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No Way Home

Chapter Text

It was against all common sense that I followed that man.
Not that sense was all that common these days, I reminded myself.
He was terrifying to look at, even from a distance. Alarmingly large, grey bush of hair that went down to meet the edge of his beard somewhere in the middle of his chest, feet slowly dragging on the grassy ground. The most alarming thing you could tell at first glance was the noise that he made - the clancking of metal trinkets he wore all over his ragged robe, the ringing of several bells I didn't know where he kept, and the low, wordless grunts he emitted every time he bent down to dig a herb or a pretty rock out of the ground. A man so unbothered by nearby others learning of his location was a force to be reckoned with.
Of course, over the first moment of knowing him I learned that he didn't have a tongue, a fact that I first found scary, then fascinating, and now profoundly sad.
Using a stick over a muddy patch of ground, Hugh Munro told me snippets of his story. How he was captured by cannibals back before everything happened; how a friend helped him escape and learn sign language; how he survived the end of the world and came looking for that friend, hoping to either repay his life debt to him or, preferably, finally have someone who can understand him.
I didn't have a home or a destination, and more urgently didn't have means of purifying water, and so I joined Hugh on his mostly silent quest, besides the noise that rose of his every move.
Since he couldn't very well tell anyone, after a few days I felt safe enough to tell Hugh my own story, if only just to be friendly. Being a surgeon in the war, trying to make my husband see some sense, failing. Losing him, the world, and our daughter.
I didn't mention my lover from the war, ignoring his significance. He was probably dead anyway and I had already given Hugh enough reasons not to like me without telling him I was an adulteress. It did feel like a heavy weight off my shoulders. Hugh was an extremely good listener.
I have met many people since the end of the world, but no friends; Hugh, while waiting for water to boil, suggested that he and I were friends. I was hesitant to accept.
"Every one of my friends died, are you sure about that?"
He nodded and straightened the patch of mud he wrote the initial proposal on.
Everyone needs a friend, he wrote.
"And you have survived the war, so you must be pretty resilient. It seems that we are friends in this case," I decided.
He leaned forward to tap my shoulder, his mouth curving with a smile. I smiled back. When was the last time I did that?
Hugh pointed at the setting sun to the east of us and notioned to my bag, which contained little more than a sleeping bag and my medical case, growing alarmingly empty. I rummaged through it and pulled out what was probably the last of the flour.
"We'll have to find something to eat soon," I told him. "Or a settlement."
He nodded solemnly and added the flour to the boiling water, mixing the resulting dough with the other end of the stick he wrote with. After another moment's silence, he pointed west again.
"I will start setting up the tent once I've eaten," I said, somewhat annoyed. I was no stranger to harsh conditions, but we have walked all day and the last time I ate was the previous evening.
Hugh picked his stick out of the pot and wrote something.
Old town.
"There used to be a town there?"
He nodded with the excitement of someone rarely understood.
"So, possible source of food," I continued. "How do you know Scotland so well? You can't possibly have grown up all over the country."
Ireland, he wrote.
"You must know this makes no sense," I chuckled.
In response, Hugh mimicked reading in a book, possibly a map, and then rested his hand on his chin with a hilarious thinking expression.
"Yes, I do realise books exist, thank you, but your knowledge is way more practical," I said, still laughing.
He shook his head.
Schoolmaster, he wrote.
"Mister Munro, the teacher! I wouldn't have guessed!"
He nodded and took the porridge away from the fire. I had our spoons in my hand and gave him one, greedily digging in. The taste was that of absolutely nothing, but it was filling.
Hugh underlined the word Master again and pretended to straighten his tie, but his face was as amused as mine. Finally he took a spoonful.
I slept at least five hours that night, but woke up feeling even more tired. My nightmares never made sense, and they continued this way of action tonight, placing Frank and Faith chasing me, skin falling off their body, their voice getting more and more desperate as they scream for me to run away, then yell at me for abandoning them. I think Lamb was there at some point, but he wasn't even shaped like a human. I felt his presence, and it would've been comforting if he hadn't been trying to kill Frank.
Then I was back on my feet, following Hugh and the sounds that he made, trying to find anything that could be eaten. Possibly a town.

It was strange for one to feel lonely in a community, when it was so rare to even have a living friend these days.
He wasn't lonely, Jamie reasoned with himself. Only… yearning. For what, it was impossible to say. For his parents and brother to be alive again? For the world to make sense? For the freedom to leave for just a few days, to not have twenty people depending on him? For a friend who wasn't related to him?
When lying in his bed, tired to the bone but unable to sleep, Jamie couldn't lie to himself. He was yearning for Claire.

Chapter Text

Hugh might be my only friend, but he was the most stupid man alive, and luckily I did end up telling him that.
We were walking towards the town, his very being noisy and dangling and ringing and grunting, when we met a group of Others.
Victims, I would call them if the slang hadn't caught up with me. I called them patients when they had hope. And before, they were called people.
The name did hold some sense. They had a strong sense of otherness to them, a sense of something wrong, not quite human. I knew the symptoms better than most, of course. Eyes inflating and eventually falling off, followed by the teeth. Fat and muscle burning up rapidly, leaving the body bare and skeleton-like, aside from lumps of oozing liquid that was probably the body's attempt at self defense. Their remaining senses seemed to sharpen, which made sense from a medical point of view but made them more terrifying from a Claire point of view. Hungry, blind people, burning up with cursed fever, looking to infect and kill. Well, no one could be sure what they were looking for. The pain they were in was too immense to leave them with any sort of sanity.
The pressing matter at hand was five Others heading our way. I was unarmed, and to my knowledge so was Hugh, but in the face of my panic the bastard smiled and winked.
The Others progressed slowly toward us and Hugh crouched down. What was he doing, bowing? Due to lack of a better idea I crouched near him, eliciting a giggle. Giggle!
He rose up and it became clear he was just looking through his boot - I should've known, it was Hugh after all - and was now pleased to hold a big, sharp-looking knife. With a crooked grin and a knife, Hugh Munro charged at the five Others as fast as his uneven legs could carry him. I had no choice but to pick up a sharp rock and join him.
Others have no fear. I could swear one of them smiled when it heard Hugh approaching. He targeted this one first with almost cruel precision, slicing a straight line through the face, quick stab at the neck and a kick to the ground. By the time the Other fell I was by his side and an Other was at mine, screaming, blindly searching for a place to stick it's nails and finding my arm. I bit my tongue, but a shocked little scream escaped my mouth still. The sound directed more of them towards me and I tried to lift my rock, but the nails were still digging into my flesh, the hand's grip on me strong enough that I worried my hand would break. I kicked the Other frantically and felt a splatter of something warm as blood, thick and crimson, hit my face. It took me a second to register that it was the Other's blood, not mine, as it's grip on me loosened. Hugh stood behind him with a knife, his smile ecstatic. I nodded at him and lifted the rock on the Other behind me, bringing it down as hard as I could. I heard a satisfying crack - satisfying? What's wrong with you, Beauchamp? - and it fell down. Looking around, I saw Hugh has already taken care of the other two.
As I relaxed I noticed how heavy my breath was, and the pain I was in. My arm was stinging more than painful and I could move it but not without tears welling up in my eyes. This was a good sign, it wasn't broken. My upper hip took a beating and would probably bruise, and so did my left shoulder, but no blood was drawn. I quickly scanned Hugh, who seemed to be in good shape, cleaning his knife on the grass.
"Are you okay?" I asked. He nodded confidently.
"Good… good work with the sword out there. Knife, I mean." He laughed and mimed drawing a broadsword longer than himself, swinging it in the air in a large circle. I wasn't very amused.
"You are a madman and an idiot. Why do you make so much noise all the time? This is how they found us! Are you hurt? Did you get a scratch? I don't even know if you're immune - "
He stopped my ramblings with a relaxing arm on my shoulder and nodded solemnly.
"Well. Good," I said, the anger suddenly leaving me.
He made a worried face and then shook his head. Don't worry.
"But of course I worry! You're my friend, Hugh! You could've died on me!"
He shook his head again and mockingly kissed his biceps.
"You are stronger than you look, I'll give you that."
His mouth almost split in two with a smile, pleased with himself.
I still checked him up and down for scratches and any other damages, cleaning what I could find. I will not let the fool die on me. After that I cleaned and bandaged my arm, and he continued leading us to the town - a bit more quietly, I noticed, pleased.

"I want to go hunting with Murtagh, will ya keep an eye on all of them for a few days?"
"A few days? Ye're mad, Jamie. We're not well protected wi' just Angus and Rupert and their nonsense. Ye'll stay here, at least until your wee nephew comes."
There was no arguing with his sister, and Jenny was right. As much as Jamie wanted freedom to roam around, he was responsible for his community - his clan, as he referred to them in his head. Jenny, Ian and the bairn - he didn't dare think about the bairn, so loved and so fragile - and then his godfather Murtagh, Angus and Rupert, and the dearest Mrs Fitz with all that was left of her family. They were a merry bunch, as much as possible in these times. Growing crops and livestock, running out to nearby towns and villages to scavenge for medicines and anything else they could find, hunting. Living together, gathering around the campfire at night, sharing stories about before the end of the world. He would do anything to keep them safe, he just hoped they could keep themselves safe for just a few days.
"Just to Inverness then? We'll be quick, take the horses," he tried again.
"Leave tomorrow at first light and be back before sunset," Jenny said, "or by God, James Fraser, I will find you there, bairn and all, and kill you myself."
"Just so you have an easier time naming it?" He joked.
Jenny swatted his arm. "Ya fool, if ya cross me I'm naming it Brian William Ellen and ye'll be all out of options," she said with a grin. "Or if ye cross me more, I'll call her Laoghaire," she said, both erupting with laughter.
"Poor lass!" He replied.
"Aye, be back on time then," she said.
For the rest of the day, Jamie tended to his chores, excitement building up in his muscles. He'll be outside. Free to roam, on a horse back, and to finally see anything but the big stone building that was their home. He didn't hate it, no - but being away!
Laoghaire sat by him at dinner time and he didn't even notice, busy talking to Murtagh on his other side about going to the warehouse behind the pharmacy first and not to the shop itself. He was startled when he felt her lips on his cheek.
It was just a few seconds, maybe less. Jamie resisted the urge to wipe it off.
"What was that about?"
Laoghaire smiled, her cheeks flushed in deep crimson.
"I heard ye were going out tomorrow," she explained. "Sea, just something fer good luck!"
He almost grimaced, and he would if Jenny hadn't scolded him on the matter just yesterday. Be nice to the lass, she's young and impressionable, it will blow over once the community finds more men. But Laoghaire wasn't an innocent lass - she was a relentless predator, chasing him down anywhere he went. Aye, tomorrow would be a good escape from her, most of all.
"Thank ye, lassie," he said and ruffled her hair. Here, feel like a bairn, he thought. Leave me alone.
Unfortunately, it seemed that Laoghaire was practically gleaming at the attention. She planted another kiss on his cheek before he had a chance to prevent it, and then cheerfully left him to squeal the whole story to her mother.
Aye. He was looking forward to not hear those squeals.

Chapter Text

The nurses and I were the only people to ever meet Faith. Not Frank, not her real father. The thought broke my heart.
I couldn't bring myself to tell Hugh about my daughter. A whole human who was mine, made of me. The plans Frank and I made to keep her safe. How for nine months, I didn't feel lonely even for one second. The unbearable loneliness that followed.
Perfect couldn't describe Faith. She clearly wasn't - she didn't survive. Everything in her body was crooked and wrong. And yet, when I held her for the first and last moment of her life, she opened her eyes and looked at me. Clear, blue eyes, like how a river would look without pollution. I could swear she smiled at me.
She was a toddler in my nightmares. Chubby, short legs. Red curls on her head, and those big blue eyes. I wonder what she would look like now - she would've been a year old. Would she walk? What would her first word be?
Would she have survived the plague?
No. Probably not.
Still, when we were in Inverness, I stopped at the baby clothes store and felt the soft dresses and shirts. I took one of the shirts with me, stuffed into my bag. A tiny shirt, newborn size. It was white and had a drawing of a horse on it. She would've loved horses if she was anything like her father.
Hugh, thankfully, didn't ask any questions.

Her father was all I could think about now. Tall, broad and strong. He would've protected us, I knew it. Wouldn't let anything harm me or his daughter. I wished I could tell him all about her. To have him next to me in the horrible hours of the night, to be comforted by his warmth. To hear his laugh, climbing all the way from the bottom of his belly, shaking his entire body.
It was my first tour in China - before the plague, even, just wounded soldiers at the time - when I met him. He was held prisoner for two days, and during that time they almost killed him - flogged every inch of his back. I tended to him, and although I had a husband and he was the most Catholic man I've ever met - a virgin at 23, and looking like he did! - we had bonded. More than that. We made Faith.
I had to focus to comb through whatever people didn't loot from the pharmacy. I stocked out on tampons and grabbed a box of condoms - the thought of my Scot warrior crossing my mind - and then went to replenish my medical case with bandages, iodine and whatever antibiotics and painkillers I could find, which was less than I hoped for but more than I expected.
Hugh met me outside with shopping bags - the supermarket logo and all.
"Normal shopping trip?" I asked, amused. He nodded and opened up the bags to divide them between our bags, but one of his hands was still behind his back.
"Hugh? What is it? If you picked up a pet, I swear to god - " I came to a halt at the sight. Hugh held a baseball bat with nails and other shards stuck in it, sharp side out. A guitar strap was nailed to the top and bottom of the weapon.
"For me?" I said, and felt tears rising to my eyes. He cared. He wanted me to feel safe.
Hugh nodded and pretended to nail the sharp nails to the bat.
"You made it yourself?"
He nodded and mentioned me to get on my knees. Confused, I did. Hugh placed the bat on each of my shoulders in turn, mumbling incomprehensibly.
"Am I Dame Claire now, my lord?" I asked and curtsied him mockingly as I rose. He presented me with the bat and I slinged it over my back. It's weight felt comforting.
He didn't bring too much food. All he could find, I guess. Almost a year after the plague, fresh food was out of the question, and almost anything else was looted already. He found some lentils and matza flour, whatever that is, plus some spices to add to our porridge. I knew I had to be on the lookout and forage for us.
There was a spring in my step when we left Inverness and headed north. We had food, a weapon and a gift for Faith.

