He ached for her. Not just physically, his whole being, body and soul felt lost without her. They were so attuned to each other it was like a sixth sense. It had been like that from the moment he walked into her A&E just three years ago. She had consumed him and he would not have had it any other way.
Now, after more than two years of marriage, Jamie was far from surprised when he found himself wide awake at 3am. Claire had been working extra night shifts this week in order to get an extended weekend to celebrate Murtaghs 60th. This was the third consecutive night he’d gone to sleep alone in their bed, where he would drift uncomfortably into that space between waking and sleeping. It was only when she came home and slipped softly into bed, pressing herself against him and tucking her curly head under his chin, that he was finally able to fall into a blissful night’s rest. But tonight as she curled up next to him under their duvet, he jerked away instantly.
“Ifrinn Sassenach, yer feet are freezing!” he grumbled sleepily.
“Mmm, and you’re so warm.” she hummed as she ran her chilled feet along his shins, earning her a Scottish grunt that held no real anger.
“Sorry love, but it's bloody freezing out there and I had to park a mile away from the hospital today. Took me an extra twenty-five minutes to get back home, not to mention the blasted heater in my car is broken again.”
It was too dark in their room to actually see her but he knew she was sporting one of her famous Claire Fraser faux pouts. He turned his body so he was facing her and ran his hands along her goosefleshed arms.
“Hmmm well there's no much I can do for the heater just now, but as for you, I can think of a few ways te warm ye up.” he hummed lowly as he let his hands roam her body, letting one of his hands drift from her arm, slowly down the inside of her thigh.
She purred at his touch, arching her back so their bodies became flush with each other. The warmth of his breath traveled down her neck as he playfully nipped his way down to her chest, sending a new layer of gooseflesh across her skin. This time it certainly wasn't because she was cold. Jamie felt it and looked up at her with hooded eyes.
“Och are ye still cold then?” he said with a knowing grin.
And without giving her a chance to respond, he closed his mouth over where she was already hot and wet. She gripped his hair urging him deeper, but not before he shot a glance up at her from between her legs. Christ, she was beautiful. He didn't think there was anything more satisfying than pleasuring her this way. The way she would trap his head between her thighs and pull his hair would send a bolt straight to his cock. And the sounds she’d make. A dhia.
Her grip tightened and she cried out, “ Jamie, don't...ahh... don’t. stop.’
He redoubled and lost himself in her, nothing else existed, only her.
Just as he was bringing her to her finish, she loosened her grip on his hair and began to sit up. He shot her a look, gripped her thighs, and dragged her back to him.
“Ja- Jamie.” she sputtered, breathless.
“No.” he growled.
“Ja- You...Your alarm.”
“No. Ye said dinna stop and I have no plans to. Now lie back and let go Sassench, I've got ye.”
Claire woke feeling warm and thoroughly satisfied. The clock on Jamie's night stand flashed 7:25am in neon green. After he had brought her over the edge, leaving her breathless and seeing stars, she vaguely remembered him turning off his alarm and getting up to get ready for his early shift at the station. He had come back over to the bed before leaving, tucking the duvet tighter around her so she didn't feel the loss of his warmth.
He had kissed her brow and whispered “Tha gaol agam ort mo chridhe.” I love you, my heart.
Claire made no hurry to get out of bed right away. Instead she peeked back at the clock one more time before rolling over to Jamie’s pillow, breathed in his lingering scent and dozed off again.
When the late morning sun poured itself into their room she decided to finally rise and start her day. Throwing on one of Jamie’s extra EMT T-shirts, she padded out the kitchen for something to quiet her gurgling stomach. After searching the kitchen and only finding a few boxes of various take out, no doubt expired, she turned to check the pantry, her eyes fell on a bright pink post-it note stuck to the coffee maker.
I ken ye probably havena eaten since lunch yesterday. Breakfast is on me today <3 And no, just coffee doesna count as breakfast. Call me when ye wake up.
