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He Who Laughs Last...

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Modern-Day Edinburgh

A warm Friday night in Spring, where they both have the whole weekend off (yes, really)!

 

Jamie walked quietly upstairs to put his plan in action. He gathered the collar, leash, padded handcuffs and stretcher bar and set them all on the dresser under a towel. He changed his clothes and wondered how Claire would react to his new outfit. How would she react to his plan? He opened the door and called down to her,

"Mo chridhe (my heart), do ye have some time for me? I'm in the bedroom."

"I'll be right up, love," she shouted up the stairs. She finished wiping up the kitchen counter and walked upstairs to their room, wondering what Jamie wanted.

She opened the door and gasped, seeing flickering candles around the room, and small vases of fragrant sterling silver roses* peppering every surface, as well as petals freshly strewn on the bed, which was bare except for warm ivory Portuguese-flannel sheets and their pillows. There was a towel draped over some lumpy looking objects on the dresser and next to them was a bottle of whisky and two glasses.

"Jamie? Where are you, love?" Claire called softly.

"Right behind you, Sassenach. Turn around, woman," Jamie commanded.

Claire sucked in a breath at his tone, which brooked no dissent. She turned around slowly and felt herself get wet at the feast before her eager eyes. Jamie stood before her, supple midnight-black leather pants accentuating his powerful legs, feet bare. He wore an unbuttoned white silk shirt that reflected his light summer tan and the sea-blue beauty of his eyes. The candlelight danced on his auburn curls, making Ms. Beauchamp more than a little weak in the knees. Claire could see his abdominal muscles, so well-defined and inviting. She took a cleansing breath and swallowed heavily. He'd gotten a haircut that morning, and his curly hair no longer touched his collar. His curls perfectly accentuated his chiseled jaw and high Viking cheekbones. He was breathtaking, and Claire licked her lips and started to step forward, a smile on her sensuous mouth.

"No, Sassenach. Return to where you were standing. Now."

Claire raised an eyebrow and her mouth fell open, surprised.

Collecting herself, she questioned the tall man before her. "What's going on, Jamie? What is this?" Her eyebrows drew together in confusion.

"Remember last week when I agreed to let ye dominate me? I want to do that for ye tonight, a leannan (sweetheart). If ye agree, yer safe word will be "Oxford." I will guide ye and take my pleasure from ye. I will control yer orgasms. I will use ye as I see fit and ye willna speak unless I give ye permission. As with last week, there will be no backtalk. My commands must be obeyed immediately. Failure to comply will result in punishment. I can give you time to think this over, if ye like. I'll leave and ye can call me when ye're ready with whatever ye decide. What say ye, lass?

Claire straightened her back and said, "I accept. Let's do this, love."

Jamie strode to stand in front of her and tipped her chin up.

"Look at me." Claire gulped and looked up into the eyes of the man she loved more than anyone.

"You will address me as Master, nothing else. If you slip up, ye'll pay for it. Do ye understand?"

Claire's mouth went dry and she whispered hoarsely, "Yes, Master." As the words floated heavy in the air, she felt her pussy muscles ripple and whined.

"Did yer pussy clench when you called me Master, lass?"

"Yes, Master," Claire ground out.

"That's my dirty, naughty lass, such a good girl." Jamie smiled gently at her, aware of how these words and his temporary title, in particular, affected the woman who kept his own heart beating.

Claire blushed ten shades of red and felt more moisture drip slowly from her slit.

"Strip and face the wall over there. Put your hair up in this elastic so it's out of your face." Jamie handed her a hair tie.

"As you say, Master." Claire took her clothes off, folding them neatly and then pulled her hair into the elastic. She stepped noiselessly to the wall and stood in front of it as directed.

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Jamie stepped behind her and kissed her neck infuriatingly slowly. He used her distraction to knee her legs apart and slowly lifted her arms to the wall, commanding her,

"Stay. Dinna move or speak. If ye understand me, nod."

Claire inhaled a trembling breath and nodded.

Suddenly, Jamie inserted two fingers into her pussy, and she bit back a moan. She felt his warm breath on her neck once more and wished he'd start kissing her again. Instead, he whispered,

"Lass, who owns this pussy?"

Claire blinked and whispered back, "You do, Master." Her pussy clenched around Jamie's fingers and she let out a cleansing breath, trying to keep focusing.

"And who owns your climaxes?"

"You do, Master." Again, her traitorous pussy tried to suck his digits further up her channel. Claire shivered as she realized that Jamie was gently finger-fucking her and she pressed hard against the wall so she wouldn't lose her balance. In and out, in and out, maddeningly slowly, until they could both hear and feel Claire's wetness.

Jamie withdrew his fingers and pressed himself to her back. He nipped one earlobe and sucked the other one into his mouth, making Claire's knees buckle. He eased her up again and reached around to her breasts, palming and squeezing them, softly at first and then more insistently, pulling and twisting her nipples, making Claire gasp with need. He kept this up for several minutes, punctuating the tugs and caresses with bites to her neck and shoulders. He smirked when he heard her whine and teased her labia with a gentle finger, amazed at how wet his knuckle was when he pushed his finger in shallowly and eased it out again - it was practically dripping.

"Ye naughty girl, feel what ye're doin ta me!"

He ground his now-stiff member against her ass. He could write sonnets about her magnificent bottom; for him, it was a masterpiece finer than any statue from antiquity. He pulled her back from the wall a little and used the new angle to slide his cock up and down her cheeks, teasing another whine and answering grind from her. He stopped abruptly and brusquely ordered,

"Stay."

He strode to the dresser and selected a few items. He came back to Claire and his powerful arm encircled her waist, stroking her flat stomach in a lovely circular pattern. He trailed kisses down her neck and shoulders and felt his woman take a cleansing breath. Claire wondered what was going on, as all movement stopped and he'd withdrawn his arm. It was then that she felt the cold leather of the collar caress her neck and jumped a little at the padlock closing.

"Everything alright, a neighan (girl)?"

"Yes, Master, thank you for asking," Claire whispered.

He fastened the rhinestone-studded leash onto the "D" ring in front and trailed it up and down her abdomen, her ribs and breasts. He paid special attention to her glorious areolas, flicking them with the wrist loop and catching them in it and dragging the loop down, down, down, over and over. He brought his other hand to her free breast and pulled on the nipple - he knew how much it turned her on, and made sure to tease her to distraction. Claire was overcome with the sensations warring in her body and whispered,

"Oh, Jamie, more!" She realized her inadvertent infraction too late and gasped, unthinkingly removing her hand to cover her mouth and start whispering an earnest apology.

"What was that, girl?" Jamie rumbled angrily.

He grasped her shoulders firmly and spun her around, pushing her backside firmly into the wall then taking both wrists in one huge hand and yanking them high above her head.

"What's my name, slave?" Jamie spat.

Claire bowed her head but Jamie ordered, "Look at me, my property!" She looked up with tears in her eyes and whispered, "Master. Your name is Master."

"You know that I have to punish ye, aye? Ye've left me no choice now."

"Yes, Master, I know and I apologize." Jamie saw true regret in her eyes and gently wiped escaped tears off her beautiful face.

"Dinna worry, mo neighan donn (my brown-haired girl), I know how strong ye are. Ye'll make it through. First, though, ye can show Master how sorry ye are, aye?"

He picked up her leash and tugged her downward. He ordered her to crawl on all fours to the bed. She crawled slowly, making sure to swing her hips enticingly. As she reached the bed, he slapped her hard on both ass cheeks in rapid succession, commanding sharply, "Kneel up, woman!" He grabbed her hair and pulled her to a kneeling position. He pulled two elasticized wristbands she wore playing the occasional tennis match out of a nearby drawer and slipped them onto her wrists so he could close the cuffs without worrying about marking her for work on Monday. Very carefully, Jamie closed the cuffs as loosely as possible. He settled on the bed’s edge and opened his legs wide, taking care to steady Claire with his hands and encouraging her to shuffle forward until he could hold her steady with his knees.

Claire hissed as he pulled her head sharply and screamed when he mercilessly pinched her bullet-hard nipples. He forced her to look at him and was pleased to see her eyes shining with hunger for him alone. His most prized possession. He leaned down and whispered,

"Mo nighean donn (my brown-haired lass), give me yer beautiful mouth." Jamie saw bright lights fizz and pop behind his eyelids and his heartbeat banged out an erratic rhythm as he kissed the love of his life. Claire felt electricity explode along her spine as her man enveloped her in a hungry, fiery kiss. Their tongues battled for dominance and she groaned in delight.

The kiss ended and even Jamie had to give himself some moments to come back down.

"Open your pretty mouth for your Lord and Master, lass," Jamie growled at her. Claire smiled, licked her lips and nearly undid the tall ginger before her,

"Yes, my Lord. Please use your property as you see fit."

His eyes sparked in a furious show of possessiveness as he unzipped his pants and stepped out of them, pleased to see that Claire was already compliant, her mouth open and waiting for him.

She saw with amazement that he'd gotten a wax and her stomach flipped in desire. He grabbed her hair and moved his hot cock into her even hotter mouth and groaned as Claire's strong tongue stroked and licked him. He guided her head back and forth, encouraging her with every forward stroke to take him a bit deeper. The sensation was incredible; he couldn't even focus on one sensation long enough before the next pummeled him, as unceasing waves at the beach punish sand. Jamie felt her start to hum and realized she was dropping the timbre of her voice so she could vary the intensity of the vibrations spinning Jamie into a whole new, delicious experience. He breathed in through his nose and out his mouth to try to tamp down on his rising climax, trying to picture anything that would slow the buildup - Murtagh and Suzette, Angus and Rupert, that old grump Mrs. MacIntosh on the corner, last year's tax bill - oh yep, that was it. Finally, the pressure on his balls eased somewhat and he growled,

"O Dhia sibh a tha sinn a ’buaireadh, tha thu a’ toirt tlachd do Mhaighstir!" (Oh, God, ye wee temptress, ye are pleasing yer Master!)!"

He pulled completely out of her mouth, and Claire whined, a high-pitched cracking sound that told him exactly what he wanted to know.

"Do ye want Master's cock back, a gráidh (my love)?"

Mutely, Claire nodded.

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"This time, I'm askin' ye to take me all the way down your throat, do ye understand? Can ye do that for me? Tell me now."

She licked her lips sensuously and lowered her lashes, glancing up shyly.

"Yes, Master. I want to take you all the way down, even if it takes a few tries. Please, may I try?"

Jamie reached down and caressed her cheek lovingly.

"Aye, a neighan (girl), let's try together."

Jamie settled on the bed again and kissed her gently, nipping lightly on her bottom lip before pushing his tongue in her willing mouth, making her groan in need again. He trailed white-hot kisses down her neck, licking and sucking, making Claire whine.

"Alright, love, mouth open."

Right before he put his cock in her mouth, she winked at him, making his stomach flip. He entered her and pushed forward and back a few times and commanded her to bathe his cock with her mouth. He increased his tempo and groaned weakly,

"That's it, good girl, an seud as luachmhoire agam (my most precious jewel), relax your throat, drool all over Master's cock."

Claire did just that, and Jamie pushed inexorably forward until he heard her gag.

"Shhhh, mo bhoireannach beag bìodach (my tiny fierce woman), swallow, relax your throat muscles, let your Master in."

Claire swallowed and breathed in and out through her nose, picturing her throat muscles opening like a flower to the morning sun.

Jamie hissed a sharp breath of pleasure when he felt his cock ease further down. He looked down at her, and realized she'd done it - her nose was resting gently against his waxed skin. He stopped moving for a second and then eased backward until he was nearly free of her mouth. She took the time to swallow and breathe and opened her mouth again, ready for another try. He picked up a tiny spray bottle and said,

"This is warm water for your mouth, ok?"

Jamie carefully misted warm water into her mouth and onto her outstretched tongue, earning a grateful smile from Claire. He fisted her hair again and looked in her eyes.

"We've something to settle between us, aye, mo chridhe (my heart)? You called me something other than Master, and I'm gonna punish ye for it."

He bit and sucked on each nipple in turn, not letting her move a centimeter* from where she knelt. She writhed and tried to escape his strong fingers, amazed that something so painful could make her so excited. She whined, moaned and bucked as Jamie continued the torture, addressing her gently,

"Nay, Sorcha, love, dinna fight your Master. I know this is hard, but ye will be my good lass and submit to your punishment, aye?"

Claire stilled at the sound of his voice, drew a shaky breath and whispered, "Yes, Master, I submit."

He beamed at her, and Claire felt like the sun had broken through clouds.

"That's ma braw (good) lass."

He twisted and pinched her nipples, only stopping to slap them. He forced her to endure it all. Pride glowed in his eyes when he heard her whimper and saw new wetness drip onto her already-slick inner thighs. He bent still farther and roughly parted her nether lips. He pushed his thick index finger into her opening, reveling in how wet she was, only for him. He crooked his finger and scooped out some wetness, painting her mouth with her own juices.

"Suck, lass. Taste how delicious ye are," commanded Jamie.

She opened her mouth and sucked his digit, moaning and swirling her tongue against it until it was clean. He wiped his finger on her stomach and returned to the task at hand. He slid his cock into her mouth again and flicked her nipples with his fingernails. Claire felt warmth pooling in her belly and moaned. He continued tugging, pulling and pinching her soft skin until he could stand it no longer. He helped her stand and he latched on to the bottom of her breast, trapping her with his teeth, marking her so hard that he knew she'd have a huge, ugly bruise tomorrow and days to follow. His mark, the irrefutable sign that she belonged to him, nobody else. He surrounded her torso with his strong thighs as extra support.

Claire was panting, eyes blown wide with arousal. She writhed in his grip as best she could, trying to escape, to put any length of distance between her and the shocks of pain centered on her breast.

She raised her eyes to his face imploringly.

"What is it lass? You may speak."

Panting, Claire huffed out, "M-a-ster, please, I-..."

"Do ye remember your safe word, a neighan (girl) ?"

"Yes, I do." She exhaled forcefully and trembled, locking her whisky eyes with his.

"If ye want to stop, say it. Everythin' will stop right then, aye?"

"Yes, I know. It - it's just a lot of different feelings storming around inside of me right now, you know?"

"Aye, I do. I ken (know) this is new to you, too. I think you're turned on and maybe feel it's wrong to enjoy it. Am I close?"

Claire looked up at him and whispered, "exactly, darling."

"It's no’ wrong, mo chridhe (my heart). Remember how emotional I became?"

Claire blushed and smiled a small smile,

"Yes, now that you mention it, I do remember."

She looked at him earnestly and whispered,

“Am I pleasing you, love? Are you having fun?”

His sky-blue eyes grew wide and his mouth dropped open. He swallowed a lump in his throat and whispered in a gravelly voice,

“Mo ghaol (my love), aye. Ye are pleasin' me, very much. Do ye not know it? Look at ma cockstand! I could beat a grizzly to death with it! God, woman, I love ye so!” Jamie tilted her chin up and planted a gentle, reverent kiss on her lips. "So, mo Sorcha, are ye interested in continuing, then?"

"Yes, Master, thank you for listening." Claire smiled and Jamie saw with relief how her shoulders relaxed. He gently cupped her delicate face in his huge paws and gave her a slow, tender kiss of thanks.

He helped her to kneel before him once more and sucked and nibbled on her earlobes and jawline (and couldn't resist blowing a particularly loud raspberry on her sensual neck, making her squeal and shout with laughter). He continued loving her breasts, returning Claire to the high she previously felt.

Claire took a fortifying breath as she watched him bend towards her and prayed that whatever happened next wouldn't be as hard to endure. He latched onto her breast and drew it into his mouth, painting a wet trail of heat with his tongue. He rolled her free nipple clockwise and counter-clockwise, reveling in her gasp of surprise. He grabbed the nipple and pulled out and down, holding her prisoner in his strong fingers. Jamie inched back on the bed and held on to her other nipple with his teeth.

Jamie felt Claire start to shake and he doubled his assault, sucking, biting and laving the nipple in his mouth, while yanking her other nipple towards the floor in short, staccato bursts.

He could tell Claire was very near an orgasm and suddenly stilled his hands, making her cry out in frustration. She tried to build up the sensation again by rubbing her thighs together, but Jamie shot her a dark warning look, reached down and pushed her thighs apart.

He told her to stay and released her torso and reached in back of himself. He took the spreader bar and gently closed a velcro fetter around her ankle, eliciting a gasp of fright from Claire.

"S-s-s-hhh, a leannan (sweetheart), it's just the short spreader bar. Can you feel the padding on your pretty ankles?"

Claire nodded and whispered in a low voice, "Yes, Master," and let out a breath she didn't know she'd been holding.

"Do ye want to come, lass?

Claire blushed a hot crimson all the way down her breasts and nodded.

"I want to hear it from your beautiful mouth, Sweetness, tell me!"

Claire lifted her head proudly, straightened her back and said clearly, "Yes, Master, please, I want to come!"

Jamie smiled at her and fisted her hair, pulling back sharply, "you'll please Master first and then he'll see to your needs, lass."

He placed his cock on her closed lips and the beauty before him swallowed him whole, right down to his base, not gagging or retching this time. After he caught his breath, he started gliding his stiff cock through her mouth once more, marveling at how fast she'd learned this new skill - and what a lucky bastard he was. She drooled on his cock and moaned, leaning back so that only the tip was in her mouth. She swirled her tongue on his soft head, enjoying the pleasured sounds coming from her man. She breathed warm air into his meatus, dipping her speared tongue into it, massaging it. Jamie stiffened even further, saw stars behind his eyelids and fought for control.

Jamie thought ruefully to himself, How does she do it EVERY damn time? I'm supposed to be in charge here, dictating HER pleasure! Dhia, mo ghlèidheadh, is e sin a gheibh mi airson a bhith a ’toirt gràdh do bhoireannach le teine òrail na sùilean (God preserve me, that's what I get for loving a woman with golden fire in her eyes)!

He dismissed the thought and focused on the incredible sensations his Claire was gifting him. He saw her climaxing in his mind's eye and that brought him dangerously to the edge. He gently traced his thumb on her lower lip, silently encouraging her to let him slide deeper into her mouth.

She opened up wider and pushed her tongue past her lower lip to open her throat for him. Jamie felt the shift and pushed slowly inward, trying to pace himself. Back and forth, sometimes excruciatingly slowly and sometimes faster, Jamie forced his cock in and out of his beloved's mouth. Her tongue was hot, and his orgasm was building again. He took a steadying breath, stood up and repositioned his hands on either side of her head, eliciting a throaty moan of excitement from his goddess, so willingly serving him on her knees. He'd made sure to carefully move Claire's hair away from her ears because he knew that the sound of her hair rubbing against her ears was discomfiting. He groaned and told her, "Ye'll be the death of me, mo shionnach beag boireann (my little vixen)!" He started moving faster and faster, unable to stop. He looked down at her and watched dazed as his cock disappeared again and again into her welcoming throat. He felt her cough and forced himself to let her catch her breath. When she'd recovered, he looked at her and stroked her cheek lovingly, speaking in a rich baritone etched by mounting desire.

"I'm verra close, Sorcha. I mean to come in yer mouth. If ye allow it, I willna be able to stop again."

Claire looked him straight in the eye and said, "Come here, Mama's hungry! Choke me on your monster cock, I double-dog dare you!" Her laugh started low and growly in her throat, did not pass go nor collect two hundred dollars, but scorched a pathway straight to his balls and into his wame (stomach), lighting an inferno of need that tore through his body. She winked, his mouth fell open and he looked like he would break out in nervous sweat. He remembered to close his mouth and stepped up to her and fisted her hair again.

She opened her mouth and flattened her tongue in invitation. He pushed into her roughly and his knees shook when she sealed her lips around him and inhaled until he was buried to his root. To his delight, she hollowed her cheeks and started to hum, loudly…

Jamie groaned, panted and kept controlling her head. True to his word, he never stopped, unless he was forcing her nose to stay touching his wame (stomach), loving how she was drooling all over his swollen, needy cock and herself, as well.

"Ohhhh, aye, lass, that's it, lick Master's cock, worship it!" Jamie moaned loudly, swearing up a Gaelic blue streak, praying thanks for her.

Claire grinned and redoubled her efforts, trying as well as she could to inch closer to him and caress his knees with her breasts. Jamie felt it and looked down, hissing in surprise. He slammed his cock into her throat again, in and out, down and still further down, until he felt her throat's ridges massage his cock tip. He thought he was going to black out from the intensity of feeling. He felt his balls start to tighten and he started feeling lightheaded, always a sign of an especially powerful orgasm. When he was very, very close, his world shrank to a singular focus: the amazing woman on her knees in front of him and the feelings she was allowing him to experience.

It might appear as if Jamie had all the power, but the power lay in Claire's hands all along. It was she who allowed herself to be dominated and restrained. She had the power of a safe word guarding every move Jamie made; something of which he was acutely and constantly aware. The basis of everything was unwavering trust between two equals.

"A Dhia, mo chridhe, (Oh God, my heart) ye're making me mad! I won't hold out much longer!" She was good, so good, his Sorcha. She knew exactly how to swaddle him securely in her love and make him helpless as a newborn. The woman who'd become his sun, moon and stars focused on pleasing him, Jamie. For the thousandth time, he knew he didn't deserve her; she was the living, breathing embodiment of God's grace in his life. This was the only way he could explain his incredible good fortune.

With a final powerful thrust, Jamie forced Claire's nose to his wame (stomach) and shot his boiling load down her parched throat. He bellowed his release, shouting,

"A Dhia, Sorcha, mo ghràidh (Oh God, Claire, my darling)!" and shook as his spunk coated her throat. Black crowded out the light in his field of vision, and he sat down heavily to catch his breath.

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He took a deep breath to clear his head and carefully removed all of the restraints. He helped Claire to stand slowly and gathered her into his arms, kissing the top of her head reverently. He hissed in sympathy when he saw the rug burns on her knees, and vowed to massage her with her favorite oil to make them disappear. He lifted her into his arms, brought her into the bathroom and gave her some privacy.

He went downstairs and retrieved two liters of Pellegrino and two glasses, along with some lime wedges. He padded back upstairs to see Claire sitting on the bed. He smiled at her and offered her a glass of Pellegrino and one of whisky and they simply enjoyed sitting with each other in the silent room.

"Well, love, what now? Dinner?" Claire smiled softly.

He leaned over and kissed her, intoning, "Och, weel, I would say you've had a liquid dinner, and I haven't eaten at all. I'm going to eat out," he giggled like a five-year-old. Claire looked at him, not understanding what he could possibly mean. Did he want to go - "ohhhhh…" she breathed out and blushed new shades of red as she realized what her man meant. Grinning, he instructed her to lie on her back. Her eyebrows rose, but she did as she was told. He crawled up to her, looking as feral and hungry for her as a jaguar on the hunt. Her eyes widened and she giggled nervously. He kissed her with abandon, licking and sucking on her lips, asking for entrance to her warm mouth again. He shifted down to her collarbones and her neck, making sure to nip her playfully. He kissed her pebbled nipples and kept working downward, alternating kisses with bites that made her sigh and her pussy weep with need. He moved down to her pelvis and kissed across it, finally planting a wet kiss on Claire's bare mons, which made her squeal and Jamie chuckle. He carefully trailed his fingers down her nether lips and back up again, proud that she was unable to say his name without stuttering.

On and on it went and Claire wasn't sure she would live to see tomorrow. He burrowed his wicked tongue in her and licked and sucked, tongue-fucking her. He groaned when a particularly large mass of her essence dribbled onto his tongue. He began massaging her clit with his fingers, reveling in the string of curses and trembling it elicited from the delicate beauty spread before him.

"Mo chridhe, do ye remember yer safe word?"

"Yes, Master, it's 'Oxford'".

"Good."

He started finger-fucking her with one hand and wrapped his strong fingers around her beautiful neck, slowly applying mounting pressure. He ravaged her breasts, biting, sucking and licking with animalistic ferocity. He looked into her eyes, thin golden rims surrounding pupils wide-blown with cell-deep desire. His voice deepened and he increased pressure on her throat, growling as he felt his cock become almost painfully hard,

"Look at me, my own. You are mine, Sorcha, mine to love, own and keep forever, do you understand me? My property, only mine. I AM YOUR MASTER," he rasped.

She gasped loudly and felt wetness drip onto her thighs, keening and arching her back, hearing the words her heart needed to beat.

He moved down her body to bite and worry her pussy lips, licking up her wetness on her thighs, spearing his tongue to drive her to new heights.

"Oh, Master, please, yes, I am your property, now and forever!"

She panted breathlessly, felt the coiling in her belly and flushed hotly, shouting,

"Master, oh, God, please, let me come!"

Jamie withdrew his fingers and grabbed the crop. He punished her body, snapping it just so on her breasts, stomach, the tops and inside of her thighs. Finally, he reached her mons, slapping it several times, reveling at how undone she was. Hot, sweaty and mewling like a cat in heat, her beautiful curls stuck to her forehead.

"Oh, God, Master, please! I can't stop it!" she whined.

She tossed her head back and forth on the pillow and Jamie bellowed, "Come for me, my only love! Come for your Master, NOW!"

She howled Jamie's name as the most powerful orgasm of her life slammed into her like a freight train.

The next thing Jamie saw was something he'd never forget. A small amount of liquid arced out of his Sorcha's pussy, soaking the sheet.

He quickly got a washcloth he'd left soaking in hot water and bathed her face gently, murmuring endearments in Gaelic. When her face was clean, he focused on her honeypot (vagina) and legs. When she was clean, he gathered her securely in his arms and covered her with his plaid.

She murmured, "Oh, love, that was wonderful. Thank you for everything. It was just what I wanted to experience."

"It wasn't too much, mo chridhe (my heart)?” Jamie asked anxiously, “Ye took everything I threw at ye so well. I'm proud of ye." Jamie kissed her head. As they were relaxing together, he asked quietly, "Claire, when ye came, ah," and he flushed pink, "I think ye may have sprayed something from yer honeypot."

"Wot?"

"Eh, um, aye. Right after ye came, a bit o' liquid shot out 'o yer pussy. I've never seen anything like it."

Claire thought for a minute and said, "Oh! That was 'ejaculating,' and I'm DAMN SURE you're the only one EVER who elicited such a strong response from me, Studley-did-me-right!"

Her mouth curled up in a gleeful smile and she laughed heartily at Jamie, whose face had lit up in an adorable inferno of red.

He looked at her with amazement, "really, mo chridhe (my heart)?"

"Jamie, let me show you just how good you made me feel,"

Claire climbed from his arms and fixed her narrowed whisky eyes on him with a hungry ferocity. Jamie sucked in a breath and paled just a bit at her expression, wondering for a split-second if his will was in order and if he could outrun her… She pulled his face to hers and gave Jamie the most toe-curling, explosive kiss of his life. Her tongue was everywhere, sucking, licking and biting him, rousing his cock and shooting bright-hot chills down his backbone. She was his Alpha and Omega, this woman. She moved his hands from her waist to her buttocks, making Jamie growl in contentment. He pinched, squeezed and massaged handfuls of her generous backside, sending a prayer of thanks to the universe that she was his, that she had deemed him worthy of her all. She tugged him around so that his back was to the bed, and gave him a hard push. He landed on his back with a surprised "oof!" and before he could move, his vixen was straddling him and easing his rock-hard fullness into her weeping gash. He moved his hands to her waist to steady her and she tut-tutted,

"Be a good man and let your woman spoil you!" and she pulled his arms over his head. She tried to hold both wrists as he did to her, but seeing as how she could barely get her tiny hand around one wrist, she muttered,

"Holy cheese and crackers, these goddamn bear paws… fucking Paul Bunyan*!"

She crossed her eyes at Jamie and stuck out her tongue impudently. His eyes crinkled in mirth and he giggled at her mock frustration.

She started rocking back and forth, lifting herself off him, only to slide achingly slowly back down. She reached back and rolled his heavy balls in her hand, making Jamie moan in arousal.

She slipped off him completely and Jamie whimpered in disappointment. Claire ignored it and mounted him facing the opposite direction. Her friend Geilis had suggested she try it, calling it a "reverse cowgirl." She lifted up on his length, squeezing his exposed cock with three fingers, making Jamie hiss and buck with arousal, especially with his favorite body part so close. He longed to raise his head and kiss her backside, to lower his arms and caress it, but then he remembered that the crop was in close proximity (dammit to hell!) and stayed put. It was less painful to let his Sorcha have her way with him.

She gyrated and rocked on top of him, basking in Jamie's sighs of pleasure. She reached into her bedside table and picked up her finger vibrator, slipping it onto the tip of her middle finger.

She stretched her arm above her head and bade her man look,

"Jamie, look what I have for you, my love."

Jamie opened his eyes and focused them on his woman's upstretched hand, paling and whispering hoarsely,

"Och, Dhia, mi-fhìn (Oh God, my own), I see it. A-are ye thinking ye're not pleasing me sufficiently? Because ye certainly are!" Jamie swallowed very loudly, remembering the last time she'd used the tiny device. He wasn't sure if he should be nervous or happy, honestly, given the strength of his teeth-rattling orgasm the last time she'd used it on him.

"Oh, that's not it at all, sugar. It's just that nothing succeeds like excess, though, right?"

Jamie exhaled sharply in arousal and then laughed when he heard her laugh in wanton delight, well-pleased with herself.

"Aye, gaol mo bheatha (love of my life), ye're right again!"

"Oh God, oh God, oh God," Jamie couldn't help writhing when she gently touched the vibe to his balls.

"Nope, just me, love, but thanks for the promotion to deity!" Claire snorted loudly, giggled and kept rocking on his shaft and massaging his balls.

"Christ, I married a real Carol Burnett*," he muttered, smiling despite himself.

She dismounted and turned to face him, touching the vibe to the base of his shaft. Jamie swore in French, grabbing the bedsheets. She grinned and straddled him again, keeping the little finger bullet pressed to him as long as possible. She sank all the way down and resumed riding him. She leaned back and held the finger bullet to his scrotum, making Jamie moan loudly, fist the sheets again and whisper,

"Och, tha thu a ’dol a thoirt orm tighinn a-rithist, bana-bhuidseach beag! (You're going to make me come again, little witch!)"

Claire smiled and said, "English, please!"

Jamie huffed in pretend annoyance, blew a curl off his forehead and said, "I SAID, Sassenach, ye're goin' ta make me come again, ye little witch!"

"Too right! After all, I am a doctor, I know how all your bits and bobs work!"

Jamie laughed outright at that, and enjoyed watching Claire's breasts dance along with his mirth.

She started grinding down on him and the last laughter fizzled from Jamie's throat. He realized then that he was going to come sooner than he wanted, but he didn't want to cut short Claire's fun. He tried deep breathing, but it was useless, as Claire bent down and started biting whatever skin she could reach. She didn't bother with gentleness, either. She rose up again and started torturing his nipples, flicking, twisting, scratching, pulling and pinching them until Jamie begged her to stop. She just smiled and gave him a saucy double-gun salute.

She stuck an index finger in her snatch, coating it with juices and tapped Jamie's mouth wordlessly, asking permission to enter. He moaned when he smelled her honey and sucked her finger, looking at her, his eyes heavy with arousal.

He felt it then, the churning, spiraling feeling in his balls, signaling his impending orgasm.

"Och, love, I'm comin' again!"

Claire sped up, riding her roan stallion as fast as she could.

"Yes, baby, come inside me!"

Jamie stiffened and squeezed his eyes shut as his climax exploded out of him, so strong it made him break out in cold sweat as he shook and arched his back. He screamed,

"Oh God, Sorcha!" He saw fireworks and an incredible shiver ran down his spine.

Claire climbed off of her man and got a wet washcloth to bathe his sweaty face.

When he was sufficiently recovered, Jamie picked Claire up and brought her to the ensuite, starting a bath for her. He deposited her carefully in the water and kissed her.

He stepped in the shower and rinsed his body with cold water, only turning on hot water when his head felt clear. He slowly soaped himself and thought about where he'd be if Claire hadn't whirlwinded into his world a year ago. Probably still unhappily single, wishing for a true partner in every sense of the word. Yes, he got plenty of attention from the lasses (and some lads), but it was all based on his looks, he felt. They were interested in one-night stands, not a committed relationship. Many assumed that he was shallow or vain and not any deeper than his looks.

Chapter Text

They'd met at Rungus, a pub owned by two of Jamie's friends, Rupert MacKenzie (also a distant cousin) and Rupert's bosom buddy, Angus Mhor. It'd been the last Friday of the month, always karaoke night. Jamie was there with his best friend (and brother-in-law) Ian Murray and Jamie's older sister, Jenny. They were met there by John Gray, his childhood friend (and British Army regular) and John's husband, Hector, a solicitor at Gowan & MacTavish, the best advocacy firm in Edinburgh. Ned Gowan, the principal, was Jamie's father's best mate and the Fraser family's legal counsel.

The lads greeted Rupert and Angus and Jamie ordered a bottle of his family's whisky, Broch Tuarach, named for the stone tower at the family seat of the Lairds of Lallybroch. Jamie's father Brian was the current Laird Broch Tuarach and his mother, Ellen, was Lady Broch Tuarach. Jamie's elder brother Willie was his father's heir. The Frasers were completed by Jamie's only sister Jenny and her husband Ian, Jamie's best friend. The baby was Jamie's younger brother, Robert, or Rabbie/Robbie, who was due to meet them later with his girlfriend Laoghire, Rupert's and Jamie's very distant cousin. He would be accompanied by Willie and his wife Geilis Duncan, a trauma surgeon at the local hospital, The Claymore* Clinic.

Jamie motioned for Angus and Rupert to come from behind the bar for a minute and then snagged their favorite table, pulling over a couple more to fit everyone. Soon, everyone was chatting, and Geilis rapped her knuckles on the table for silence.
"It's quite fine to be out with my favorite people again! She lifted her glass in a toast to her friends, who reciprocated quickly.

"I've an announcement! I've invited a couple of people from work to join us. Claire Beauchamp is a trauma surgeon from Oxfordshire and Joe Abernathy is an orthopedic surgeon. His wife, Gayle, is a physiotherapist and they're just arrived from San Francisco. Let's make sure to give our lovelies a proper Highlands welcome, aye?"

Hoots and jokes met Geilis' announcement and she rolled her eyes, saying,

"Och, haud yer wheeshties (shut your mouths), all o' ye barnyard rejects! I'm pretty sure all o' ye've been inoculated against rabies, except possibly Angus and Rupert."

The two friends looked at each other, shrugged and burst out laughing, as did everyone at the tables.

"Be nice and don't scare 'em off by sayin' ye got a special day pass from the zoo to mix among the respectable people!" She grinned and sat down again.

Howling, crowing, laughing and banging on the table ensued, much to Angus' and Rupert's delight.

A few minutes later, the door opened and a couple walked in. The man called out to Geilis,

"Hey, Geilie, there you are, woman!"

Jamie was sitting at the end of the last table. He looked up at the couple coming in, raised a hand and smiled in greeting. What he saw next completely wiped the smile off his face and set his heart to pounding. A small woman with voluptuous lips, round hips, golden-brown curls and ivory skin stepped out from behind Gayle. She was wearing a deep-blue miniskirt paired with a black spaghetti strap top accented with dainty lace and a matching jacket. Her feet were ensconced in black peep-toe Louboutins. Jamie thought sure his heart would cease to beat. He stared at her stupidly, hand still in the air, until Ian kicked him quite hard under the table, whispering,

Bràthair, dùin do bheul! Tha thu a ’coimhead oirre! Feumaidh a ’bhoireannach cathair (brother, close your mouth! You're staring at her! The lady needs a chair)!"

Ian swatted Jamie's hand down. Just as Claire was about to grab a chair Jamie snapped out of his trance, jumped up and pulled a chair from another table, setting it down next to Jenny's and across from Ian and himself.

"Please, Claire, sit down here."

Claire looked up at possibly the most handsome man she'd ever clapped eyes on. At 6'4", Jamie was a full foot taller than she. He had startlingly blue eyes, his cheekbones were high and his hair was thick, red and curly, her absolute favorite. He reminded her of a Viking. His rich baritone rumbled straight through her solar plexus and set her, uh, heart aflame.

He helped her take off her coat and pulled out her chair for her, surprising and delighting Claire with his courtly old-school manners.

She smiled up and said,

"My goodness! A true gentleman in this day and age! Thank you so much!"

Jamie nearly swooned when she smiled at him and twin dimples appeared on her cheeks.

At that moment, he looked into her eyes and smiled. He realized two things then: One, her eyes weren't "just" brown; they were a heady combination of deep brown, sable and lighter cinnamon brown, with golden whisky-tinted flecks dancing in them. Two, James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser knew immediately he was a goner.

Ian asked Claire what she wanted to drink and she looked up through her thick eyelashes, reminiscent of Elizabeth Taylor's*.

"whisky, neat, please."

Jamie, Jenny and Ian all noted her drink choice with approval. Jamie saw that the bottle they'd started with was empty. He grabbed it, strode to the bar and got two more bottles. He put one bottle further down the tables after serving those ladies first. He walked up to his end of the table and served Claire, Geilis and Jenny first, then his brother, Ian and finally himself.

Jamie asked Claire questions about her job, fascinated and curious how she was able to stay calm with people's lives in her hands. She smiled and said,

"Well, it centers me to know that these people need me - they've been through something that's upended their whole lives. They've been dropped into a hive of chaos. It's my job to be the person who can calm the chaos, even if that's for a short while."

"And what do you do, Jamie?"

He held up the bottle of whisky and grinned,

"This is my family's product, distilled by us right here in the Highlands since the late 18th century. I'm the Vice President of International Sales."

Claire's eyes got big and she gasped, "Holy fermentation, Batman! I had no idea! Wow!"

Jamie snorted at her reference and nearly choked on his whisky. Claire looked at Jenny and Ian incredulously, and said,

"I know Jenny and Jamie are siblings, but what do you do, Jenny?"

Jenny smiled, "I'm a stay-at-home Mum for our 4 bairns. I've never wanted to do anything else."

"And you, Ian?"

"Weel, I'm Vice President of Marketing and Chief Bairn Wrangler, Claire," Ian smiled at his wife who rolled her eyes at her husband but laughed at his joke anyway.

Claire laughed and turned to Jamie,

"And you, Jamie? Are you a Chief Bairn Wrangler for some lucky lady, too?"

Jamie blushed and rubbed the back of his neck.

"Nay, lass, I havena children or a partner. I haven't found the right woman, yet."

Jenny looked intently at her younger brother after his statement and realized that look was in his eyes. It was the same one she saw in her husband's eyes shortly after they started dating after progressing from being childhood friends. She'd seen it in Willie's eyes when he saw Geilis for the first time, and Robbie with Laoghire. Jamie had found The One, she was sure of it. Judging by the look on his face, he knew it as well. Jamie looked through his lashes at the stunning creature before him and prayed to God and all the saints that they give him the strength not to scare her, make a fool of himself or try to move too quickly.

The night progressed and neither Claire nor Jamie noticed the passage of time. Jamie saw how Claire and Jenny giggled with each other and he was happy. He loved his sister so much. With 4 children, it was hard for her to get a break, much less at the same time as Ian. Thank God for his Mam's and Da's offer to babysit. The isolation of their ancestral home meant that it was hard for her to meet other women her age. Jamie hoped that Jenny and Claire might be friends one day.

Ian, too, looked at his brother-in-law and smiled, jerking his thumb at the two women, chattering away like magpies.

Jamie couldn't remember the last time he'd had such a good time and Claire was relieved to finally have people other than her colleagues to talk to.

Rupert rang the bar's brass bell for quiet.

"As ye all know, it's the last Friday in February, and that means -"

The whole bar called out "karaoke!"

"Aye, karaoke. Tonight we're switching things up. It will be ladies' choice, but the caveat is, she has to sing to the person of her choice who has to be up on stage with her!"

All the ladies whistled, clapped and showed their approbation of the change-up.

"Alright, which brave lass is willing to show the others how it's done? The winning couple gets drinks and hot wings on the house for their table!"

The crowd started murmuring amongst themselves, but no-one was volunteering. Jenny giggled behind her hand and Jamie recognized that look, shuddered and started to pray for the second time in fewer than 20 minutes. It was her shit-disturber grin, and usually, it spelled trouble for anyone directly in the path of Hurricane Jenny, especially him. She looked at Claire and hissed,

"Claire! I double-dog, double-secret-probation-dare* you to take Jamie up there! Will you do it?"

Claire went toe-to-toe* with Jenny and inquired sweetly,

"My Lady, art thou throwing your gauntlet at my feet,* pray? If I do as your heart desires, how am I to be recompensed?"

The two women looked at each other and snorted their way into helpless giggles at Claire's stuffy choice of words. Jamie shot a desperate look at Ian, who simply grinned unhelpfully, enjoying watching Jamie squirm.

"Ye come to breakfast tomorrow at Lallybroch - Jamie can pick ye up and take ye home - and ye'll get a full homemade Scottish breakfast! What do ye say, lass?"

Claire narrowed her eyes and lifted her left hand to Jenny, pinkie raised.

"With coffee? Pinkie-swear?"

"Ye got it, lass!"

Jenny hooked her pinkie with Claire and they swore together in the holiest of ways to do the dirty deed and deliver on the promised prize. The women looked at each other and whooped loudly.

Ian bellowed, "Angus! Rupert! Claire Beauchamp and Jamie Fraser'll pop this evening's cherry!"*

The crowd roared in approval and Jamie paled. Claire stood up and held out her hand to him,

"Come on, friend, it'll be fun!"

Jenny smiled at her brother like the cat who got the canary. He could only scowl back. Not wanting to appear rude, he stood and glared daggers at Jenny, who just dissolved into giggles. He took a second to tie his hair back with a long length of suede he kept in his pocket at all times. He bashfully took Claire's tiny hand in his and allowed her to lead him onto the small stage. Angus had come out from behind the bar to set up the machine and asked Claire to tell him the artist she had in mind. She whispered in his ear and Angus broke out in a wide grin,

"That's a braw (good) choice, lass! Knock 'em dead!"

He queued up the song and announced,

"Awright ye gorillas, put yer hairy, flea-infested paws together for Claire Beauchamp and Jamie Fraser. This braw lass chose 'What a Man' by Salt n' Pepa, featuring En Vogue!"

Angus resumed his place behind the bar to the cheers of the patrons and Jamie nearly bolted from the rickety wooden chair on the stage. Before he could even seriously consider moving, the music started. Claire had been composing herself and whirled around to stand in front of Jamie, giving him her sultriest look and started singing…

"What a man, what a man, what a man, what a mighty good man
… You so crazy, I think I want to have your baby!"

Jamie gulped as she pivoted back and forth, allowing her skirt to drag maddeningly slowly up her thighs. She swung her tantalizing hips and finally locked her mesmerizing eyes on his. She kept singing,

"... My man is smooth like Barry, and his voice got bass
A body like Arnold with a Denzel face
He's smart like a doctor with a real good rep…"

Jamie's face bloomed an angry scarlet, but Claire gave him no quarter*. She shimmied, licked her lips and gyrated to the music. Jamie felt paralyzed watching her.

"... He's got the right potion
Baby, rub it down and make it smooth like lotion
Yeah, the ritual highway to heaven
From seven to seven he's got me open like Seven Eleven…"

His mouth dropped open as she turned around and Jamie first noticed the most beautiful, round ass he'd ever seen. It was an ass he'd fantasize about for the rest of his days, he knew. It was enough to fill his greedy hands, to kiss and caress, to worship. He shivered in want and his mouth went dry. A rude vision elbowed itself into his thoughts and he saw himself spanking, biting and licking it as one would a just-plucked sun-warmed peach. He could compose love songs to it and dream about it in his sleep.

The crowd went wild for them and she pivoted, stalked up to him and pushed his thighs apart roughly. She placed her jet-black stiletto on the chair directly between his thighs and pushed it closer and closer to his crotch in a stuttering pattern. She nearly undid him when she licked her top lip in a wanton display. Jamie threw caution to the wind and muttered,

"fuck it!"

He pushed the chair back, surged up to meet her and hoisted her in his muscled arms. To her credit, Claire kept singing, and Jamie breathed out a stressed breath when he realized her skirt was riding farther and farther up her legs, allowing him to see her goddamn lacy stocking top and fucking satin garter. Jesus, God… What had he gotten himself into? She quickly wrapped her legs around his waist and he whispered in her ear,

"Hang on, lass, and I'll give ye a wild ride!"

She nodded quickly, whisky eyes sparkling. He turned them so her back was to the audience. Very slowly, and supporting her back, he tilted her down so that she was singing upside-down to the screaming patrons. Their pelvises were touching and Jamie mimicked thrusting into her a couple of times. He carefully raised her again, one hand supporting her delicate neck, walking them over to the chair. He grabbed it and placed it center-stage. He sat down, making sure to steady Claire and pulled her onto his lap with Claire's back to his chest. She straddled his lap, gyrated and ground into him and sang,

"My man gives real loving that's why I call him Killa
He's not a wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am, he's a thrilla
He takes his time and does everything right
Knocks me out with one shot for the rest of the night..."

She got off his lap and held her hand out, motioning for him to stand. He stood and kicked the chair violently, hearing it scree across the floor in agony and splinter into kindling as it slammed into the karaoke machine. She shimmied up to him and hooked her leg on his hip, leaning into him sensually, grinding against him. Jamie took the hint and turned them so they were in profile to their audience. He slid his hand up her thigh, further baring her to the crowd. Claire ground her pelvis against the large man, singing in a throaty growl. He felt her put a tiny bit of distance between them and he eased her leg down. She smirked and whispered,

"Let's finish this with a bang, Big Man!"

Jamie nodded to her and she winked lasciviously at him, putting the microphone between her teeth, grabbing his hands and planting them with a loud "slap!" on her ass, all the while snapping her hips at his pelvis. He took her into his arms and fisted her hair, dipping Claire so deeply she wondered if she'd be able to stand up tomorrow. He bit and licked her ivory throat briefly and brought her up to stand in profile to the audience. To the delight of the other patrons, he squeezed her ass in an exaggerated fashion and lewdly bucked his pelvis toward hers.

Just as the song was dying, Jamie dipped his head and gave Claire a scorching kiss that held until the last of the music faded away. He'd kissed women in the past, but there'd never been a kiss like this one. As soon as their lips touched, a superheated bolt streaked from his scalp to his feet obliterating everything else but the nearness, the presence and promise of her. Jamie could smell perfume she'd dabbed on the tantalizing column of her swan-like neck mixing with her conditioner, bewitching him with fleeting thoughts of summer sun, fragrant heavy roses and blue skies. He felt like he was drowning in a maelstrom of energy and he had no desire to ever be rescued. He licked her mouth all over, wanting to taste every bit of her. He placed his hand on the back of her head, encouraging her to come closer. She raised her head in reply and bit his lip gently, growling so softly that only Jamie could hear her. He groaned and his cock responded accordingly.

To say that Claire was surprised at the kiss was the understatement of the year. When his lips touched hers, she mewled in surprise and kissed him back. He smelled of woods, black pepper and somehow, wildness. She wondered briefly how he'd look in Highland warrior garb and her lonely, traitorous pussy spasmed. Oh, I am so fucked, she thought, ruefully. She recalled her early British history class when they'd learned about the Vikings who'd raided the their island's ancient kingdoms. He had to be a direct descendant of those warriors with his hair, eyes, height and build. She breathed out a breathy squeak when he nibbled her bottom lip, asking for entry. She opened her mouth and his tongue was everywhere all at once. She'd been with other men but there had never been anyone who simply blinded her with the intensity of his kiss. She felt utterly safe in his arms, though. She knew in an instant she'd never have cause to worry about him hurting her.

They reluctantly broke the kiss, chests heaving at the sudden influx of oxygen. They turned to face the audience and chaos broke out as their friends and other patrons crowded the stage to congratulate them. Jamie smiled at Claire and she grinned at him. He jumped off the stage, motioning for her to allow him to assist her. She smiled and blushed, nodding at him. He lifted her, but instead of putting her down immediately, he hugged her to him, whispering,

"Lass, thank ye so much! I haven't had so much fun in a long time!"

She giggled and motioned for him to bend down so she could whisper in his ear,

"Jamie, you made me feel strong, confident and beautiful up there, I had a great time."

"Would ye like to get yer coat and get some air in a minute?"

"Oh, yes, but first, we need to toast our partnership as Broch Mordha's newest Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers!"

"Aye, Sassenach, that we do," Jamie laughed and squeezed her hand gently.

"Sassenach?"

"Aye, it means non-Scot, is all. I've decided it's my nickname fer ye!"

"Aha, okay, let's go get a drink, Fred Astaire!"

Claire saw Jamie smile and it seemed that he tried to wink at her, but failed and merely blinked both eyes, making him look like a giant, sleepy owl.

"Give me a second, Sassenach, I need to settle our tab."

"Oh, thank you; here's my share, alright?"

She pulled out two £20 notes and held them out to him.

"I feel like I should pay for the chair or, at least, go clean it up, Jamie," she reddened in embarrassment and looked around for a broom and dustpan.

Angus heard her and chimed in,

"Nay, lass, that chair was halfway broken down already. No guest of ours is cleaning anything up! Besides, we've had increased drink orders tonight, what with people enjoyin' yer wonderful show!" He raised a Pellegrino in a toast to them.

Jamie spoke up,

"Aye, lass, nay, thank ye, ye're our guest tonight, yer money's no good here. Please go on back to the table and I'll be along presently, aye?"

Jamie smiled at Claire, his dark-blue eyes sparkling. Claire's breath caught in her throat and she stuttered her thanks. She headed to the table, met by a cacophony of congratulations with Gayle and Joe both hugging her,

"Lady Jane, a wonderful performance! As your self-anointed big brother and best friend, I give myself all the credit for having raised you right!"

Joe threw his Cheshire-Cat grin her way and she burst out giggling, grabbing him in a hug. She cast a sidelong glance at Gayle, who rolled her eyes hard enough to sprain them and said,

"Nevermind the caveman here, lovey! You did a great job!"

After the initial reaction died down, Angus rang the bell for attention.

"After discussion with my esteemed colleague, we have decided that Claire and Jamie have carried the night! Free drinks and wings for the whole gang!"

Everyone cheered and Rupert and Angus readied the drinks and snacks, including a platter of loaded potato skins another patron kindly bought the table.

Jamie came up and took his seat opposite Claire, gladly accepting a tumbler of whisky and a couple of wings. He watched Claire from under his lashes, secretly glad to see her dig into her wings with gusto. He hated it when women were so concerned about their figures would only eat salad. Just at that moment, he noticed she'd missed a spot of dressing on her mouth.

"Sassenach, ye've got some dressing on yer mouth."

"Oh! Thank you!"

She wiped her mouth again and said, "Did I get it?"

He looked at her sensuous mouth and said,

"Sorry, nay, lass. Here, let me help ye, aye?"

Jamie got a clean napkin and wrapped it around his finger and gently wiped the offending sauce away. Ian looked meaningfully at his wife and Jenny blinked her eyes slowly, their secret acknowledgement that she understood. They'd talk later. Throughout the evening, Angus or Rupert kept bringing congratulatory drinks from other patrons, which Claire and Jamie gladly shared with their tablemates.

Jamie cleared his throat and said quietly to Claire,

"shall we get some air, then, Claire?"

She glanced up at him and said quietly,

"yes, I think some air would do me well right now, Jamie, thank you for asking."

Joe saw them getting ready to leave and asked Jamie if he could talk to him for a minute,

“No worries, Little Sis, I'll give him back in just a minute,” Joe smiled confidently at Claire, who'd taken his seat next to Gayle.

Claire wrinkled her nose and whispered to Gayle,

“What do you think Joe needed to talk to Jamie about?”

Gayle smiled at her friend and put her arm around Claire's shoulder, Claire putting her hand over Gayle's on the table, instantly feeling her own heartrate decrease.

“I'd bet dollars to doughnuts Joe's giving what I like to call his ‘Mafioso soliloquy,’ honey… he's telling Jamie to be careful with you, or else! He gave the same speech to my brother-in-law Marvin before his first date with my little sister, Donna. Since then, Marvin's been properly respectful of Donna and a little afraid of Joe!”

Claire's eyes grew wide and tears formed in her eyes,

“Oh, that's so sweet of Joe, he didn't have to do that,” she exclaimed.

“Well, remember that guy you went out with once, Stephen Bonnet? After Bonnet got drunk and raised his hand to you that night at our place, remember how Joe stepped between you and dragged Bonnet outside? Joe shoved him against the house wall, twisted his arm behind his back and broke the hand Bonnet raised to you, honey. That's why Bonnet never came back inside after their ‘little talk.’ Joe told me later he made sure to break it badly enough so that Bonnet wouldn't ever regain full use of his hand. Joe wanted him to remember for the rest of his life not to raise his hand against a woman.”

Claire gasped and her chin wobbled. Gayle squeezed her hand and produced a tissue from her purse. Claire accepted it and whispered,

“Oh, Gayle, he never told me.”

“Of course not, honey, because that's what family does for each other – they take care of each other.”

The two men walked over into a secluded alcove where they wouldn't be overheard,

“Aye, Joe, is there something I can help ye with?”

Jamie was pretty sure he knew what was coming his way and he waited patiently for Joe to speak. Joe cleared his throat,

“Look here, Fraser, I know she's interested in you, because I know her so well. I know you’re interested in her. She's my best friend, man. Gayle is my woman, but Claire's my girl. She's had her heart broken and more by other men in the past. If you break her heart or raise your hand to her, I will absolutely end you. I broke the hand of the one man who only raised his hand to her in my presence. The fool didn't even get the chance to touch her, Fraser. He’ll never regain complete use of that hand; I made sure of that. You feel me?”

Jamie couldn't help smiling when he heard the extent of the damage Joe'd inflicted on that bloke and looked at Joe with newfound respect,

“Aye, Joe. I'd have done the same thing to the miserable bastard. I was raised to treat women with respect, and Claire is special, I know it. I saw how you looked at me when she sat down with us. I had the same talk wi' Ian when he started courtin' Jenny – and he's my best friend, ken?”

Jamie and Joe smiled at each other and Joe offered his hand to the man. They shook hands and parted.

Ian and Jenny saw them leaving and decided they'd head home, slipping unobtrusively out the door. They got into their car and drove in silence for awhile. Jenny cleared her throat and gave voice to what they both were thinking,

“Well, that's it, then. Jamie's found his mate. By his look, he knew it immediately, too, aye?”

Ian clasped her small, warm hand,

“Aye, Jen. Looks like we'll need to plan fer a kirk weddin' in a year or two. I'mma glad of it, even though he's young. We both know how much he wants to marry and settle down. I hope Claire's open to kids.”

“Well, we'll find out tomorra. That girl's got bollocks o'steel, tha's fer sure. I was shocked when she took me up on the dare, but good fer her fer givin' our wee Blockheid a shakin' up,” Jenny smiled, remembering how Jamie shot her looks that could kill when Claire dragged him onstage, but also, looking like he'd had a wonderful time after it was all over.

Back in the pub, Jamie went back to Claire and they said their goodbyes to everyone. They gathered their things and Jamie helped Claire with her coat. He placed his hand over the small of her back and guided her out of the pub.

"Phew! This air feels grand, does it no', Sassenach?"

"It's lovely, Jamie," Claire smiled up at his impossibly beautiful face, wishing she were brave enough to kiss him.

"Shall we go on a short walk, lass? Stretch our legs after the aerobics?"

Claire giggle-snorted, which made Jamie chuckle. She slipped her hand into his as if it were the most natural thing in the world. Surprised and pleased, Jamie shortened his strides to match hers and they set off.

He took them to a small park around the corner, "St. Alban's Park," that had some flower-lined walking paths winding through it. They walked and chatted, talking about all manner of things, simply enjoying each other's company. Jamie asked her about some of her favorite and funniest cases and she soon had him laughing about her patients and colleagues alike. She told him all about how Joe and she had met and become best friends. She giggled and looked up at him,

“Joe calls me “his girl" and Gayle “his woman", Jamie! They're such a perfect pair!” She told him how she and Joe supported each other since the first day in medical school, sitting next to each other in the free seats left in the lecture hall. He looked down at her cheeks, pink from laughing while telling him of her and Joe's funnier exploits.

Ah, Dhia (Oh, God), she's spectacular.

Jamie smiled down at her, and as she answered his smile with a gentle squeeze of her hand, he felt an unfamiliar, but by no means unwelcome, feeling of peace surge in his heart, diffusing through his whole being.

Claire wanted to know all about whisky production, and Jamie suggested a personal tour the next time she could get a day off. They kept walking and the farther they walked, the more the outside world fell away. They were shaken from their cocoon by the ringing of the town square's clock. How had it become 2:00 a.m.? Jamie brought them back to the street and ordered a taxi to take them to Claire's house first. Again, she tried to slip him money (£50, this time), but he stubbornly refused.

"Nay, lass, I'll let ye pay some other time, aye?"

Too soon, they were at Claire's door. She unlocked the door and invited Jamie in for a nightcap.

"Aye, that would be just the thing, Sassenach, lead the way!"

She took his coat and hung both in the hall closet. She toed off her shoes and Jamie did the same. She slipped into the kitchen and retrieved a bottle of 2015 Bogle Merlot she'd been saving for a special occasion. She went to the glasses cabinet and realized with irritation she'd pushed the balloon glasses too far back and couldn't reach them.

"Dammit!" She sighed and went to extract her clunky ladder from between the fridge and the wall. Jamie heard the squeaking of the ladder and her grunt of exertion as she tried to wrestle the beast into submission.

"Wait, lass, let me help ye, aye?"

He plucked the ladder from her fingers and pushed it back into place easily. She'd gone to the cabinet and waited for him to assist her again. She had her back to him and gestured to the unreachable glasses.

"Can you please reach two down to me, Jamie? Gosh, I appreciate your help!"

He took a step forward and moved a hand next to her on the counter, reaching over her small frame and taking two glasses' delicate stems in his hand. He fleetingly wished the stems were her legs, but told himself sternly to get a goddamn grip, Fraser!

He closed his eyes when he caught her perfume again, simply enjoying the heady elixir. His front was against her back and her magnificent ass was straining against her skirt. Jamie realized suddenly that his cock was stiffening again. He put the glasses down and made to move back, except that Claire had placed her hand over his and had pushed her bum to his pelvis in an unmistakable invitation. He backed up a step and turned her gently to face him, rumbling,

"Are ye saying what I'm hoping ye are, a neighan (girl)? And are ye very sure ye want this?"

Wordlessly, she turned, took his handsome face in her gentle hands and pulled him down for a delicate kiss. Her lips were so soft that he wasn't sure the kiss had happened at all. He let her set the pace. Emboldened by his relaxed stance, she kissed him again, licking his upper lip, asking for his mouth. He gladly gave it, and the warmth and gentleness of the kiss sent a cold, hard shiver down her spine that made her gasp and deepen the kiss. Jamie felt a shock rocket to his toes and into his cock and his breath hitched. He placed his hands on her hips and she resolutely moved them to her ass, pushing them in massaging patterns over her skirt. He growled throatily, gasping,

"Mo neighan donn (my brown-haired lass), I want ye so badly I can scarcely breathe. Will ye have me?"

Claire bucked against his hips and that was all Jamie needed. He picked her up in his arms and Claire wrapped her legs around him, kissing him with an urgency born of simmering passion begging to be set free. He carried her to her bedroom and laid her down gently.

She whispered,

"Condoms are in the drawer, Jamie,"

He yanked the drawer open impatiently and dropped several of the foil-wrapped packages onto the bedside table. She held her arms open to him and he settled in between her legs. He took her beautiful mouth in his, exploring gently at first and then more insistently when Claire whined softly for more. He kissed her swan-like neck and she whimpered, "Jamie, please, I want you inside of me!"

Jamie smiled tenderly at her and cupped her chin in his hand,

"Not yet, a neighan (girl). I will give ye a proper seein' to, first."

She groaned in need and whispered throatily, "Well, get on with it, boy, I don't have all day!" She burst into giggles but they died away as she saw his dilated pupils and how his face hardened at her tease.

"Is that so, Sassenach? You think you can just order me about, is that it?"

"Oh, Jamie, I was jus-"

Claire sucked in a breath as her lover looked at her with nearly black eyes.

"Yer safe word is 'peacock'. Say that if ye want to stop everything, aye?"

Claire looked up at his exquisite face, smiled sexily and whispered,

"I offer myself up as your banquet, Big Man, indulge yourself. I trust you."

He felt those words branding her name on his heart and groaned, kissed her roughly and made short work of stripping her naked, none too gently, either. He took both her hands in his and yanked them above her head, saying,

"I'm goin' ta make ye scream my name before I'm finished with ye, mo fear beag. (my little one). Hold onto your headboard and don't let go, do ye understand me?

He growled ferally at the woman helpless underneath his body. He licked, sucked and nipped her breasts, focusing on her areolas. Claire panted and squirmed, trying to break his hold on her. Every time she freed her hands and tried to give him pleasure, he would simply shake his head, put her hands back on the headboard and give a very gentle warning squeeze, grind his pelvis into hers and pin her afresh.

"Jam-" she tried again, "God, oh, Jesus, Jamie, I-" Claire raised her head and captured his bottom lip in her mouth and sucked, sending a delicious shiver ricocheting through his whole body, ripping out a staggered moan from his dry lips,

"Oh, God, ye wee witch, I canna resist ye!"

"So, don't resist, Big Man… give your lust and want free rein tonight - indulge yourself!"

Jamie groaned and his cock got even harder. He saw how Claire's whisky eyes stood out in stark contrast to her ivory skin. The gold flecks in her eyes reminded him of gold flakes he'd mined on a geology class trip to California's gold country with the University of Edinburgh. The blazing sun above made the flakes seem like they beckoned and winked, mesmerizing him. He realized he could get drunk on her eyes alone, not to mention the rest of her magnificent form.

She saw his distraction and used it to her advantage, swirling her tongue in the hollow of his throat. Her last act before laying her head down was to bite him hard directly above his right clavicle.

He hissed in pain and kissed his way down her breasts, licking and sucking a trail down her ribs, stopping at her stomach.

He looked at her in tenderness and caressed her cheek gently.

"I told ye I would see to ye tonight, Sassenach. I canna have ye distracting me, aye?"

He pulled the suede length out of his hair and made sure she focused on it, a questioning look in his azure eyes. She nodded her head slowly, never breaking their eye contact. He sat her up slowly and shifted her so she faced away from him. He pulled her hands behind her and wrapped her wrists loosely so she wouldn't be scared. He whispered,

"tell me to stop if this becomes too much, my Sorcha ('light,' or Claire's name in Gaelic)."

Claire nodded and rose up to kiss him, capturing his tongue in her teeth, making him moan low in desire.

He lowered her down to the mattress and ensured she was comfortable as possible. He moved further down her body, kneading, tasting and kissing her stomach. He moved towards Claire's core much too slowly for her taste. She could feel heat coiling in her belly and moaned when Jamie pushed her thighs farther apart. She inhaled sharply when she felt his flattened tongue swipe leisurely and wetly over her pussy. He inserted a thick digit next, making her arch off the bed in utter pleasure.

"God, woman, ye're like a tropical pool, ye're so warm and wet. Yer beautiful snatch is tryin' so hard to milk my finger! Jesus, God help me!"

She had her eyes closed and smiled, whispering hoarsely, "All for you, Jamie, only for you."