Stepping through the baby clothes store, Jamie felt a presence. Almost a smell. It calmed him, thought he should probably be vigilant, that was what Jenny would say. But he felt safe in the store.
"Do ye feel anything strange about here?" He asked his trusted companion.
"Only how long it's taking ye to choose a wee outfit, tisna yer wedding night," the older man grunted. He picked up a few clothing items in a few sizes and tossed them in his bag to show his indifference.
"It's a gift for the bairn, Murtagh! Put yer heed to it please."
"The bairn wilna remember," Murtagh justified himself. "Tis about the ghost ye think you saw."
Jamie didn't grace his godfather with an answer. The man was already too proud of himself.
"Why don't ye give that wee Laoghaire a chance?" He asked when they returned to the horses.
"Why would ye bring her up? I thought this was a day off," Jamie quickly deflected.
Murtagh shrugged. "She likes ye. Who knows how many other lasses are alive? Ye owe it to humankind to breed, ye ken."
"Marry her yersef then."
"I canna, she loves ye too much," Murtagh patted him on the back.
"I've promised myself te someone," Jamie reminded him.
"Aye, yer ghost, and she's most likely deed," Murtagh sounded almost sympathetic. "Ye have to face the facts, lad."
Jamie shook his head and picked up a diaper cover with flowers. His Claire would've liked it.
The thought of having a bairn with her… a future…
They went through some old houses to gather bedding, towels and any evidence of survivors, but Jamie's actions were automatic. His mind had him in that camp in China when she heard that her bastard husband - was it Frank? - was cheating on her. Jamie's chest puffed up with pride when he learned that it was him she came to when she needed to cry.
The moment he heard what that fool had done, he rose from his bed and took hold of the nearest sharp object he could find - a wee scalpel.
"I'll kill him for ye, Claire, I swear it - "
This made her laugh through her hysterical tears.
"Please don't, Fraser, your back hasn't healed yet and he's in England!" She took his scalpel. Her fingers brushed against his when she did, and he could feel a warm tingle running through his entire arm.
"He's a fool, having a lass like ye and looking around." Jamie didn't mean to sound so sincere, but he believed it with his whole heart. Claire wasn't even his and he didn't manage to think about any of the other lasses he met. How could he, when she was in his thoughts, so radiant and beautiful?
She seemed affected by their brief touch as well, as her cheeks were flushed a beautiful shade of pink and she cleared her throat before speaking again.
"It is a war," she justified. "He doesn't know if he'll ever see me again."
"Aye, a war it is," Jamie repeated.
Without further warning, she leaned over and planted her warm lips on his.
If a man has ever felt as great as Jamie felt at that moment, it must've been Frank, because nothing in his life even came close to what it felt like to have Claire kiss him. Her lips, warm and salty from the tears, melding with his, creating new sensations. Her trembling hand brushing the hair off his face then lingering to run through his curls. His hands, instinctively drawn to her body, pulling her close.
And then it was over. Flush and breathing heavily, his angel rose from her chair and sent a hand to her lips.
"We can't, not here," she mumbled, mostly to herself.
"Sassenach, I'm sorry fer - "
"It's alright Jamie. But you're a patient - I'm married - this can't - I can't. I'm so sorry."
And with that, she left.

A high pitched scream brought him back to his senses. He shared a knowing look with Murtagh and they rode to the direction it came from. A few moments later they heard it again, closer. Jamie and Murtagh dismounted in unison and snuck towards the house it came from, hands on the hilts of their swords.
Jamie kicked down the door unceremoniously. The scene inside made him grip the hilt stronger. Every piece of furniture was upturned, the rug torn and stained with blood.
Another scream was heard.
"Please! Help me!"
Rushing towards it, Jamie found a boy no older than ten standing on a bed, using a large stick to fight off three Others. His hand was badly wounded and he looked at Jamie with pure terror in his eyes.
Without a word, Jamie drew his sword and took down an Other, Murtagh following his lead. Within a few moments, the child was safe.
"Who are you?" The child asked, and Jamie noticed a slight french accent.
"I'm James and this is Murtagh," he answered. "And you?"
"Claudel," the boy replied, his voice holding some defiance.
"Well that's no a verra manly name," Jamie said before he could hold his tongue. "Would ye like a new one?"
The boy shrugged. "No one's even called me in a year, what does it matter?"
Jamie's eyes widened. "You've been out here by yerself? Since the plague?"
The boy nodded, somewhat proudly.
"Would ye like to come wi' us? We have a wee farm a few hours ride north… we can look after ye, ken." Jamie found himself looking at Murtagh for confirmation, and the older man nodded.
"I'll come," the boy said after a short consideration.
"Well, give him a name then," Murtagh said, poking Jamie in the ribs with his elbow. The bastard was amused again.
"How would ye like Fergus?" Jamie asked nevertheless.
"Tis a braw name," Murtagh supplied.
The boy scrunched his dark eyebrows in thought once more. His lips moved, tasting the new name.
"I'll take it," he said finally. "Are we leaving then?"
Fergus didn't have any experience with horseback riding, and he clung to Jamie like he was a lifeboat during the journey back to Lallybroch. Jamie found that he didn't mind.
They arrived by the late evening, and Jamie had to dismount his horse quickly once more. He heard his sister scream.

Chapter Text

They weren't Others.
Even as Jamie and Murtagh ran, swords drawn and hearts pumping, he couldn't believe it. Even when his sword threatened to stab one of them into an early grave.
Ten men, skinny and ragged and dressed in red, stood in the front yard of the main house. One had a pistol directed at Jenny; another was aiming a knife at Ian; one had knocked mrs. Fitz and was now trying to tear Laoghaire's shirt, while his friend held a kitchen knife to her face.
"Stop this if ye care fer yer life," Jamie said, using his most threatening voice. It wasn't so much by itself, but he had the sword to accompany it. "What is it that ye want?"
The man holding the pistol to his sister stared him down.
"Just your women and food," he said smugly. British. What the hell was he doing here?
"We will grant you protection in exchange," added the man threatening Ian.
"Now be a good boy and drop your sword," said the first man. He must've detected the change in Jamie's composition as he assessed the situation. There was no way he could save them all.
"Please, Jamie! Don't let them hurt me!" Laoghaire cried. The man next to her responded with a harsh slap across her face, sending even more tears down the path of her cheeks.
"Put down the sword, lad," Murtagh whispered. His voice shivered.
There was a long stretch of silence before the metallic clunck of swords hitting the ground rung through the yard.
"Good boy," said the man, making Jamie's blood boil. "Now, bring me your crops."
Murtagh nodded and Jamie took a long, fortifying breath.
"Ye'll no hurt the lasses while I'm gone?" He asked. Not that he had any way of making them.
"I'm giving you my word as a redcoat."
That didn't mean anything to Jamie, but he trusted Murtagh to get involved if necessary. Slowly, he approached the barn.
Fergus was waiting in there, holding the horses, his face so white he could've been an Other himself.
"Shh, lad," Jamie whispered, though mostly to himself. "How's yer aim?"
Fergus nodded. "Good," he clarified.
Jamie reached up to a hidden shelf above his horse's stable and returned with two simple pistols.
"Creep closer after me," he instructed the lad. "When you hear me make a big grunt, shoot one of the men in red, aye? Try not to hurt anyone else."
The boy nodded and took the pistol, his hand shaking. Jamie lifted two bags of fresh carrots and hid the pistol inside one of them. Slowly, he made his way back to the yard, making sure to make enough noise to draw all attention from Fergus.
"Glad you didn't abandon us, took you long enough," the leader of the redcoats commented.
"Aye, am sorry, a bit heavy te carry - " he put down the bags and grunted as loudly as he could. Not even a second later, a gunshot sounded.
He drew his own pistol from the bag before the redcoats could compose themselves and shot the leading man. Murtagh already had a sword in hand, and he used it to disarm the man holding Ian.
"Jenny, run!" Jamie shouted. His sister, for once, didn't argue, and disappeared inside the house. The man holding Laoghaire held to her, terrified, the edge of his knife grazing on her neck, drawing a red line. Jamie shot again at the man who tried to rip the lass's shirt off and went to grab his sword when another shot pierced the air. It was a moment before Jamie noticed he was the target.
He didn't have time to be wounded. Murtagh was fighting two other men and Fergus was running to help him, pistol in shaking hand. Jamie lifted his sword, bit his lip and swung it over the man who held Laoghaire, dislodging his grip. He cut the man again and rushed towards two more only to see them run for their lives and deciding is should be enough at the moment.
A tall man with a long, brown ponytail stood over Fergus, his pistol directed to blow the boy's guts. Stumbling, Jamie raised his sword at the man. He didn't manage more than a scratch, but it was enough to make the man move away so that Ian would throw a knife cleanly to his neck.
The world seemed to slow down as Jamie looked to the leader, the man who must've shot him. The man was pale and trembling from blood loss, but he managed to sit up and take aim again - directly between Jamie's eyes.
All Jamie could manage was to dive to the floor as he heard two gunshots. Looking up, he saw the man with the smoking gun with a new hole in his head, his expression terrified yet empty. Another look discovered Jenny holding the other pistol.
He managed to mumble something unclear and tried to rise before the world turned black.

"I know he's bad, Joe, but don't I owe it to myself to have better morals?"
Joe, my most trusted friend since medical school, called me after he heard the news of Frank and seemed very focused on Jamie instead.
"You don't, Claire. He's in the comfort of your home, having tea with the queen and discussing strategy while you're in fucking China in a tent, and he's the one who couldn't help himself? I mean, he could've taken a long relaxing bath and watched some porn and be done with it! It's you who should be getting a free pass, Lady Jane, not this bastard."
Joe could always make me smile, but I knew this time he was trying to convince me, and I couldn't fall in his trap.
"I'm not going to sleep with a patient, Joe. You of all people should know how inappropriate that is!"
"Well, what's the worst they could do to you if they catch you, Lady Jane? You are already in a tent in China."
He had a point.
It wouldn't be this hard if I hadn't wanted Jamie more than I wanted anything. I would trade a hot bath and ten hours of sleep to have him. In my situation, that meant a lot.
"I guess if someone else was in charge of him," I tried to justify my thoughts. No, Beauchamp! Sleeping with a patient is wrong!
But I couldn't help it if kissing him felt so incredibly right.
"Just talk to him about it," Joe continued to encourage my darkest thoughts. "If he doesn't mind, it can't be that bad, can it?"
"You do have a point, Joe. Listen, can I call you later?"
"And go talk to your man? Yes please. Tell me how it went!" Joe ended the call before I had a chance to tell him off for making assumptions. I could be preparing for surgery, or getting to the top of the line at the mess hall for all he knew!
I was, of course, going to talk to Jamie.

"So, I was thinking - and you don't have to say yes - "
He stopped me with a brief kiss.
"Sassenach, ye've talked for ten minutes about something we both agree upon," he said, his smile very pleased with himself. "Ye ken I want ye. I want ye so much I can scarcely breathe. I dinna mind about proper, lass. Not when it stands between me and you."
I sighed in relief and my hand, with a mind of it's own, went to cup the line of his jaw. His own hand, larger and more callused, pulled me to him as our lips met and I prayed they would never have to part.

Chapter Text

"We're not like Timon and Pumbaa!" Angus's voice rattled the trees and scared the nearby game.
"Oh and why not, when ye're so wee?" Rupert gave up on catching another deer in favour of conversation with his friend, who could not keep quiet to save his life.
"That Timon is just a wee twink! A wee bug can take him in a fight! Maybe ye're Timon, eh?" The shorter man jabbed his elbow at Rupert's ribs - as high as he could go, Rupert thought, amused.
They had been friends for as long as Rupert could remember. He was, what, twenty two now? And in all that time he hasn't grown bored by the wee rascal?
Rupert knew there was more to it, of course. His eyes couldn't leave Angus's ever since they hit puberty and Angus grew a magnificent pair of biceps and a beard to frame his face so nicely. It was never really about the looks, but Rupert really couldn't justify to himself falling for a man whose main joy in life was drinking, getting into brawls and telling crude jokes, not necessarily in that order. He had good sides, of course, otherwise they wouldn't stay friends for as long as they did. Always supportive, ready to punch every brute Rupert might face and then cheer him up with jokes or booze or little poems he improvised. Surprisingly astute, he always knew what was the real problem Rupert was facing and could tell when he was hiding something. And his wide grins with two missing teeth that solve every problem by themselves.
He was, however, straight. He would take Rupert as his wingman, because he knew he wouldn't take the lassies to himself, and although it broke Rupert's heart, after twenty years of friendship he resigned himself to stay his friend.
"We're Gimli and Legolas then," Rupert offered.
"What, gay?"
Rupert felt his cheeks heat a little. Angus knew, of course - he was the one to tell Rupert, if anything - but Rupert still didn't like to discuss his orientation with the straight subject of his affections.
"Only me, ye like the lassies, remember?" He teased.
"Wait, ye thought I'm straight?"
Angus caught him by surprise.
"What - what d'ye mean? Of course you are! Took me to hit on lasses for ye and all!"
Angus laughed as if Rupert had said anything funny.
"Yer skull is as thick as yer belly, ye coot," he said, eyes still glinting. "A man can like both, ye ken."
"So… Ye like men?"
Angus nodded.
"I'm a man."
"I ken that, ye daft - " Rupert didn't let him reach the end of the sentence. Decades of pining were burning him up, and before he could think anything against it, he leaned over and squeezed his lips to Angus's.
Absolute bliss. Finally, Rupert felt like he understood all the songs and stories telling him about time stopping and fireworks going off in his head when he kissed someone he really liked. His body was drawn to Angus and the deer he was carrying dropped to the floor as he lifted the wee man to straddle his hips. Angus, to his relief, kissed with the same passion, hands planted on the back of Rupert's neck, tying him close.
They had to break off for some air.
"Ah Dhia," Angus mumbled against his chest. "Ye do like me then."
Rupert put him down, his face burning red.
"Ye… ye reek like an animal," he tried. In response, Angus kissed him again.

We didn't expect to see people. I've grown accustomed to the calm pace Hugh and I have created - he cooked porridge in the morning and lentils in the evening, and at noon we had fruit if I could find any. We carried light, cheerful conversations, based mostly on his miming and my guessing, which was improving with every passing day. My arm swelled a little, but he was proficient enough to change the bandages for me, and I was thankfull not to have to do it with my left hand.
In the last two days, however, Hugh seemed to have a renewed sense of purpose. It was as if he picked up a scent in Inverness and was following it, his walking pace faster, his brakes fewer. I wasn't one to prod the subject and I didn't complain, just followed my newest friend.
Three days after Inverness, in a forest, we heard voices speaking. The language was English, albeit with a Scottish accent, so we knew they weren't Others. Hugh nodded to me, his smile bright, and we followed the sounds.
They were two men, one short and the other tall and large. They seemed at ease with each other, long time friends I presumed, and they were arguing like a married couple.
"Why not tell them? I think ye're ashamed of me, that's all - " the shorter man started.
"Because if we werena out here that day Jamie wouldna get a bullet in him, and I dinna want them te ken we had fun!"
Couldn't be.
I couldn't help myself.
"Excuse me, are you talking about James Fraser?"
All eyes turned to me. The shorter man cursed in gallic. Even Hugh seemed surprised.
"Do ye ken James Fraser?" The taller one asked.
"Dinna talk te her, ye clothheid, she's a witch," the shorter man tried to mumble under his breath, but I could hear him easily.
"I do know him. At least, I did. Did you say he was shot?" Suddenly my well structured dream of finding the only man I truly loved seemed to fall as hard as it had risen when I heard his name. Please, don't let him be dead.
"Aye, three days ago. Still breathing," the larger man supplied.
"Could you take me to him? I'm a surgeon," I explained. Hugh was still looking at me with a wide eyed stare.
"What, do you know him or something?"
Hugh nodded so strongly his head would fall off if it wasn't connected to a wide neck.
I waited another second, the thought of Jamie urging me to move, run to him instead. Finally, Hugh explained. He pointed to his mouth and then crossed his wrists as if they were tied and broke them free.
"Jamie was your friend who rescued you?"
Hugh nodded.
"Well now we both have to hurry. Could you please take us - "
Only now did I notice the two men were having an argument of their own, the conclusion of which - thanks to the tall man - was that a witch doctor was better than no doctor at all.
"Aye, we'll take ye, tisna far," he said. "I'm Rupert and the wee monkey is Angus," he added.
"Claire and Hugh. Let's go."

The blur seemed to lift every now and again, though not enough for Jamie to understand where he was or what was happening. He did figure out he was alive - being dead couldn't have hurt so bad.
All kinds of people visited him. Mrs Fitz came by to change his bandages and feed him some broth. Ian sat by him at night, dosing off but trying to tell him funny stories from their past, and later when he was sure Jamie was asleep, told him how afraid he was to become a father. Jenny came to make noise and tearfully apologize to him for not getting involved earlier.
And then there was Claire. Her low, calming voice; her soft hands on his wounds, healing him.
"Sassenach?" He managed, though he didn't yet have the courage to open his eyes, fearing this was the dream greeting him to the gates of the afterlife.
"Ye're awake!"
Not Claire. Worse.
"Oh, my Jamie, we were so worrit! Never get shot fer me again, do ye hear me?"
Laoghaire. Jamie released a grunt. It could be excused, given his situation.
"Why were ye talking about a Sassenach?" She asked.
"Just a dream," he managed. "Let me sleep."
Luckily it seemed to be enough. Jamie didn't have it in him to worry about how she called him 'my Jamie' - he would deal with it later. After he slept.

