Five o’clock in the morning always came too soon for Jamie Fraser. But at the very least, it was for different reasons than several years ago. Now, he looked forward to waking up.
“Good morning, my Laird,” a cheerful, sleepy female voice said beside him in his bed.
“Mornin’, Sassenach,” he replied, pressing a sweet kiss to the temple of his wife, Claire Fraser.
“Is it morning already?” She asked, rubbing the sleep from her eyes as Jamie turned his nightstand lamp on. He groaned as the light blinded him slightly.
“Aye,” he grunted, “but ‘tis a new day, mo ghràidh,” Jamie swung his legs out from underneath the covers and stretched his tired muscles out of their stiff funk. “Let’s make the best o’ it, eh?”
“As you say,” Claire turned on her own nightstand light and got out of bed, shivering as the slightly cold room bit into her naked skin.
“Though, if I had things my way,” Jamie growled as he came up from behind her, his morning wood pressing into her back, “ye’d be in my bed all the live long day, wi’ no one tae tell us to go.”
“Oh, is that a fact?” Claire’s drowsy attempt at sounding seductive made Jamie laugh.
“Aye, it ‘tis,” Jamie roughly kissed her neck, then headed for the toilet. Claire dressed quietly in her pajamas and house shoes from the night before and headed towards the kitchen. Jamie spent the next ten minutes getting showered and dressed for work while Claire made coffee. She heard movement from upstairs, and a rather tall redheaded girl was soon at the bottom of the staircase, thoroughly disapproving of it being morning.
“Well good morning, darling,” Claire said to her oldest daughter Faith, a ten year old with as much fire and spirit as her father, as well as his early-in-life hatred for early mornings. “Sleep well?”
“Mhmm,” the young girl grunted her own brand of what Claire always called a ‘Scottish noise’. Faith rummaged through the pantry for a box of cereal, and her mother supplied her with a bowl, spoon and the milk carton from the refrigerator.
“Where’s your sister, Faith?” Claire asked as Faith prepared her morning meal.
“‘Prolly still asleep, Ma,” Faith answered with a mouthful of food. Claire gave her a disapproving look, then made her way to and up the stairs towards her youngest daughter’s room. But when she pushed the door open, she saw that Jamie, showered and fully dressed in his uniform for work, was already in there.
“C’mon, a leannan,” Jamie cooed. “Ye canna be late fer school again, Bree.”
“It’s okay if she’s late,” Claire said, and both Jamie and their eight-year-old Brianna shot up to stare at her. “If she doesn’t complete a full school day, as required by Law of the Fraser Household, she can’t stay late to play volleyball with her friends.”
Jamie smirked at this, but Brianna looked as though someone had murdered her cat. Speaking of which, Adso their three-year-old Russian Blue dumpster rescue, sauntered into Bree’s room, jumped onto the comforter, and started kneading lazily, having not a care in the world at what was going on.
“But Ma!” Bree whined, “Lizzie and Malva are gonna be here today so we can go tae the nets! I canna miss out!”
“Then I suggest,” Claire came to stand behind Jamie, her sternest motherly glare on her face, “that you start getting ready for school.”
“Aye, Mam,” Brianna resigned, and her father held out his hand to help her out of bed.
Claire just smiled at their interaction. Between their two daughters, Faith always gravitated towards her, while Brianna leaned on Jamie more. They were two years apart, both with their father’s flaming red hair, and “the blood of the MacKenzie” in them, as her mother in law always said.
Jamie followed Brianna downstairs and helped her with breakfast. By this point, Faith was already dressed and ready for school, sitting on one of the couches with one of her assigned reading books in her hands.
Another 20 minutes went by before there was the sound of honking outside.
“Alright, lassies!” Jamie called out, “Get yerself on yon bus! I’ll be home later tonight.”
“Goodbye, Da!” Faith said.
“Love ye Da!” Brianna chimed in behind her.
Jamie bent to kiss both his girls on the crowns of their heads and watched as they dashed out the door. Not thirty seconds later, Brianna runs back inside and grabs her forgotten coat, smiling sheepishly at her parents before disappearing again.
Jamie took Claire into his arms from behind and inhaled the scent of her hair. Claire sighed contently.