She couldn't help but smile at her thoughtful Scot. She grabbed her phone and quickly tapped on Jamie's contact at the top of her most recent calls. Perching herself on the window seat looking out to the frost covered ground outside, she waited for him to answer.
Suddenly his face appeared on her screen and she realised she had made a facetime call.
“Yer awake. Good morning Sassenach. Did ye sleep well?” He asked, to focused on what was ahead of him to look at the screen. She could tell they were in their rig, probably returning to the station after a call.
Smirking at how handsome her husband looked in his uniform she decided to play with him a bit. “Mmm well I did once you finally let me get some sleep, not that I'm complaining about you keeping me awake.” He finally looked down at the screen and she gave him a suggestive eyebrow waggle.
Now that she had his attention she held the phone out further to give him a full view and he noticed she was only in his EMT shirt. He let out a half strangled moan, followed by an immediate blush, nearly choking on his own breath. “Claire.” he whispered her name in a low, drawn out whisper.
Suddenly someone out of frame cleared their throat loudly next to Jamie. It was Claire's turn to blush now. Her eyes went wide with a silent question to Jamie.
“Good morning to ye Claire.” the older, gruff voice chuckled from next to Jamie. Claire groaned with embarrassment and both men laughed.
“Uh, good morning Murtagh. I- I’m sorry, I didn't realise you could hear me.” she squeaked, far past embarrassed.
“Och dinna fash lass. I've kent that ye two canna manage to keep yer hands off of each other since long before ye were wed.Tis maybe just no’ something a godfather needs to be reminded of aye?”
Claire let out another groan of embarrassment.
Jamie had mercy on her and quickly changed the subject, “Anyway Sassenach, how about ye get yourself dressed, head on over to The Water Horse and grab yourself some breakfast. I already paid for it, just tell Rupe what kind of wee pastry ye want today. Then if ye have time before ye have te stop by the hospital ye could drop by the station and say hello.”
Jamie's cousin Rupert owned the only local pub in the Highlands that doubled as a cafe in the mornings. He had somehow perfected the art of making cinnamon rolls and lattes and decided to run with it. Claire now refused to get her cinnamon rolls from anywhere else.
“Mmm you know me so well. A pastry sounds delicious. And yes if I leave right now I’ll have some time to stop by the station. See you in a little while, love you.” She hung up the phone and went to get dressed.
Jamie and Murtagh had just arrived back at the station a few minutes before he saw Claire pull her trusty red Toyota into the parking lot. She’d bought it at university and it had never given them any problems, until the heater decided to quit on them this winter. Jamie had planned to take it to Angus’ garage but their schedules just haven't given them any free days off recently. The only time they'd had a whole day off together, they’d decided to use their time more wisely, tangled together in bed.
She hopped out of her car and strode across the station bay with two coffee cups, dressed in her dark jeans and her chunky knit teal sweater.
Christ, he loved that sweater. She never wore a bra with it. He didn't bother hiding the grin that spread across his face.
“Here you go my lad, Rupert said this one’s on the house.” Claire handed him a warm cup of coffee.
He met her at the office door with a light kiss and wrapped her in his arms.
“Thank ye. Now get in here before ye freeze.” Kissing her a bit more firmly, “Mmmm cinnamon bun aye?” He said as he walked backwards to lean up against the desk pulling her with him so that she stood between his legs and her front was pressed to his.
“You and your viking sense of smell!” she exclaimed as she retaliated with another light kiss.
Jamie chuckled, “Well I dinna ken about that Sassenach. I can taste it on ye. Ye’ve got a bit o’ icing just here.” His blue eyes sparkled with mischievousness as he licked her bottom lip, sucking off the remaining icing.
“Ahemmm.” Murthaugh made his presence known from the doorway. “Pardon the interruption, just need a few forms to fill out from the last call.
Jamie and Claire both flushed and pulled apart. Despite Jamie's protests, Claire turned from his embrace and hugged Murtagh.
“Hello to you too Murtagh. Are you ready for the big celebration tonight?”