"Take me to him!" I didn't manage any further explanation. Rupert described Jamie's wound to me and I knew he would probably be in critical condition right now, if not worse.
"She's a doctor," the kind man supplied for the confused onlookers. He led me inside a big, old stone house, up a flight of stairs, to my love.
I couldn't help but gasp. He was beautiful as always, but in a very bad condition. His entire shoulder was red and warm to the touch, and I could still see shards from the bullet stuck in his flesh.
"I need fresh bandages!" I cried to whomever might help me. Angus rushed to it, along with a motherly woman. Another woman, young and blonde, stared at me so hard she must've thought her gaze alone could paralyse me.
"Who do ye think ye are? Walking right in as if ye own the place, ordering us around? We don't even ken ye're a real doctor! Fer all I ken ye're just here te steal my Jamie!"
Her Jamie. Of course he would've moved on. How could I expect him to wait for me, when I was most likely dead?
I couldn't let the blonde girl distract me. Hugh was by my side, holding the medical case open for me.
"Thanks," I mumbled and took out some iodine and long tweezers.
The process of excavating the bullet shards and disinfecting the wound was long and had to be painful, but Jamie hardly stirred, which worried me. He must've been given a sedative, no one is that good at sleeping.
It was only after his shoulder was cleaned and dressed, and I was staring shamelessly at the exposed form of his abs, that he seemed to wake.
I felt like my heart would burst. I never imagined I would hear that sound again, but there it was, causing knots deep and low in my belly.
"I'm here, Jamie," I replied. Tears filled my eyes and against better judgement - the man was taken and mostly unconscious, Beauchamp! - I gently moved coils of red hair from his sweaty forehead.
"Ye're real?" He asked. "Didn't want te open my eyes and see ye were gone, but it hurt too much te be a dream," he explained.
I gripped his hand in mine, trying to assure him of my honesty. "I am here, Jamie."

Chapter Text

Claire was there.
She was real.
He could smell her - it wasn't great, he had to admit, as she didn't stop to shower since arriving and tending to his wounds - but it was her.
He could see her, though in his dreams he often could. But her hair was longer now, so it had to be real.
And he could touch her. At least, he thought he could.
He was somehow back in his bed, a towel underneath him preventing any gunk and blood from ruining the mattress. He felt a bit better, could hold himself awake for longer, although he was still weak and it was freezing cold and the shoulder hurt something awful.
She was sitting on a chair at his bedside, asleep. Her neck was tilted to the side to try and use the chair as a pillow, and she held her knees to her chest to keep them from the floor. Her beautiful, wild curls must've been tied up at some point, but they were practically free now, falling on her face and shoulders, hiding the wall behind her from view. She seemed calm - angelic even, her breath making her chest rise and fall softly. His brown haired lass, here next to him.
His muscles felt like they were made of lead, so it took some effort, but he lifted his better arm and brushed a curl that tickled her nose out of the way. The curl was dry and dirty, but it responded to his touch and moved.
She really was here.
She stirred and he quickly returned his arm to his side.
"Jamie? Are you awake?"
He smiled at her. "Good morning, Sassenach."
She shook her head to clear off the echoes of sleep.
"What - how are you feeling?"
He couldn't help but laugh. She was disoriented and clearly still very tired, and yet tried to care for him, which only made her seem like a child out of bed.
"What?" She asked, her hands absently looking for her medical case. She stabbed her finger on her menacing weapon - a baseball bat with all kinds of nails and sharp things attached to it - and brought it to her mouth to suck on it.
What he wouldn't give to be that finger.
"Mo Chridhe," he said, the nickname rolling naturally from his mouth as if he never stopped saying it, "ye're still tired from treating me. Come te bed and get some proper sleep, please?"
He immediately regretted offering, although there was nothing he wanted more. What if she felt differently now? Her face certainly opened up with surprise, which meant it wasn't as natural to her as it was to him.
"I… I don't see how that would be very proper, seeing as you have a girlfriend," she said, her last word more quiet than a whisper.
"Girlfriend?" His voice was loud enough for both of them. "I dinna have - where did ya get this foolish notion?" But as he finished speaking, he realised the answer himself.
"Laoghaire," he said.
"Is that the blonde girl who looks ten years younger than you? I didn't mean to judge," she quickly added.
"Laoghaire isna my girlfriend," he clarified.
"But you don't have a ring, so she's not your wife - "
"She's no my anything," his tone rose a bit, frustrated. "She's just a lass who decided we belong together, and I canna agree, because I changed her diaper once and because she isna you!"
He felt himself blush. He didn't mean to tell Claire that, at least not so soon. She should've had time to think he was hard to get and not already hers.
He was relieved to see her smile and blush just as bright.
"So… no girlfriend?" She asked again.
"No girlfriend," he confirmed.
"I'm coming to bed," she declared. She still found her medical case, made him swallow something to break the fever and changed his bandages, but after that she climbed over him and snuggled on his good shoulder.
"I missed you, James Fraser," she mumbled. Jamie felt his heart swell. How he longed to hear her say his name, to feel her lying next to him, to play with her hair as he did now.
"I missed you too, Sassenach."

"I kent I recognized ye! Ye're the witch from the plague!"
The high pitched voice caused us both to leave the blessed realm of sleep - both! Because we slept cuddled in his bed! Me and Jamie Fraser, in the same bed!
I tried to cuddle further into Jamie, extend the bliss we had in sleep, but the source of the voice now used projectiles, and I knew sleep was over when I felt something hit my face and was forced to open my eyes to the sunlit room. She stood over the bed, Hugh and Rupert behind her sporting apologetic looks, other family members - I spotted Angus, the pregnant sister and the matron who brought me bandages last night - standing by the door, their expressions ranging from curious to condemning.
The next thing I noticed was the object she threw at me - an old scientific journal detailing my own research, and on the cover our group, smiling and proud.
My voice was still dry and cracked with sleep when I responded.
"Do I get to explain?"
"Ye better," the blonde urged me.
"Wait, Hugh is here?" Jamie interrupted.
"Not the time, brother," the sister cut him short. "Ye bedded the lass who killed our parents. She has te talk first."
"Claire didna - you'll no talk te her like that - "
Jamie's face was heating up and he tried to sit up, so I had to pat him back down.
"It's fine, Jamie," I said.
It was obviously not fine. I tried so hard to run from this part of my history - I married Frank so I could take his name - and yet it continued to haunt me at the most inconvenient times.
Hugh gave me an encouraging nod. This was enough to fortify me. He didn't even hear my explanation, but he trusted me.
Well. That and Jamie's arm around me.
"I graduated from medical school in 2020," I started. I've only told this story once - to Jamie.
"As you might remember, the Corona virus was all the rage." Laoghaire probably doesn't remember, I thought. She was probably four.
"So I did my internship in immunology. That's studying vaccinations. I joined a research group," I lifted the journal showing our faces, "that tried to create a protein that could contain all kinds of genetic material and had high reception rates in humans… basically a master vaccine. To be able to develop a vaccine to a new disease within a month. And we discovered it could do all kinds of great things - we cured celiacs in over five thousand cases, and we were trying to prove that the protein could be used to prevent cancer…" the confused faces around me told me it was time to stop talking science - although I really tried to use simple words. It did feel good to talk about the positive side of my life's work, but I was being persecuted for witchcraft at the moment.
"Anyway, this was during the war. One day a group of officers waltzes into our lab, and they say how impressed they were with our work, but that they're now taking over. It was a state of national emergency, I remind you, so we couldn't say no."
Jamie squeezed my hand and gave me a tiny peck on the elbow. Laoghaire practically growled.
"I understood by then that they were trying to make a biological weapon, and our research was the perfect grounds for that. It was designed to take a biological charge into the cells and have around two percent rejection rate - we call that immunity rate now. But we were making a cure, not an illness.
They offered very comfortable salaries for anyone who would continue the research for them. I refused. I spent seven years learning medicine to help people, not to hurt them, even if they were my country's enemies. So I enlisted, retrained as a surgeon and spent the war saving as many people as I could. I knew it would never make up for what they did with my research… I lost my daughter to the devil of my own creation."
I stopped there, as I felt tears prickling in my eyes, and I was not ready to let Laoghaire see me cry.
My story did seem to have at least some influence. The pregnant sister was pale as a wall, her hand on her stretched belly - I would tell her later that Faith died for unrelated reasons. The matron wiped her eyes on the corner of her apron. Angus was openly sobbing, and he moved to hold Rupert's hand - the other man seemed to have frozen in terror. Hugh rushed to my side to hold my hand and I smiled at him.
Laoghaire didn't even blink.
"She's lying," she said.
"She's not," I heard Jamie's voice but it was faint, shivering.
God. He shouldn't have found out about Faith like this.
I turned to him, forgetting everyone else in the room. He was pale, his deep blue eyes welling with tears.
"Our - our daughter?" He managed to mutter.
I hugged him, falling onto him where he lay. Only then, with him sobbing under me, I broke out in tears as well.
"I'm so sorry Jamie - I wish you could see her… she had your hair and the most beautiful blue eyes…"
He just held me to him and mumbled something in gallic.
"She's lying. Look, she's trying te control him! She's trying te take him to herself!"
"That's enough, lass," I heard a harsh voice. I looked up to see Murtagh almost pulling Laoghaire away. "Ye've done enough damage."
I had to thank him later.
Quickly, the room emptied, leaving only Jamie and me.
"Did… did she die peacefully? She didna suffer?" He asked, and I could see how much every word pained him.
"She never lived," I said. We collected each other closer into our embrace.
"She was mine?"
"Yes. Ours. I'm so sorry - "
He stopped me.
"Sassenach. Ye have nothing te be sorry fer. I'm sorry - I should've been there with ye, te hold ye and comfort ye… I canna believe what ye went through."
I placed a careful kiss on his forehead.
"You're here now."
"Ye shouldn't have had te go through this alone."
"I'm not alone now," I reminded him.
"And ye'll never be again. Not while I live and breathe, mo chridhe."
He looked into my eyes, the blue pools of his irises surrounded with red from the salt, drilling into my soul. Finally, after what felt like ten minutes, he leaned forward and our lips met.

Chapter Text

"Right, that went on fer long enough."
We both grunted and I felt his chest vibrate underneath me. I had to disagree with the matron who barged into the room. There was no time long enough for me to cuddle and kiss Jamie, fall asleep together and tell each other of the things we missed since parting in the military airport in China.
"Mrs Fitz, please, we havna seen eachother in almost two years," Jamie pleaded, hiding his head under a pillow.
"Aye, and ye havna eaten since the mistress arrived two days ago," Mrs Fitz argued back. "Come now, lass. Shower, clean clothes, some breakfast and I'll have ye right back in his arms."
I smiled thankfully back to her. To be honest, I completely forgot about food - about anything that wasn't Jamie, for that matter - but now that she's mentioned it, being clean and fed sounded almost as blissful as being in his arms. Even if it didn't, she didn't seem like a woman easily convinced.
I rose slowly from the bed and gave Jamie a peck on the cheek to remember me by. He tried to object and pull me back, but one look from Mrs Fitz was enough to stop him.
She led me upstairs for the bath, chatting all the while, though mostly without my response.
"We're lucky te have indoor plumbing in this day and age… no electricity of course, but the wee solar panels let us have hot water if the day's sunny. And tis, today, not that you two lovebirds will ken, so I reckoned I should make ye wash yerself. Here we are," she came to a stop in front of an old copper bathtub. While she turned on the tap, I caught a look of myself in the mirror. Maybe Mrs Fitz was right, I thought. My hair looked like it belonged to Medusa, going in every direction, covered in mud and gunk and some blood. My face was dirty and sported some breakouts from the dust and dirt. My clothes - my trusted pair of mom jeans, a black tee, black men's sweater and my old army coat - looked in need of either four washings or burning, and I couldn't remember being out of them. And God, I couldn't smell very well.
And yet Jamie wanted me. The thought made me giddy like a schoolgirl.
"Right. In ye go!" Mrs Fitz gave me a towel and made to leave the room. "There's soap and shampoo by the bathtub and a hairbrush and toothbrush in the cabinet by the mirror. I'll find ye something te wear and put it by the door."
Was she an angel? The bath she made me certainly felt like heaven.
I don't know how long I stayed there, scrubbing and combing and just splashing around. It was way longer than it took the water to cool down.
Eventually my hunger got the better of me so I stepped out, dried myself and dressed in what Mrs Fitz found for me - a plaid wool dress that came all the way to my ankles, a grey wool Cardigan and most importantly fresh pairs of both knickers and socks. God, I missed not drowning in my old sweat and discharge.
Making my way downstairs, I was greeted by Murtagh, the pregnant sister and a young, dark haired boy, maybe seven or eight years old.
"Ye look like new," Murtagh commented.
"Yes, I needed this," I smiled and sat down. "I don't believe we've met," I greeted the young boy.
"I'm Fergus, milady," he said with some pride. French, I noticed. I'll have to ask Jamie about that - I couldn't just go around asking people why they were french.
"I'm Claire," I returned and shook his outstretched hand. "Pleasure to meet you."
"Aye, come on now Claire, let's get something in yer stomach," said the sister. He told me all about her, I had to remember the name. Janet? Something starting with a J.
I got up from the breakfast table and joined her at the kitchen.
"Janet - " I had to take my chance at the name - "I need to apologize. My story wasn't entirely accurate. Well, the part about my daughter. She died of unrelated reasons. Your child should be fine. It was wrong of me to say that, and I realise I must've made you terrified, what with being in your third trimester and all - "
"Aye, ye're sorry, I ken. If ye don't stop talking ye'll never eat and Mrs Fitz will have my hide," she said and handed me a plate of eggs and little buttered buns. I smiled back at her and went straight to one of the buns, my growling stomach betraying me.
"And it's Jenny," she corrected. "Weel, tis fer friends, and my brother seems quite fond of ye, so I reckon ye should call me that too."
I was stunned. She accepted me so simply.
"I'm also sorry fer saying ye killed our parents. I ken ye didn't. Laoghaire can sometimes be… verra persuasive."
I stared at her for a moment, unsure of how to express my gratitude.
"Thank you," was what I settled for.

"Forgive me father fer I've sinned."
Jamie didn't even wait for the military priest to respond before spilling out his story.
"I love a lass. I love her so much I dinna ken if I was in love or ill. I ken she's the only lass I'll ever love, father. She's the one fer me. She's smart and caring and she has an opinion about anything and she's so bonnie… but she's marrit, and not te me, and I'm not marrit. And still… I bedded her. We made love… I ken how wrong this is. I ken I should wait fer my wife, and she should be faithful to her husband, even if he's a cheating prick, forgive me fer saying… but it felt so right. Every time I see her it feels so right, and I just canna shake the feeling she was meant te be wi' me."
"I'm waiting for the part where you repent," the priest said from the other side of the booth.
"I don't think I will," Jamie said, a new conviction in his voice. "Thank ye, father!"
He rushed out of the church tent as quickly as he could manage without reopening the scars on his back. He had to see her.
His mind was playing the previous night like a broken record.