He groaned at seeing her writhe on the bed, circling her hips, gyrating and moaning, trying to encourage him to continue. He left his finger inside of her, pumping it in and out like a tiny cock. He lowered his head and started to eat her out, much to Claire's delight.

"Uhhhgh, Big Man, please!" She ground out, as he pushed his tongue deeper into her pleasure center, curling and flicking his tongue wherever it would reach. He nibbled on her clit and massaged it in a circular motion with his tongue. He finally sucked on it, making her scream. Claire's eyes flew open in shock when he crooked his finger repeatedly, using his fingernail to lightly graze her walls. She arched helplessly into his hand, almost at her peak. Every time she got close, he would slow things down, frustrating her to no end.

"Oh, Jamie, please, oh, Jesus, please!" she babbled as her vision grew hazy with her mounting arousal. He stopped everything, making her cry, "oh, God, please continue!"

Jamie crawled up her length and kissed her passionately, possessively taking her chin in his hand. "Ye'll need to tell me exactly what ye want, mo neighan bhòidheach (my beautiful girl). And ye'll need to be addressin' me properly, aye?"

At his demand, her eyes sparkled and she moaned,

“Jesus on a potato chip, what're you doing to me?”

He grinned and climbed off the bed and returned to nestle between her thighs, now slick and dripping with warm, sticky nectar. He resumed his slow torture of her body, unable to stop from latching on to her inner thighs, lapping up the intoxicating wetness he found there. Roughly shoving a long finger and then a second into her pussy, he whispered throatily,

"Weel, lass, are ye able to tell me what ye want, now? Or do I have to stop and give ye a wee break?" His craggy eyebrows arched in inquiry.

She looked at him with lust-addled eyes and practically shouted,

"Jesus bloody fucking Christ, please… please… lick me to orgasm, Sir!"

As she shouted the honorific, Jamie felt a gush of hot, sticky liquid drown his fingers. Her pussy muscles pulled and rippled like a warm, greedy vise and Jamie's arousal rumbled in his throat, a deep, throaty growl. She moaned and he felt her clench against his fingers again. She arched her back and clenched her toes, trying to draw out the enormous pleasure wave as long as she could. Her moan of pleasure was strangled in her throat as Jamie renewed his tongue's assault on her core again. She writhed, moaned and screamed as he bit her clit gently. Jamie could feel that she was close to her peak and looked up at her. She was trying to steel herself against the overwhelming tide of sensation, pulling against her restraints, panting, grunting and grinding her ass into the bed in time with his fingers' thrusts and crooking motions.

"Oh, fuck, Sir, please, please, I want to come!" Claire could feel that her orgasm was rolling in and she couldn't stop it if she wanted to.

Jamie smirked and set a punishing new pace with his ministrations. She was panting and screamed his name brokenly - Jamie knew she was teetering on the precipice. He sucked hard on her swollen clit, worrying it with his warm tongue and finally blew a gentle stream of cold air over her nub, launching her into the deepest, richest orgasm she ever felt. What he saw next would be forever seared into his brain. The tiny woman cried out, shook and arched her back in her completion.

Jamie moved quickly to the headboard and untied her, gathering her still-shaking form in his arms. He rocked her gently and kissed the crown of her head, murmuring Gaelic endearments and blessings. He settled himself comfortably after pulling up the bedclothes to warm her. She shifted deeper into his strong arms and Jamie was content for the first time in a long time.

After about thirty minutes, Jamie needed to get up to stretch. He got up carefully, holding his breath, praying he wouldn't wake her. He drew back the covers with two fingers and nestled his eun beag (little bird) into bed, ghosting the covers over her delicate form. He put on his jeans and slipped noiselessly downstairs. He helped himself to mineral water, settling himself on the comfortable couch with his wine as well. He smiled when he regarded the full glass - things had progressed faster than either one of them was expecting and the wine had been forgotten. He turned on the TV and watched a soccer (UK: football) game with the volume very low so he wouldn't disturb the woman in the next room.

About thirty minutes later, he heard her stirring. He brought their wine into the room and smiled when he saw her awake.

"There ye are, lass! Did ye have a good nap?" He extended the glass to her, not letting go until he was sure she had it securely in her hand. She smiled back at him and smirked,

"Well, damn, soldier, you promised to give me a good seeing-to and you more than delivered!" She smiled broadly when she saw a furious red stain Jamie's neck.

"Ye enjoyed it, then?" He looked at her hopefully.

"Oh, fucking Jesus, Mary and God, that was the best orgasm I've ever had," now it was Claire's turn to redden.

"May I sit with ye?"

Claire patted the bed and took his wine glass as he settled himself next to her.

"And you, Jamie, did you have fun, too?"

"Oh, aye, I certainly did! Best night I've had in, well, I don't know any more."

The statement was hard for her to digest; why was tonight the best night he'd had in a while? He was such a giving, considerate person. On impulse, she caressed his cheek, encouraging him to come closer.

"Jamie, may I kiss you?"

He responded, "Aye, lass, I want ye to, verra badly."

She closed the infinitesimal distance between them and both of them felt the electric shock coursing through their cells at the same time. They pulled back from another with shocked gasps.

"Oh, my God, Jamie! I just felt a shock, like a surge of positive energy when we kissed. Did you?"

His face went from a mix of confused and shocked to relief very quickly,

"Aye, I did. I thought I was the only one."

He peered, confused, at the floor. Wood. So no static shock. No socks on any feet, either, so that could be safely ruled out.

"Ah, Sassenach, I don't want to sound like a lecher, but could I kiss ye this time? In the interest of science, ye ken. You havena carpet, neither one of us is wearin' socks, and nobody's hair just got brushed with a nylon brush. I want to test if the energy presents itself again, aye?"

Claire laughed out loud and scooched closer to the hot Scot in her bed and smiled,

"Aye-aye, Professor Fraser, Test Subject One ready for experiment to commence!"

He smiled and gently cradled her head in his hand and licked her lips with his warm tongue, making Claire sigh with need. He gave her delicate butterfly kisses until she opened her mouth. He took her mouth gently at first, but couldn't help quickly deepening it to something much more. At that moment, they both felt the warm energy course through them and they pulled apart with another shocked gasp. Jamie took her hand and they ran back upstairs.

Claire wordlessly took a gulp of her wine and saw Jamie doing the same. She held her stained vessel out to him and he placed both on the bedside table.

With a hungry growl, Claire launched herself at the surprised redhead, forcefully pushing him onto his back and straddling him. She played with his nipples until they were hard as diamonds and she'd wrenched a lusty moan from the man who dwarfed her in size and matched her in passion. She could see the man underneath her was gladly under her power and she'd make damn sure he stayed there until she'd had her way with him.

She reached over him precariously and Jamie held her in place until she'd retrieved what she wanted from the second drawer of her bedside table. She ground against Jamie, climbed off him and ordered,

"Strip, Big Man, now!"

He grinned and shed his clothes in two shakes of a lamb's tail.

"There's my good man," she purred against his neck, encouraging him to give her unfettered access to his beautiful skin. When he submissively bared his neck to her, her pussy clenched and she moaned. She kissed and licked from his earlobes to his clavicles and felt his excitement bobbing gently against her bum. She roughly gripped his chin and turned his face so she could lavish attention on the other side of his neck. He groaned throatily,

"Och, mo nighean donn (my brown-haired lass), feels so good, so good."

He hissed when she bit one and then the other nipple in turn. She laved away the sting and straightened up and asked timidly,

"Was that too hard, sweet man?"

"Well, Sassenach, if ye make yerself comfortable in a vixen's den, as I’ve done, ye have to expect to get bit, aye? Bite away, mo ghaol (my love)." He fixed her with a smile that would have turned her knees to jelly, had she been standing. Her eyes took on a heated quality and she laughed deep and low in her throat, a sound that went straight to his babymaker and sent a frisson of fear up his spine. How hungry was this wee woman?

He reached up and started to caress her beautiful breasts, wanting to worship her as she deserved.

"No, it's my turn to see to you, my beautiful-hearted man." She pushed his hands away gently. "After all, I can't have you interfering, now, can I?"

Jamie heard her say "my beautiful-hearted man," and he felt his heart explode into a supernova of joy. He knew she was claiming him as her own, this beautiful, sensuous being, and his soul vibrated with happiness.

She bent sideways and Jamie's hands automatically encircled her tiny waist, protecting her. He saw what she'd plucked from her bedside table: police-grade steel handcuffs. She copied what he'd done, holding them up so he would focus on them. He nodded, and she leaned over him, her beautiful breasts swaying just out of his reach, like the most delicious tropical fruit. She threaded the cuffs through the headboard's scrollwork, clicked them closed and showed Jamie the key, which was on a long length of soft butcher twine. She fastened the butcher twine within reach of his fingers so he'd feel safe. She guided his fingers to the lock and helped him put the key there, so he'd know how to do it if he felt the need.

Without another word, she leaned over him and put more pillows underneath his neck. She ground her ass against him and let her breasts dangle over his face. She fisted his hair and fixed her eyes to his and said,

"Be good and please me, Big Man!"

Jamie groaned and bucked involuntarily as she claimed his mouth, pushing her tongue in as far as she could. He whimpered when she stopped, but stretched up and tickled her areolas with his warm tongue, whispering hoarsely,

"Jesus, yes, Sorcha!" when she took hold of her breasts and held them still for him, groaning as his warm mouth feasted on her ivory beauty, licking, nipping and sucking. He alternated his generous attention, making Claire whisper,

"Fuck, oh, God, yes, Jamie! I'm coming!" She threw her head back and her Cupid's mouth formed a sensual circle.

Triumphantly, Jamie felt her wetness dribble onto him and he continued his ministrations through her orgasm, his cock painfully erect. Claire felt like he was everywhere at once. She felt herself slip into a haze of pleasure and her thighs gripped his head. He laughed into her depths and Claire shouted at the new, incredible, sensation hitting her core. Was there a goddamn echo?

He licked her clit experimentally to gauge her reaction and was pleased to hear her moan. He renewed his sensual assault, only pausing to let her wetness drip into his thirsty mouth. He knew she was getting close when she started trying to get herself off by dragging her vulva on his chest. She wasn't getting the friction she needed, though, and she returned to her rightful place. He sped up his ministrations, watching her lift herself out of his reach. He delighted in her hoarse scream,

"Oh Mary, Mother of God, I'm coming again, you insufferable bastard!" and she sank down again.

This time, Jamie sucked and bit her clit until she shook uncontrollably above him, her pussy weeping into his mouth. She let go with a high-pitched howl, stars exploding behind her eyelids.

She slithered down his body, marveling at his broad chest, musclebound arms and massive shoulders. She dragged her nails down his six-pack, feeling like she'd landed in Candyland*, for God's sake. He moaned and begged her,

"Mo chridhe (my heart), please, more! Please, touch me more, I need you!"

"Shhhh, I'm here, Big Man." She kissed and licked him on his pelvic bones, dragging sharp teeth on the ridges, making him writhe under her. She trailed kisses and gentle hands down his thighs, knees and finally, his feet. Jamie drew in a shuddering breath when she sucked on his toes, bucking uncontrollably, gritting his teeth to try to comprehend the avalanche of feelings this very singular woman was awakening in him.

"Please, Claire, let me taste you again," he begged, desperate for her honey. Claire nodded and straddled his face, but ordered,

"Only when I give my permission, understood?"

Jamie groaned and nodded. The weighty aroma of arousal hung in the air. All he could do was inhale deeply and he whimpered hungrily.

She straddled his face, waited until a count of 15 and whispered,

"Alright, go ahead, sweet man. Do what you will."

At that, he licked her labia, gently scraping his teeth against the edges, making her tremble.

"Oh, God, Jamie, damn you, yes, that's, ugh, so bloody good!"

He smiled and licked and nibbled the other labia, only stopping to thrust his tongue into her sopping wet hole, licking around her walls as best he could. He relished the sounds she was making, imagining she was white-knuckling her headboard.

"Claire! closer, woman, let me go deeper," Jamie commanded.

Claire eased off of him completely and grabbed his head and snapped,

"What was that, my toy? Are you giving me orders, now? I suggest you reexamine who can move freely and who is in cuffs!"

She placed her hand onto his throat and whispered, "Do you trust me, love?"

He nodded silently, so she mounted him and began to squeeze his throat, slowly increasing the pressure,

"You addressed me incorrectly, boy. Try again!"

He blanched and whispered his apology,

"I'm sorry, Mistress!"

But she did not let up on the pressure and Jamie felt himself becoming a little dizzy. Her surprisingly strong fingers got tighter and tighter around his throat and black spots danced drunkenly in his vision.

She looked back at his cock, which was thick and ramrod-stiff, the glans an angry purple-red.

"Well, would you look at that! Your lovely cock seems to be enjoying himself. He knows exactly what he needs! I want to hear you beg, Jamie. I think you'll do so quite prettily. Tell Mistress what you want, and do it quickly!"

Claire's grip on his throat did not ease, however. Jamie closed his eyes and could not swallow, and realized this was his first time with a woman in the Alpha role. Most women just took it for granted that he'd take the lead. He wasn't sure if it was his size, height or self-confidence. He knew without a doubt, though, that he liked what she was doing to him. He looked at her through half-lidded eyes and rasped,

"Please, Mistress, I know I've not earned your mercy, but I'm beggin' ye, please suck me off!"

"Good boy. Watch me go down on you! Do it!"

Claire adjusted the pillows underneath his neck so he could watch her.

"Yes, Mistress, I'm watching," Jamie groaned and tried to relax his throat. Claire loosened her grip on his throat somewhat, but did not let it go completely.

She quickly engulfed half of his cock in her mouth and moaned around it, making Jamie groan and twitch uncontrollably. She sucked on his glans and nibbled up and down his shaft and he moaned,

"Oh, Mistress, please, Imma so close!"

Claire held her hand in front of him and commanded brusquely,

“Lick, boy!”

She smirked as she felt his stomach muscles clench in arousal and he laved her fingers and hand as well as he could. She took his base in her hand and circled her fingers, gripping and sliding, making sparks fly down to Jamie's toes. She sucked hard on his cockhead, slobbering all over him.

Jamie was entranced, seeing his tip disappear into her luscious mouth.

She saw him buck helplessly and cruelly dragged her lacquered fingernails down his chest and abs, making sure to leave long angry scratches so he wouldn't forget her or this night. When he hissed, she increased the pressure on his throat and slapped him across the face with her other hand, just enough to shock him without hurting or marking him. She inserted her tongue into his meatus, making him hiss again. She attacked his cock with ferocity, straightening up enough to put yet more pressure on his throat. She could see a fine sheen of sweat forming on his forehead, and chuckled. Oh, this man was fun! Jamie breathed out,

"Please, Mistress, Ach, Dhia (Oh God), mo chridhe (Oh God, my heart), do ye want me to go to A&E with a coronary?

A confused look crossed Claire's face and she actually let go of his throat. Jamie coughed and she wrinkled her nose in thought,

"but…Big Man, I'm a trauma surgeon, remember?"

Claire belly-laughed when Jamie's face fell in surprise. Evidently, he'd forgotten… he just groaned and succumbed to giggles for a minute.

She soon had him moaning for more, though, as she tongued her way up to the base of his penis. She nibbled carefully, and tongued his cock so she could pump him somewhat smoothly.

"Claire, oh, lass! Aye, that's it, right there! Oh, Mistress!"

"You enjoying being looked after, Mr. Fraser?"

Jamie could only pant and groan in response. "Fuck, shite, bugger, bugger, dammit!"

She knew she was really getting an, ahem, rise out of him when she heard the handcuff links rattling - he'd forgotten he was restrained and tried to reach his goddess. He moaned in frustration, but his moan was cut off by a strangled, hoarse shout when she pumped up his length and caressed his cockhead with her tongue simultaneously. He breathed slowly through the inferno racing through his body. God, he wanted - no, he needed this woman in his life. They must be meant for each other. How else could the energy exchange be explained?

He thought she might give him a couple seconds' break, but he shouted in ecstasy when his vixen took as much of his long thick cock in her throat as she could. She massaged him with her tongue, trying to get closer and closer to his base. She hummed and moaned and when she choked on his cock, Jamie spoke up,

"Lass, it's alright. Please don't hurt yourself. You're unbelievably talented, aye? I'm almost ready to blow ma load with what ye're already doing. Ye might actually kill me if ye deepthroated me now!" He smiled encouragingly at her.

She let his cock free with a loud "pop" and purred, "Someday, Jamie Fraser, I'll be able to do it, even if these aren't the droids you're looking for…!" She started giggling, and Jamie couldn't help but join in at her offbeat humor.

He laid his head down again and realized the import of her statement. Good God, she'd said she'd do it someday, which meant that she was thinking of him in her future. Could he be that fortunate? And just like that, his heart shattered into a million jewel-encrusted pieces.

He moaned when she massaged precum onto his cockhead and hissed in need when she carefully inserted her little finger into his meatus again. She removed her finger after a few circles and opened it up with her tongue. Jamie couldn't even breathe for a few seconds. Black spots did the cha-cha again on the periphery of his vision.

He groaned long and loud and she squeezed his throat so that his groan died in a gravelly whisper. The hair on the back of his neck stood straight up as she engulfed him and screamed. She started pumping him up and down, gripping, releasing, licking and drooling. His cock was leaking precum like a faucet missing a washer. His own personal Waterloo occurred when she was going down on him and squeezing his base. He felt his orgasm boiling towards the surface and he tried to warn her,

"Claire! I'm going to come! Dhia boireann, feuch, dèan tròcair air m ’anam! (Oh, Goddess, please, have mercy on my soul)!"

She stopped sucking, tightened her grip on his throat and whispered in his ear,

"Jamie, I'm thirsty. Give me all you've got, baby!"

He stuttered out a groan, she resumed sucking and Claire felt his cock pulse. Next, she squeezed his balls several times, gently pulled his scrotum taut and tongue-fucked his cock's tip. Jamie's back bowed and his powerful hands were clenched in rock-hard fists. In response, Claire finally released his throat, hollowed out her cheeks and sucked harder. Jamie thought he would faint from the sudden influx of oxygen and couldn't hold himself back anymore. He screamed so loudly that the wine glasses on the bedside table trembled. Jet after jet of hot fertility hit Claire's throat and she greedily swallowed every last one.

Claire climbed off the bed and undid the handcuffs, gently bringing his arms forward to rest on his chest. She checked his carotid pulse; he was fine. She bathed his sweaty face and neck with a clean, warm cloth. She looked down at his beautiful relaxed face and smiled, brought the wine glasses downstairs and returned with two liters of Pellegrino. He was breathing deeply and she couldn't resist pressing a little kiss to his temple.

His sensual mouth quirked up into a smile and his beautiful eyes opened a few minutes later. He smiled when he saw Claire and held out his arms for her. She gladly snuggled against him and peppered his cheek with gentle kisses.

"Well, Big Man, did you enjoy yourself?" Claire whispered.

"Oh, my God, Sassenach," He covered his face with his hands looking at her through his fingers,

"ye must swear to me to only use your powers for good from now on, aye?"

She blushed crimson and giggled, her eyes widening in surprise.

"That was the most beautiful orgasm I've ever had, lass."

He leaned over and kissed her gently and all she could do was whimper.

Chapter Text

The next morning, he'd woken her with hot coffee and reminded her they needed to collect on the promised Scottish breakfast. Claire groaned and dragged herself to the shower, muttering about ungodly hours and too-cheerful Scots.

An hour later, they left for Lallybroch. Claire was grateful that Jamie drove; the further into the mountains they drove, the more it dawned on her that she would have become hopelessly lost had she attempted to get there in her present, under-caffeinated state. Thank goodness Jamie had brought more coffee in a thermos.

The mountain air became clearer and colder the higher they climbed in his powerful Range Rover. They passed lush fields, stone walls and the odd cottage. Through gaps in the trees, Claire saw glittering, windswept lochs and wondered at the varied topography.

They finally passed through a weathered arch to a large courtyard which fronted a massive stone manor house. As Jamie cut the motor, the broad front door opened and three small children ran out, shouting and squealing variants of "Uncle Jamie!" He turned from the vehicle just in time to be nearly knocked over by his nephews and niece, all clamoring for hugs at once. Jamie laughed, directed his oldest nephew to his back and easily stood up again, the smaller boy and little girl on one arm each.

"Alright, everyone, this is my friend, Claire Beauchamp. Say hello."

Claire giggled at the children covering Jamie like barnacles and said to the little girl,

"Hello, I'm Claire. What's your name?"

"Kitty," she squeaked, her huge gray eyes sparkled in curiosity at the newcomer and her honey blonde hair shone in the sun. Suddenly bashful, she hid in the safety of her uncle's broad shoulder.

"And I'm Ian!" The little boy opposite Kitty shouted gleefully, his large dark eyes intelligent and expressive. His dark hair fell unhindered into his eyes.

"And I'm Jamie!" The redhead had his Uncle Jamie's piercing blue eyes and red curls.

Claire giggled, and all the children joined her.

"Okay, everyone, in the house we go!" Laughter and shouts of glee followed as Jamie groaned quite theatrically and pretended to drop the children, as they were "all verra big and heavy now." He stomped into the house, lowering his voice and booming out, "Special delivery for Ian and Janet Murray, three bairns from the Bairn Store, all bought on clearance!" The children and Claire collapsed into squeals and giggles and a grinning Ian came to pry Kitty away from her uncle. Jenny took Wee Ian and Jamie crouched down so Wee Jamie could dismount.

Everyone said good morning to each other and Jamie pushed a cup of hot coffee to a grateful Claire. They all had a grand time discussing the previous night, Jenny and Claire reducing Brian and Ellen to stitches with their story of how Claire and Jamie ended up dancing together on a dare from Jenny. Brian chortled,

“Aye, that's the canny MacKenzie streak in all ma bairns!” which earned an

“Oh, you!” from his laughing bride.

Jamie surreptitiously watched Claire underneath his lashes, trying to suss out if she was the least bit uncomfortable. He needn't have worried, though. Claire was talking animatedly with his parents one minute and giggling with the children next, Kitty and Ian squabbling over who got to sit on her lap. Claire solved the problem by hefting one child on one knee each. After breakfast was devoured, they all took a short walk on the property and Claire was delighted to see wildflowers and other plants growing unfettered. Claire felt very welcomed by the Fraser-Murrays and was very happy when Jenny invited her for another stay in the future.

"I know ye don' ken it, Claire, but this is the happiest I've ever seen my numpty of a brother."

Claire blushed and intently studied scratches in the ancient kitchen table, too overwhelmed to say anything.

"If he's smart, he'll stay with you, if ye'll allow it."

"Oh, well, we just met, so we'll see. He may get to know me and not like me at all."

"I doubt that's a problem, Claire. I saw how he looked at you all last night and this morning, like a thirsty man just given a glass of water."

Claire blushed a previously undiscovered shade of red just as Ian and Jamie, snickering at each other, came back from the stables, knocking mud off their boots in the entryway.

"What say ye to yer first Scottish breakfast, Sassenach? Were ye pleased?" Jamie blinked owlishly at her and smirked.

"Jenny outdid herself, Jamie. I need three more stomachs and I fear a food coma lurks in my immediate future,"

Jenny, Brian and Ellen laughed and Claire smiled at Ian,

"Ian, I'm surprised you don't weigh a thousand kilos* with Jenny's good cooking,"

"Oh, aye, Jenny is a fantastic cook and it's a fight to not weigh as much as a blue whale. Thank God for farm work, Claire!"

Jamie looked over at Claire and said, "Weel, Claire, unfortunately I need to get some work done at home. Can ye gather yer wee things, and we'll go, aye?"

"Sure, I've got my purse and my shoes are at the door, Jamie."

 

***** END OF JAMIE'S MEMORY *****

 

They went down to the kitchen and indulged in some spaghetti carbonara Claire had made the night before. They sat on the couch and watched "The Spy Who Dumped Me," howling at the silly antics of the lead characters. They tangled themselves in one another, making a veritable rat's nest of limbs. Soon, though, eyes drooped heavily and Jamie realized he needed to get Claire to bed. He scooped her up into his careful arms, depositing her gently on the shared haven of their bed. He untied her robe and removed it gently, willing her not to wake. When she was sorted, he climbed in next to her with a grateful rumbling groan.

The next morning, Claire awoke slowly to the siren song of coffee, waffles and bacon. She rolled over and pushed herself out of bed, wishing for the umpteenth time that her hair had come with an operator's manual. She dressed in jeans and a kelly green camisole, one of Jamie's favorites that she knew brought out the golden flecks in her eyes.

"Good morning, a leannan (sweetheart), did ye sleep well?"

Jamie turned around to smile at her.

Claire came up to him and encircled his waist with her warm arms and breathed his scent in,

"Yes, love. A well-fucked woman always does," she drawled, smiling and envisioning Jamie's blush.

"Did you?"

"Aye, last night was grand, mo neighan (my girl). I also slept verra well!"

Claire just snickered and kissed his broad back loudly.

"Awright, lass, go sit. Coffee, bacon and yer first waffle is warm and ready. Butter, warmed syrup, cinnamon sugar and blackberry preserves are on the table. Help yourself while it's hot. Don' wait fer me, aye? I'll be finished in a minute."

Claire sat down and slathered her waffle in room-temperature butter and blackberry preserves, groaning in delight as she took the first bite.

Jamie brought his plate and took a sip of coffee, enjoying the noises of enjoyment coming from the small woman opposite.

"Oh, Jamie, sooooo yummy! I must have done something right last night to deserve this feast fit for a king!"

"Aye, Sassenach, truer words were never spoken. Ma puir cock, he may have to apply for disability after last night!"

Jamie smiled and Claire promptly choked on her coffee.

 

Six Months Later

 

Claire woke up and trudged into the bathroom for a hot shower. She just wanted to take it easy today.

Thank God today was Satu – Oh, shit! Tonight's that goddamn fundraiser for the hospital! Fuck me, what am I gonna wear? Jesus frick! I need Geil and Gayle and Joe!

Claire got out of the shower and dried herself hurriedly, forgetting to put her robe on in her haste. She grabbed her phone and started a group-text with the three of them.

“WARDROBE EMERGENCY! Guys, We all know that STUPID fundraiser is tonight. I don't have anything to wear! I fucking forgot to go shopping for a formal gown! GnG, can I take you shopping? Joe, I'll need a man's opinion if I'm undecided. You'll have to be the guy who decides, ok? Geil, bring Willie to keep JAMMF company. PLEASE HELP!!!” I HAVE NO PROBLEM BRIBING YOU ALL WITH WRIGHT'S THICK-CUT BACON, ORGANIC EGGS, TOAST AND COFFEE!!!!

Claire dressed quickly and went downstairs to the kitchen and started the Zojirushi 12-cup coffeemaker, a present to her from Jamie when he realized life was much better with, and he was less afraid of, Caffeinated Claire. Just as she was pulling out the package of Wright's thick-cut bacon, substantial whole grain bakery bread and 18-pack of organic eggs, her phone chirped. All four friends were heading over to eat breakfast and the girls would go shopping with her. Fifteen minutes later, the gang walked in, said hello to Claire and set about helping get breakfast ready. She preferred they simply come in – they were family, after all. Just then, Jamie came downstairs in his bootcut Wranglers (her favorites) and a simple white t-shirt, curls still wet from the shower,

“Hullo, mo neighan (my girl), how are you today? And hullo the house! What are ye all doing here?”

“I have to go shopping with my girls for that STUPID fundraiser because I forgot to buy a dress. Joe and Willie'll hang with you, love, is that alright?”

Claire turned around and kissed her man, inhaling his uniquely “Jamie" scent she couldn't get enough of.

“Oh, aye, seems right enough. I'll be wearin’ ma Fraser colors tonight, mo chridhe (my heart).”

Jamie's smile was so warm her knees threatened to dissolve and she had to steady herself with a hand on the tabletop, thinking of how edible he looked in his kilt. Claire kissed him again and everyone sat down to breakfast, the sexes segregating themselves. Joe and the men discussed the latest sports scores and the ladies discussed which stores to go to first. Geilis knew that MacAllan's in town was having a clearance sale and she suggested they go there first. After they found the dress, they'd go to lunch and bring the boys something home. The men all enthusiastically agreed.

The men took over the clean-up from breakfast so the women could bring their lunches sooner, er, get started on finding a dress for Claire. Joe cheekily reminded them they were expecting dessert too, which earned him, in quick order, a pinch from Claire, a not-very painful punch in the tummy from Geilis and an eyebrow arched in warning from his wife,

“Ok, nothing but scraps for my man,” huffed an embarrassed Gayle. Everyone laughed and the girls all climbed in Geilis' car, as it definitely had enough leg room for Gayle, who was 5’11”.

The first possibility she found was a floor-length deep royal purple silk dress with a daring slit up both sides of the dress. It had been cut to expose one shoulder and the hem was accented with smoky gray crystals. She looked at the price tag and nearly had a coronary – it was a Carolina Herrera and the regular price reflected that. She was never so glad to see an angry red slash through that price, and whispered a prayer in thanks to any deity who might have been listening, as it was marked 50 percent off. She tried it on and her friends gasped at how beautiful she was. Gayle whistled and said,

“Yep, I'll take it up to the counter for you. Do you want to keep looking, or are you ready to go?”

Geilis unzipped the dress when they were back in the dressing room and handed the dress to Gayle.

“Ye might want to take a second look, hen. I have a niggling feeling that's not the dress fer tonight. “

“Hmmm…,” Claire mused, I think you're right. Gayle had rejoined them by that point, and Claire looked pointedly at her other friend and raised her eyebrows. Gayle said,

“Well, were it me, I'd take one last look,” and grinned.

Sifting through the racks again, hoping to find one just for Jamie. She did love how her man would simply unravel at the sight of her in specific outfits. Claire finally found the dress. It was a sequined floor-length model in a shimmery dark gold she knew would bring out the flecks in her eyes and paint a stunning contrast with her skin. Luckily, it had a coordinating filmy wrap. Yep, perfect. She called Gayle and Geil and held the dress up against her body,

“So, what do you think, ladies?”

Both women squealed, and Claire knew the dress was in like Flynn.* When she tried on the dress, both women's mouths dropped open. Geilis motioned for her to show the back,

“Yep, hen, you got yersel' a dress, aye! An' it looks like the Retail Fairy is really on yer side, this dress is on clearance as well!”

Gayle laughed seeing her petite friend in the gown that, *bonus,* was lined and needed no brassiere, showed off her breasts and hugged her curves. Claire's behind was highlighted in all the right ways,

“Honey, we're going to have to make Jamie get ready in a separate room tonight, because he'll just want to peel this confection off you and you'll never make the fundraiser! You should make him close his eyes until you're right in front of him. He won't know what hit him, for sure!”

All three women giggled and trooped off to find Claire shoes.

They visited a new upscale shoe boutique, “Sassy Ankles" for the first time, and even Gayle's notoriously penny-pinching pocketbook didn't emerge unscathed. She found a pair of lavender heeled sandals she loved. Geilis found robin's-egg blue stilettos and a matching clutch and Claire found sparkly dark gold stilettos and a coordinating clutch.

As they were heading off to a well-deserved lunch, Gayle spied “Sweet Nothings,” a lingerie shop and suggested they all go in. All the ladies found something: Geilis a dark-blue silk nightgown with a brightly embroidered heron on the matching robe's back. Gayle found high-heeled slippers and a magenta silk camisole and short-shorts pajama set. Claire found a beautiful light blue peignoir set* and remembered she had high-heeled slippers at home. She decided she'd surprise Jamie after the fundraiser with it.

The women all exited the store in high spirits and placed their treasures carefully in Geilis' trunk. Gayle had heard of a new pan-African-cuisine café that just opened up, so she suggested they try that. She knew her friends were interested in other cultures' cuisines, and were more than happy to take a risk. They all walked over to “Mama's Table" and were greeted by a slender, smiling woman. They were shown to a table and all sat down to relax. They all ordered drinks and got a basket of warm bread. They ordered their lunches, and Claire asked for the whole bill to be brought to her. Claire ordered vegan peanut stew*, Gayle ordered maafe with goat*, and Geilis decided to try kuku wa kupaka* They all polished off their delicious lunches, and decided to order the boys’ lunches while they were waiting on their umm ali* and Ethiopian coffee.
Claire ordered Jamie piri piri*, Gayle ordered Joe tagine zitoune* and Geilis got Willie mubattan kusha* and they ordered kunafah*, chebakia* and baseema* for the boys' dessert. Laden with food for their men, the ladies made their way home. They brought the food in first and the men fell on the fragrant dishes as if they hadn't eaten for a week. Willie just grinned like he'd won a jackpot,

“mo neighan ruaidh (my red-haired girl) has made ma wame (stomach) verra happy! God knows the food at these dog-and-pony shows is always terrible!”

Gayle looked over to her love and smiled, who was “having a moment" with his lunch. She saw her man close his eyes for a few seconds, heard his appreciative moan and smiled. After he'd finished his bite, he patted his tummy and smiled like the Cheshire Cat,

“Gayle, baby, you've hit it out of the park again! We're going here!”

Jamie didn't say much except to grab his container and practically claw it open. He let out a appreciative grunt as he took his first bite. Geilis saw a flash of silver and watched how Jamie growled at Willie's marauding hand and stabbed at the intruder with his fork when Willie tried to sneak some of his brother’s food,

“Hey! No fair! Claire, yer nasty brute over here just stabbed me! The dinner table's supposta’ be a violence-free zone!”

Jamie looked up and muttered, “Lunch, not dinner, ye coof.” He then very politely asked Joe if he'd care for a taste of his lunch. Joe smiled and the two men exchanged small portions of their dishes with one another.

Claire turned to Willie, “Well, you've heard about mama bears and their cubs, right? Well, you of all people have to know Jamie's like that about food, especially if he’s really enjoying it, Willie,”

Claire smirked and Geilis walked over to Willie and smacked him on the back of the head,

“”Serves ye right, ye eejit!” she snorted in derision. Willie grumbled at the strike and just glowered into his food, not daring to contradict his wife – he knew better.

The ladies cleared the wreckage from lunch off the large table and brought in coffee and the men's desserts.

The men made appreciative sounds eating dessert, and Claire and the ladies went outside for a few minutes to bring their treasures in. When they came back in, the only trace of the beautiful desserts were maimed crumbs and plates shiny from having been licked clean.

Claire and the ladies went upstairs to the main bedroom to decide on Claire's jewelry. She put on the purple dress first for the full effect, and Geil stood back and applauded excitedly, even doing a little jig. Gayle smiled, gave two thumbs-up and called down for Joe, for his “red-blooded-American-male" opinion.

Jamie grabbed Joe's arm,

“Mate, give me a hint when ye come back, jes' a wee’un, aye?” He looked at his friend with pleading eyes, “th’ waitin' is killin' me!”

Joe's eyes just twinkled in mirth,

“Are you asking me to go against the express wishes of your future wife, my wife and his?” Joe jerked a big thumb at Jamie’s brother, “as much as I like you, brother, I have no desire to die on this particular hill.”

Joe sauntered upstairs and made sure Jamie could hear his exclamation of admiration, saying in a very loud voice,

“My goodness, little Red Riding Hood, you clean up well! You look positively edible!”

Jamie cursed and held his head in his hands as he heard Joe's pronouncement. For the first time in his life, he absolutely despised surprises. Willie, as always zero help, just laughed at his little brother's consternation.

Joe's eyes swept up and down Claire's form and she twirled slowly. He motioned for her to show him her smoky gray heels, nodding in agreement at them, her coordinating clutch and her great-grandmother's sterling silver bangles she'd received in lieu of an engagement ring from her husband-to-be when they got clandestinely engaged. The bangles were their symbol to one another of their secret love.*

“Okay, honey, out. Your girl has one more to show you,” Gayle smiled and ushered her husband out the door. He decided he wanted Jamie to squirm even more and waited in the upstairs hallway. A few minutes later, he was called in again and exclaimed,

”Goddamn, Little Sister, WOWZA!” Joe carefully and loudly enunciated, wolf-whistling for emphasis, making sure Jamie could hear it. The four of them dissolved in giggles at the answering snarl from below,

“Shut it, ye bloody wanker!”

Joe and the ladies cackled and Joe laughed,

“Claire, yep, it's this one! It’s Armageddon for your man for sure! And, don't you dare return the first one. Save it for another gala, ok? Jamie won't know what hit him. When I go downstairs, I'm going to gloat so hard! I want to make his little green monster come out and play!”

All three women burst into hoots of mirth. Downstairs, Jamie flopped down on the couch and looked at his brother,

“Imma done fer, aye? She's tryin' ta kill me with the longin', isn' she?”

Willie chucked evilly and simply drawled, “It's been nice knowin' ye, brother!”

Joe openly admired Claire's 18-carat genuine gold bangle studded with amber pieces and topazes that Lamb had given her on her 18th birthday. She lifted her hair and showed him her shimmering amber and citrine drop earrings, and asked,

“My hair – up or down?”

She showed him both styles and he chose up, which the ladies also liked best. She then showed everyone the new necklace she'd commissioned. It was gold and a saying was suspended between the two ends of the chain in delicate cursive script. Joe read slowly,
“Je Suis Prest.” He looked at Claire questioningly and she explained that it was Jamie's family's motto.

Joe made his way back downstairs and completely ignored Jamie's pleading eyes, preferring instead to help himself to another coffee. Jamie sidled up to him, hoping to wheedle something, anything out of the man his woman loved most next to himself. Joe saw him coming and could feel the ping-pong ball-like nervous energy radiating from him. Joe quickly put up his hand and uttered a firm, “NOPE!” and walked away, which made Jamie growl in frustration and Willie collapse against the couch cushions, shaking in helpless laughter.

Later that night, Claire took her dress and accessories into the guestroom and left Jamie in the master to don his kit. She already knew that she'd hardly be able to take her eyes off him all night – and, she realized, neither would many ladies. She frowned at that, realizing how much it bothered her. Still, she couldn't help but understand the attraction; she’d done it too, after all. James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser was simply, in the parlance of the 1940s, a dish. She put on her stockings, underwear and garters and used the ensuite bath to put the finishing touches on her makeup. She slipped the dress on, glad that it had a hidden side zipper. She put her jewelry on and checked out how the dress sat – it was perfect. Her shoes came next and a dab of his favorite perfume on her pulse points was the last thing. As her hand reached for the door, she heard Jamie downstairs, making them both a drink. She texted him and said that she was coming down and wanted him to close his eyes. He responded with a thumb-up emoji and texted “closing my eyes right now.” She walked quietly down the stairs and came to stand in front of him and said quietly,

“you can open your eyes now, my gorgeous man.”

He opened his eyes slowly and gasped at the vision in front of him, his trembling hand coming up in front of his gaping mouth. She put even the angels in the heavens to shame. She was more than breathtaking – she was a phenomenon. For the rest of his life, he would remember this night. He'd never seen his Sorcha in a color that matched and highlighted her eyes better. He walked a slow circle around her and a low growl escaped when he saw how the dress clung to her beautiful ass.

“I chose this dress with you in mind, love. What do you think?” she asked anxiously.

He came back to face her and her new necklace caught his eye,

“That's the Fraser motto! Ye do me a great honor, wearin' it as ye are, mo bhean bhòidheach (my beautiful woman), thank ye so verra much! Ye are breathtaking, Sassenach. May I kiss ye?”

“Yes, you may, my dashing Highland warrior,” Claire blushed when she felt herself gush wetness at how handsome he was. His hair was neatly styled and he was freshly shaved. He wore a white silk shirt, his Prince Charlie and his beautiful kilt with his Fraser pin fastening it to his shoulder. His outfit was replete with his grandfather's sgian dubh in his left sock, his hose and flashes and ghillies. She gently held his hips and tugged him closer. He kissed her lips tenderly, not wanting to smudge her makeup. She growl-whispered,

“Ahhh, my beautiful man, seeing you so, in your kit, just made my pussy drool with want,” and she stepped back a little to drink him in to her heart's content. Upon hearing her confession, Jamie’s pupils dilated and a dangerously possessive, primal sound erupted from his throat. Pulling her to him, he whispered huskily,

“Aye, and seein' ye, so lovely, dressed just for me, mo neighan donn (my brown-haired lass), ye make me verra proud ta be yer man. My possessive, fierce Highlander blood demands I take ye upstairs – I shall pick ye up an ‘throw ye over mah shoulder, so mah fingers and cock will force ye to acknowledge that only I hold dominion over ye! Do ye want me to do that?”

Jamie could feel his raging hard-on tenting his kilt.

Claire gulped and saw that Jamie's eyes were nearly black with need and whispered hoarsely,

“Do it, please!”

Jamie smiled wolfishly,

“Weel, I suppose that means ye're comin' with me.”

Without another word, Jamie hoisted her carefully over his broad shoulder, secured her with a hand on her back and ran with her upstairs. He put her down carefully and turned her to face the mirror, pulling her back to his broad chest,

“Look, a neighean (my girl), look at how beautiful ye are and how well we fit together.”

He pulled the zipper down slowly, making Claire whimper impatiently. He raised an eyebrow at her and she quickly apologized. He cursed in Gaelic when he realized she was braless. He lovingly fondled her breasts and tweaked her nipples to hard peaks, making her groan. He pulled the zipper down again, revealing her glorious behind one bit of ivory skin at a time. God, this ass. It would be his end, he was certain. It had ruined him for other women. He peeled the rest of the dress off and ordered her not to move. He stepped into the bedroom and laid the dress reverently on the bed. He placed a large, trembling hand on her shoulder blades, pushing her down slowly and gently until she was folded in half. He growled for her to hold on to the edge of the vanity with her hands so she could brace herself. He hissed when he saw his favorite garters and a next-to-nothing scrap of silk that tried to pass itself off as a thong. Round, ivory globes whispered to him and he couldn't stop himself from slapping each cheek forcefully, loving how Claire squeaked and wriggled under the assault, her ass cheeks pinking and wobbling enticingly. He bent down and bit each cheek, making Claire hiss and a trickle of moisture drip slowly from her honeypot. He reached down and unceremoniously yanked the underwear off of her, tearing it in the process. He brought it to his nose, inhaled deeply and threw down the useless pieces. He proceeded to spank her harder and faster, making her grunt, suck in a breath and dance on her stilettos. All of a sudden, he stopped and she whined. Not wanting to ruin her updo, he simply slid his warm hand around her throat and squeezed lightly at first, lifting her neck gently so he could whisper in her ear,

I'm goin' ta take ye now, Sassenach, and there's nothing ye can do about it, aye? Don't bother to fight or try ta stop this, because ye know I'll punish ye for yer insolence and enjoy doin' it, aye? ‘Tis my right and my duty as yer Master.“

“No, Master, I’ll obey,” she whispered, feeling her pussy clench and a delicious shiver skate along her spine. He groaned at her capitulation and he squeezed her throat harder, his cock painfully engorged. She’d become even wetter when she said the word “obey.” Jamie grasped her thighs hard enough to bruise them and pushed until there'd be no way for her to stand without help. He teased her pussy, stroking her labia minor with his thumbnail, making her sigh with need.

Jamie inserted two fingers into her quim and moved them around easily, crooking them so she'd squeal, which she did. He bent down to her and whispered in a gravelly voice,

“Lass, have ye ever seen a stallion and mare breed? Did ye know he sniffs her honeypot to make sure she's ready for him? I can smell you're ready for me. The stallion bites his mate to keep her still when he mounts her. Would ye like that?”

“I want you to do whatever you please with this body; All of me belongs to you, My Lord,” Claire breathed out shakily, trembing with need, and Jamie’s heart crashed against his ribs.

Claire loved what he did next – he crouched down and stuck his nose right up her quivering honeypot and took a deep sniff, reveling in her sweet-tangy musk. He burrowed into her and licked her from bottom to top, making sure to flatten his tongue. She groaned in want, starting a faint whining chant of,

“please, please, please,” repeating it endlessly, like a mantra.

He continued eating her out and felt her legs start to shake, a sign she was close to her peak. Just as promised, he rose, leaned over her and bit her neck, sinking his teeth into her alabaster beauty. He slid three fingers in her dripping cunt and sawed them back and forth. He kept biting, licking and sucking until she was moaning and writhing beneath his greedy mouth. His sopping fingers found her clit and pinched it with rough fingers, but didn't let Claire move away from him, even as she screamed in raw need. Instead, he moved his hand away and pressed her into the vanity with his body, mimicking thrusting into her. She groaned and begged,

“Please, Big Man, fuck me!”

His hand tightened around her neck in response and he shushed her, murmuring, “bi sàmhach mo leannan (be silent, my beloved woman).” He pulled up his kilt and fed his rock-hard cock into her slick tunnel and they both gasped at the feeling. Claire moaned and clenched her soaked pussy, making Jamie groan,

“Oh, aye, love, that's it, mo gràidh (sweetheart), so good!” He started rocking into her, canting his hips, varying the depth of his thrusts until he could no longer be gentle,

“Sassenach, I canna be gentle wi' ye anymore!”

Claire growled, “Do what pleases you, my love, don't hold back!”

Jamie lost the last wisp of control at her words and pummeled her cunt with his hot cock, grunting every time he hit her cervix,

“Oh Jamie, harder, please! More! Hurt me, damn you! I need you!”

Jamie shouted,

“Give me your hands, Sassenach, now!”

She offered them up, a willing sacrifice. He seized her wrists and gripped them so tightly against her lower back that they turned a ghostly white from blood loss. He used them as leverage, pistoning in and out of her pussy. He stretched along her length, painfully biting, sucking and licking her neck.

“I am yer Master and I hold dominion over ye, isn't that right, Sassenach?” He chose now to slam into her so hard the cabinet groaned dangerously and she screamed in pain, shouting,

“Oh, God, yes, that’s it! Keep doing that!” She looked into the mirror, entranced at the reflection - Jamie's eyes were shut tightly and his teeth were bared like a wolf who finally cornered his prey, veins in his neck standing up proudly, sweat beading on his forehead. His beautiful hips pistoned forward and back at blinding speed, demanding entry into her cunt again and again. He was lost to all but his rhythm and the raw, wild sensations he was experiencing. His abs were gleaming with sweat, rock-hard and a magnificent picture of skin, taut sinew and muscle. His left hand curled possessively around her wrists and the fingers of his right hand were splayed, desperately clutching her neck. Claire looked at herself, her pupils blown wide with pleasure, face glowing with perspiration, her cheeks a vibrant pink. Tendrils had slipped put of her updo, but she couldn't bring herself to care.

“Look at us, love!” she demanded. Jamie opened his eyes and took in the feast underneath him. He groaned and resumed slamming into her with all his breath, his life, his heart.

Claire knew she'd have bruises on her thighs, but she didn't give a flying fig. Claire’s pussy spasmed mightily and she whimpered.

He growled, “Answer me, woman!” and bit her neck viciously, slamming into her as hard as before.

Claire cried aloud,

“Yes, you are my Master and you hold dominion over my body and my soul!” She saw bright colors supernova behind her eyelids and screamed Jamie's name as she hurtled into her pinnacle and disintegrated into a million stars.

Jamie roared at the sensation of his cock being squeezed in her pussy's greedy, angry embrace that threatened to leave him breathless, bellowed Claire's name and shot her full of hot seed.

When they finally came down from their highs, Jamie carefully helped Claire stand and slowly zipped her up, regretting that her beautiful skin was hidden from him once more. She looked up at him confused,

“Jamie, I need to clean up. I don't want anyone to know what we've been up to.” When she went to wipe herself with a facecloth soaked in hot water and soap, he stopped her, admonishing gently,

“Nay, lass. I've claimed ye as mine, leave it be. And no undergarments tonight - ye'll go without, aye? It is my wish.” Jamie pulled her into his arms and, with that, gave her a hungry, possessive kiss that left her head spinning.

Chapter Text

*****a year after our last scene*****

 

"Alright, a bràthair (brother), come on in. What do ye want to talk about?" Jenny Murray set down the teapot with cream and sugar and pushed a mug to her husband and one to Jamie.

"It's Claire. I want to marry her. If she says yes, I was hoping we could get married in the kirk and have the reception here. What do ye think?"

Ian shook his brother-in-law's hand and Jenny got up and hugged him, delighted Jamie was ready to take such a momentous step.

"Jenny, I'm goin' ta ask ye to come ring shopping with me. I don't have much experience in such things, as ye weel ken."

Jenny smiled and thanked her brother for inviting her to help with such an important question, but looked like a question was brewing in her head.

"Jenny, I can hear questions shouting in yer heid from ower here. Out with them, aye?"

"Weel, Claire's a trauma surgeon, aye?"

Jamie's eyebrows lifted,

"Aye." Jamie regarded at her warily, "what're ye thinkin' aboot, Jenny?"

She pursed her lips and drummed her fingers in a nervous staccato rhythm on the worn tabletop.

"I know that surgeons have to scrub up before a surgery, and I don't think they're allowed to wear jewelry in the theater at all."

"But wha'," Jamie interrupted her. Jenny held up her hand to silence him.

"Hear me out, Jamie. I just wonder if ye might consider allowing Claire to choose if she wants a wedding set at all, since she won't be able to wear it much. It won't mean that she's not in love with ye and isn't happy to be yer wife. It would mean that ye are giving her the choice, respecting her career and what it would mean for her to have to remember to take them off and put them somewhere safe, every day, mebbe multiple times. Do ye see what I'm gettin' at?"

Jamie opened his mouth, blinked and snapped his mouth closed again, resembling a beached fish. He was at a loss. Jenny had brought up something he'd never contemplated. As much as he didn't want to admit it, he realized she had presented a valid argument against proposing with a ring.

"Jenny, thank ye for mentioning this. I think ye're right. I don't have to have a ring. I'll ask her without one and explain my reasoning, exactly as you have."

Jenny's face relaxed and her shoulders slumped in relief. She smiled at her brother and squeezed his large hands gratefully.

"Ye ken it doesna mean I want to have to wait much longer before she's officially my sister, right? Ian and I are hopin' ye'll sew this up right quick, and ye know the kids love her, Mam and Da see how happy ye are, and Mam already refers to her as her future-daughter-in-law, aye?”

Ian chimed in,

"Aye, lad, she's a keeper for sure! I've never seen ye so happy as in this past year. I happened upon Claire and Mrs. Crook in the kitchen the other day and Mrs. Crook was giving Claire her *shortbread recipe*, aye, Jamie?"

Jamie looked at his brother-in-law and sister, most surprised about Mrs. Crook, who was a very astute judge of character. Bronagh Crook *never* shared recipes with people she didn't truly care for. He face split into a grateful smile,

"Aye, I'll do as Jenny suggests. Thank ye both!"

Chapter Text

*****WARNING: PART OF THIS CHAPTER DETAILS PAST SPOUSAL ABUSE*****

Claire stared at the white sticks in her hand, shocked, but delighted, swearing softly at the piss-poor timing. She'd brought her work bag into the bathroom with her, and stuffed all the packaging in her cavernous companion. She thought to herself, “dammit, it must have happened after I had that flu last month. Fuckity-fuck-fuck-shit-Jesus-on-a-cheese-wheel!” She'd hoped missing her period just meant she was stressed because they were down one trauma surgeon, leaving Geilis and her to pick up the extra shifts. But, n-o-o-o, it couldn't just be *that* simple… leave it to her to get pregnant when they hadn't planned it. “Man makes plans and God laughs,” - wasn’t there a saying like that? She huffed out a breath and willed herself not to cry. On the way to work, she couldn't stop the tears. She pulled over to the next Starbucks' parking lot and a big, ugly cry-fest commenced. It wasn't that she didn't want to carry Jamie's children – she wanted it more than anything. It just took her by surprise. Space Oddity had made his or her appearance, and Claire and Jamie were *both* unprepared. She'd still opted for The Pill so that they could plan when she got pregnant, though.

She remembered back to her first husband, Frank. They'd married during college, when they were both 21. They'd been very happily married for three years and had started trying for a child. They tried for a year with no success, and something in Frank changed almost glacially slowly, degree by ugly degree. He grew angry and violent when her womb remained empty. Month after month, he screamed in her face on more than one occasion that it had to be her fault – she was an only child and he had five brothers and sisters. He threatened to kill her when she offered him a divorce, so she stayed. The worst night came when he found tampon wrappers in the trash after she thought she was pregnant. He kicked and beat her until she lost consciousness. She remembered coming to because of a very loud, persistent pounding on her door, followed by Joe letting himself in with his key. The police arrived soon afterward. Later, Gayle let herself into Claire’s home and cleaned up Claire's blood from the hardwood floors in the living room so she wouldn't have to face it. When Claire confessed to Geilis and Joe that the beatings had been going on for a while, her reproductive system was examined. The obstetrician spoke frankly with her while Geilis and Joe held her hands, telling her that because Frank had damaged her uterus, she only had a twenty-five percent chance of carrying a baby to term - and any babies that made it that far would have to be delivered via Cesarean section. She'd never told Jamie any of this, because although they'd talked about parenthood, the conversation would end with a qualifier of “someday.” She'd told him she was widowed, but nothing else.

She reached the hospital and washed up in the locker room, reapplying makeup so she could hide her crying jag. She slipped into Obstetrics and asked the secretary, Mary, to make a confidential appointment with her friend, Dr. Fiona Graham. As luck would have it, someone had canceled for 9:00 a.m. that morning. Claire gratefully took the appointment and Mary winked at her. Dr. Graham came back into the room and tested the sample herself. While they waited for the results, Fiona ran a diagnostic ultrasound for Claire. Healing had occurred in the years since Claire's abuse, and Fiona announced with a grin,

“Well, it looks like your probability of carrying a baby to term have risen dramatically, to about fifty percent! That's fantastic, love!” She and Claire high-fived.

“So, your Scot, does he know yet?” Fiona queried Claire as she reentered the room after letting Claire re-dress.

“Not yet, but I'll spill the wee beans tonight. I can't even believe it myself!”

“It figures a Scot would simply detour around the “no" and make it happen, he must be very stubborn and strong-willed!” She and Claire snorted and Claire said,

“Oh, my dear friend, truer words have never been spoken! Here, here's a picture of us together. His name's Jamie.”

Reaching into her bag, Claire pulled out her phone until she found a picture of them at the “gold-dress" banquet, as they called it.

“Well, my goodness, you lucky lucky girl! Look at that man candy!” They both snickered and Claire said,

“Yes – it would be great for the baby to get his height, hair color and cheekbones, my coloring and curls, don't you think?”

“Oh, yes, totally! Okay, so down to business. Due to your history, I want to see you every two weeks, or if you've decided to go with Hildie, she'll want that, too. If you start to bleed or even cramp, come see one of us immediately. You have my cell programmed into your phone, so that’s good. Call me anytime – and I do mean anytime, if something fishy happens, alright?"

With that, the colleagues parted and Claire started planning how she'd tell Jamie. She tried not to worry about what his reaction would be when he heard about the baby, although she was hopeful he’d be happy. What concerned her was his reaction to hearing she'd been previously abused. Jamie was zealously protective of Claire and wore his heart on his sleeve around her. But there was no help for it, even if she had to force herself to bring her past into the spotlight.

Chapter Text

Claire opened the door and called,

"Hi, honey, I'm home!"

She was exhausted. All she wanted was her man and a bath hot enough to soothe her aches and pains. She heard the dull thunder of the extra-large bathtub filling to capacity and wondered what she'd done to earn him in her life. Jamie treated her like a queen, as no man had ever done before. She heard the bathroom door open and Jamie boomed,

"Hello, darlin', yer bath is nearly ready!"

Claire trudged upstairs and gratefully stripped off of her clothing, scooping them up and tossing them in the hamper.

"Oh, darling, you're a sight for sore eyes! Thank you for all this!"

Jamie stood to his full height and kissed her, hugging her naked form close.

"Mmmm, maybe no bath after all, this is great!"

Jamie grinned and kissed her head.

So, Milady, do ye wish to bathe privately, or with company?"

Claire grinned and pretended to mull it over,

"well, that depends. With whom would I have the pleasure of bathing?"

"Och, 'tis only me, Milady, yer humble servant, the Farm Boy,"

Jamie smiled at her, knowing full well he'd just scored major boyfriend-points by incorporating a partial quote from The Princess Bride into their everyday life. Claire snickered and then composed herself,

"Oh? Well, in that case, you may join me, Farm Boy."

"As you wish,"

Jamie purred, making Claire's stomach flip at his suggestive tone and his gravelly voice, husky with desire for her. He shucked his clothes and they each took one side of the cavernous tub they'd nicknamed "The Grand Canyon."

When Jamie and Claire had commissioned this tub for the house they'd designed, they made sure that the faucet would be placed so it would sit over the middle of the tub so they could each recline comfortably. It was seven feet long, 25 inches high and 36 inches wide so Jamie could recline with his legs stretched out and submerge most of his body, should he want to.

Claire sighed in contentment, letting the hot liquid and the nearness of her man soothe her stress away.

"How many dragons did my knight slay today?"

"Weel, none. We've decided to expand to America and are trying to decide which cities we should hit first."

"Have you considered doing research on where the greatest number of people have Scots blood in them? Also, are you including Canada in that outreach? We both know there are people with Scots blood in them in both countries, but wouldn't it help to be able to play the 'proud to be Scottish' angle? You know, that Starz! series 'Outlander' has driven up tourism here by hundreds of percentage points, right? Scots and others are clamoring to learn the Gaelic. It's like if you wanted to launch an Irish whiskey, you'd probably start in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Knoxville and San Francisco, right?"

Jamie looked at Claire, his mouth hanging open until Claire smiled and gently closed it for him,

"Weel, no, we havena. But I think that's a verra interesting idea, Sassenach, and when I get in tomorrow, I want to present the idea to Da, Mam, Murtagh and Ian. Dinna fash, I'll make sure to give you credit for the idea! Thank ye, Sorcha, truly!"

Jamie grinned and reached to kiss her, quickly losing himself in the sweetness of her lips.

Her body still warm from their bath and Jamie's kisses, Claire stood at the kitchen island readying a roasted cherry tomato, pancetta and avocado salad, garlic bread and linguine alle cozze (linguine with mussels). She swigged some Pellegrino and searched in their wine rack for a perfect white to serve alongside, grunting with effort when she pulled out the cork.

Jamie was in his upstairs office, hunched over some quarterly reports when his stomach growled menacingly. He sniffed the air, now heavy with the enticing aroma of a tiny bit of good unsalted butter, fragrant Grecian extra-virgin-cold-expeller-pressed organic olive oil, sauteed garlic and red chile flakes. And were those mussels he smelled? Claire knew that her linguine alle cozze was his favorite. A Dhia (God), was that her homemade garlic bread too? He sniffed again and caught a fleeting whisper of frozen metal beaters, cocoa and chilled heavy cream undoubtedly in a chilled glass bowl - her homemade tiramisu! He groaned. She had pulled out the big guns tonight. He was in trouble. Delicious trouble, to be sure, but still trouble. His mouth watered and he knew trying to concentrate any further was pointless. He whispered a pep-talk to his wame, snapped off his desk light and made his way downstairs.

"A good day ta ye, Mistress, is this the complaint department?"

Claire turned around, the spatula poised in midair,

"Yes, it is. How may I be of service, sir?" Her eyes twinkled merrily.

"Ahem. Thank ye, Madam. I would like to lodge a complaint! You see, I was upstairs tryin' to jam wee numbers into ma heid (head) and was most rudely interrupted!"

"Sir, no! By what or whom was your hard work interrupted, pray tell?"

"Aye, beggin' yer pardon, Milady, but it was the mouthwatering smells comin' from down here! I was bewitched and my focus was irreparably damaged! I canna work anymore tonight! Nay, I canna manage it!"

Jamie was doing his best to look the injured party and Claire snorted and giggled, but finally regained her composure.

"I suppose, *Sir*, you'll want recompense for the lost productivity, then…"

"Aye, 'tis so, gracious Madam! However, I believe we can sort this wi'out resorting to legal action. I propose that ye feed me some of everything ye've made AND a kiss besides and I won't be forced to resort to *harsher measures*, aye? What say ye, Madam?"

Claire was giggling so hard by this point that she was holding on to the edge of the counter for support. Jamie started laughing too, and crossed into the kitchen and embraced her. She eventually calmed down but a comically loud single hiccup erupted from her diaphragm, which only made the lovers collapse into one another's arms in helpless laughter yet again. After they’d calmed down somewhat, Jamie faced Claire again and winked,

“Madam, ye are in luck! I am also the Sauce Inspector!”

Jamie stepped forward and gently plucked the spatula from her and made a show of licking the creamy sauce from the spatula oh-so-slowly. Claire arched a single eyebrow at him and he waggled his suggestively,

“Aye, Madam, I have tasted *this* sauce and feel confident enough to say that if your *other sauces* taste as good as this one, I will be well-pleased and can dismiss the frightening specter of any *harsher measures* I mentioned earlier!” He looked at her intently, pupils blown, eyes almost black with desire.

Claire sucked in a breath and got lost in his beauty for a long minute. He broke the tension by kissing her gently and she shook her head to clear it. She wished she could calm her pounding heart as well,

“Okay, Sasquatch, out of my kitchen," Claire jibed playfully.

Jamie snorted, "Whatever, Short Stack*!" He smiled and took his whisky into the living room.

"How long are ye goin' ta let yer man starve, ye wicked woman?"

A disgruntled "pfft!" emanated from the kitchen. "Seriously, darling, will you lay the table, please? The linguine is ready, but the platter is a bit heavy for me. If you could take that to the table, I'd be grateful. Oh, and please, don't forget a bowl for the shells, okay?"

"Sure, Sassenach, no problem." Jamie made short work of laying the table and carefully set the steaming linguine in the center of the table. She directed him to take the rest of the food and she grabbed her Pellegrino.

"Mo chridhe (my heart), this is wonderful! Thank ye for all the cooking!” Jamie went to the bathroom to wash his hands and she hid the gift-wrapped pregnancy tests under her napkin. He carefully served the linguine and bread and poured the wine, serving his lady first. Claire had already set their salads on the table a while ago. Jamie bit into the warm tomatoes and pancetta, a rich contrast to the cool, buttery avocado and grunted, caveman-like, in satisfaction. He pulled off some garlic bread from the warm loaf, noticing that she'd taken time to go to the Italian bakery after work, despite being dead on her feet. He dunked the bread in the balsamico sauce left on his salad plate, not wanting to waste even a drop.

“Honey, promise me you'll make this salad again, aye?”

Claire smiled and blushed, nodding her head when she realized he'd inhaled his salad and trained his greedy eyes on the defenseless linguine next. He dug in with gusto, closing his eyes and groaning a muffled,

"O Dhia, tha seo cho blasta! (Oh God, this is so delicious!),”

as the pasta hit his tastebuds and coated his eager tongue. Claire smiled and mentally patted herself on the back. He always reverted to his mother tongue when he was very happy. She was pretty sure he didn't even realize he did it.

A little while and two full servings of linguine later, even Jamie's seemingly bottomless appetite was sated. He prepared espresso and served them both tiramisu. He topped up his wine glass and noticed that Claire's wine sat untouched.

"Claire, ye haven't tried yer wine. Are ye not feeling well, lass?" A scared look washed over his face.

"I'm fine, Jamie, just fine."

She smiled again and pulled out the small box and handed it to Jamie. He said with his lopsided grin,

“Ooooh, for me? It's like Christmas!”

He made short work of tearing open the package and stared uncomprehendingly at the sticks. He looked up at Claire, an endearingly puzzled look on his face. She started to tear up and walked around the table, placing his hand gently on her belly. Suddenly, he understood, and his eyes grew comically large. Claire watched the blood drain from his face and she gripped his forearm to steady him. He stammered,

"m-mo ghràidh (my darling), are ye tellin' me ye're carryin' our bairn? A bairn’s comin’?"