“Oh aye, as much as an auld man can be I guess. I dinna think Suzette listened when I said I only wanted a small get together. From what I've heard, half of Broch Mordha will be there.” The older man grumbled.
Claire chuckled at Murtagh, he was always trying to hide the fact that really he is a big teddy bear who wanted nothing more than to spend time with his family.
“Ghoistidh, ye ken fine well tis no more than me, Claire and Jenny's clan. And ye love those bairns like they were yer own.”
That brought a smile to Murtagh’s weathered face, “Aye ye got me lad. I do love those weans, I love all o’ ye. But I still dinna like being fussed over. Tis just another birthday, which I have had plenty of.”
“Hmm well get used to a whole lot more you old grump.” Claire leaned in and planted a peck on Murtagh’s cheek. “Because we intend to spoil you for many more birthdays to come. And there's nothing you can do to stop us.”
Claire noticed how Murtagh’s cheeks blushed at the gesture.
“Well I have to run by the hospital to check on some patients but I’ll be back in a few hours when your shift is done okay, Jamie? We told Jenny we’d get there early to help set up.”
Jamie sighed, “Aye, though it's more like Jenny forced us to get there early, withholdin’ the meal if we dinna show up on time te help.”
“My puir lad. Dinna fash love, I'll make sure ye get properly fed.” Claire threw on a thick Scots accent and pouted her lip out in jest.
Terrible at a Sscots accent, for a moment Jamie couldn't decide if he wanted to laugh at how ridiculously cute his wife was, or kiss her breathless for teasing him. He opted for both. But it came out as more of a low chuckle against her lips as he kissed her.
“Christ, I do love ye, Sassenach.”
“Still here ye know,” grumbled Murtagh from his perch against the doorway.
Unwilling to be parted just yet, Jamie stretched his leg back and closed the door with his foot, leaving Murtagh laughing on the other side. “Just dinna swallow the puir lass. Claire was nice seeing ye, I'll see ya later on at Lallybroch,” his voice faded as he walked away from the door.
Several minutes later Jamie and Claire emerged from the office with mussed up hair and swollen lips. He walked her to her car and scraped off the thin layer of sleet that had accumulated while she was inside.
“Drive safe Sassenach, and call me when ye’re on yer way back to the station.”
She kissed him once more before getting into the driver seat. ”I always do. You be careful out there too my lad. I'll see you in a few hours.”
Claire wasn’t scheduled to go into the hospital but she had wanted to do a final check on a few of her patients before she took her long weekend off. As soon as she walked the the A&E doors a pair of green eyes zeroed in on her.
“Weel I didna expect te see ye back here until next week, hen. I thought for sure ye and yer wee fox cub would be halfway to the laird’s chambers at Lallybroch by now.” Geillis teased and waggled her eyebrows suggestively.
Claire smirked but ignored the innuendo, “I just wanted to check on Mrs. Fitz’s incision and I wanted to stop by young Rabbie’s room and see how his port is treating him.”
“Ye never did ken how te take time off, always wear’n yer heart on yer sleeve for these patients. ‘Tis what makes ye everyone's favorite doctor.” Geillis elbowed Claire playfully and made her way to start her rounds. “Just remember to have a wee bit o’ fun for me this weekend aye?”
Claire made her visits fairly quickly and without any issues. Rabbie’s port seemed to be doing well in the new location and as long as Mrs Fitz didn't try to get out of bed so often, her incision wouldn’t give her any trouble.
Buttoning her coat over her sweater, she made her way out to her car to get it warmed up and call Jamie before she went back to the station to collect him. Tapping on his number in her phone she smiled at his contact photo. It was a selfie he'd sent her from the gym not long after they’d married. He was sweaty and wearing an EMT shirt as he laid on the gym mats, worn out from his workout. She loved that photo of him. Her cheeks flushed as she recalled the text she had sent him in reply to the photo.
Nice work my lad. I hope you saved some energy, because I have another workout planned for you when you get home. ;)
She snapped out of her thoughts when she heard the phone stop ringing and Jamie’s soothing voice on the other end.