"Jamie, we don't have to do this. I know you wanted to wait for the wedding - "
"I wanted to wait fer the right woman, Sassenach," he replied, pulling her closer over him. "So that my first woman will be my last. And I ken it's ye, mo nighean donn. Even if tonight is the only night in my life I'll touch a woman, I'll no regret it."
She chuckled. "What does that mean? What you called me."
He smiled and kissed the top of her head. "My brown haired lass," he translated.
"I always thought brown was a rather dull colour," she said.
With his hand weaving through her curls, he listed the ways in which she was wrong; how her hair was like water in a brook, flowing calmly; how it was the colour of good earth, of home.
She responded in kind, her lips finding his, softly pressing and sucking. She licked his lips carefully and he parted them, allowing her tongue to venture into the realm of his mouth. Her breath was intoxicating, stronger than whiskey, and he wanted to feed on it every day of his life.
Slowly, she straddled him and went to work on his light blue robe every patient had to wear. He cautiously sent his hands to her chest, half stabilising her, half seeking out her warm skin and soft round tits. Once his chest was bared and his boxers were out of the way she swiftly removed her own uniform and undergarments, sitting on him naked, like a queen on her throne.
He swallowed hard. "God, ye're bonnie." His hand went to squeeze her magnificent arse.
"Are you sure you want this?" She asked again.
"I want you so much I can scarcely breathe," he reassured her. With these words of confirmation, she led his free hand to the brown crown of her honeypot. He set to investigate her warm, moist folds, his erection pulsing with urgency as he hit a sensitive nub and elicited a beautiful little sound from her mouth. She rose up slightly and gripped him in her delicate hand, lining him up with her dripping entrance.
His eyes rolled back in his head as she slowly lowered herself onto him, and it was all he could do to keep quiet. His eyes stared at her in wonder as she worked her way up and down, rubbing her nub against his finger with every move. She became flushed, the red colour climbing from her face down to her chest and beautiful tits. His hand grabbed her arse and rushed her down harder every time, until he felt his hips bucking against hers.
"God, Sassenach, I think I'm going te - " he didn't finish his sentence before he emptied himself inside of her and felt her shift and lay down on his chest.
"Ah Dhia."
She smiled, clearly pleased with herself.
"So I take it you enjoyed it?"
He smiled down at her.
"Did you like it?" He asked.
For a moment, she didn't respond. Nervously, he ran his fingers up and down her spine, all the way to her arse and back up to her neck.
"Tis alright," he said finally. "My cousin Rupert tells me women don't care for it."
She lifted her head and directed her golden whiskey eyes straight into his.
"I did like it, Jamie," she said.

Chapter Text

"Were no - verra - efficient - hunters," Rupert tried to say, but was punctuated by Angus's repetitive claims of his lips.
"Aye, and we have new mouths te feed," the shorter man replied. "But I come te the woods te grab a different kind of bite, ken?"
He didn't have to explain himself, and he couldn't even if he wanted to, because Rupert latched on to his neck and started nibbling, sucking, licking and kissing him into oblivion. The only logical thing to do, so it seemed, was to reach into the front of his man's pants and grab his growing erection, providing brief relief to his neck in the form of a surprised moan.
"Like what ye're seeing?" Came a strangled question.
"Weel, I saw yer wee man before," Angus rubbed the precum raining from the tip all over Rupert's shaft.
"Yer my wee man," Rupert whispered. Angus had half a mind to make fun of him, but the warmth spreading in his chest caught him by surprise. He placed a sloppy kiss on Rupert's forehead, all he could reach, before doubling his effort on the nether region. Rupert's hand grabbed the back of his neck, his mouth forgetting all intention beside moaning and grunting. Angus felt the erection pulsing and twitching and he knew his man was near -
"Dhia, Angus, stop." Rupert's voice came as a whisper.
"No, I'm finishing ye off ye beautiful, thick fool," Angus replied absentmindedly, focused on the task at hand.
"Angus, we're not alone."

"Lift your arm slowly," I instructed.
Jamie, now standing in front of me in all his height but still with only some bandages covering his upper body, obeyed. I saw him grit his teeth when his arm reached a right angle, but he persisted and got it up all the way towards the ceiling. He then slumped it back at his side.
"Am I cured now, Sassenach?" He asked, his grin contagious.
"You're pleased with yourself is what you are," I returned in kind.
"Weel, I have te be, no? Surviving a gunshot and all."
"That was sheer luck," I reminded him.
"And a verra fine doctor," he said, landing a kiss on my forehead.
"Yes, and what a headache you gave me. Try to avoid getting shot in the future, will you?"
"Aye. For ye, Sassenach, I'll do anything."
God, how was he able to pull off such kitschy lines? If it were anyone else I would laugh in his face, but now I just leaned into him, burying my hands in the back pockets of his sweats. He sent one of his large palms to my chin, lifted it to him and claimed my lips.
"Christ, Sassenach. I dreamed so long about having ye here, in my embrace," he mumbled into the bush of my curls. I responded in a squeeze to his bottoms, and he grabbed mine.
"And now that you have me, what will you do with me?" I said cautiously. Since our reunion, all we did was cuddle and kiss, occasionally reach and touch a backside or a chest. I didn't know how he felt about what we did in China the week before he left, especially now that he had heard the news about Faith. His slow pace of claiming me could be attributed to his hand being out of order, but I feared it was something more.
I didn't get my answer. A frantic knock on the door sent us in opposite directions, making ourselves look innocent. The boy, Fergus, peeked in, and when he saw we were decent he let himself into the room. He stood there for a moment, catching his breath.
"What is it, lad?" Jamie promoted him to speak.
"Mrs Jenny told me to come up here, milord," he said. "We haven't seen Angus and Rupert since yesterday morning, and she would like to know if you plan to do anything about it."
The change In Jamie's demeanor was immediate. Every muscle in his body seemed to clench, a frown taking over the calm expression on his face. He frantically grabbed a shirt and dressed himself, not grimacing at the pain he must've felt.
"Aye, thank ye lad," he said as an afterthought. "Could ye find Murtagh and Hugh fer me?"
"Oui, milord," said Fergus and rushed out. As soon as he left, a string of Gallic curses left Jamie's mouth. I took a step closer to him and put my hand on his better arm.
"You can't be thinking about going after them," I said. "Your arm isn't healed and you only just got a normal body temperature. You shouldn't even leave bed, not to mention the house - "
"They are my men and I'm going te save them," he said matter of factly. "Ye're a good doctor, Sassenach, but I wilna listen to ye just now. Ye can patch me up when we return."
"Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ, how did you stay so stubborn! You're not going, if only because a one handed soldier isn't very useful! Murtagh and Hugh are capable enough. You are not well and not - "
He gave me a quick peck before talking.
"I'm no too pleased with this either, mo chridhe. Ye ken I'd like nothing more than te stay in yer arms, but these are my kinsmen. They are my responsibility, and they would've done the same."
I took the pair of socks he grabbed from his hands and crouched down to put them on for him.
"You better come back in one piece," I said. "I'm good at my job, but there's only so much medicine can do."
"I'll do my best," he said, his blue eyes looking into mine sincerely. "I'll be back before ye get a chance te miss me."
I knew it was impossible, that I'll miss him the second he leaves my sight, but he didn't need to hear that. He probably didn't feel any better about this than I did.
I laced his boots, put on my Cardigan and accompanied him down the stairs, our arms woven together.
In the main room, havoc ensued. Mrs Fitz was tearfully packing the men some food, Fergus ran from her to Jenny to Murtagh and back, trying to make himself useful, while Murtagh sat by the fireplace cleaning his sword and sending untrusting looks towards Hugh, who was humming to himself and tucking a whole pistol into his boot - how much sizes up did he wear just to have all of his weaponry at his feet?
When he saw us, Ian - Jenny's one legged husband - walked over to Jamie.
"Brother, ye're not well," he started. Trying to get Jamie to see sense. I knew I liked him.
"Ian, I'll no have ye miss the birth of your bairn, and we both ken it can be any minute now."
"Weel, Murtagh said it will only be a few hours, childbirth canna be that quick. Can it?" He directed his question to me.
"It does'na matter, I need ye to watch over the castle and the lasses," Jamie replied. "My heart isna peaceful leaving ye alone after the last time, but I trust ye, brother." I felt him squeeze my hand. "And ye, Sassenach. Ye'll ken what to do, should it come to that."
Both mine and Ian's faces rose in objection.
"It will not! You will return to me James Fraser, did you hear what I said? I didn't hike through all of bloody Scotland just to have you for less than a week."
He smiled and kissed my forehead for a long second.
"Alright lad, time te go," Murtagh said from behind us. "Ian will keep yer lass safe."
"Can I come?" Fergus asked. He was holding a kitchen knife and making what I presumed was a fierce face. It caused both Jamie and Murtagh to laugh.
"I need ye to watch over the castle," he said. "I leave my family's protection to you and Ian. Promise me te watch after them?"
The boy nodded solemnly.
With a swirl of forehead kisses and promises, Jamie, Murtagh and Hugh were out of the door.
I already missed him.
Silence took hold of the house as everyone busied themselves - Mrs Fitz and Jenny made lunch, Ian showed Fergus how to hold his knife properly, and even Laoghaire and her mother came into the house after tending to the garden, staring daggers into my eyes.
I didn't know how to knit or cook - though I was pretty competent in holding a knife - so I left the house through the kitchen door to gather medicinal herbs from the garden and the field surrounding it. I did take my bat - Jamie would want me to - but I was mostly not worried. I wasn't the one to face the threats.
Picking a stubborn root, I couldn't help but imagine the dangers the men were riding into. Could Others have kidnapped Rupert and Angus? Eaten them, maybe? I saw evidence of an Other trying to eat a human, but didn't see one succeed.
My thoughts were cut abruptly by Fergus who ran to me.
"Mrs Jenny told me to get you, she peed on the floor!"
Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ.

Chapter Text

"Tis yer fault. If ye didna distract me, they wouldn't have caught me wi' my pants down."
"Get yer heid out of yer arse, I ken it's large but ye can do it. Ye fool. Twasnt my fault. Ye kent I'm sensitive in my neck!"
"Aye but if ye stopped when I told ye," Rupert started again. "Weel. It does'na matter. We have to find a way out. I bet they're cannibals."
"Aye, that Hugh fellow met cannibals! They had his tongue and we dinna ken what else!"
Tied up to the opposite sides of a tree, with a black eye for Rupert and a broken arm for Angus, the two had little to do but bicker.
"Jamie will come te get us," Angus said. "Ye're his cousin, he has te."
Rupert nodded, his head heavy with thoughts.
"Do ye reckon they'll feed us?" He asked.
"Mebbe me. Ye're already fat enough for a braw meal."
"We won't be eating you," said a voice. Man, British.
"What will ye do then?" Angus dared to ask.
"Oh, it's to be determined later," the man answered. "Either way, you're not the target of the operation."
Angus turned his head sharply to the man, managing to catch a glimpse of red before the man left his field of sight.
"Redcoats?" He asked. "What trouble are ye seeking wi' us? What, after yer lines were narrowed so after yer last visit," he asked.
"Hold her tongue, eejit," Rupert mumbled.
"No, I wilna," Angus answered. "If I'm te wait by this tree fer yer cousin, I think I deserve some speaking rights."
"Or we'll have your tongue as they had your friend Hugh's," the British man suggested. "I never tried it, but they say the human tongue is delicious."
"Ah, it wilna do anything te stop his blubbering," Rupert said, annoyance evident in his voice.
"So, mister redcoat, it seems we'll be here a while. Tell us yer name?" Angus continued, seemingly unbothered by the fate of his tongue.
"Jonathan Randall," the man answered.

I never played the role of a midwife before, but I didn't intend Jenny to know that. Fergus led me to her bed, where she layed on layers of towels much like her brother. Considering the situation, she was perfectly calm, Ian's hand in hers, smiling and speaking of the baby with whispered, adoring voices. She stopped about a minute after I entered to close her eyes in pain and send her hand to her belly, but other than that there was no sign she was about to go into labor.
"Ah, Claire," she noticed me after a few minutes of standing at the door. "Any doctor's orders?"
"Not for now, we have to wait until the contractions are closer together. Are you timing them?"
Ian answered me. "Every five minutes now."
"Ian! Ye're counting fer me?" Tender emotions filled Jenny's eyes as she leaned in to kiss her husband.
I did resent her in this moment, remembering myself in a storage room of the hospital, alone, timing my own contractions and measuring my own opening, waiting for the very last minute to call in the nurses who didn't particularly like me. I was terrified then - my first childbirth, two months early and not in the most comfortable situation the world has experienced.
We had two hours now at the very least, and we decided to spend them huddled together in Jenny's room. Mrs Fitz and her daughter brought in drinks and snacks, the main part of which was the baby's first birthday cake - a simple white cake that melted deliciously in my mouth and forced me out of my memories for at least a minute.
Things would've been tense with both Laoghaire and me in the same room, but luckily she was completely enthralled by Jenny's condition, and I did a pretty good job blending in with the background and preparing the supplies from my medical case. Fergus did notice me, and he was drawn immediately to my side, asking all matter of educated questions.
"Have you seen a woman give birth before, Fergus?" I had to ask, after he asked me if I knew what to do in case the placenta blocked the opening.
"Oui, milady. I was born in a brothel in France. It was a very big one, so we had a birth every few months. They always had me bring them clean water and towels - there is so much laundry after childbirth!" He said, as if it was normal for an elementary school aged boy to have that kind of complaint.
"Wait. You spent your life in a brothel?" Don't act like you pity him, Beauchamp. That's offensive.
"Oui, my mama died in my birth so they had to keep me," he said nonchalantly. "But when the war started they gathered the money to send me to a relative of one of them in England, because they thought I would be safe here."
Oh god. This must've been at least three years ago, considering they stopped all commercial flights to the alliance countries around that time. Was he six years old? Younger? How much of life's ugly sides did this boy have to see?
"One minute!" Ian announced. It was time to start.
"Alright. Mrs Fitz, Ian, you stay. The rest of you, if you'll be so kind as to leave - " I didn't even have to finish my sentence before they scrambled out. Laoghaire was still standing by the window when the others - Fergus and her mother - left.
"Laoghaire?" Ian asked, sparing me the task.
"Others," she mumbled. "So many… oh god."
We all - except for Jenny - ran to the window. There was no mistaking them - the slow, stumbling but never stopping walk, the empty eye sockets, the distinctive slimness.
"Oh God. Alright. We will… Ian, you'll stay with her, Laoghaire, we have to - "
"Ye're the doctor, don't ye dare leave my side!" Jenny yelped from the bed.
"Aye. Laoghaire, Mrs Fitz, let's go. We can barricade the house. We'll be safe here on the second floor, I never saw one of those creatures who can climb," he said.
Thank God for Ian.
"I dinna trust her," Laoghaire said, her venomous tongue directed at me.
"Jenny does, lass. When ye're in labour, ye'll get the choice."
"Come on now, dear," Mrs Fitz encouraged her. She still didn't show any sign of leaving. The Others weren't far now, and neither was the baby.
"Here," I said, removing the bat from my back and handing it to her. "I trust you. With my life, with Jenny's life and with my weapon. Now, please, Laoghaire. Help Ian out there."
She took the bat and for one second I thought she would swing it at me, but Jenny cursed in gallic and it seemed to have the desired effect. Ian gave his wife a long kiss and the three left the room.
"Okay Jenny. You're safe, you're strong and the baby's ready. Let's do this."