Claire nodded, too overcome with emotion to say anything else. She hugged Jamie around his waist and buried her head in his strong chest.

Jamie took her in his arms and stroked her hair. He swallowed loudly, not caring that he was crying now, too, whispering in a hoarse voice,

"Och, Dhia, a leanann, mo neighan donn, mo bheannachd taing airson an tiodhlac seo (Oh, God, sweetheart, my brown-haired lass, my blessing, thank you for this gift)!

They clung to each other and cried tears of joy for their future.

They hugged for a long while, and Claire knew she could delay the deluge no longer. She separated from Jamie and sat down again after pouring him an extremely large whisky,

“Love, there are some things we need to talk about,” she started.

“A-are ye alright, Claire? Is it the bairn?” He made to come to her and she put up her hand to stop him,

“Sweetheart, the baby and I are fine. Please, I need you to stay there and save all your questions until I get through this, alright? What I'm about to tell you is very difficult, which is why I've never brought it up before.” She reached over to a side table and grabbed a box of tissues, just in case. He nodded slowly, so she took a deep breath and began,

“You remember I told you that I was widowed?” Jamie nodded. “Frank and I married at 21, while we were still in college. He and I were married for a few years before we started trying for a baby. We tried for a year with no success. After that, he started blaming it on me, accusing me of being infertile,” Claire glanced at Jamie's face, darkening with anger. She exhaled a shaky breath,

“What I never told you was that he took his anger at ‘my’ infertility out on me, physically,” Claire whispered the last word so quietly he had to strain to hear it and wished he hadn't. He gasped and recoiled in horror, a sick feeling invading his stomach. He covered his mouth with a trembling hand.

“It started slowly, with snide comments and yelling, and escalated quickly to shaking and shoves. Near the end of his life, he threatened to kill me if I divorced him, so I stayed, afraid what would happen if I tried to escape. After his threats, the episodes only got more and more violent.”

She cleared her throat and wiped furiously at the tears dripping off her lashes. She couldn't even look at Jamie, because she knew how hard it was for him to stay where he was. He was honoring her wishes to get this all out at once and she was tearing him apart.

“On the night he died, I'd told him that morning I thought I'd missed my period. It came later that day and he found tampon wrappers in the trash – in my distress, I'd forgotten to remove them. He came home and found them. He dragged me into the living room by my hair and beat me until I passed out.”

She was able to look up at Jamie in that moment, hoping for strength to continue. He was white-knuckling the table and pale-faced from the strain of trying to remain in his seat. He saw her pleading glance and the tension in his face melted and his hands relaxed. He took a cleansing breath and said quietly,

“I love ye, mo chridhe, I'mma here for ye.”

She whispered,

“Jamie, thank you for letting me say this in my own way. I realize it's hard to hear, my love,”

All he could do was nod tersely, not trusting himself to respond any other way.

“I don't remember all of the abuse that night, but the last thing I do remember was being kicked directly in the stomach and falling backward, but nothing more. I was woken up by Joe and the police banged on my door a couple of minutes later. Joe suspected something was wrong when I didn't answer his and Geilis' texts and calls. Joe had just let himself in with his key, identifying himself as my older brother to the police,” she smiled a tiny smile at Jamie, remembering the fierce look on her best friend's face, daring the officers to defy his assertion and continued, “after that, I must have passed out again. Evidently Joe’d just started chest compressions when the ambulance arrived.”

Jamie interrupted only then, croaking in a hoarse voice,

“CPR? Yer heart stopped, mo gràidh?”

Claire nodded mutely and her heart shattered at what she saw. Jamie’s face drained of all color and Claire was afraid he'd faint. He couldn't hold his tears back any longer and sobbed violently for her pain, finally understanding what Joe had meant when he'd warned Jamie on the night they met that she'd been hurt in the past. Fat tears flooded his face and he made no attempt to stop them, his powerful shoulders heaving, terrified that another man had come so close to robbing him of the greatest, most precious gift he'd ever received. He trembled and placed his massive hands over his eyes. Suddenly, he pushed back from the table and darted to the kitchen sink, dry heaving, afraid he'd lose his dinner. His knees buckled with the weight of what she'd revealed. Claire got up quickly and put her arm around his waist, easing him back up. She soothed him, rubbing his back in comforting circles, whispering Arabic, South American and African words for “peace,” “my heart, “my love,” and other endearments, all love language she'd learned on her travels with her archaeologist uncle Lamb, who became her guardian after her parents died in a car accident when she was five. When they had washed their faces and were able to sit again, she got them water and they resumed their places at the table.

“It was later in the hospital when the police reported Frank had been murdered in a liquor store hold-up gone terribly wrong. Thank God Geilis and Joe were both there. I was told by the attending obstetrician that, due to the continuous abuse, I only had a twenty-five percent chance of carrying a child to term and that it would have to be born via C-section. I'd hidden all the abuse from everyone until that night. They had no earthly clue about it, and that's how I’d wanted it. I've been to see Fiona Graham and she says that my uterus has somehow repaired itself a bit. I now have a fifty-percent chance of carrying a child to term, which is an incredible improvement. The baby will have to be born via C-section, though.”

She cleared her throat, but Jamie still waited, not wanting to interrupt her,

“Okay, that's all of it, I promise. I understand if you're ang-"

Jamie launched himself out of his chair, wanting to comfort her immediately. He cursed himself when he saw her flinch, pale and shrink back, her beautiful eyes widening in fear. He lowered his voice and walked slowly, consciously trying to make himself appear smaller.

“Oh, God, Sorcha, I'm so verra, verra sorry I scairt ye, lass! I'm not angry at you for not revealing this information, not at all. I'm honored that ye shared it. I'm only sorry I couldn'a protect ye, is all.”

Tears rolling down his face, Jamie knelt in front of her chair, wanting so badly to touch her, but he sensed she needed to come to him, first. When she was ready she placed her hands in his upturned palms and told her, in a voice gravelly with emotion,

“Ye need not be afraid of me, Claire, nor anyone else while I'm with ye. I swear to you, I'll never raise a hand towards you in anger. Ye are my heart and my soul and I pledge here and now that ye have the protection of ma body and the protection of my clan.”

Jamie picked her up, cradling her in his arms. He held her securely and kissed her hair and face and brought them to the couch. He rocked her gently, apologizing over and over for frightening her. She caressed him as they soothed one another. She sobbed in his arms and his tears mingled with hers, the melodic Gaelic he murmured caressed and kissed her wounded heart. After they'd cried themselves out, they cuddled together on the couch and fell asleep for a little while. When they were both awake, Claire took a deep breath and announced she’d had enough of sad – it was time for a celebration.

She wrapped Jamie in a scorching kiss that woke his cock and made him groan,

“What was tha' fer?”

Claire grinned and said,

“Et Voilà! For finding us someone willing to sublet the furnished apartment that happens to be right here!” She pointed in glee at her abdomen. “You're a ‘capital W, capital M Wonderful Man’ and a crackerjack marksman, son!”

Wonderful Man laughed so hard this time he spit out his whisky. Claire laughed, made sure he was okay and then trotted into the kitchen. She grabbed their dessert forks, the wine and the entire leftover tiramisu and asked Jamie for a big glass of whole milk. He grinned and brought it to her and she dumped her espresso in it. He made a show of toasting her and her 'wee passenger,' as he laughingly called the baby. He raised the entire wine bottle in a toast,

"To my beautiful girl's wee bun in the oven!"

Claire laughed and raised her glass and snarked,

"and to your strong wee swimmers!"

Jamie turned red, snorted and nearly sent his mouthful of whisky on a painful detour through his nose before joining her in happy laughter. They fed each other tiramisu and simply enjoyed the beautiful evening.

"So when's the babe due, love?"

"Mmmhfm," Claire gestured with her fork, started to speak with a full mouth, thought better of it, swallowed and smiled,

"I'm pretty sure I'm about 5 weeks along, so the baby should come in early February. This year's Christmas will be the last we spend alone."

"Have ye told Hildie?" Hildie was Hildegarde Françoise Boulanger, the head of obstetrics and one of Claire's best friends. She was the calmest person Claire knew and Claire'd already asked her to be her OB/GYN. Hildegarde had been giddy with joy for her friend and quickly agreed.

"Jamie, I don't think I want to know the sex of the baby. What about you?"

Jamie thought for a second and said, "Nay, I'd like to enjoy the surprise with ye, Little Mam," and Claire blushed at her newest endearment.

"Um, and I would rather not call the baby 'Spot' or 'Bump." I'd like to give it a fun name. What do you think?"

"Awright, Mam, let Da put on his thinkin' cap," and Jamie set a large throw pillow on his head with a muffled,

"Plonk!"

Claire couldn't help snorting.

Jamie grinned and stuck his tongue out. He thought another minute and then an "A-ha!" came from him.

"Baby Fraser's interim name shall be…" he paused for dramatic effect and raised his index finger,

"Miracle Max!" He crowed, very pleased with himself.

Claire burst out laughing and Jamie kissed her, happy he'd made her laugh *and* that she wasn't crying.

"See, Sassenach, 'Max' could be 'Maxwell,' or 'Maxine'! It's the perfect gender-neutral 'nom de plume (pseudonym or alias; literally 'pen-name' in French)!'"

"Sassenach, do ye mind if I tell only Murtagh? I'm so happy, I haveta tell someone or Imma gonna bust a rib! He'll keep it secret, I know it."

Murtagh Fitzgibbons Fraser was Jamie's father's cousin and had wished to marry Ellen, Jamie's mother. However, as soon as Ellen saw Jamie's father at a party, she just knew he was destined to be with her. Brian and Ellen made Murtagh their son's godfather and he swore an oath to protect and care for the lad.

Claire smiled at the image before her. Jamie looked like a child who'd been allowed to open a present on Christmas Eve.

"Of course, honey. And what do you think of inviting them for a drink and asking the two of them to be the child's first set of godparents?"

Jamie's mouth formed an "O," and he looked like he was going to cry again. Jamie stepped up to Claire and kissed her head.

"That's perfect, Claire. Thank ye," Jamie whispered, his voice gravelly and thick with emotion. He called his godfather and asked them to come over for a drink.

"Everything alright, mo mhac (my son)?"

"Och, aye, we just had'na seen ye twa (two) fer awhile. Can ye come?"

"Aye, we'll be there directly," Murtagh was a man of few words and hung up without saying goodbye.

Ten minutes later, the doorbell sounded and Jamie greeted their guests warmly. He took their coats and hung them up in the coat closet, and Claire had already put out some fresh cookies she'd picked up at the Italian bakery that evening. She made sure to put the dark chocolate and mocha cream cannoli directly in front of Jamie's godfather - they were his favorite. She gave Murtagh two fingers of Glenfiddich neat and Suzette got a yummy port and espresso in her favorite espresso cup. Claire had initially been a little intimidated by Murtagh's gruff exterior until she got to know him much better. They actually developed their own friendship, separate from Jamie's and Murtagh's relationship, which made Jamie very happy. When Jamie was gone for business, she and Murtagh would have lunch, as the hospital and the distillery weren't far from another. Murtagh and Suzette would have her over for dinner or vice-versa. Murtagh could finally stop worrying about the lad finding "The One."

They sat in the living room chatting about work, politics and family goings-on. A bit later, Jamie asked for quiet. He stood with Claire and toasted their guests, who also rose to toast them in return.

"Murtagh, Suzette, we've invited you here to let you know that this coming Christmas will be our last as a twosome..."

Jamie and Claire grinned and said, "we're expecting!"

They enjoyed Murtagh and Suzette's shocked expressions and then Murtagh wrapped his beloved godson in a bear-hug. Suzette squealed in excitement and congratulated Claire.

"Ah, mo Sorcha, nighean mo chridhe, I am so happy for ye!" Claire teared up because she actually understood Murtagh's endearment: "daughter of my heart." Claire sniffled and took his large hand and placed it gently on her belly and reached for Suzette's hand and placed it on what scant real estate was left.

"Murtagh, Suzette, it is our hope you two will consent to becoming our child's godparents."

Murtagh choked up and looked at his wife, who had tears rolling down her face. They looked at each other and nodded in agreement,

"Aye, mo nighean (my daughter), we will. Thank ye for the honor." Murtagh kept his hand on the baby and whispered a prayer in Gaelic, and Suzette followed with a prayer in French. Murtagh vowed to Claire to look out for his godchild as he had Jamie. He turned to Jamie and promised that he'd protect Claire like his own daughter. Jamie and Murtagh shook hands and clapped each other on the back.

They sat down again and Jamie warned them,

"We think Claire is due at the beginning of February but we haven't had an ultrasound yet. Please, keep this to yourselves. I'm goin' ta call Mam and ask if we can have a family dinner on Friday. Can ye be there?"

Murtagh and Suzette checked their calendars and readily agreed.

Jamie called Ellen and dinner was set for Friday at 7:00 p.m.

When Claire's first check-up came around, she met Jamie at Hildegarde Boulanger's office. Fiona had been called out twenty minutes before for a multiple birth. Hildegarde was the head of Obstetrics and a close friend of Claire's and Jamie's, both.

"Hildie, Jamie and I would be honored if you would consider letting us name you 'Auntie Hildegarde' and helping us make sure that our child is fluent in spoken and written French. You're an incredibly important person in my life and Jamie and I want to make sure you are a part of this child's life, too."

"Aye, Hildegarde, please do consider it!" said Jamie with a dazzling smile.

Hildegarde looked like she could have been knocked over with a feather. Claire could see that her normally all-business, regal friend was quite touched by the request and reached out and grasped her friend's hand.

"Yes, mes chers amis (my dear friends), I would be honored. Thank you so much!"

Claire and she hugged and she shook Jamie's hand and announced,

"okay! It is time for ze, 'ow do you say, getting down to de business? Let's go!"

They all laughed and Claire and Jamie went into the exam room. Hildegarde gave Claire a few minutes to get ready and the exam began. Jamie watched, fascinated, as Hildegarde smeared gel on Claire's belly and moved the wand around.

"Jamie, sometimes, ze bébé, he like to play "keep away" from us. He thinks 'e is clever!"

She grinned at Jamie, who couldn't help laughing at the mischievous look on her face.

"Ah! J'ai a trouvé mon neveu ou ma nièce (Oh! I have found my nephew or my niece)! See, Claire, zere!"

And Hildegarde pointed to a tiny, fuzzy gray dot. Claire started crying and Jamie kissed her, their tears dripping down their faces and splashing onto each other.

"Would you like to hear the heartbeat now?"

"Yes!" the parents-to-be chorused in unison.

Hildegarde pushed a couple of buttons and turned a dial, and the most beautiful sound came out - it was like a wee Highland pony was trapped inside Claire's uterus.

"Good! The monitor says the heart rate is normal."

She looked back at her tiny friend and her brick-wall of a husband, and they were both sobbing.

"Do ye hear that, a leannan (sweetheart)? The baby's heart! Our baby! Oh, Claire, thank ye, lass, for the best day o' my life!"

"Oh, Jamie, you're welcome!" She blushed and said, "But I have a little problem."

Jamie's face drained of color, "What is it, Claire? Tell me, lass!"

"Um, I really need to use the restroom and I may have an accident if I try to walk there, my bladder's so full. Can you help me?"

Jamie said quietly,

"Hold on to me, love,"

and he scooped her up quickly and brought her into the ensuite restroom, helped her undress and gave her privacy. He rejoined Hildegarde, whispering,

"Crisis averted!"

"Ahhh, it wouldn't be unheard of if she'd had a little accident - it happens, sometimes, mon ami (my friend)."

Claire rejoined them and saw that Hildegarde had printed out pictures for Claire and Jamie, Suzette and Murtagh, Jenny and Ian, Jamie's parents and one for herself. Hildegarde made an appointment for two weeks hence and they took their leave of one another.

Hildegarde instructed the unit secretary to hold her calls and locked herself in her office. She unlocked the third drawer of her desk and pulled out a tin of her favorite truffles from her hometown of Compiègne. Only she was allowed to eat these delicate, edible treasures. She helped herself to two, which she placed carefully on a paper napkin. She picked up the photograph, whispering a prayer in French to God to protect this precious child. She traced the baby's form with a strong finger, bit reverently into the first truffle and finally let the tears come. She did not notice that some of her tears spattered onto the second truffle, for her heart was filled with quiet joy for her little friend and one very lucky baby.

The next morning, Claire woke to a silent house, save the rumbling, hissing spit of The Blessed Coffeemaker, brewing her decaf. She dressed and padded downstairs and saw a note on the table,

"Little Mam: Gone hrdwr. store w/Murtagh. B back soon. Have cell. Xx Da."

Claire smiled at Jamie's short message, written in what they called "telegraph speak," because it was short and to-the-point. She settled onto their very comfortable, worn leather couch and picked up the newest copy of "The Lancet," studying the table of contents to find the first article she wanted to read.

Chapter Text

Late Friday morning, Jamie and Claire packed an overnight bag and headed up to Lallybroch. Because Monday was a bank holiday (like a federal holiday in the US where schools and most businesses are closed), they were looking forward to a nice relaxing long weekend. They arrived in time for lunch, which consisted of cold roast chicken, roast beef and a cheeseboard of local cheeses. Crisps and a plate full of raw veg and farm bread rounded out the offerings. Mrs. Crook had kindly whipped up her famous apple crumble with estate-grown fruit. Claire saw Jamie's mouth fall open in longing when the warm crumble was brought out and she could swear she heard his mouth watering.

The entire family had a good time catching up with one another, trading jokes and stories as always. Jamie and Claire did the dishes and left afterwards to pick up a pre-ordered cake, ice cream and a couple of bottles of whisky and wine as well as Pellegrino for Claire. Even though the family distilled their own, Brian always made a point of having several other brands of whisky available as well as a very well-stocked bar in the living room. He found that doing business was always preferable if one's guests had a small libation to relax them (and him).

Brian and the rest of the boys left the house to tend to repairs around the barn and house, while the ladies put a dinner menu together. Claire described the salad she'd made a few nights prior, and the other ladies all requested the recipe, which made her flush in pleasure. Due to their large number, Jenny suggested that they make three main dishes and several sides. Mrs. Crook offered to make a pork loin roast, Claire offered to make a white lasagne to use up the rest of the chicken, Jenny offered beef and lamb stew to use the rest of the roast beef and Suzette offered a Niçoise salad with vegetables from the garden and farm eggs, which could be either a side or main. Neeps and tatties, oven-roasted Brussels sprouts, fresh buttered peas, corn and garlic bread rounded out dinner. Laoghire and Geilis quickly offered to be the "in-between" clean-up crew.

Several hours later, the doorbell rang and Ellen welcomed Joe and Gayle. Ellen thanked them for the beautiful bottle of wine they brought. Jenny texted Ian and Jamie to tell them dinner was in a half hour and it was time to come in and get scrubbed up. The boys removed their mud-spattered shoes and boots outside and piled into the house via the laundry room. Ellen, used to what her men would do if not properly supervised, ordered them all to scrub their faces, necks hands and arms well in the ancient stone laundry sinks. She inspected every one of them and even sent Fergus, Willie's son, to "try again" when he'd not scrubbed to her satisfaction. She'd stacked clean washcloths, towels, finger scrub brushes and socks on the countertop and ordered all the men to don clean socks so they "wouldn't muck up my clean floor!"

 

Jamie sidled up to Claire, whispering,

"Mo chridhe (my heart), if'n I don't get something in ma belly soon, I'll waste away!"

"Supper's almost ready, honey, go sit down and stop whining."

He frowned and tried to pick some golden-brown cheese off the lasagne when he thought Claire wasn't looking. She rounded on him and whacked his hand with a spatula, telling him to “get back or she'd clout his ears for him.” He yelped and muttered something about physically violent women and slunk away to the table. Jenny looked over at her, grinning and said,

"Way to keep your man in line, Claire!"

And everyone laughed at Jamie's pretend hurt look. Soon, everyone was calling to Mrs. Crook to, “get in here with the rest of the family!" They settled around the table and Brian bade everyone to join hands while he and Ellen said the blessing.

Everyone exclaimed about the food and how lovely it was. Claire watched everyone eating, laughing and just enjoying each other, and tears came to her eyes. She was so lucky to be a part of this family now. Ellen glanced at her and gently squeezed her hand in solidarity, conveying understanding and acceptance. Claire looked back at her and whispered,

"Thank you for everything," so quietly that nobody else heard it.

By the time dinner was finished, the only bit of Suzette's salad left were a couple of sad-looking olives and three ragged pieces of wilted lettuce. Murtagh and Ian had argued about who'd get the last bit of lasagne until Suzette rolled her eyes and cut it in half. The garlic bread was reduced to meager crumbs and the rest of the meal hadn't made it out alive - it was total carnage.

Jamie and Claire rose and started to gather plates, bowls, spoons and forks for the dessert and told Mrs. Crook she was expected with the rest of the family in the dining room for dessert as well. As for all Fraser-Murray celebrations, Jasmine, proprietress of Kneadful Things Bakery* had made a beautiful cake. Jamie brought the cake to sit in front of his parents and said,

"Mam, Da, Claire and I would like you to open the cake for the ravening horde!"

Both Ellen and Brian snorted when Jamie went down on one knee to them and offered the cake knife over his crooked arm, like a squire presenting his master with a sword. They carefully lifted the lid and stared dumbfounded at its design - arced letters that spelled out,

"Presenting Jamie's and Claire's coming attraction debuting in February 2021!"

and below that was a baby carriage (UK: pram).

"S-s-son, is it true?" gasped Brian. "Claire, a neighan (my daughter), ye're expecting?"

Ellen just sat next to Mrs. Crook with tears dripping down her face. "I'm to be a Granny again?" she breathed out shakily.

Everyone held their breaths, until Claire and Jamie stood up and said together,

"We're expecting a baby in early February!"

The table erupted in shouts of joy and everyone gathered around and congratulated them. Jamie got a few firm handshakes and more than one hearty congratulatory slap on the back. Claire, thankfully, was treated much more gently. She got careful hugs and kisses on the cheek. When Brian got his turn, though, he asked if he could place his hand on her stomach. When Claire assented, she whispered,

"here love, this is your Grandda,"

Brian blinked back tears and he murmured a Gaelic prayer to protect his grandchild. He gave her a careful hug and kissed her forehead. Claire took Ellen's hand in hers and placed it over her baby, whispering,

"and this is Granny, love!"

Ellen hugged her as well, and said,

"My goodness, I have to get started on a receiving blanket tomorrow!"

Ian stepped up to Jamie and said,

"Meala-naidheachd, a bhràthair, dèanamaid tost air Sorcha (Congratulations, brother, let's toast Claire)!"

Jamie grinned and asked for quiet,

"We are so pleased to share our good news with you. I ask you to join me in toasting my love, my Lady Claire, the mother of our child!"

"Hear hear! Slainte! (cheers!)" Everyone toasted her.

Claire was so overcome that she couldn't stop a few tears from falling. She cleared her throat and said shakily,

"Jamie, I love you. Thank you for this miracle baby. For those who don't know, I was widowed before I met Jamie. My late husband and I tried to have children but we were never successful. I assumed I was barren. Well, your Jamie blew that assumption to smithereens."

She turned to her man and he blushed as the room was filled with cheers, claps, fist pumps and catcalls. She turned to Brian and Ellen and winked before continuing,

"Must be the strong Scots genes!"

Ellen and Brian both laughed and blushed and the rest of the family cheered and whooped happily.

Claire raised her hand for quiet,

"Ellen and Brian, thank you for welcoming me into your family. As you know, after my parents passed, I was raised by my only surviving family, my father's brother Lamb. I had an incredible upbringing all over the world, but I always longed for a large family, *to belong.* You've given me that and I'll always be grateful."

Many assembled were sniffling or openly weeping, including Suzette and Ellen. Jamie saw that Da had unshed tears swimming in his eyes. Claire and Jamie went to Ellen and Brian and hugged them both.

Claire called for quiet one last time,

"Oh, and before we retire to the living room, I want you all to know I spent a year of university in Alabama," and she affected her best Tuscaloosan accent, drawling lusciously,

"Brian and Ellen, y'all need ta know that your names in Alabama would be 'Mamaw' and 'Papaw!’"

Everyone hooted and cheered and filtered slowly into the living room with their drinks. Claire and Jamie brought more wood for the huge fireplace and settled on the couch together. Robbie and Willie served everyone the delicious dark chocolate and lavender-infused cake and vanilla ice cream. Luckily, there were a few pieces extra for second helpings for those who wanted one.

Later that night, Claire and Jamie called the adults into a short meeting in Brian's office to explain the possible issues with Claire's pregnancy. Everyone was horrified by the abuse she'd endured and they all understood when Jamie explained parts of the story that became overwhelming for Claire. Jamie and Claire asked them not to speak to anyone not in the room about the abuse or the possible pregnancy outcome. They both got gentle, strong hugs from everyone and Jamie could see that his brother-in-law and parents had unshed tears in their eyes. Ian looked like he was going to be sick, Willie, Brian and Rabbie were red-faced with anger and Ellen, Mrs. Crook and Laoghire were openly weeping. The only people not tearing up were Gayle, Joe and Geilis. Geilis’d done her crying with Joe. On that awful night, they'd hugged each other tightly and kept their sobs as quiet as possible in the closet they'd ducked into as soon as Claire was asleep. Jenny's eyes had narrowed to slits when she heard about the abuse, fists clenched in empathetic rage for her friend and brother. Suzette couldn't even speak. Her chin was wobbling too hard and tears coursed down her cheeks. She embraced Claire and Jamie and finally managed to thank them for trusting her with the information. Murtagh growled later to Jamie,

“Are ye sure the bastard’s already dead? I wish I could go to hell and bring him back for us to kill all over again!”

“Aye, Murtagh,” agreed Jamie. He is a lucky, undeserving bastard!”

Later, Jamie and Claire undressed for bed,

"Weel, Sassenach, I dinna think that coulda gone better. What do ye think?"

Claire yawned sleepily and said,

"Nope, I think you're right. It went perfectly, love. And with that, Claire nestled in front of Jamie, spooning with him contentedly. Both were asleep within minutes.

The next morning, the first thing Jamie heard was retching. He jumped up as if catapulted and ran into the bathroom, shocked at what he saw. Claire was crumpled next to the toilet, tears running down her face from the strain of emptying her stomach multiple times. Her complexion was pale and ghostly, nearly gray. She looked up at him in desperation and all he could do was sink onto his knees in front of her and whisper,

"Oh, mo chaileag bhinn (my sweet girl), I'm sorry this is happening."

For Claire, the gentleness and regret in Jamie's words made her cry in earnest. She whispered,

"Jamie, can you just hold me, please? I need you right now." His heart broke for her, although he knew this was a normal part of pregnancy.

"Put your wee arms around me, Sassenach, let me care for you, aye?"

She nodded slowly and a shuddering sob escaped her. He smiled gently at her and scooped her off the floor. He brought her into the bedroom, sat on the edge of the bed and cradled her. She buried her head in his shoulder and let herself cry out her frustration. He rocked her and whispered endearments into her hair, kissing her tenderly on the top of her silken curls.

Jamie started as he heard a soft knock on the ancient oak door,

"Mo mhac (my son), is everything alright? I heard cryin.'" His mother's voice was suddenly outside the door.

Jamie settled Claire into bed and opened the door,

"Mam, it's Claire, I found 'er on the bathroom floor. Morning sickness, I think. She's resting now. Can, can ye help her, please? I dinna know what ta do." Ellen gazed lovingly at her son, so big and strong, his eyes desperate with worry and panic, looking for all the world like a scared little boy.

"Aye, Jamie. Come wi' me, mo chridhe. We'll fix her right as rain, together." She patted her son's giant hand reassuringly, took it in hers and they crept down the stairs.

Brian looked up from his Saturday paper and caught the troubled look on Jamie's face.

"What is it, son? Are ye alright?"

"Aye, Da, I'm braw, thank ye. It's Claire. She's got the morning sickness.Tapadh le Iosa (thank Jesus), Mam's goin' ta help 'er."

Brian smiled at the relieved look on his son's face and winked at his wife. He shifted on the couch and took a sip of his coffee, "Aye, Mam had that with all of ye. It means the bairn is healthy, right, Ellen?"

"Aye, that's true, an duine agam (my husband). It's also true it's a bloody pain in the ass!"

Brian and Jamie smiled and Ellen handed Jamie an old scratched deep plastic bowl for Claire's bedside. She handed him a small plate, two bottles of water and a sleeve of soda crackers. Jamie opened the door, willing it not to squeak, and eased himself inside. He sat down in the recliner across from the bed, unwilling to lie down with Claire. She was still sleeping and he certainly didn't want to wake her. Jamie let himself relax with a first-edition of Moby Dick from the library.

About two hours later, Claire stirred and Jamie texted Ellen to ask if she would heat up the broth and make a small pot of tea. Claire fell back asleep, but stirred again and opened her eyes when Ellen opened the door with the hot food on a tray. Jamie took the tray from Ellen and kissed her cheek in thanks. Ellen sat down on the edge of the bed and took Claire's hand in hers,

"Jamie said th' mornin' sickness was givin' ye trouble, lass. I ken just how awful it is. He came and got water, tea, broth and crackers for ye. Do ye think ye can take a few spoonfuls of the broth? I know ye must need the liquid, aye?"

Claire's chin wobbled dangerously and she threw her arms around Ellen. Ellen hugged her gently and kissed her cheek,

"Aye, there's my good lass. Yer man's here and wants to help ye, aye?"

Claire hugged Ellen again, tighter, and sobbed into Ellen's nightgown-clad shoulder. Claire didn't release her when Ellen tried to make way for her son. Ellen took her in her arms completely, soothed and hushed her gently, realizing she was going to be the closest thing to a mother for this girl for the rest of their lives - she had two daughters now. Jamie stood back respectfully and waited for Claire to calm. When Claire felt ready, she released Ellen slowly. Jamie took his mother's place and held her small form in his strong arms. Jamie saw a tear slide slowly down his mother's cheek as she left the room and pretended he hadn't seen it.

Downstairs, Ellen walked by Brian without a word and busied herself with washing up the broth pot and putting the tea and crackers away. Brian folded his newspaper, crossed the living room into the kitchen and saw her shoulders trembling. He placed his hands on his wife's shoulders and squeezed them in gentle reassurance. He was there for her, as she'd been for him countless times. He turned his wife around gently, took her in his arms and held her silently, neither caring about her soapy hands soaking his shirt or the just-mopped floor getting dripped on. He held her tenderly until she'd finished weeping for the young woman so grateful for the smallest kindnesses.

Upstairs, Claire and Jamie just held one another for a few minutes. Jamie mentioned they'd brought a bowl up so Claire didn't have to jump out of bed, and she smiled wryly.

"Mo gràidh (my darling), can ye try a bit o' broth? Mebbe jus' a few teaspoons?"

"No, love, I'm really just exhausted, I'm sorry," she whispered.

Jamie schooled his expression so she wouldn't sense his disappointment.

"Here, a leannan (sweetheart), let me help ye, aye? After all, I did this to ye!"

She decided she was too tired to argue, gave him a small smile and nodded slowly. He brought the bowl over and held it easily in one hand, making sure to keep the lip of the bowl out of her line of sight so she wouldn't see how much she was eating. He picked up the spoon and let some broth cascade into the bowl of the spoon. He fed her slowly, always going at her pace so she would feel in control. He kept up a steady stream of hushed small talk, hoping to distract her into eating more. He told her of the adventures he'd had with his siblings, of sun-soaked summer vacations and places he wanted to take her. Claire finally held up her hand and cleared her throat.

"Jamie, I really can't eat any more, although the broth was truly amazing."

Jamie saw that her color was definitely better, but her eyelids were drooping again.

"Sleep, Sorcha. I'll see ye when ye're feeling better, aye?" He kissed her gently and with such reverence that Claire forgot where she was for a second when Jamie pulled away. He tucked her in again, gathered the bowl and closed the door gently. He checked the bowl and grinned - she'd eaten the whole bowl! Chuckling, he made his way downstairs and showed Ellen the bowl, excitedly crowing, "Mam, look, yer magic broth did it again! Ellen 1, morning sickness, 0!"

Jamie grinned and hugged his mother right off the ground. Ellen and Brian laughed and they all settled down in the living room.

He checked on her an hour later and she was still asleep, her hair loose and wild, framing her face.

As Ellen and Jenny finished preparing dinner, Jenny went to check on Claire. Claire was still, but Jenny could see the rise and fall of her chest and did not worry. When everyone came in, Ellen let them know Claire was sleeping and to please keep the noise down. Kitty whispered,

"Mam, what's wrong with Claire?" her nose wrinkled as she tried to puzzle it out.

Jenny looked at her daughter and explained,

"Weel, love, ye understand that she and Uncle Jamie are going to have a bairn next year, aye?"

Her heart warmed when she saw her daughter solemnly nodding.

"Claire's tummy is upset because it's not used to the bairn bein' there yet. Claire will feel better when her tummy is used to the bairn, which will probably be in a couple of months. It happens to most mams and it's nothing to be fashed (worried) over."

Jenny glanced at Ian, who nodded at their daughter and Jamie gently squeezed her hand in thanks.

"Aye, lass, yer Mam's tummy had to get used to all three of y'uns, it did."

"And Granny had the same thing with yer Mam and all her bairns, a leannan (sweetheart)," intoned Brian, from the head of the table.

"Well, after dinner Imma gon' ta draw something pretty for her. It'll help her feel better, aye, Unca Jamie?"

Jamie smiled widely at his niece,

"That it will, mo chridhe (my heart)."

Dinner finished up and the adults all served themselves whisky or wine, settling in the living room. The boys, too, decided to draw pictures for Claire and the children soon settled at the kitchen table.

Jamie opened the door and found Claire sitting up, slowly drinking a glass of water. She smiled at him and patted the bed. He sat down carefully.

"Are ye feeling better, mo gràidh (my love)? She swallowed the last of her water and took his hand in hers,

"Yes, much better! I'm shocked I slept so long!"

"Och, dinna worry, Claire. Your body needed it. Are ye feeling up to getting dressed an' goin' downstairs? Ye could try eatin' a bite o' solid food, aye? Jenny and Mam made a big beef pot pie. I'll be happy to warm ye some." I know Da went and milked the cows this morning, so we've fresh milk for ye. Ye could try that first and see how it sits, aye?"

"Alright, Big Man, but will you help me get showered and dressed? I don't even know where my jeans are."

Jamie smiled at her endearment and helped her to sit on the edge of the bed. He grabbed her jeans from the chair and pulled fresh underthings out for her. She smiled and asked,

"Love, can you grab my moss-colored henley?"

He pulled out her favorite henley and placed it on top of her jeans.

"Ye mean my moss-colored henley that ye stole, ye wee thief?"

"Um, 'kay, we totally discussed this already. Have you *already* forgotten that all my things are mine and whatever I like of yours is mine, too? It's the 'girlfriend rule!'"

"Pfft. Ye're damn lucky ye're my favorite felon and that I still consort wi' ye, Sassenach. At this rate, I'll have naught but pants in my wardrobe soon and I'll have to walk around half-naked," he grinned at her.

Claire got flushed just picturing Jamie walking around with no shirt and felt her green-eyed monster rear her hot head and tear a bloody, ragged chunk out of her heart, Claire’s blood dripping slowly down her fangs. She narrowed her eyes dangerously and drawled,

"Oh, no, Big Man, I'll always leave you some shirts. What's under your shirt is MINE, for my eyes only, do you hear your woman?"

Jamie blinked and focused on her glittering eyes (she really was feeling better! Did he need to worry?) and groaned in arousal, her possessiveness waking his cock.

"Yes, your man hears ye, Sassenach. I'm only yers, don't ye worry."

He stood before her and peeled her nightgown over her head and swept her into his arms. He kissed her along her collarbone, growling,

"And I claim ye, Sorcha, as my heart and my own, nobody else's."

She swallowed thickly and he seared his lips to hers in a scorching kiss. He walked them slowly to the bath and started the shower for her, groaning as his cock throbbed painfully against his jeans.

"Okay, love, take yer shower and I'll be right here to help ye afterward, aye?"

Claire took a calming breath and stepped into the hot shower, wondering if it should've been cold instead.

They made their way downstairs, to the delight of the rest of the family. Claire sat at the table and exclaimed over the children's drawings, vowing to put them on the fridge in places of honor at home. She ate a little of the pot pie but was soon full.

She sat on the couch snuggled next to Jamie and all the adults chatted into the late night, well past midnight.

One by one, everyone but Jamie and Claire drifted upstairs to bed. Jamie threw another log on to the fireplace but did not settle next to Claire. She was shocked when he got down on one knee, held her hands in his and addressed her, his clear blue eyes rimmed with tears,

"Claire, ye've captured me, heart and soul. I canna see my future without ye in it. Ye've gifted me our bairn and I love ye more than anyone or anything in the world. Will ye marry me and make me the happiest man on Earth?"

For Claire, there was only one possible answer that would allow her heart to beat further,

"Yes, oh, yes, Jamie, I want to be your wife and have all your children more than anything!" He rose and helped her stand and they embraced, Claire's ill-gotten shirt and Jamie's getting soaked with their happy tears. When they stopped crying, Claire stretched on her tippy toes and gently pulled her man down for the tenderest of thankful, happy kisses.

They sat down again and Jamie brought them both a celebratory drink of whisky for him and Claire a glass of milk, as well as the last cake and ice cream. He sat facing her and saw she had frosting on her chin, which he kissed off, much to Claire's delight.

"Mo Sorcha, I realize that a marriage proposal usually comes with a ring. I spoke to Jenny and Ian about proposing and I originally wanted Jen to help me choose a wedding set for us. However, she suggested I ask ye if ye wanted rings at all because ye would have to remove them for surgeries."

Claire gazed in surprise at him. How had she bagged such a considerate man? HOW? She opened her mouth to say something and closed it again, unsure of what to say. She did it again and Jamie marveled to himself,

*well, I've gone and done it. Made Claire Beauchamp speechless. *Who woulda thunk it?*

After several minutes of hard thinking, Claire took her hands in his and said quietly,

"Jamie, that is SO thoughtful and logical, thank you so much! She then wrinkled her brow and said thoughtfully,

"That's a great question, my love. I'm not su- oh! Wait! I know, what about tattoos?"

Jamie's eyebrows shot up and he grinned,

"Aye, lass, that's the ticket!" How about we go see Maisri today?

Claire knotted her brows and asked, "Who's Maisri?"

Jamie grinned and exclaimed,

"She and I went to school together from preschool to sixth form. She's the best artist around for miles. People even come from Edinburgh for her work. Aye! She can advise us about placement and design and colors, if we want them!"

Claire jumped into Jamie's arms and they hugged each other tightly. He brought them upstairs, deposited her on the bed and climbed in next to her. They decided not to say anything to anyone until they talked to Maisri.

The next morning, Claire and Jamie were up before the others and crept downstairs to start coffee, tea and breakfast for everyone. They decided on simple tomatoes, bacon and eggs with bannocks and toast.

Everyone trickled downstairs eventually and were very happy that breakfast was being made. Coffee, tea, juice and milk was poured for everyone and they were called to the table soon afterward. Again, nothing was left over. It was decided that Willie and Robbie would make a run to the market for ice cream and cupcakes. Claire and Jamie were excused from cleanup and went into Broch Mordha ostensibly so Claire could see the village.

Chapter Text

Jamie pulled up in front of her shop, which was a herb and naturopath shop with a sign in the window that read, "tea leaves and hands read." Jamie explained that the tattoo shop was in the back. He led the way and the first thing Claire saw was a shock of hair dyed a beautiful magenta that faded into a deep lavender. Jamie greeted the tiny woman behind the counter,

"Hullo, Maisri, how are ye, lass? I haven't seen ye in a donkey's age! Is that a weddin’ ring I see?"

Her gray-blue eyes sparkled and she smiled at the giant before her, 

“Aye, Jamie, Thomas Preston and I got married in 2017 and had a son, Jonah, exactly 9 months later!” 

Maisri giggled and Jamie and Claire grinned.

"Jamie Fraser, it's a blessin' ta see ye again! How can I be of service, a charaid (my friend)?"

"Maisri, I'd like to introduce ye to ma fiancée, Claire Beauchamp, a trauma surgeon."

Claire stepped forward and extended her hand to Jamie's old friend,

"Hello, Maisri, it's so nice to meet you. 

" Congrats on yer engagement! Thank ye kindly, Claire! So, how can I help ye both?"

"Weel, since Claire's a trauma surgeon, she canna wear a wedding ring in her operating room, and she doesna want to lose one, either. She thought, and I agree, that tattooed wedding rings would be a good middle ground, and we can save the money from a wedding set for the honeymoon!"

"Aye, that's a grand idea! Come on back, I dinna have any appointments today. Have ye any ideas ye'd like to incorporate?"

"I was thinking of a simple 'J (heart symbol) C' over an infinity symbol for me, and the same for Jamie except his will read, 'C (heart symbol) J and the same placement of the infinity symbol, if that's what he wants," burbled Claire excitedly.

"I'd really like to have the outline of a band over the top of the letters, a neighan (girl), what do you think of that?" 

"Yes!" Claire squealed, "that would finish it nicely!"

"Let me draw a sketch for you, aye? Then, we'll all be on the same page, alright?" Maisri grabbed a smallish sketch pad and with a few strokes, presented her idea.

It was perfect. Maisri had drawn exactly what was in both their heads.

"Do ye want colors, then?"

Claire and Jamie looked at one another and shrugged.

"Well, what do ye recommend, lass? Is there information we need about which colors stay the longest?" Jamie turned to Maisri and smiled.

"Weel, ye could opt for red only in the heart, fer example," she noted, looking back and forth at the two of them. She could feel the strong energy flowing like a river between the two of them, and heard a whispering in her ear, just as her left shoulder and scapula started to ache slightly. Impulsively, her gaze flicked to Claire’s abdomen and then into their eyes. Suddenly, Maisri knew what to suggest next.

"Claire, would ye let me study yer eyes for a wee second? I have an idea bubblin'." 

"Ah, ok, sure." 

Claire stood still and Maisri grabbed some colored pencils and started drawing. She asked Claire to stand with her back against the window and with her face in profile to the sun. She drew and smudged for a few minutes and finally showed Jamie her rendering of Claire's eyes. Jamie peered at the rendering and his mouth dropped open in a startled gasp,

"Ye have perfectly copied Claire's eyes, Maisri, I canna believe it!" 

She proudly showed Claire, who was shocked as well.

"I think I'll make Jamie's remaining band this color, if ye're amenable to that, o'course! It will remind ye of the most unique part o'yer lady when ye're separated, a charaid (my friend), aye? 

Jamie stared at Maisri for a minute and whispered, "It's perfect, Maisri, I love that idea! Are ye ok wi' that, mo chridhe (my heart)?"

"Holy cow, yes, Maisri, that's brilliant! Can you do the same with Jamie's eye color for my tattoo, please?"

Maisri smiled happily, 

"Aye, I can. Come on, Mac Dubh (a nickname for Jamie meaning 'Son of the Black', because his father’s black hair), look deeply into my eyes, darlin'!"

The three of them burst into laughter and Maisri had Jamie sit so she needn't crane her neck. The excited woman quickly sketched Jamie's eye color. Claire could feel Maisri's excitement fizzle and spark around them like champagne bubbles. She asked if they wanted to stay today to get the ink done, or if they wanted to wait until Monday,

"Well, I'm game with today if ye are, Sassenach," Jamie smiled and caressed her jaw with a strong finger.

"Oh, yes, let's do it today!"

"Okay, who wants to go first?" Maisri asked. 

"I will, Maisri," offered Claire.

"Ok, come on, then, love," 

Claire was a little nervous, but more excited, really. She started deep breathing and moved herself into a sort of trance so she wouldn't pay as much attention to the needles or talk to Maisri and distract her.  She must have dozed off, because the next thing she heard was Maisri clearing her throat and patting her carefully on her shoulder, 

"Claire, a leannan (sweetheart), I'm all done. Ye're the first customer who's fallen asleep in ma chair. Ye can look, now!

Maisri shone a bright light on Claire's ring finger and the bride-to-be teared right up, alarming the artist,

"Ye're cryin', lass, why is tha'?"

Jamie smiled and said, "Well, I'd hazard a guess she's so pleased she doesna know what to say, Maisri. Is that it, a leannan (sweetheart)?

Claire sniffed and nodded and cried all the harder, encircling a surprised Maisri in her delicate arms.

"Oh, now, Claire, it was my pleasure, really! It's about time The Blockheid found himself a good strong woman, aye? There there, love, dinna cry," and the artist patted her back gently. 

Jamie just sighed and rolled his eyes at his old nickname that only Maisri dared use to his face.  Claire looked up at Maisri and giggled, hiccuped once and nodded.

"I'm so sorry for crying, Maisri!"

"It's because of the bairn, aye? It's The Blockheid's, am I right?"

They both stared at her, open-mouthed,

"How did you know? I'm not even showing yet!" 

"Ah, weel, Jamie, ye'll remember I get messages, aye? She looked him straight in the eyes.

"Oh, aye, I remember now, Maisri! Yer, ah, left shoulder and scapula ache somethin' fierce an' then it comes, aye?  Ye used to scare the other kids at parties, readin' their hands an' such!"

She winked at Claire and turned towards Jamie again,

"I got a message right as ye were standin' afore me. Would ye like to know the sex of the babe?"

"It's too early, Maisri, even the hospital can't tell," protested Claire, "but go ahead and tell us and we'll let you know in a few weeks if you're right, ok?"

"Weel, it's a lad, an' he'll be as tall as his Da. He'll have red curly hair, his Mam's eyes and he'll have The Sight, as Ellen does," she smiled conspiratorially at Jamie, 

"an' he'll be a bonnie fighter on behalf of others weaker than he, jus' as ye were in school, Mac Dubh. Do ye remember when you punched twa (two) teeth out of Ethan Campbell's fat heid (head) for callin' me a cripple an' laughin' at how I walk? I remember it only happened after ye gave him a chance to apologize an' he refused. That coward ran gushin' blood like a stuck pig  straight to his mam, an' she tanned his hide fer what he'd said. His sister Eiladh tol' me th' next day, tears of shame runnin' down 'er little face," the small woman shook her head and cleared her throat. Claire saw the tears in her eyes and squeezed her hand empathetically, "apologized fer him. Your lad will be protective of wee ones, especially of his sisters. The boys will fear his wrath!"

Jamie and Claire both smiled broadly,

"Aye, as he should!"

"Two teeth, Jamie?"

Claire snickered, and when Jamie blushed, she simply said, "well, the little snot got what was coming to him!"

"Ye've done right by Claire, Maisri. It's my turn now, aye?" 

Jamie grinned down at his school chum.  She looked up at him and pointed to the chair, smirked and said,

"Sit, Blockheid! And she burst into a flurry of giggles.

He plopped himself down and Maisri adjusted the chair to fit his legs so he'd be as comfortable as possible. 

"Are ye ready, Jamie, lad?"

"Yep, let's get this done, lass!"

Jamie wasn't prepared for the noise the piercing equipment made. He asked quietly if he could put his headphones in, and Maisri grunted in the affirmative.  She took the time Jamie queued up Dirtyheads, an alternative group from Huntington Beach CA, along with the Brit ska group Madness and a sprinkling of Charlie Daniels. She took that time to stretch and take a couple of sips of Coke. He settled back in the chair and she picked up the needle again. She was done quicker than he'd dared to hope, just over 60 minutes. 

"Aye, there we are, Mac Dubh. Ye're done, lad. Here's the flashlight," 

Jamie stood up and gazed at his ring closely. It was breathtaking and it brought tears to his eyes, especially the recreation of Claire's eye color. It was spot-on. He kept finding nuances in it that made his heart beat faster and, at the same time, brought him a feeling of peace and dignity. All would see to whom he'd freely given his heart. It was right in front of them.

Maisri and Claire were talking about herbs and natural remedies when Jamie joined them. 

"Jamie, I settled our bill already. Are you ready to go?"

"Ye paid already, a neighan (girl)? I'll pay ye back."

Claire winked and purred,

"Oh, no, lover, you're going to work it off!" and, seeing Jamie blush to his roots, grinned wickedly at Maisri, who burst out laughing. She called out,

"Goodbye, dear Claire, and goodbye, Blockheid!" 

They both waved and Claire shouted, 

“Be on the lookout for a wedding invitation!”

Chapter Text

Claire requested that they stop at the market to bring flowers to Ellen and Jenny. They picked out peach roses for Ellen and yellow for Jenny.

As they got back into the car to head back, Jamie cleared his throat,

"What do ye say to ordering pizza for everyone to celebrate our engagement, mo gràidh (my darling)? It would be nice for everyone not to have to cook, aye?"

"Oh, yes! Let's hurry before your Mum puts brontosaurus ribs in the oven." 

Jamie looked sideways at his soon-to-be wife and just snorted in laughter. She joined him and they shook with laughs until they cried.  They talked about the wedding and how they didn't want to wait over-long before the ceremony. Jamie volunteered to wear his kilt, at which time his beloved informed him tartly that that would've been his only choice, in any case. She definitely wanted the invitations to request that all gents wear their clan tartans. She asked Jamie if it was alright for her to ask his Da to walk her down the aisle, since she suspected that Ian, Willie and Murtagh would be standing up with him. 

"Och, I think that's a grand idea, Claire. I think Da will be pleased as punch!"

"Oh, love, I want to ask your sis, Geilis and Joe to stand with me. I want to ask Joe if he wants to get his clan tartan. If so, do you think you can help him? He may not want to, since his last name is connected with slavery, but it is his name, in any case." And I think Geilis should be the guest of honor, since she introduced us. What do you think?

"Aye, a leannan (sweetheart), whatever he needs. We'll take him to Suzette's shop. She'll fix him right up, she'll take good care of him. He's almost her cousin by marriage, after all!"  And ye're on target about Geilie."

"Okay. So where do you want the reception?" she asked him directly.

"Weel, I should like to have it at Lallybroch. Where would you like it?" Jamie eyed her curiously.

"Oh, thank goodness, I thought we'd have to go somewhere, well, foreign!"

Jamie laughed at his bride-to-be, relieved at her choice, too. 

"And I'll start looking in second-hand shops for a dress. I had a friend in California who got a champagne-colored short-sleeve satin dress with detachable train, real hook-and eye buttons down the back for $15.00, breathtakingly old-school. The dress was the right length and fit everywhere but the bust. Poor thing had to get that taken in. There were stains on the dress and train, but somehow, she was able to find new lace to match the old. The lace covered up what little her mother's Armenian master seamstress and her team couldn't remove in their little shop on West 25th Avenue in San Mateo. Her little flats cost $20.00 (from another store) and had been on sale, too. Whole thing with fittings cost around $250.00, she guessed. She wore her great-grandmother's handmade-lace veil, also entrusted to the same amazing seamstress to be cleaned. That Wonder Woman got a 40-year-old coffee stain out of it.  I think the lace was from Ireland or Belgium. She wasn't sure. She even borrowed a full suite of Indian freshwater-pearl jewelry, so that didn't cost her a cent, either. "

"Second-hand, Sorcha? Are ye sure? Ye know we can afford a new dress fer ye, aye?"

Claire squeezed his hand in response, 

"Yes, darling, I know. But I want to spend our money on experiences now and when we're wrinkled and white-haired. A dress like that is only for one day. Although, a woman in med school told me her mum let her and her sister play dress-up with her wedding dress. We could invest the money we would've otherwise spent on a dress in, say, a trip to Maui, which’ll be a cherished experience, right?"

"Aye, Sorcha, an' I know to value that from ye. But don't shut out the possibility of a new gown, be it full-price or on sale. I promise ye, if ye get three Scotswomen like Mam, Jenny and Geilie ta help ye, they'll pinch yer pennies 'til the pennies'll want witness protection from all o' ye!" 

Claire shrieked in laughter until she started hiccuping, which caused Jamie to giggle until they pulled up at the house. They were still laughing when they entered the house. 

Jamie gathered his parents and boomed through the house, 

"Oi! Can everyone give Claire and me their undivided, please?"

Heads popped out of rooms and through doors like a game of drunken "Whack-A-Mole."

Everyone gathered in the living room and Jamie and Claire announced together, 

"We're treating everyone to pizza tonight because we're engaged to be married!"  

Stunned silence reigned for a few seconds and then a tidal wave of loud congratulations broke over them.

Laoghire piped up, 

"Have ye thought about rings yet?"

Claire grinned at her and winked. Laoghire knew immediately something was brewing in Claire's sparkling eyes and giggled behind her delicate hand.

"Well, we've taken care of that already, thanks to Jenny's very Scottish ingenuity and logic."

Everyone burst out laughing and Jenny patted herself on the shoulder and she high-fived Jamie, who bent down to do it properly.

Jamie continued, "Aye, I went to Jenny about helpin' me find a ring and she suggested because Claire is a trauma surgeon, she might not want to have to worry about keepin' a ring set safe. And Jenny, my Claire, she was actually speechless," and a chorus of 'say it ain't so!' and mock gasps of horror were directed teasingly at Claire, "but she thanked me for being so considerate and logical, and," he hastened to add, "I gave all credit to you!" Jenny simply beamed at that and gave Claire a high-five. "So, we went to see Maisri and got tattoos so Claire never has to worry, and we are so happy! Thank ye, sister!" Jenny burst into rare tears as Jamie hoisted her in his arms and swung her around. 

Naturally, all the girls and women clustered around Claire to see her tattoo. They all exclaimed about how it made a simple but strong statement. When questioned about the blue on her finger by Ellen, Claire simply said, 

"Look in your son's eyes, Ellen," and smiled at her future mother-in-law.

Ellen glanced up at her son and smiled when she saw the similarities inked on Claire's finger.

"Jamie, mo mhac (my son), let us see yer ring then," said Brian.

"Aye, comin', Da." Jamie stepped over to Brian and the elder Fraser put his readers on,

"Oh aye, I see, Claire loves Jamie forever! But what's this varied brown here, son?"

"That's the colors in Sorcha's eyes, Da, do ye see the similarities?"

Brian lowered his glasses and looked at Claire's eyes, crinkled in laughter at something Geilis was saying,

"Oh, aye, our wee Maise did a grand job, son! Will she be invited to the weddin' an' party?"

Claire piped up, 

“Absolutely!”

Jamie knew Da had a soft spot for the scrappy little girl who'd captured his heart when she was five - she'd called him "Mister Brian," and his wife "Miss Ellen" the first time she'd met them, offering her hand, as solemn as any parson, just as her strict Alabaman mother had taught her. The honorifics of Mister and Miss before their given names were a surprise to them both, until they met Mrs. MacPherson and she explained that in the American South, putting the prefix “Mister" or “Miss" was a sign of respect exhibited to adults by “children raised right.”

"O' course, Da! I'll be lucky if Claire doesn't blow our whole honeymoon stash at her shop until then!" 

Jamie said this loud enough to rile Claire and she grabbed the crest of the shell of his ear gently and just pressed on it enough to make it redden slightly and snarled playfully, 

"What was that, boy?" 

He laughed and gave her a messy, gleeful kiss. All the children groaned, "Eeeeeeeeew!" in unison. She pretended to violently wipe Jamie’s drool off her mouth, making all the children, and some adults, laugh.

Everyone got together and the pizzas were ordered. Claire tipped the driver, Geordie, generously. He was a schoolmate of Robbie's and as such, was invited in for dinner, but his shift was just starting, unfortunately.

The pizza dinner was a huge success, and as dessert was being served, Claire pulled Brian aside,

"May I speak to you for just one moment, please, Brian?"

He looked at her, surprised, but said, 

"Aye, lass, o'course. Please bring yer drink or I'll ferget an' offer ye a whisky, alrigh'?"

She smiled as he ushered her into his study,

"Oh, believe me, I understand!"

"So, lass, what's on yer mind? How can I help ye?"

"Um, you know that my parents are gone and so is the uncle who raised me, right?

She looked up at him tremulously, fingers twisting themselves around each other,

"would you consider walking me down the aisle?" 

She stammered and continued, 

"I-I mean, if you'd rather not, because I'm marrying your son, I completely understand, okay? If you would like to think on it, that's wonderful. No pressure, okay?" 

Claire realized she was babbling, but couldn't seem to stop when she was ahead. She took a deep breath, ready to launch into something resembling an apology, 

"Um, okay, Brian, I'll ju - " and she was startled out of her monologue by Brian's gentle hand on her shoulder,

"Lass, lass, it's alrigh', take a deep breath. I'd be happy to do that for ye, absolutely, it's my honor to do so, an' I'll deliver ye right to Jamie so I know the lunkhead won't make a right mess o' it!" He grinned at her broadly and Claire burst out laughing.  As if he could read her thoughts, Brian chuckled,

"And was yer next request goin' ta be if I'd don my kilt? Aye, lass, I'd not squander the chance!" 

He smiled and gently closed her mouth, which had fallen open. She blushed and squeaked out a "thank you!" and slipped out of his office. 

Jamie was there, waiting to talk to Brian,

"Hello, Sorcha, how'd it go?" He smiled indulgently at her.

"Oh, he said yes, Jamie, isn't it great?" 

"Aye, love, that it is. I want to have a man-to-man with Da for a few minutes and then I'll return to ye, alrigh'?"

She smiled and kissed the top of his nose, "okay, love. I need to corner Jenny and Geilis. I'll see you in a bit."

"Hey, Jenny, can you come talk with me for a minute, please?”

Jenny smiled and walked over, handing Kitty to Willie.

Claire took them outside into the cool air and motioned for Jenny to take a seat. Claire sat down opposite and took a deep breath,

"First, I want to TOTALLY thank you for stopping Jamie from buying me an actual physical engagement ring. These tattoos may not be everyone's choice, but you were 100 percent right about me, even if Jamie had chosen a physical ring for himself. You can tell your brother and Ian I said that!"

Jenny grinned and took a swig of her Guinness, 

"We women gotta stick together! God knows we can't make our men see sense until they're standing on top of it, right? So, what else did ye want to discuss?"

Claire shifted uncomfortably, but squared her shoulders and asked her question, even though she was scared, 

"Well, would you like to stand up with me as a bride’s attendant? I'd consider it an honor." 

Jenny's eyes got comically large and she hiccuped in surprise,

"'Hic!' De ye mean it, Claire? Aye, I'd love ta do that!" Jenny smiled and gave her a big hug.

Claire continued, "it would be you and Geilis and Joe. Your dad is walking me down the aisle. I think it would be great if you wore a favorite formal dress so you don't have to buy one. Obviously, we're requesting that gents wear their tartans. I'm going to ask Ellen to help me to get a small MacKenzie bow for the front of my bodice or my hair and a rosette or type of Fraser plaid shoulder-drape to wear at the ceremony. And I'll need your help finding a used or inexpensive full-length wedding dress. But," and she held up a finger, "no sleeveless, okay? I hate them and I don't want cold arms in the church. Oh! Would you mind calling the church secretary and asking if the church is available in about 8 weeks, please? We'd like it on a Saturday."

"Yes, no problem! Oh, I'm so excited! I'll call first thing Monday. Morag, the church secretary, gets in at 8 a.m. Oh, and have ye thought about what to serve at the reception?"

"Well, we want the reception on the grounds here. We hadn't thought about what to serve. I was going to ask you, Ellen and Mrs. Crook to come up with suggestions, if you don't mind," Claire smiled at Jenny, who grabbed her in an enthusiastic hug.

"Alright, I'm off to talk to Mam and Mrs. Crook, aye? We haveta get goin' if the wedding's going to be so close!" Jenny squealed in delight and Claire saw her grab her mother and Mrs. Crook and sequester themselves in a corner.

Chapter Text

Claire smiled kindly at the woman blushing in front of her. She knew that Bronagh Crook was Ellen's right hand and that Ellen had said she wouldn't be able to cope without her. Mrs. Crook's children were very close in age to the Fraser children and they came home with the Frasers after school. it didn't matter which woman was addressing which child - the women's word was law.

Claire continued, 

"I was thinking we could have a buffet with carving stations, with meat like beef, lamb, pork and venison, a table with some veg dishes and salads, and a bread, cheese and appetizer table. Last would be the wedding cake with a staffed station that has candy, a couple of kinds of gelato or ice cream, chocolate and caramel sauce, whipped cream and fresh fruit. I was thinking a staffed bar and waiters to get drinks if people don't want to get up, too.  We could rent dishes, chairs and a tent with a dancefloor so we can all simply enjoy ourselves. How does that sound?"

"Weel, do ye have an idea who ye want to do this for ye, darlin'?" Asked Ellen. 

Claire blushed and admitted, 

"Well, no. I’d prefer using a local, preferably family owned company would be best, what do you all think?"

"Mam, we should ask Glenna Fitzgibbons if she's free - ye know what a good job she did for Mrs. Crook's daughter Hannah and her husband. Isn't that right, Mrs. Crook? Ye approved, aye?"

"Oh, yes, a neighan (girl), I did. It was lovely. They cleaned up everything and even boxed up leftovers in freezable containers," Mrs. Crook burbled enthusiastically.

Claire smiled at Mrs. Crook, 

"Well, Mrs. Crook, would you please call her, then?" I think we should ask her to make some suggestions as to specific dishes. And please, everyone, if you don't agree with a decision I make, please let me know! You may have a different idea that's more appropriate than mine, alright?"

"AYE!" chorused the ladies.

Ian had offered to design their wedding invitations. He'd come up with a simple design, an ivory,  cream and espresso invitation with the Beauchamp family crest and the Fraser family crest next to each other on the page opposite the invitation text. The text read,

"The Laird and Lady of Lallybroch request your presence at the wedding of their son,
James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser to Dr. Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp

On Saturday, October 17th, 2020 at 4:00 p.m.

Our Lady of Redemption Church, Lallybroch

Reception at Lallybroch immediately after the ceremony


Ian had even printed the guests' names and addresses on the outside envelopes for them.  All the ladies stuffed envelopes in conveyor-belt fashion, and Claire had made sure to pay for self-stick envelopes. The work was over before they knew it. Brian drove the invitations to the post office the next day, which was a great relief to everyone.

As the day grew closer, the men ensured that their kilts were in top repair, and Jamie took Joe to get measured for his Abernathy kilt. A few days later he took him to try it on one last time. Joe had a full kit: his tartan and hose, a Prince Charlie jacket, waistcoat, flashes, ghillie brogues and a special-order titanium Asclepius tartan pin from Jamie. He received a hand-made sporran from Brian, Ellen, their children and grandchildren. From Claire came a hand-carved African-pearwood-handled sgian dubh with Joe's initials carved into the handle. He'd done genealogy research with Gayle and had talked about his ancestors who were taken from Nigeria and Cameroon for the slave trade, so Claire’d requested that the pearwood be sourced only from Nigeria and the zebrawood only from Cameroon.  The simple custom-made zebrawood storage chest with his initials carved on the lid made his chocolate eyes grow big and he put a shaking hand to his mouth. He extracted a heavy, silky envelope with his name in calligraphy on it that was lodged in the lid and removed the stationery within. He read the story of the woods and how Claire had made sure he'd have a connection with his ancestors. Overwhelmed,  tears rushed to his eyes. He lifted the sgian dubh from its black velvet cushion, murderously sharp surgical-steel blade safely tucked into a sleek custom steel sheath. He carefully drew it free and fingered his initials on the sheath and the handle, testing the knife’s weight in his hands, marveling at its precise balance. He strode over to her and hugged her fiercely, “God, Claire, this is everything to me, do you know that?” He wiped tears off his face and wiped Claire's face as well, both laughing and crying with each other, “Look at us, two boo-hooing wrecks.”   

