yer reward, wee noise maker?" he asked with a glint in his eye, rather enjoying her struggle. 

     "Hard," Claire snarled, and Jamie gladly thrust himself home. 

 

     Breathing so hard it was almost a wheeze, Jamie collapsed against her chest, his softening member slipping out as Claire wrapped her arms around his back. It was harder to catch her breath this way, with his weight pressing down on her, but she didn't care. Not when it meant he could stay so close. His head rose and fell with her chest, his hair tickling her chin, and if she could have moved she would have pressed her lips into those sweaty curls each time they came close enough. But she was well and truly spent, and contented herself just to hold him. The room smelled heady, like sex, like them. 

     "I didna think ye could truly stay quiet, wi' me usin' ye like that," Jamie marveled as he rolled off of her, lying like a starfish beneath the fan. 

     "I can be good when I need to be," Claire hummed in return, enjoying the cool air for only a moment before she found herself rolling lazily back into his arms. 

     "Verra good," Jamie teased, wrapping his arm around her as she settled against his chest. 

     They were quiet for awhile, letting their breathing return to normal and the final tingles of orgasm fizz out in their veins. There was no stroking or caressing, or even lazy kisses—both were far too consumed for such things. Merely being together, bathing in that post-sex glow of completion and togetherness, was more than enough.

     When Jamie did speak, his voice was low and sleepy.

     "Will ye stay the night?"

     "I can't, Jamie, you know that," Claire replied, though she desperately wished that the answer could be different.

     "Why no'? Yer home alone. I'll wake ye long before the lasses are up. Please?"

     "What if one of them wakes in the middle of the night?" 

     "We can lock the door."

     At that, Claire lifted her head just enough to press her lips to his, chaste and lingering, and stroked his cheek with one finger.

     "You must be so in love with me it makes you foolish," she murmured, her eyes crinkling as she smiled softly. "What would happen, if one of them does wake up, and they come running down the hallway to get their Daddy to make everything better, and his door is locked? They'd be so frightened, in the big, dark hallway all alone."

     "Aye, yer right. I'm no' happy about it, mind ye, but I canna argue with ye. And how dare ye! Usin' my own weakness against me."

     "What weakness is that? So far as I've been able to observe, you're very strong."

     Jamie tried to glare at her, but the little smile tugging at his lips betrayed him.

     "Ye lovin' my daughters," he replied tenderly, eyes softening as he watched her melt. 

 

     When the time did come that Claire had to leave, Jamie zipped her back into the blue dress and pressed his lips where her neck and spine met. He walked her to the back door, her hand tight in his, but when she made to pull away he followed, catching her hand once more and pulling her back to him. Claire wrapped her arms around his neck and held him close, her forehead resting on his shoulder.

     "I don't want to leave either," she whispered, sensing just how badly Jamie wanted her to stay.  

     "Can I—walk ye tae yer door?" He felt a little silly asking, but the prospect of parting from her had his stomach in knots. What if she didn't come back? 

     "I'd like that." She kissed his cheek before she pulled away, her lips firm and smooth against his growing beard. 

     Jamie grasped her hand in both of his as they made their way silently across the yard, crickets singing around them as the moon hung fat and heavy in the sky. 

     "Someday we'll stop meeting like this," Claire joked, and attempt to lighten the mood between them that didn't quite work. Jamie laughed, and squeezed her hands, but there was still a desperation in his touch that broke her heart. 

      When they arrived at her back door, Jamie turned and threw his arms around her waist, burying his face in his curls. He held her tighter than usual, and as she wrapped herself around him she could feel his belly heaving with labored breaths. 

     "I'm coming back," she whispered fiercely as she eased him off her shoulder and held his face in her hands. He looked about to cry, and she kissed him with all the tender comfort she had to give. "I'm coming back. I love you."

     "Aye," Jamie nodded, blinking away the touch of wetness in his eyes. "Aye, I love ye, too."

     "I'll see you tomorrow, and I'm going to kiss you dizzy the second I get the chance. Goodnight, Jamie."

     He smiled then, and the relief that flooded Claire's system almost knocked her off her feet. 

     "Sweet dreams, my own. I love ye."

     "Tomorrow," Claire murmured, one final promise before she turned to unlock the door. "I love you."