“Sassenach?” He sounded hesitant.
“Hello love, told you I always call you back.” she teased. “I just finished up at the hospital and I’m about head your way. Do you need me to stop by the flat before we leave or are you ready to go?”
“Weel I've all my things here so I'll be ready te head straight there but I dinna think we’re going to be able te leave as soon as we planned.” Jamie sighed.
Claire could tell Jamie took no pleasure in telling her their plans were being altered. “What? Jamie, we promised Jenny we'd help her. You know she's got her hands full with the children. If we don’t get going soon we’ll never make it on time.”
“Aye, I ken Sassenach, believe me I'm no happy about it either, but there's nothing I can do about it. Even Murtagh has to stay late. The Chief didna have anyone else who could make it in on time. And the weather’s no letting up so he needs the extra hands on deck.” He pleaded.
Claire knew Jamie was just as dedicated to his job as she was. If there were people who needed help he would do all he could to be there. It was part of the reason they worked so well together. They both had a passion for helping others.
“Ye can just come here and hang round the station until we get the go ahead te leave. No sense in ye going all the way back te the flat. As long as we dinna get any major calls it should only be a few more hours.”
“A few hours?” Claire sighed, feeling torn. “Jamie, We can't make Jenny wait that long I promised we'd help. And you of all people should know how strongly this family keeps a promise.” she argued.
Jamie's heart fluttered at his wife's statement. She was a true Fraser. “Aye, I ken. But I dinna ken what else there is te do about it. I dinna like the idea of ye driving up there alone.” Jamie paused. “Plus ye ken how much I enjoy having ye all to myself during that long drive.” Claire could hear the smirk in his voice, but she knew he was trying to distract her from her worries.
Claire laughed, “Jamie you have me to yourself all the time.”
Christ he loved the sound of her laugh.
“That may be so Sassenach, but there's just something about the way ye look sit’n there in the passenger seat. Ye curls bouncing around yer face as ye bop yer head to the music. Ye look sae bonny,” he hummed at the image.
“Well I'm sorry love, but I think you're going to have to miss out on this trip. I don't want to make the drive without you either but I can't let Jenny down. Just ride up there with Mutragh and you can have me all to yourself on the way home.” She tried her best to sound assuring.
Jamie wasn't budging. “Claire the roads are no’ that great and they are only going te get worse. I dinna think tis a good idea.”
“Jamie I’ll be just fine. I've driven that route hundreds of times. Besides, if I get stuck in the snow I'll just wait for my strapping Scot to come and get me.” Claire threw all her charm into her words. “I promise to drive cautiously, and not hurry, I’ll call you as soon as I get there. Sound good?”
“No.” He huffed. “But I ken there’s no talking ye out o’ it either.” Jamie relented. “As soon as ye get there I want te hear yer bonny voice on my phone letting me know ye got there safely. And I ken ye want te get there as soon as ye can te help, but dinna take the short cuts. Ye ken how winding the roads are, I dinna want ye driving that in this weather. Take the long way.”
He could practically hear her roll her eyes at him. He knew some of his fears were a bit overbearing but ever since he lost his mam in an accident he'd always worried.
Claire sighed with relief. “Okay. I’ll take the long way. But if Jenny gives me any shit for being late I'm blaming you,” she giggled at the thought of Jenny Murray's wrath. “Okay I better get going if I want to make it in time. I’ll see you this evening. I love you.”
“I love ye too, mo nighean donn.”
Three hours later Murtagh and Jamie were pulling the rig into the bay after their last call for the night. Murtagh climbed out of the driver seat and went to grab his things from his locker. “Well Jamie lad are ye ready te get going? Suezette is no going te wait for me much longer. She said if I dinna get there she’ll let the bairns eat all the cake.”
Jamie didn't answer. He was just looking at his phone, disappointed. Mutagh called his name again. Still no answer.
“Hellooo. Earth te Jamie?” Finally Murtagh got his godson's attention. “What's with ye lad?”