He treasured his sgian dubh but wasn't convinced about the rest of his “getup,” as he called it. Joe looked at himself warily in the mirror,

"So, Jamie, do you think Gayle will like this rig?"

Jamie smirked devilishly and laid a calming hand on Joe's shoulder,

"Oh, aye, mo charaid (my friend). There's nothing like a man in full kit to bring out the possessive, hungry tigress in his woman! Trust me, just trust me, aye? Jes' be prepared for, well,” Jamie broke out into a shit-eating grin, "anything and everything, aye?”

Joe still looked doubtful and muttered, "We'll see, Fraser."

The next morning, Joe and Gayle had come over for coffee. Gayle was upstairs with Jenny, Ellen and Claire. Jamie, Brian and Ian asked Joe if Gayle liked him in his kit. Grinning, Joe pulled up his T-shirt, and Brian and the brothers-in-law saw a veritable artist's palette of large, painful-looking dark-blue, black, green and putrid-yellow mottled bruises in a crazy quilt pattern marring Joe's smooth skin, teeth-marks still clearly visible. Jamie hissed in sympathy and Ian groaned, slapping a large hand over his eyes in empathy. Brian just grinned widely and quipped,

“Seems Jamie was righ', son! Good on ye, bein' able to stand on yer own twa (two) feet today!” 

“Right? She liked it so well I have bruises I can't show you! I may have to go home for an afternoon nap! I mean, since when are knees sexy?” 

The four men looked at each other and burst out in hearty laughter. The three Scots laughed even harder when Joe quipped in his horrible Scots accent,

“Mo bràthair, ye were righ', the lasses dig a man in a kilt all day long, an' I have the battle scars to prove it!”

Brian, howling in laughter, slapped Joe on the back, grinned and said,

“Welcome to the family, son!"

Exactly nine months to the day of Jamie and Claire's wedding night, Gayle and Joe welcomed Robert (after Gayle's father) James Abernathy to the world, weighing a hefty 9 lbs 4 oz. Jamie puffed up as proud as a peacock upon hearing their nephew's middle name. All who loved him, including Grandma Ellen and Grandda Brian and all the Fraser/Murrays, called him “RJ" for short. When Mom and Dad brought  RJ home, he was snugly wrapped in an Abernathy plaid baby blanket.

Jamie wasn’t all that happy that Ian and his brothers insisted on giving him a stag do. He had put his foot down and insisted that there be no strippers or exotic dancers. It wasn't that he wanted to ruin the other men's fun; he just had no bandwidth for any other woman than Claire and was completely uninterested in seeing another woman in her skivvies. He was very happy, however, that they'd found a place right up his alley for October 3rd – Michael Tweed's Reserve, a privately held 142-year-old upscale eatery known for its dry-aged hung steaks, Scottish seafood, venison and rabbit, farm-to-table produce and a mind-boggling assortment of international whiskies, wines, ports, rums and the like.  The business was so well-established that they had a wine and cigar sommelier to help guests navigate the embarrassment of riches there. William and Rabbie booked their Hearth Room, with overstuffed armchairs, dark furniture and a large fireplace. Luckily, there was a hotel next door so whoever felt the need could crash there for the night. William had already booked Brian and Murtagh a room, and one for himself and Rabbie and one for Ian and Jamie.  Father Tammas MacNeill would marry them, as he had Brian and Ellen. The older men were all seated together in a section of the table marked out for the “Broch Mordha Mob.” Brian’s friend Ernie MacDowell, Ned Gowan, Taran MacQuarrie, Brian's best man, Ian's father and some other close friends chatted.   All the men's wives would be at Claire's hen party next week. The kitchen laid out a whole table groaning with delectable appetizers and small glasses of whisky, wine and champagne matched to each appetizer so that the men could try how each drink complemented the flavor profiles of the food. The second station was a carnivore station with salmon, steak, venison, rabbit, chicken and seafood, set up with the same glasses. A third station had salads and side dishes.  The guests made themselves comfortable at the beautifully appointed dining table and tucked into their food. Jamie, Murtagh and Ian both groaned as they bit into steak tender enough to cut with an angry glance. Jamie stood and tapped his glass and announced, 

“My friends, I'd like to make a preliminary toast to my brothers for setting up this wonderful evening," and raised his glass to Willie and Rabbie, who acknowledged the toast but did not raise their own glasses to themselves or drink, because their Da taught them that one should never applaud or drink to a toast to oneself. The other guests echoed Jamie, raising their glasses as well,

“And, gentlemen, I'd like to raise my glass to my betrothed, Claire, the love of my life and the mother of my bairn, who has made me happier than I ever thought possible. Thank you for guiding us on our journey together – to my Sorcha’s health!”

The other men thundered, “gu slàinte Sorcha (to Claire’s health)!

Ian looked out at the men enjoying their dinners and smiled to himself. He remembered back to an afternoon several years ago. 20-year-old Jamie was uncharacteristically quiet, and Ian knew he was still smarting over his breakup with a lass he'd been seeing,

“Ye know, Ian, I dunno what's wrong wit' me. Meghan's parents were gone last week, and she asked me to spend the night wi' her. I – I jus' couldn'a, an' I don' know why. I mean, ye've seen her, aye? She's a bonnie lass and she would have done anything to please me - she'd offered! But I wasn'a ready. She got really angry wit' me when I refused her and she broke up with me right then and threw me out. I've never been so humiliated an' confused, ever. Was I wrong to refuse her?”

22-year-old Ian didn't know what to say at first, so he remained quiet. After a few minutes, he ventured,

“Weel, Jamie, I dinna think ye were wrong to refuse her if ye weren'a ready, tha's fer sure. Wi' Jenny an' me, I realized she was “the one" when I couldn't see anything but black in front o' me when I tried to imagine my future wi'out her. Wi' her in it, everythin' changed. My future exploded inta Technicolor. I could see our bairns and grandbabies an' us in our dodderage with white hair. But we were always together, ye understand? 'Until our lives are done'. Tha's when I knew Jen was the only one fer me. I've never been wi' another lass. It may not go exactly like that fer ye, but, remember, yer Da said ye'd know when ye met yer mate - tha's a Fraser gift, ye ken. Yer match may not come fer a few years, but will come at the ri' time, and ye'll know. Same fer giftin' yer virginity - an' it IS a gift. Ye'll know when it's the ri' time and person, an' it may no' be yer mate. I'll advise ye to hold onto it until then. I did, and Imma happy I did. Jenny did, too. Yer mam gave her the same talk I'mma givin' ye now.”

Ian remembered when Jamie’d come to him and told him he'd lost his virginity. The woman to whom he gifted it knew to treasure his trust in her and treated Jamie accordingly. Ian smiled, recalling the gobsmacked look Jamie gave Claire the first time he'd seen her. Ian could almost feel how Jamie's heart had rocketed to his throat and his stomach had flipped. Aye, the puir man’s heart and soul were gone forever that night, into the care of a woman who didn't yet know of the treasures she held in her hands. And Miracle Max – everyone was excited for the bairn's arrival. Ian was relieved that his niece or nephew would come so soon. He knew how much Jamie wanted to be a Da and Claire a Mam. Ian sent up a prayer for Miracle Max's continued health and well-being.

Geilis looked around at the Carciofe Café, happy that Claire had decided to have her hen party here, because Mr. Garibaldi and his staff had been very accommodating.  He had assured her that they were very experienced with such celebrations. He had insisted that the guests take home boxes of leftover food, as well. All the Fraser women were in attendance this evening, as well as Annie MacDowell, Glenna Fitzgibbons, Alice Gowan, Mrs. Crook and Maisri. Rounding out the group were Gayle, Suzette, Mrs. MacQuarrie, Ellen's matron of honor, and some friends from the hospital. There were platters of appetizers already set out for everyone, and the rest of the meal would also be diner's choice of “piccoli morsi,” or “tiny bites,” as Mr. Garibaldi called them. He had bowls and plates filled with miniature servings of pasta dishes, as well as risottos, soups and salads. There would be a dessert table with the same tiny plates set up for afterwards, as well as a manned coffee bar.  The party started at 7:00 p.m. and was booked until 11:00 p.m.

At about 7:15, Geilis tapped her fork on her glass to get everyone's attention,

“Weel, ladies, we all know that Claire's gettin' marrit nex' week, an' to a wonderful man. Please charge your glasses and join me in toasting her.” 

Everyone lifted their glasses. Geilis turned to Claire and swallowed the lump in her throat with difficulty,

“Hen, we all love ye here, an' I canna wait for us to be sisters-in-law! Congratulations on catching the Highlands' most eligible bachelor!”

Everyone chimed in, 

“Hear, hear!” and cheered Claire, who blushed and took up her own glass,

“Geil, thank you for putting so much work into this celebration, and thank you all for coming. I'd like to propose a toast to someone who was a very active participant in creating my husband-to-be, Ellen Fraser!” 

Claire grinned at Ellen and continued with a sparkle in her eye, 

“Ellen, I owe this all to you. Thank you for doing the horizontal mambo with Brian!”

Ellen burst out laughing as everyone toasted her health. Hoots and cheers bounced off the walls as Ellen raised her glass to Claire and smiled to beat the band,

“Claire, Jenny was righ', ye have bollocks of steel and ye'll fit in jus' fine. Thank ye for making Jamie so happy. I'm proud to call ye my daughter!” 

Claire blushed in pleasure at the endearment and duly raised her glass to Ellen. A few minutes later, everyone busied themselves choosing their food.

Claire stood to choose some food and looked out over the gathered women,

“All these women are my people. Next week I'll officially be a part of a large family,”

The realization hit her like a freight train. She'd never thought she'd be so lucky. She got  the chance to make her own family with a man she loved, and his family welcomed her with open hearts and arms.

Chapter Text

Chapter 14, Or, the One When They Really Just Want To Say “I Do” Already!

 

A/N: I completely fell in love with Angus and Rupert in the show and was heartbroken when they died. This chapter makes me feel b!etter.

 

 

Before they knew it, October 17th arrived. The women (and Joe, since he was the Gentleman of Honor) got ready at Lallybroch, and the other men at another, smaller house on the property. Brian drove Jenny, Geilis, Joe and Claire to the church in the farm's 3-row SUV, cleaned inside and outside to an inch of its life - he'd done as much for Jenny and with his unborn grandchild to consider, Ellen and Claire let him have his way with driving her. Ellen and the rest of the family would walk the very short distance and the men in the wedding party would walk with them.

 

Brian got out of the car and Claire remembered to allow him to open the door for her,

 

"Here we are, a neighan (daughter). Easy does it, now,"

 

Brian smiled at the woman who'd made his middle child so happy. Claire took his hand carefully and exited the vehicle. The bridal party entered the church and sequestered themselves in a back room so that there would be no chance of Jamie seeing Claire. Jenny had chosen a midnight-blue floor-length lace dress and strappy black leather heels, with the white diamond earrings she got from Ian last Christmas. As an attendant gift, Claire had given her a platinum  necklace from which dangled a dainty black onyx cross. The ends of the cross had tiny diamonds on them. Jenny'd cried when she opened it that morning,

 

"Och, Claire, look at ye - this is too much! But I love it!"

 

Geilis, per usual, was stunning in a rich amethyst gown. Claire had gifted her a platinum necklace with a white gold thistle charm on it. The thistle had an arched row of aubergine sapphires on the top of the thistle which matched her dress perfectly.

 

Claire was wearing her mother's sapphire and diamond ring, with stunning matching earrings Jamie had commissioned from Elias Pound, a well-known jeweler and a classmate of Willie's. He was known for his intricate work and was a Fraser family go-to. They were sun, moon and star drops. The suns and moons were delicate white gold filigree, with graduated sapphires filling in the sickle moons. The sun's rays were sapphires and the centers were one-carat diamonds, as were the stars. Jamie had given them to Claire last night before they'd parted. He'd simply stood with her in the doorway to her room and handed her the cobalt-blue velvet box,

 

"Weel, Sassenach, as ye should know by now, ye are my sun, moon and stars. I wasn't sure if ye'd picked earrings yet, so I thought these might help ye." He kissed her chastely on the cheek, turning to go. Claire's mouth fell open as she saw her beloved turning to go,

 

"Jamie! Stop! Come back here! I want you here when I open these, please, darling? And I have something for you too!" She looked at him hopefully.

 

He chuckled,

 

"Weel, if ye like, mo neighan donn (my brown-haired lass)." They sat on the bed together and Claire handed him a beautifully wrapped ivory gift box tied festively with a wide sea-blue ribbon. Jamie went to cut the ribbon with his pocketknife, and Claire put a hand on his knee,

 

“Honey, we can use the ribbon and this is a good box. We can use both again! Don’t cut it!”

 

Jamie smiled at her frugality, beaming,

 

“Ahhh, there it is, the Moriston in ye is showin' itself proudly!” he winked at her and opened the gift box carefully, revealing a handsome reddish-brown wooden box with the Fraser family badge carved in the center and strawberries in the corners. Eyes misting over, Jamie asked,

 

“Mo neighan donn (my brown-haired girl), what kind of wood is this?”

 

Claire smiled and replied, “well, it's from a reclaimed redwood barrel found in Northern California that was used to store wine a long time ago, darling. The color reminded me a little of your beautiful hair."

 

He opened the box carefully, noticing that he couldn't hear any hinges squeak. He was shocked at the beauty inside. “Je Suis Prest" was burned into the lid and on a royal-blue velvet cushion nestled a 22-karat yellow-gold signet ring carved with his family crest, as well as cufflinks and a tie clip with the Fraser motto engraved on them. He exclaimed,

 

“Och, lass, this is wonderful! How'd ye know I wanted a set like this? And where'd ye get it?”  He picked up the ring first and handed it to Claire. She smiled and slipped it gently on the ring finger of his right hand.

 

“It fits perfectly! How'd ye know my size?” He admired how it shone in the light, heavy and foreign on his finger.

 

She grinned and said, It's from Elias Pound's shop, honey, and I guessed that your Da would have approximately the same finger-size as you, sapling width, so he went with me!” She giggled and Jamie simply laughed at her beautiful, blushing face. He just couldn't help himself.

 

Claire opened her royal-purple box carefully. She blanched, a trembling hand covering her mouth and looked in silent wonder at the stunning works of art draped over the inky black cushion. She quickly snapped the box closed with a loud “crunk,” hastily set the box down and swallowed so loudly Jamie heard her. Jamie took her hand gently, nervous because she opened her mouth as if to say something and then shut it again, eyes as big as dinner plates. He'd never experienced her so quiet or quite so pale,

 

"Lass, are ye alright? If ye don't care for 'em, I can exchange them fer somethin' else, aye? No pressure a'tall." 

 

That seemed to shake her out of her stupor. She picked up the box and opened it cautiously, as if afraid the contents would bite her. She traced her index finger over the earrings, overcome by their beauty. She looked up at him, tears coursing down her beautiful countenance, looking at him like he'd sprouted another head. She croaked,

 

"Not like them? NOT LIKE THEM? You silly man! Oh my God, sweetheart, they're perfect!"  Fat tears dripped down her cheeks, fell off her delicate jaw and onto her silk pajamas with a soft "plurp."

 

Jamie rubbed the back of his neck, relieved she liked them. He moved to kiss her but was knocked backwards on the bed with a grunt by a curly haired cyclone who simultaneously cried all over his (not-the-moss-green-one) henley and covered his face and neck in sloppy kisses. She climbed him like a tree, stopping when she was sitting on his lap,

 

"Jamie, how do they look, sweetheart?" She bounced up and down excitedly,

 

"Och, lass, careful with the heavy equipment there, I'll need it tomorrow night, aye?" Jamie smiled ruefully, not entirely sure she'd heard him at all.

 

"Oh my goodness, Jamie, I have to go show the girls!" And with that, the cyclone whirled off him and was gone, calling down the stairs for Ellen, Jenny and Geilis to see her gift.

 

Jamie laid on the bed and caught his breath for a couple of minutes. He was huffing out a laugh soon enough, though, as the sounds of the women's excited exclamations, “Oh! Let me get you a tissue, lass!” from his Mam.  Loud admiration reached his ears. Ahhh, his wee Sorcha might tire him out, but he knew, his life with her would never be boring.

 

     THE WEDDING DAY    

 

Geilis made sure her veil was draped in front of her face properly and that her Fraser sash was in place. It was five minutes until showtime. Brian knocked on the door and told them that Jamie was walking Ellen to her seat and Ian, his best man, Willie and Murtagh were following up the aisle. Jenny handed Claire her flowers and Brian offered his arm as the processional music started. First Joe, then Jenny and Geilis made their way down the aisle to the altar.  As Brian and Claire stepped into the chapel proper, all the guests stood for Claire as a gesture of respect. Brian felt her hand fist into his jacket's arm and she gasped softly. He leaned over and whispered,

 

"Dinna fash (don't worry), a leannan (sweetheart), I'm here for ye.  They're doin' it to honor you. It's an old custom. Can ye take the first step?"

 

Claire forced herself to relax her hand and took the first step into her new life.  She saw Jamie at the altar and smiled at him. As she and Brian came closer, she could see him with a trembling hand in front of his mouth and unshed tears in his eyes as he looked at her proudly. He saw that she was wearing his great-grandmother's veil and his Mam's Fraser colors sash. That did it, the damn sash. A tear escaped and rolled down his cheek. She'd seen Jamie in full kit before, but never had he looked more handsome, with his badge on his shoulder shining like the sun. He had the same Prince Charlie jacket as the other men, but with a sapphire-blue waistcoat that complemented his eyes perfectly. His hair was shining and seemingly under control. She saw that he was wearing his father's antique sword and dirk, as had Willie and Robbie before him.  And, he wore the magnificent boots Claire had found (A/N: these are the super-sexy boots JAMMF wore in Season 2 visiting Faith's grave). Supple panthera-pardus (panther-black) leather encased his calves and shining silver buckles extended down to his ankles. He had gifted Ian gold cufflinks with the Murray motto engraved on them, and Murtagh a family crest ring, as he already had his late father's cufflinks. Jamie and Claire had decided to jointly give Brian a gift. They'd found a first-edition book of short stories by Robert Louis Stevenson. Brian was speechless when he opened it.

 

As Brian and Claire reached Jamie, Brian put Claire's hand on top of Jamie's and spoke to his son,

 

"Mo mhac (my son), ye have a grand woman here. Love her well."

 

Jamie smiled at his Da,

 

"Aye, I know. That I will, Da." With that, Brian kissed Claire's cheek and turned and sat next to his wife.  Jamie turned to Claire and whispered,

 

"Ye look absolutely stunning, mo gráidh (my darling). Thank ye for this day."

 

Claire smiled and blushed and squeezed his hand gently, whispering,

 

"And you have no right to look as handsome as you do, my love!"

 

Jamie blushed in turn and Claire released his hand as the music ceased and the priest, Father Tammas MacNeill, cleared his throat and began,

 

"Dearly beloved, we are gathered in the sight of God to witness the joining of Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp and James Alexander Malcom MacKenzie Fraser in the bonds of holy matrimony...”

 

About 60 minutes later, Jamie and Claire turned to face their guests and Father MacNeill beamed and announced,

 

“My friends, it is my pleasure to introduce, for the first time, Mr. and Mrs. James Fraser!”

 

Claire and Jamie smiled and blushed as everyone rose to their feet and cheered them. Father MacNeill led the Frasers down the aisle and made way so they could run down the steps of the ancient church before him, where they and their attendants were showered with birdseed. He watched as the attendees filed out of the church, talking and laughing.

 

He had married Brian and Ellen 35 years prior in a hushed midnight ceremony in this very church. He'd agreed to it because he and Ellen were old school friends and one day she'd come to him crying about her parents' plan to marry her off to the son of a wealthy local businessman, Malcolm Grant, whom she didn't love. He remembered running interference for her escape from her pre-engagement party, which regretfully necessitated his flattening young Grant with a right hook when Grant discovered her trying to leave through a window leading to the fire escape after changing her clothes. She was just 20. Brian Fraser, just 22 himself, had been her high-school sweetheart. Her parents didn't approve of him as marriage material because he was “only” a farmer's son. Brian was waiting in the courtyard with a fast motorcycle and a second helmet. They roared off to the church, meeting  Ellen's sisters, Janet and Jocasta, as witnesses. Brian's best friend, Alexander Taran MacQuarrie, had stood up with him. They'd hidden themselves on a remote part of the MacNeill property until they could prove that Ellen was with bairn and an annulment was no longer possible. Father MacNeill had performed all the subsequent baptisms, first communions and weddings for the Frasers.

 

He made it down the steps in time to see Jamie and Claire get into a roadster driven by Willie, with Geilis in the front seat. Jamie and Claire had laughed when they'd seen all the old shoes and cans tied to the back bumper.

 

When they arrived back at Lallybroch, people were already there, chatting with tablemates or mingling, drinks in hand. About 15 minutes later, Brian stood with Ellen and asked everyone to find their seats. He boomed,

 

“My family and friends, the Lady of Lallybroch and I bid you welcome at the celebration of the marriage of our son Jamie, to his beloved, Claire, our newest daughter!”

 

When the applause finally died down, Jamie and Claire stood, every eye trained on them. Jamie gallantly led his wife to stand before the Laird and Lady of Lallybroch. Together, they bowed low and curtsied deeply to the Laird and Lady. Brian smiled and inclined his head, giving them leave to rise.  The assemblage clapped and cheered at the newlyweds' ancient gesture of respect.

 

Jamie looked out at the guests, pleased that so many were taking advantage of the dance floor. He'd watched his father take Claire out for the first dance, she still in her wedding finery, for the traditional father-daughter dance. He could see how his father, an excellent dancer, was being so careful with her, simply letting her place her delicate hand on his huge palm instead of firmly holding it as he did Ellen's. This must be how Jamie and she looked to other people – Brian and he had the same build and height and Claire looked like a beautiful, tiny fairy. If it weren't so beautiful, he would have laughed at the truly comical difference in height and build. His throat constricted in emotion, so thankful that his family had assimilated Claire. He laughed to himself when he thought of a Star Trek reference. His family was Borg-like with new members, really. She'd had no choice - resistance would have been futile and she’d been quickly assimilated into the tightly knit Fraser Collective.  

 

As the first song died out, Jamie politely asked if he could cut in, and his father smiled and kissed Claire on the cheek, going off to search for his own beautiful bride.  The two of them glided around the dance floor, oblivious to the cameras and chatter around them. She and Jamie shared giggles and butterfly kisses. He smiled down at her,

 

“Mo neighan donn (my brown-haired lass), ye've made me the happiest man on earth today, do ye ken that?”

 

“Well, my love, I'm glad to hear that, because you've made me the happiest woman on this planet or any other. Besides, it's all legal now AND I've had you appropriately marked as my property with your ring tattoo. It's a much neater solution than what I first thought of…”

 

She looked up at him, trying to maintain the façade of an innocent (and not doing a very good job at all) and Jamie cocked an eyebrow, waiting for her to go on,

 

“Yeah, at first I thought I'd have to pee on your leg every time you left the house, but this is a much less-smelly solution and it doesn't create more laundry, either! Good for you, good for me and good for the planet, amirite?”

 

Of all the things he thought would come out of his wife's mouth, that was decidedly not one of them,  at all.  Her eyes sparkled and her whole body shook with outrageous giggles. His eyes crinkled like the pleats on an accordion and he couldn't help the deep peal of laughter that bubbled up inside of him. The two of them had to stop dancing and clutch each other for support, shaking in helpless teary mirth, drawing all eyes to themselves.

 

After they'd recovered their composure somewhat, Claire excused herself to change into her reception dress, searching for her mother-in-law for assistance. Ellen rose and they ascended the stairs together. Ellen helped Claire out of her dress and veil and Claire breathed a sigh of relief when the veil was safely off her head. Ellen pulled the purple smoky quartz-beaded dress out of its protective cover and looked at it admiringly,

 

“Aye, a neighan (daughter), this is perfect! Jamie won't know what hit him when ye appear in this.”

 

Ellen helped Claire with her curls, spritzing some Frizz-Ease on the truly mad curls.

 

A few minutes later, both Brian and Jamie had sensed that their wives were coming down and waited at the foot of the stairs, idly chatting,

 

“Husband, will you take my hand, please?”

 

Both men turned and Jamie blinked in astonishment,

 

“Lass, is this the other dress ye bought with the girls when ye bought THAT dress?”

 

“Yes, love, it is, AND,” she held up her pointer finger, “It was half-price!”

 

Ellen corroborated Claire's statement,

 

“Aye, mo mhac (my son), it was, I saw the price tag! Claire is a true-blue Scot!”

 

Ellen and the boys grinned and Claire blushed at the compliment.

 

“Do you like it, honey?” Claire asked hopefully,

 

Jamie cursed his cock, who was getting more unruly by the second, getting ready to throw a goddamn keger (a “keger" is an American slang term for a party that has at least a “pony" keg of beer available.  A “pony" keg is a quarter of a barrel and holds 29.33 L. A full keg has 58.7 L) under his kilt. He ran a sweating palm through his curls clearing his throat gruffly,

 

“Ehm, weel, ‘like' doesna cover it by half, Sassenach. Ye look stunning, mo shunndach bhrèagha (my stunning enchantress).”

 

Laird and Lady Broch Tuarach smiled at each other and wisely gave their son and his lady privacy. They walked to the dance floor and went to dance to the velvet crooning of Miss Dinah Washington.

 

Claire blushed in pleasure, making sure to point out how well her wedding gift from Jamie paired with this dress,

 

“Jamie, guess what?”

 

“What, love?”

 

“The dress lets me move around quite freely for dancing…” Claire paused for effect and whispered sotto voce, “and there’s nothing between the soft skin you love and the smooth silk lining.”

 

Welp, that right there was “all she wrote” for her husband.  He felt his bawbag restrict and his cock rise to a full salute. He choked out a tangled volley of French, German and English curses,

 

“Come with me, mo neighan donn (My brown-haired girl), I need to discuss something with ye, aye? But in private.”

 

His huge hand engulfed and manacled her delicate wrist to his side.  He pulled her down the dark hallway quickly to the guest bathroom attached to the laundry room, far from the festivities.

 

He entered first, snapping, “Lock the door, NOW!  He whirled on her, snarling, “Why did ye tell me about yer lack of undergarments when we were out there, Sorcha?” Jamie hissed in agitation, narrowing his eyes dangerously. Before she could take a breath to answer, he hissed,

 

“Ye knew what it would do ta me, I know ye were tryin' ta rile me, and I could’ve popped a chubby (developed an erection) in front of ma parents if they hadn't left, fer God's sake!”

 

Seeing his wife's enchanting eyes dance in reckless challenge, he growled a warning from very low in his throat,

 

“Come stand in front of me and hitch up that skirt, wife. Don't ye dare remove yer shoes, aye? Then come here and lie on my lap with yer bare quim on ma kilt and yer ass bared to me. Ye need to remember how to show your man proper deference and respect in public, as it seems ye've forgotten. Ye desperately need an attitude adjustment, ye saucy besom! Come now, lass,  do as ye're told." He sat down in the chair next to the bathtub. She blushed a hot crimson and hurried to do what he wanted. She wasn't afraid of him, just rather nervous with his powerful tone. He watched her frenetic movement and shook his head slightly. He whispered so low she almost couldn't register which language he spoke, “Chan e, chan e, mo ghaol - gabh fois agus gabh fois air mo shon.”  He looked at her with hooded passionate eyes and translated his thoughts for her, “No, no, my love – relax and slow down for me.”    

 

Wanting to do this right, she studied his beautiful face for a fleeting moment, dropped her gaze and began much more slowly than she'd planned,

 

“Aye, there's my beautiful lass.”

 

He was enchanted as the beautiful column strip-teased its way northward, the piercing glitter of the crystals matching the sparks of lust in his now-dark blue eyes. She gathered the dress in her hands as she worked. Jamie bit his lip and groaned when her sparkling stilettos, endless ivory legs and dew-kissed honeypot became visible, inch by treacherous inch. He reached out and held her securely as he could with fingers shaking from a tidal wave of adrenaline spiking in his bloodstream, his hands on her hips. He rasped,

 

“Don't let go of the dress, Sassenach, and if ye know what's good for ye, ye'll stay still and keep completely silent, aye?” he warned. The huge man leaned forward, drilling his hungry tongue harshly and deeply into her dripping vagina, his ever-simmering hunger for her cruelly teased to a feverish pitch. He devoured her as if he were starving. She inhaled sharply as fireworks exploded in her head, biting her lip to strangle her nascent moan.

 

He stopped abruptly and Claire stifled her scream of disappointment by biting the inside of her mouth so hard she bled. Jamie carefully helped her lie down and settle,

 

“Hands underneath yer stomach, lass,”

 

She took a few deep calming breaths. She really should have anticipated that trouble with her name on it was just around the corner. The energy of the small chamber changed when, maliciously and with forethought, the huge ginger teasingly drew the delicate zipper of her dress lower and lower, never faster than achingly and frustratingly slowly.  Descending lower and lower, he only stopped when he reached the bunched-up skirt she clutched desperately in white-knuckled fists. He gently stroked his warm fingers on the exposed lining, a beautiful pale lavender. He took his time, moving his hand so he could trail his fingernails on her smooth back, entranced by their movement against the ivory sea he so treasured. He flipped his hands over and gently worked the dress open so his fingers could play with her breasts as he wished.

 

For Claire, that was when she realized her teasing had won her a first-class ticket in the express elevator to Dante's ninth level of hell. She knew it was time to pay up, and dearly so. He rolled, twisted and finally pinched her breasts and nipples, holding each nipple tightly in his fingers, jerking in all directions, making sure it stung and burned. Jamie could tell by her wriggling and panting that she was fighting mightily to stay quiet, so he opened a small drawer and extracted a soft, small washcloth. He rolled it up tightly and offered it to her, rumbling,

 

“Would it help to bite on this, Sassenach?”

 

She nearly spoke, but remembered his warning just in time and nodded, submissively opening her mouth. He placed the roll in her mouth with care and made sure it laid straight or wasn't too far back. He ghosted two fingertips under her chin and tapped softly. She closed her mouth silently and he continued, cruelly harassing her breasts, all mildness and forbearance nowhere in sight. He wormed his graceful fingers under the shoulders of her dress, kneading and massaging her knotted muscles. Claire’s pussy dripped honey on her quivering thighs and flooded Jamie's kilt. She exhaled deeply, focusing on not groaning in pleasure. He moved his way down her back, drawing out tension everywhere he found it. He bypassed her bum and massaged her legs, his strong fingers making her loose like a ramen noodle. Claire was so relaxed she nearly started snoring. Just as her eyelids were migrating closed, she heard a faint “whoosh," and her ass exploded in fiery pain. She couldn't stop her muffled scream – “thank God she had the gag in,” she thought later when she could think coherently again. She attempted to quench the fire by grinding herself on Jamie's lap, but realized with an inward, “oh shit!” that the rough wool against her pussy was anything but soothing. Instead, her body's velvety soft skin and the fabric's stiff and scratchy texture was incredibly arousing. She ground harder, pushing her labia as far down as she could. Just as she was about to tip into oblivion, Jamie lifted her hips from his lap, tut-tutting,

 

“No, Sassenach, I'll decide if ye'll orgasm tonight, not ye,”

 

and held her aloft until her movements ceased.  A few seconds later, Jamie's hand crashed down on her untouched ass cheek, making her jump. He caressed her throbbing cheek with his palm, making Claire want to sigh in pleasure. A few minutes later, her ass was no longer angry red, but angry pink and erotically warm. He continued spanking her until each cheek had endured 10 strikes each.  Her ass was smarting and she unsteadily started to stand, but Jamie restrained her with his large hand, fingers splayed across her back. He reminded her that her lesson was to defer to him, thereby demonstrating her respect for him. She waited for the next punishment, which came soon enough.  He formed his hands into claws and raked them violently down her back, leaving burning red rivers in their wake. His wife wriggled and danced on his lap, the pain heightening her smoldering desire already ignited by the rough kiss of wool on her most sensitive skin.  He steadied her again and reached around to her labia majora, tracing his fingernail up and down, finally moving into her interior when he saw her need dripping onto his kilt. He massaged her, flicking her clit firmly, dragging his nails from bottom to top, eliciting a forbidden whimper from his love,

 

“Nae, Sorcha, no sound means no wee noises of any kind, ye ken that, and ye'll pay fer it, aye?”

 

He pulled on her clit, shaking and worrying it until he heard her labored breathing. He pinched it hard, and she ground herself on his lap, trying to distract herself and keep from crying out.

He knew she was close and angled his wrist so he could jam two fingers in her pussy. He sawed back and forth and her frenzied movements increased as she tried desperately to ignite  the final spark that would consume her. Jamie tut-tutted and removed his fingers but pressed her all the harder on his plaid, rendering her completely immobile. He pinched and scratched her ass, making sure it stung, and she whimpered softly. When Claire finally stopped writhing and carrying on, he hit her buttocks again and said,

 

“Mo neighan (my girl), this is yer last warning. If ye won't follow my instructions, ye'll get no climax, understand? Ye have 5 seconds, Sassenach.”

 

He released her head slowly and saw her nod, and smiled.  Jamie kept one hand on her back, reached around her and plunged two fingers of the opposite hand into her cunt, tapping out wild rhythms and scissoring her open. His digits sawed back and forth, completely hilting his long fingers in her, ever harder, until she was shaking. He finally crooked his fingers and felt her pussy ripple and contract. He groaned as her sweet wetness baptized him down to his knuckles.

 

After what seemed like time equivalent to the entire history of the Earth, Jamie finally allowed her to stand and encouraged her to perch herself on his bare knee. He looked into her eyes and drowned in their autumnal beauty. He removed the gag and stretched forward, capturing her beautiful mouth in his, trying impossibly to express all his love through the junction of their lips. She broke the kiss reluctantly, only because she desperately needed oxygen. He couldn't resist tonguing and loving on her beautiful breasts, rendering her speechless until she begged reprieve. They sat together with their foreheads touching for a few blissful moments.

 

He caged her hips in his hands, encouraging her to use his strong knee to get off. She smiled devilishly and lifted slightly off of him so she could spread her labia with her fingers and settle down again. He couldn't stop a guttural growl of arousal when her labia brushed his skin.  They both giggled because they felt his hair tickling her clit. He began guiding her rocking motions, pushing her down firmly on his solid muscles.  She was grunting and panting when she gasped, stiffened and grabbed his neck, demanding,

 

“Give me your luscious mouth, my most beloved!”

 

He raised an eyebrow at her but smirked and took her mouth roughly, covetously drinking in her taste, smell and sighs. The tiny brunette backed off his knee enough so he had to grip her ass so she wouldn't hit the floor. She ground against his kneecap in sensual, hedonistic abandon and moaned his name when a wave of sticky love flooded his kneecap. She slid off him, pushed his thighs apart and knelt at his feet.  She looked at Jamie, his mouth hanging open in need. He came to himself and urged her to rise, but she snapped, “No!” in the deepest, most commanding voice she could.   She smiled up at him, “just a minute, husband. I want to make sure you understand that tonight doesn’t negate that you belong to me. As your wife, it's my right to have you whenever and however I want,”  Claire sank her nails into Jamie's curls and harshly yanked his head back to expose his neck, making him hiss in surprise and not a little pain. She blanketed his neck in kisses and wet stripes, and he couldn't help submissively groaning out her name, begging,

 

“please, mo gràidh, ye know I'm yers!”

 

She stopped her ministrations and Jamie whimpered piteously,

 

“As such, I can be next to you, in front of you, behind you, astride you or underneath you when I take my pleasure, whenever and wherever it strikes my fancy. Are you clear on this?”

 

Jamie cleared his throat and very wisely rumbled,

 

“yes, Ma'am!”

 

“Good boy.” He had grabbed the cloth and wiped his knee clean, tossing it onto the counter. She leaned forward and picked up the cloth, rolling it into a gag and barked, “Open!” He obeyed and she placed it carefully in his mouth, and he moaned at her taste. She pinched his inner thigh savagely, making him hiss and pay attention to her, to focus,

 

“No noise, husband, do you understand?” He nodded and closed his eyes, which earned him her nails digging into his thigh, drawing a little blood. She hissed, “No!  Eyes open and watch  me!”

 

He did as he was commanded and watched as she sank to her knees with a smirk. She folded back his kilt so she could access his cock and balls as she desired. She sucked his balls into her mouth gently, rolling them with her tongue, first one, then the other, making sure to kiss and massage his scrotum, which made him whine. He was completely unprepared for the erotic scene playing out in front of him. His cock shone with her saliva and his precum, the head was turgid with excitement as she welcomed him with her velvet tongue and mouth.  She heard Jamie exhale nasally as quietly as possible, but his thighs trembled as he tried to stay quiet. His eyes rolled back into his head when she licked up and down his shaft, nibbling in each direction, cleaning him thoroughly. She took his cock gently into her hand, circling the root and gripping his shaft with increasing pressure. She reached up and took his gag out, kissing him chastely on the cheek.  She bent down and sucked his purple-red cockhead very firmly, hearing Jamie's helpless rumble of pleasure. He clenched his hands, bit his lower lip and trembled as a shock of hot energy skated over his spine, gasping as he emptied himself into her velvet mouth. 

 

She looked up at him then, her sun, moon and stars, exhausted but exhilarated. Jamie would never forget what came next,

 

“My love, you are the single most beautiful and important person in my life. You shelter my heart and soul within your own and you have made the world a safe place for me and our child. I was sure when we met that you would never be interested in me. Claire smiled a waterlogged smile and wiped at her eyes, “You have made me happier than I thought possible and there is no quantifiable system of measurement known to man that can come anywhere close to accurately illustrating how much I love and adore you.”

 

Both Frasers were crying openly after her speech. He helped her stand, and she flipped  her husband's tartan down and gave him a gentle kiss, tasting his and her tears on her lips. He gathered her in his strong arms and simply held her on his lap, their hearts beating together as one.

 

For the reception, they'd nixed the idea of a table on a dais as too pompous, but they had reserved seating where they had full view of the dance floor.  Jamie studied the candy bar, wondering if he had room for any of the lovely sweets. A loud discussion diverted his attention, though and he patted Claire's thigh to get her attention. It was Rupert and Elinor, Ian's and Jamie's blue-eyed blond-haired Administrative Assistant, discussing gaming consoles and peripherals quite heatedly,

 

“Fine, lass, let's discuss this at length, aye, so I can show ye how wrong-heided ye are! Are ye free Wednesday evenin', then? We'll meet at Giovanni's fer pizza at 6 p.m., if ye're agreeable to at least that, since ye're so stuck on the Tornado 5 setup, pfft,” he scoffed, but then smiled shyly.

 

Elinor, tiny in every way except her capacity for love and her mighty spirit, didn’t back down from the challenge issued by the (“quite fetching" she noted) mountain of hazel-eyed sun-kissed chestnut-blond hair and muscles in front of her,

 

“ME, wrong-heided? No way! Ye probably dinna know why the Tornado 5 is technically superior to the sloth-like X2000, but I'll be happy ta explain it to ye and use verra small words so ye understand me, aye? 6p.m., Wednesday at Giovanni's it is. Dutch treat, aye?

 

“Aye, lass! Say, would ye like to cut a rug? I'mma light on ma feet an' shouldn'a step on yer toes too much,” and he winked at her.

 

Elinor let out a cackling peal of laughter and took Rupert's hand gladly and they were soon dancing away to “Footloose” with the rest of the dancers.

 

Jamie approved of how Elinor seemed to soothe his friend, smoothing his rough edges. He'd never seen Rupert so happy. Elinor was happy that she'd finally found someone who was truly self-confident, comfortable in his own masculinity, a real man's man. He was not threatened at all by her feminism, which he actively encouraged, or her inner strength or strong opinions.  Two years later, the entire Fraser Clan attended Rupert and Elinor's late spring nuptials at the Frasers' Our Lady of Redemption. Brian and Ellen generously offered Lallybroch's garden as the reception venue. Two years after that, Rupert was the proud father of identical twin girls, Kaitlin Claire MacKenzie and Fiona Jacqueline MacKenzie. The girls were the spitting image of his cherished wife, crowned with thick honey-blonde hair and cornflower-blue eyes. Both had their Da securely wrapped around their tiny fingers within moments of their births. When the girls were three, Elinor gifted her besotted husband a son, followed by two more boys in as many years.

 

Claire caught sight of Angus, so dashing in his tartan. She nudged her redhead to look toward the dance floor. Taller than Jamie or Brian at 6’6" and impossibly broad-shouldered, black-haired green-eyed Angus was dancing very closely with another flame-haired person, Kailie Simonson, Claire's petite friend from radiology. Claire scoped out the woman's body language, and hoped her friend's interminable dry spell would end tonight. Kailie may not have realized it, but she and the man who dwarfed her kept moving closer to one another. Angus was an accomplished dancer despite his formidable size, she realized in surprise. Angus twirled Kailie gracefully around the floor and even dipped her, albeit quite carefully. With time, Jamie noticed with glee how his normally stern-looking, imposing friend would transform into a bashful mountain of goo around the 5’ redhead. As for Kailie, her Angus was her everything. She fussed over and spoiled him, because to her, he simply must have hung the moon and stars. They wed three years later. Four years after Claire and Jamie's wedding, Kailie gave birth to flame-haired Andrew Fraser MacKenzie Brodie, who dwarfed his Mam by his 10th birthday. They went on to be blessed with two girls and one more son. Andrew went on to wed his Uncle Rupert’s and Aunt Kailie's daughter, Fiona Jacqueline MacKenzie.

 

The deejay spoke up,

 

“Ladies and gentlemen, this next song is for Claire from her new husband!”

 

The crowd cheered when The Proclaimers' “I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)” started up, and Jamie looked at his lady and broke out in a grin that would put Apollo to shame. Claire let out an excited squeal and launched herself into her surprised groom's strong arms. They danced like that for the entire song, kissing, touching and drifting in their own universe.  A few more songs played and then the deejay called for everyone's attention,

 

“Ladies and gentlemen, the next song is for Jamie from Claire!” He beamed as  “Respect” from the Queen of Soul filled the room. Jamie laughed in glee at her choice of song, bowed to her and made her breathless with the pace he set on the dance floor.  

 

At 8 p.m., all the young children had left the reception, and the adults could enjoy more adult songs.  To kick it all off, Jamie led Claire to the stage. She was wondering what was going on until she spied a chair on the stage, and knew what would come next, but wondered which song would play. Jamie handed her into her chair, making sure she was comfortable. The deejay got everyone's attention and announced,

 

“Ladies and gentlemen, as you may know, Jamie and Claire met at Rupert and Angus' bar, and Jenny guilted her brother into participating in an extremely memorable karaoke performance with Claire,”  the crowd hooted and carried on, cheering for what would come next. “Well, as Jamie says, ‘fair's fair.’ The song Jamie's chosen is Bryan Adams' ‘I Want to be Your Underwear!” The crowd cheered as the raw guitar licks started.

 

Jamie loosened his black bow tie, undid some shirt buttons and began dancing for Claire as the singer’s sultry rasp filled the reception,

 

‘Oh! I wanna be your t-shirt when it's wet

I wanna be the shower when you sweat

I got to be the tattoo on your skin

You lemme be your bed, baby, when you climb in, yeah

 

He went down on his knees in front of her, unbuttoning his shirt the rest of the way, gently pressing her hands to his chest. She cheered with the crowd when he tore the shirt from his shoulders, baring his beautiful chest to her.

 

I wanna be the sheets when you sleep

Lemme be the secrets that you keep

I got to be the spoon to stir your cream

I wanna be the one that really makes you scream

 

Claire squealed as she saw her man releasing the plaid pinned to his shoulder, and growled in anticipation.

 

Yeah now, I wanna be your lipstick when you lick it

I wanna be your high heels, ah, when you kick it

I wanna be your sweet love babe, yeah, when you make it

From your feet up to your hair, more than anything I swear

I wanna be your underwear, ow!

 

Claire sat, open-mouthed and slack-jawed as her husband spun, dipped and shimmied his way through the song, even doing some one-armed pushups for her, switching arms mid-pushup. Her mouth watered when she saw his rock-hard shoulders and biceps ripple and flex and thought to herself, “That’s all for me. I get to enjoy that yummy later!” Suddenly, she wished desperately for the reception to be over. He stretched up to her and kissed her bringing her rudely out of her smoking hot fantasy. she laughed and blew him a kiss. He mimed putting it in a pocket, smirking at her.

 

Oh yeah, I wanna be the itch that you scratch

Wanna be your chair, when you relax

I got to be your razor, when you shave

Wanna be the habit that really makes you crave

 

He turned his back to her and thrust his beautiful ass towards her pelvis, whirled around and licked her lips, just enough to leave her longing for more.

 

Oh yeah, I wanna be your hot tub, when you’re dippin'

I wanna be your bathrobe, woah, when you’re drippin'

I wanna be your cocktail, baby, yeah, when you’re sippin'

I just wanna be right there, more than anything I swear

I wanna be your underwear, ah, you know what I mean, oh Yea! Owww! Yeah!

 

He knelt down again and leaned as far back leaned back as he could. Claire marveled when she saw that his head was actually touching the floor.

 

“My goodness,” she thought, “all this time and I didn't know he was quite that flexible!”

 

Claire couldn't help licking her finger and trailing it from his chest to his stomach. Jamie rolled his stomach muscles and made his 6-pack pop and shimmy for her. Jamie straightened again and clasped her hand gently, staring at her with his “undress me eyes,” kissing her knuckles. The crowd shouted in laughter and catcalls, chanting “Ja-mie! Ja-mie! Ja-mie!”

 

Yeah, I wanna be your sleepin' bag, baby slip inside

Lemme be your motorcycle, take you for a ride, alright

See what I’m sayin' yea

 

He smiled wickedly at her and mimed humping the air. He jumped up and mimed straddling her lap. Of course, he didn't actually settle his weight on her, but distributed part of his weight on the back of the chair. He flexed his powerful thighs and mimicked thrusting into her core.

 

Yeah, I wanna be your hot sauce, yeah, when you’re cookin'

I wanna be your sunglasses, hey, good lookin'

I want, I wanna be the one, yeah you stick your hook in

I just wanna be right there, more than anything, I swear

Oh yeah, I wanna be your underwear’

 

Right as the song was ending, he pulled her up, took her beautiful face in his hands and the fire of his possessive kiss left nothing in its wake except charred, smoking embers. He broke the kiss and whispered,

 

“Get ready, wife!”

 

She nodded and he dipped her just as he had in Rungus the night they'd been pushed together. He brought her up carefully and they acknowledged all the cheering, catcalling and applauding guests.

 

(Lyrics found on: https://www.lyricfind.com/  - A/N: I discovered that the site listed some of the lyrics incorrectly…like “coffee" instead of “cocktail" so I've corrected them as I've heard them. The “stick your hook in" lyric is something I can't figure out... If you realize I've misheard the lyrics, please correct me!)

 

 

At around midnight, Claire and Jamie stole away from the raucous party and headed to their honeymoon cottage on the far reaches of Fraser land. Brian and Ellen rented the cottage out as a getaway spot on “Air BnB” for a little extra income. Seven whole days of alone time, just the two of them. Rupert and Angus had excused themselves for a while and had kindly brought their luggage to the cottage. Laoghire and Mrs. Fitz had made sure to stock the kitchen with plenty of leftovers from the reception and overly generous slices of the enormous cake. Jasmine had made the bottom layer a not-too-sweet toasted coconut cake, the second layer was a pecan-studded yellow cake with cream cheese icing. The cake had a buttery brown sugar syrup laced through it, a nod to Claire's time in Alabama. The third tier was a blueberry and tart lemon cheesecake, Jamie's favorite. The top tier was a decadent, smooth dark chocolate, with crushed dark chocolate chunks in the cake itself. Everyone who ate the cake devoured it and remarked how delicious it was.

 

The house was stocked with anything they'd need. The two-bedroom, two-bath cottage was like out of a fairytale book, with whitewashed walls, massive timbers in the ceilings, a red roof and a blue door. It even had white flowerboxes at the front windows with cheerful riots of ivy and fuchsias spilling out of the boxes. Jamie lifted his beautiful bride in his arms and carried her carefully over the threshold. They entered the living room and Claire disappeared into the master bedroom. Jamie went straight to the fridge and got Claire some water and poured himself two fingers of Fraser's Special, neat. He set the drinks down on coasters on the coffee table and went to change into something more comfortable. He entered the bedroom and saw his new wife standing there, an ethereal cloud of blue silk perfectly encasing her lovely body. She wore her little high-heeled slippers Jamie loved, with a silk floor-length nightgown and a matching robe with delicate feather trim. He sucked in a breath, his mouth went dry and his cock woke up with a vengeance.  The new Mrs. Fraser had that look in her eye – she was hungry - and Jamie was the main course. A now-aroused Jamie smiled predatorily and approached Mrs. Fraser,

 

“God, Claire, ye are a fae fer real, it's true. Ye canna be real, lookin' as breathtakin' as you do now, aye?  Do ye know how much I want to kiss ye? May I, Mrs. Fraser?”

 

She looked at him and narrowed her eyes and smirked,

 

“”No you may not.” At his crestfallen look, she held up an index finger and added, “What you can do is let me show you how happy I am to be your wife. And, Mr. Fraser, don't think, even for a HOT SECOND about taking off your kilt or those fabulous boots! It's my wedding night and I have been having raunchy, naughty fantasies about what I'd do to you when I finally have you alone. Take off everything but your shirt, which you need to completely unbutton and remove your cufflinks. You may stand or sit on the edge of the bed. At no time are you allowed to touch me, do you understand? This is my gift to my husband.” Her eyes glittered and she arched a perfect eyebrow, growling seductively, “Will you submit to me and allow me to fulfill my fantasies, husband?”

 

Open-mouthed, Jamie stared at his wife and swallowed noisily, croaking out, “Yes, wife!”

 

He chose to stand. Claire stood in front of her new husband, looking every inch a hero from one of Joe's heaving bosom novels. She kissed him gently on one earlobe and then the other, switching to his neck, sucking softly, kissing him and finally gave in to her primal urge to mark him as hers. She laved a spot on his neck and latched on with her teeth, sucking hard enough to leave a bruise. Jamie hissed in arousal and Claire blew cool air on the darkening skin. She kissed and marked her way down his strong neck and he sighed quietly in pleasure. She stopped and took his face in her hands, whispering tenderly,

 

“leig dhomh aideachadh dhut, an duine agam (Let me adore you, my husband),”

 

Jamie gasped and Claire saw tears glimmering in his eyes at her use of his native language. He could not stop tears from slipping down his cheeks. She kissed them all away and buried her fingers in the curls at the nape of his neck, scratching ever-so-gently in a soothing pattern. She whispered calming words to him that were a balm on his heart already overflowing with tenderness for her. Claire ghosted her tongue over his enchanting lips, asking for entry. He gave it gladly, groaning as their tongues sparred heatedly, her kiss getting more and more demanding. She started licking and trailing her nails down his neck, making him shiver. She continued down his upper chest, playing with his nipples, pinching, twisting, rolling and tonguing them. His eyes rolled back in his head when she bit his nipples and he groaned. She slinked behind him and wrenched his shirt off of him. Jamie started in surprise but regained his composure until she kissed her way down his hard body, pulling a sharp gasp from him when she licked and bit along one of his ribs. She nibbled and bit her way down his torso, pausing to pinch him and suck hard or soft on his skin, deliciously salty after his earlier performance. stopping when she was at the waistband of his kilt. His hands came up as if of their own volition and he stuttered,

 

I-I'm so sorry Sorcha, I'm suffering with needin' to touch ye!”

 

She shook her head in mock disappointment, stepped away, and he whined in disappointment.

 

“I'm here to help you, love. Put your hands behind your back, please.” She got his belt that had secured his father’s sword, and, wise man that he was, he complied immediately, knowing it was best to let his woman simply have her way with him when she was in this type of mood. He brought his arms back and crossed his wrists. “After all,” he reasoned, smiling to himself, “it's not like I don't get off on it, and she doesn't hurt me, much.”  She wound it tightly around his wrists and fastened it securely. “Will that help?”

 

He nodded silently and she wrapped her hands around his upper arms, giving him a scorching kiss that simply undid him in its intensity, nearly making his knees buckle. When he could gather his wits again, he forgot about his bound hands and grunted in frustration when he couldn't take her in his arms. She licked his cheek saucily and got down on her knees, reaching underneath his kilt, pinching and massaging his beautiful ass, pleased when she felt him tremble,

 

“Oh, darlin', Ye're killin me, do ye know that?”

 

She giggled but said nothing, ducking underneath his kilt.

 

“Ohhh, you got waxed! You wonderful, considerate boy! You know how much I love this, darling, and it won't go unrewarded, I promise!”

 

Claire giggled and Jamie couldn't help chuckling, until she resumed moving down his thighs, pushing them apart so she could lick and bite her way up to his balls, licking, loving and kissing them. She took them into her mouth, laving and sucking on them while Jamie swore up a blue streak, trying desperately to fight against the black spots swooping and dancing before his eyes.  She enjoyed his groan and shout when she hummed loudly, then let them “pop!” out of her mouth. Claire ghosted delicate fingertips over them and barely grazed her nails over the surface. Jamie couldn’t take his eyes off of his wife's beautiful bum, slipping sensuously forward and backward in its glimmering silk sheath, just begging to be worshipped. She growled in approval and Jamie's breath hitched as the shivers, sparks and shudders were all amplified. He moaned weakly at the ticking sensation climbing up his spine and he smiled as he heard her muffled throaty giggle. She got back to business, though, and moaned warm breath all over his testicles. She grasped his sack and pulled steadily and gently, feeling Jamie's cock bob up and brush her cheek. Above her, Claire heard her husband beg throatily,

 

“Wife, please, I must touch ye!”

 

“Husband,” she answered, still under his kilt, her voice slightly muffled, “submit!”

 

Jamie grimaced and groaned, “Yes wife,” whimpering in surrender. To toy with him just a bit  longer, she walked her fingers up to the top end of his happy trail and raked her fingernails down and down, listening to the breathy sounds she was inspiring - and did it all again. The second go-round, though, she “caged" his penis in her nails and dragged them gently from his twitching, drooling cockhead down his entire shaft and then back up again. She used some of the soft feather trim on her peignoir to tickle Jamie's penis and slid the edge of her gown up and down his length, making her husband sigh at the softness contrasting with the slippery fabric.  She started jacking him off while licking his frenulum, making sure to make a complete circuit. She felt like the cat who'd swallowed the canary when she felt him shaking with the effort to keep his feet,

 

“Jamie, why don’t you sit down before you fall down?”

 

He breathed a sigh of relief,

 

“Aye, Sorcha. Good idea.” He sank onto bed and Claire resumed sucking on his spongy head, making him gasp and shiver with pleasure. She turned her full attention on his cock, using both hands to fondle its base and shaft and lick, suck and nibble on his cockhead.  Jamie couldn't stop himself from thrusting into her mouth, and Claire removed her hands, starting to fondle his balls again. She inhaled his cock and his eyes rolled back into his head. He gasped and writhed, moaning, “Sorcha, please, I'm very close. I dinna want to ruin yer dress, aye? Let me come inta my hand! Release me, I'm beggin' ye now!”

 

Claire pulled away from him, snorted in derision and said, “nothin' doin'!” He hissed as she inhaled him again and sucked his cockhead harder and impossibly farther into her greedy throat. She moaned and sank her cruel fingernails into his buttocks and pulled him closer. Jamie bellowed and tried to twist away from the warring sensations in his body, pleasure and pain, both ratcheting higher and higher at an unsustainable pace. His blood roared in his ears and he bucked helplessly in her mouth. He croaked out,

 

“Mo gràidh (sweetheart), Imma comin', please, I canna hold back any longer!” He thrust into her mouth just two more times and blew his load into her velvet mouth. His orgasm was so powerful that black spots danced before his heavily lidded eyes. Claire felt ropes of his hot come shoot into her mouth and moaned in arousal, feeling wetness leak from her pussy as she swallowed.

 

She slowly backed away from him and Jamie giggled at the sight of some of her errant curls popping haphazardly out from under his kilt. A few minutes later, he stood shakily and turned around so she could free him. He helped her up and hugged her, whispering into her hair,

 

“Thank ye lass, that was quite the wedding present!”

 

She grinned at her husband, and asked,

 

“Well, do you know the reason I did that?”

 

Jamie regarded her, curiosity piqued,

 

“Nay, my lady. Will you tell me?”

 

“Well, I was watching this video on YouTube about great comebacks for the question, “What’re you wearing under your kilt?” and the first on the list was, “Your wife's lipstick!” Claire's eyes grew wide and she chuckled low in her throat. Jamie laughed along with her and they helped each other undress. It was then she pointed in the mirror, he looked at his reflection and they laughed even harder – her lipstick decorated all parts of his lower body, in splotches, blotches and smears. They collapsed onto the bed in giggle fits, caressing and gently exploring each other with fingers, tongues and butterfly kisses.  Claire could feel Jamie hardening against her thigh and she felt her pussy contract in response. Jamie whispered,

 

“”Claire, mo chridhe (my heart), ye made me feel wonderful. May I return the favor?”

 

He kissed her passionately and when Claire came down from the kiss, she whispered, “Yes, husband, you may.”

 

He helped her to sit up and guided her to the massive dresser in the room. It was solid maple and had to be around 250 years old, probably a remnant from one of the cottage's first inhabitants, when the cottage itself was new. A mirror was fastened to the back and it spanned the length of the dresser. Jamie had Claire stop in front of the dresser and he placed his warm hand on her back, pushing her very gently to rest her torso on the dresser top. Kneeling, he inched her nightdress up and still farther up, drinking in each delectable inch of revealed skin. He pushed her legs apart and blew a warm stream of breath onto her labia, which he'd spread with his fingers. She gasped and moaned and he licked her labia, nibbling gently,

 

“Oh, Jamie, God, that's so good, ungggh,” Claire moaned.

 

He chuckled and kept tongue-fucking her, loving the feeling of her honeypot's sweet grip and the smell of her generous lubrication. He inserted two fingers in her pussy and slapped each butt cheek, marveling at how her snatch spasmed and his fingers were covered in her arousal. He let his teeth scrape her labia and she squealed, dancing on her tiptoes. He gently chastised,

 

“I know you can do better than that, love. Your pussy contracted when I spanked you and my fingers got soaked.”

 

Claire could only sigh and Jamie continued alternately finger fucking and tonguing her. She came with a scream after Jamie sucked on and pinched her clit. She made a move to rise off the dresser, but Jamie held a restraining hand on her back, whispering into her ear,

 

“Nay, wife, dinna move. I've not had all my fun yet, aye?” And we haven consummated the marriage yet, have we?”

 

“Oh, you're right, Jamie. Is marriage consummation still a requirement? I've felt like your wife for so long I never thought of consummating the marriage.”

 

Jamie’s eyes swept up and down her beautiful form and he felt his need for her grow into an inferno. She was his -  his,  and he knew, a luckier man didn't walk the face of the earth. He stroked his cock tip in her wetness and pushed into her with one ferociously passionate thrust, growling into her ear,

 

“Yer mine, now and forever, my wife, mo neighan donn, aye?” He roughly sank his fingers into her hip and started a steady rhythm of thrusting, punctuated with fluttering his fingers on her mons and labia.

 

Claire whined and turned her head back for a kiss and whispered in perfect Gaelic,

 

“Tha, cèile mo ghràidh! (Yes, my beloved husband).”

 

Jamie was so surprised at her perfect pronunciation and inflection he actually stopped and tears filled his eyes for the second time that night. She'd learned that and obviously practiced, just for him. He took a cleansing breath and murmured,

 

“You honor me, Claire, mo ghràidh (my love).” She kissed him, not gently at all, and it lit a fire in his belly and down to his toes. She brusquely ordered,

 

“Do your marital duty, husband. Fuck your wife as hard as you want and don't hold back!”

 

The petite brunette laid her cheek on the cool dresser. She couldn‘t believe he'd chosen her. He could have had any woman he wanted and he'd chosen her, plain old Claire.  She hoped that the language of ownership and pride would go straight to his heart – and his cock. Claire got her wish as as he reentered her, hitting her cervix on his first stroke. She was still feeling the initial stretch from his entry and moaned in appreciation of his ramrod-stiff cock,

 

“Ohhhh, Jamie, baby, yes! Pleasure yourself!”

 

He said nothing, but a positively feral growl escaped his throat.  He set up a punishing pace, rolling and snapping his hips and using her shoulders for leverage, pulling her onto his cock,  slamming ever-deeper into her ravenous, drooling snatch and he felt sweat bead at his hairline. He flattened his hands palms-up and slid them under her breasts, alternately massaging and pinching her breasts and pebbled nipples.

 

Jamie abandoned her breasts and plunged two fingers inside her pussy, curling them just right. Claire felt her orgasm start deep in her body and it built and built until she panted,

 

“Fuck! Jamie, love, I'm coming! Skewer me on your cock again, please,” she begged.

 

Jamie did better than that. He bent forward and bit down hard at the junction of her neck and shoulder, sucking licking and groaning, past caring that he was furrowing a welt into her delicate skin. He clutched her shoulders again and slammed them so hard together that their pubic bones collided with a dull “crunch!” providing Claire with the vibration she needed to soar.

 

“Jaaaaaaam-" she choked on his name and writhed underneath him, coming with a long, drawn-out, high-pitched wail that made his eardrums ring.  His hips stuttered at her scream and he only had to pump into her twice more before he saw black specks around the periphery of his vision and hoarsely shouted, “Claire!” and collapsed against her. 

 

He collected himself and slipped out of her. He put his hands underneath her shoulders and pulled, gently helping her to stand and turn around. They clung to each other, sated and exhausted but overjoyed that the wedding was finally over. He swept her up, depositing her in front of the over-large shower. She adjusted the water and got in, holding her hand out to him in invitation. He stepped up gladly and set about washing her body carefully, being extra-gentle when he cleaned her sex and breasts. She shampooed her hair and deep-conditioned it and turned her attention to Jamie. She knelt in front of him and washed him with equal care, moving down his calves until she could massage his feet and wash them. She moved up and washed the rest of him as he had done with her. She washed and conditioned his hair and he sighed when she thoroughly rinsed him from his head downward.  They toweled themselves down and blotted their hair dry.  They made short work of changing the sheets and cuddled for a while until they fell fast asleep, Jamie spooning Claire.

 

They slept late, hiked, read, ate tons of leftovers and cooked together when those were gone. They read, snuggled on couches and watched movies, hiked and fished and made love in the sun-warmed grass of a nearby field. Other houses and people were miles away, so they could sunbathe in their altogether, lying on a thick picnic blanket with fingers intertwined, feeling very indulgent at being able to sun each part of their bodies. Jamie loved seeing Claire's bump with the sun shining on it. He knew that you pick up vitamin D from the sun and loved the shadow his hand cast in the evening on his as-yet-unrevealed offspring.

 

The rest of the honeymoon passed in a blur. For both, it seemed like they had just arrived and their week was already gone. The both of them had wisely taken an extra three weekdays off after their cottage-time so they could ease back into real life.