“What’s yer plan fer the day, Sassenach?” He asked.
“Well,” Claire turned around in his arms to face him, “I have to go to the market to find something for dinner. Do you have anything in mind?”
“Mmm,” Jamie hummed, not taking his eyes off her, “yer beef marinade was divine the last time ye made it. Can we have it again?”
“Of course,” Claire smiled, stepping up slightly to kiss her husband. “I was thinking corn and those garlic mashed sweet potatoes you love so much.”
“Och, ye spoil me, Claire,” Jamie leaned his forehead against hers, closing his eyes for a brief moment to absorb the feel of her, “what did I do tae deserve ye?”
“I interrupted your meeting with a certain General Tryon at the right moment,” Claire grinned.
Jamie laughed at this. “Aye, weel… he wasna talkin’ about anything important, anyway.”
“So says you,” Claire chided, playfully smacking him in the chest. “When the General of the FOB requires your personal attention, you give it, Warrant Officer.”
Jamie released Claire and gave her a longing look. “Weel, that’s me done, Colour Sergeant. Better head into work before I’m the one who’s late. We cannae have that now, can we?”
“If you insist,” Claire sighed, handing Jamie his coat and kissing him one last time. “On your way, soldier.”
“Aye, Sergeant,” Jamie quipped, giving her a formal British salute and a bow.
“You’re not supposed to salute me!” Claire laughed. “You outrank me!”
“Aye, yer right. But we’re no’ in Inverness anymore, now are we?” His attempt to wink gave Claire a fitful of laughs as he slipped out the door.
Claire smiled to herself and started her day.
“Morning, Chief!” a voice called out to Jamie as he entered the Scottish Police Academy training centre.
“Ah, Geordie!” Jamie came in and clapped the man on the back. “How’re the bairns?”
“Well, sir, though wee Maxine is most likely developin’ another fit o’ the flu.”
“Och, I ken how that is,” Jamie replied sadly, remembering when Brianna was so sick that she was in hospital for two whole days. “Give Margie my love, will ye?”
“O’ course!” Geordie replied with a slight blush. He always got that way whenever someone mentioned his bride.
Jamie worked as a civilian SWAT member trainer for the Scottish Police Services in Edinburgh. His military background perfectly suited him for the job, and the force didn’t hesitate to hire him when he came around looking for a job. Once he knew his head was on straight after the war, that is.
Today there were no classes for him but the cadets were going to be in the field training on a new class of weapons recently approved by the government for them to use. He figured he’d get some long-overdue paperwork done, then sit in and observe.
“Fraser!” a familiar voice called out to him while he was settling at his desk. One Sergeant Rupert MacKenzie, his boss and distant cousin stood just outside his office door. “Ye got a minute?”
“Fer ye, cousin, always,” Jamie gestured for Rupert to sit in front of him with a smile. “What’s on yer mind?”
A distraught look crossed the sergeant’s face. “Angus called out again, and his class is wi’out an instructor.”
“The flu’s really been goin’ around, has it no’?”
“Aye aye, but no it’s no’ that. Said it was some emergency wi’ his wife and wouldna be in today. Can ye cover fer him?”
“Sure, ‘tis no problem. These papers are important but wi’ no due date. I can put it off, ken.”
“Thank ye,” Rupert stood to take his leave. “Yer a good man, Jamie” He called out. “Never let anyone tell ye otherwise!”
Jamie beamed to himself for a moment before getting up, grabbing his teaching books, and walking towards the classroom in question.
About twelve cadets were already seated when he walked in, but they all stood and got to attention the moment they realized he was there.
“Morning, lads,” Jamie said in a stern voice. “I’m Retired Warrant Officer James Fraser of the Royal Scots Borderers, 1st Battalion, Royal Regiment of Scotland. Yer instructor isna here today, so I will be teaching this class. Now,” he opened his teaching booklet, the same one that started off each brand new class of future Scottish police officers’ training. “Ye’ll find today’s schedule on page fourteen of yer training book...”