“Claire didna call. I didna even realise until just now. We were sae busy. She didna call Murtagh. She always calls.” Jamie's anxiety was rising with each word. “She should have been there over an hour ago.”
Murtagh knew Claire never missed a call. But he didn't need to remind Jamie of that, the lad was already worried enough. “Och. Dinna fash. I'm sure Jenny just swept her straight into party preparations as soon as she got there. Why don’t ye give Claire a call.”
“Aye. Ye’re right.”
Jamie called Claire’s phone but it just kept ringing.
He tried again. Nothing.
Murtagh saw the panic spreading through Jamie's body. “She’s probably no near her phone. I’ll try Jenny's phone, go grab yer things and we’ll be on our way. I’m sure she just forgot.” Murtagh suggested.
By the time Jamie got back from his locker Murtagh was off the phone.The look on his face didn’t put Jamie’s worries at ease.
“The lass said she didna ken Claire was coming up alone. She was expecting both of ye a few hours ago.”
Before Jamie could respond the operators monotone voice cracked across the speakers.
All available units. Vehicle submerged in river. Driver not found. Dive team en route.
Ice flooded Jamie's veins.
It was her.
He felt as though his heart might stop, but he forced himself into action. He had to get to her. He ran to the wall and ripped the keys to the rig off the hook and took off towards the driver seat.
“Jamie!” Murtagh yelled, climbing into the passenger seat. “Ye dinna ken it’s her, lad,” it was a lie and he knew it. “A bhalaich, listen te me! Ye need te get yer wits about ye. If it is her ye will do her no help if ye kill yerself before you can save her.”
“It's her Murtagh. I can feel it. It's her,” his voice broke on the last word.
Jamie tore out of the station and headed towards the crash site. In normal weather it would take 25 minutes to get there. Jamie knew he needed to slow down, but he couldn't. Every minute he wasn't with her a piece of him broke.
He prayed the whole way there.
A Thighearna, gum bi i sàbhailte. Na leig le Dia mo chall. Lord, that she may be safe. God don't let me lose her.
When they pulled up to the site nearly 30 minutes later the flashing lights of the police cars and tow truck on the bridge were blinding as they reflected across the river's surface and snow covered roads. Another wave of ice coursed through Jamie’s body when he saw the tail end of Claire's little, red Toyota poking out from the icy river.
He lost all senses then. Bolting from the rig he ran to the river's edge, frantic, almost berserk with fear. He didn't even register the murmurs of the other first responders as he tore through the small crowd.
No one was in the car.
No one can survive water THAT cold for this long.
“CLAIRE!” The freezing air sliced his throat as he yelled for her over and over.
A few of the officers tried to get him away from the river, but he shoved them away. He had to find her.
“Listen mate, ye need te let us do our job. The divers checked the car already and it's empty. Yer partner filled us in Mr. Fraser, I ken ye want to find yer wife but if ye keep yelling like that I'm going to have te ask fer ye to be removed.” a stocky officer sternly patted Jamie's shoulder, a failed attempt to sooth the frantic paramedic.
Suddenly the tow trucks reflecting light fell on something washed up along the embankment down the river.
“Sassenach?” it was barely a whisper, his voice already ruined from the panic and yelling.
Jamie ran towards the figure at breakneck speed. As he got close enough to see, he broke.
She looked peaceful. Almost as though she were just sleeping. She was lying on her side face down towards the mud, hair clung to her face. Her already pale skin had gone even whiter, making her look as though she were carved of marble. But it was her lips that broke the illusion of serenity. They were eerily blue.
“Sassenach” he wept.
Jamie fell to his knees then, refusing to believe she was gone.
He rolled her onto her back and moved the soaked curls from her face. She was ice cold. He felt for her pulse but couldn't find it.
“No!” he bellowed. “Damn ye Sassenach! If ye die here now I'll kill ye.”
He started chest compressions. “Dinna leave me.” he whispered with each one.
Please. Dinna leave me.
She was dead. Everything around her was a blinding white. There was a soft rushing sound like the wings of angels. She felt peaceful.