Chapter Text

 

Claire and Jamie were in bed one Saturday morning and she was sipping her decaf, he, his regular coffee. They were both resting their hands on her bump when Jamie's eyes went wide,

“Christ, Sassenach! I just felt Miracle Max move!”

“Oh, love, that's wonderful,” squealed Claire. She kissed him deeply, but gently, and felt his tears on her lips. She ended the kiss and whispered,

“Hey, Da, come here,” 

She hugged him close and smiled broadly at him. When he heard her call him “Da,” he started crying harder,

“Och, mo leannan (my love), ‘tis only tha' ye've made me the happiest man on the planet. It was a wee bit overwhelmin', feelin’ the baby move for the first time, is all.”

“Yes, I know. An overwhelming miracle, sweetheart.”

They snuggled together for a bit longer, Jamie's head resting underneath Claire's shoulder. She loved this kind of day, where they could just be together. She kissed his head and said, 

“Honey, can I assume you're going to make sure that all of our children are fluent in written and spoken Gaelic? You and I hadn't really talked about it, but it's very important to me.”

“Aye, Sorcha, I'll take care o' that,” he said, beaming a radiant smile at her. “Mam and Da and the rest of the family will be happy to help out. Are ye goin' ta teach him or her French, as well?”

Claire smiled,

“Absolutely. Suzette and Hildegarde will help us, too, I'm sure of it. I've also heard that the primary school is planning on offering Saturday Gaelic school, so that may be a thing for our kids, too.“ 

Jamie smiled to himself when he heard her say “children.” He’d been pretty sure that Claire didn't want to have just one child, because her childhood was sometimes very lonely without a sibling to play with.

“Sassenach, do ye mind if I call my parents and tell them about the baby movin'?”

She grinned and said, “Nope! I'm going to get dressed and go make bacon, eggs and toast for you and me.” She waited for another few seconds until Jamie was dialing his parents to actually get out of bed. She could hear the exact moment when he looked up and saw her shaking her hips on the way to the bathroom, because of the sharp, aroused hiss that scorched the air between them. She glanced over her shoulder at him, giggling and blowing kisses. Then, she lowered the boom – she faced him and stretched as high as she could, then turned around and slowly gave herself a good calf stretch by planting her palms flat on the floor, and giving him an excellent view of his favorite part of her anatomy. Just as she straightened up and went to step into the ensuite, she heard Jamie's flustered apology to his Da and then the clatter of his cell phone on the bedside table. He kicked off the covers and launched himself at her, capturing her around her waist, growling in her ear,

“Och, ye sly vixen, look what ye made me do – I had to hang up with Da! And ye'll pay fer it!”

He pressed her back to his front and started playing with her breasts, squeezing, rubbing and massaging them, rolling, stroking and pulling her pinpoint-hard nipples until he felt her shiver and heard her moan,

“Please, no more, Jamie, it's too much!”

She tried to pull down his arms, but he simply pulled her arms back, trapped both hands in one of his and the relentless punishment continued. He added to her torment by licking and biting at her neck, making sure to suck underneath her earlobe so vigorously that she'd have a bruise later.  His free hand moved down her torso with feather-light touches, making her gasp and wriggle, trying to escape, but he just held her wrists more firmly. He circled her entire mons, but never gave in to what she really wanted. She writhed, grinding her ass on his cock, now fully at attention,

“Mo neighan donn (my brown-haired girl), if ye make me come with yer enchanting little dance, the punishment will be increased, aye?” 

He reached into the drawer and pulled out the long rawhide length and securely tied her hands behind her.  Claire was too lost in sensation to fully comprehend what Jamie had just said. Realizing this, he bit her neck and sucked on it, simultaneously moving them towards their bed,

“Alright, sweetheart, lie down on yer stomach on my lap and spread those beautiful legs,” Jamie commanded.  

Claire did as ordered, groaning when she felt his erection. He settled her as he wished and, without warning, spanked her bottom with one hand and shoved two fingers of the other into her dripping pussy, making sure to curl them one after another. He kept spanking her, alternating cheeks. He never stopped his sawing movements with the other hand and Claire shrieked when he hit her G-spot,

“Oh God, Jamie, oh Jesus, dammit, that feels so good, unnnngh!” He drew his fingers out and started teasing her labia with feather-soft strokes, murmuring to his love in the language of his ancestors. He kept spanking her until her ass was beet-red and she was panting. He fisted her hair, lifting her head up towards his face, 

“So, wife, are ye ready to apologize for what ye did earlier?”

She whined and struggled, and he waited patiently for her reply. Finally, she croaked out, 

“No.”

Jamie growled in such a low tone that it sent a shiver down her spine and exploded into her honeypot, 

“No what, mo chride (my heart)?”

Claire whispered, 

“No, Sir.”

Without another word, Jamie helped her upright and deposited her gently on her back,

“Your punishment continues, then.”

He carefully lifted her legs onto his shoulders and slammed into her, making her squeal with the force and the burn of her bum against the bedsheets. He set a vigorous pace and stretched along her length to steal passionate kisses. He played with her breasts, biting and laving them quite hard, making her hiss.

He felt his orgasm building, and moved his attention to her clit, stroking and rubbing it. Claire bucked underneath him. Seeing her like this, so untamed and fierce would have been a breathtaking experience on its own. Knowing he'd put his child in her belly? That was a completely different facet of the same gemstone and it was all the more beautiful, sparkling fire, raindrops and love, mysterious and precious. He looked at her, himself and their relationship in a completely new way. She chose him, Jamie, as her partner and the sire of her offspring. She could have had any man, he knew. Thank God she'd chosen him. She alone had graced him with the title of Da and changed their relationship from simply “husband and wife" to “husband, wife, father, mother, child, cousin, niece or nephew and grandchild.” How would he ever thank her? 

Underneath him, she moaned in need.  He chuckled and said,

“I know ye want to come, love. Weeeeeel, mayhap ye should have had that in mind before destroying my concentration earlier, don' ye think?” 

He continued to push into her, feeling his balls start to draw up and grunted out,

“Claire, mo ghaol (my love), I want ye to come with me. He breathed out carefully, trying to prolong the incredible sensations running amok through his body. He whispered his fingertips gently around her clit, but never took her to her peak, making her growl with impatience and try to rub herself off on his hard cock,

“Jamie! I need to come!” she shouted hoarsely.

He reached over her body and stilled his movement, grabbing her throat and squeezed very lightly, staring icy blue daggers,
 
“O bean cho dùbhlanach eas-umhail! (Oh, my defiant, disobedient wife!)” He started pulling out of her,

“Sorcha, ye know better than to give me orders. Address me properly and ask nicely for what ye want, or I'll leave ye like this, unfulfilled, aye? An’ I'll watch ye an' make sure ye remain that way until I get a proper apology. Don' think I won't, a neighan (girl),” his eyes narrowed into dangerous blue slits.  

She inhaled through her nose and out through her mouth, cleared her throat and whispered, 

“Please, Sir, will you let me come? I'm sorry about being so rude and wrecking your concentration earlier. Please forgive me.”

Jamie murmured, “Is e sin mo nighean umhail (that's my obedient girl)" and slammed back into her with all his might, making Claire grunt with the force of the blow and involuntarily inch backwards from the force. He grunted in satisfaction, pumping inside her again. He gave her a scorching hot kiss on the lips that made her stomach flip and her pussy contract. He groaned when her pussy strangled his eager cock and continued fondling her, looking into her eyes and rumbling,

“Ah, mo neighan donn (my brown-haired girl), ye're pleasin' me so. I won't last long, and I do want you to come with me. Can ye do that?”

She whined and her answer came breathily – so much so, he almost wasn't sure he'd heard it, 

“Yes, Sir, I can. Please, make me come, my beloved.”

He captured her lips in one last kiss that exploded in his brain like a million shards of crystal and he wondered briefly if he would pass out. The same kiss infused her blood with heat, love and reckless abandon. He played with her clit and then pinched it between his rough thumb and forefinger. He thrust one last time and marveled at her desperate wail of utter fulfillment as her uterus fluttered wet love around his cock. He felt his spunk coat her insides and roared in in pride and relief.

As the months passed, Jamie saw with tenderness and pride how the baby grew and grew, turning his once-slender wife into a staggeringly voluptuous, even curvier, Venus. Her breasts, - Jesus, Mary and Joseph. If they'd enticed him before, he couldn't even think of his wife now, much less touch her, without his amorous cock wanting to come out and play with an alarming (and sometimes embarrassing) sense of urgency. Her hips were even more soft than previously, her skin a wondrous playground for his lips, tongue and fingers. He made himself take a calming breath and count to ten when a torturous image of her beautiful behind distracted him. “St. Michael defend us, it happens a lot more often these days,” he thought wryly.  these days. He’d never entertained the idea that her ass could get more sexy, but he thanked God, Jesus, Shiva, Buddha and The Prophet, all the deities, really, that her ass was even more round and sweet and edible now. It was like she was a gluttonous buffet consisting only of desserts, each one better than the one before, every morsel laid out for him alone. He’d briefly considered bringing an icepack to work to ahem, help himself. To touch any part of Claire now made his breath stutter and his fingers almost tremble. There’d been more than one time where he was focusing on work and an image of her spectacular body crushed his concentration like Tokyo under Godzilla's foot, and he'd have to go to the loo to get that particular monkey off his back so he wouldn't cream his pants like a 14-year-old boy. All Jamie could see was how there was even more of his woman to love and it made his heart pound with need, dangerous possessiveness and utter, self-centered, gonad-driven desire. He vowed selfishly to impregnate HIS Sassenach as often as she'd allow, just to see this extraordinary beauty again and again. He came home at night and gladly massaged her calves and feet with her favorite soothing oil, drinking in her appreciative breathy kisses, moans and sighs.

On one of these particular evenings, she lay boneless on the couch, and demanded Jamie come to her so she could thank him proper-like. She kissed all around his face, her breathy kisses enticing a childlike burbling giggle from her enormous man. She finally reached his mouth, kissing the corners and the center of his lips, journeying downward to his chin cleft. Jamie was certain that the heavenly father had shaped it so only Claire's tongue fit it perfectly. A perfect gift for his perfect woman. She started sucking on it, eliciting a growly moan from her husband. She smiled evilly and continued kissing and laving his jawline and then his neck, sucking here and there and on other places, depositing velvet and silk butterfly kisses to cash out later. He cursed and she worked her way back to his mouth slowly, finishing the thank-you with a bone-deep kiss that claimed his mouth and launched him into outer space.  When he opened his eyes, he realized he'd forgotten where they were and had to re-orient himself. 

He wasn't the only person who appreciated her blossoming beauty. When they were out, he saw women admiring her skin and her shiny, healthy hair. A few even approached her shyly and asked if she had a particular skin-care regimen. He’d stand a bit back and enjoy her “holding court," giggling and laughing with the other ladies.  Many times, she received compliments on her hair and outfits as well, many ladies wishing for her that the baby would inherit her eyes, his hair color and her curls. What made his green-eyed monster the angriest, though, was when he saw males glancing at her appreciatively, looking his mate up and down. He remained polite, except when some fools stared too long or got too close. It was those times when he “ran interference,” as he liked to call it. 

On one late Saturday, Murtagh, Suzette, Jenny, Ian, Claire, Brian, Ellen and he were heading to dinner at their favorite hole-in-the-wall pub, “The Laird's Hearth.” The pub was 100% family-owned by the Lesleys and had been since 1739. Aindreas MacAllan “Mac" Lesley was the current owner. Tall and burly, he had hazel-green eyes and a generous bottom lip that was often curved up in a charming smile for his customers. Mac ran the establishment with his best mate, Gavin Hayes, a friendly, slightly rotund blue-eyed blond with a heart of gold and an even temperament. They'd known each other since before kindergarten – their mothers had met in a babysitting co-operative and both had been in Ian and Jenny's class in school. The Fraser-Murray gang made their way into the pub and both Gavin and Mac politely greeted Brian and Ellen first, with hugs and back-slaps for Murtagh, Ian and Jamie and kisses on the cheek for Suzette, Jenny and Claire. Both men congratulated Claire on how well she looked and gave Jamie friendly winks before Hayes ribbed him, “Weel, Jamie, let's hope the bairn has Claire's brains AND looks, eh?” Claire laughed and Jamie mock-snarled a “shut-it!” to his old friend, clapped him on the shoulder and broke out in a grin.

The Fraser-Murrays took over a large table and settled down to order a bit of dinner. Mac personally attended them, and brought a variety of soft drinks for the table, as well as a couple of bowls of pretzels and peanuts to snack on while they waited for their food. They joked and laughed, Claire regaling everyone with humorous anecdotes. She giggled when she relayed a story Hildie told her about a brand-new father, a German man with a Scots wife. He'd been so anxious to hold his child he'd not waited for her to be diapered, and the baby had duly christened him. He just laughed and burst into happy tears and snifflingly told Hildie that in his language, a newborn is referred to as being “newly hatched,” which made everyone in the room laugh out loud. 

As their food arrived, Jamie couldn't help stealing some of Claire's scorchingly hot, delicious fish and cottage-style chips (U.S. - fries) coated in salt, black pepper, garlic and freshly grated  parmesan. Claire’s appetite was growing with the circumference of her stomach and Jamie and the family were relieved that it wasn't as difficult to convince her to eat. Claire duly angled her spoon and went in for the kill, filching a large bite out of his hearty shepherd's pie. Sharing food when eating out was a Fraser tradition, as everyone was sharing bites with one another.  Claire excused herself to use the restroom and made her way to the back of the pub carefully, skirting other patrons. Of course, there was a line for the ladies,' – (isn’t there always?) so Claire stood patiently in line with everyone else just behind a broad column she'd have to go around to reach the restroom. Just as the line inched forward, the door to the men's opened and out walked Stephen Bonnet. Claire sucked in a breath, realizing that she'd not been seen yet. She pivoted so that her back would be to him when he rounded the corner. She heard his footsteps behind her and hoped he'd just walk on by. But, of course, he couldn't do that. He stopped behind her and asked,

“Claire? Is that you?” 

She turned around and nearly bumped noses with him, he was so close. She attempted to step back but was blocked by other people. He smiled at her and glanced down to her stomach. To Claire's horror, the slimy git planted his hand on her stomach like it fucking belonged there and said, “I see congratulations are in order, my dear!” Claire stared at him, adrenaline starting to course wildly through her body. The baby kicked, seemingly annoyed at the excess pressure of the intruder and Bonnet laughed delightedly,

“Well, he knows his Uncle Stephen! Imagine that!” 

Claire hissed, 

“Stephen, you need to remove your hand this instant. I do not want you touching me!” Claire was very distressed but still trying not to create a scene.

Bonnet winked at her and said, 

“Surely you don't mean that, luv.”

Her eyes narrowed and she growled, 

“I certainly do mean it. Take your hand off me!” Claire shrank back from him, bending her knees slightly, willing to try anything to lessen the odious contact. Just at that moment, Jenny looked up and saw her sister's golden eyes pleading with her. She paled, gulped and patted Jamie frantically on the arm, 

“mo bràthair, seall (brother, look)!” 

Jamie looked up and then over at Claire. All the blood drained from his handsome face when he saw what was happening to HIS English rose. A dark, thunderous shadow passed over his face and his handsome face twisted as if in a hurricane, reshaping itself into a never-seen, demonic iteration of her brother. Jenny gasped quietly when she saw his eyes, dark and stormy clouds mixed with annihilating, possessive fury. She prayed for the life of the fool that was touching his wife, hoping Jamie wouldn't literally kill him. She'd never seen him like this about any other woman, only Claire. Instantly, he transformed into a Highland warrior of old, ready to defend his lady's honor. He stood and Jenny could swear he became larger, his huge hands flexing, barely keeping his temper in check. Jenny was relieved that Da's sword and dirk were nowhere near Jamie right now.  She remembered Da's boxing lessons he'd insisted they all take part in, especially Jenny.  Brian had even taught his daughters-in-law how to defend themselves. He looked at Claire and put a finger to his lips. She blinked slowly, signaling she understood what was going to happen. Ian saw the look on his brother's face and took up Jamie's right, as he always had. Ian communicated silently with a look at Brian, who nodded quickly and took up Jamie's left. The three shared a grim look of determination and all knew what they had to do. They were all taller than Claire's assailant by at least a head and much broader in the chest. The three men crept silently to Bonnet, who was facing away from them and certainly didn't hear them coming. Jamie snarled, 

 “Bonnet, I'll thank ye to take yer hands off mah wife!” 

Jamie’s accent was strong and Claire could feel the rage rolling off him in great ugly waves. She glanced over at Ian and saw dark, barely leashed chaos on frightening display in his normally sunny countenance. Brian's protective streak had awoken and was baying for satisfaction, his  incandescent paternal fury mirrored in his red, blotchy skin and clenched fists, his eyes sparking a dangerous dark blue.

Bonnet reluctantly removed his hand as Jamie circled around him. Bonnet felt Jamie's enormous hand grip his neck none too gently,

“Come wi' me, mate, let's go get some air, aye?”

Jamie's grip never slackened and he and Ian “helped" Bonnet out the back door into the dank, dirty alleyway behind the pub.  Murtagh followed them quickly. Brian hugged Claire and she grabbed him around the waist in a panicked hug and sobbed, wetting his chest. His eyes moistened with tears and he simply held her gently, murmuring soothing Gàidhlig words in her hair as he'd done with all his children when they were frightened. He swore he'd finish the bastard if Jamie'd let him. When she'd calmed somewhat, Brian delivered Claire to Jenny, Suzette and his wife, kissing her gently on the cheek,

“Dinna fash, lass. That bastard will never touch ye again, I guarantee it.” 

Ellen, Suzette and Jenny each hugged Claire and Mac and Gavin brought over water and beers along with large cup of warm house-made macaroni and cheese for Claire, on the house.  They both apologized profusely to Claire – they hadn't seen what was going on. Gavin was pale and shaking and Mac looked like he might burst out crying. They both swore Bonnet would never darken the pub's doorway again. His picture would go up in the “Mac na Galla-ry (the son of a bitch)” Hall Of Shame, where pictures hung of all the people who'd lost the right to frequent the pub. Jenny held Claire and rocked her gently until she was really done crying.

Brian asked the ladies to stay seated and to try to relax.  He slipped out the back door and found his sons in the dark, holding Bonnet, who was attempting to suave his way out of his  predicament. He swore he’d just meant well. Brian took Jamie's place at Bonnet's side. Murtagh took a lookout position, ready to hurry any rubber-neckers along, should they get too curious. Jamie rounded on Bonnet and ground out, 

“That's the last time ye'll ever lay hands on my Claire, Bonnet. If we ever see you within 5 kilometers (a kilometer is .62 miles) of her or the rest of my family again, we'll kill ye. We have a lot of land, ken? Miles and miles of dark, dense woods. Your rotting corpse will never, ever be found. What ye did to my wife is assault, and I'll be calling the police in a little bit, here. First, though, I want to make sure you truly understand how serious I am. Da, Ian, let the bastard loose.” 

Just as Bonnet was free and attempting to straighten his clothes, he just couldn’t stop himself and snarked, 

“Yeah, Fraser, I understand, alright? I'll just take my leave of,” he sneered,  ye fine gentlemen.”  He took a step away, but turned back to Jamie, Ian and Brian one last time, because he just couldn't help himself, “Ye know, though, I'm not sure Claire minded my touch so much. She wasn't fightin' very hard to remove my hand,” and he smiled a lopsided, hateful smile. 

Later that evening, Jamie could not recall what happened after that. All he saw was red and felt ice-cold hate freezing everything in his body inch by inch, except for his murderous fists. Blood screamed in his ears and his heart beat in an angry rhythm. He felt nothing and heard nothing, save for the all-consuming desire for vengeance. He roared and plowed a rock-solid haymaker (a very powerful punch) into Bonnet's face, who crumpled to the ground like discarded Christmas wrapping paper. He hauled Bonnet up and leaned him against the pub's brick exterior,

“Which one?”

Bonnet, confused, stammered, 

“Which one what, Fraser?”

“Which filthy hand touched my wife and child, ye bastard?”

Bonnet whispered, 

“My left. I touched her with my left hand.”

He yanked Bonnet's hands into the moonlight until he found what he was looking for, grinding out,

“D’ye remember what happened to ye the last time ye tried to touch Claire? Weel, the man who took care of you that night is a verra good friend of mine and he’s my wife’s best friend!” 

Bonnet paled, flushed hot with panic, which was replaced by cold sweat beading his face. Hoarsely he whimpered and futilely tried to break away, but Brian and Ian surrounded him.

“Please, no, Fraser. I'm sorry. I’ll never come near Claire or your family again, I promise! Please,” he whined, “have mercy.” 

“Mercy?” Jamie growled and his stomach tightened into knots of anxiety, “And where was yer mercy fer mah wife and our unborn bairn tonight, Bonnet? Ye frightened her badly,” and he shuddered, suddenly ice-cold, “the stress could have sent her inta early labor, which might have killed our firstborn, aye?” 

Without another word, Jamie grabbed Bonnet's still-perfect left hand and Ian roughly covered Bonnet's mouth to muffle his screams. Brian stood in front of Bonnet so he couldn't escape. Jamie slammed Bonnet’s perfect hand quickly and brutally into the bricks, over and over again, until all that was left of his hand looked like it had been put through a meat grinder and then driven over by a tank. Bones and cartilage were protruding from his hand crazily as if they’d just forgotten to knit together. 

Brian could see that Bonnet was about to faint and placed a strong hand on his shoulder
and tried to speak to his son, but realized Jamie was so white-hot focused on making Bonnet pay that he couldn't hear him at all. He spoke louder and shook his enraged son's shoulder, 

“Mo mhac, ye've done a fine job teachin' this scum a lesson. It's time to let me and Ian take over, aye? Go wash yerself off with that garden hose over yonder and I'll call for a car an' an ambulance. I think Ernie's workin' tonigh', so I'll ask him to roll up silent-like.” 

Jamie grunted and released Bonnet, satisfied when the man fluttered away from him like a dead leaf and hit the pavement with a stomach-churning thud.  

Ernie MacDowell was a friend of Brian and Ellen's from years back and had risen to become chief of police in Broch Mordha. He and Brian got together with Ian's dad and some other men to play poker about once a month. Ernie's wife, Annie was the owner of Jenny and Ellen's favorite yarn shop. Ellen had made sure to introduce Laoghire and Geilis to Annie's Yarn Basket as well.  Sure enough, Ernie’d taken the call himself and came up the street without his lights or  siren. He got out of his car and greeted Brian warmly. He peered at Bonnet, lying haphazardly on the ground, a wet stain covering his crotch from his impact on the ground, clutching his bloody hand. He asked carefully, 

“And what do we have here?”

Jamie came outside and nodded grimly to the police captain,

“Hullo, Ernie. Weel, this mac na galla (son of a bitch) put his hands on my wife, Claire. When we came outside ta discuss his unacceptable behavior, the puir bastard tripped over his shoelaces, fell hard and tore his hand all to hell on the rough pavement and some broken glass. Isn't that right, Stephen?”

Bonnet cracked one eye open and nodded weakly,

Ah, yes, Mr. Fraser, ‘tis right. Shouldn’ta touched Mrs. Fraser, but I was so happy to see her, I forgot myself. As ye can see, I landed terrible hard on my hand and shredded it to bits.” 

Ernie nodded gravely and asked, 

Mr. Bonnet, did Mrs. Fraser ask ye to stop touchin' her?” 

“Yes, she did, but I didn't listen.” 

Ernie looked meaningfully at Brian, 

“Brian Dubh, can ye please go get Jamie's wife so I can take her statement? It would cause a stramash for a uniformed officer to enter the pub.” 

Ernie saw Jamie open his mouth to protest that he could retrieve his wife fine and well, but Ian gave him a warning look and shook his head. A few minutes later, Claire came outside, with her hand on Brian's forearm for support. Jamie gathered her tenderly into his arms and hugged her. Claire sagged in his arms, holding Jamie so tightly he was wondered if he'd bruise. But no matter - she was safe and the family had helped protect one of their own. Claire's sobs were muffled by Jamie’s broad shoulder and neck.  Jamie rubbed her back and whispered to her in Gaelic. The other men turned their backs respectfully to give Jamie and Claire privacy. Murtagh turned briefly and glared at Bonnet, daring him to say anything so he could get a couple of good licks in. Ian did the same and literally growled at the prostrate man, warning him to be quiet. Murtagh positioned himself next to Ian so Claire couldn't see the extent of Bonnet's injuries. The ambulance rolled up without fanfare and the EMTs got to work, hooking up a saline drip with strong painkiller. They placed Bonnet on the stretcher, placed an oxygen mask over his nose and mouth, wrapped his hand, covered him with a blanket and strapped him securely to the gurney. Before they loaded him in the back of the vehicle, Ernie snapped one handcuff to the gurney rail and the other bracelet on his uninjured wrist. The men loaded him up and left for the hospital, as quietly as they’d come.

When Claire had quieted, Ernie introduced himself,

“Mrs. Fraser, can ye please tell me what happened?” 

Claire clutched her husband's hand and recounted the whole mess. Ernie took off his cap and let the cool breeze flutter through his thinning hair,

“Aye, so ye definitely told Bonnet his touch was unwelcome and he ignored yer wishes? Is that about the long and short of it?”

Claire smiled and nodded affirmatively, 

“yes, Chief MacDowell, that's right.”

Ernie turned toward Jamie, Ian and his old friend and addressed the man who dwarfed him now, unable to stop the memory of him at a month old, swaddled and held lovingly by Ellen Ruaidh (Red Ellen, Jamie's mother, so-named because of her hair). 

“Jamie, be a good lad an' escort yer beautiful wife to yer table, alright?” 

Jamie guided Claire inside and returned to the men. Ernie smiled at Jamie and said softly,

“Seumas mac Eilidh Ruaidh, tha thu nad dhuine fortanach, (Jamie, son of Red Ellen, ye're a verra lucky man).”  Jamie blushed a hot scarlet to the tips of his ears and smiled,

“Tha, tha mi nam dhuine glè fhortanach, Ernie (Aye, that I am, Ernie).”

“An’ Brian Dubh, shame on ye that ye didn't tell me sooner ye and yer lovely wife are waitin' on a new Fraser grandchild!” Brian blushed as hotly as his son.

“Murtagh, how are ye an' yer fine lady?”

Murtagh grunted, 

“We're braw, Eddie, thank ye.”

“An’ Ian, how’re Mrs. Murray and the wee Murrays?

“Och, they're all grand, Ernie, thank ye. And you and yers?”

“Fine, all fine, thank ye. So,” Ernie bounced on the balls of his feet, a smile coming out of hiding, eyes sparkling like water dappling a loch at sunset and Brian grinned to himself. Ernie never looked that unless he found something particularly amusing, or thought he was about to drop something he thought was very canny on his audience, 

“Ye are all of one accord that no violence was perpetrated against Mr. Bonnet, aye? All four o' ye saw him trip and injure his hand, is that right?”

The men all grinned and said, “Aye!”

Ernie chuckled,

“Good lads. Weel, then, I'll go arrest Bonnet for assault when he's awake. He injured himself by accident, so there'll be no other charges to file.” Ernie, Murtagh and Brian stood together for a few more minutes, catching up on their lives. They agreed the next poker match was to be at Ernie's and Ellen, Suzette and Annie could escape their men and maybe go out to dinner.

As Jamie came back inside, he smiled as he saw his wife with large bowl of warm cranachan à la mode (cranachan is a dessert and “à la mode” indicates that ice cream is served as well). He sat down with her and shared her dessert.

The ambulance rolled into the emergency bay and the EMTs made quick work of escorting Bonnet inside, directly into the emergency room, “Caucasian male, 35, left hand injury, multiple fractures. He says he tripped. Oh, and the chief himself is coming along later. Criminal investigation, assault. Patient is suspected of assault.” The attending came over, snapping latex-free gloves on. Someone borrowed a handcuff key from the security guard on duty and Bonnet's arm was brought up gently to be viewed in better lighting. Bonnet opened his eyes and saw a green-eyed, flame-haired Scottish beauty peering at his mangled mess of a hand,

“Weel, Mr. Bonnet, de ye remember me? I’m Dr. Duncan. I treated ye when yer other hand was injured. That time, ye tripped too. Now, ye've gone and damaged yer other hand, I see, fewer than two years after yer first hand injury, tsk, tsk tsk. Ye've got to learn to be more careful in future!”  

She squatted down and spoke so quietly in Bonnet's ear that he wasn't sure he heard her words at all. But her tone was unmistakable, like a lioness protecting her cub,

“Did ye try ta touch Claire Fraser again, Bonnet? Seems her husband, Jamie, caught ye, eh? Tha's what I'm guessin', fro’ the looks here of the hamburger ye called a hand. Jamie's a wonderful man but he's insanely protective and jealous of her. But ye ken that weel now, don't ye? After all this, if ye’re dumb enough to go anywhere near Claire again, I'll kill ye and grind yer bones fer bread, aye? Thu truagh pìos cac (you miserable piece of shit)!” 

Six months later, Claire and the men testified in court against Bonnet. His hand was still in a supportive brace and would be for at least the next few months. He was convicted of battery with aggravated circumstances as Claire was with child and he’d caused her so much distress. He was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment. Everyone knew, though, that the real punishment was enduring two practically useless hands that would be a reminder of his stupidity for the rest of his days.

Chapter Text

Claire walked into the kitchen, famished again. If the baby's appetite was anything to go by, this had to be a boy. She felt like she ate all the time and she wondered how long it would take to shed the baby weight as her stomach growled. She opened the fridge and pulled out leftovers of last night's dinner, packaged in a divided microwaveable container with chicken cacciatore, zucchini and sauteed spinach. She popped the whole thing in the microwave and devoured it, not even bothering to sit down. She still wasn't sated, though, and dug out some extra-toasty Cheez-Its ( A/N: in the interest of full disclosure, these are my new obsession…), her new obsession. She grabbed the box and a napkin and settled on the couch to read a case study Joe had told her about.

Jamie came home about 30 minutes later, smiling at her snacking. He knew Auntie Hildie had scolded her at the last checkup, saying she needed to gain about 5 pounds. He toed off his shoes and dropped his bag in the entryway.

 

“How are ye, mo nighean donn? Has the bairn been mindin' ye and bein' good?”

 

She looked up and smiled, patting the seat beside her,

 

“Well, Miracle Max got really hungry, so I ate last night's leftovers, but MM wasn't satisfied with that, so I'm letting him try Cheez-Its. I absolutely know he’s your child, because he's never full!”

 

Jamie blushed to his roots and laughed with his wife.

 

“Are ye ready fer Ian and me to start puttin' the nursery furniture together, Claire? Jenny an' ye can take the time to do other things fer the bairn, aye?

 

He looked at her hopefully,

 

“An' mebbe make a lunch fer yer hardworkin' men?”

 

Claire laughed and said,

 

“but of course, darling! I'll go up there now and get the baby clothes and put them in the wash. Thank goodness the girls kept a lot of baby clothes - it'll save us a ton of money!”

 

A while later Jenny and Ian came over, and Claire served everyone coffee or tea with lemon tarts. The women put the clothes in the dryer and the boys went up and started putting together the crib, changing table and dresser.  They'd agreed on a soft butter-yellow for the walls and ivory trim. Brian had insisted on painting the nursery, and Ellen painted a sweet woodland-in-springtime mural which took up almost a whole wall. Jamie had carved a mobile and Ellen painted the suns, moons and stars to coordinate with her mural. There was a large toy chest at the ready and a wonderful family portrait on the wall opposite the mural. Rabbie, William and Ian had built a massive supplies armoire, which was securely bolted to the wall. Diapers, onesies,  socks and bibs were all arranged in sturdy plastic containers that could be pulled out for easier access. An outfit bought by Joe and Gayle was waiting for the trip home from the hospital. Laoghire and Rabbie gave Claire a snowsuit from their first baby, Doyle, to keep the baby warm as well. Angus and Rupert gifted the family a car seat, and Claire got another at her baby shower at work. Hildegarde and Suzette gifted English-French children's books, and Geilis and Willie had presented them with an English-Ghàdlig primer.

 

Jenny and Claire put a dinghy-sized pork loin in the oven and prepared a green salad, oven-roasted baby carrots with a butter-and-fresh-dill sauce and roasted yellow potatoes as the veg. They made a flour gravy from the drippings and hearty, crusty white bakery bread would be served on the side, sure to please everyone. They’d jointly decided on mocha-chocolate chip cookies and coffee for dessert. They giggled uncontrollably when they heard the boys swear in their native language and English, voices raised at the inanimate furniture as if it was to blame for its shoddy instructions. Jenny very helpfully provided a running translation of the really naughty Gàidhlig words Claire didn't know yet.

 

Jenny yelled up the stairs,

 

“Alright, boys, lunch is ready! And mind you wash an’ and scrub yer grubbies weel before sitting at Claire's pretty table!”

 

A few minutes later, a ravenous Jamie and Ian made their way into the kitchen and helped the ladies take the food into the dining room.

 

They all sat together and the Frasers served the Murrays first.  The girls were very pleased to hear that the furniture was already put together, which meant that they could move in and set up the last bits. Jenny took Claire's hand in hers and smiled,

 

“Only about 2 months to go, aye?”

 

“Yes, I'll be happy when MM makes the grand debut, that's for sure, but you know how that is, right?” Claire smiled and Jenny patted her hand reassuringly,

 

“I know ye'll be a brilliant Mam!”

 

The men inhaled their food and soaked up every last drop of gravy and butter dribbled on their plates. They then politely excused themselves to clean up the packaging and vacuum the carpet in the nursery, but not before each stole an extra cookie. Jenny and Claire lingered a little bit over their dessert, simply enjoying each other's company.

 

“Jenny, you and Ian'll be at the hospital, right? I know it's a lot to ask, but I am asking just in case something goes hinky with the delivery, that you'll be there for Jamie, to keep him calm.” Jenny squeezed her hand and nodded,

 

“Aye, Claire, o'course. Ye told us it may not be smooth sailing, and Ian and I will be there for all three o'ye.”

 

Jenny pushed her chair back, sighing,

 

“Weel, let's get the leftovers packed up, aye?”

 

Claire answered, “Yes, let's get some cookies and roast for the family together.” She, too, pushed her chair back and walked into the kitchen behind Jenny. She was just about to reach for leftover containers when she felt a horrible, extended cramp roll through her body. It was so strong that Claire grabbed onto the counter for support, breaking out in a cold sweat. A second later, she felt a whoosh of sticky liquid plop onto her bare feet. She croaked,

 

“Jenny, call Jamie, I think the baby's coming!”

 

“”Alright, sister, let's get you a chair,” and the raven-haired woman pulled a chair forward. Try to relax and I'll call the boys, aye? Claire breathed in through her nose and out through her mouth and nodded, teeth clenched, “Jenny, it's much too early, oh God, oh God! What if I lose the baby?” Jenny took Claire's pale face in her hands and commanded,

 

“Claire, look at me.” Jenny looked the frightened woman in the face, “you will be fine and the bairn will be fine, aye? I'll see to it and I'll be with ye all the way through this. Sit tight and let me call the men.”

 

Jenny ran to the stairwell and bellowed,

 

“Jamie, Ian, Claire's water broke! The bairn's comin!'" Jenny quickly wiped Claire's feet clean and gently put Claire's shoes on her feet.

 

Jamie and Ian's faces drained of blood and they looked at each other, panicking, until Jamie shook himself, ran downstairs, a sinking leaden feeling in his stomach. followed closely by Ian clattering down the stairs behind him.  He realized that it would take too long to wait on an ambulance and made his way over to his wife, who looked so fragile and scared. She sniffled and whispered piteously,

 

“Love, it's too early, I'm so scared, Jamie.”

 

He gulped and steeled himself so he wouldn't show his fear or start crying. He lowered the pitch of his voice and spoke in a soothing tone,

“Shh, I know, darlin', the bairn will be fine, aye?” He squatted next to her, “that's it, mo chridhe (my heart), mo Sorcha. Take a deep breath into your nose and slowly exhale through yer mouth, aye? That's ma braw (good) girl. I'm bringing you to the car, alrigh'? Put yer beautiful arms around my neck, aye? Here we go, my brave lass.”

 

Jenny was already on the phone with the emergency room. She grabbed Claire's and the baby's overnight bags and a couple of old towels for Claire to sit on. Ian grabbed the car seat and everyone's jackets. Jamie hoisted Claire gently in his arms. He handed Claire into the car and buckled her in. Ian and Jenny put the bags and car seat in the trunk, and Jamie drove like a bat out of hell for the emergency room. Claire whimpered with the strength of her contractions and grabbed Jenny’s or Ian's hand when the pain became too much. Jenny was already on the phone with Hildie.

 

About three miles from the emergency room, Claire handed Jenny her earrings, her mother's sapphire ring and her “Je Suis Prest" necklace and told her to hold on to them for her “just in case.” Jamie paled and felt sick at his wife's words, realizing she wasn't sure if she'd survive the birth,

 

“None o' that talk now, a leannan (sweetheart), we're almost there and ye and our bairn will be fine, aye?” Jamie patted his hand on her thigh, unsure if the comforting gesture was for himself or Claire.

 

Jamie saw a bright flash in his peripheral vision and everyone heard the siren of a police car shattering the night silence. Jamie swore and pulled over. He saw the burly officer exit the cruiser, getting his notepad and pencil out,

 

“Jamie! “Hissed Ian. “Stay calm!” Jamie was swearing under his breath and choking the life out of the steering wheel. Ian rolled down his window and shouted “Officer! We have a pregnant woman here! Please hurry!”

 

The officer ran to the car and looked through Jamie's window at Claire. Claire introduced herself as “Dr. Fraser" and then groaned in pain through another labor pain,

 

“Please, Officer, the bairn's comin' twa (two) months early! We have to go,” pleaded Jamie.

 

Officer Thomas Cameron paled and said,

 

“Right. I'll escort ye, Doctor!” He ran to his cruiser, punched his lights and siren and led the way to the hospital. Many drivers pulled to the side, giving the wailing cruiser and Jamie's car the right-of-way.

 

“Jenny? Do you see a blanket back there? It should be folded up into fours,” asked Claire quietly.

 

“Are ye cold, lass?” Jenny asked, concerned.

 

“Can you pass me the blanket now, please, Jenny?”

 

Jenny heard the faint warning tone in Claire's voice and wordlessly passed the blanket over to her sister-in-law, who unbuckled herself quickly and sat on the blanket.

 

“Claire, are ye –“ Jamie started, but Claire cut him off and said,

 

“It's just my tailbone, Jamie. A little sore is all. The blanket is helping a lot. I'm fine.” The car pulled up in front of the emergency bay, and Claire knew better than to try to get out by herself. She waited until Jamie came to collect her, and he opened the passenger door and scooped her up carefully.

 

“Here we go, a neighan (girl), let's get ye inside.”

 

Officer Cameron witnessed the tender exchange between the pair and smiled, murmuring a prayer for the mam and child as he returned to his cruiser.

 

Jamie strode quickly to the admitting desk, and Claire saw that her friend Annalise was working the front desk,

 

“Claire! The baby's early, oui? Alright, Cherie, let's get you into a room.”

 

“Thanks, Annalise, I appreciate it.  Can you page Dr. Abernathy and Dr. Geilis Duncan, please? Let them know Miracle Max is coming.” She kissed Jamie goodbye and said “Okay, Big Man, put me in the wheelchair, please.”

 

Just then, Geilis and Joe ran up, and Geilis waited while an on-duty orderly took the handles of the wheelchair.

 

The doors swished open behind them and Jenny and Ian ran in.

 

Jamie reluctantly handed his wife into the chair, and the hem of her dress brushed against his forearm, leaving a jagged trail of slick blood on his forearm,

 

“Oh, God, Claire, ye're bleeding!” He crouched in front of her, so tiny in the chair,

 

“I am, but that's normal, ok? Don't worry about me. I'll be fine, love.”

 

“I'm comin' with ye!” Jamie called to his wife, who was already transferred onto a gurney for the trip upstairs.

 

Joe spoke up quickly,

 

“Jamie, I know you want to support her, but you need to stay here and let the staff do – “

 

But Jamie had already started quickly walking down the hallway after his wife.

 

“Oh, Jesus, these stubborn Scots,” and he let loose a volley of the Ghàdlig’s finest blue speech he’d learned from Geilis.

 

Ian saw what was going on and ran towards Jamie, catching up with Joe, both of them catching up with Jamie quickly.

 

“Jamie, STOP!” Ian whisper-yelled fiercely, trying not to create a scene. He grabbed Jamie's arm in his vise-like grip and stopped his forward motion. Joe reached them and saw Jamie glaring furiously, a snarl on his face, violently shaking Ian's hand off,

 

“I ken ye're family, lads, but I'll ask ye only once to let me go so I can be with my wife, aye?”

 

Joe stood right in Jamie's face, steadfast, Ian to his right,

 

“No, Jamie. You need to let the doctors work, for Claire's and MM's sake, because the baby is coming so early. At this point, Claire's 32 weeks along and the staff have to have time to get any additional equipment they may need and possibly specialists in there. Please, listen to me. Go sit. I know it's hard. You know Hildie will call you as soon as you can see her.”

 

“Joe's right, a bràthair (brother), dinna make me have ta stop ye, aye?” Ian spoke very quietly, eyes boring into Jamie's.

 

Ian placed a warning hand on Jamie's shoulder, but Jamie wrenched himself free again and marched down the corridor to the bank of elevators. Ian and Joe ran after him again. This time, Joe grabbed Jamie's arm, stopping him, and Ian didn't hesitate. His solid shoulder and arm reared back and his massive right fist smashed into Jamie's jaw like a pile-driver, knocking the redhead to the ground, a cringe-inducing “thud" echoing loudly off the wall behind Jamie when his stubborn noggin hit the floor. He was out cold long enough for the medical team to wheel Claire quickly to the elevator, whisking her upstairs to Hildie.  Jamie woke up a few minutes later, groggy and disoriented, to the faces of Da, Joe and Ian above him.

 

“God, my jaw hurts,” thought Jamie. He touched the back of his head and felt a goose-egg forming, “Jesus, I forgot how hard Ian's right hooks are,” he muttered to himself.

 

Ian and Da hoisted him off the floor, holding onto him until they were sure he had his feet. Ellen asked the admitting supervisor for a couple of ice packs and got a cup of water from the cooler. She said nothing to her son, but shot a deadly warning glance to her daughter, who looked ready to harangue her brother into next year. Ellen passed him the water along with 2 non-aspirin painkillers. He swallowed the pills quickly, thanked Ellen and turned on his heel and left the family in the waiting room. Joe sprinted for the elevators when Jamie left, coattails fluttering drunkenly behind him. Just then, Murtagh and Suzette ran through the doors followed by Robbie, Willie and Laoghire. The 5 newcomers quizzed Brian and Ellen about how Claire and the baby were doing. Brian sighed, a defeated look in his eyes,

 

“They took Claire up as fast as they could and wouldn't allow Jamie to go with them. Understandably, he got very upset and tried to follow them. Unfortunately, Ian had to forcibly help him to relax.”

 

Seeing his kin's confused faces, Ian coughed in embarrassment, red eyes rimmed with tears,

 

“I had to knock him out. It was the only thing that stopped his rage and allowed the team to get Claire away. He'll be fine, but he went to get some air.”

 

Murtagh immediately separated himself from the group and called Jamie,

 

“Jamie? Aye. Where are ye? Ok. Stay there, a bhalaich (boy), I'm comin.'" Murtagh ducked down a nearby corridor, not bothering to waste time talking to the family. He found the sign he needed and pushed the double-doors open to the meditation garden. He turned to the left and the right, finally spotting Jamie, mostly obscured from view, sitting on a short bench behind a large fern. The plant's broad, bright green fronds bent low over a small waterfall, which splashed melodically into a koi pond underneath. Jamie looked up as his godfather appeared, watery, tremulous smile at the ready,

 

“The water helps drown out ma thoughts, ye ken, a ghoistidh (godfather)? Sounds like my Sorcha's laugh, it does.”

 

Jamie, tears cascading down his ashen face, looked up at Murtagh, who just nodded. The older man extended his hand, pulling Jamie to his feet. Wordlessly, he embraced Jamie securely, holding “his boy" silently as Jamie sobbed, terrified and brokenhearted, into his shoulder. Murtagh reached up and put a comforting hand on the back of Jamie's head, maintaining silence all the while.  Powerful hands that could down many, many men fisted into Murtagh's thick Barbour jacket in raw, helpless grief for his wife and child.

 

“I could lose her, Murtagh.” Jamie looked like he could be sick right there, “Claire’s my heart and soul, ye ken that. If I'd known how dangerous a pregnancy could be for her, I wouldn’a have let it happen, I swear it!” Jamie drew a shuddering sigh and released Murtagh, retaking his seat on the bench. “And the bairn…” he raked his fingers through his hair, “Oh God, it will break Claire if the baby is lost, Murtagh. She's been giddy about it, plannin' everythin', so happy to make Mam and Da grandparents again. The other day, I came home and heard The Pointer Sisters' “We Are Family” blarin'. So I tiptoed upstairs, a goistidh, and found Sorcha in the nursery, singin’ with all her might, rubbin' her belly and dancin' her heart out to tha' to the music. It was the sweetest t-thing I've ever s-seen, “ he croaked like a congested toad and his voice broke on the last word.  “What if, God! Oh, dear Jesus, what if I lose both of them? I won't survive that!” Jamie's haunted look brought tears to Murtagh's eyes. A very panicked and now hyperventilating Jamie grabbed Murtagh's shirtfront, his shaking hands making Murtagh's shirt tremble.  “Please, a goistidh, help me, tell me what to do! It's ma job to protect them and I canna!” Jamie tearfully begged for answers, his breaths getting shallower and shallower with every passing moment.  

 

Murtagh slowly put his hands on Jamie’s fists,

 

“Look at me.” Jamie, shaking now, appeared not to hear him, unfocused terror-filled eyes swimming with tears. Murtagh knew if he didn't redirect Jamie's focus that he'd be no use to his wife and child.  “Jamie, lad, look at me, come on, mo mhac (my son), look here, to me.” He backed up and gently took Jamie's tear-streaked face in his warm hands. Jamie finally seemed to relax a bit and come back to himself somewhat, now seemingly able to focus on the man he loved most in the world other than his Da. “Can ye relax yer fists fer me, Jamie? I think we should try that first, aye?”

 

Jamie looked at him, startled,

 

“My fists? Wha'd ye mean?”

 

Murtagh realized that Jamie hadn't registered that he was threatening to tear his shirt with his panicked grip,

 

“Aye, look at my shirt, Jamie.”

 

Jamie looked down slowly, and unclenched his white-knuckled fists gradually, blushing in shame,

 

“Murtagh, Christ, I'm sorry, man! I'll pay to replace it! God, Suzette'll be fit to be tied!”

 

Murtagh looked up and simply chuckled,

 

“Nah, she won't be. She loves ye and will understand, aye? She's a good lass.”

 

Jamie blushed again.

 

“Now, mo ghille (my boy), sit down and relax, aye? Ye scared me fer a minute there, I thought ye'd pass out on me.”

 

Murtagh spied a molded plastic chair and brought it over, sitting in front of Jamie.

 

Jamie whispered, “she's my world, ye ken?” and gulped loudly. They sat together in silence for a while,

 

“Aye, I ken, Jamie, and I also know you are hers. Claire wants to give you children more than anything in the world - she told me as much at one of our lunches. I'm sure if she'd thought it too dangerous, she would've told ye, aye?”

 

“Did she tell you?”

 

“That it was too dangerous? Nay, lad, she didn't say a word. Ye know how she is, she worries and clucks like a busybody mama hen over everyone but can't stand being worried over. Lasses, so bloody annoying, aye?”

 

Jamie smiled a small smile at his godfather, who winked at him in return,

 

“Are ye ready to go back, or do ye want some more time?”

 

The muscular redhead took a deep breath,

 

“Nah, I'm good. I can go back. Jamie's face clouded over once more, “Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I need ta apologize ta th' lads for bein' such a bastard, do ye think coffee is a suitable peace offering?”

 

“I don' think it's necessary, but aye, coffee is never wrong. Remember, Joe likes cream and one sugar and Ian just cream. Come on, I'll go with ye, son, there's a Costa Coffee in tha' lobby.”

Jamie stopped Murtagh with a gentle hand on his arm,

 

“Thank ye, Murtagh, fer lettin' me get all that out."

 

Murtagh smiled and clapped his boy on the back,

 

“O’course, Jamie.”

 

As they made their way downstairs, Jamie stopped in a washroom for a tidy up. He felt positively drained, but thankful that his family gave him the space to decompress and talk to Murtagh in private. Joe had returned to the rest of the family, as he seemed to just be in the way in the delivery room at this point. They arrived back in the lobby and Jamie greeted everyone and gave Joe and Ian their hot coffees with a heartfelt apology while Murtagh served everyone pastries.  Ian asked quietly if he could talk to Jamie privately. Jamie nodded and Ian handed his coffee to Jenny. They walked into the adjacent hallway, both taking deep breaths.  Ian swallowed and looked at his feet for a moment, cleared his throat and started,

 

“Jamie, I'm sorry fer hittin' ye. Will ye be ok? Can ye fergive me?  I’m ashamed o'myself.”

Jamie smiled and said, eyes twinkling,

 

“Aye, o'course. It was me who was actin' like a righ' idiot, Ian. Ye had ta do it – we both ken nothin' else except that ham-fisted right woulda stopped me. I've been in contact with Anthony Joshua's people and suggested ye as a sparrin' partner!”

 

Ian blushed nearly purple and they man-hugged and slapped each other on the back, making their way back to the family.

 

The waiting felt interminably long to the family, and they would look up anxiously whenever the elevator doors would swoosh open.  Finally, Geilis came out and went straight to Jamie, motioning for him,

 

“Ok, Jamie, come on, let's go upstairs."

 

Jamie took off at a run for the elevators and they disappeared upstairs.

Chapter Text

A/N: I'm literally making up the medical/operating scenes, as I have zero medical training and have never been pregnant and have no children (my choice). My apologies to everyone and especially our pros and first-responders out there.

 

The elevator doors swished closed behind Claire's gurney. “Jamie, is he ok?” Claire asked weakly, “Geilie, is he alright?”

 

“Aye, hen, yer rooster is alrigh', dinna fash. The rest o' the family is there by now, I'll bet. Just focus on ye and the babe now, aye?”

 

Claire swallowed and grabbed the redhead’s slender hand,

 

“Promise me that if it comes down to me or the baby, you'll save our child, Geilis.”

 

“Oh, I' can-" Geilis started to protest.

 

“Geilis, SHUT YOUR GOB!” Claire spoke louder, her friend's mouth falling open at the pregnant woman's demand.  “We both know how this is shaping up. I'm two months early and I lied to Jamie, telling him that my bleeding in admitting was a normal part of the process. You and I know it isn't and that my chance for surviving this is iffy at best if I hemorrhage. I need you to take care of Jamie and the baby, you, Hildie and Joe. Make sure MM knows how much he or she was wanted and loved, please! I need you to tell Joe, too. Make sure Jamie moves on with their lives, please.”

 

Geilis blinked back tears at what her friend was saying, but she knew it was correct, having seen too many mothers lose babies at 32 (or fewer) weeks gestation or bleed out, never getting to meet their baby, leaving a devastated family behind.

 

They arrived in the delivery room, where an incubator was waiting off to the side, along with a cadre of nurses and Hildegarde. Hildegarde smiled at Claire behind her mask, and Claire motioned to her to come closer, speaking quickly and quietly in French,

 

“Hildie, if I don't make it, remember you are my child's Auntie. Please love my child and tell him or her about some of the child-appropriate scrapes and fun we got into. Save the best stories for when he or she can deal with them!” Claire smiled and saw Hildie's eyes crinkle in response. Please, make yourself an active part of his or her life and teach them French. And thank you for being such a wonderful friend.”

 

Claire saw Hildie's eyes shining just a little bit with unshed tears, but to Claire's relief, Hildie didn't try to argue with her, shush her or blow sunshine up her ass. Hildie simply agreed, understanding that Claire wasn't in a place at the moment where she could deal with anything but stark reality.

 

“Alright, petite Maman (little mama), let's see what's what here. You were bleeding a little when you got here, but it seems to have abated.”

 

Claire groaned with another contraction, gripping Geilis' hand tightly as Hildegarde had a nurse place her feet in the stirrups. She was able to catch her breath and smiled as Joe walked in. About ten minutes later, another contraction gripped her, making her grunt in pain. Geilis helped her breathe through it, counting with her. An hour later, Hildie announced,

 

“Geilis, you can go get Jamie now, it's looking alright for him to be here,”

 

Hildegarde smiled at Geilis, who took off like a rocket for the elevator.

 

Jamie and Geilis entered the elevator, and Geilis noticed his jaw, which was swollen and red,

 

“What happened here, fox cub?”

 

Jamie rubbed the back of his neck in embarrassment,

 

“Weel, ye know I wanted to go with ye upstairs. Joe and Ian tried to talk me out of it calmly. When I wouldn't listen, Ian's right fist convinced me to listen, aye? He knocked me out cold long enough so I couldn't get in the elevator with y'uns.”

 

Geilis bit back a snort, “”Ahhhh, yes, the ‘equalizer’ is what Willie named it, I think. Willie was on the receiving end o' one o' those in junior year (3rd year) of high school when they got into a wee stramash about Ian courtin' Jenny. He managed to get in a couple a' good licks in before Ian cleaned his clock.”   

 

The elevator finally arrived at the obstetrics floor and Geilis took Jamie into the maternity wing.

She helped him scrub up and get into gloves, a gown, hair covering and mask and led him into the delivery room. Joe was already there and took over for Geilis so she could take a break.  Claire had her eyes closed and smelled Jamie's presence before he greeted her.

 

“A neighan (my girl), there ye are, beautiful. How d'ye feel?” He didn't wait for an answer and kissed her gently on the lips.

 

Claire slowly opened her eyes,

 

“Mam is tired, Da. The contractions are about ten minutes apart and I'm 5 centimeters effaced. I'd appreciate it if you would take over delivering the baby now, so Geilis and I can go shopping and do lunch!”

 

The delivery staff chuckled along with Geilis and Jamie and Claire grinned a tired grin before letting her eyes drift closed again,

 

“Jamie, will you hold my hand, love?”

 

“Anythin' fer ye, mo gràidh (my love),” rumbled Jamie. He stood next to her, gently holding his wife's hand in his, rubbing his thumb comfortingly over her hand. Claire still had her eyes closed and Jamie saw the monitor indicate that another contraction was imminent. Claire groaned and winced as the contraction started and gripped Jamie's hand,

 

“That's it, Sassenach, grip my hands as hard as ye need.” Claire's grip relaxed somewhat as the contraction lessened in intensity and she breathed through the last of the wave, grateful it hadn't been more intense.   

 

Five hours passed, and Claire and Jamie breathed through the contractions together. He bathed her face and body with cold cloths and fed her cup after cup of ice chips. He praised her through every contraction. He told her stories of water-horses, enchanted stones, The Woman of Balnain, Fraser family legends, fairies and other wee folk. She even asked him to help her practice her Ghàdlig to take her mind off of her pain and plain tiredness.

 

At the top of the 6th hour, Hildegarde waited until the next contraction came and timed it. When the contractions continued until they were about 3 minutes apart, Hildegarde measured her dilation and announced,

 

“Claire, when you feel the next contraction, I want you to push as hard as you can, oui? You may find that having Jamie sit behind you is an easy way to push on his hands with more leverage while you're kneeling. Some mothers find it easier to get on all fours at this point, Chérie.”

 

Claire hoped that being on all fours might facilitate delivery, so she asked Geilis to get her a soft headband to keep her curls out of her eyes. Geilis helped her put it on, and Jamie helped her get on all fours with her face toward the wall. Joe took over keeping her cool and Geilis was in charge of the ice chips. She urged Jamie to get in back of her so he could see the baby the moment he or she entered the outside world.

 

Hildie came around to monitor the birth and Jamie stepped to the side so Hildegarde could work,

 

“Alright, ma petite moitié (my little partner in crime), the contraction is coming. Are you ready to see your bébé? Push hard for me ma petite! Come on, ma petite rose blanche (my little white rose)! Claire yelled in pain and Jamie looked between his wife’s legs and saw a tiny head crowned with bright red hair at the mouth of Claire's vagina,

 

“Mo chridhe, the baby has red hair!”

 

Jamie strode to his wife’s head and gave her a tender kiss,

 

“Darling, please put your hands on my lower back until the next contraction, will you?”

 

“Aye, banrigh mo chridhe (queen of my heart), here ye go.”

 

Claire groaned in pleasure as Jamie's hot-water-bottle hands relaxed her tight muscles,

 

“So, I'm the queen of your heart, eh?” Claire turned her head and smirked,

 

“I'll remember that the next time you don't want to take the rubbish to the bin!”

 

The entire room broke out in laughter, and Jamie bellowed with mirth and spluttered,

 

“Och, I knew it was an error in judgement teachin' ye the Ghàdlig, mo Sorcha!”

 

Before Claire could retort, a huge contraction rolled through her,

 

“Hildie! I want to push again!”

 

“Yes, push, mon petit chou (‘my little cabbage' is a French endearment)! Jamie, let Claire put her arms around your neck and support her weight with your arms.”

 

Jamie sat on the bed with his legs hanging over both sides. His shoulder and arm muscles flexed mightily as he took his wife in his powerful arms and took all of Claire’s weight for her as if she weighed no more than dandelion fluff. She gripped his outer shoulders and burrowed her head in her favorite refuge – the space between his massive shoulder and neck. She shook as she bore down and howled shrilly,

 

“Aye, tha's it, little Mam, give it all to me,” he rumbled lovingly. He murmured their private love language in her ear in a steady stream, hoping it would comfort her.

 

Claire kept bearing down and pushed with all her might, and the baby's head finally came into view,

 

“Sorcha, I see part of the head!”

 

Claire kept pushing and relaxing for what seemed like an eternity.  Through it all, Jamie held her safely, never moving, no matter how hard Claire’s nails (unintentionally) dug into his shoulders. He could have said something, but, he figured, she’s been going through agony for hours; a few minutes for him were nothing.  She sweated and cursed him and cried from the pain, and Jamie simply let her emote because that’s what she needed to do.

 

Hildie cheered,

 

“Alright, Claire, one more mighty push and your baby will be out!”

 

Claire screamed ferally in a tone and intensity Jamie had never heard before,

 

Jamie, it hurts! I can’t!  I’m too tired, love!” She sobbed,  “Please, don’t make me!”

 

He breathed, holding his tears back at his heart’s distress and whispered gently, “Rest in my arms for a moment, mo chridhe (my heart).  Aye, ye can push again in a wee bit, mo graidh (my love). Relax for a moment.  Ye’re the strongest woman I know.  You’re mo bhean ghaisgeil chumhachdach (my mighty warrior-woman) an’ Imma so proud of ye I’m fit ta burst!  Please, push one last time for me, aye?” Jamie encouraged his wife as best he could and she moved slightly so she could see his face,

 

“Your bairn’s almost here, Da! Please, Jamie, give me a kiss to keep me going!”

 

Jamie’s smile rivaled the rising sun and he kissed the mother of his child gently and reverently, teasing her tongue and lips with his.  She smiled tiredly at him and then bellowed as a monster contraction washed over her,

 

“JESUS H. ROOSEVELT CHRIIIIIIIIIIIST!” and grabbed onto her husband again.  With that last contraction and a huge push from Claire, the baby’s shoulders finally popped free. The rest of the baby came out easily and Jamie was right there to see the tiny body enter the world and slip right into Auntie Hildie's loving hands.

 

Jamie burst into tears and kissed Claire,

 

“Mo gràidh, it's a wee lad, ye've given us a son!”

 

Alarmingly, Baby Fraser remained silent. Hildie quickly suctioned his mouth and nose and gave him a brisk rubdown with a towel, hoping to startle him into taking his first breath. Nothing. There hadn't been any indication of low oxygen saturation on the fetal monitor. The cord hadn't been around the neck. Why wasn't he breathing?

 

Claire kissed Jamie quickly and then realized something was wrong – why wasn't her son crying?

 

“Hildie, why isn't our son crying? Is he breathing? What's wrong? Hildie, give me my baby!”

She screamed in terror, “Where's my baby? Jamie? I want my baby! I want my baby!

 

Hildie called her most-trusted nurse, “Nurse Robinson! Start CPR!” Get me oxygen over ‘ere!”

 

A nurse inserted a cannula in Baby Fraser's nose and Nurse Buccleigh carried the baby into the next room with Nurse Robinson matching her steps, performing chest compressions with two fingers.  The incubator was wheeled into the room by Nurse Symonds and the privacy curtain drawn. Suddenly, a reedy, prolonged cry was heard. Jamie and Claire held each other and cried in relief and the rest of the medical personnel cheered. Hildegarde poked her head in the room and asked Nurse Robinson to give the baby a quick wash, weigh and measure.  Next, oxygen sensors and a heart monitor were put on and he was given a tiny knit hat in Fraser colors with “Je Suis Prest" knitted into the rim, courtesy of his Grandsire Brian, who could clickit with the best of them. Baby Fraser was swaddled with heated blankets and placed gently into the incubator. Hildegarde returned quickly to Claire and Jamie, and Claire demanded to know the baby's status,

 

“Hildegarde, is the baby breathing on his own?” Jamie and Claire looked at her with hope in their eyes,

 

“Oui, Maman et Papa, mon neveu,” and she smiled widely, her cheeks pinking, “respire tout seul (Yes, Mama and Papa, my nephew is breathing on his own!)” Jamie kissed Claire and he called to the staff,

 

“My braw wee son is breathing on his own!” and they cheered again.

 

“Claire, it's time for you to expel the afterbirth. Come, one great push and it will be out.”

 

Jamie took his wife in his arms again and let her lean against him and use his hands for leverage. She grunted, pushed and the whole thing slid out of her in one piece.

 

Jamie got out from behind Claire and went to the other side of the bed and sat next to Claire,

 

“Would you like to know his vital statistics?” Asked Hildegarde,

 

“Yes!” they chorused together.

 

“Baby Fraser is 2.04 kilos and is a whopping 58.42 centimeters long. I think, if he'd been full-term, he might have been somewhere around 5 kilograms!” Hildegarde beamed at the new parents, while Jamie grinned happily and Claire’s eyes widened, “I gave birth to a Mack truck!  

Jesus H… well, that's what I get for marrying Sasquatch, alright,”

 

Hildie laughed and Jamie kissed Claire's forehead.  Hildegarde continued, “He is holding his own, but he isn’t out of ze woods yet and will still be in the NICU for a while until he stabilizes and gains some weight. We're going to be monitoring him around the clock.”

 

Joe and Geilis congratulated them both and each gave Claire a buss on the cheek.  They both cooed at him, so tiny, but perfect. All ten fingers and toes were there and two ears, arms and legs reassured the new parents. Claire kissed the incubator's top, hoping the little boy could sense how much he was loved.  Jamie recited a prayer over his son and a nurse walked over and explained she would bring him straightaway to the NICU, where his parents could visit him a little later when he was settled.

 

He kissed Claire and thanked her for their son, and she joked,“no problem. I had nothing planned for today, anyway!” Jamie laughed at his wife's humor and gave her a peck on the cheek for good measure.  Claire asked for more ice chips. Claire playfully joked, “Oh, Farrrrrm Boooooy, later, you can peel me some grapes. Now, I demand you spoon-feed me some ice chips!”