"The kidnappers werena too discreet," Murtagh noted. "Left us a wee trail."
Trap, Hugh signed.
"Aye, tis most likely the case. Seems too international fer the Others te do it," Jamie said, keeping his voice low. "Are ye ready fer a difficult fight, lads?"
"Would be disappointed by anything less," Murtagh responded. Hugh nodded with a bright smile and pretended to stick his knife forward into the air.
You like saving others, then? He signed.
"I suppose I do. Enjoyed being saved that time in the war, so I'm giving the pleasure te others as well," Jamie replied.
"We're near," Murtagh whispered. The three slowed their horses down to a walking pace. Behind the next turn they saw a village - a few scattered huts and fire pits. They saw a large tree in the middle, to which Angus and Rupert were tied. They didn't see - but did hear - several clicks of guns being loaded.
"Jamie! Redcoats!" Angus yelled at him from his place by the tree. Jamie noticed his arm was broken - Claire would have to handle that.
"Aye, we realised," Murtagh answered. Jamie couldn't speak, as all the blood drained from his face.
It was him.

Chapter Text

"What did you name the bairn?"
"James William Fraser Murray," said Jenny.
"After me? Why?"
"We didna ken if ye'll return."

Jonathan Wolverton Randall. A mere name shouldn't be enough to make him feel this sort of terror, and yet it did.
He couldn't speak, couldn't breathe, couldn't see anything but the face of his tormentor.
"I knew you'd come," said the harrowing, low voice. "I'm pleased to inform you that as we speak, your little community home is infested with Others. My men made sure of it."
Jamie thought he heard his companions respond, but he couldn't do much but strengthen his grip on the reins to the point where his knuckles were whiter than fresh snow. The world was spinning and it was as if ants had replaced the blood in his veins, climbing up and down his body.
Murtagh's hand was on his shoulder and he flinched.
"Ye alright, lad? Ian is there, I'm sure they're fine."
"What do ye want?" Jamie finally uttered, strengthened by his godfather's presence. He was alone the last time.
"Well, my offer is simple," Randall said. "Your friends can go and help the ladies you left behind. Even those two. But in exchange, you will remain here." His mouth curved upwards in a malicious smile, and Jamie's blood froze.
"And if we say no?" Murtagh sounded enraged by the offer, although Jamie didn't dare to turn and look at him.
"Well, I have twenty men between the trees, and each one of them has a gun. You are three men, so I'd say your odds aren't great. Your little house has only three quarters of a man, including the little boy, so their odds against a hundred Others aren't great either."
"What will you do with me?" Jamie asked. In a different time, he might have shown his anger about the man calling his friend half a man - having a prosthetic leg didn't make you worth any less, and anyone who's seen Ian in a battle would know that - but he was too distressed, remembering the last time he had to ask this question.
"Well, my previous offer still stands," said the devil himself with a posh British accent. "I'd love to see the results of my handy work."
Jamie shuddered. Hugh signed something - Jamie recognized the word "back" - but he couldn't look away from Randall's long face, from his tongue licking his lips.
It wasn't really a choice.

Laoghaire rushed to the door of Jenny's bedroom.
"They got through the windows! Climbing the stairs! How are you two doing?"
"Not helpful!" Jenny also added a string of Gallic that burned my ears even without knowing the language.
"I see a head!" I announced. "Laoghaire, tell Ian she's doing great, the baby's blonde, please protect us!"
I was surprised to notice Laoghaire didn't argue this time. She closed the door and I heard her shouting our messages from behind it.
"Okay, Jenny, the shoulders are the hardest part. You can do it. Ready to push?"
"I'm ready te kill Ian fer what he did te me if the Others don't," she replied. How many women could joke while pushing a baby out of their body? I knew Jenny was exceptional, but in every moment of this birth she continued to astound me.
"Push! Almost there!" She was drenched with sweat and so was I, my curls sticking to my forehead and to the back of my neck, the tight ponytail that held them long forgotten.
"Claire, I think this bairn is too big! Tisna coming out!"
I gently pulled the baby, careful not to harm it. "You're doing so well, Jenny, almost there," I kept telling her. "The bellybutton's out!" I announced. "And… oh congratulations Jenny! It's a boy!"
Jenny didn't have a witty response for me this time. She merely screamed at the top of her lungs, and only a few moments later, so did her baby.
"Oh God… Jenny, he's beautiful!" I cut the umbilical cord unceremoniously, wrapped the baby in a towel and handed him to the proud, though nearly unconscious, mother.
I didn't have time to catch my breath before the door was kicked down. Two Others managed to get all the way to the room. Behind them I could see Laoghaire crushing one with the bat, her eyes wide with terror. "Claire! They're coming! Sorry!"
I had my scissors in one hand and a towel in the other. Spreading the scissors open I made two holes in one of the approaching necks and hastily stabbed the other one as quickly as I could. They had to be kicked down before they bled out, because the poor souls weren't affected by the pain. I didn't let them get past the threshold.
The next few minutes were a blur of slicing, kicking and biting alongside Laoghaire to defend Jenny and the child. I didn't manage to clear our way enough to get further down the packed corridor and see if the other people were still standing. I was wounded, but I didn't really have time to even register where or how severely.
Laoghaire was fierce with the bat, taking down probably twice as many Others as I did, a battle cry on her tongue whenever one of them dared to bite her. I was very glad she was on my side, at least for the time being.
Then it was over, and everyone was beaten and battered but alive.
It was a few hours before four men returned to us. Hugh, Murtagh, Rupert and Angus.

They tied him to a wooden post in a hut. They had metal cuffs to keep him in place and a metal chain to connect him to the pole, but maybe he could tear the pole from the ground. He knew he wouldn't get very far carrying it with his hands cuffed together, but he had to try. What would Claire think of him if he didn't?
She'd probably say it wasn't his fault, like she did the last time. Hold him, comfort him, make him whole again.
Before he dismounted the horse and let this abomination of a man lead him to his new prison cell, he asked Murtagh to tell Claire the name of his captor. She was the only person in the world to know the details of what he went through in the deserters cave in China - there wasn't much of a choice of whether or not to tell her, she was the one to wake and soothe him when he was screaming in his nightmares. She would know what to do.
That is, of course, if she survived the Others attack.
He didn't dare think she didn't. She had that baseball bat to protect her and she was very proficient in cutting people up.
The hut door opened behind him and he did his best to turn around and see who it was, which considering the length of his chain wasn't enough. The voice gave him enough information the next second.
"So. Are you ready to revisit my suggestion from our encounter in China?"
Jamie's jaw clenched. "If I say no?"
"Oh, I'll have my men attack your castle again. There aren't so many people left in there. Should be easy enough." The voice was closer now, and Jamie felt his breath against his shoulder. It covered his skin with a prickling sensation.
"How do I ken that ye're speaking the truth?" He snarled.
"Well, accept my offer and I'll let you go when I'm done," Randall said. "If you'll still wish to leave."
Randall moved to stand in front of him and Jamie closed his eyes.
"No answer, then? Alright. Take as long as you need." He turned to the door and Jamie almost let his shoulders slump in relief, but then the steps turned around and he felt something sharp against the back of his neck. The sharp edge slid slowly down his back, tearing the back of his jacket open, then crossing the trail again and tearing up his shirt. Jamie stood still as a statue as a sweaty hand caressed the lines on his back, hearing hums of satisfaction. He wished he could be a badger, turn around in his skin and beat the bastard, or at least not feel his touch. He felt the touch become more desperate, groping him, and heard a few moans and before he thought about it his leg went up behind him and hit something soft with all the fear that held him still before. The surprised shout came at the same time as a spray of something warm on his back. A little too late.
Retribution didn't delay too long. He felt a warm hand trying to surround his neck, pressing hard on both sides.
"You," Randall started, his voice lower than usual. "You are my property. You are mine and you will give yourself to me, or else you'll face consequences! Do you understand?" The last word came with a step forward, and the man's body was flush against his own. Jamie leaned forward to get as far away as he could, his body surrounding the wooden pole. His breath was shallow and quick and he fought the urge to kick again, remembering the scars he received the last time they met. He could clearly feel the other man's heart beating quickly against his back and a bulge growing in his trousers. Again.
"Ye enjoy this, ye sick bastard? Someone who canna even move or look at ya? Ye canna have anyone wi' a free will? What happened, nobody wanted ye?" Jamie cursed himself for this stroke of free will.
A heavy fist hit his lower back and another hit his gunshot wound. He didn't make a sound, but his body did fall forward, his forehead colliding with the pole.
"You will beg for me to want you before this is through."

Chapter Text

Jamie woke up again with a start. Someone was holding something to his mouth, and his first instinct was to try and pull away. By the time he pulled all that the chain allowed him his eyes opened and he saw another man in a red coat. He had long brown hair, but he wasn't Randall.
"Shh! I'm just here to give you something to drink!" The man whispered. Jamie was happy to see he was startled, as if Jamie could hurt him in his condition. It was in his favour.
Jamie nodded and the man placed the flask at his lips again. He let him slowly sip the whiskey inside.
"Whiskey fer a prisoner? That's generous," Jamie noted, his insides feeling warmer, though he knew his exposed skin was still cold.
"It's the least I could do," the other man said quietly. "John Grey, sir. At your service."
"Why are ye at my service, John?" He had to ask. "I'm a prisoner, ye remember. Ye wilna get in trouble wi' our friend Randall?"
John shrugged. "We all heard him talk about the prisoner he caught in China and what he wanted to do to him. Always thought it was an enemy soldier, didn't care too much about him. But then the stories got a face - you - you're a good man, Fraser. You don't deserve what he has in store for you."
"Well that makes me feel all better," Jamie said wryly. "Do ye ken what he's planning?"
"It won't respect your ears to repeat it."
Jamie snorted. "It wilna respect my arse either, but here I am."
John seemed taken aback with Jamie's direct response.
"Wait. You're not gay? I thought this was some weird abusive relationship, but with how you refer to the… back department, it doesn't feel like you want it at all."
Jamie gave him a bewildered look.
"Is that what he told ye? That I'm his escaped boyfriend? Was the whole 'tying me up in a hut' thing passed off as my kink?"
"Well, now that I met you I know it's not likely, but how would I know?"
Jamie glared at him for a moment, trying to calm down.
"If ye ever met Black Jack Randall, you'd ken he's never up te any good. He does'na have a place fer love in his heart."
"To be fair, I thought he was your abusive ex, so not exactly love," John started, but Jamie could see the wheels rolling in his mind. He seemed to come to a decision before speaking again.
"I'm in watchtower duty tomorrow as well. I'll get you out."
Jamie nodded solemnly. "I'll try te stay alive. Thank ye, John Grey."
"On one condition," John continued. "If I do this, Randall will kill me. He won't stop trying. I'm willing to make an enemy out of him if I can make an ally out of you."
Jamie looked deep into the younger man's bright grey eyes.
"Ye're welcome te live under my roof and my protection," he said. "We'll have redcoat troubles either way, it seems."
John offered Jamie another sip from his flask and then disappeared to continue his patrols.

"Close the curtains, Hugh, are you crazy?" My head was throbbing in pain - I hoped it was due to dehydration and nothing more.
Hugh ignored me, humming to himself. I allowed my eyesight a few seconds to adjust and when I reopened them I noticed that Hugh was holding a basket full of fresh bandages.
"Yes, I suppose duty does call," I agreed, though my muscles didn't. Hugh helped me clean my wounds last night and I didn't have any that were too deep, but the bruises made movement less tempting.
Together we made a scan of the rooms. First the new family - the baby was doing well, although he didn't sleep much, to the new parents' disappointment. Jenny was healing as well as could be expected. Ian had some nasty scratches and bite marks, but more importantly the Others seemed to really like his prosthetic leg.
"Murtagh is outside making a new one," he informed me as I checked his shoulder for any sign of infection. "We're naming the bairn Jamie. Jamie William Fraser."
The announcement shook me. "What do you mean Jamie? They said he was alive and that we're going to take him back!"
"Shh, dinna wake the bairn. We would have named him Brian after Jenny's da, ye ken, but… his passing was a wee bit too recent, I think. She isna ready."
The she in question was already snoozing by his side, the baby attached to one of her nipples.
"I see. Well, Jamie's alive."
"I ken, lass."
Fergus was in the living room. He had both a broken leg and a broken nose and suffered a really nasty bite to the wrist - a chew mark, really, the Other must've really wanted it off - which I hoped I wouldn't have to amputate. He was brave and didn't complain.
Laoghaire was a whole different story. She was very much wounded, but that didn't stop her from yelling at me as soon as I walked in.
"Ye lost our Jamie! One day ye're here and he's gone! Did ye plan on going te rescue him? I'm coming, don't ye think I trust ye to do this alone - "
"Laoghaire, your leg is broken."
"Only a wee bit broken. Cracked, really."
She called him 'our Jamie'. Could I be making progress?
I tended to her, her mother and her grandma. Well, Hugh tended to Mrs Fitz, the flirt that he is. I didn't know how old he was, but certainly not a grandfather.
"I'll get him back. I swear."
Laoghaire tried to follow me out of the room but her leg - very much broken and not cracked - didn't allow it. I didn't have much to set it with, so it was tied to a straight piece of wood at the moment.
"Ye better!" She yelled after me. "So we both have a chance at his heart!"
Progress indeed.
Rupert and Angus were wounded as well and honestly couldn't stop talking which made treating them a headache inducing mission. While I treated them, Hugh made breakfast - scones and eggs and jam, and I only realised I was starving with the second scone halfway to my stomach.
"How can we get him back? We're wounded and they have twenty men, or at least that's what Randall said." It was weird to use that name - Frank's name, that I once wanted so much to take - in such hatred. It wasn't Frank's fault he had a psychopath for a cousin.
Hugh started sneaking around the kitchen, hiding near walls and pretending to hold a gun. He was still humming, and I thought I recognized the James Bond theme music.
"Yes? You and I, the spies? We can't take anyone else. I can't even take you for that matter - we're leaving them in worse shape than when you left us!"
Hugh nodded and cupped my hands in his.
"I suppose we don't have a choice, but wouldn't that be irresponsible? I love Jamie - don't tell him I said that - but we have all of Lallybroch to think about. I can't just leave Jenny and the baby, or even the Mackenzie ladies, in this condition, without anyone to protect them."
Hugh shook my hand again and mouthed 'I'll go'.
"You are the least sneaky person I've ever met, Hugh. No offense."
He shrugged. Non taken. Then he pointed at me.
"Me?" It took me a moment to think. "There really isn't a better option?"
Hugh found a piece of paper and started drawing me a map.
"I'll go tonight," I said. "I'm a woman and they haven't seen me yet - if they catch me I can say I'm a survivor asking for their help. You're right, Hugh. It's the only option."
He nodded as if it was obvious.
And so, as the sun set, I was riding down the road on Jamie's horse. I was trembling - from the daunting mission at hand, and from the unfamiliar means of transportation - as Lallybroch left my view. I left most of my medical case and as much instructions as I could spew out in a few hours with Hugh and Mrs Fitz.
God, let him be okay. Let him be back with me.

The next day was easier for Jamie. He knew he had a way out, so he refused Randall's advances and earned a kick to the nuts and five floggings. His back was now both exposed and bleeding, his legs were stiff from holding him up for so long, and he hasn't eaten since leaving Lallybroch. All of that didn't matter. He had a chance to get back home tonight. To his family. To Claire.
The noise outside indicated some sort of a party - probably a clever decision of John's. Jamie was bursting with anticipation.
He was grinning when the man walked into the shed. His throat was too dry to speak, but he assumed silence was in his benefit.
"Nothing to say to me yet?" Randall asked. "No problem. Let's get started."