Until she felt a pain in her chest. Her eyes shot open and her lungs burned. She felt like she had swallowed glass.
Another shocking pain ripped through her chest.
Jesus H. Roosevelt CHRIST. That bloody hurts.
The peacefulness she had felt moments before was gone. Pain seared through her body like a lightning bolt. She just wanted it to stop.
Then she heard him.
“Sassenach. Please” he sobbed. He sounded so far away. She felt so cold and weak.
Another burning jolt.
We’ve got a rhythm!
Her whole body ached. She was still freezing cold but her senses were starting to come back.
“Mo nighean donn….can ye hear me?” He seemed closer now. She felt his warm hand take hold of hers.
She wanted to open her eyes, to see he was really there and to assure him she wasn’t going anywhere, but she didn’t have much strength. Her hand in his, she managed to squeeze two of his fingers. She felt Jamie's soft lips on her brow. Hoping that she got her message to him, she fell asleep.
Jamie never left her side. In all the hours she was unconscious. He couldn’t take his eyes off of her. Not after they’d lost her on the way to the hospital. He kept watching her chest rise and fall with the beeping of the monitors.
Having already known Jamie, the doctors knew better than to try and send him away once visiting hours where over.
At one point Geillis popped in to check on them. “How’s our wee hen doing?” she asked, not looking for him to answer her. “I'm sure that chair is no verra comforting. Why don’t ye come keep Claire some company” the redheaded woman patted the empty side of Claire’s hospital bed.
Jamie gave her a weary look. “Dinna fash laddie. I willna tell if ye dinna tell. Besides, ye ken how much she enjoys yer body heat.”
It was all the assurance Jamie needed before he climbed carefully into the small hospital bed. Half of his large frame hung off the bed but he didn't mind.
“Thank ye Geillis, truly,” he whispered as the woman flicked off the main light and left them to be alone.
He wrapped his body around Claire, still cool to the touch but nothing like she had been when he found her just a few hours earlier. Though he was exhausted, the adrenaline long since worn off, he couldn't bring himself to sleep. So he prayed.
God, shield my beloved, my white dove.
Preserve her from violence and from harm.
In this place and every place.
On this night and on every night.
Jamie finally drifted to sleep just as the slivers of morning light peeked through the hospital curtains. His sleep was restless and littered with nightmares. He kept seeing flashes of her frozen body being ripped out of his arms and onto the stretcher. Only in his dream, they couldn't save her. He couldn't save her.
No! Damn ye. Dinna leave mo caraidh. He cried out to Claire's lifeless body in his sleep.
He startled awake and was met with the most beautiful pair of amber eyes. Her cool, slender hand reached up to brush the tears left behind from his dream.
“Shhh. It's okay. Jamie, it's okay, I'm here.” Her voice was small and raspy but it was the most soothing sound Jamie had ever heard.
He wept, and not for the first time in the last twelve hours, but this time they were tears of relief.
“I thought ye were dead mo nighean donn. Ye...Ye were sae cold. I thought I lost ye.” Jamie buried his face where her neck met her shoulder as she combed her hands through his curls.
“I knew you’d find me,” she whispered
“Ye didna call. Ye always call.” His voice was thick with emotion.
She planted a kiss on his crown so he’d look at her. “I seem to recall saying I'd call when I arrived at Lallybroch, which never happened.” She teased, hoping to calm him.
“Tis no funny Sassenach.” he pouted.
Claire knew this wasn't something Jamie would be able to speak of lightly for some time. But she hated how worried she had made him.
She chuckled softly, kissing his mouth lightly. “I know my love. I’m sorry. I'm sorry I scared you. Just know I would never willingly leave you. I love you too much, I couldn’t bloody live without you. Not in this life nor the after life.”
Jamie smiled briefly before kissing her more firmly, “Aye, I ken Sassenach. Nor could I.” He wrapped his arms tightly around her, pulling her hospital gown clad body flush with his.
“Now come here and let me keep ye warm.”