 

Jamie’s head whipped around and laughed out loud and lobbed back, “As you wish, Princess Buttercup!” and bowed low to the queen of his heart and kissed her fingertips reverently. They grinned at each other when they heard staff giggling in the background.  After Jamie had fed her, she actually said she was hungry for a cheeseburger with really salty chips (french fries) but was awfully tired and was feeling rather dizzy. With that, she reached up and demanded, “kiss Mam again, Da, because she loves you!” Which he gladly did. Claire closed her eyes, promising it was for “for just a moment.”

 

A few minutes later Jamie had the niggling feeling that something was off, but he had no idea what it could be. He called to Hildegarde, “Hildegarde, is dizziness normal?”

 

Hildegarde's head snapped up as if she were on a wire. She strode over quickly and took Claire's hand, patting it, trying to wake her. She finally rubbed her knuckles hard over Claire's sternum, an unpleasant sensation at best. She shouted the words, “code 20!” at the medical staff, who burst into action. Joe and Geilis looked at each other over Jamie's head and mouthed, “Oh, shit!” at one another and got ready to take Jamie out of the room.

 

Jamie paled and he whispered pleadingly, “Mo leannan (sweetheart)? Claire? Please, come on, my love, wake up for me, please!” He sat on the bed next to her. He carefully gathered her unresponsive body in his arms, stroking her hair and rocking her gently, whispering in her delicate ear, “Mo gràidh (my love), please, dinna leave me, aye? Fight, please! Yer son needs you and yer man needs ye, too.” Tears rolled down his cheeks as he kissed her repeatedly. Jamie whispered, “Sorcha, tha gaol agam ort, mo gràidh (I love you, my darling)” and sobbed out his heartbreak, his worst fear coming to pass.  He paled when he saw blood coming from between her legs in a steady trickle.

 

Hildegarde and the medical staff surrounded Claire and Hildie shouted, “Jamie, we need in here, please step back!” One of the men had to push the huge ginger back so they could get to the tiny woman on the bed, legs covered in fresh blood. 

 

Geilis and Joe reached him and Geilis said,

“Jamie, we three need to leave so that Hildie and her team can work, come on.”

 

She tugged gently at his arm and he shouted, “Chan e, Geillis, tha mo bhean a ’bàsachadh’, is urrainn dhomh a bhith ga faireachdainn. Feuch, na toir orm falbh i, feuch, tha mi a ’guidhe ort (No, Geilis, my wife is dyin', I can feel it! Please, don’t make me leave her, I'm beggin' ye, please)!”

 

Geilis set her jaw, trying to move past her emotions to be strong for her friend, but a tear trickled down her cheek anyway. Geilis fixed her brother-in-law with a look and said in the Ghàdlig,  “Bràthair-cèile, an-dràsta, feumaidh do bhean cuideachadh nach urrainn dhuinn a thoirt dhi. Feuch, airson a ’ghràidh a tha thu a’ gabhail rithe, thig còmhla rium agus Iòsaph agus leig leis an sgioba a cuideachadh (Brother-in-law, right now, your lady needs help we can't give her. Please, for the love you bear for her, come with Joe and me and let the team help her).”  Those in the room who had the Ghàdlig swallowed heavily or brushed away a tear when they heard the new father's desperate plea but did not stop their work.

 

Hildegarde shouted, “Doctors Duncan and Abernathy, get him out of here, NOW!”  

 

Joe and Geilis both took a hand each and quickly pulled an openly sobbing but unresisting Jamie out of the room directly into the hallway so he couldn't see or hear what was happening with Claire. Geilis had her arm hugged securely around his waist the entire time. Joe jogged ahead to his office so he could unlock the door.  Jamie sat down heavily on the couch and Joe pulled a bottle of Fraser's Special out of his bottom desk drawer. It was Geilis' and Joe's day off, so Joe retrieved the glasses and Joe poured each of them a very healthy dram. Geilis ducked out for a moment to get a trio of BLT (Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato) sandwiches on whole grain bread, salt-and-vinegar crisps and mineral waters from Mrs. Bug's coffee cart. She handed her friends their food but Jamie looked at it listlessly before trying to put it on Joe's desk untouched. Geilis looked at both of her dear friends, and pulled “a Claire" on them both,

 

“Oh, no, James Fraser, you eat that whole sandwich and all the crisps right now! Joe, you too!” she snapped, “we need to eat if we're gonna have this fine whisky. She arched a fiery eyebrow, “Ye both dinna want ta make me have ta repeat myself, or clipe (be a tattle-tale) to Gayle and ‘She Who Must Be Obeyed,’

(https://www.grammarphobia.com/blog/2017/08/she-who-must-be-obeyed.html), now, do ye?”

 

Joe looked at Jamie and Jamie at Joe; they both knew she’d make good on her threats; she always did.  Resigned, both men ate in silence until Jamie smiled bravely and said in a hushed voice, “Our son has red hair, just like Claire wants. We're hopin' he’ll have her eyes as well. It's plain to see he's got my height.” All three smiled at that remark and raised their glasses to Claire and Baby Fraser.

 

“Jamie, the fact that your son reached the weight he did in such a short time is a good sign. Preemies are always fighters, brother, always. He has all his digits and he started breathing on his own after a little, shall we say,” and Joe grinned at Jamie, “persuasion. Does that sound like someone we know, hmmmmm?”

 

Jamie blushed and said, “aye, our bairn is already showing his stubborn streak, which, I'm positive he got from his Mam.”

 

Joe and Geilis snickered, “uh-huh, right, that's where he get it!“ and Joe continued, “the thing is, preemies are tenacious and strong and more often than not survive what seem to be insurmountable odds, and move on to thrive. Hell, my little sister was a preemie, born somewhere between 30 or 32 weeks’ gestation. She had jaundice, her legs weren't the same length and her feet had a half-size difference between them. She couldn't suck from a bottle and had to be fed from a tube going directly into her stomach. She had respiratory distress syndrome, too, which means that a special surfactant was missing from her lungs which made it hard for her to breathe. She also has congenital asthma. The medicos didn't monitor the oxygen in her toaster well enough and she suffered mild brain damage, which resulted in steadily worsening nearsightedness and a mild case of cerebral palsy. 5 years ago, she got tiny cataracts removed that were probably caused by her asthma maintenance medication, but her nearsightedness was cleared up and she only needs reading glasses now. My dad's family didn't want to let me and my dad see her so we wouldn't form an attachment to her in case she didn't make it. Dad told them all to, uh, go to suck on a lemon and he marched right down to see his princess. You know what she's doing now, the baby who fought to survive?” They both shook their heads, “Vivienne Lily Simmons got a full-ride (a ‘full-ride’ in the U.S. is a type of scholarship that means that the university or sponsoring organization pays for 100 percent of a student’s education, usually, but not always, a bachelor's degree) from her freshman year at MIT to her doctorate. When she graduated with her first Ph.D., she was fought over by MIT, Harvard, Stanford, Penn, Yale and Princeton. Each school tripped over themselves to entice her with benefits and extras to work for them. I don't even want to think about the number of gift baskets she got that we had to give away to families, friends and neighbors. MIT won the bidding war by giving her a 4-bed, 3-bath house on an acre in a gated community, mortgage-free, in her own name.  She's a Ph.D'd professor of astrophysics at MIT right now. Oh, and she got that Ph.D concomitantly with a Ph.D in quantum mechanics from Harvard, by the way.  She has a Nobel prize in astrophysics, four kids under twelve and a husband who's full-bore bananas for her. They remind me of you and my girl,” Joe smiled softly. Jamie and Geilis' mouths were open in shock, “So, Jamie, I know it's hard for you right now, but I'm betting if your boy has even an iota of his mama's crazy drive and y'all’s combined intelligence, you won't have to worry about him at all.”  When Claire is better and the time is right, you and she may decide to stick with one child, go the cesarean route or adopt, foster, or even use a surrogate if you want more kids, Jamie.”

 

At that moment, Geilis' and Joe's pagers sounded. They both read their screens and told Jamie,

 

“Hildegarde is on her way down here, Jamie. She needs to talk to you.”

 

Jamie looked at his friends and whispered, “Do ye think Claire's okay, Joe? Geilis?”

 

Geilis took Jamie's massive hand in her tiny ones and squeezed it gently.  “ hope so, mo charaid (my friend). But ye ken I was there with ye, and I've heard nothing yet. Look at my screen. Ye see? Nothing before Hildie's text she sent a minute ago. The last text I got was from Rupert and Angus at noon asking about Claire and the bairn.” She put her phone in Jamie's hand so he could see for himself.

 

Joe pulled out his phone and showed Jamie his screen, “we're waiting for news just like you are. We're going to stay with you through this until Claire is better and ready to continue telling you where to stick it, buddy,”

 

 They all chuckled softly and Jamie gulped and cleared his throat awkwardly, voice rough with emotion, “I looked for ‘code 20’ and it said that that's a code for postpartum blood loss, which can be caused by atony, when the uterus doesn't contract after birth.”

 

A knock sounded at the door and Joe opened it to see a weary looking Hildie, who had a manila file folder in her right hand. She smiled tiredly at everyone and Joe and Jamie stood as Hildie entered. Both men immediately offered their seats. She smiled in gratitude and took Joe's place next to the brand-new father. Joe quickly offered her a caffeinated soda from his mini-fridge. She gratefully accepted and took a few healthy swallows,

 

“Thank you, Joe.  Okay, papa, your son is holding his own and sunning himself in his private toaster in the NICU, holding court and charming all the nurses. He's breathing just fine now and has already eaten twice and gained 10 grams since his grand debut only four hours ago,” she laughed.  The last preemie I remember doing that is now a 100-kilogram (220 lb.) professional rugby player!”

 

Geilis and Joe crowed, “Yep, he's a Fraser!” and Jamie blushed in pride,  “His mam will be so chuffed to hear that about her braw son!”

 

Everyone gave Jamie congratulatory pats on the back and Hildie continued, “If you like, you can go up and see him for a few minutes when we're done here. Geilis and Joe, please show him the way. I've already called and let them know Da will be coming and that you can scrub up and sit in the rocking chair with him, okay? 

 

The shrill screech of Hildie's pager startled everyone in the room. She looked down at the screen and said, “I have to go.”

 

She bolted out the door towards the elevator and the three friends heard an announcement over the loudspeaker,

 

“CODE 10, LABOR AND DELIVERY, ROOM 5-12!”

 

Jamie sat down heavily and raked his shaking hands through his hair. He raised his head and exhaled raggedly, spearing both of his friends with his diamond-hard stare, daring them to defy him. Very deliberately, Jamie growled,

 

“Geilis, Joe, we all know that's Claire's room. What in Jesus' name is a code 10?”

 

They sat on either side of their friend, both shifting nervously in their seats. Geilis spoke first, “Jamie, normally, a code 10 indicates that someone has gone into a coma. I'm so sorry.”

Tears ran down her cheeks and she hugged him gently, “you may not know this, but Claire has friends all over this hospital and I know they'll all do whatever they can for her, alright?

 

Hildie came back in and explained to Jamie as simply as possible what had happened – with hemorrhaging, a person's blood pressure can dip dangerously low and the body shuts itself down to survive. They had already started giving her transfusions after they'd stopped the hemorrhaging but were too late to head off the coma. She was on oxygen in the ICU, resting.

She cleared her throat and took his hand gently. She continued quietly, willing her calmness to transfer to the huge man in front of her, “Jamie, Claire experienced extremely severe postpartum bleeding and something called atony, which is when the uterus doesn't shrink after birth.  Unfortunately, her uterus was damaged beyond repair during delivery. The damage her ex-husband caused contributed greatly to the possibility of atony, although when we spoke a few months ago, I’d thought the previous damage wouldn't be such a factor.  She is holding her own right now.  However,” and Hildie gently laid a warm hand on Jamie's forearm, “because of the extent of the damage, I suggest we consider a hysterectomy.”

 

Geilis and Joe placed strong hands on Jamie's shoulders.  Jamie's eyes filled with tears and he croaked out, “Aye, Hildie, I know you have her best interests at heart. If that's the best thing for her to make sure she doesn'a go through this again, or suffer later, then I'll sign the papers right now.”

 

“Thank you, mon cher (my friend), here they are.”

 

Jamie stood and signed and dated the highlighted lines and handed the pen and papers back to Hildie, who put them back in her folder,

 

“Hildie, when can I see her?”

 

“Someone will page Joe and Geilis as soon as that's possible, alright?” She patted his knee soothingly.  “When you and she started dating, she came bouncing into my office and told me in perfect French about you and what a kind and thoughtful person you were, how safe she felt  around you, Jamie. She told me you soothed and healed her heart and she knew whatever happened in her life, you were going to be a part of it for the long-haul if she had anything to say about it.  She was so excited to talk about your wonderful adventures and how you two ‘just fit together’. After she invited you over for dinner the first time – she’d come in to consult with me on a comfort-food menu - she mentioned how you ate three helpings of her homemade lasagna, garlic bread, salad and fresh peach cobbler with ice cream. She laughed in glee and said it was so nice to finally be with a man who appreciated her cooking and ate accordingly!  Did you know she made the cobbler crust, noodles and sauce from scratch?  She wanted to please you so much.”

Jamie had to get another whisky when Hildie mentioned the first of many home-cooked meals Claire made for him, he remembered it as the best night of his life – when he knew with certainty that there was no other woman for him. He’d had no idea that so much love and forethought had gone into planning it, and all for him. Hildie excused herself to start prepping for Claire's surgery and left the office.  Jamie stood there with his fresh whisky in his hands, replaying that night in his head. He set his jaw and tried not to cry but was entirely overcome   with a paralyzing wave of grief. He fell to his knees in anguish, his whisky glass falling clumsily onto the rug in front of Joe‘s desk, spilling whisky haphazardly on the carpet. He wailed and screamed at God for the injustice of her suffering. Randall’s abuse of Claire hadn't ended when he died; his cruel hands had snuck like a thief beyond death and denied wee Brian time with his mother.  If she didn't wake up, she wouldn't be able to enjoy him and cheer his milestones or laugh at her son during bath time and then nourish the wee boy with her precious mother's milk. Thanks to Randall, the operation ending Claire’s chance to carry more children was happening right now, only a few floors above his head. Jamie hadn‘t had enough time with her; that amount of time didn't exist, he knew. He cried for their future – they’d made so many plans. Half of his heart would lie with Claire and the other half would bet for his wee son.  Jamie would never partner with another woman. Why settle for another woman when he'd already had perfection with Claire? He sank until he sat directly on the floor, wrapping his arms around his knees. He started rocking to and fro, keening, desperate for even the smallest comfort. Eventually, his keening subsided and his breathing calmed.

 

Joe and Geilis helped him up to the couch. Geilis got another couple of waters for all of them. He drank a few sips of water before he blanched and tore open the office door. He ran to the nearest dustbin and his stomach emptied itself violently.  Joe went back into the office and got him a spare toothbrush and toothpaste and showed him where the bathroom was. Jamie came back a while later, his normally lively eyes devoid of their customary sparkle, his face sallow and haggard. The bags under his eyes were nearly black and lent him an almost ghoulish appearance.

 

Joe asked gently, “Jamie, do you want to see your son? You know Drill Sergeant Fraser won’t settle for anything less than a full report, right?” Jamie looked up and gave his friends a very tiny smile,  “Aye, let's go, Aunt Geilis and Uncle Joe, so ye can meet yer nephew.

 

When they arrived at the NICU, Joe and Geilis led him inside and introduced him as “Dr. Fraser's husband, Jamie.” The nurse beamed and said,

 

“Weel, Mr. Fraser, ye can be proud of yer son. He just finished his 3rd bottle in as many hours! He broke the NICU record!”

           

Jamie blushed proudly and crowed, “Wait until his Mam hears!”

 

Geilis and Joe laughed and applauded Baby Fraser’s appetite and Joe quipped, “Now we know he’s Claire’s and Jamie’s son, alright!”

 

Geilis and Joe excused themselves to get coffees for everyone.  The nurse showed him how to hold his hands and forearms under the tap and how to scrub his hands. Next, she asked him to unbutton his shirt so he could experience skin-on-skin contact with his firstborn.  The nurse held her hand out with her palm towards Jamie, testing to see if she could feel his body heat,

 

“Oh, good, Mr. Fraser, ye're boilin' awa' like a furnace. That'll keep your son nice and toasty. Feel free to sit in the rocking chair when ye're ready, and I'll bring the bairn to ye,” she smiled and washed her own hands in preparation.

 

“Alrigh', Nurse – “ he paused to read her nametag, “Tyrell, I'm ready fer my bairn, if ye please.”

 

“One braw lad, comin' up.” She winked at Jamie and managed to coax a trembling smile out of him. She walked to the other side of the room and came back a few seconds later with the tiniest baby Jamie had ever seen. She coached him on how to hold his son properly and gently placed the boy in his Da's eager hands. Jamie looked at Brian in awe, murmuring love words to his son, marveling over his cat-shaped eyes and red eyebrows. He studied his son for a few minutes and then placed the child securely on his chest, holding him gently as tears of joy dripped down his face. Jamie gazed down at his baby, marveling in his downy soft red hair that stood up at all angles, mad-scientist-like. His ivory skin was identical to his mother's skin. Jamie saw with delight that there were already a few freckles dusting the lad's nose and cheeks, just like Claire. He kissed him, rubbed the boy's back and sang to his son for a bit, apologizing for crying all over him. Da told him how sorry his Mam was that she couldn't be there, “but she's just havin' a little sleep, is all, mo mhac (my son). She'll be holdin' ye and kissin' ye quicker than ye can blink, a chuisle (my blood/my bone/my sweetheart). She already has yer nursery ready for when you come home, with plenty of books and toys and warm things ta snuggle in. She loves ye somethin' fierce, son. Yer Grandda and Granny painted the whole room and yer Granny knitted ye yer very own blanket with yer initials on it. Yer uncles made a storage cabinet for yer wee things, too. I canna wait to take ye campin’, horseback ridin', huntin' an' fishin' at Lallybroch with all the menfolk – there’s no place like it on earth.  We’ll get ye a wee Fraser kit! He smiled broadly at his son. “Yer aunties are ready ta teach ye French and the whole family will teach ye the Ghàdlig, exceptin' yer mam, as she's still learnin'. I'll warn ye, though. Yer mam is a fine doctor and will see to it that ye eat yer veg an' healthy things, whether ye want to or not, so ye grow up braw, straight an' tall, as is proper. Ye must always listen to yer Mam, mo mhac (my son). He choked up and started crying so hard he couldn't see Brian clearly. He whispered, “Aye, yer Mam loves ye and knows what’s best fer ye, little man, and fer me, too. When she wakes up from her nap, she'll keep us on the straight and narrow, alright.” Jamie calmed somewhat, cleared his throat and continued, “Speakin' of aunties and uncles, I want to introduce ye to yer Auntie Geilis and yer Uncle Joe. They are here helpin' yer Mam and Da. They're very special people and Mam and Da love them very much.” Jamie carefully opened the nursery door for Joe and Geilis to enter. Jamie cleared his throat, “Auntie Geilis and Uncle Joe, may I present our firstborn, Brian Joseph Ian Murtagh Fraser.”

 

Joe’s eyes widened in surprise as he heard his nephew's second name and tears rolled down his cheeks, a rarity for him, especially in front of anyone but Gayle or Claire,

“Jamie, I don't know what to say, brother, except that I'm honored and overwhelmed, thank you! Joe shook the new father's hand, “When you talk to Claire, please give her a kiss and my gratitude, won't you?”

 

“Aye, Joe, I surely will. Drill Sergeant Fraser had yer name in the lineup first, even before ‘Brian’ and the others. She was absolutely set on it, and ye know how she gets when she digs in her wee heels. I was perfectly content when she told me what my opinion was, mind ye,” smirked the redhead. Joe and Geilis laughed out loud at the painfully accurate description of their determined friend. He smiled gently at his wife's best friends, “I ken ye're both there for Claire when I canna be and I am thankful.”

 

Geilis reached out a slender finger and traced it on Brian's cheek, smiling through a haze of tears, “Oh, Brian, a bhalaich (boy), we're goin' ta have so much fun, just ye wait, lad!”

 

“Aye, Geilis, ye and Willie need to be there for Wee Brian, aye? An’ not too much spoilin' his dinner with sweeties and ice cream, for goodness' sake!”

 

Geilis grinned and said, “Weel, aunties and uncles are allowed to spoil nieces and nephews. It's a law, aye? Like gravity or ‘the girlfriend rule’!”

 

Nurse Tyrell came back to collect wee Brian and all three adults kissed him goodbye.  As they walked down the hallway to the elevator, Jamie finally felt like he was strong enough to see Claire.  Geilis called down to the ICU nurses' station,

 

“Okay, gents, she's in 4-134. Jamie, We’ll walk ye down there. When ye're ready, we'll take ye to the family w.aiting room, if that's what ye want.”

 

“Aye, let's go,” Jamie said quietly. As they approached Claire's room, Joe and Geilis hugged him and stepped back to allow him in. The faithful friends stood sentry to give the couple uninterrupted privacy.

 

Jamie stood at the doorway for a moment to let his eyes adjust to the dim lighting. The only sound was the vital sign monitor beeping in a hushed "mrrrp mrrrp mrrrp” rhythm. Jamie didn’t mind the noise - it proved his love was still on this plane. She had not left him. She looked so wee in the bed, her beautiful hair in a styled-by-wild-mustangs storm cloud around her head. She'd be fretting at how it looked were she awake, he thought, and chuckled softly. He walked over to the bed and pulled up a chair, wincing at the scraping noise it made.  He smoothed his hands over her face, so delicately beautiful even under the unforgiving hospital lights. He kissed her lush mouth, kissed her knuckles reverently and let his emotions go. All the excitement, stress, fear and joy of the last day emptied from him in a rush like water from a dropped pitcher. He sobbed for her past, her child, just waiting to meet his mother. He cried for their good times and was grateful for the hard times, because they were together.  For Jamie, his Sorcha was God's most beautiful creation and a gift just for Jamie.

 

He talked to her in English and softly whispered the Ghàdlig she loved into her ear, purposely deepening his voice because she always giggled when he did that because “she could feel him in her bones and hear him down in her toes.”

 

He remembered a Friday afternoon when they’d first moved in together, about 3 months after they started dating. He'd taken an hour's run to get rid of some work-related stress. He arrived home and was pleasantly surprised to see Claire's car outside. She was emptying the dishwasher, wearing her favorite after-shower silk robe with a silkscreen of nighttime Paris decorating the panels. Jamie especially liked the streetlight halos which “shone" over her beautiful breasts and the large pale pink heart right over her derrière with “Je t'aime Paris (I love Paris)” over the heart in flowery cursive. She smiled brightly as he came in and he was kissed soundly. She gave him an appreciative sniff and mewled in desire. She handed him a cold drink even before he descended the steps to the plush living room carpet. Claire asked, “how was your run, dear?”

 

“Verra good, mo Sorcha, thank ye. But seein' ye here makes everything better,” and he gave her an ovary melting smile.  “How was your day?”

 

“Oh, you know, same-old, same-old, nothing earth-shaking. It was a nice way to end the day, actually getting some damn paperwork out of the way. I was considering if we should go out for dinner, but I think eating at home is a better idea. We could start with an appetizer just to change things up a bit. What do you think?”

 

Jamie shed his socks and shoes and stepped into the living room, “Och, anything ye want is fine by me, mo chridhe (my heart).” He smiled at her and she smiled back. Then, he saw it. That look that indicated that she wanted nothing from the fridge, freezer or pantry. She wanted an appetizer and he was tonight's special, evidently. She took a predatory step forward then another, her gold-flecked rings in her eyes almost too thin to be seen.

 

Jamie swallowed and ventured, “now, Claire, I'm a mess from my jog. Wouldn't ye rather have fun with a freshly showered me?” Jamie backed away from Claire cautiously, hands up in surrender, palms facing her. He looked behind himself, seeing the dining room and their massive antique dining table, large enough to seat twelve or more if the leaves were added. He whirled around and ran into the room, situating himself behind the far short end but in front of the china cabinet. Claire stalked into the room, eyes riveted on him and maintained her pace. She reminded Jamie of a leopard closing in on its prey. As she narrowed the gap between them, he moved to the wall-side of the table, edging sideways towards the doorway to the hall and freedom. She rounded the end of the table and he feinted toward the center of the room, intending to escape into the kitchen and then upstairs to a hot shower to make himself more presentable (and hopefully better-smelling) for her. As he came around the corner of the table, he forgot one crucial thing: the incredibly hard, sharp table corner.  His hip bone smashed into it and he bellowed, “Iffrin!” as he landed on his back. Shaken, he laid there for a moment, closing his eyes and rubbing his throbbing hipbone.

 

Claire saw her chance and went in with both guns blazing. She dropped to her knees, grabbed the waistband of his shorts and wrenched them off before he could stop her.  He opened his eyes in time to see her push his thighs apart. He began to protest,

 

“Claire, lass, pl-" he started, grasping her wrists gently.  She kissed him hotly and he released her, moaning her name.  She put her sweet finger to his lips,

 

“Ssshhhhhh, love, I know you're in pain now. Please, let me help heal you. You know better than to fight me when I crave you so badly, don't you?” Claire grabbed her t-shirt and ripped it over her head, exposing her naked breasts, making Jamie groan in hunger. There they were, her wondrous bubbies, the inspiration for many of his hottest fantasies and even more painfully turgid hard-ons. When he was away from Claire on business, all he had to do was imagine sliding his diamond-hard cock back and forth between her mounds, titty fucking her. He barely had to touch his cock after that. Without fail, he always experienced a particularly strong orgasm with the images he conjured. His come would rocket out of his cock as if jet-propelled and, sometimes, fly as far as his neck.

 

He smiled widely, “Aye, mo nighean, I do. I'll no' put up a fight. May I touch ye, beautiful?”

 

Claire smiled warmly. “Such a good boy for not fighting me. You won't be able to touch anything except my head, but you may touch it – and yes, you may pull my hair as hard as you like. You know I like it.”

 

Jamie groaned and his cock woke up. She retrieved a couple of large fluffy couch pillows and a dry-cleaning garment bag from her wool coat in the coat closet. She stacked the pillows and inserted them into the bag, drawing it closed.  She draped her t-shirt over the pillows and settled them comfortably under his head so he could watch the show.

 

She scooted down and breathed warm, sweet breath on his lucky prick, who bobbed towards her chin in welcome. She did the same thing to his baws and scratched them gently, eliciting a shiver that burned fire down Jamie's spinal column.  She tongued his baws with the flat of his tongue, making him whine. He fisted her hair and tugged none too gently and she whined throatily. In return, she amped him up by pointing her tongue and pressing hard on the other side of his bawbag, moving around, hitting every part of him. She sucked on his bawbag, lightly scraping him with her teeth.  She slowly slurped each testicle into her mouth one at a time. Jamie's eyes rolled back into his head and he stiffened with pleasure, fisting his hands in his own hair, then the carpet, trying everything he could think of to prevent himself from ruining her fun by hauling her up and spearing her on his drooling, hungry cock, insisting on having his way with her.  He tugged on her head and she mewled prettily.  She licked the inside of his thighs and growled as she nibbled hungrily, swiping her tongue up and up until she reached his cock. She looked up at Jamie and winked lasciviously. He knew there was nothing to do but surrender to the mighty woman before him. She swallowed his penis whole and he shuddered and croaked out, “Mo leòmhann cumhachdach (my mighty lioness), God, do ye know how incredible ye're makin' me feel? She sucked and laved her way up his cock and tongued his head firmly before she looked him in the eye and smiled, purring,

 

“Well, I get weak in the knees when your natural scent mixes with sweat, Jamie, and if I think about your handsome face and your muscles glowing with sweat, it makes my pussy clench; or weren't you aware of that?” She winked at him.

 

“Nay, lass, I canna say I kent that. Do what ye will, love!”

 

Claire looked at him and crowed, “Yay! Mama’s got a new toy!”

 

Jamie laughed out loud at her but became silent again when she took him in her mouth, inch by torturous inch. Jamie tried calming breaths and had nearly managed a couple when she took his bawbag in both hands and squeezed. He bucked helplessly and groaned, “Sorcha, mo nighean donn (my brown-haired lass), I’ll no’ last long if ye persist, aye?”

 

She let his cock go with a resounding “smack!” of her lips and drawled, “I should certainly hope not, Mr. Fraser!” and laughed at the incredulous look on his face. She pushed him to his peak by moaning loudly around his cock, laving it, eliciting a hiss from the redhead,

 

“Lass, please, ah Dhia (oh God), I’m almost there!” Jamie shut his eyes tightly and Claire demanded he open them,

 

“No closed eyes, Jamie! Watch yourself make a hot mess all over my breasts, NOW!”

 

That was it for Jamie. With a groan, he forced his eyes open and watched as Claire worked his cock, “Claire, oh, Jesus, I’m goin’ ta come!”

 

She moaned suggestively and let his cock out of her mouth, pointed it to her breasts and sucked hard on his head one final time. Jamie bellowed and his heartrate reached a fever pitch. He watched, dazed, as ribbon after ribbon of hot come painted Claire’s ivory breasts.  His head was suddenly very heavy and he let it fall on the pillows again. He closed his eyes and scrubbed his face with his hands, but he didn’t have the energy to get up, so he stayed where he was, regulating his breathing through aftershocks.

 

Claire laid on her side next to him, and he reached out a finger and swiped up some ejaculate, painting her lips. She leaned over and kissed him and he could taste himself on her. He reached out and took a nipple in his mouth, making Claire whine.

 

He loved on her nipple, licking all his come off that breast with a growl, “Ye’re my female, a leannan (sweetheart), ye understand? I won’t ever share you with anyone else.” He moved to the other breast and made that nipple pucker by worrying it with his tongue, making her gasp,

 

“Oh, Jamie, you just made me wetter!”

 

He smiled and moved to her whole breast, sensually licking and nipping at her, cleaning the rest of his love off her beautiful skin.

 

Jamie released his memory and promised Claire that he would come every day until she could could come home to her boys. He kissed her palm, and, not feeling quite finished, prayed a Hail Mary over her,

“Hail Mary, Full of Grace

"The Lord is with Thee

Blessed art thou amongst women

And blessed is the fruit of thy womb,

Jesus

Holy Mary, Mother of God

Pray for us sinners

Now and at the hour of our death”

Jamie bowed his head and prayed, ‘God, ye know how much I love Claire. Please, talk to her and convince her to come back to those who love her and those who need her.  Give her strength, and whisper into her ear about wee Brian, who’s fightin’ to be able to meet her as soon as she’s ready.  I am yer servant and if this be not your will for her, so be it. I am Your son and I submit myself to Your will. Your will be done on Earth as it is in heaven.” Jamie made the sign of the cross over himself and on Claire’s forehead, kissed his wife and went to join their friends.

 

Geilis and Joe patted him on the back and Geilis ventured, “Weel, would ye like to go meet with the rest of the family, a bhalaich (boy)?”

 

“Aye, let’s go, all of us, together, and talk to the rest of the family.”

 

They made their way to the family waiting room and the person Jamie sought out was his Mam. She stood and wrapped him in her arms securely, whispering comfortingly as only a loving mother can.  He let his tears come, and for a moment, he felt like he did when he was 5 years old, when Mam holding him in her strong arms could make all the bad go away,

 

“Aye, a mhic mo ghràidh, leig às do bhròn uile (yes, my beloved son, let all your sorrow out).”

 

Eventually, his tears subsided and he kissed Ellen’s cheek and stood in front of everyone,

 

“Claire and I have a braw son, Brian Joseph Murtagh Ian Fraser. His prognosis is good and the wee lad has already broken the NICU record fer the largest amount of formula eaten in the shortest time. At his last weigh-in, wee Brian had already gained 10 grams.” The family cheered and Brian hugged him, whispering congratulations into his son’s ear and thanks for the child’s name. Murtagh and Ian shook his hand in thanks.

 

Ellen asked what was on everyone’s mind, “And how is Claire, son?”

 

Jamie cleared his throat and felt somewhat spacey as he cleared his throat once, then twice, finally getting a bottled water from Jenny. He took a swallow of the water and cleared his throat again, trying not to break down. Why were there black spots in his vision? He’d just eaten a sandwich, after all. He could feel sweat dampening his forehead and the room lurched crazily. He breathed in through his nose and out his mouth, just as Claire had taught him. His thoughts bounced around. What had Mam asked him? Claire. Mam had asked him about Claire. A sick feeling churned in his wame (stomach). Why was he so hot?  He took off his jacket and didn’t notice that it missed the chair beside him and fell sloppily on the floor. He cleared his throat and croaked weakly, “My beautiful lass is in a coma.” And the room got much smaller.

 

He heard his Mam say “ye look a bit peely-wally (sick), son, are ye feelin’ alrigh’?” She sounded like she was far away.

 

Jamie turned his head towards her, and it felt like his neck was encased in sand. He could feel his heart fluttering like a scared bird and his palms had grown moist. He took a breath to answer her. The black spots returned and crowded out all the light, and Jamie hit his head on the hospital’s linoleum floor for the second time that day.

Chapter Text

He woke slowly and wondered at the beeping he heard. Why was he lying down? Why was he lying down in a hospital bed and not their bed at home? He saw an IV in his arm. Had he been in an accident? He felt a bandage around his head. Why was that there?  Why wasn’t Claire here with him? She must be on shift, he thought. And that’s Mam holding my hand; I can smell her perfume. Whatever happened must have been pretty serious for her to come. He finally opened his eyes and his mother breathed,

 

“Mo mhac, there ye are. Ye gave us quite a scare.”

 

Jamie was puzzled, and it showed on his face,

 

“What happened, Ma? Was I in an accident? Where’s Claire?”

 

She looked at him with a frightened look on her face,

 

“Jamie, do ye no’ remember what happened today, son?”

 

“No, Mam, what happened today? Why’re ye lookin’ so scairt?”

 

“Jamie, give me one second. I’m goin’ ta get Geilis, Joe and the rest of the family, aye?”

 

Now Jamie was afraid. Why all the mystery?

 

Da and Ian came in first and took a seat on either side Jamie closest to his head.  Jenny and Ellen entered next and took seats beside their men. Rabbie and Willie stood next to the door. Joe and Geilis took up positions at the foot end of the bed and Murtagh slipped in and sat next to the door.

 

They all greeted Jamie quietly and Joe spoke first,

 

“Jamie, you collapsed in the waiting room.” Joe paused for a second to let that sink in,

 

“An’ why was I in the waitin’ room? What are ye all doin’ here? Are ye here to see me? Will someone please tell me what in the name of God is goin’ on here? An’ somebody better tell me where Claire is ‘afore I get angry, aye?  An’ I want the truth; don’ be tryin’ ta make a silk purse out o’ a sow’s ear! His eyes hardened into blue slits.

 

“Alright, a bhobain (troublemaker, rascal), I need ye to take some relaxing breaths and listen to me, aye?”

 

Geilis fixed her normally sparkling blue eyes on Jamie and he could see she’d been crying,

 

“Nay, Geilis, tell me first why ye’ve been cryin’ today. t’s not like ye, aye? Is it Claire? Is she sick?”

 

Jamie went deathly pale and he gripped the blankets,

 

“Aye, Jamie, it’s Claire. She’s in ICU in a coma, I’m so sorry.”

 

Jamie yelled,

 

 “Geilis, where is she? Which room, dammit?” and kicked off his blankets, then attempted to swing his feet over the bed and rip out his IV. Ian and Brian put all their strength into forcing him back onto the bed. They put their whole weight on his chest to prevent him from putting his feet on the floor. Willie and Rabbie counted to three in unison and took him by his underarms and scooted him back against his pillows.  Jenny and Ellen grabbed his hands away from the IV and held on tightly. Fully panicked, Jamie bellowed,

 

“What in the name of Jesus, Mary and Joseph are ye doin? I haveta to get to Claire!  Mam, please, ye know my Sorcha is my world!”

 

Brian thundered,

 

“James Alexander Malcom MacKenzie Fraser, STOP RIGHT WHERE YE ARE!”

 

Jamie and his siblings winced involuntarily when they heard his whole name; when they were younger, that tone and a full name usually meant an unpleasant tête-a-derrière with Da’s belt was imminent. He meekly sank back into the pillows and tried to relax for a moment. He closed his eyes and let his mother and sister hold his hands.  He felt when the men took their hands off him and backed away. He took several deep cleansing breaths, focusing on his goal, keeping his face and muscles relaxed. He let his head loll to the side and remained so for quite a few minutes, breathing deeply and evenly. He took a silent breath and as fast as lightning, ripped his hands away from Jenny and Ellen. He tried to launch himself out of bed again, relying this time on his powerful fists. Murtagh and Joe sprang into action, yanked his arms up and forcibly straightened his fingers,

 

“BRIAN! HELP!” Murtagh shouted. Brian and the rest of the men came running. Jamie tried to wrest his arms free, but Murtagh and Ian wrenched both behind his back in painful double hammer-locks, pushing him face-down on the bed. Jamie writhed and tried to free his arms, screaming out his fear for his wife and anger at the situation, kicking at anyone who came too close,

 

“Let me go! I haveta get to Sorcha! I need ta see her, for the love of God!”

 

Brian set his mouth in a thin line and redoubled his efforts to keep his son in bed,

 

“Son, ye must stay here, for yer own good and Claire’s as well. Please, stop fightin’ yer family.”

 

Jenny glanced at Ian and saw unshed tears in his eyes, but he didn’t yield to Jamie’s pleading. She moved forward to try to comfort Jamie, but Ian snapped,

 

“Jenny! Jamie’s so worn down he literally doesn’a know what he’s doin’ righ’ now, and he’ll hurt ye without meanin’ ta. Ye know that’ll break his heart. Go be with Mam.” His wife hesitated, wanting so badly to help her brother. Ian shouted, “Jenny, NOW!” and she fled to the waiting room.

 

Ellen cried silently; Her third child had been through so much in the last day. She wished for the thousandth time she could take his anguish. Back in the room, Willie and Rabbie pressed his thighs and calves into the mattress so he couldn’t move, but not before Jamie landed a brutal kick on his older brother’s thigh. Willie swore up a blue streak, grabbed a large handful of curls and yanked Jamie’s head back. Jamie howled in agony and swung his head, leaving Willie with a handful of curls.  Geilis whirled around and tore open the door, calling out, “code violet, 4-point!” making way for four burly orderlies who flipped the massive Highlander on his back and pulled Jamie the rest of the way onto the bed.  They quickly restrained the frenzied redhead although he didn’t stop fighting them one bit until he couldn’t reach them. An enraged Jamie bellowed,

 

“Aye, restrain me because none o’ ye are man enough ta take me!”

 

Geilis pulled out a syringe and barked at the orderlies to hold him steady as she injected Jamie with 20 milligrams of Ketamine.

 

“That stung. Wha’ was tha’?” Jamie growled at his friend,

 

Geilis spoke calmly to Jamie,

 

“It’s a wee sedative to help you relax, Jamie.”

 

“But a neighan (girl), I haveta see to Sorcha!” 

 

“Aye, ye do. And right now, lad, you need to take care of yourself. Ye’re exhausted, low in sodium and other minerals and dehydrated to boot.  Ye’re no good to Claire like this. You need ta take care o’ yerself. I know ye always want to put others first; ye and Claire both do. ‘Tis honorable but not always smart. Ye get better and we’ll talk about goin’ ta see the Drill Sergeant later, aye? Can ye try ta have a wee nap now?”

 

“Aye, Geilis. I’m feelin’ a little drowsy. A nap sounds like a braw idea. Are Mam and Da here?”

 

“Aye, son, we’re here.” Ellen and Brian came to him and Ellen took his left hand and Brian his right,

 

Jamie looked at Ellen’s face and realized she’d been crying. He whispered,

 

“Och, Mam, I made ye cry,”

 

Ashamed and embarrassed by his ghastly behavior, Jamie started crying again, tears rolling down his cheeks,

 

“Please, Mam, can ye see yer way clear to fergivin’ me? I’m so sorry for everything.”

 

“’Tis understandable, Jamie, with all the stress ye’ve been having. We all know ye didn’a mean it.  O’course I fergive ye.”

 

She bent down, wiped his tears with a tissue, kissed his cheek and hugged him. She rubbed his back in a soothing slow circle, something that had never failed to relax Jamie as a child.

 

“Da, I am so sorry for how I acted. There was no excuse for it,”

 

Jamie’s voice was thick with emotion; he turned red and couldn’t meet Brian’s eye.  Brian placed a gentle finger under his son’s chin, raising it so Jamie could look him in the eye,

 

“Son, look at me. As yer Mam said, ‘tis understandable. I know, if it’d been yer Mam, I’d have acted the same.  Nothin’ ta fergive, mo mhac (my son).”  Dinna fash (don’t worry). 

 

“Will ye extend my apologies to everyone, please? I owe all o’ ye at least one round at Rungus  an’ dinner after this.”

 

Brian smiled,

 

“Aye, a chiusle (my bone/my blood/my sweetheart) will do. I’ll give ye time with yer Mam, aye?”

 

Brian hugged Jamie gently and kissed the top of his head and left. He met with the rest of the anxious family and relayed Jamie’s apologies and promise of rounds and dinner at Rungus.

 

Back in the room, Ellen sat with Jamie, relieved that his eyes seemed to be getting heavier and heavier. Jamie slurred, “Mam? will ye tell me a s-shtory to go ta sleep by, puh-pease?”

 

“Aye, Seamus Ruaidh (Red Jamie), I will.”

 

Jamie let his eyes crash closed and heard his mother’s sweet voice, low and comforting,

 

“Once upon a time, in a land far far away, there was a handsome, strong and brave prince who was married to the fairest lass in all the land…”

 

Ellen smiled as she realized that Jamie was out for the night. She got up quietly, kissing her boy’s forehead and left. She rejoined Brian and they checked with Geilis and Joe, who assured them that Jamie would be out for at least 12 hours. Someone would call them when Jamie or Claire was awake.

 

The next morning, Jamie started waking up around 10am. His nurse heard his vitals monitor sound because his heartrate increased slightly.  She paged Geilis and Joe, who were there when Jamie finally opened his eyes,

 

“Geilis? Joe? What am I doin’ in the hospital?” He yawned and went to scratch his head and finally noticed the restraints,

 

“Wha’ the fuck? Why am I in 4 points? Wha’ did I do? Trash a bar? Clean someone’s clock?  Can ye get me out o’ these things, please? Where’s Claire?”

 

“One question at a time, buddy, Joe chuckled. “Alright. It’s better for you to stay put while we talk to you, alright?”

 

Jamie’s face drained of all color,

 

“Is it Claire? God, where is she?”

 

Joe looked over at Geilis and she blinked. The footboard of Jamie’s bed blocked his view of his friends from the waist down, so he didn’t see Geilis reach into her pocket and slip a syringe with another dose of Ketamine into Joe’s hand.  Quick as you please, he hid the syringe in his coat pocket.  Joe pulled up the chair closest to Jamie’s shoulder in case he needed to act quickly. Both laid gentle hands on him.

 

Geilis cleared her throat and spoke quietly,

 

“Jamie, the information we have to give you next is going to be verra hard to hear. I need you to focus on staying calm, aye? We all love Claire and want the best for her.  Let’s take three cleansing breaths in through our noses and out our mouths, aye? Joe and I will do it with ye.” The three friends completed the exercise and slowly opened their eyes.  Joe spoke first,

 

“Jamie, Claire gave birth to your first child yesterday, Brian Joseph Murtagh Ian Fraser. The baby was born about two months premature and is already gaining weight in the NICU.  Wee Brian broke department records for the most formula eaten in the shortest time.  The head of procurement moved up the next shipment of formula to the hospital!”

 

Jamie managed a proud grin and Joe and Geilis smiled back. Joe continued, “Claire is in the ICU because she suffered from something called atony, which is when the uterus doesn’t return to its normal size – hers didn’t even start the process post-birth.  Unfortunately, her uterus was damaged badly by Frank. Coupled with the damage sustained during Brian’s birth and how much she bled, Hildegard considered it prudent to perform a complete laparoscopic hysterectomy and oophorectomy.  The surgery was completed yesterday.  It’s a miracle that she even got pregnant, much less carried Brian for so long.”

 

Jamie’s face drained of all color and he started to cry, “Tha’ means Claire canna carry any more o’ her babies,” Jamie’s volume rose until he was shouting, “An’ we have that bastard MAC NA GALLA (son of a bitch) ta thank fer it? Is that basically the long and short of it, Joe?”

 

“Yes, brother, that’s right,” and Joe’s lip trembled before he wrestled his emotions under control.

 

Geilis got a tissue and mopped up Jamie’s tears for him,

 

“An I dinna know what an oopha-whatever-you-just-said is! God, Imma gonna be sick!” Joe grabbed an emetic pan and Jamie lost what was left of his sandwich and chips from the night before.

 

Geilis spoke up, “A charaid (friend), an oophorectomy is when the ovaries and fallopian tubes are removed.”

 

Jamie thought hard for a moment, blushed ten kinds of angry scarlet and timidly asked,

 

“so she won’t have her courses? Is that correct, a neighan ruaidh (red-haired girl)?”

 

“Aye, that’s righ’, Jamie.  No more godforsaken bleeding, cramping, bitchyness or anything. It means she’ll go right into menopause, though. But we can talk about therapies that make that easier for her to deal with.”

 

“Aye, well, there’s that at the very least. We’ve talked about adopting and/or fostering, in any case.” His face took on a worried look, “Does she know, yet? Would a C-section have allowed her to avoid all this?”

 

Joe spoke next,

 

“Not necessarily. Hildie carefully weighed all the options and let Claire decide what to do.   She really thought that the healing that had taken place was sufficient to override the need for a C-section – plus, Claire insisted on a vaginal birth if at all possible.”

 

Jamie could swear he saw Joe turning the color of a beefsteak tomato, smirked and dug in the rusty fork, donning an innocent look,

 

“An’ what was her rationale fer that, a bràthair (brother)?”

 

Joe gave the other man an exasperated “really?” look, 

 

“Are ya gonna make me say it, Fraser? Come on now, you know what I mean! Geilis, a lil’ help here, please?”

 

Geilis grinned and drawled,

 

“Nuh-uh, my beautiful ebony brother, yer all by your lonesome at that campfire!”

 

She snorted in a most unladylike manner.

 

“Come on, Joe,” Jamie goaded, “Imma civilian, remember? I want to know what Claire said, please.”

 

Joe huffed like the wolf in “Little Red Riding Hood”, hemmed and hawed and finally spluttered, 

 

“Because the recovery time is shorter for vaginal birth so you two can get down to ‘married-people-business’ sooner, you BOD CEANN (dickhead)!”

 

Geilis and Jamie shrieked in laughter at Joe’s choice of insult and Joe finally capitulated and joined them.

 

When they’d all calmed down somewhat, Jamie asked why he was in the restraints.  Joe asked,

 

“Do you remember anything of yesterday?”

 

“Aye, I remember being in the waitin’ room an’ then wakin’ up here.  Why? What really happened?”

 

Geillis opened and shut her mouth.  Jamie warned,

 

“Geilis, out with it, the whole truth and don’t ye dare sugar-coat it, aye?”

 

Geilis nodded and took a deep breath,

 

“Weel, after ye hit yer head when ye fainted, ye were stitched up an’ brought up here to recuperate. Blood was taken and tested. Ye were extremely deficient in minerals, especially salt, an’ ye’re extremely dehydrated, not to mention exhausted.  Ye were hooked up to an IV containing saline and dextrose so ye could recover.”  She swallowed nervously, “When we told ye of Claire’s situation, understandably, ye got very upset. Ye tried to rip out yer IV and get ta Claire. Yer Da and Ian tried to hold ye in bed and Jenny and Mam tried holding on to yer hands to keep you away from the IV. Ye shook them off and Joe and Murtagh took over from them.  Rabbie and Willie had to come and hold down yer legs. Ye tried escapin’ twice and nearly succeeded the second time.  I called a ‘code violet’ and ‘4-point,’ and it took our 4 biggest orderlies to subdue ye enough so I could inject ye with 20 miligrams of Ketamine.”

 

Jamie had been an EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) in his early 20s, so he knew exactly what Ketamine was; he’d used it only on his most violent patients so he could transport them safely to hospital,

 

“Ah Dhia (oh God), did I hurt Mam or Jenny? Anyone? Please say I didna!”

 

“Och, nay, dinna fash. They’re both fine.”

 

Jamie’s lip trembled,

 

“whom did I hurt, Geilis?”

 

“Well, ye planted one o’ yer big boats on Willie’s thigh and gave him a bruise the size of a bread plate.  Willie said it was revenge for all the times he ambushed ye and thumped yer heid (head) when ye were bairns,”

 

Geilis laughed when she saw Jamie’s horrified look and said,

 

“He’ll be fine. I took him home and gave him whisky and made him yer Mam’s recipe fer cock-a-leekie soup – you know that lad will burn water if allowed inta my kitchen - an’ gave him ice cream and cookies fer dessert because he was feelin’ sorry fer himself.”

 

Jamie didn’t even smile, he was so distraught,

 

“Will ye ask him if he’ll come see me? I wanta apologize.”

 

Geilis smiled,

 

“He’ll be here at lunchtime, ye can hash it out then, aye? Joe and I will talk with ye about Claire’s prognosis after he leaves.”

 

“Thank ye, a neighan (girl). I appreciate it.”

 

A little after noon, Brian and Ellen’s oldest walked into the hospital. 6’2” with his father’s black hair and his mother’s gray eyes fringed with long black lashes, William Brian Murtagh David Fraser looked almost exactly like his younger brothers with the exception of his hair and eyes.   He wasn’t into bodybuilding as much as Jamie and preferred to do anything with running to keep fit – jogging, rugby, shinty or football (US: soccer).  Like her sisters-in-law, Geilis often had to run interference with ladies at bars looking to score a handsome man for a night – and Ian, Willie and Rabbie all wore wide yellow gold wedding bands that were rather difficult to miss - should one care to look.  He greeted Mrs. O’Connell at the desk and let her know he was here to see “Tha Lunkheid.” She smiled and passed him a visitor’s badge and he went on his way.  He knocked on the door quietly and Jamie rumbled

 

“come in.”

 

Willie pushed the door open and smiled at his brother,

 

“Ye feelin’ better taday, Jamie?” He crossed the room and ordered his brother to move his legs so he could sit him and facing him and Jamie wouldn’t have to crane his neck.

 

“Weel, I’m not quite there yet, but aye, on the mend.”  The redhead cleared his throat twice before he could speak and Willie could hear that his brother was very close to tears, 

 

“I apologize fer hurtin’ ye, Willie, it was horrible of me. Ye shoulda punched ma lights out. I’m surprised and grateful ye didn’t, though.”

 

Willie smiled ruefully, “Ahhh, ‘twas nothin’, Jamie. I figured ye were revenging yerself fer all the shite I gave ye when we were comin’ up.“ He smiled widely, “Do ye remember when Mrs. Crook left the blackberry pie to cool and you and Rabbie, Ian and I found it after school an’ ate the whole thing with that homemade ice cream and the Lallybroch whipped cream Ma was savin’ fer dessert? Jenny warned us we’d get a whippin’, an’ Da wore his belt out on our asses, even Ian’s.  He didn’a even call his Da fer permission, he was so livid!  He shouted at Ian that he’d eaten enough of his food over the years to be his son, so he was goin’ ta be punished jus’ like tha’ rest o’ us!” The brothers looked at each other and exclaimed,

 

“TOTALLY WORTH THE WHIPPIN’!”

 

And burst into gales of laughter.  Geilis and Joe came back in and Willie stood to leave,

 

“Nah, Willie, stay. I’d appreciate it,” said Jamie. 

 

“Alrigh’, tell me about Claire, you two. An’, promise me, no sugar-coatin’ it.”

 

Joe nodded, put on his doctor face and started,

 

“Jamie, you know that she bled a lot. Unfortunately, she nearly bled out and her blood pressure fell so rapidly that” Joe took a deep breath and steadied himself, “she fell into a coma. She is stable right now and resting in the ICU.”

 

Jamie’s face drained a pasty white and he shuddered. Willie held his hands gently, saying soothingly,

 

“Brother, ye’ve got to stay relaxed, alrigh’?”

 

Jamie looked at him, scared and lost,

 

“I can’t live without her, Willie, Claire’ll be alrigh’, aye?”

 

Willie cursed inwardly as his brother’s eyes fill with tears.

 

“Aye, she’s gonna be alrigh’, remember, she’s half-Scot by blood an’ think of wha’ Jen said, she’s got balls o’ steel – how else is the woman able to keep the likes o’ yer stubborn ass in line? You know she’s gonna claw her way outta this jus’ so she can keep on natterin’ at ye, nevermind Wee Brian. Why, between Laoghire, my Geilis, Gail, Jenny and Claire, it’s an Olympic sport, aye? Come on, Jamie, breathe with me, aye?”

 

Jamie repeated faintly, eyes clouded over with tears,

 

“Breathe with you. Aye, a bràthair.”

 

Together, the brothers breathed together until Jamie calmed down. He blinked and directed a question to Geilis, 

 

“Can I go see her?”

 

“Aye,” and Jamie smiled to put the sun to shame, “but only in a wheelchair wi’ a blanket, a bhalaich (boy). Willie brought ye some sweats, socks, sweatshirt and a t-shirt. We’ll release ye and unhook ye from the drip an’ you can spend a few minutes with her. I’m warnin’ ye, Jamie, if Joe or Willie hear as much as a whisper of argument when Joe says it’s time to go, ye’ll be back here in restraints faster than ye can blink, aye?  An’ don’ even think about standing up until the boys are back in here.”

 

Suitably abashed, Jamie blushed and whispered, “Aye, Geilis, I understand.”

 

Geilis unhooked him from the IV and the restraints and left the room. Willie gave him the bag with his clothes in it and left as well.

 

Jamie changed quickly, relishing the ability to move his arms and legs again. He stayed on the bed and called Willie when he was ready. Joe came in with a wheelchair and Willie held him steady and Jamie cautiously settled himself. Joe draped the blanket on his lap and legs and tucked it in snugly and they set off down the hallway.

 

They quietly entered Claire’s darkened room and Jamie’s lower lip began to wobble. A few tears escaped as he was pushed as closely to Claire as possible.  Joe checked her chart and the monitor, muttering to himself and nodding his head.

 

Willie spoke up,

 

“Joe, are ye allowed to give us her prognosis?”

 

“Ay – uh, yes,” and the Frasers smiled at his “mistake.”

 

“Her heart and lungs look good, as do her kidneys and liver. Kidney output is as expected. Her oxygen saturation is excellent, at 98 percent. Temp normal. Jamie, I’m just going to lift her gown and check her scar, ok?”

 

“Ok, Joe, thank ye for warnin’ me.”

 

Joe gently lifted the gown, palpated the area around the scar and lifted the bandage. The scar was dry, which was good.  Hildie had used dissolving stitches, another good thing,

 

“Okay, the wound is healing nicely and is good and dry with no weeping. The scar will be about as big as a ladybug.”

 

“A what?”

 

“Uh, you know, ‘Ladybug ladybug fly away home…?’”

 

“Oh, aye, we call ‘em ‘ladybirds’ here.”

 

“Huh. ‘Lady Bird’ was the name of President Lyndon Johnson’s wife.”

 

“Anyway, any scars Claire will have will be so tiny they’ll be nearly invisible come bikini season, thanks to the dissolving stitches Hildie used, Jamie. Claire bribed me with lunch and dessert and coffee to go shopping with her in September at a clearance sale for my ‘man’s opinion’. Son, you better be ready with the sticks, stones and flamethrower!”

 

Jamie and Willie laughed and the tension in the room dissipated.

 

Joe continued,

 

“So, essentially, Claire is right where we expected her to be. She could wake up at any time, Jamie.  We know she’s a fighter and right now, I prefer to think that she’s enjoying a lie-in, as you people say. I know it’s hard to wait, brother.”

 

Joe put a gentle hand on Jamie’s shoulder and Jamie patted it in thanks. 

 

“No getting out of that chair, Jamie; remember what Geilis said.”

 

Joe fixed the redhead with a stern stare and Jamie reddened and promised that he wouldn’t. 

 

“We’ll be right outside, Jamie,” called Willie as the two men left.

 

Finally alone with his wife, Jamie was able to relax and take her tiny hand in his. He raised it to trembling lips and kissed her knuckles gently.  He started to pray for his “calman geal (white dove)” and asked God to send angels to watch over her.  He pressed her hand to his heart so she could feel his heart and spoke in hushed tones,

 

“Sorcha, mo leannan (my sweetheart), please come back to yer family. I miss ye so, and our son, Brian, oh, he’s so braw, he has yer fightin’ spirit. Ye’ll be so proud of him when ye finally see him. He has my hair but we can’t see how his eyes will turn out yet, but ye know that weel. Can ye feel yer hand in mine, my heart? Ye ken ye hold my heart in yer hand, lass.” Jamie kissed the inside of her wrist and her upturned palm and held her hand to his face and on his hair, stroking the top of her hand with his thumb. He brought her hand down and breathed warm air onto it as he did when the weather was nasty, putting one down and picking the other up. He repeated the actions he’d performed on her other hand, tears rolling down his cheeks. He whispered hoarsely, “Please, a nighean (girl), ye are loved and missed. Ye can’t mean ta leave me alone with Brian. Please fight against tha darkness, aye? I will live wi’ half a heart wi’ out ye.  Sorcha, Imma beggin’ ye, wake up, please. Jamie stretched and placed a warm kiss on her lips. He rested his head against her, placing her hand carefully on his curls. His eyes were too heavy; he would just close them for a minute.

 

Thirty minutes later, Joe opened the door quietly and stopped at the sight of the huge redhead asleep with his head leaning on his wife’s side. He made sure the chair’s wheels were locked into place and wrote Jamie a quick note to call him when he woke. Joe slipped it gently under Jamie’s hand so he’d see it when he woke. He motioned to Willie and Geilis, who was off for the night. He allowed them to see Jamie and they agreed to let him sleep.  Joe talked to the nurses and asked them to leave the redhead alone. Nurse Smith made a large, bold-lettered sign for the door telling everyone that Joe had ordered that Jamie be allowed to sleep.  Joe finally got a call 4 hours later and he moved into the room quietly, pushing a groggy Jamie back to his room. He got him settled and gave him a mild sedative to help him fall asleep again. Geilis came in and sat with him until she saw that he was sleeping again.  She tiptoed out and was met by Brian Senior who hugged her and asked if he could go in and just sit with his son,

 

“Aye, ye can, mo athair-cèile (my father-in-law). It’ll do him good to see ye when he wakes.”

 

“Thank ye, Geilis, fer everythin’. I dinna know wha’ we’d do wi’out ye.  I dinna like ta think on it, that’s fer sure.”

 

She blushed and said, “Weel, I have rounds ta make. Maybe I’ll see ye later and we can have coffee with Jamie.” 

 

Brian pushed the door open, saw his son sleeping and pulled up a chair. He pulled out his earbuds and settled on listening to a podcast he’d recently discovered from America’s National Public Radio, “Car Talk, with Click and Clack the Tappet Brothers.” The Magliozzi brothers had a call-in radio show where they attempted to diagnose listeners’ car problems on the air.  They’d even try to diagnose the issue when the listener mimicked their vehicle’s sound for them. Anything was fair game; relationship problems, biology, literature, chemistry or other academic subjects. Brian restarted the podcast he’d started that morning, happy to hear that it was “the third half of the show” and time for “Stump the Chumps,” where the brothers would catch up with a listener to find out if their solution worked (A/N: this is a real podcast and it’s hilarious and educational at the same time. Check it out!).

 

Chapter Text

A/N: the next section details extreme abandonment, violence, physical, sexual and emotional abuse.  It will be very dark in some parts and may be difficult to read. If that’s not your bag, please skip over it.   

On the other hand, if you like sparklies like me, I’ve included plenty of them in this bit along with links if you feel like learning more about them. I would say I’m sorry, but lying is a sin… 😊

Jamie shielded his eyes against a rare bright sun and blinked. He was standing on the bank of a pond on his family’s property.  He took a cleansing breath, amazed at how clean and sweet the air was. He could hear the pine trees rustling above him and a stiff breeze ruffled the surface of the pond.  He felt the cold wind against his legs and wondered if he’d ripped his pants during their exploring; it wouldn’t be the first time. He looked down, searching for the rip.  Instead of his ripped jeans, rugby shirt and old hiking boots he was clothed in 18th century garb like his direct ancestor, the first recorded James Fraser, only surviving son of the first Laird of Lallybroch.  Jamie had on an ancient Fraser great kilt pinned to his shoulder with a sterling silver Fraser badge. He was armed with a huge broadsword strapped to his right side, a dirk and a sgian dubh in his sturdy leather boot.  He heard a soft whickering behind him - there was Donas, his ancestor’s legendary massive black stallion, who was reputed to be so attached to the first Jamie that he would follow behind him without having to led. He would generally only let Fraser, his immediate family and women ride him.  He would follow his master like a dog without a leash, come when Fraser whistled and stay as well. Jamie stroked the great animal’s velvet nose and whispered to him in Gaelic, getting a whuffling snort and a soft nose nudging his shoulder in reply. Jamie mounted him and they moved away from the pond as quietly as possible.  He’d heard of the circle of stones at Craigh na Dun, otherwise known as the Fairy Hill. He remembered the song, “The Woman of Balnain,” an ancient folk song about a woman who supposedly went through the stones to a different time and eventually returned to her own time.  Had he and Claire taken an afternoon trip there to explore the area and somehow fallen through the stones?  He thought about it for a while but realized that he had no idea what he was doing there. He heard sweet laughter nearby and focused his gaze on the horizon. There she was, his Sorcha! She was well and on her feet, Wee Brian in a sling across her front.

 

“Mo Sorcha!” Jamie called joyfully and urged Donas to a gallop to reach his little family. Finally reaching them, he vaulted off of Donas and swept Claire off her feet into his greedy arms whispering, 

 

“You’re back, mo nighean donn (my brown haired lass)! You’re out of the coma and awake, thanks be to Jesus! And look at my lad, so chubby, so healthy. Thank ye, Sorcha, thank ye! Oh God, I missed ye so! It must’ve been a horrid dream!” Jamie planted a firm kiss on his wife’s beautiful mouth.

“Well, I missed you too, love, although it’s only been a few hours since breakfast! What are you talking about? A coma? I got up this morning like I always do and made us breakfast and brought Brian with me to look for berries for a pie.”

“Aye, Sorcha, I’m sorry to worry ye. I must have had a whopper of a dream; I thought we had to rush ye to hospital and Brian was 2 months early. An’ then you went into a coma from blood loss.”

“Oh, sweetheart, that sounds ghastly. I’m sorry you had such a dream. I’m fine and Brian is fine. He’ll eat in a little while and if he doesn’t finish what’s waiting, you may need to help me.” She smirked coyly, “Do you think you’ll be able to oblige me, my Lord?”

Jamie took her fingers and kissed them and bowed, sweeping his hand gallantly to his heart,

“Yer servant, my Lady!”

“You’re damn right,”

Claire snickered and they burst out laughing.

It was then that Jamie finally noticed what Claire was wearing, 

“One thing I don’t understand, Claire, is why ye’re in a hospital gown and I’m in this getup, if all I had was a ‘waking nightmare.’”