Claire was usually bored by the end of her day, but that wasn’t the case on days where she went to the local supermarket. She always ran into the usual friends, sometimes her sister in law Jenny, with one of her younger children that weren’t in school yet. But today, she ran into her good friend and fellow soldier Geillis Duncan.
“How are ye, hen?” Geillis said after she released Claire from a tight embrace.
“All’s well on my end,” Claire responded, “how about you?”
“Och, I could complain, but then I’d look a wee bit foolish, no?” Geillis laughed. “Arthur got a promotion at work recently, so while I’m grabbing a few bits and bobs fer the house, he’s taking me out fer dinner tonight!”
“Oh, how exciting! Give Arthur my love.”
“Will do. He wants Jamie to come over at some point for a dram and cards. Ye better be there wi’ him, missy!”
“Wouldn’t miss it for the world!” Claire hugged Geillis once more before finishing her shopping trip. Once she got home, she started preparing for the night’s dinner. The girls wouldn’t be home until later but she wanted to ensure she was available to help with homework.
Two hours later, the meat was in the fridge soaking up the delicious smelling marinade Jamie loved so much, the kitchen was back to its usual spotless state, and all the fixings and side dishes were ready to be popped into a pot at a moment’s notice. Just in time too, as the front door opened and two very tall, redheaded girls came clambering in at once.
“Welcome home, ladies! No, Bree, take those muddy boots off right there at the door.”
Brianna blushed slightly at her mother’s chiding as she slid her bright green Wellington boots off. Faith took off her coat and walked into the dining area, book bag dragging behind.
“Lots of homework today?” Claire came around to her side after washing her hands. Brianna was right behind her.
“Aye, but it’s me own fault. I asked fer some o’ these assignments.”
“That’s because yer a clotheid!” Brianna snided.
“Ye are too!”
“That’s enough, girls.” Claire sighed, rolling her eyes. She didn’t know what it was like to have siblings, let alone sisters, so she couldn’t relate. “Faith, do you need help?”
“No, Mam. I should be able tae handle it. Thank ye.”
Claire kissed her oldest daughter on the head and turned to Brianna. “And what about you? And no, you cannot go out with Lizzie and Malva until you’ve finished your homework.”
“But it isna due until-”
“I don’t care when it’s actually due, young lady, you will finish it before you leave this table. If it’s any consolation,” Claire walked over to the center of the table and plucked an apple and banana out for each girl, a bright smile on her face. “If it’s not due til later, you can spend the next few days until it is due playing with your friends. Understood?”
Brianna grinned slightly, and accepted the proffered fruit. “Aye, Mam.”
With both girls deep into their studies, Claire sat down on the couch with a magazine. Adso came in and plopped himself onto her lap, purring contently.
“Well, hello you. Are you done chasing dust bunnies under your sister’s desk?” Claire asked the cat.
Adso merely snuggled deeper into her lap, acting as though she were talking to the wall. Claire sighed and flipped through the magazine before finding an article worthy of her precious reading time.
“Mam, I’m done!” Brianna called out, and before Claire could say anything to the contrary, she dashed out the door with her boots in her hands. Claire went to the window and saw her wee girl hopping around to slip her boots on and her two friends, Lizzie Weymss and Malva Christie, were waiting for her, both with weathered volleyballs in their arms. Claire knew that Brianna would only be a few blocks away, and if anything were to go wrong, either Mrs. Wemyss or Mrs. Christie would ring the house straight away. Faith still sat at the table, still buried in her work.
“Would you like some help darling? Or perhaps a glass of juice?” Claire asked.
“No thank ye, Mam.” Faith said without looking up. Claire just smiled with pride. Unlike her sister, Faith aspired to be a doctor one day. “A healer like ye were, Mam!” She’d told her once. So Faith was adamant about getting the highest marks on all her schoolwork, no matter how insignificant it might be. She had her heart set on getting into the University of Glasgow’s Medicine program once she finished with her primary studies. And given her current level of concentration, nothing was going to get in the way of that.
Claire looked at the clock and surmised that Jamie would be home from work soon. She heated up the oven, took the meat out of the fridge, and started cooking the already prepared sweet potatoes. An hour later, and the house smelling like a chef’s dream, Brianna and Jamie walked in the door together, Jamie letting Bree go first, and Faith bounded out of her seat to tackle her Da with a bone-crushing hug.