Chapter Text

I saw the patrolling man before he saw me. Good work, Beauchamp. I held my breath as I snuck up to him with the knife I borrowed from Hugh.
At the last second, the man noticed me. I launched myself at him, holding my knife to his throat.
"Quiet now. I'm here to extract your prisoner. You'll take me to him if you wish to live."
The man shivered under my hands, but he opened his mouth. Please don't scream, I'm not sure I could actually bring myself to kill you.
What he said caught me unprepared.
It took me a moment to regain my senses. "Do I know you?"
"It's just, you came to rescue Jamie, and he talks about this woman called Claire in his sleep, so I figured you were his wife or something."
Jamie talks about me in his sleep. Shouldn't make me blush like a teenager.
"Not yet. Have you been eavesdropping?"
The man carefully shrugged. "I'm just a guard. I guarded. Anyway, I was going to extract him myself once Black Jack Randall gets out of there, so you could really remove the knife."
"Randall is in there with him? He'll do - "
"Unthinkable things, I know. It's killing me to wait, but it's the only way. We have to be subtle about this."
"I don't even know who you are. How can I trust you?" I did remove my knife from his neck - not because he seemed like a decent fellow, but because I was sure I could take him in a fight. He looked no older than sixteen.
"John Grey at your service," he said and I could swear he bowed a little.
"Why would you save Jamie?"
"He promised me his protection once we're back in your castle. I never wanted to be a redcoat, only to survive, and Randall isn't the kindest boss."
"No. I don't imagine he is. So what's your plan?"
"The moment Randall leaves the hut I'll go to him and get his keys. Then we can release Jamie and escape through the watchtower. I'm the guard and I got everyone drunk, so it should be possible if we're quiet and quick."
And so we begun our wait. With every second that passed, the scenarios in my head grew worse. Jamie getting flogged again. Beaten up. Raped.

He was in awful shape when they brought him to the hospital. Couldn't stand or walk, couldn't maintain his consciousness for more than a few minutes - it seemed to me he didn't want to. He only spoke to ask for more painkillers and although I could tell he was starving, he refused to eat.
He didn't let anyone else near him, and so I found myself monitoring him in all hours of the day and night. It was odd, due to the state of sleep deprivation that I was in, that even though I had the night to myself I woke up one night to check on him. That's when I heard him screaming in his nightmares, when he told me about all that he went through. Over the next few nights I slept fitfully on the chair next to his bed, his hand clasping mine. He didn't like talking about the war or his kidnapping, so we spoke about happier times - his family in Lallybroch, my excavations with uncle Lamb, my friend Joe from medical school. I tried not to mention Frank when talking to Jamie - that should've been the first sign that I was falling for him, but I was too exhausted to tell.
I never forgot about the horrors he relayed to me that night when I had to wake him up from his nightmares, nor his mumbles in his sleep that carried on to our night together at Lallybroch. I knew how he was beaten within an inch of his life, starved, degraded. I knew about the offer Randall made him, about how often during his short stay at the deserters cave he thought about accepting it. I knew Frank was stubborn as all hell, and that his cousin wasn't likely to be any different. He would not give up.
So with every moment of waiting, I grew more uneasy.

With a whistle, John told me he had the key and knocked Black Jack out. I snuck up to the dark hut, where he was busy opening the locks on the chains that held my Jamie to a wooden post.
He was naked, unconscious yet shivering. There was blood dripping from his back down to the floor and between his legs - I didn't dare to think it wasn't the only source. The gunshot wound was infected again and seemed to have been pried open with something sharp.
He fell to my arms when the chains released him, groaning but not waking up. John quickly covered him with his coat and I tied a piece of bandage around his waist - he hated being seen in the nude and I thought it was weird to worry about that in this situation, but I did.
John helped me half-walk half-carry him out of the camp and to Donas, Jamie's horse, and we rode home.

He didn't speak.
It's been three days. Laoghaire even stopped blaming me for it and accepted that Black Jack Randall had more to do with it than my powers of witchcraft. I told him, but he didn't even acknowledge my existence.
He let me near him only to treat his wounds, wouldn't let me share his bed or just sit by him to comfort him. He rejected the others more extensively, going as far as to slam the door in his sister's face.
I knew he accepted the offer. Otherwise he would have opened up by now.
I didn't want to push him. What he went through - I couldn't imagine. Just seeing Randall's face must've done him some psychological damage, let alone whatever happened in that hut.
"I can help with the outside wounds," I told him, frustrated after another morning spent treating him without as little as a glance from him. "But not with the ones inside, unless you let me in."
His voice was stiff with disuse. "There's nothing in there, Sassenach."
"You spoke!" I wanted to jump on him, kiss him and hold him to me, but that would just cause more damage. I settled for a smile, although he didn't meet my eyes.
"There's so much inside of you, you know," I finally gave a proper response. "Your character is still there. You are the same brave, stubborn and honourable man I met in China, you still have your unique sense of humour, you still care deeply for those around you. Nothing can take that from you."
I finally met his gaze, only to see it was empty.
"I didna fight," he said, his voice barely louder than a whisper. "I didna say yes either - but I didna fight."
The urge to hug him was so strong, but I knew I had to keep our distance physically to close it emotionally.
"I saw the condition you were in. You couldn't fight, Jamie! You were tied up and wounded, not to mention severely dehydrated."
"That's the worst part. That ye saw me. I didna want ye to ever see me like this - so weak."
I stared at him with disbelief.
"I didn't think our relationship worked that way," I finally said. "I came to you at my weakest. Always. I trusted you with my weakness when Frank cheated on me, when I couldn't save a patient, when I first saw plague victims. I knew you wouldn't judge me at my worst. Now you say that you don't trust me the same way?"
I wasn't as upset as I made myself sound. I knew he didn't really think that - I just had to remind him.
"I was defiled by a man, Claire, tis not the same!" He leaned towards me on the bed, visibility upset. His forehead was getting redder and his fingers were tapping his hips.
"You were hurt. That's what I do, Jamie, I help people who are hurt! Why won't you let me help you?" I noticed my muscles were tense and tried to relax them with very limited success.
He, on the other hand, seemed to relax.
"There isn't anything ye can do. My body isna mine anymore, and that's for me te handle."
I put a comforting hand on his shoulder and he flinched and moved away.
"I still feel his touch on my skin, Claire. Ye dinna ken what's that like. Every time ye touch me I can only think of him… I wanted to be yer's, but he ruined me. I'm no the strong and brave man ye fell in love with. I'm a coward, and I'm scairt of a man who isna even there."
I tightened my grip on him and spoke again.
"Look at me, Jamie. Look and listen. You're not a coward. You're not a different man. You are Jamie, my Jamie, the man I fell for when he was screaming in his nightmares and waking up the whole hospital. The only man I trusted with my life story, who I knew would accept me. The man I followed all the way to Scotland on the off chance that he survived, because I couldn't imagine my life without him. You had a horrible thing happen to you, and healing will take time, but you are not any less Jamie. If anything, you are stronger. You faced this demon, who wanted to destroy your soul, but now you're going to defeat him by healing. And I'll be by your side for as long as it takes, however you'll have me." I released my grip and was surprised to feel him pull me back all the way into his lap, where he held me close to his heart and sobbed.
I didn't stop him. I didn't say anything else. Just stayed there and held him close to me.
"Ye'll stay wi' me then? Even if I'm like this?" He finally said through the tears.
"I'll stay with you no matter what happens."
He thought for a second and then spoke again, more tentative this time.
"Will ye like te be my wife then, Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp?"

Chapter Text

In the days after the proposal, we were inseparable. It seemed that my agreement had helped his healing tremendously. He now spoke to everyone, not just me, and dared to venture outside his room to help around the house and the farmland. He especially loved helping to take care of wee Jamie, as we came to call him. Seeing him cradling the baby made me smile and feel warmth in my tummy - the way he didn't baby talk to him, but instead pretended he was a fully grown man, speaking to him about life and what he had ahead of him - always in a relaxing tone, always promising to be there for him and watch over him, calling him all kinds of sweet Gaelic names. The warm and fuzzy feeling would always have a patch of sorrow about him not getting the chance to tend to Faith this way, but I mostly managed to push it back and when I didn't, Hugh recognized the look in my eyes and comforted me in his charade-full way.
If I were to be honest, agreeing to marry Jamie was great for me as well. Up until that point I didn't really dare to think about my future - I thought about my next meal, how I would handle meeting Others, where would be safe to sleep. If those needs were taken care of, and they rarely were, I thought about the past. Jamie took a dominant part in those grief stricken thoughts, but it wasn't as big a role as he had in my newfound obsession - planning my, or should I say our, future. I would start a herb garden and finally use what I learned in the botany classes I liked so much. We would marry in the spring, our new family surrounding us, beautiful blossoms providing the decorations. Jamie will teach me sign language so I can really understand Hugh.
And maybe one day, a baby of our own. I didn't think I would want to bring a person into this world, but that was before I saw Jamie interact with his nephew. Now, I would give birth ten times just to always see him so happy with a baby in his hands.
Well, I supposed Jenny would help provide some of the babies. God, I was excited to become her family as well, and Ian's.

Jamie also allowed me to share his bed again. We didn't have sex - I told him I wanted to wait for the wedding, and the relief in his eyes was almost worth tolerating the insatiable desire to touch him and be touched in return, a thirst that I knew would only be quenched if I had him inside of me. We both knew he wasn't ready and he had to regain a sense of ownership over his body, and I didn't push him. Sleeping cuddled with him brought me joy and a sense of security - I felt safe in his strong embrace, and I knew he felt safer with me to talk him through his nightmares, hold him and remind him that he's safe, he's here, he's with me.
I told him about my plans many times, and he never did much but smile, softly caress me or stick a gentle kiss to my lips. I was surprised that out of nowhere, while he was rocking wee Jamie to try and get him to sleep and give his poor parents some peace, he addressed it.
"I would like us te have bairns of our own one day, Sassenach. When ye're ready."
My eyes grew wide and my hand went instinctively to my stomach.
"You would?"
"Aye. Ye'd make a fine mam, I think. Though I would like te see ye as a fine wife first." He spoke nonchalantly, as if he didn't just suggest the existence of a whole human.
There was no use pretending to be anything but flattered, really.
"Well," I said. "I had much of the same thoughts myself. With how you are with wee Jamie… I enjoy seeing you with a child in your arms. You'd make a fine father as well."
He smiled and cooed at the baby who started crying. "Aye, wee Jamie, ye wanted te be a part of the conversation as weel? Ye ken it's between me and the mistress, but I would like ye to set a fine example, sea she wants a bairn sooner rather than later."
Miraculously, the baby did relax, as if agreeing with Jamie's sentiment. He sat down on the couch and I immediately cuddled into his free arm.
"I'd like te marry ye as soon as I'm able, Sassenach," he mumbled into my ear, the baby snoozing in his embrace. "I wanted te do so since ye distracted me that night at the hospital and told me about yer life. Ye were so honest wi' me… so I'm honest wi' ye right now, as I say I canna wait any longer."
The soft gust of breath his speaking brought to my neck made my skin prickle with excitement.
"Well, I told you that I wanted a spring wedding, but if you're so eager to have me," I started. We both remembered what we planned to do after the wedding.
He pulled me closer to him and placed a kiss on my lips.
"I am," he said.
"Jamie! Not in front of the baby!"
"Ah, he wilna tell his mam," Jamie jokingly dismissed my worries.
"I'll tell Murtagh to find us some white fabric in Inverness, aye? And Mrs Fitz will make yer dress. It should give ye enough time te change yer mind, if ye wish te do so."
I poked his ribs playfully, a mirthful smile on my lips. "Me? I've been married before, I know what I'm getting into. What about you?"
"Not in a million years will I change my mind about ye, mo chridhe."

I didn't have to amputate Fergus's hand, thankfully. He might not become the world's greatest pianist, but he will have both hands.
The boy was quite a chatterbox once he felt comfortable with me and Jamie. He sat on our bed as I removed the last of his bandages and examined his hand carefully.
"I have to show this to Murtagh, he said once I got the bandage off he can teach me to ride horses!"
"No he won't. Your leg isn't even fully healed yet, young man! I won't have you falling off and causing more damage."
The boy pouted and Jamie messed up his curly hair affectionately. "Listen te your mam, lad," he said, the words reaching his brain only a second later. He covered his mouth with his hand. Both Fergus and I blushed.
"It's okay, Jamie," I reassured him with a touch of my hand to his knee. "People call their doctor mom all the time."
Well, some do. On their deathbed. It wasn't relevant.
"Wait, I can't ride a horse? I'll ride a short one, I promise!"
Jamie's eyes warmed up with affection, but he kept the rest of his face stern.
"Ye'll do what doctor mam bids, aye laddie? When yer leg is better, I'll teach ye te ride. Murtagh taught me, so I ken everything he kens but I'm no an auld coot."
"Hey, Murtagh still has strength in his old bones, he told me himself!" The boy jumped to his protection.
"How old is Murtagh?" I had to ask.
"Hmm, let's think," Jamie pretended to think carefully. "He was at least twenty years old when Willie was born, and he's - I mean, was - five years older than me. So at the very least fifty."
I looked at him in disbelief. "You don't know how old your own godfather is?"
"I only ken how old Jenny is because I ken I need te add three to my own age, Sassenach, dinna be so surprised," he said with his attempt at a wink. "Also, tis no polite te ask."
Fergus giggled at that. "That's what the ladies at Maison Elise would say!"
"Aye, they had wisdom," Jamie patted the boy on the back. "Weel, now that ye have both hands, will ye go help Mrs Fitz peel tatties in the kitchen?"
"By no means he will, his hand is still tender."
"So I canna put him te work? Yer a strict mistress, Sassenach."
The slow blink he produced now indicated a change in the mood instead of an attempt at a wink. We quickly sent Fergus to the kitchen so Jamie could grab me and place me on his lap. I softly ground down, checking his response. When I got a smile and a bite of his lower lip, I continued. He grabbed my face and held it flush against his own, kissing me wantonly, and one of his hands grabbed my arse to grind me faster against his growing erection.
"What inspired this?" I asked softly into his ear. This was the most sexual we've been ever since I returned.
"Thought about ye as a mam, Sassenach," he answered into my neck, his teeth grazing my sensitive skin.
With my hands tangled in his copper hair, I angled my hips to touch him just right. His erection was stretching his jeans. He moaned softly into my mouth and so did I. His hand lifted my dress to caress my tits and I held myself tighter to him, bucking my hips harder.
"You really can't wait, can you?" I teased. He gave one of my breasts a generous squeeze before lifting me and setting me at his side. We were both flushed red with passion, our lips bloated, our breathes heavy. I reached my hand to his zipper but he redirected it to his face. I tried not to show my disappointment while running my fingers on the sharp edges of his golden stubble. Damn your big mouth, Beauchamp. You could've had him inside you right now if you just kept it shut.
"I've waited fer two years, Sassenach," he said, running his hand through my curls almost innocently. "I can wait fer the wedding."