Claire looked at him like he had two heads,

“Jamie, are you feeling alright? Look again, love. I’m in your t-shirt and my denim coveralls and my boots! What’s gotten into you? Do you need to sit down?  Tell me what you see you’re wearing.”

Jamie felt silly, but he took a deep breath and said,“ An ancient Fraser great kilt with a sterling silver badge, tall leather boots and a broadsword

on my right hip, a sgian dubh, a dagger and an everyday leather sporran.”

Claire paled, “What I see is denim jeans, your favorite rugger shirt and tall work boots, Jamie.” 

“But Sorcha, kin ye not see Donas? He’s right here, behind me. I rode him like the wind to get down the hill to ye. Did ye not hear his great hooves and feel ‘em shakin’ the ground?”

“Jamie, sit down here on the blanket.” Claire patted the ground beside her, 

“I think you need to take a couple of deep breaths, okay?”

Nervously, Jamie nodded and did as she said.

She sighed and asked Jamie to take the sling and Brian so she could have a break for a few minutes. Claire hoped that the physical act of taking Brian in his arms would shake him out of whatever dream state he found himself in.  She got him a cold drink from the basket and gave it to him with 2 non-aspirin painkillers, ordering,

“Drink this, slowly.  I’m wondering if you’re possibly developing migraines, which would suck!”

Jamie nodded and timidly took the pills and bottle from Claire. He closed his eyes for a few minutes and opened them cautiously, hoping that he’d see his modern clothing. No soap (this is a somewhat old-fashioned phrase that means “no luck”). Still the old getup. Fuck a duck. Might as well relax.  Right as he was drifting off to sleep (because it’s just impossible to stay awake with a warm baby on your chest, amirite?), he heard the most God-forsaken shriek he’d ever had the misfortune to hear. It was so shrill that boulders cracked and the earth fissured jaggedly. It was so deep and resonant that the pond he’d stood at slopped water over its rims in great waves. No animals were heard because they’d all fled into the surrounding forest . Trees crashed to their deaths onto the forest floor in a groaning chorus of ear-splitting booms.  Jamie scrambled up and gave the sling and Brian to Claire, bellowing,

 “RUN! HIDE YERSELF! I’LL FIND YE!”

Claire hurriedly strapped Brian around her and ran towards the safety of the hidden cave on the property.

Jamie ran towards the shriek and skidded to a stop. He could not trust his eyes, for what he saw could not, in a million years, be real.

It was an enormous red dragon, slitted orange eyes and sharp teeth, covered in sleek iridescent scales with coal-black claws on all 4 paws. Its forked tongue flicked in and out of its blood-coated mouth.

Jamie drew his broadsword and marveled that it felt like it had been custom-made for his left hand. He hefted it, assumed a defensive position and yelled in English, 

“What de ye want, beast?”

The great lizard snarled and spat, incinerating a great oak 3 miles away, speaking in perfect Scots Gàidhlig,

“James Fraser, native son of Alba, Son of Red Ellen the Powerful and Mac Dubh the Strong, Laird of Lallybroch, I know ye speak the language of the Venerated Ones. Do not speak to me in the tongue of despicable invaders!

Jamie’s mouth dropped open, and he continued in his mother tongue, “An’ how do ye come to know ma name and that of my clan?”

The dragon rumbled,  "I caught the 4th Laird of Lallybroch, Robert Brian Tammas Gordon Fraser, poaching deer on my lands. In return for his life, he promised that one of his descendants would forfeit their greatest treasure to me. I would choose who would forfeit that which he,” and the beast held up a clawed finger, “or she, of course, treasured most. I have been patient all these years, waiting to collect my end of the bargain. I have finally found it.”

“An’ wha’ has that ta do wi’ me? I didn’a make that deal wi’ ye and don’ intend on settlin’ a debt that I do no’ owe. Asides, I have neither gold nor treasure for ye. If ye don’ believe me, check ma bank balance.”

The dragon smirked and rolled his glittering serpentine eyes, drawling,

“Oh, how perfectly droll, ye silly wee mortal. It is not physical gold I seek, but metaphorical gold. Real gold isn’t tasty at all, trust me” and the dragon made a face and a “plaah” sound, sticking out his tongue in distaste.  

“The love you share with your wife and son is the sweetest, strongest and most powerful substance on Earth; it is pure and without taint, and I will have it.  You shall surrender it to me.”

“NO!”

Jamie howled at the serpent and ran forward, slashing the beast in the leg. The dragon feigned boredom and licked a finger, swiping it over the wound, which healed instantly.

“Ah-ah-ah,” chided the behemoth, “Be careful. You might hurt something ye love,”

and a bewildered Claire appeared right in front of Jamie.  He skidded to a stop and immediately threw his sword away so he wouldn’t hurt Claire.

Claire screamed, “Jamie, help me! Brian’s been stolen! Come on! Follow me!

The monster snapped his fingers and a beautiful solid gold waist chain and shackle set decorated with stunning jewels appeared. The chain flew around Jamie’s waist and the shackles were fixed so closely to the waist chain that he was rendered immobile.  His ankles were fettered to bolts fixed in the ground. He tried to tell her what was wrong, but his tongue wouldn’t work either; he couldn’t even open his mouth. It dawned on him that the beast had made his shackles invisible to Claire.  To her, it looked like he was just standing still, silent and uncaring. He could do nothing except cry silently. Claire shouted,

“Jamie! Don’t you love us anymore? Why have you abandoned us? Get a move on! Help me find Brian!”  Claire marched back to him and shook him. When that did no good, she punched him in the jaw, screaming,

“What’s wrong with you? Snap out of it! Damn you to hell, Jamie Fraser, I hate you! I’m going to save my son alone!”  

She slapped him so forcefully that the blow ricocheted off nearby trees and Jamie was knocked to the ground.

The dragon grinned in satisfaction,

“There, I felt it. She has lost faith in you and thinks you no longer care.”

The dragon yanked Jamie off the ground, chains and all. It snorted fire onto the metal and quickly soldered Jamie’s chains together into a stunning choker with Jamie as the centerpiece.  Brian was suspended from the dragon’s neck, ensconced in an enclosed crystal cradle from which he could not fall.  It was lined with fox furs and an ermine blanket covered him.  He flapped his great wings and they were airborne. Before he ascended completely, the nightmare turned around and opened his diseased maw. Jamie expected fire to come roaring out. Instead, the dragon regurgitated an ocean of putrid, foul-smelling red blood that quickly saturated the ground, incinerating everything it touched, getting closer and closer to Claire.  Horrified, Jamie witnessed his heart get swept up in a crimson tide of death. She surfaced for the first time and vomited blood, crying and screaming,

“Somebody, please help me!” and Jamie’s heart broke because she wasn’t calling to him for help – and never would again.  An anonymous “somebody” was better than he was.  An enormous wave pulled her back under and she continued to fight for her life. Jamie battled his chains, trying anything he could to get to Claire, even if she wouldn’t have him anymore. He didn’t care about himself.  Seeing her safe was paramount in that moment, even if she spurned him afterward. The monster got impatient with his struggles and toyed with his life, amusing himself by choking Jamie slowly. He glanced down and saw what the dragon was using to make him struggle and writhe like a landed fish suffocating on the bank of a lake. His mother’s much-loved pearls, received from a “secret admirer” at her wedding, were wound around his neck in an ever-tightening spiral of death. The dragon hissed angrily,

“I’m here to help you; don’t fight me!”

Jamie was released from the chains and fell into the dragon’s paw. He watched as Claire used her strong legs to push herself up, finally shattering the surface of the pool the dragon created by pushing his finger into the ground. She captured a few precious breaths before she was knocked down again. It took her longer to surface this time and her husband could see she was tiring. Ignoring the mounting dizzy feeling from the constricting pearls, Jamie screamed,

“STOP!”

Fun interrupted, the dragon swished his great tail, annoyed, “Make me a better offer!”

Jamie rasped, “Have me. Let her go in safety and ye can have me; I won’t struggle. You-you do what you wish. You have my word, Sir.”

The dragon pretended to mull it over, “hmmm. Well, alright. Ye will call me Master and kneel at my feet. I may even let ye say goodbye to her if ye swear to do what ye promised. James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser, do ye swear to be my property for eternity if Claire’s heart is eased and ye’re allowed to say goodbye?”

“Yes,I’ll do it. I’ll be yers for eternity if ye let me say goodbye to Claire and ease her heart.”

“Well? I’m waiting,” snorted the dragon in disdain; “either kneel and subjugate yourself to me, or,” the beast continued with a sneer, “I could simply force ye to your knees and make ye sign the contract and then destroy Claire, but the energy the two of ye will excrete then won’t taste nearly as delicious. Keep yer eyes on me as ye kneel - and do it slowly. Ye will address me as Master and beg me to save your wife and son. I can feel yer hatred an’ loathing, Jamie, and I crave it like human children crave sugar. Make yer choice!”

A quill and a roll of ornately lettered and illustrated vellum appeared out of nowhere.  Jamie locked eyes with the dragon, slowly sank to his knees and signed away his freedom and soul for eternity.

“And what of our son, M-master?” Jamie stumbled over the unfamiliar word, “what will happen to him?”

“We-e-l-l, didn’t you read the contract before signing it?”

“Ye know I didn’a! I had no time. Please, I’m beggin ye, what is to happen to our son?

The dragon laughed, “Haven’t ye heard that ye should always read a contract’s terms before ye sign it? I never gave ye a time limit on signin’, did I? I would ha’ expected better from ye, Jamie, especially when The Devil himself is standin’ right ‘afore ye! I am unable to sire an heir and ye,”

the dragon laughed cruelly, “ye have no son anymore. Ye just signed your consent to make Brian my son and heir.” The dragon smiled hatefully at him, writhing in excitement as Jamie buried his head in his hands and wept,

“Oh, God, no, please, Master! He’s just a baby! Please, give him back to me! I’ll surrender anything else!” Jamie suddenly found himself sitting in the animal’s palm.

“Tsk-tsk, slave, even ye know that once a contract is signed with me that it can never be broken, aye? I will change his appearance so he’s the spit o’ yer wife, who never loved ye in the first place an’ will not remember ye, in any case. Yer agony will never end, Pet,” and the dragon giggled in mirth. “My son will never acknowledge you as his father. One day, ye’ll be callin’ him Master, bowin’ and scrapin’ to a man who will only know you as a worthless slave, to be spit upon and beaten as he chooses. You’ll be his favorite punching bag and chew toy. Ye will love him desperately and remember that he was your son but will be unable to tell him who he really is, about his mother or that he was once loved.  He’ll hate ye but not understand why. He will just know that his feelings towards you have always been this way. However, as a last mercy to the both of you, Jamie, Claire will not be able to see her son or learn his fate. But, I am going to mark ye fer all time, so ye canna ferget tha deal ye willingly made.”

Jamie heard an evil hiss and excruciating tongues of fire curled their way around his neck.  He bellowed in pain and squeezed his eyes shut. He smelled burning skin and his hands flew automatically to his neck to try to soothe the pain. Master pulled his hands away roughly, wrenched back his arms and tied his wrists together. He hung Jamie by his wrists from an iron hook, dislocating his right shoulder, drawing a series of stomach-curdling howls of pain from the redhead (the late US Sen. John McCain was subjected to this torture when he was a US Navy pilot during his five years as a Prisoner-Of-War [POW] during the Vietnam War https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strappado).  To increase his delight, the dragon branded Jamie with his mark, right below his heart, ripping another scream from the helpless man.  Jamie’s eyes were forced open and a mirror was held before him so he could see the solid-gold bejeweled collar with his owner’s mark on it, leaving no doubt to whom he belonged now.  After about fifteen minutes, Master released him and Jamie fell on his throbbing shoulder onto Master’s paw.  Grimacing, he rolled slowly to his hands and knees, crying and vomiting from the pain of his damaged shoulder. Master left him like that for several minutes, then brutally popped the shoulder into place without warning, pleased that Jamie screamed and vomited once more before passing out for a few minutes. 

When Jamie came to, he found himself back on the ground.  He felt something wet seep under his head and jumped to his feet right as a stinking wave of blood crashed into him. Before he could blink, he was struggling to keep his head above the tide of blood that threatened to overtake him. It felt like the collar was getting heavier by the minute.  He tried to swim to Claire, but the closer he got, the farther away she was swept by the roiling current.

“Claire, oh my God, you promised, Master!  You said you’d ease her heart, not kill her!”

“Yes, my toy, I did say I’d ease her heart and I’d let you say goodbye. I did those things for you, and now you owe me. I never said I wouldn’t collect on my prize or that I’d let her live.” The dragon cackled and Jamie screamed and howled Claire’s name. He tried to turn his head and close his eyes so he wouldn’t see her die, but the dragon saw what he was doing and said, “Oh no, you worthless bonebag! How dare you! Open your eyes to the suffering you’ve brought on your beloved!” Jamie’s head and neck would no longer turn for him and his eyelids were forced open again.  Jamie still fought against what he saw, so the dragon picked him up, allowed him to dangle in the air and snarled, “Beg Master for mercy before he flays you to the bone, slave!”

Jamie cried out,  “Please, Master, have mercy on my beloved and her son. I willingly,” Jamie gulped past the rock in his throat and continued in a hoarse whisper, “relinquish their love and memories of me. They are innocent and do not deserve to suffer. I beg you, take everything from me, give me their punishments and torment, but please,” he groveled, pride gone, “allow them to live peaceful lives!”

“As you wish.”

Jamie landed on his feet on the ground. The beast twirled his fingers in a circle and three enormous men, all bigger than Jamie, appeared and faced off against him.  Jamie recognized them: the Grant brothers, all criminals with long rap sheets. The Frasers and Grants had hundreds of years of turmoil and clan wars between them. Jamie knew that by the time they were done, he’d be more broken than whole.  All three men rushed him at once, encircling him, making escape impossible.

Ian Grant was the eldest brother and crowed, “look, lads! It’s the Fraser worm. How ye doin’, cunt-sucker?”

The second-oldest brother Malcolm, who, on the best of days, didn’t have two braincells to rub together, crowed,

“Ahhh, thi’ is goin’ ta be fun! I’ve wanted ta rearrange yer face fer years, ye wanker!” The man spit directly into Jamie’s eye.

Ewan Fraser was the youngest of the three and loved stirring up trouble, “So, Jamie, how’s that pretty sister o’ yers? I reckon she’s been with that bastard Ian Murray long enough. Mebbe I oughta go pay her a midnight visit and show ‘er what a real man feels like, aye?”

 

Jamie roared and flattened Ewan with a haymaker, but his brothers jumped Jamie and held onto him while Ewan got up and punched Jamie in both kidneys, forcing Jamie to his knees. Malcolm and Ewan hauled Jamie to his feet by his hair and held him securely so Ian could kick off the “festivities”.


Each time Jamie tried to break out of the deadly ring, at least one of the thugs would force him back into the circle by putting him in a chokehold, grabbing his curls, tripping him or just plain hoisting him up and throwing his whole body back into the ersatz ring. 

 

“Alrigh’ lads, let’s have some real fun and teach this mac na galla (son of a bitch) that the only place fer him is in the dirt.  He wants to take his wife’s and son’s punishment for them, so let’s gi’ ‘im what he’s asked fer, aye? Who’s wi’ me?” Ian looked up at the dragon, who only gave a very slight nod. Ian yelled,

 

“Fraser, I’m gon’ ta knock yer dick in the dirt!”

 

He punched and kicked Jamie repeatedly, breaking his nose by smashing his head on his knee. Not satisfied, the man let his brothers have their turns. They broke Jamie’s ribs and gloated when he screamed in pain,

 

“Have ye seen Jamie’s wife? Tha’s a rare bird, aye.  She’s got wit an’ fire. And that caboose? Ah Dhia (oh God), I’d like ta chain her ta my bed so I could do a properly thorough job warmin’ up that ass an’ then take liberties wi’ her. I’d take my time an’ enjoy her fightin’ me and then pass ‘er on ta ye lads fer yer fun after that. This bastard won’ be there to protect ‘er, so we could invite ‘er ower fer tea, jus’ the four o’ us! What say ye, lads?”

 

His brothers chorused, “Aye! Let’s!” 

 

Jamie snarled, “Over ma deid (dead) body, ye bastards!” He summoned his last strength, rounded on the brothers and punched and kicked each one to the ground in turn. They were like the Hydra though; as soon as one went down, another got up, until they surrounded Jamie once more.  Malcolm pullIed out a short blackjack (truncheon; billy club) and made short work of Jamie’s face. Even after all that, Jamie still tried to rise. Ewan kicked him in the stomach and growled,

 

“Ye’ll stay in the dirt, dog, if ye know what’s good fer ye!”

 

Jamie barely heard what the man was saying. His singular focus was on letting go of his pride at that moment; he’d had enough and just wanted to avoid more pain. He kept his eyes closed and his breathing as quiet as possible, lying on the ground just as he’d fallen. He didn’t make a sound as Malcolm kicked him onto his bruised back.  The dragon smiled and rumbled,

 

”Get him up.”

 

The three grabbed Jamie and he whimpered in pain, whispering brokenly,

 

“Please, Master, ye promised if I took her punishment that ye’d release her. Ye gave me yer word, an’ I gave ye mine. Please, ha’ mercy an’ set her and Brian free.”

 

The dragon waved his hand and the Grants disappeared into the ether.  Jamie collapsed onto the ground again and barely heard what his Master said,

“You are the first human to use his request for mercy on another. The others only thought of themselves. In remembrance o’ my time as an angel and My Father’s favorite, I grant ye your heart’s desire.  As ye have wished it, so it is done. Look here inta my orb and see what love ha’ wrought.”

 

Jamie gazed into a glass ball and saw Claire and Brian living happily with the rest of his family at Lallybroch and wept tears of grateful joy. 

 

“Thank ye, Master. I’m ready to take my punishment now.”

 

Master used Jamie’s manacles to chain him to a scaffold shaped like a capital “T,” and Jamie’s fetters appeared, attached securely to bolts in the ground.  The first lash licked from his shoulder blade down to his waist. Jamie hadn’t ever known that such pain existed.  He bellowed and writhed and felt warm blood trickle down his back. The punishment continued until he lost consciousness at 100 lashes in and hung from his arms. Poor Jamie was revived in the most painful way – the dragon’s saliva smelled and stung like white vinegar and his tongue was rougher than a cat’s. Jamie’s tormentor licked the blood and torn skin from his back, burrowing his forked tongue as deep as the lashes themselves.  As soon as Jamie’s back stopped bleeding and the dragon was certain Jamie was awake, the sadistic scourging continued and did not stop for another 100 strikes. The crimson beast was inordinately pleased with his “artwork” and declared the Highlander his favorite canvas. All Jamie could do was groan in agony and slump into a bloody puddle as his chains released from the scaffold, still imprisoning him. He rested in Master’s paw for a while, eventually crying himself to sleep.

 

Jamie didn’t wake up for the next day, or the next after that. He first opened his eyes 72 hours later and forgot momentarily where he was. He remembered when he tried to rise and his chains (when had they become “his” chains? he wondered) held him fast. Master greeted him and fed him fresh fruit and goat’s milk after Jamie begged prettily enough to sit up. His request to feed himself was denied. He remained kneeling and his hands were chained behind him. He was forced to eat morsels from Master’s palm, like a dog. Jamie wasn’t given more food until he thanked Master after every bite.  Breakfast over, Jamie’s hands were released from behind his back and chained in front again.

 

“Do ye miss yer wife, Pet?”

 

“Yes, Master,” and Jamie’s eyes filled with tears.

 

“What about her do you miss the most?”

 

Jamie sniffled and could not see clearly through the haze of tears blurring his vision,

 

“Her sweet voice and her touch, especially, Master.”

 

“I see.” 

 

Jamie’s remaining clothes vanished and he was ashamed of his nakedness.

 

The monster regarded his physical form with awe,

 

“Well, well well, mo thràill (my slave), ye are a feast for the eyes.”

 

Jamie blushed and thanked him.

 

Master rested on a cloud and cracked his paw joints one by one.  He snapped his fingers and commanded, “Slave, come.” Jamie shuffled slowly, still adapting to his heavy fetters, which limited his naturally long stride. All of his chains now jingled merrily with any movement, thanks to Master‘s addition of rock crystal bells. Jamie reached the dragon’s side and knelt in defeated submission at his great feet, hoping to avoid his wrath.  Master snapped his fingers and fastened a heavy bejeweled chain to his collar and held the ornately tooled leather end loop in his paw, “Did ye know that my very favorite sound is the disjointed melody of a human heart shattering? A comparable sound would be nails on a chalkboard.” Jamie winced, which made the winged sadist very happy indeed.

 

“Ye petitioned me ta take anything ye have left in order ta buy more security fer yer family. So, I took the thing ye value most after yer family.”

 

He smiled cruelly at Jamie’s confused expression and spat out,

 

“Look at yer ring finger, ye eejit.”

 

Jamie started to cry because he knew what he’d find – nothing. He scrutinized his finger frantically, hoping to find even the tiniest bit of ink from the beautiful reminder of their love.  Of course, he found no speck at all. His finger was as bare as a desert again, like the morning before he was inked.  He no longer belonged to Claire, not one bit. Rather, he belonged completely to his Master, for eternity.  He sobbed and cradled his left forearm and hand as if they were broken.  Master rumbled, 

 

“Really, boy, ye should crawl over here like the base cur ye are and kiss my ring in thanks for removing it fer ye. Ye’ve always known ye didn’t deserve Claire, aye? You’re not fit to lick the lass’ shoes, are ye?  You know in deepest part of your soul that she’s always felt sorry fer ye and married ye partly outta pity because ye’re such a miserable shite. She accepted ye as her sloppy consolation prize only because she was afraid she wouldn’t ever find a man worthy of her love, isn’t tha’ righ’?”

 

Jamie sobbed,

 

“Yes, Master, thank ye fer remindin’ me”. May I please rest for a few minutes?”

 

Master gave him a disgusted look, waved him away and Jamie felt the earth under his feet again. He moved as far from Master as his leash would allow, curled into himself and wailed out his heartbreak, humiliated that Master knew the dark secret that had haunted Jamie since he and Claire met. Every word Master uttered was true. Jamie was at least glad that his friends and family didn’t know his truth. None of it mattered anyway. Jamie was truly alone now; he would never see any of them again. Jamie was doomed to serve the monster for the rest of time or until Master freed or killed him. He managed to fall asleep for a while until Master leaned down, yanked his head up and looked Jamie in the eye,

 

“Well? Aren’t ye goin’ ta thank me for my generosity towards ye, allowin’ ye ta rest? Ye’re an ungrateful wretch!” Master slapped Jamie across the face, his claws leaving bleeding furrows on Jamie’s cheek.

 

Jamie winced in pain and responded dully,

 

“Yes, Master, I’m sorry, please fergive my rudeness.

 

Master blew a bitingly cold breath on his property and Jamie lost his balance, crumpling in a heap on the muddy ground. He started to stand but Master growled,

 

“No, bonebag. Standing is a privilege for free men, not for worthless slaves such as the likes o’ ye.  Jamie put his hands in the mud and crawled slowly through the muck. He finally reached his Master and knelt at his side, whispering,

 

“Please forgive my overstep, Master. Thank ye fer reminding me o’ my station.”

 

Jamie’s head was ripped up again and he grimaced and whimpered in pain.

 

Master held his paw out and arched an eyebrow in irritation. 

 

He growled, “Well? Unless you want another beating, don’t keep your better waiting!”

 

“No, Master, I apologize. Thank ye fer removing ma wedding ring. Ye were correct, I was never even good enough to kiss ma wife’s shoes, let alone marry her and give her a child. I admit that I’ve always known she only married me because she secretly pitied me. She was kind enough to never say as much, which was more than a brute and a fool like me had the right to hope for. Thank ye, truly.” Jamie leaned forward as far as he was able without relinquishing his subservient position and gently kissed the priceless ring, which consisted of a wide platinum band (https://www.gemsociety.org/article/jewelry-metals-overview/) decorated with a spectacular 10-karat red diamond (The Mousaieff Red is shown in the following link. At 5.11 karats, it’s the largest red diamond in the world and has a reported worth of USD 20 million:

https://www.naturallycolored.com/famous-diamonds/moussaieff-red-diamond) 

flanked by perfect wild-harvested black and white South Sea pearls (https://rawpearls.com.au/pearl_knowledge) Colorless, flawless white diamonds decorated the band’s shanks (https://www.gia.edu/gem-encyclopedia).

 

Master tugged on Jamie’s leash,

 

“Come, Pet, let’s get ye cleaned up, aye?” Jamie trembled in fear and the great snake said simply, “I can change the properties of my saliva so it will heal you without hurting. Of course, if you choose to disobey me, I can make it excruciatingly painful. It’s always your choice, human.

 

Jamie was summarily chained to a scaffold so that the dragon had access to his entire body. The dragon licked and kissed each part of him from his curls on his head to his toes until Jamie was shiny clean and his skin soft as a baby’s.  Jamie felt better than he had in days.  Still chained to the scaffold, Jamie paled when he saw Master studying his cock hungrily and whispered,

 

“Please, Master, no, I’m beggin’ ye, don’ do this – dinna force me!  Please, let me submit freely to ye!  I’ll do it, I promise!”

 

Master ignored him and sucked on his cock like it was a sweet lolly.  He massaged and tongued his balls and laughed when Jamie cried, humiliated.  Jamie tried everything to stop himself from coming, but it felt so good, not being in pain.  He gasped his climax breathily, but Master did not release him; Master kept sucking on his penis until it grew so tender and swollen he screamed in pain and writhed, begging for mercy.

 

Suddenly, the chains released him and he crumpled helplessly onto Master’s paw. Master scooped him up with two fingers, one under his back and one under his knees. Jamie was cradled gently in his paw, just as Jamie had so often lovingly carried his Claire.

 

“Remember, mo mhaoin luachmhor (my precious property), ye gave yer word that ye wouldn’t resist me, whatever comes next.”  Jamie was placed in front of a narrow but sturdy wooden table.  Master roughly kicked his feet apart so that Jamie had to lean on the table to keep from falling.  His fetters changed into a spreader bar so Jamie could not close his legs, “Bend over the table, slave, now!” When Jamie hesitated slightly, the dragon boomed, “DO IT!” Jamie hastily apologized and complied. “Hold on to the sides of the table and don’t move, do ye understand?” Jamie was too frightened by this point to do anything but nod.

 

Jamie tried to relax but it was useless. He closed his eyes and waited for the inevitable violation. 

 

Jamie moaned in fear and whispered a prayer for Claire and Brian,

 

“Claire, Claire, god, lass, I’m so sorry fer everythin’.”

 

He closed his eyes and could swear that Claire stroked his head and kissed his lips. He teared up and opened his eyes, unwilling to indulge his fantasy. He blinked once, twice and a third time. How was she was standing right in front of him? His heart, his Sorcha!

 

He stammered,

 

“A-are ye real then, mo chridhe (my heart)?

 

“Yes, love, it really is me, no tricks this time.  He told me you sacrificed yourself to save us. Is that true?”

 

“Aye, Sorcha, an’ I would do it a thousand times again to save ye both.”

 

She burst into tears and hugged him for a long while. Composing herself, she couldn’t wipe the sad look off her face,

 

“You promised not to resist your Master and you did so anyway. You broke your word and I’m so sorry, love, but he’s going to punish you for it”

 

“Oh, Jesus, Sorcha, I’m so sorry.”

 

Jamie sobbed in regret and Claire did her best to soothe him,

 

“He will control what I do, but he isn’t hurting me and has sworn he will release me after this is done. Wee Brian is still gaining weight and is with his Grannie, Grandpa and cousins, having a wonderful time.”

 

She kissed him again and stroked his beautiful, tear-stained face,

 

“Your Master has assured me that I won’t remember anything about this, but I must be the one to punish you.  She moved behind him, dug her sharp nails into his hips and held on, making Jamie bellow in pain. Her tongue morphed into Master’s forked tongue and worked its way up Jamie’s legs, taking the form of an impossibly long, thick, stiff cock and wormed its way into his anus.  One segment split off and wound around his cock and a third played with his testicles, stroking, squeezing and pulling him closer and closer to his climax. Still another stuffed itself thickly into his mouth, leaking foul-tasting liquid, fucking his unwilling throat. He groaned and choked, and tears rolled down his face. He drooled all over the invader and, ashamedly, on himself. It pushed relentlessly into his throat and Claire hummed in pleasure as Jamie’s throat spasmed around her, squeezing and massaging her. Jamie could feel Claire’s cock swell and he tried to move his head away so he wouldn’t swallow the come, but she simply plugged his nostrils, fisted Jamie’s hair and fucked his throat deeper and faster, until Jamie relaxed and submitted to her.  She roared and boiling hot, acidic come burned Jamie’s mouth and throat all the way down to his stomach.  Jamie could do nothing except swallow what felt like liters and liters (a liter is nearly 4 American cups) of his beloved’s spend.  Claire climbed on the table, mouth wide open, allowing Master’s tongue to keep fucking his ass and playing with his cock and balls. She spread her wondrous legs and presented her honeypot to him. It was warm, smelled heavenly and oozed with her delicious juices.  He tried to turn his head away but could not. He was pulled farther up the table and his wrists were bolted to the side of the table.  His neck was bolted onto the table and his tongue was forced from his mouth to her dripping snatch. He moaned helplessly with hunger and satisfaction.  He tongue-fucked his wife’s pussy with heedless abandon, swallowing mouthful after mouthful of her delicious come. She writhed, moaned and made her wee noises and fisted his hair cruelly. She panted and moaned his name and screamed her climax, shook once, trembled and ejaculated acidic come directly into Jamie’s greedy mouth. She got off the table and returned behind him.  He screamed and begged for respite when it all became too much. Claire just laughed cruelly and ratcheted up the abuse, pinching and twisting his nipples. She played with them until they became stiff peaks, but her fingertips felt like sandpaper, leaving his nipples bleeding in her wake. Jamie almost passed out when he felt her boiling come scorch his intestines, but Claire gave him no quarter. His beloved’s come burned his mouth and gullet and he prayed for death.  He felt himself pass the point of no return and yelled, “Oh, Dhia (God), Sorcha, I’m comin’, lass!  What followed was the most brutal orgasm he ever experienced.  A heady cocktail of pleasure and pain swamped all his nerves, and his eyes rolled back in his head. His head hit the table and he knew no more.

 

When he was awake again, Claire was waiting for him and kissed him gently.

 

The dragon hovered in front of both of them,

 

“Weel, Jamie, I did promise that Claire would be released from all this. Kiss her one last time, slave.”

 

Jamie leaned over to her and captured her mouth in the sweetest, saddest kiss she’d ever experienced. She tasted his tears on her lips as he did hers.  They held each other, whispering endearments to each other until Master ordered Jamie to help Claire to sit on his neck.  Jamie thanked him for the gift, picked his love up one more time and cradled her to his heart, settling her gently on the ermine and silk saddle wrapped around the serpent’s neck. 

 

“I love ye with all my bein’, Sorcha, never ferget that. Take good care o’ Wee Brian, aye?”

 

Claire sniffed, tears pouring down her face,

 

“I love you forever, Jamie, until the end of time. I’ll take good care of our son.”

 

With that, Master took off, flying slowly over the crimson sea beneath him.  Jamie was about to turn his back when he heard the serpent give a dreadful roar. Jamie started screaming as he witnessed the dragon start to turn back to him, a sinking feeling in his stomach,

 

"Claire, God, hang on, mo chridhe (my heart)! Hang on as tight as ye can!”

 

Claire obeyed and wrapped her hands in the ermine fur as well as she could.  The dragon gave a powerful flap of his wings and screeched, flying directly past the cloud Jamie was sitting on.  Master plucked a screaming Claire off the saddle with his mouth and wheeled around, away from her husband.  He spit her out, ignoring Jamie’s screams of heartbreak.  He flew down and caught Claire on his neck, tossing her up in the air as a cat does a mouse he’s not done toying with.  Jamie bellowed,

 

“Please, Master, give her ta me! I’m beggin’ ye, don’t kill her! I will give ye ma beatin’ heart an’ I’ll train her ta serve ye well, please!”

 

He fell on his knees in abject terror and watched the great beast climb up to his level and shake Claire like a rag doll before placing her on his neck again. He leapt from the cloud to the dragon’s neck before the great beast snorted and tipped himself towards the ocean far below, shaking them both off.  Jamie managed to grab Claire’s hand and prayed the monster would let them die together. Down and down they fell, and Jamie knew that hitting the surface of the liquid would be like hitting a concrete floor – hopefully their necks would be instantaneously broken. They managed to hug each other and had almost hit the crimson expanse when Jamie felt the wind from Master’s wings brush them.  He screamed,

 

NO! PLEASE, MASTER! and he was plucked from Claire’s grip. He watched in devastated horror as she hit the ocean and drowned right before his eyes, screaming his name one last time.

 

Master cradled him in his paw again and whispered words of incredible cruelty as if they were a loving benediction, 

 

“What shall I do with you?”

 

Jamie looked up. There she was, it was Claire! “Claire!” he gasped, reaching out, not able to touch her, which was what he wanted most of all.

 

Master whispered, “What is her power that possesses you, even now? What is her secret? Tell me!”  But she faded from view and Jamie wailed, “She’s gone! There’s no more Claire!”

 

Master intoned, “Then are ye mine?”

 

Jamie turned his confused gaze towards the dragon and saw Claire’s beautiful face briefly. When he spoke next, he was speaking to her.  He whispered,

 

“You – yes, only you“. He sobbed and curled in on himself.

 

Master rumbled, “Ye had everything yer heart desired, Jamie. Now ye have nothin’ – no Claire, no Wee Brian and no love, no reason to live.  Your abject misery and suffering will be your only companions and ye will learn to love them because you’ll have nothing and nobody else. Ye know ye dinna deserve better, aye?  He showed his slave a vision of himself in a dark, dirty dungeon cell, wearing his chains. Jamie was a bony, filthy shadow of what he once had been. He was huddled on the floor, dressed in rags, awaiting a slow, painful death by starvation, wrists and ankles chafed raw and bloody by his chains.  Jamie turned away from the vision, shut his eyes and did not care what happened to him after this day. Master was right again; he had nothing and he was nothing, as he’d always known.

 

The dragon flapped his great wings and rolled lazily in the clouds. He conjured a great goblet made from one huge piece of amber. Jamie saw a dragonfly trapped in the stone, just as he was trapped. The cup was lavishly decorated with gold, silver, South Sea pearls and other precious stones. Master sipped delicately at the singularly sweet nectar of Jamie and Claire’s love and groaned loudly in hedonistic pleasure.  His penis emerged from its sheath, elongated and became rock-hard. He splashed acidic ejaculate onto the Earth, where it laid waste to an entire forest, split open rocks and boiled a nearby river dry. He screamed in ecstasy and Jamie saw with horror that his Master grew larger and stronger. The dragon ignored Jamie’s screams and simply climbed higher and higher in the sky until all Jamie saw was white. Still nestled in the dragon’s paw, Jamie looked up at his Master and pleaded brokenly, a sob in his voice,

 

“Please, Master, let me die. Have I not served ye well and fulfilled my purpose? Ye have destroyed everything that was good and holy in my life and I am but a shadow of the man ye met in the field a few days ago.  Please, I’m beggin’ ye fer mercy. Give me this final gift.”

 

The dragon blinked owlishly and Jamie caught a glance at the signet ring adorning the dragon’s smallest claw – it was a massive ring, made of 22-karat gold engraved with the Fraser family crest on it. The beast replied softly in a strangely human-like voice,

 

“But Jamie, this form I’ve taken, it’s not even real, there was no ocean of blood and Claire isn’t dead.“

 

The dragon changed forms, this time into a lithe 6’2” young man with clear green eyes and long chestnut hair in a braid on his back, khakis, a rugby shirt and boots. He hoped that a more recognizable life form would relax his charge.

 

Jamie was placed gently on the floor.  The young man peered closer at Jamie’s practically catatonic stare and said, “Oh dear. He’s in shock. Better go for the big guns.”  He changed into the dragon and let loose a great roar that blew Jamie’s hair out of his face and Jamie flat on his back.

 

Jamie scrambled up and out of habit, knelt at the dragon’s side, hands clapsed tightly together, head bowed in humble deference.  He begged forgiveness in a hoarse, frightened whisper,

 

“I’m verra sorry, Master, please fergive yer slave fer his clumsiness. I ken It t’isn’t ma place ta ask, but I I beg ye, dinna beat me anymore taday. I’m terrible sore from the las’ beatin’, although I-I k-ken I deserved it.”

 

The dragon changed into the young man again and crouched in front of Jamie at a safe distance so Jamie wouldn’t feel crowded,

 

“Jamie, my name is Wyatt. You aren’a slave anymore. I am not yer Master, mo mhac (my son).  What happened was not real, Jamie. Claire is in the ICU, safe, and Brian is in the NICU, doin’ verra well.  Please, stand up next to me and please, stop with the “Master, alrigh’?”

 

Jamie stammered nervously, “Aye, Ma - Wyatt.” Wyatt put his hand on Jamie’s arm and Jamie snatched his arm back violently, snapping, “Dinna touch me!” He shook in fear, not quite trusting that this wasn’t a trick by his Master to humiliate him. God, had he just bought himself another beating?  He shook his head rather like an old English sheepdog and Wyatt offered Jamie a chair, again, at a safe distance from where Wyatt was seated.

 

Wyatt continued quietly,  “Jamie, lad, I willna hurt ye anymore, I give ye ma word.  I ken ye’re scairt righ’ now, an’ that’s natural. I promise, the dragon won’ come back after this unless ye ask me ta show him to ye again.  I willna touch ye until ye give me permission, aye? 

 

Jamie’s mouth dropped open and he cried tears of relief and thanks, “What? Oh, Master, thank ye!” and before he could stop him, Jamie had seized Wyatt’s hand and kissed it in gratitude.

 

Wyatt smiled gently, "Jamie, what’s my name?” 

 

Jamie stammered nervously, “Uh, M-uh, W-Wyatt.”

 

“Okay.  No more ‘Master’, alright?”

 

Jamie blushed, “Aye, I’ll try ta remember.  Please, have patience wi’ me.”

 

Wyatt smiled, “All these things happened because ye believe ye deserve it.  The form ye saw was nothing more than a horrible figment of yer imagination. Ye fabricated tha dragon from yer terror and needless guilt about what has happened to yer precious wife and child, none of which was yer doin’ or even anythin’ ye could have prevented.”  “You invented me in order to torture yerself, which is your wont.  It’s simply not healthy and ye infuriate Claire and the family with your ‘mea culpa’ martyr complex. Sadly, that’s how life is on Earth sometimes. Bad things happen to good people.  The Earth exists as a great classroom for all living beings.  When ye shoulder all the responsibility for random occurrences, ye prevent yerself from dealin’ wi’ circumstances as they really are.  Ye make it impossible fer others ta express their feelings, their frustrations, about what’s happening because ye internalize what they say. They feel obligated to assure ye that what’s happening is no’ y er doin’.  Ye’re unintentionally preventing an adult conversation about it and that doesn’t help anyone deal with it in a realistic manner.”

 

Jamie shifted uncomfortably and burned hot and embarrassed with the scalding self-awareness thrust upon him. “But, Wyatt, how do I unlearn something I’ve done my whole life? An’ how do I tell the difference between what is my responsibility and what isn’t?”

 

Wyatt smiled ruefully, “Aye, Jamie, mo mhac (my son), there’s the rub.  Everyone has to figure that out fer themselves. But I'll give ye a tip:  the next time ye catch yerself doin’ it, ask yerself, “which of my actions actually caused this ta happen?” an’ I promise, if ye allow honesty inta the conversation, ye’ll be able ta figure it out.  Let’s say ye don’ get a report to yer Da on time because ye were nappin’ at yer desk,”

 

Jamie blushed red thinking about how that’d go down. Not good for him, in any case!

 

“Tha’ report’s lateness is yer responsibility. Ye did something concrete, ye slept, instead of finishin’ it on time.  Now, let’s say that Claire comes home with the flu from someone at work.  Is it yer ‘fault’ or even hers that she got sick? No, i’tisn’t. Ye can certainly regret she’s sick an’ certainly, take care o’ her, but ye are NOT responsible fer it.  D’ye understand the difference?”

 

Jamie sat there and thought about the example and tried to extrapolate it to what his little family was currently going through.

 

“I think so.  So, with Sorcha, I certainly didn’t do anything ta cause her labor ta start early. We followed all the precautions. O’course, I feel horrible tha’ it happened – who wouldn’t? But I didna do anything concrete ta make it start an’ she hadn’a told me about tha’ abuse that ended up causin’ the issue in the firs’ place.  If I’d known, I would ha’ tried to talk ta her about other ways to have a baby.  She was pregnant by the time she told me.  Responsibility fer that damage lies with that mac na galla (son of a bitch), Fr-“

 

And here, Wyatt put up a hand, “Nope, nope nope, mo chridhe, don’ say that name in ma presence. I won’ have it, thank ye very much.  I can tell ye that I’ve dealt with him ower many lifetimes and he never learns or changes.  I wish Satan would take him, but he’s refused; doesn’t want ‘im pollutin’ Hell an’ fomentin’ riots an’ rebellions an’ such.  He’s too much of a pain in the ass.  We’re stuck with him until he wants ta become a better person. An’, lemme tell ye, we’ve been waitin’ a looooooong time!”  He actually rolled his eyes and Jamie burst out laughing.

 

Jamie cleared his throat, “Will Claire and Wee Brian make it? An’ speakin’ o’ makin’ it, I feel a wee bit peely-wally (sick) meself. And my scars and tattoo? Will they stay?”

 

“Yes, lad, they’ll both be fine. Claire hasn’a come outa her coma because she’s workin’ some things out fer herself. As for Brian the Bruiser,” and Wyatt’s eyes twinkled and he smiled a genuine, caring smile. “Yer boy’s gained another 30 grams already and I’d verra much advise puttin’ extra money an’ extra home-canned fruit and veg up when he starts eating solid foods!  Ye may wan’ ta have a word with Mrs. Crook, warn her, like. God, I miss her apple cobbler!”

 

Jamie laughed out loud. God, it was wonderful to laugh again. Suddenly, Jamie realized what  the other man had said,

 

“Wait, wha’ de ye mean, ye miss her apple cobbler?”

 

“Have ye ever wondered why her cookin’, in particular, is so good?”

 

Jamie’s eyes narrowed suspiciously, “Aye, how’d ye ken that?”

 

The emerald-eyed man giggled, “I jes’ ken, my friend, tha’s ma job. She’s one o’ us. She’s taken care of your family ower several lifetimes, tha’s why.  She simply updates her knowledge to match the era she’s in, is all.  She merely looks inta human cookbooks fer show.  She’s no’ human, which is why she kin go an’ go an’ go, gettin’ ready for a ‘do.  Asides, she gets all her recipes from us.”

 

Wyatt laughed at Jamie’s incredulous face and then said,  “As to the scars and tattoo, you put them there. You have to decide for yourself if they shall stay, mo leannan (my sweetheart).”

 

“Do ye know why I feel so hot and peely-wally (sick)?”

 

“Aye, I do. The stress of the past few days has been too much for ye and ye’re bordering on physical and emotional collapse, mo ghaol (my heart). Ye’ve contracted pneumonia from someone in the hospital an’ the wanker virus is threatening to burrow its way into yer heart, tha damn wee scunner. It will weaken ye greatly, if ye allow it.” He glanced sadly at Jamie and sighed softly, “Let the sickness run its course, love. Fight the sickness, not those around ye jes’ because ye don’ like wha’ they’re sayin’!” Jamie blushed nearly purple, “And remember to listen to those with greater knowledge than ye.  An’ fer Christ’s sake, ye lunkhead,” Jamie winced,

“dinna try ta leave the hospital before Joe an’ Geilis say ye’re ready. After all, yer lady wife could wake before ye’re healed, and what would she DO to you if she found out ye tried to leave AMA (Against Medical Advice)?”

 

Jamie shuddered in silent response.

 

“Aye, tha’s the right answer, mo mhac (my son). Ye must fight it, Jamie, wi’ all yer inborn smarts and cunning, aye? Yer a glic (sly) lad, ye can find a way to outsmart it and succeed.”

 

“Uhm, Wyatt, if ye’re not the devil himself, who are ye, really?”

 

“I am a strikingly beautiful and mighty pastiche of every person who ever will, or has helped ye along yer path, and a wee niblet of every good experience you will have and have had in your life.“ 

 

“But, what’s yer real name?”

 

“I am called many things; ‘memory’ and ‘hope for the future’ and ‘you and me,’ ‘we and us’. Sometimes, I hear ‘no worries, mate, just pass it along when ye can.’  Ma favorite is, ‘remember the time when?’ – it’s usually wrapped up in laughs and sometimes, if I’m verra lucky, hiccups, sore bellies, tears of laughter or, the greatest compliment is...”  Jamie could swear he blushed, “they urinate, but jus’ a little bit!”

 

Jamie laughed at Wyatt’s embarrassment and smiled, remembering the times when he and Claire laughed so hard they cried and she got the hiccups afterward.

 

“Yes, Jamie, jes’ like that time with Claire in the kitchen. I told that one at our last meeting along with your “Sauce Inspector” bit and lots of colleagues got a laugh, including the Chairman and Chairwoman.”

 

Jamie wrinkled his brow, “The Chairman and Chairwoman?”

 

“Aye, ye ken them as Saint Lawrence and Saint Martha.”

 

Jamie’s eyes grew big and he shut his eyes, feeling a little sick to his stomach at the shock, trying to digest that he’d made two saints laugh.  He collected himself and Wyatt said,

 

”Ah Dhia (oh God), yer lady wife, she’s a good cook, aye?”

 

“How do ye know that?”

 

“Weel, I snuck in that night when ye left the remaining linguine alle cozze to cool and I stole a bite.”  He looked up at the sky and blushed, shuddered and winced, “Aaaah, I’ve been caught in it – I told a wee fib. I started off wi’ a wee bite but ah couldna help meself and, I’m sorry and ashamed, because I ate a whole plate! Jamie, unless ye want to weigh as much as all the stones that make up Lallybroch, ye better not slack off on those workouts!  One of the ways Claire demonstrates her love for you is by feeding you. She’s not as verbal as ye, an it helps her to feel like ye’re actually getting’ somethin’ outta tha relationship.” Seeing Jamie’s astounded face, he continued, “Aye, she feels like she doesn’a deserve ye, either.

 

Would ye care to see me in my true state, Jamie?”

 

“Oh, aye, I would! Thank ye!”

 

“Weel, are ye ready? I’ll not turn all my power right away; I’ll ease ye inta it.”

 

Jamie watched, spellbound, as Wyatt slowly shed his skin. The remaining energy took on a humanoid shape. Jamie knew that this was in deference to his brain’s need to categorize all things like similar things it’d already encountered, and he was grateful. The being was all the colors of the rainbow, warm and comforting, daring and secure, fizzy and energetic, cool and soothing all at the same time.  It was the velvet of deep space, the wonders of the deepest ocean and the warmth of the sun. It pulsed and swayed, rose to great heights and just simmered merrily away like Mam’s Magic Broth on the stove on a cold winter’s night. Wyatt bade Jamie to open his mouth, and Jamie could feel Mam’s warm broth trickle into his mouth, cleansing and healing his skin. More trickled down his throat and cleansed and healed him, all the way down his digestive tract.  Jamie felt healing love wind around him in gentle, welcoming tendrils, massaging and relaxing his whole body. It was heady and sweet-smelling like his wife’s shampoo and spicy and strong like Mrs. Crook’s gingerbread cookies. Silken fingers wound around his heart, leaving a layer of strength and love in its wake. It calmed and fortified Jamie’s greatest muscle. He finally understood that his heart had to beat for himself first, then Claire and Brian. It was like Da said; he had to get well first; he would be no use to Claire half-healed and half sick.  Wyatt returned to his human form and Jamie queried,

 

“Will I see ye in this form again, Master?” 

 

“Yes, a bhalaich (boy). When this this life is o’er, I will take ye to Paradise to be with loved ones who have gone before. Dinna fash, no matter how many years pass, every soul immediately recognizes their Eternal Guide. Should ye be chosen ta live another lifetime, I shall accompany ye then as well.”

 

“Master, have I lived before? An’ will I meet ye again while I am living?” 

 

“Wyatt smiled, “Yes, ye have, a bhalaich (boy).  Yer first life was as the first James Fraser, an’ Donas was real, too. He’s waitin’ back at Lallybroch fer ye, he’s wha’ ye call a ‘rescue’ these days. A friend of Jenny’s involved in horse rescue asked her ta take him in just yesterday.  Ye’ll know how ta gentle him so he’ll follow ye without tack on.  Claire will be his second-favorite human, along with yer bairns.  Oh, he will love apples, fresh figs an’ Claire’s cinnamon butter cookies.  He’ll learn new tricks fer those, especially. Your firs’ lifetime was Claire’s, too. Ye met her in 1743, when she passed through the stones an’ was found by Murtagh wanderin’ Fraser lands alone. She came ta Lallybroch with him an’ healed yer shoulder the first time ye dislocated it, ye great clumsy oaf.”  Jamie blushed scarlet and Wyatt winked at his young charge, “As ta us meetin’ again, I don’ decide that. It’s up ta the Heavenly Father, but I hope so.  If it is appropriate, I shall introduce meself as ‘Wyatt Shepherd’.  Yer soul will recognize me. Jamie,” Wyatt remonstrated gently, “do ye remember that I requested ye stop addressing me as ‘Master’?”

 

Jamie blushed, “Imma verra sorry, Wyatt, I fergot.” 

 

Wyatt smiled, “Dinna fash.  Just remember, you and I are equal in every way in the eyes of Our Heavenly Father. Hearing ye call me ‘Master’ gave me the willies, ta be honest.  Are ye ready to go back to yer body, Jamie?”

 

Jamie looked at Wyatt in surprise, “Have I been astral-projecting this whole time?”

 

“Aye, ye great numpty, tha’s why everythin’ feels so real!” Wyatt elbowed his young charge and they grinned at each other.

 

“Thank you for the last few days, Wyatt.” 

 

“The last few days? Ye’ve only been here for a couple of hours, Jamie.”

 

“But, I slept for 3 days in the dragon’s paw!”

 

“No, son, ye just thought ye did.  It wasn’t more than a few minutes per ‘day,’” and Wyatt made air-quotation marks.  He held up a hand and concentrated. He smiled broadly at the young man and said, “before ye go, I’m allowed to tell ye somethin’ wonderful, Jamie. It might be bes’ ta sit, son. Keep this in yer heart fer when ye’re feelin’ low.  Understand, not many people are granted this privilege.”

 

Jamie stared at Wyatt and sat down carefully,

 

“Alrigh, I’m sittin’.”

 

“The Blessed Virgin wants ye ta know she chose yer soul especially fer Claire and Claire’s fer ye long before ye met on this plane.  She assigned ye special work which will reveal itself in God’s time.  The Madonna is well-pleased in ye both, Jamie, and sends her blessings to ye and yer whole family. Ye will find a fragrant lavender rose bush blooming behind Lallybroch in the dead of winter when snow is thick on the ground. That will be her symbol of protection and favor over you and your family.”

 

Jamie would have fallen down had he not already been sitting. His mouth hung open in shock and he opened and closed it like a fish just landed on a stream bank.

 

Wyatt helpfully closed it for him. Jamie had a dazed look on his face and Wyatt could see his young charge was trying to digest the incredible gift he and his family had been granted.

“Jamie? Kin ye focus on me?  Look a’ me, please.”  Jamie blinked and focused on Wyatt,

“Do ye remember what I told ye? The message?”

 

Jamie blinked and a dreamy smile settled on his worn face, “Aye, Wyatt, the lavender rose bush and the Mother of God. Aye! May I please tell my close family?”

 

Och, of course ye may.”

 

Wyatt smiled, relieved that Jamie seemed recovered from his momentary shock, “Are ye ready? On the count of three, ye’ll be back in yer hospital bed.”  Wyatt had learned through the centuries that it was less stressful for his children to think they had until three, but he usually sent them back on four.  He did exactly that with James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser, who was none the wiser. Wyatt winked at his child and counted softly, “six, five, four...” and Jamie was back in his bed.

Chapter Text

Brian noticed Jamie tossing and turning on the bed, murmuring in Ghàdlig. Brian got up and felt his son’s sweat-slicked forehead – he was burning up.  He called Geilis quickly and she said she’d be right there. As soon as Brian hung up the phone, Jamie sat straight up in bed and screamed,

 

“Master, please, I’m beggin’ ye fer mercy! CLAIRE! I’m sorry I failed ye! My Claire is lost ta me! There’s no more Claire!” he wailed and burst into great heaving sobs, his red-rimmed eyes unseeing.

                               

Brian sat himself on the bed, picked Jamie up and set him on his lap, hoping his son’s muscle memory would take over. He gathered his child in his arms and held him securely, urging him to wake up,

 

“Come on, son, wake up. Yer Da’s here with ye, an’ I won’t leave ye, aye?  Brian shook his boy slightly until he could feel Jamie take a shuddering breath in and put his arms around his father’s waist. He sobbed,

 

“Oh, Da, a huge red dragon tricked me inta signing my soul away to him as his slave. I gave up Claire an’ Brian to save them pain an’ torment an’ the beast made Brian his son a-a-and heir.  He beat me terribly an’ made me eat from his paw. He put chains, a collar and leash on me and called me Pet.” Jamie swallowed, “h-he forced Claire ta -ta rape me as punishment because I disobeyed him an’ made me watch as he drowned Claire in blood.  I couldn’a save either of them!”

 

Jamie pressed Brian to his chest again and wailed in desperation, his grip getting tighter and tighter the more memories he relived. Brian simply sat and held his boy until Jamie’s tears abated somewhat.  Brian separated himself slightly from Jamie but did not let go of his upper arms.  He looked squarely into his son’s eyes, 

 

“Jamie, can ye hear me, son?” He waited until Jamie nodded.  The muscular redhead nodded slowly and whispered fearfully,

 

“Da, tell me true – is Cl-Claire still wi’ us? And Wee Brian? Is he still a-alive?” Jamie’s voice cracked and caught on the last word.

 

Brian said softly, “Yes, lad. They’re both stable, do ye hear me? They’re both wi’ us, alrigh’? Claire’s holding her own and yer son, whom the NICU staff has nicknamed “Bruiser Brian,” and he laughed, “has gained another 30 grams on top of the 20 he put on jes’ yesterday.  Geilis is comin’ ta take yer temperature. Do ye have any other aches or pains righ’ now?”

 

“Aye, Da. Imma not feelin’ well righ’ now. I feel like a flu is comin’ on.”

 

“I’ll ask Geilis to check ye out, aye?”

 

Jamie smiled too, his first smile in what felt like years.  He glanced in the ensuite bathroom’s mirror and marveled – Master’s collar and leash were gone, as was his mark on Jamie’s shoulder.

 

“Da, I need ye ta look at ma back, please. Kin ye tell me if there’s anything amiss back there, strange markings or anything?”

 

Brian pulled up Jamie’s hospital gown and checked his whole back, “Everything looks normal, son.”

 

He whispered, “They’re all gone!  Oh, thank God! Thank ye, Da.”

 

Brian swallowed, “Wha’s all gone, mo mhac (my son)?”

 

Jamie fixed his father with a humiliated expression, “Ma slave collar, chains, ma Master’s mark on ma shoulder and 200 scourge marks on ma back from a cat o’ nine tails, Da.”

 

Brian paled and thought he might be sick.

 

Jamie reached up his hand to scratch his head and Brian saw something unfamiliar glinting in the overhead light,

 

“Son, gi’ me yer hand fer a minute.”

 

Jamie lowered his hand slowly and extended it into his father’s outstretched palm,

 

“Aye, Da, is there somethin’ amiss?”

 

Brian turned Jamie’s hand around and inhaled sharply,

 

“Jamie, lad, where’d ye get this magnificent ring?”

 

“Ring? Wha’ ri-“

 

Jamie looked closer and paled. He whisperered hoarsely, “It’s ma Master’s ring, Da.  He made me kneel an’ kiss it in order ta save Claire an’ the bairn.”

 

Brian swallowed heavily, Oh son, Imma sorry,” Brian whispered. What had happened to his son in this dream to enable him to call another being Master? 

 

Tha’s a mighty fine ruby, son. And I’ve ne’er seen such beautiful cultured pearls!”

 

Jamie looked up at his Da and said quietly, “Ye need ta take this and put it in the safe in tha’ priest’s hole, Da.”

 

Brian blinked slowly, “Why, son?”

 

“Jamie cleared his throat, “Because tha’s not a ruby, Da, it’s a red diamond.  Tha’ world’s current largest , the Mousaieff Red, is half this size and has an estimated worth of 20 million dollars.  The pearls aren’a cultured, either; they’re wild-caught South Sea pearls.  The diamonds are colorless and flawless an’ the band is made of platinum.  Go on, take it off ma finger and hide it, now! An’ tell nobody but Mam about it, aye?  I’ll get Elias ower ta tha house fer a consultation on the best way ta handle it.”

 

“Aye, son. Will do.”

 

Brian slipped the ring off Jamie’s finger and shoved it deep into his pocket.

 

“Imma really tired out, Da.  May I please rest until Geilis comes?”

 

“Why, son, ye don’ haveta ask me. If ye wanta rest, then rest,”

 

Tears formed in Jamie’s eyes and he blushed in shame, “Master made me beg fer everythin’, Da, including resting and food. I’mma sorry.”

 

Brian reached up a hand quickly to stroke his son’s hair and saw how his third child trembled and winced, a frightened look on his face.

 

“Jamie, oh, son. I won’ hurt ye, I promise.”  Brian put his hand down and held open his arms.  Jamie held on to Brian and let his tears come,

 

“I never knew if Master was gonna be merciful or beat me, Da. He was mercurial at best.  An’ I know now it wasn’a real, but it felt so real; I bled and bruised and could feel everythin’.”

 

“I can see why you’re scared, son. I’ve had dreams in my time where I wake and I have to tell maself many times it wasn’t real – especially if yer Mam or one o’ you dies in the dream. Those are devastating, I ken.”

 

Jamie leaned back against the pillows and asked,

 

“Da, I feel really hot, can ye feel ma forehead, please?”

 

Brian leaned cautiously towards Jamie and made sure he could see both hands and raised his right hand slowly and felt his forehead.

 

“Aye, son, that’s a temperature ye have there. I’ll call Geilis’ cell phone and see if she can get in here, aye?”

 

“Alrigh’, Da. And, ye will stay wi’ me, aye?”

 

Brian smiled, “Aye, son, I’ll stay wi’ ye, dinna fash.”

 

“Geilis, a nighean (girl), aye ‘tis Brian.  I believe Jamie has a fever. Can ye come quick, please? He’s really hot.” Brian listened for a few seconds, “Aye, thanks, see ye then.”

 

Brian smoothed Jamie’s curls off his forehead to soothe him.

 

“Son, Geilis is nearly here, I hear her talkin’, o’ course,” and patted Jamie’s hand gently. When his son didn’t respond, Brian slapped his hand a couple of times and raised his voice,

“Jamie, kin ye hear me, son?  Geilis is jus’ about here. Jamie? JAMIE!” Brian ran to the door ripped it open and bellowed, “GEILIS! JAMIE WON’T WAKE!”

 

And his daughter-in-law came running.  She rubbed Jamie’s sternum with her knuckles, but he didn’t respond, “Dammit, Jamie, WAKE UP!”

 

She ran to the door and yelled for a bag of fluids.  She listened to Jamie’s heart and lungs and cursed, “He’s totally congested and still exhausted. I’ll bet it’s a bad bronchitis.  She raised the head end of the bed and a colleague passed her the bag with fluid.  She inserted the needle into Jamie’s arm and taped it off and adjusted the drip.

 

“Okay.  I have him on fluids again.  His pulse-ox is good but I’m going to give him antibiotics when his tests come back. Oh, and his heartrate is normal. He should wake up in a few minutes and he is NOT in a coma, Alrigh’?  I’m pretty sure it’s just fatigue that made him pass out.  Did he tell you he wasn’t feeling well?”

 

Brian rubbed the back of his neck, “Aye, he did. He mentioned he had a frightfully realistic nightmare that scared the Dickens out o’ him and that he didn’a feel well; he asked me to check his forehead.”

 

“Sometimes people who’ve been given sedatives can have wierd, super-realistic dreams.’

 

“Poor lad woke up screaming, begging his ‘Master’ for for mercy for Claire.  He said he’d had to enslave himself to a dragon in order to save Claire and Brian.”  Big Brian’s eyes filled with tears and he whispered in a gravelly voice, “I raised my hand to him to stroke his hair to comfort him and he trembled and shied awa’ like I was going to hit him, Geilis. It damn near broke my heart.  He said the dragon made him watch as Claire drowned.”

 

Geilis shivered and rubbed her upper arms energetically, “Oh, aye, I’ve had dreams like tha’, and they scare the pish outta me. I understand why he woke up screamin,’”

 

Brian nodded, “Aye, they are terrible.”

 

Geilis took a few samples for the lab to diagnose if Jamie had severe bronchitis or pneumonia.  She left and Brian stayed with Jamie, simply speaking to him and holding his cool hand in his warm one.  He spoke to Jamie about how he and his wife loved him and wanted him to come back to them.  He kept telling his son how much Claire and Wee Brian were loved by the rest of the family.  Laoghire, especially, loved having another older sister, as she’d only had older and younger brothers growing up. 

 

Jamie opened his eyes and looked around fearfully for the dragon.  No dragon.  What a relief.  What was going on?  Was he in the hospital still?  Had he died?  He got up slowly and saw that he still had his hospital gown on.  Okay. So he was probably still in hospital.  But he was in a long corridor, which was filled with a cool mist and filled with shadowy and dark spaces.  What was he doing here?  Something made him want to walk down the corridor.  He proceeded carefully, not sure what might happen.  The mist swirled around him and slowly parted –

And there was Claire!  He shouted her name and she smiled and yelled his name happily and ran toward him. He met her and swung her around and gathered her into his arms, whispering,

 

“Oh, Mo Sorcha, there ye are, mo nighean donn (my brown-haired girl)! I’m so happy ta see ye!  I love ye so, mo chridhe (my heart), do ye know that?”

 

Jamie burst into tears and held her tighter.  He noticed a sofa on the side of the corridor and sat them down.

 

“Oh, Jamie, my love!”  Claire exclaimed.  I’m so happy to see you!  Did the baby make it?”

 

Jamie released Claire enough to kiss her soundly, “Yes, Little Mam, Wee Brian is in the NICU and is getting stronger by the day, eating the hospital out of all its formula, like a braw boy should!” 

 

Claire’s eyebrows rose and she giggled.  It was the best sound Jamie had heard in days.

 

“Can we go see him, do you think?”