“Welcome home, Da!” Faith said in his chest. Jamie kissed the top of her head.
“Aye, lass, yer gonna crush my heart tae a pulp wi’ a hug like that!” Jamie grunted with a smile, looking up at Claire. “What is yer mam feedin’ ye lot?”
“Well, good thing she wants to be a doctor someday,” Claire smiled. “I’m sure she could fix you right up!”
“Weel, unless she plans on donating her own heart, I dinna see how much help she’ll be,” Jamie helped Faith off the ground, then embraced his wife with his own organ-pulverizing hug.
“Oof!” Claire exclaimed, “and you think your daughter is capable of crushing organs?”
“Aye weel, I’ve had a wee bit more practice.”
“Ah, that’s good to know.”
“Smells mighty fine in here, Sassenach,” Jamie kissed Claire like he needed her oxygen to survive. “When’s dinner due tae be ready?”
At that, the timer went off on the oven. “Right about now,” Claire said.
With the table set, everyone took their places and dug into their meal. The girls talked amongst themselves as Jamie and Claire described their day to each other. Jamie went on about how he had to cover for Angus again, and Claire relayed Geillis’ message for her.
“Ahh, aye, a night wi’ the Duncans sounds like a fine idea. Hadna seen that old coot in a while. A promotion ye say?” Jamie took a sip of his whisky.
“Yes,” Claire said, sipping at her own glass of wine, their plates already practically licked clean. “Geillie was pretty excited about it.”
“I imagine so,” Jamie regarded. “She was always one fer the finer things in life, aye? Hasna changed since the Army, I see.”
“Jamie,” Claire relented, lightly tapping his arm as Jamie stifled a chuckle.
Jamie looked at Claire like she held the sun and the moon in her hands. His mind wandered a bit…
“Welcome to Inverness, Warrant Officer Fraser,” General William Tryon saluted his newest soldier back and Jamie dropped his hand. “I trust you know the lay of the land here?”
“Aye, sir,” Jamie replied. “Grew up no’ too far from Inverness. Highlanders verra rarely leave their home ground.”
“Then you should feel right at home, Chief. Training isn’t scheduled to start for another few-”
“General Tryon, sir?” Called a Englishwoman’s voice from outside his office.
“Oh, do excuse me, Chief. Come on in, Sergeant!”
When Jamie turned around, his heart skipped a beat at the sight of the woman in the doorway.
She wasn’t that tall, but she was well built. Curves in all the right places, and the most beautiful head of rich, curly brown hair, pinned behind her head underneath her uniform cap. The badge on her left arm had a red plus sign on it. Medic, Jamie interpreted. She was a combat medic. And judging by the three upside-down chevrons on her uniform, her rank was apparently Colour Sergeant. This meant he outranked her by two grades.
“I have those documents you requested, sir,” she said after Tryon released her of her salute with his own. Tryon waved her in and she handed the documents to her superior.
“Ah, have you met our newest Chief, Sergeant? This is Warrant Officer James Fraser, of the Royal Regiment of Scotland. First Battalion, I believe?” Tryon turned his gaze to Jamie.
“Aye, sir,” Jamie replied, trying to keep his legs steady under him. And by the looks of the Colour Sergeant, she was attempting to do the same. But unlike Jamie, she has a face made of pure, fragile glass. She looked like she wanted to eat him up right there and was doing all she could to keep her boss from seeing it.
“I have not met him, sir, no.” The woman held out her hand for Jamie to shake. “Colour Sergeant Claire Beauchamp. Your servant, sir.”
Jamie maintained consistent eye contact with the woman as he grasped her hand to shake. “Please tae make yer acquaintance, Sergeant. I expect we’ll be working alongside each other just fine.”
“I expect the same, sir.”
“Please.” Jamie ushered her out of the General’s office, thankful no one was in the hallway. “When it’s just the two of us, it’s Jamie. Just...just Jamie.”
“Well then,” Claire replied, “Jamie...I look forward to working with you.”
Jamie beamed and hid a shy smile. “See ye later, Sassenach.”
The two of them have been inseparable ever since.