Chapter Text

"When I stepped out and saw ye in yer wedding dress, it was as if the clouds have parted," he whispered to her. She could feel her cheeks redden, but no matter.
"You certainly didn't wait too long to remove it," she teased.
The dress in question was now lying on the floor beside Jamie's - their - bed. Claire agreed it was magnificent. Mrs Fitz was truly a magic worker.
The dress was almost medival in design, bum roll, corset and all. It was white and silver with little flowers adorning the edges and sleeves. With a complex hairdo to match - provided by no other than Fergus, who must've helped his old mistresses prepare for different occasions - she felt like a true princess.
It was Jamie who fitted the description of the sun shining through the clouds, in her opinion. Dressed in all his Scottish regalia - where on earth did he find a sporran and a Fraser kilt, she didn't know - his hair clean and tamed, his striking blue eyes twinkling with joy and excitement and love. Murtagh walking behind him, his best man, little Fergus hurrying after them with the rings and with Hugh in tow, who insisted on throwing flower petals in the air.
"I forgot to ask, where did you find the rings?"
He entwined his fingers with hers, testing the new feeling of metal on them.
"They belonged te my parents," he said.
"Jenny didn't want them?" She continued to play with their fingers.
He shook his head. "She and Ian have been marrit fer ages, mam and da were still alive." He pulled her to him.
"I think yer bra is a bit much fer the occasion, seeing as I'm waiting naked," he said and busied his hands with the clasp of the offending cloth.
"It's not my fault you went full Scot today. How was I supposed to know there was nothing under that kilt?"
He shook his head and smirked. "I think ye wanted there te be nothing, Sassenach. Dinna play innocent wi' me."
She playfully pushed him away and undid the bra herself.
"There. Calm?"
He nodded, satisfied. His hands immediately went to her breasts, fondling and squeezing. She didn't let him have all the fun, seeing as her hands were available, she sent one to his hair and the other to his cock. At first, she thought the roll of his eyes signified pleasure, but was soon proved wrong.
"Get away!" He almost screamed. Claire immediately withdrew her hands and sat up, only to watch her man, so recently confident, crumble. He curled into a fetal position and started shaking with sobs within the minute.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry," he repeated.
She slowly placed her hand next to his, only barely touching his pinky finger.
"You have nothing to be sorry for," she said, remembering how he comforted her while crying in the same bed.
"I thought…" he started, then sat up, determined to look at her while explaining. He did grab the hand that she offered.
"I thought if I married ye… I'd have something official te show I was yer's… not his. But… I felt yer hand touching me, and it felt sea good, and I looked at ye and saw his face." He squeezed her hand, as if to confirm that she has listened.
"It was wrong. The wedding. Should've waited like ye said. I'm no… I'm not myself's yet. I canna be yer's, no matter how much I want ye. Ye deserve better."
She pulled him to her, holding his face between the palms of her hands. Tears were still leaving his eyes, but the shaking stopped.
"You have me," she said. "And I have you. No one else has you, okay? If that bastard wants you, he has to go through me, just like Laoghaire. Okay?"
He chuckled through his tears. "He's no… he isna like Laoghaire."
She shrugged. "It's the same for me, really. Both are trying to compete with me and God be my witness, Jamie, I'm going to win. Okay?"
He seemed to relax a little and she smiled. "Now. I'll wait as long as you need for sex, okay? We don't have to do it before you're ready."
He gave her a look of determination. "Tis our wedding night, lass. Wouldn't be complete if I didn't give ye cause te scream my name."
"If you do, you can be sure Jenny will scream both of ours in the morning. We live with a baby, Jamie."
"Then I guess ye're going te have te stay quiet," he smirked. Before Claire knew it his face was between her legs, making it very hard to keep her resolve of not screaming.


"It was a really small, private ceremony, and it only lasted, like, ten minutes. Vows, cake, they didn't even dance because we didn't have music. You wouldn't have liked it anyway."
"Aye, I kent that, that's why I dinna come. Would've enjoyed the groom though," Laoghaire remarked bitterly.
"Wouldn't we all," John said, mostly to himself.
Laoghaire gave him a surprised look, then decided not to dwell on that for the time being.
"Look at us. Picking carrots like a pair of old spinsters," she complained.
"And we're the youngest people here!" John added, struggling with a root determined to stay in the ground. "Well, expect for Fergus and little Jamie, but they don't count."
She gave him a long, measuring look before speaking again.
"I don't hate ye. Even though ye're a filthy redcoat fiend."
He shrugged. "I don't hate you either, even though you called Claire a witch."
"Oh I called that witch all manner of other things," she said, her cheeks warming up. "It does'na matter. My mam said they didn't even have sex last night. Mebbe she's got a broomstick instead of a cauldron, aye?" She seemed very pleased with herself at the joke, but as John frowned she added a childish "what?"
"It doesn't matter what she has, it's clearly something both of us don't. Jamie likes her. We should accept that."
She looked at him with surprise. "Accept? Ye got all yer friends hammered and knocked out yer boss te be wi' Jamie, now ye want te accept?"
He shrugged and she shook her head in disbelief.
"Weel I wilna," she said with new resolve. "And when I get Jamie, ye can steal a kiss from him. Fer being my friend."
His eyebrows shot to his hairline. "Friend?"
"Not even my grandmother worried about me when I didn't come te that abominable wedding. Ye did."
He thought quickly before speaking. "I'll be your friend, but maybe leave them alone? I like Jamie, I want him to be happy. She seems to make him happy. Shouldn't we… you know… just be happy for them?"
"Yer heart is too big, Johnny. I'll get him, you'll see. But thanks fer the friendship. I dinna… laugh wi' anyone my age since the plague."
He held her hand. "Well, as long as you don't kill anyone, I'd love to laugh with you, Laoghaire."
"And if I do?"
"You know what I did to my old friends." He winked. "Let's get the carrots inside, shall we? Your grandmother saved you a slice of cake, wouldn't want it to go bad."

Chapter Text

It may have been three months, but John didn't trust Laoghaire just yet.
She kept her distance but he kept one eye watching over her.
He never saw Jamie truly happy, or so Jenny told him. The war tore a piece of him, then losing half of his family in the plague, then the whole Randall business. It left Jamie a broken man. He seemed better since the wedding, and certainly more relaxed when he was next to Claire, holding her hand or caressing her hair. John had to tell himself everyday the same thing he told Laoghaire - he truly loved him, and he can't take away something that makes the man he loves happy.
John would've settled for a harem, really, but he knew it wasn't Jamie's style.
Fergus, who shared his room, turned out to be an entertaining companion, even though they had ten years of age gap between them. He seemed to have adopted the newlyweds as his parents and was often sneaking to sleep in their bed. The fact that they allowed it told John more than he needed to know about their sex life, and he made Fergus swear to keep it a secret so Laoghaire doesn't get any ideas.

I wasn't growing frustrated. I couldn't be, for Jamie's sake.
I was ridiculously horny, that's for sure. Confused about how I could help him more. But not frustrated, not impatient, no matter how many times he would ask me.
I obviously couldn't confide in anyone. They were all either his family, his close friends, my mortal enemy or children.
I knew Jamie would talk to his wee namesake when he needed to get something off his chest, but even though I knew wee Jamie wouldn't remember and would definitely keep the secret even better than Hugh, holding an infant that couldn't even hold his own head up to look at me and saying, "I feel bad about it, but I can't wait to fuck my husband" just felt too wrong.
Relief came from the most unexpected source by the way of dental care.

"I can't grow you new ones, Angus. Who gave you this idea? I'm not even a dentist."
"Fine, I'll just brush them better."
I gave him a long, testing stare.
"Why did you truly come?"
He gave me what he must've thought was a charming smile before speaking.
"I thought ye had some bedroom issues wi' the Fraser," he said, grinning. I could toss a penny in the void his missing teeth left, but a fist to his face would do better.
"What on earth are you talking about?"
He shrugged. "I just figured, Rupert wouldna let me touch him ever since our brush wi' that devil. Canna imagine what it must be fer Jamie, and fer ye, te share his bed and no be able to have him as ye please." He then shrugged, but I didn't buy his show of nonchalance.
"Did you rehearse this or what? Jamie and I are perfectly fine and entirely none of your business, thank you," I said, packing my kit a little too angrily.
"Whoa, lass, I dinna mean te offend ye. I'm only offering my listening ear - that's the right one, the left one had a firework explode next to it."
"By Rupert, I should imagine?"
"Och, no, he tried to stop me, but I dinna listen then and I only half listen now," he jested, milking a dry smile from my lips.
"Fine," I said, once I realised he truly was the only person I could talk to, after he shared his feelings with me. "I suppose I am a little… I'm at the end of my rope here, Angus. I don't mean sexually - you have a boyfriend, keep your hands to yourself - but… I can't seem to help him, and waiting it out in such an uncertain world… it's just not sustainable."
He nodded, slowly considering my answer.
"Did he tell ye what happened te him in that camp?"
I shook my head. "He didn't want to talk about it."
"Mebbe he should," Angus suggested. "Make him understand it's just an event, no his whole life story. And that he isna to blame. I tried telling him a million times it was my fault, but it worked as well as ye expect."
I nodded. "A headstrong Fraser."
"That he is."
"Did it help with Rupert?"
"I was wi' him all along, Claire. No point in his retelling."
I nodded.
"Thank you, Angus, truly. I really needed someone to talk to."
He gave me another toothless grin, but now it was almost charming.
"Yer man is by the fence wi' Murtagh and Hugh."
"I'll go get him."

"Three fools, you are worse than children, I swear - "
"Hey now, dinna swear, Sassenach," his eyes glinted at his wife in full action mode, treating Hugh's ankle from showing them he could jump over the fence and Murtagh's scratches from bragging that he could bend the wires with his bare hands.
"Jamie's done nothing wrong," Murtagh protested.
"Allowing your tomfoolery is wrong enough," she replied, and when Murtagh winced at her touch, she pressed his wound harder.
Jamie lay his hand on her shoulder.
"I'm sorry, Sassenach," he said.
"I forgive you, dear. Not you," she directed the last words at Hugh. "I'd expect that sort of behaviour from Fergus, maybe Angus. You're a grown and smart man, Hugh."
Hugh looked like a boy who's candy was snatched by a raven. He signed something to Jamie.
"Aye, she's mad, but she'll recover," Jamie reassured him. "Perhaps she's right, though."
"I'm always right," Claire replied without lifting her gaze from Hugh's bandages. "Fine, you may leave, but if I see you putting yourself in unnecessary danger again while we have children to protect, I swear to god Hugh - "
His humming seemed to complete her sentence.
"You have the guts to make fun of me?"
"She can take them from ye," Murtagh chimed in.
Hugh shook his head as if he was terrified. Finally, the two were rushed out of the laird's bedroom, leaving Claire and Jamie alone.
"I like it when ye take charge," Jamie said, his voice husky. He came closer to her, his arms surrounding her thin waist.
Claire hummed, pleased. "Someone has to," she said. Jamie smiled and led his hand under the waistline of her jeans.
"Don't start what you can't finish," she reminded him.
The hand, squeezing pleasantly just a second before, retreated to safer grounds.
"Aye," he mumbled softly. "I'm sorry, Sassenach."
Her body tightened and leaned further into his embrace.
"It might help if you told me about it," she said. "What he did to you. Might make the burden lighter."
He pushed himself to an arm's distance.
"I'm just saying, a burden shared is a burden halved - "
"Aye, this is why I canna do that," he interrupted. "How could I put ye through that?"
"What, having horrible things happen to me and never feeling like I'm the same person? Blaming myself, hating my body, only showering as little as I could to avoid seeing it? I gave birth to a stillborn, Jamie, for Christ's sake. It might not be the same thing, but I'm not some frail damsel. You wouldn't break me."
His wide, sapphire eyes stared at her, as if trying to read her mind. The only contact between them was his hands on her shoulders, but suddenly it wasn't enough and he pulled her into him, crushing the air out of her lungs.
"I'm sorry," he mumbled against her unruly hair.
"I told you to stop that. You didn't do anything wrong."
"I did. I didn't appreciate ye enough, mo chridhe. When I look at ye, I canna see what you've been through, and it makes it easier to only think of myself. I never tried to help - "
"Stop. You helped more than you know."
He looked at her again, confused.
"I made ye go through it. I gave ye the dead bairn."
She entwined her hand in his copper curls.
"You loved me. You listened to me when I told you about it, but then you treated me like a person. You gave me a future, Jamie. Marriage. Another child, someday, and a place to belong, and a community. I'm only trying to repay you, if anything."
His hand went to cup her jaw and she noticed the orbs of his eyes becoming glassy with tears.
"This place felt like prison before ye came here," he said. "As did my future. I thought I'd have te marry Laoghaire," he said with a wry smile.
"But it does'na, anymore. Tis my heid that is the prison now, and all I can do about it is jump over fences - "
"You jumped?"
"Aye, I'm just better at landing," he said, grinning at her annoyed expression.
"I might just forgive you," she said. "If you give me a kiss."
His hand didn't leave her jaw. He just pulled her closer to meld their mouths together. He hoped he could portray the gratitude he felt for her existence in his life through the softness of his lips, the heat of his face close to hers, his insistent tongue. She moaned softly into his mouth and it went straight to his groin.
Don't start what you can't finish, he told himself. But like every other time she made his member stand still like a soldier, there was a glint of hope in his heart that this time he might manage this feat.
Jamie entwined his fingers through her curls. That's Claire, he reminded himself. Heavy curls of the warmest, the most inviting shade of brown. Round tits that were pressed snugly against his chest. It was his Claire, which meant he was safe.

Jamie didn't lie to himself. He didn't feel comfortable next to her, not since his failure to deliver his end of the bargain on their wedding night.
Of course, he couldn't ask anyone for advice. No one could know the state he was in. Talking to Ian was tempting, as Jamie knew he struggled with much of the same issues after losing his leg, but he knew he might as well reveal his secrets to Jenny. Anyone else would be accepting and supportive, of course, but couldn't really offer advice. He tried to talk to Hugh about it, but the man seemed repulsed by the thought of Claire and sex in the same context, behaving in a fatherly manner about the woman.

With a precise roll of her hips, Jamie understood exactly what Claire needed. He could provide this time. She was his wife. He was safe.
If only to remind himself of the fact, he wiggled her out of her jacket and shirt and latched his hand to her breast, kneading and pinching. She whimpered and held herself even closer to him.
"Talk to me, lass. I need te hear yer voice, te ken what I'm doing te ye," he pleaded.
"Please, Jamie, touch me more," her voice came low and wanting. His penis, it seemed, was listening carefully.
"What shall I do to ye, mo chridhe?"
"I'm yours," she pleaded. "Please, Jamie, I can't think straight."
He lifted her onto the bed and pulled her jeans away. She was very ready for him, pink, moist and wanting. He carefully dipped a finger into her folds and relished at her needy whimper, but he stopped.
"I need te hear ye speak, lass," he reminded her.
"Jamie, please, I need you," her eyes were closed and she did her best to pull his finger deeper inside herself.
"Need what? Use yer words, lass."
"Just fuck me," she whimpered. He obliged and drove his finger as deep as he could into the warm, inviting hilt of her. She contracted around him, begging for more friction, and mercifully he decided to place his thumb on her wanting clit.
"Fuck, Jamie, I need more - "
How did she drive him so close to the edge with her own pleasure, Jamie didn't know, but he didn't complain. He added another finger inside of her, hooking them in the way he knew would drive her crazy. She thrusted against him, her eyes closed and her forehead scrunched in concentration, and he palmed his aching cock through his pants.
"Fuck, Sassenach, ye can make me come just from the sight of ye," he mused. "Ye're so bonny when ye're spread open fer me like that."
"Inside," she pleaded.
This was Claire.
He was safe.
He removed his hand from her to a cry of complaint and efficiently removed his clothes. She looked at him with such astonishment he almost laughed.
"What happened, Sassenach, never saw a naked man before?"
"Never wanted a cock so much in my life," she replied and made to touch said member, but he swatted her hand away.
"Come now, Sassenach. We're doing this by my rules, aye?"
She nodded and placed her hands to her side.
"I'm going to fuck ye now. Is that alright?"
She nodded, her whole face and chest flushed with arousal.
"Talk te me," he reminded her. "I need to hear your voice."
"Jamie, please fuck me," she said in the sweetest, most alluring voice he had ever heard. He couldn't taunt her any further and plunged deep into her.
She didn't manage full words after that, only wee noises and moans and occasionally his name, but Jamie couldn't say he minded. One hand fisting her hair and the other lifting her round arse, he drove deeply and powerfully into her, finding his home and his haven deep inside his love. He held himself in check until the wee noises became urgent and she could no longer keep her hands to her sides, holding his torso and pushing him deeper inside, before he increased the pace until they both came undone.
He rolled off her, exerted, and she snuggled onto him. He thought her eyes seemed glassy, and only when she wiped tears of his cheekbones did he notice he was crying.
"Do you regret it?" She asked in the sleepy voice he already knew meant he had served her well.
"Not for a second," he replied. "Proud. Happy te have ye wi' me."
She snuggled closer.
"I'm happy too," she said. "That we'll sleep without Fergus tonight."
"Happy? Why?"
She gave a short, musical laugh.
"He's the worst kicker in the world!"

Chapter Text

"Sassenach, can I have yer advice?"
I opened my eyes lazily.
"First thing in the morning?"
To be fair, we have slept in. The curtains could hardly contain the sunlight bursting in the room. Jamie would usually be up by sunrise, but he seemed content to stay in bed with me, and I took it as an excuse to cuddle myself onto his chest, my fingers running through the soft, cinnamon coloured curls on it.
"Laoghaire and John asked fer my permission te travel te Inverness or even further. Said they wanted to look for manuals and such, te make us electricity and a radio tower. John thinks, and I agree, that we owe it to the future to expand the community and keep it safe. Canna just stay here. Our bairns will know no child who isna a cousin, and I canna imagine it will be good fer the genetics, though ye're the doctor."
I took a moment to consider.
"We could just send a few people towards Glasgow, there are probably survivors there. It's only two hundred kilometres from here. On horseback we could do it in two weeks."
Jamie scrunched his forehead in thought.
"This might be risky."
"Might be worth it."
"Aye. But I dinna ken if I can trust Laoghaire, and wi' the redcoats nearby, I dinna dare te leave Lallybroch underprotected."
I kissed the stubble growing on his jaw.
"I think you should trust her," I said. "And if she doesn't return, so be it."
Jamie looked at me, horrified.
"Her mam will have my hide!"
I giggled. "I didn't mean something bad would happen to her. I've seen her fight off a hundred Others like they were mosquitos. I'm just thinking, maybe they want to leave the community, and we should allow it."
"They'd have nowhere te go."
"Exactly why we should let them."
Jamie was lost in his thoughts.
"She's fierce, ye say?"
"Wouldn't want to be her enemy."
"No, we canna have that. Suppose I'll let her, then."

It seemed that the only person who didn't know we had sex was wee Jamie. The responses ranged - some shared knowing looks, some clapped Jamie on the back, Jenny surprisingly being one of them, some, Fergus being the most enthusiastic one, congratulated us. Laoghaire was openly fuming, and I was lucky Jamie decided to send her and John off, so I didn't have to suspect every item of food in my vicinity to be poisoned.

"Why are we truly going te Inverness?" She inquired once Lallybroch was out of sight.
"What, you don't like electricity?" John deflected. Laoghaire scowled.
"I ken ye, John, and I ken Ian is an engineer, so I ask again. Why did you choose te take me on this journey?"
John sighed. For a friend, Laoghaire wasn't being too trusting.
"Well, maybe I had to get you away from Lallybroch for a bit so that you don't strangle Claire," he sheepishly admitted. "And maybe, don't kill me, maybe having a radio tower will encourage more people to join us, some of them being bachelors to your liking."
She snorted. "So ye can have Jamie te yerself?"
John shook his head and sighed. "So Claire can have him. She does, Laoghaire. You're going to have to find your own happiness, and I'm going to help you."
Laoghaire huffed, annoyed. The first thought she had was upset, but the second one forced a smile and a blush to her face.
Never before has someone else worried themselves so much about her happiness.

Ian rolled out a paper map in front of us. At first I didn't even realize it was a map - with all the dots and the lines it could've been a riddle - but then I recognized the words.
"I propose we put up a new fence here," he said, marking the edges of the page with his finger. The sweat on his forehead in what must've been February or early March told me he was excited, maybe even nervous.
"Why do we need all of this space?" Jamie challenged, though the answer was not only on the page but in his mind. We discussed it ourselves just this morning.
"Weel, we're going te need more fields te support more folks. I propose to double our potato growings as a first step, and maintain a larger herd of sheep. If we can find more horses it's great, they may share the pasture - "
"It's larger, I see - "
"Aye, I intend on catching a few cows, I ken they had a farm not too far north. They eat like maniacs, but milk is good protein and we can use the extra leather. Which brings me to the next point - production."
"Are we to start a factory, brother?"
Ian shook his head, clearly trying to keep his momentum.
"Our clothes and shoes wilna hold forever. We canna rely on scavenging either. We have wool and leather, so here, I'm planning te build a clothing station. The rest are similar in purpose really - a wee hospital fer ye, Claire, and here we can process cheese and such more efficiently, and this will be underground storage and a hideaway in case of invasion we canna defeat face te face."
Jamie nodded.
"Ye marked the living spaces, that I can see. Wi' our family growing, I understand the need. But what's that building?" He pointed at the little box on the map I was trying to puzzle out myself.
"A wee school," he replied, proudly. "I ken we dinna have enough bairns fer a whole class just yet, so we can use it as a community center. But if both us and ye and hopefully Laoghaire put our heids to it, we can have a gaggle of weens here in no time."
I didn't understand why the prospect of a school brought tears to my eyes. Not the hospital, not the thought of a growing community. The school was the true confirmation of my future - the words 'a gaggle of weens' were enough for me to imagine it as clear as day.
It was a better future than I imagined for my children. A big, loving and functioning community, a father with much of the same measures, and a school - to me, that was the epitome of normalcy, something even I didn't get to experience. To have my child, that didn't even have a shape and a name in my dreams, run to me excited on their lunch break, discussing the story they read or the song they learned or the calculations they did on the board and managed on the first try. Helping my child with homework. Seeing them graduate, truly have a sheltered childhood and friends to carry them into the adult world.
"I think Claire loves yer idea," Jamie noted. "Aye, Ian, how ye managed te do so much thinking wi' a newborn around I'll never ken, but ye're right. I'll have Murtagh get started on the clothing station, I reckon."
I loved the idea indeed.

Jamie came to bed later than I did and covered with mud. I carefully placed the tip of my finger on his chest, as to not get too dirty.
"You are not getting in bed without a shower, mister," I threatened.
He smiled. "I just wanted te offer ye to join me," he said, trying to steal a kiss which I ducked away from.
"With cold water? You must be crazy."
"I'll keep ye warm, Sassenach," he teased.
Well, it's not like I could say no to that kind of offer.
Once we were clean and dry and I was heating my freezing feet on his abdomen, I had to ask.
"What's with the mud?"
"Hugh found a cow, but it wasna too keen on coming home wi' us," he said.
"Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ. He must've gone straight to bed. I'm in no mood to wash muddy beddings."
Jamie smiled. "Dinna worry, Sassenach. He's still up, getting the Macnabs settled in."
"What - who?"
"We found them with the cow. A mother and a bairn not older than three. They took Fergus and John's room for tonight, but the lad was gracious enough te sleep on the couch and allow us the bed fer ourselves once again."
"He is way too aware of sex for a ten year old," I noted.
"Aye, he didn't have too much of a childhood, but he's a braw lad."
I smiled. "He called me mama today. It was an accident, but I'll take it."
Jamie was beaming. "He did?"
I smiled brightly.
"Does it mean he's ready fer a new wee brother?"
I giggled, the thought making me giddy instead of scared as it used to.
"Are you?"
"I'd say I'm doing my part, Sassenach."
"Well, seeing as we have the bed for ourselves, would you like to do it some more?"

Chapter Text

All I wanted to do was to keep staring at him.
I knew we had to get up. I knew Fergus was so excited for today that he slept in the stables and that he probably had both the horses and the breakfast ready by now. I knew Jamie would be grumpy when he learned that we wasted the hours of the morning and made less progress than he thought we should've.
But he smiled in his sleep, and he hadn't done that for a while now. And he snored softly, the sound providing me with confidence that he was there when I was trying to fall asleep and when I woke up, still fumbling with the remnants of the realm of dreams. His chest was rising and falling softly and he nuzzled towards me in his sleep. How could I wake him up and put a stop to it?
When he farted I knew consciousness was imminent, as it was every morning, and smacked him playfully.
"Your alarm went off," I justified myself to the beautiful blue eyes, still clouded with sleep.
"Fer the last time, Sassenach, I do not fart in my sleep," he objected, grabbing my arse as if to teach me the origin of such sounds.
"How would you know? You're asleep when it happens," I reflected. He playfully pinched my arse, making his claim.
"The lad is probably waiting downstairs," he noted. I made a sound of displeasure.
"How do you go from asleep to fully active so quickly?"
"Ye're right, Sassenach," he said, and punctuated his sentence with a peck to my lips. "Let him wait."

"Ye fart sea loud that ye woke yerself up wi' it once!"
"I did not!"
"Aye, ye did, but I didna have the heart te tell ye the truth at the time."
"I'll have you know I'm the picture of elegance and dignity - "
"Can ye asset te that, lad?" Jamie suddenly turned to Fergus, who was waiting in the kitchen for longer than was appropriate.
"Not when you wake the whole house up."
Claire blushed at the boy's acute observation.
"I suppose not," she mumbled into Jamie's arm, but he seemed unfazed.
"Wait, Fergus can settle this. Does she fart in her sleep, lad?" Jamie was unashamedly nodding in an exaggerated manner behind Claire, and she smacked his arm.
"Non, milady is feminine and elegant," Fergus dutifully replied, and earned a ruffle of his curls from said elegant lady.
A creak of the stairs caught the merry trio's attention.
"Ye're waking the bairn up wi' that bawdy conversation," Jenny complained, said bairn fussing on her shoulder as she rocked to calm him down. "And ye do fart before ye wake up, brother," she added.
"Betrayed by my own sister!" Jamie pretended to take an arrow to his heart, gasping and falling all the way to the floor dramatically.
"Ye should be on yer way," Jenny reminded them. Jamie hastily stuffed half of a hard-boiled egg in his mouth and went to hug his sister.
"I'll see ye soon," he said after managing to swallow.
"Ye better," she replied, not quick to let her brother go.
"And ye too, Claire. I trust ye to keep the clothheid out o' trouble," she said, hugging the taller woman.
Fergus rose onto the tips of his toes to give wee Jamie's forehead a gentle kiss.
"Don't grow up too much when I'm gone," he whispered to the boy, causing the adults in the room to melt into smiles, realising the boy truly became a part of the family.

Goodbyes given, Jamie mounted Donas while Claire and Fergus manned the front seat of the mostly empty wagon, pulled by another horse.
It was after no short debate that they decided to go to Glasgow. Claire needed more medical equipment, Ian requested some materials for building the many new houses that he had planned, and John asked for as many manuals as they could find about any subject, as well as clothing, shoes and children's literature. The true reason, of course, was that even after establishing the radio tower, no one has joined the Lallybroch community, and someone had to check if there were bigger, better communities out there hounding the people, or if the state of the outside world was even worse than they had imagined.
It had been almost five months since Jamie had left Lallybroch, and although he was wary of it, he also needed to set foot outside for the sake of his own sanity. He didn't leave without settings up the electrical fence, but in his heart he knew it was much safer than it was before.
Every flash of red lit the alarms in his brain, but after a few kilometres of only red flowers and birds, he seemed to calm down and no longer kept his hand on his sword.

Fergus was gathering firewood for the night when a hand caught his arm. The grip was too firm for it to belong to anyone who cared for him, and when a hand plastered itself over his mouth to stop the scream trying to escape, Fergus started struggling against his at this point still invisible captor.
"What have we here?" Asked a cold, sickening voice in his ear. The scream that left Fergus's mouth died too close to his lips.
"What are you doing here all alone, little boy?"
Fergus was kicking in the air when the man lifted him and slammed him against a tree as if he had no weight. The wind was knocked out of his lungs, but he kept struggling against the man in the red coat.
"Don't mind if I do," the man mumbled to himself.
In his mind, Fergus knew what came next. He was subjected to this form of torture before. He knew standing still and waiting it out was his best course of action. Yet, his body did not give up. He was stronger than ever before, and the man seemed famished and pale, definitely weaker than his tall frame suggested.
Fergus was also not alone.
The man lifted his hand from the boy's mouth and drew a short knife.
"You must remain quiet, now, boy. There are Others in the woods who would be very much drawn to screams like yours."
Fergus's legs and arms were shivering. He nodded, if only to make the man relax slightly. How long before Jamie and Claire start to worry?
The man whipped out his member and started working it into an erection. He was distracted, and Fergus took his chance.
"Milord! Help!"
The sound couldn't have carried far in the woods, who had their own plethora of sounds, but Jamie's senses were egile and sharp. Fergus didn't get to try again when a stinging slap plastered itself to his cheek.
"Quiet, boy, if you wish to live!"
Fergus tried his leg at a kick to the groin of his attacker and the man dodged it, snarling.
"Milord!" Fergus tried again and found that the blade of the knife was now held against his throat.
The voice came thundering through the mellow tunes of the forest.
Fergus earned two rewards for his efforts. One was a cut on the tender skin of his neck, stinging more than hurting. The other was a flash of copper curls and the sound of heavy footsteps.
"Drop yer weapon," Jamie said, his voice so commanding Fergus would've dropped his if he could.
The redcoat begrudgingly complied, the metal making hardly any sound when coming in contact with the soft earth below.
"Step away from the lad, ye filthy animal," Jamie continued. Once freed, Fergus ran away from his captor and into Claire's waiting arms.
Only through comparison to her steady arms did Fergus notice how badly he was shaking. She tried to soothe him by holding him close and running her hands through his hair, but her eyes were trained on the redcoat and so were Fergus's.
The man turned to face Jamie. Fergus expected him to be terrified, as he imagined every enemy of a man of Jamie's size and bravery would feel, but instead he found something odd in the redcoat's eyes, something almost akin to glee.
Jamie gave Claire a glance and she nodded, and then he closed on the man, the sword that he held against his chest replaced by his dirk, the sword finding its place on the man's neck, much like he threatened Fergus moments earlier.
"Did the redcoats kick ye out?" Jamie asked, his voice almost empathetic. The man didn't reply, but the state of him, starved and exhausted and deranged, spoke instead.
"Aye. Weel, not only did ye hurt me many times, ye now hurt my family. Ye understand I canna let ye live after that."
The man showed no sign of fear. Instead, he smiled.
"May I see the results of my handiwork one last time?" He asked.
"No," Jamie replied simply, and while Claire covered Fergus's eyes, he didn't miss the string of sickening sounds that followed.
"Go make camp," he instructed. "I'll dig him a grave."
"Milord, he does not deserve this!" Fergus protested, a morbid thought within him pushing him to look at the corpse.
"He doesn't," Jamie agreed. "But if I don't, he'll attract Others, and he also might tempt our doctor te try and heal him."
"I would not!" The doctor protested.
"I have seen ye heal yer enemies before, Sassenach," Jamie reminded her. "I ken ye're bound by an oath."
"To help all people," she recited. "Not monsters."

Warped with blankets and sitting near the fire, Fergus expected his shaking to subdue. He managed to nibble on his dinner, but he didn't speak and Claire didn't push him to. The only sense of relaxation he got that night stemmed from the heavy figure of Jamie landing to a seat next to him.
"Ye were brave tonight, lad. Ye did well."
Fergus stared at him with shock.
"I didn't do anything! I didn't fight him!"
He felt warm tears adorn his lips but didn't dare to leave his blanket cocoon to wipe them away.
Jamie shook his head.
"I have fought this monster three times, but only today did I win," he said. "this was thanks te yer help and courage, Fergus. Now I can sleep soundly at night, and ken the devil isna on my trail. I thank ye."
Jamie pulled the boy into his embrace and squeezed him comfortingly.
"Really, Milord, you would be lost without me."