 

“I think so, a graidh (sweetheart). Let’s go!”  Jamie stood up as she clung to him like a baby koala to his mother and they made their way to Brian.  He released his wife and she picked up their son, kissing him and cooing at him.  Jamie cried again at the beautiful scene and hugged his family gently to himself.  She gave Jamie his son and beamed as her husband held his heir and cuddled him.  Brian was quiet for a few minutes but then started to squirm and cry.  Jamie held him out to Claire and she sat in a rocking chair and released her gown, baring both beautiful, turgid breasts to her child and her husband.  She squeezed her nipple and dribbled some milk on her index finger, painted the baby’s tongue and lips with it and dabbed a little under his nose.  She let him lie there for a few seconds and then brought him to her breast.  Jamie teared up at the beauty of what happened next.  The child latched on immediately and nursed contentedly with little smacking and grunting noises like a wee piglet until he drained that breast dry.  She switched sides and he only managed to drink a fraction of the nourishment available before his eyes thudded closed and he fell deeply asleep, mouth open, eliciting baby-soft nasal snores.  Claire grinned and handed an exceedingly milk-drunk Brian to his father, who shook with barely contained mirth, kissed his son gently on the forehead and settled him reverently in his incubator.  Jamie gathered Claire in his arms and as they stepped outside the NICU, Jamie burst out laughing at the memory of his intoxicated baby.  He kissed Claire on the head, and wiped tears of laughter out of his eyes,

 

“Thank ye for lettin’ me witness the most beautiful sight in the world, my heart.”

 

She kissed him passionately, surprising Jamie and making his heart pound like a drum.  She winked at her dazed husband and led him out to the hallway again.  When they reached the sofa, she sat at one end and gathered her husband to herself, stroking his head and whispering sweet nothings to him, encouraging him to nurse from her,

 

“Please, Jamie, I want to experience you suckling at my breast.  You’ll be fulfilling my fantasy and helping me out at the same time; I don’t want to leave the milk in there; I think I might feel lopsided or something weird like that.  Will you?”

 

“Aye, Little Mam, yer wish is my command.”

 

Jamie kissed his wife passionately and their tongues danced languidly, enjoying being joined again.

 

He reached up and caressed her beautiful face, whispering in a gravelly voice, “I love ye so, mo Sorcha.  Thank ye fer taday.”

 

“Anything for you, my darling.”

 

Jamie lowered his head and licked her breast and nipple carefully, wanting to make this experience wonderful for her.  She moaned softly when he started tonguing her nipple, sucking lightly.  She felt her milk let down again and she buried her fingers in his curls.  She settled a small pillow under his neck and Jamie moaned in helpless delight at the warm sweetness leaking into his mouth.  He massaged her with his tongue and snaked his warm hand between her legs, which she parted willingly.  He kept drinking and nibbled gently at her nipple, awed when her back arched and she shook sensuously.  He kissed her breast and massaged the other one for a bit, but he focused on his meal and bringing her off gently.  He breathed warm, milk-sticky breath on her breast and fingered her moist labia at the same time.  Claire couldn’t help herself – she groaned in want and spread her legs wider, eliciting a smile from her husband.  He pushed his finger slowly into her sopping channel and sucked harder on her breast, excited by the increase in flow.  He realized this must be how Claire felt when she greedily swallowed his load.  He couldn’t seem to get enough and sucked harder and harder at her nipple.  Her arousal flooded his finger and he pushed another in gently.  He bit her breast gently, slowly ramping up the pressure of his bite until Claire was shaking with need,

 

“Please, Jamie, just a bit harder and you’ll push me over the edge!” She rasped out, voice low and thick with passion. 

 

He resumed his slow torture, backing off a little by removing his teeth and simply trapping her breast in his lips.  She begged throatily, “Please, Big Man, take me all the way!”

 

Any shred of control Jamie had evaporated into the mist swirling around them, which was heavy with the smell of wanton desire, Claire’s perfume, Jamie’s cologne and the enticing aroma of come, body warmth and sweat.  They both took great lungfuls of the heady, love-laden mist.  Jamie resumed biting his mate, and she writhed as he hit her sweet spot between pleasure and pain.  She arched her back and screamed out her orgasm, crying tears of relief and gratitude.  Jamie brought her down slowly, decreasing his bite pressure slowly, but continuing to suckle contentedly at her breast until he could taste no more ambrosia dripping onto his greedy tongue. 

 

Claire kissed him and ordered him to lie with his head on the couch arm.  He blinked a couple of times to completely come back to himself and obeyed.  He realized as relaxed as he was, he’d completely amped her up, and she was hungry.  She pushed up his hospital gown and licked her lips with a satisfied growl,

 

“There he is, my favorite dummy (US: pacifier)!  She grinned and pushed his legs apart roughly, stretching to push his arms over his head as well.  He pillowed his arms under his head and watched her work, fascinated.  This would never get old for him, he knew; no matter how old they got.  His lady’s fascination with his cock as her favorite private plaything manifested itself newly born each time she “went out to dinner,” as she was fond of saying, a smirk on her lips and a “I’m up to no good and you love it, Jamie!” sparked dangerously in her whisky orbs every time.  She took a deep whiff of Jamie’s cock and he actually saw her mouth water.  He took a calming breath, all for naught, as she engulfed him wholly and ravenously.  He shouted in ecstasy at the incredible feeling.  She breathed warm air all over his cock, and took her sweet time rolling his warm balls in her tiny hands.  She sucked and licked at his cock gently, traveling sweetly up and down his ramrod-stiff shaft, sighing and moaning in satisfaction. She’d missed this, for sure.  For Claire’s part, she was never certain if this was for her selfish pleasure or the desire to please him. “Going out to dinner” was her favorite way to relax that relaxed him, too.  Velvet-soft fingers caressed his frenulum and slipped gracefully over his inner thighs, eliciting a low gasp from her man,

 

“Please, Claire, I canna last long if ye keep on this way, lass! Oh, God, mo aingeal tròcaireach (my merciful angel), ye know how to please yer supplicant well,”

 

Jamie panted.  He wanted it to go on and on and on, as he knew his love for his wife and son would – forever, without end.

 

Too soon, though, he heard a throaty hum-chuckle and he knew his goose was cooked – so much so, it was about to incinerate. It was knob-polishing time, what Claire laughingly referred to as the “coffee and dessert” portion of “eating out.”

 

She sighed softly and licked up his shining penis and pushed her tongue into his slit, making him jump.  She scored all the way around his spongy head with her teeth and moaned, sending shockwaves down Jamie’s spine right into his toes.  She licked his head with abandon, like it was the sweetest ice cream cone pinching it gently and pulling on it as well.  Jamie stiffened and warned,

 

“Och, ye wee vixen, I’mma verra verra close now! Please, mo ghaol (my love), let me come!  She simply giggled and continued, laving his head with her flattened tongue.  She grasped the root of his cock and squeezed; all Jamie could do was writhe in pleasure.  Her hand continued squeezing up his shaft and her mouth kept polishing his knob.  Jamie simply surrendered to the maelstrom of sensations threatening to engulf his very sanity and allowed himself to enjoy his own imminent demise.  He felt her probe his slit again and that pushed him into a blinding white-hot finish.  He bucked, out of control, and shouted,

 

“Sorcha!” and she completely deep-throated him, swallowing every hot jet hungrily.  She eased him back down, carefully sucking on his cock to clean him.  She climbed onto the couch again and Jamie gathered her on top of him.  He pulled a blanket from the spine of the couch over them and they fell into contented dreams, united once more. 

 

They woke refreshed a while later and Claire blinked sleepily and booped her husband on his nose, which elicited a grin from him, and he massaged her backside gently, but didn’t let go of his prize.

 

“Jamie, I have to get up before my legs fall asleep.”

 

He groaned. “Och, nay, Sorcha, mo ghaol, tha thu gam chumail cho blàth,” and he pouted at her.

 

Claire smirked, “I’m glad I’m keeping you warm, my dear, but I’m feeling like I’m being pulled somewhere and I need to go.  Don’t ask me why; I don’t know.  I just have to go.”

 

Jamie chuckled at her ever-increasing command of his native tongue, “Aye, I know what ye mean.  I feel the same tug, but I was tryin’ ta ignore it because ma hands were so comfortable on yer beautiful hindquarters, ma lady!”  He blinked owlishly at her.

 

She rolled her eyes but couldn’t stifle the giggle that escaped her, “But don’t fret, love, I know I’ll see you again very soon, alright?”

 

“Alrigh’, then, ye rebel, up with ye.  Careful, now,”   

 

As she eased herself up, he didn’t let go of her arm until he felt her feet hit the floor securely.  They worked together to fold the blanket and straighten up the couch and embraced each other gently.  Claire got up on her toes and kissed her man slowly and thoroughly,

 

“There, now you know where to get more of those later.  Just think of them as sexy breadcrumbs, baby!”

 

“Aye, mo leannan (my sweetheart), I do! He growled possessively, “And they’re all for me, aye, mo Sorcha?”

 

She drawled, “Why, Sir, of course!”

 

And Jamie’s heart pounded with the promise of her love.  He swallowed audibly and gave her a chaste kiss on the forehead and backed away from her regretfully.  “Aye, Sorcha, ye know I love ye, and we’ll be tagether soon.”

 

His eyes shone with tears and she said, “I’ll be counting the hours, my love, I can’t wait!”

 

Jamie saw a tear trickle down her alabaster cheek.  The lovers backed away from each other, never turning their backs until the cool fog obscured them once again.

 

Jamie felt like he was underwater, slowly making his way up to the surface and to sunlight.  He relaxed his muscles and simply let it happen, and soon, he blinked his eyes.  Next to him sat

Brian, holding his hand.

 

“Ah, there ye are, a bhalaich (boy), ye gave me a scare again!”

 

Jamie wasn’t feeling like he had the energy to do much of anything, and just smiled at Da.

 

“After all this kerfluffle, ye and Mam’re goin’ ta put me up fer adoption and keep Claire an’ Wee Brian, I kin see it now!”

 

Brian laughed.  “Aye, well, it ha’ crossed our minds, alrigh’!”

 

Now it was Jamie’s turn to laugh but soon he started coughing violently.  Brian put his arms protectively around his son and let him get through the coughing fit before easing him back on his pillows. 

 

“Has Geilie come back wi’ the test results yet?”

 

“No, son, she hasn’t.  I hope that’s a good sign, that they’re not rushin’ ta process yer samples, ye ken?”

 

“Aye, Da, I understand.”

 

Jamie lay against the pillows and closed his eyes.  He didn’t like feeling weak like this, like he’d have to depend on others to get by.  Really, though, what could he do about it?  He simply wanted to focus on getting well so he could be a husband to his wife and a father to Brian, and as soon as possible.

 

The men heard a quiet knock on the door and a tiny woman in a white coat came in with a laptop,

 

“James Fraser?”

 

“Aye, tha’s me. How kin I help ye?”

 

The young woman smiled.  “My name is Doctor Innes.  I’m working with Dr. Duncan, and she was pulled away.  She asked me to come in and talk to ye about yer test results.”

 

“This is my father Brian Fraser. I’d like him ta stay wi’ me.”

 

“Aye, ‘tis alright.” The young woman moved closer to the bed.  Jamie couldn’t help noticing that the blonde with riotous waves going down her back was even tinier than his wife.  He doubted she even measured five feet tall.  In truth, Vanessa Innes was only 4’10” (147 cm), but she was fearless, which had allowed her to succeed in everything she’d tried.  She had enormous sky-blue eyes that missed nothing and shone with a wicked sense of humor.  

 

“So, Mr. Fraser, yer tests are back, and unfortunately, you have pneumonia.  Geilis suggests that we start ye on a regimen of antibiotics for seven days to try and wipe it out. I have the pills wi’ me and ye can start on them righ’ away.”

 

“I’ll get ye some water, son.”  Brian took Jamie’s cup and got some water from the tap,

 

“Here ye go, a bhalaich (boy).”

 

“Thanks, Da,” Jamie took the cup from his Da and a pill from Dr. Innes and said, “Slàinte.”

 

Dr. Innes smiled and replied, “ri sunndan do shlàinte (to your health)!”

 

Brian and Jamie smiled broadly and Brian asked, “Am bu mhath leat an Gàidhlig, an Dotair Innes, a bhruidhinn (Would you like to speak the Gàidhlig, Dr. Innes)?”

 

She smiled warmly, blushed light pink in pleasure and said, “Bhiodh e na thoileachas dhomh. Chan eil mi a ’faighinn mòran chothroman airson a bruidhinn aig an obair (It would be my pleasure. I don’t get very many chances to speak it at work)”.

 

Dr. Innes addressed Jamie and asked, “Is tu an duine aig Claire Friseal, nach eil (You are Claire Fraser’s husband, aren’t you)?

 

“Aye, I am.” Jamie answered, smiling. 

 

“She’s a good friend of mine and I’ve been checking on her every day.  I sit and talk with her and let her know about my cases and such.”

 

“Aye, thank ye, on behalf of myself and my whole family, Doctor. My wife is a good friend to many here, it would seem,”

 

Jamie’s chest puffed up proudly. “My lass is a good’un, alrigh’!”

 

“So, erm, did Geilis or Joe Abernathy say anythin’ about me goin’ home, Dr. Innes?”

 

“Aye, we are waitin’ fer yer blood tests to all return to normal levels.  It may be as early as day after tomorrow, but then ye have ta stay at home until one o’ them clears ye fer work, aye?  Please, call me Vanessa.”

 

Jamie smiled and said, “then you must call me Jamie.”  He sighed. “I’ve never been a good patient, but I won’ try ta leave AMA. Claire will kill me and Jenny and Mam would finish what’d remain, tha’s fer sure.”

 

“Aye, Son, tha’s the truth of it,” Brian agreed.

 

Jamie left the hospital the next day with a doctor’s note that he needed to be gone for at least a week to be sure that he gave himself time to recover.  He moved in with his parents for that week, which suited him fine.  He didn’t like being at home without Claire, especially now that she was in hospital.  He visited her every day and gave her updates on Brian – he was steadily gaining weight and his breathing was fine.  Hildegarde wanted him to reach 2.3 kilograms (5 lbs) before releasing him.

 

Two weeks after Jamie had been released, Brian came home to him and his grandparents at Lallybroch.  Jamie was back at work full-time and was physically recovered.  His heart was still aching, though, because his beautiful Claire was still in hospital.  The night after Brian came home, Jamie visited her and was regaling her with tales of how well Brian was eating.

“Aye, Sorcha, yer lad is gaining weight and will soon have chubby arms and elbow dimples!

He kicks his wee feet when I talk to him and calms when Mam sings to him, ye’ll cry when ye see it.  Ah, mo nighean (my girl), dinna ferget, ye have a man and a son at home who love ye and canna wait to welcome ye to yer home.  Everythin’ is ready fer ye.  The hospital will give ye indefinite leave to recover from this as well as maternity leave; don’ worry about that, aye?”

Jamie kissed Claire on the lips and straightened up, taking her tiny hand in his.  He massaged her hand gently, instantly relaxing when he felt her skin on his.  He turned his head to yawn and when he turned it back, he felt the tiniest squeeze of Claire’s fingers on his – it wasn’t more than a whisper at all, but it was there, he knew he’d felt it.

“Claire, oh, mo chridhe brèagha (my beautiful heart), ye can hear me, aye? Please a leannan (my love), can ye do it again fer me?”  Jamie waited, heart in his throat.  Seconds passed and he felt it again, stronger this time.  He stroked her cheek, tears of gratitude dripping onto his. He kissed her again and whispered to her, gathering her in his arms to hold her so she could hear his voice in her bones, something he knew she loved.  He recited an ancient love poem in the Gàidhlig, deepening his pitch so his voice was little more than a low rumble.  He kept one strong arm across her back and stroked her hair, kissing the shell of her ear oh-so-gently.  After a few minutes, he laid her down again and brought both little hands to his mouth and kissed them reverently and dried his tears.  He opened his phone and dialed Joe, “Joe, Claire squeezed my fingers twice, once when I asked her!”

“Jamie! That’s great! Keep talking to her! I’ll get Geilis and be right there!”

 

A few minutes later, Joe and Geilis arrived.  They took her vitals and Geilis sat at the edge of the bed and took Claire’s hand in hers, “Claire, this is Geilis.  Squeeze my fingers!”

The three friends waited with bated breath.  Nothing. Nothing at all. Frowning, Geilis tried again.  Still nothing.  “Move it, Red, lemme try.  “Lady Jane, this is your big brother Joe here.  If you can, would you please squeeze my fingers?”  Sure enough, after about 10 seconds, they all saw Claire’s fingers press Joe’s gently, and they all smiled broadly at each other.  “Alright, LJ, thank you! that was great.  When you’re ready, we’d love it if you’d join the party.  You know we’re waiting for you, honey!”

“I wonder why she didn’t do that fer me?” Geilis wondered out loud.

Joe looked at her and smirked, “Well, you know that Lady Jane is a stickler for manners, Geilie.  You didn’t ask nicely.  You commanded her to do something.  You know how that gets her English up!”  Geilis’ reply was to stick her tongue out at Joe.  They all burst out laughing, and

Geilis said, “Yep, that’s a good sign, Jamie! She may be coming out of her coma, but we can’t guarantee anything, ye understand, aye?” 

 

Joe nodded his head in agreement. “Oh, aye, I ken it, Geilis, but this is the first sign she can hear us, right?”

 

“Yep, it is.  Ok, so we’ll go and let you two have some quality time together.  Geilis addressed Jamie sternly, “And Jamie, no pushing her, aye?  We all want her to wake up, but IF she does, it has to be on her terms, when she is able.  You can’t force her to wake up.”

 

Jamie bristled, but took a deep breath before speaking, for once.  “No, Geilis, it never entered my mind an’ I willna be doin’ that, ye have ma word.”

 

When Jamie and Claire were alone again, he held her hand and simply sat with her.  Hours passed and his eyes grew heavy. He had to get home to Brian.  He shook himself awake, readying himself to go home.  He drank a couple of cups of water to wake up and leant down and kissed his wife once more before leaving,

“I love ye, Sorcha, I’ll see ye soon, aye?  Have a good night, my love.”  He squeezed her hand gently and turned, shrugging on his jacket.  He carefully placed the chair against the wall and heard a faint, “Jamie.”

 

He whirled around, and Claire’s eyes regarded him sleepily.  “Claire, oh love, ye’ve come back! Welcome back!” He kissed her lips gently and held her hand, tears sliding down his face.  She raised a hand slowly and cupped his cheek, whispering haltingly,

“Don’t cry, baby,” which only made his tears increase until he was blinded by them.  He kissed her palm and gently laid her hand against his heart.  “Brian?” 

Jamie smiled through his tears, “Yer son is gaining more weight every day and everyone is fussing over him.  He has the whole family wrapped around his little finger, Sorcha.”

She smiled tiredly and Jamie called Joe and Geilis again, who came in and greeted Claire joyfully.  She smiled tiredly at them and whispered, “tired.  Sleep.”

Joe and Geilis smiled and Jamie asked Geilis and Joe to call the rest of the family tomorrow first thing and alert the family. 

“Aye, Jamie.  I’ll tell Willie and Da ye won’t be in fer the rest o’ the week.  Dinna worry about a thing, a bhalaich.”

Jamie hugged them both and his lip wobbled, which made lumps come to the throats of both of their friends,

“Now Jamie,” Joe warned, “Don’t start that boo-hooin’ again, or else I will too! Go take care of my girl.”

“Joe’s right, Jamie. Go be with Claire.”

The two of them left and Jamie sat next to Claire, just holding her hand, watching her sleep, just sleep, this time.  She’d wake up and it would be the next day, he thought.  Not two weeks.

He drifted off into the first peaceful slumber in over two weeks.  He woke during the night and looked at his watch. 4:20 a.m.  He got up to stretch his legs and get a cup of water, deciding that a short walk would do him well.  He took the stairs to the first floor and walked around there for a while, trying to remember where the meditation garden was.  He looked up and saw a sign that said, “CHAPEL →” and changed his mind.  He entered the empty room, low-lit and peaceful.  He crossed himself, walked up the aisle and fell on his knees, thanking the Holy Trinity, the Holy Mother and St. Joseph that his Sorcha had been returned to him.  He wept for those who were not as lucky as he was – his wife and son had both survived their trials.  The young father thanked God for his family, getting healthier by the day.  His wife would come home soon, meet their son and their little family would be whole, fractured no more. 

 

Claire had just finished her lunch and Jamie came in, aware that Hildie needed to talk to them both about Claire’s continued recovery.  Claire scooched over in the extra-wide bed Geilis had wrangled her so Jamie could sit beside her.

 

“Cherie, it is so good to see you again!” Hildie entered and smiled at her tiny friend, looking so much healthier than she had recently.  All three of them hugged and Hildie pulled up a chair.  “Alright, Cherie, let’s get down to ze, how do you say, speaking turkey?”  Jamie and Claire couldn’t help but giggle and Claire burbled, “Almost, Hildie.  The expression is ‘talk’ or ‘talking turkey.’:  Hildie blushed and said, “Ah, well, I am not so sure I’d invite one to a dinner party, but, c’est la vie, no?”  This made Claire and Jamie splutter with laughter.  Hildie just grinned in response.

“Bien. Claire, so you know you were in a coma for two weeks brought on by excessive hemorrhage, oui?”

“Yes, I know.”

“Alright.”  Jamie took Claire’s hand in his, showing her that he was there for her for the next news.  “Unfortunately, the birth severely damaged your uterus and your ex’s abuse nearly crushed your ovaries.  It’s a miracle you got pregnant and managed to gestate for so long.”  Hildie cleared her throat and took a breath.  Jamie felt Claire’s hand tighten in his.

“Due to the damage and the bleeding, I asked Jamie if we could harvest some of your eggs in case you decide to use them later.  I spoke with Jamie and explained the extent of the damage.  In order to prevent any future complications, I decided that a radical hysterectomy would be best.  Claire, I am so sorry, petite Maman,” and Claire could see that her friend’s eyes were moist.

Claire relaxed back on her pillows and closed her eyes wearily.  After a few seconds, she opened them again.  Jamie’s heart was torn in two because he couldn’t fix this for her.  Hildegarde cleared her throat and said, “I realize this is hard to accept, Cherie.  I’m just sorry for it all.”  Claire squeezed her friend’s hand, “I know you are, Hildie.  If you’d had any other choice, you would have gone that route.  You made it possible for me to be here with my husband and my son.  I’m in your debt for that.”  Claire held out her arms and Hildegarde came around the other side of the bed.  They hugged for a long while and Hildie kissed her goodbye, “I’ll come see you tomorrow, Cherie.  We’ll talk about menopause and therapies to help you get through it.”  Hildegard left, closing the door quietly behind her.

 

Claire reached for Jamie and he stroked tears off her cheeks.  “Oh, darling, I’m so sorry.  I wanted to carry more of your babies inside me.”

“I know it, Claire.  And I hate that this happened.  Can ye fergive me?”  Jamie couldn’t hold his own sorrow in any longer and cried with his beloved. 

She kissed his lips gently, “There’s nothing to forgive, love. You know I might have bled out had the hysterectomy not been performed.  I am immensely grateful to you for agreeing to have my eggs frozen.  If we decide later we want to have more children, we can find a surrogate.” 

They held on to each other and sobbed and keened, releasing their shock, anger and sorrow at what had happened.  Neither said anything; they just held each other, comforting each other as they always had.  No encouragement to calm or stop crying or relax passed between them.  They simply let themselves feel and work through their emotions.  When they were all cried out, Jamie spooned Claire and they fell asleep together.  It was the first restorative sleep for Jamie in weeks.

 

When Claire woke, the first thing she felt was a very awake part of his anatomy.  Turning around carefully in his arms, she unzipped his pants and reached in, pleased that Jamie had gone commando that day.  She licked her lips and started massaging him very gently, her practiced fingers sliding up and down his hardening member .  Jamie’s eyes fluttered half-open and inhaled sharply when he realized what she was doing,

“mo ghràdh aingidh (my wicked love), stop!”  She looked him straight in the eye and whispered sharply, “Chan eil! Cha dèan (No! I won’t)!  Jamie groaned softly and ceded the battle to her until Claire pulled his cock out and started sucking him off, right there in her hospital bed.  “Baby, what if someone comes in?” Jamie whispered furiously.  Smirking, Claire drew the covers over them, never stopping her warm tongue’s dance.  She groaned quietly, happy to taste his pre-come that was pearling on the tip.  She sucked and laved and pumped him with her hand until Jamie was breathless.  She saw with pleasure how he trembled and his hips thrust of their own volition.  He gritted his teeth and tried breathing slowly, but it was no use.  He felt his orgasm rolling up through his body.  Desperately, he latched onto her neck, laving it and nipping.  She saw him buck once more and she hungrily drank down jet after jet of his come.  Her supple neck bore the brunt of his shout of completion.  When he came down, he kissed her fiercely in thanks until she was breathless and panting.  She put his cock back into his pants and squared the both of them away. 

 

She goddamn smirked at him again and he growled at her, “You, little Miss, don’t listen very well, do ye?”

 

“No, I don’t.  I do what I want, to whom I want.  And you’ll always be the only one I’ll want to do that to, do you understand me, boy?”

 

Jamie’s eyes sparkled with love and said, “Yes, wife!” They snuggled together again and fell asleep in each other’s arms.

 

Claire and Jamie left the hospital together two weeks later.  They spent a weekend at Lallybroch with Wee Brian, Big Brian, Ellen, Ian and Jenny and their children.  It was a fun weekend for them and a slow introduction for Claire to life as a mother.  Jamie’s heart clenched each time he heard her cooing over Wee Brian.  His son tried hard to focus on her face and laughed when she stuck her tongue out at him. 

Chapter Text

Claire’s favorite thing to see was Wee Brian in his father’s massive arms.  She never knew that Jamie could be so gentle, but he was.  Cautious, too.  He drove slowerand more carefully when Brian was in the car and kept a careful eye on him in the rear-view mirror.  When Brian was 6 months old, Jamie and Claire got dinner ready and Jamie “airplaned” his son into his seat.  Brian smiled widely at Jamie and burst out laughing, causing both parents to laugh in delight.  Brian had definitely caught up to his peers.  His weight was in the 98th percentile for children his age and his height was only a little less than that.  He sported Jamie’s red hair with a mahogany tint when the sun hit the unruly curls and Claire’s skin tone and eyes.  Jamie and Claire were often stopped in public by others commenting on how beautiful their son was.  They would always thank the person politely and Jamie would say, “Thank God he favors his mother, aye?” and wink and smile.

One morning, Claire was feeding the baby in their bed and Jamie recalled the conversation he’d had with Wyatt, “Uh, Claire, I want ta talk to ye about a couple o’ things that happened durin’ a dream I had when I was in the hospital with ye.”

Claire said, “Alright, love, what is it?” 

She carefully switched Brian to the other breast and Jamie sat in front of Claire so he could see her face. 

“Well, a man who said that he was essentially my spirit guide came to me and told me that Mary, the mother of God, had chosen us for each other long ago.” He looked at her nervously, trying to see if she looked like she was going to have him committed.  A few minutes later, Jamie snuggled a drowsy Brian into his crib and returned to Claire.

Claire’s mouth dropped open, “Wow. That is not what I thought you were going to say, love.”

Jamie looked at her earnestly.  “I know, mo nighean donn, I was gobsmacked myself.”  He continued telling the story and by the end, Claire didn’t know what to think.  She thought, Jamie had never lied to me in the past; why would he start now?

Jamie watched Claire’s face as he recounted the story and didn’t see her reaching for her phone to commit him, “He said that she had a special mission for the two of us, but he didn’t know what it was.  He also snuck into the kitchen the night ye told me we were expecting the wee’un and tried a bite of the linguine vongole.” Jamie smiled, “but he couldn’t leave it at just one bite.  He ate an entire plate.”  Claire’s eyes widened, “is that why there seemed to be so much less when I went to go put it away?”

Jamie giggled, “Aye.  An’ evidently he had a meeting with colleagues an’ told the ‘Sauce Inspector’ story and got a laugh from Saints Lawrence and Martha.” Claire blanched and actually made the sign of the cross on herself, which she rarely did.

“Well, love, that certainly is an incredible story.  I think all we can do is wait.”

“Aye, I think so, too.  We should warn the family, though.”

I’ll call Mam and ask if we can come up fer the long weekend. Is your schedule clear?”

Claire looked at her phone’s calendar, “Yep, all clear.”

Jamie got on the phone with Ellen and asked if they could have a family gathering weekend after next because the following Monday was a bank holiday.

“Aye, that would be wonderful.  It’s been a long time since everyone was here.  Do us a favor and ask everyone to bring something, aye?  Then ring me back and let me know what I need to make to fill out the menu for a Saturday picnic in the meadow.  We can let everyone go swimmin’ in the pond; it’ll be warm enough and that’ll tire the bairns out well.”

Jamie laughed, “Aye, that it will, Mam.  Thank ye!”

Jamie phoned his sister, Laoghaire and Geilis and advised them of the plan.

Two weeks later, the entire family was gathered at the pond and Jamie called for silence during lunch,

“Alright, everyone, I’d like ta thank Mam and Da for hosting us all taday.”

The family broke out into cheers and applause.

“The reason I called ye all here is tha’ when I was in hospital, I had a very, very strange dream.  I dreamt that my ‘guardian angel,’ if ye will, came ta me in this dream.  He told me that he had a special message from the Holy Mother herself.”  Gasps and murmurs of disbelief broke out around the table.

“I know it sounds crazy, but it’s about ta get even twistier, so buckle up, everyone.”  There were smiles and laughter at that pronouncement.

“He said that the Holy Mother had chosen Claire and me for each other and that this wasn’t our first life together.  He said that our entire clan enjoys her special favor and that we are especially blessed.”  Jamie took a deep breath and continued, “He said that as a sign of her favor and protection over us, a lavender rose bush will bloom behind Lallybroch when the snow is thick upon the ground.”  Stunned silence was all Jamie heard at the end of his recounting of his conversation with Wyatt. “I realize this sounds like I need to be committed, but, please remember, this happened in the context of a dream.  As Claire pointed out, the only thing we can do is wait.”

That night, Brian went into the priest’s hole, retrieved the ring and gave it to Jamie.

He put it in his pocket and went upstairs to Claire.  “Mo neighan, I have somethin’ ta talk to ye about.  She patted the bed beside her and he gladly joined her.  “Alright, this is where we descend into the rabbit hole to have tea with the Red Queen...”

Claire snorted her decaf tea right onto her lap and Jamie shoved a handful of tissues in her hand,

“I’m sorry, mo ghaol, I didna anticipate that reaction.  Are ye ok?”

Claire finished dabbing up the coffee and Jamie could see she was shaking. She looked up at him and broke out into laughter, which she hushed by putting her hand over her mouth so she wouldn’t wake Brian, asleep in the next room down the hall, “Oh, my sweet, funny love, it’s not your fault I have poor snort-control!”

She grinned and kissed him.  After Jamie came down from that particularly exciting lip lock, he started the second part of his story.

“Remember I told you about that strange dream? Well, in the dream, I was trying to protect you and Brian from a giant red dragon.  I offered myself to him in exchange for your freedom.  He made me swear to be his slave for eternity in exchange, which I did.  At one point, for punishment, he removed my wedding ring and demanded I crawl to him and kiss a ring he was wearing on his paw.  It was a 10-karat red diamond and the pearls were wild-caught South Sea pearls.  I kissed the ring to avoid further further physical punishment.” Jamie blushed scarlet and tears came to his eyes, “It was so realistic, mo leannan (sweetheart).  My heart shattered when he did that.” He raised his head and Claire was crying, too,

“Oh, darling, I’m so sorry,” and she reached out and Jamie was home.

Claire wiped her eyes and interrupted, “A red diamond, Jamie? The largest one known is the Mousaieff Red, at about 5 karats.  It’s worth about $20 million USD.  You’re saying the dragon’s ring was twice that size?  That’s hard to believe.  Besides, it was only a dream, right?”

“When I awoke from the dream, Da was with me.  He saw me raise my right hand and noticed the ring on my finger.  He asked me to lower my arm and he exclaimed at how beautiful the ring was.”  Without another word, Jamie dug into his pocket and retrieved the ring, making sure that Claire didn’t have anything in her mouth.  He even removed her teacup and placed it on his bedside table.  He pulled the ring the rest of the way out and showed an astounded Claire,

“Jamie, that ring’s got to be worth enough to guarantee the financial health of this family for generations to come!”

“Aye, I know, love.  I asked Elias to come over tomorrow afternoon to see it.  He has a jeweler’s fire-rated safe in the back of his shop.  If ye’re amenable, I’d like ta show Mam. 

“Of course.  Should we go down now?” She grabbed the baby monitor and then said, “Oh no!”

She put her hand on her husband’s arm, “I am such an idiot. I forgot that I invited Vanessa tomorrow to tour the stables.  She wants to get back into riding and offered to exercise the horses here for Da and Mam.  What time is Elias coming?”

“3:00 p.m., and Vanessa?”

“Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ! 2:30!”  Claire grabbed her hair in frustration at herself and said “Oh, my God, this is so me!”

“Ach, mo ghaol, dinna fash.  Ye take Vanessa on the tour, come back and Mrs. Crook agreed to come in to prepare an extra-special tea for Elias.  She’ll take Monday off. Dinna fash! I’ll jus’ let her know ta expect one more person.  Believe me, she won’t have any problem with it.”

Claire stared at him, “Just how do you know that?”

He grinned, “Because Mrs. Crook isn’t actually human.  She’s a guardian spirit for the whole Fraser family.  My guardian angel told me she’s been looking out for us as our cook for generations.  That’s how she has so much energy to go an’ go an’ go for Mam’s parties an’ gatherins’.  She just looks in cookbooks for show; that’s also why nobody can completely replicate her apple cobbler.  She jus’ goes by instinct and her own knowledge every time.”

Claire snapped her gaping mouth shut and they went into Brian’s study with Ellen and Brian.  They explained the story to Ellen, who was just as surprised as her daughter-in-law.

Sunday came and Vanessa arrived promptly at 2:30.  She was very excited to meet the horses and had brought a treat for each one.  They stopped in front of the largest stall in the barn.  In the left-farthest corner, an enormous horse was trying to make himself as inconspicuous as possible.  “The only horse you can’t touch or ride is our foster, Donas.  He’s a rescue and was very neglected and beaten badly by his owners.  He’s here to recover.”  Vanessa’s eyes became moist with empathy for the animal who must have been majestic at one time. 

“Jamie’s going to start working with him next weekend after he’s had time to settle in.” 

Jamie.  Who is that? Suddenly Donas knew; a picture formed in his mind.  Roan male.  More hands high than Donas.  Never raised voice.  Never hit or hurt.  Sweet carrots. Apples.  Square sugar. Jamie good.  He regarded the new humans warily.  Claire had brought a treat for him – a cinnamon butter cookie she’d baked with the children that morning.  She held it up so he could see and smell it and placed it on the rim of the door to his stall and she and Vanessa left.  The gaunt stallion looked around fearfully, Humans gone.  New smell? Smell good. He slowly walked to the front of his stall and snuffed the treat.  Smells like cloud-haired woman. Not yell. Not hit.  I try. He ate the cookie from the rim and crunched contentedly. I like cloud-haired woman.  And the great animal relaxed for the first time in a long time and fell into a deep sleep. 

Back at the house, Elias, Jamie, Brian and Ellen were enjoying coffee and tea.  Mrs. Crook outdid herself again.  There were tea sandwiches, chocolate cake, blueberry pie, cookies and, unusually, a plate of cheese and meat slices with crackers and fresh butter in case a guest didn’t care for something sweet. 

Claire and Vanessa entered and the men immediately stood.  Elias looked over to Claire and smiled a greeting, then his eyes fell to her companion.  He blushed pink and suddenly felt like he couldn’t get enough oxygen into his lungs.  She looked up at him and felt a bit dizzy.  Sensing her unease, Elias gripped her hand and supported her underneath her elbow with his other hand until she’d regained her equilibrium,

“Are ye alright, lass?”

Vanessa colored and stammered, “Ye-es, thanks. I’m fine.”

Jamie helped Claire with her jacket, and Elias helped Vanessa with hers, as he was closer to her than Brian.  Ellen regarded Elias and Vanessa and winked at her husband, who smirked in response.  Her instincts and ability to read the energy in a room were almost never wrong.  The women removed their boots and joined the men at the table.

Claire addressed her friend, “Vanessa, we have to ask you not to talk about what you’ll see or hear at this meeting.”

“Alright, not a word.”

“First, this is Elias Pound.  He’s a jeweler and an old family friend. He made my wedding earrings, Jamie’s signet ring, cufflinks and tie clip for our wedding.  I commissioned Joe’s sgian dubh from him as well.”

“All beautiful pieces.  My compliments, Mr. Pound.”

“Thank you, Dr. Innes, and please, call me Elias.”

She smiled and Elias thought his heart would never recover.  His blood pounded in his ears and his throat became parched.  He hastily gulped some water.

“Please, Elias, do call me Vanessa.” He gulped and smiled his crooked smile. Jamie knew his normally shy friend only smiled like that when he was very pleased.

Tea was finished and they all retired into the sitting room.  Jamie started the meeting,

“If ye all don’t mind, I am asking Claire to record this meeting on her cellphone for legal purposes.”

Vanessa raised her eyebrows.  Claire turned on her camera and set it on a steady tripod.  Jamie continued,

“Elias, we’ve asked ye here taday because we need yer assistance.  Claire and I are in possession of a piece of jewelry that was recently recovered on the property.  We would like you to appraise it and advise us how to best deal with it.”

With that, Jamie pulled out the ring and handed it to Elias, who expected that the stone was a ruby. Huge, yes, but certainly, a ruby.  He picked up his loupe and held the ring in front of it.  What he saw scared him to death.  He dropped his loupe and barely managed to put the ring safely on the table before some very spicy words came out of his mouth and he asked for a very large neat whisky.  Jamie handed it to him and saw that his friend’s hands were shaking and he had started to sweat, “Are ye alrigh’, a charaid?”  Brian handed Elias his cotton handkerchief.  Elias mopped his brow and under his nose, but he was still sweating like he’d run a kilometer.  “No, Fraser, I am NOT bloody alright.  A surprise like this had best NEVER happen again or ye’ll gi’ me a coronary, tha’s fer sure!”  He took a large gulp of his whisky and picked up the ring again. His hands shook so much he asked Claire, with her sturdy surgeon’s hands, to hold the piece.  He scrutinized the pearls and got up and washed his hands.  He ran a gentle finger over the pearls and whispered, “fuck me, they’re wild pearls.” He seemed to finally realize what he said, for he blushed in shame and said, “Ladies, please excuse my language.”

He examined the diamonds and croaked, “flawless, D-color. Jesus.” He looked up again, horrified at his slip.  He looked at Ellen and she thought he was either going to weep or vomit, or both, she wasn’t sure.  "Mrs. Fraser, I'm sorry. I can only offer that I am overwhelmed with what’s on yer table.  I have never seen such magnificent jewels.  Certainly, the center stone is not a ruby, as I assumed. It is a red diamond.  Alone, it has a value of at least 46 million pounds sterling ($60 million US dollars).  With the diamonds, platinum and pearls, the whole piece may be worth around 76 million pounds sterling ($100 million US dollars), and that’s only if there’s no bidding war, which is guaranteed to happen when the major jewelry houses get involved, not to mention private investors around the world.”  He took a long gulp of his whisky and Vanessa rubbed his back soothingly.  He looked sick for a moment and cradled his head in his arms on the table.  Ellen got up and got a clean kitchen towel and a bag of frozen peas for his neck and a paper bag in case he started hyperventilating.  Vanessa murmured soothingly to him while Ellen applied the peas to his neck and saw his shoulders slump in relaxation.  After a few minutes, Elias brought his head up.  His face was drawn and pale.  He straightened up and asked for a glass of water.  He drained the glass and asked for another. 

“I would like to apologize for my atrocious behavior.  When Jamie called me and invited me to tea and this meeting, I thought it was for jewelry to be made for Claire.  What I’ve seen today is like seeing a real yeti or Nessie, in the jewelry world.  This red diamond will become my industry’s holy grail.  I will wager any sum that its like will never be seen again.  Jamie and Claire, you have enough money in this ring to allow your entire family to retire tomorrow.  If we sell this at auction and you invest the money, you’ll ensure a secure future for Frasers for generations to come.”

“Aye, Elias, tha’s what we want.  We want to sell it but remain anonymous to the public and even the rest of the family canna know about it.  O’ course, we’d like ye ta be our seller’s agent an’ represent us during the sale.  We will pay ye an appropriate percentage of the profit after the taxes have been taken out, ye ken?  Ye jus’ need ta advise us on wha’s a standard fee.  Is it flat or a percentage?”

“It’s a percentage of the final price, Jamie and is highlighted in the contract.” 

“Alrigh’ then.  If ye happen ta have a contract with ye, Claire an’ I will be happy ta sign it tanight.”

Elias smiled, “actually, I do.  I always keep blank copies of important forms in my car. I’ll be right back.”

“Elias, will you permit me to accompany you? I’m a little concerned about your health right now.” Vanessa asked quietly.

“Oh, oh, um, sure, Vanessa, come wi’ me.  We’ll be righ’ back, everyone.”

The two left and everyone around the table exchanged grins.

Brian spoke up first, “Alrigh’, who wants ta make tha first bet? Anyone for one year dating and then marriage?”  He looked around. No takers.  “Two?” Ellen said, “I’ll take that action.” Brian smiled and said, “I bet two-and-a-half.  Claire? Jamie? What do ye say?”

Claire smiled and said, “I’ll bet three years dating and then we’ll be meeting at the church.”

Jamie piped up, “I’ll bet four years and then knot-tyin’.”

“The winner gets a 400-pound sterling bottle of their alcohol of choice,” Brian smiled and said, “Well, tha’s that, then.  It’s settled.” The Frasers raised their glasses in acknowledgement.

Elias and Vanessa came back in and Claire and Ellen exchanged glances.  Elias’ and Vanessa’s lips were both slightly swollen and their complexions were pinked.  Elias pulled out the contract and said, “I would strongly suggest that ye keep all this under wraps as long as ye live.  The video Claire shot needs to go into a bank deposit box or be stored with a lawyer. 

With yer permission, Mr. and Mrs. Fraser, I’ll call a friend who owns an armored truck company and have a truck come tanight to pick up the ring.  That way, fewer townsfolk will see the truck and fewer questions will arise.  Due to the value of the ring there will be two men.  Pickups of this value require it for insurance purposes.””

Brian looked at Ellen, “Mo ghaol, are ye agreed?”

“Yes, Brian Dubh.  I’m goin’ ta make up a snack fer the drivers.”

Claire and Vanessa went into the kitchen to help Ellen. 

Elias excused himself to make his call and came back a few minutes later.  “Alrigh’, they’ll be here in less than an hour.  I know both men.  They’ll both have to come inta the house, or we can meet them outside.” 

“Let them come in, Elias.  Then they can collect their packets and use the facilities if they wish.”

“Aye, Mrs. Fraser. Thank ye.”

The drivers arrived, used the restroom quickly, collected their packets, thanked “Mistress Fraser” effusively and they and the ring and were gone in fewer than 10 minutes. 

Jamie, Claire and Elias signed the contract and Vanessa and Brian signed as witnesses.

Everyone gathered in the dining room for an early dinner.  The leftovers from tea and some leftovers from Saturday’s picnic were served.  Everyone had a lovely time chatting and Claire was glad to see that Vanessa was interacting with people outside of work.  After the men did the dinner dishes, everyone retired to the sitting room for coffee and dessert, followed by whisky. 

Brian and Ellen sat on the loveseat and he leaned over and whispered in her ear, “Vanessa shouldn’t drive and Elias certainly shouldn’t. Are the guest rooms ready?”

“Aye, Brian, they are.”

Brian cleared his throat, “Elias, you’ve had too much ta drink ta drive home. Ye’re stayin here an’ tha’s final.”

Elias looked at Brian and his mouth dropped open.  Brian arched an eyebrow in warning and Elias murmured, “Yes, Sir, thank ye.”

Ellen fixed her best “Mam” gaze on Vanessa, “Ye either, Vanessa.  Ye’ll stay here tanight, ye hear me?”

Vanessa blushed and replied, “Yes, Ma’am, I understand. Thank ye.”

The men went and cleared up the supper dishes and the women enjoyed their quiet time.  At about 9pm, Elias took a whisky upstairs to his room.  Brian showed him the bath and pointed out the new toothbrushes and other toiletries available and the sleep shirts available.  Ellen took Vanessa up, who had her own whisky nightcap.  Ellen showed her the available pajamas and toiletries.  Brian and Ellen wished their guests a good night sleep and retired to their own room.  Jamie and Claire checked that everything was locked up and went upstairs as well. 

When Elias and Vanessa left the next morning, Ellen and Mrs. Crook went upstairs to tidy up.  Mrs. Crook changed the sheets and collected the dirty linens from Elias’ bathroom, throwing the dirty items into a heap at the bottom of the stairs.  She cleaned the bathroom quickly, noting that neither the shower or bathtub had been used.  As she was getting ready to check Vanessa’s bathroom, Ellen called out, “I’ve cleaned in there, Mrs. Crook.  Come see Vanessa’s bed.”

Mrs. Crook came to stand beside Ellen and gasped – the bed was undisturbed.  The women giggled and agreed to keep the revelation to themselves.  In the end, it was Brian who won the bet.  Dr. Vanessa Innes decided to keep her unmarried name and Elias Pound did not change his, either.  They married on May 6, 2024, two-and-a-half years after they met.  Of course, the groom designed the wedding set – matching gold and surgical steel wedding bands.  Vanessa’s was inset with perfect untreated purple sapphire lozenges on the outside edge of the ring and a row of cornflower-blue sapphires matching the bride’s eyes above that. There was a band of flawless “D” diamond lozenges in the center of the band. The guests of honor were Brian and Ellen Fraser.  Two years later, Brian James Pound and Ellen Claire Pound came wailing into the world. 

Jamie and Claire contacted Ned Gowan and set up a trust to handle the funds earned at the auction.  Elias’ friend had transported the ring to an auction house in Edinburgh.  They had a meeting with the auctioneer before the sale and Jamie, Claire, Brian and Ellen arrived ahead of time.  Jamie brought Elias and Ned with them as well as the trust information. 

The group was escorted into an upstairs room behind the bidding room.  It had comfortable armchairs and a clear view of the auctioneer and the merchandise being offered, but they couldn’t be seen by the auctioneer (although, of course, he or she would know about the room they were in) or the bidders.  The auctioneer came up to meet with them for a few minutes to make sure they understood what was going to happen.  There was a knock on the door and a lithe 6’2” young man with clear green eyes, short chestnut hair and an expensive suit and shoes entered and politely greeted the ladies and then the gentlemen,

“My name is Wyatt Shepherd, an’ I’ll be takin’ care o’ yer ring today.  I feel I must warn ye; this is a unique ring and the bidding will likely get very heated, very quickly.  This house always publishes a catalogue when major lots are coming up, and we have bids that currently surpass 50 million pounds sterling.  The final price is bound to be much higher than that.  Mr. Gowan has been most helpful in sharing trust information.  The proceeds from the auction less the house’s premium, your lawyer’s premium, the gemologist’s premium, two million pounds to each child of the Laird and Lady Broch Tuarach and 10 million pounds total to the James Frasers and the the Laird and Lady Broch Tuarach.  The rest of the funds shall be deposited into the trust.  Brian promptly choked on his whisky and Ellen was caught between tearing up in surprise, crossing herself and trying to pound Brian on his back. 

“Brian, are you okay?” Claire crouched down and looked into Brian’s red face.  Jamie had jumped up, ready to assist his Da.

“Aye, a nighean, I’m just surprised is all.  Thank ye both!  Ellen and I are grateful.”

“Aye, that we are,” sniffled Ellen, slightly muffled because she was being hugged by her son.

Wyatt left them to start the bidding.  “Ladies and gentlemen, we have a true rarity on the block today.  It is a ring comprised of a titanium band, wild-caught South Sea pearls, flawless “D” color diamonds and the center stone is a 10.03 karat red diamond.  This ring was found in Scotland’s Highlands, on a family estate.  There is no reserve on this auction.  The bidding will start at 20 million pounds sterling.  Do I hear 25?” 

A young woman on a black phone raised her right hand. 

“I have 25 with me.  Do I hear 35?” The bidding started and before it was five minutes old, the price of the ring had reached 56 million pounds sterling.  The bidding went on for an hour before it slowed down.  Finally, Wyatt’s gavel rapped on his podium for attention, “Ladies and gentlemen, the final price for this masterpiece is 250 million pounds sterling.  Do I hear any further bids?”  Wyatt scanned the room carefully, which had fallen into a charged silence, “Going once at 250, twice at 250, three times at 250 – SOLD! To a phone bidder for 250 million pounds sterling!”  His gavel crashed down on the podium a final time and the room erupted in wild cheers. Even Wyatt had a relaxed grin on his face after an hour on his feet.  He came back upstairs and congratulated the family again.  Jamie caught him as he was about to leave.

“Thank ye, Wyatt, fer everythin’.  Ye mus’ be exhausted.” 

Wyatt smiled, “Yes, Jamie, I am pretty tired.  Human bodies are fragile and get tired, ye ken?”

“Aye, I ken it, friend.”  Jamie smiled, “Well, I best be returnin’ ta everyone.  I think we’re goin’ ta go out ta dinner now.  Would ye like ta come?”

“Och, nay, thank ye.  I have a meeting tomorrow with Martha and Lawrence and have to get ready. Can’t keep the bosses waitin’, aye?

“No, that ye can’t.  Take care o’ yerself, Wyatt.  I hope we see each other before ma las’ day.”

Wyatt blinked, “Aye, as do I, a charaid.”

The men shook hands and parted. 

One Saturday morning, Jamie awoke and looked at the weather forecast on his phone.  It’d been raining cats and dogs lately and now snow was forecast for Monday. He groaned in annoyance.  Monday, he watched the snow falling and rolled his eyes.  Why couldn’t they live in Bermuda, fer Chrissakes? He got up and made coffee, noticing that Claire and her work things were gone.  Brian had been stolen by a wee fairy named Jenny the night before and the house was unnaturally quiet.  He built up the fire in the living room and poured himself some coffee before putting on his workboots and jacket and tending to the animals.  He was just about to head back into the house when he heard a series of creaking bangs coming from the barn.  He circled the barn and saw the reason for the noise – a loose board.  He grabbed some nails and a hammer and secured the damn thing.  He grumped, “Jesus, I’m hungry. I need food!”  He rounded the corner of the barn and nearly fell over at what he saw.  There, in the deep snow, was a perfectly healthy rosebush, blooming with flowers the likes of which Jamie had never seen.  Huge blossoms snaked their way from the main stalk, a welcome splash of brightness against a gray world.  They were a beautiful pale lavender, just as Wyatt had said they’d be.  He shook his head and blinked and pulled out his phone to check the date.  Yep, December 8th. Not spring yet.  He felt his forehead. Nope, no fever.  He moved cautiously towards the bush, like it would bite him if he moved too fast.  He crouched in front of it and inhaled.  It was the smell of love itself, it was rich and sweet, heady and exhilarating all at once. 

He went back to the house and made breakfast for himself and waited for Claire to come home.  Luckily, she came home just as he was washing the breakfast dishes.  He gave her a kiss and put on his workboots.  Without a word, he took her hand and pulled her outside before she got her jacket off. He stopped only when they reached the rosebush.  Her mouth dropped open.

“Go ahead and smell it, Sassenach.”

She crouched and took a whiff and was transported to a garden on a warm summer day, birds chirping and singing, the air heavy with the aroma of sweet flowers, when sun-drunk bees buzz in the garden, bopping along until they find the perfect flower.

“It came true, Jamie, I can’t believe it!” She burst into surprised tears and wrapped herself in her security, his arms.  He held her and kissed the tears from her face, “Aye, I know, mo leannan, it did.  It’s a true miracle.  We can call Mam and Da and the family to come see it.”

Wee Brian gained weight until, by his first birthday, he was taller and heavier than other boys his age.  The pediatrician gave him a clean bill of health, which was all that Claire and Jamie wanted.  

One Saturday evening when they’d already gone to bed, Claire asked Jamie,

“What would you think about either adopting or finding a surrogate?”

Jamie looked at her, surprised, “So soon, mo ghaol?”

Claire replied, wistfully, “Well, Wee Brian is growing up and I don’t want there to be too much of an age difference between him and his younger sibling or siblings, really.  I want the spread to be rather short than over-long so that our children learn that their siblings are their first playmates; the ones they can depend on the most, is that making any sense at all?”

“Why, yes, mo chridhe, it does, and I agree with your reasoning.  What’s your preference, adoption or surrogacy?”

“Well, there are occasionally babies abandoned at the hospital by mothers who can’t care for them; perhaps we could inquire as to the possibility of adopting one that’s left?  Do you care if the baby is a boy or girl?”

Jamie thought for a moment, screwing his handsome face up in his “thinking scowl” that his wife loved. “Naw, Sassenach, I dinna.  I’d be open ta a special needs child as well. What do ye think, mo chridhe?”

Claire smiled, “Well, it’s not like we don’t have a cadre of aunts and uncles who are doctors and medical professionals, right?  And the family will love the baby no matter what.”  She giggled and covered her mouth, “Your Mam and Da are going to have kittens when we tell them!”  Jamie laughed, because he knew how right his Sorcha was.  He rolled onto his side and lowered his head to her breast and licked her nipple, smirking when Claire inhaled sharply and whispered, “Oh, Jamie, yes, darling!” He grunted in pleasure and resumed eating his snack, licking and sucking at what he teasingly called “the milk bar.”  He moaned when she placed his hand on her mons, inviting him in to play.  He stroked her gently.  God, she’s already so wet for me.  I love this woman!” He thought.  He wanted to please her like she pleased him and continued to suck on and fondle her.  He switched his mouth’s attention to her ivory neck, planting tender kisses that made her erupt in her wee noises,

“Aye, Sassenach, talk to yer man,” he encouraged softly.  She did just that, panting in pleasure sighing and moaning softly as he spread his kisses over her jawline and the rest of her neck.  Never hurried, never half-measures, he made sure he got his fill and she was satisfied before licking heatedly down her solar plexus, rollling her other nipple in his fingers until it was at a point.  Claire was gasping and her pussy was dripping all over his fingers, “God, Jamie, keep doing that, love, unnnngh!” He pulled on her erect nipple and then squeezed.  A spurt of milk shot out and he licked it up where it landed, much to Claire’s delight.  He massaged her empty breast and suckled on the full one, a little jealous of his son that he got to do this more than his father.  He slowly drained the second breast and kissed his way down her body to her mound.  He laved it and nipped at her labia and Claire shuddered at the sparks threatening to set her ablaze.  “Oh, yes, love, please!”

Jamie looked up and rumbled, “Yes what, a nighean?” What can I do fer ye?  Tell me, darlin’, right now – be my good lass and tell me what ye want, aye?”

“Nnnngggh ah, ah, Jesus, please lick me out, husband.” 

“There’s my good lass,” Jamie smiled and licked his way down her mound to her puffy lips, perfumed and bathed in her arousal.  He massaged her mound with one hand and fucked her with two fingers on his other hand.  He added his tongue and gentle teeth and soon, he could hear and feel that she was very close.  His fingers squelched through increasing wetness and he pulled his fingers out of her reluctant vagina, which tried to keep them just where they’d been.  He pulled them up in front of his wife’s eyes and showed her. 

“Look at our love on my fingers, mo chridhe.  Would you like to taste?”

“Yes, husband. Feed me, please,” she growled and Jamie moaned as she opened her mouth, licked her lips and extended her moist tongue.  He placed his fingers on her tongue and she licked and sucked until his cock was peeking out from below the sheet.  She let his fingers go with a pop.  He loved his way down her body and proceeded to wreck Claire with the best oral sex she’d ever had.  He licked and sucked, moaned and deepened his voice when he snacked on her, pulling her labia this way and that, tapping on her clit until she screamed for mercy,

“Jesus, Jamie, please stop, I can’t take this any more!”

Jamie crooned, “Yes, you can, mo chridhe, I know exactly how strong you are.” He cupped her beautiful face, gave her a smoldering kiss and whispered in a gravely voice,

“Come for me, my love,“ and pinched both nipples.

Claire bowed off the bed and screamed through her orgasm.  Jamie gathered her into his arms and soothed her all the way back down.  He turned her over and massaged her neck, back, arms, legs and buttocks, ending with her feet.  He trailed his fingers up and down her skin, leaving a fiery trail of goosebumps in his wake.  He kissed her all the way to her buttocks and nipped and licked her ass, licking her pussy from behind with his rude tongue after he pulled her roughly to her knees, making her hiss in pain.  He left her upper body on the bed and slapped her thighs apart.  He drove his hungry tongue into her snatch and feasted on her juices, panting and whines.  Beneath him, his woman got up on her hands and turned to look at him, snarling, “Satisfy me, damn you, Fraser!”  He growled in response and sunk his teeth into her shoulder, breaking the skin and drawing a hiss from his wife and a droplet of blood.  He grabbed a narrow leather belt from next to the bed, doubled it and struck her again and again.  Claire gasped and yelled, “Yes, Jamie, Yes!”

He dropped the belt, admiring the bright pink of her ass and dug his fingers cruelly into her soft hips.  He drove into her and would have pushed her head into the headboard had he not been holding her still.  He grabbed her hair, yanked her head back and kept fucking her relentlessly. 

Claire chanted, “I love you, Jamie, love you love you lo-“ shrieked and came all over his cock.

He kept fucking her, almost at his own peak, “Sorcha, tha gaol agam ort!” And spurted all his love into her hungry channel. 

She got up once she felt like she could stand and got a small bowl and hot water and warmed a washcloth for him.  She lovingly cleaned him and he sighed in happiness.  He kissed her hand and she snuggled back into bed and pulled his head into her lap.  Jamie groaned and rumbled contentedly as Claire stroked his head and played with his hair.  She picked up his massive hand and kissed his fingertips and made sure that he was covered with blankets to stay warm.  She murmured sweet nothings over him and massaged his temples.  She looked down at the most wonderful man on the planet, amazed even now that he was hers.  His little smile was there, and she massaged his face until she knew he was deeply asleep. 

Jamie woke up slowly the next morning to his son’s cries.  He hustled out of bed and pulled on his sweats and walked into Brian’s room.  His son was on his back, rubbing his eye with his fist,

“There’s my son – did ye sleep well, mo chiusle?” Brian focused on Jamie and a smile lit up his chubby face.  Jamie changed Brian’s diaper and played with him for a while until his son started his new favorite game – pulling Da’s hair so he could try to stand up.  Jamie chuckled and said in Gadhlig,

“Nay, lad, dinna pull Da’s hair, please.  It hurts!”

Jamie carefully loosened his son’s grip and picked him up, giving him a raspberry on his round baby belly.  Brian squealed and chortled and Jamie scooped him up and took him downstairs to feed him some milk Claire had expressed last night. Jamie warmed the milk in the microwave and tested it on his inner wrist to make sure it wasn’t too warm for Brian.  Brian tried to grab the bottle and Jamie laughed,

“Wait a minute, little man.  Let Da sit down first.”

He settled on the couch with the special pillow under Brian’s head supporting his body as well.  He loved this time with his son and cherished it.  He offered the bottle to Brian and it was received happily.  Soon, Brian was finished with his bottle and Jamie lifted him up slowly to burp him.  He got up and took a circuit around the house, rubbing circles on his back.  Pretty soon, Brian spat up a bit of milk and gave a healthy belch,

“Ah, there ye go, mo chridhe, good belch!” Jamie pulled Brian’s play blanket out and settled him down underneath his mobile.  Brian gurgled happily and batted at the colorful animals above his head.  Jamie pulled out his phone and recorded his son playing so he could send the video to Granny and Big Brian. 

Jamie heard Claire moving around and stepped into the kitchen to start the coffeemaker. 

Claire padded down the stairs and Brian turned his head as his Mam came towards him.  He waved his hand and smacked his gums happily.  Claire cooed,

“Oh, there’s my big boy.  Did Da give you your first bottle? She leaned forward and tickled her son.  Jamie grabbed his phone and watched as Brian rolled over, got on his knees and rocked back and forth as he’d been doing for a while now.  Claire scrambled in front of Brian and urged him to come to her.  He quit rocking and zoomed towards her, faster than they’d ever seen.  When he had nearly reached his Mam, Brian hoisted himself on his knees and grabbed onto the solid oak table for support.  His darling face screwed up in concentration (identical to Claire’s) and to their surprise and delight, he hauled himself up and was standing.  Jamie choked on tears, unable to believe what he was seeing.  They both cheered their son and gave a lot of praise, laughing and clapping for him. 

“Come on, lovie, come to Mam!” Claire urged.  She held her arms out and he took one step and tumbled into her arms.  “That’s my brave boy, good for you, Brian!”  Jamie came over and nuzzled his son gently,

“That’s ma braw lad, Brian, that’s how it’s done.  I’m goin’ ta call Mam and let her know.” He called Ellen immediately and recounted what had happened.  Claire smiled when she heard Ellen rejoicing, calling to Big Brian that his namesake was now truly mobile.

Brian took the phone from Ellen, “Son? Big day today, eh?”  He smiled and mimed that Jamie was chattering away like a magpie.  His mother giggled and went into the kitchen to make them some coffee and breakfast.  “Ye’ll send the video, aye? Ah, that’s braw, son, truly.  Give the wee lad a kiss from Granny and Grandda, will ye?” He listened for a minute more and said, “Dinner tonight? Let me ask the boss.”  He called across the living room to Ellen, “Lass, Jamie and Claire want us for dinner tonight at their place.  Are we free?”

Ellen gave an enthusiastic thumbs up and tapped her upturned wrist and picked up a casserole dish from the drainer and showed it to her husband.  “Yer Mam wants ta know what time and may we bring something?” He listened intently and said, “6:00 and nothing.  Right-o.  See ye’s then, bye.”

They arrived at 6pm, and Jamie and Wee Brian answered the door.  The baby started bouncing up and down when he saw Big Brian and held out his arms to be cuddled.  Brian grinned and took his grandson on his shoulders, which made Wee Brian laugh and drool on his Grandda’s head. 

Ellen joined Claire in the kitchen and helped with setting out the roast and side dishes.  They called the men to the table at 6:15.  Big Brian settled the baby into his high chair.  Wee Brian got his little plate with cut up food and proceeded to enthusiastically smear it all over the high chair table and his face.  Of course, Claire couldn’t resist taking a picture of him.  After dinner was over they cleaned up Brian and the women took Brian into the living room.  Brian immediately wanted to snuggle with Ellen and fell asleep in her arms.  She took him upstairs and changed him and laid him down for the night.

Jamie cleared his throat and said, “Mam, Da, Claire and I wanted ye here ta discuss something close ta our hearts.  We’ve decided to have another baby in the house, whether it be through fostering and adoption or a surrogate.  We wanted ye to be the first ta know.  Right now, we are looking more inta fostering.  Claire knows some people in Child Welfare through her work in tha hospital, and we’re hopin’ that one o’ them will have a lead on a child fer us.”

“Yes, I’m hoping that one of my colleagues in that field can help us navigate the foster system to make it as smooth as possible for us and the child,” Claire stated, a hopeful look in her eye.  “We haven’t any preferences as to gender or race or ability level, meaning we’d be willing to take on a special needs child if the fit is right.”

Ellen hugged Claire and Jamie and said, “Thank ye for takin’ us inta yer confidence. We’ll no’ say anythin’ to anyone, we promise.”

“We know you wouldn’t, Mam,” Jamie said gently, patting her hand. “We jus’ wanted ye ta be ready when the child comes, is all.”

“Aye, Claire, Jamie, it’s wonderful ta hear.  Fosterin’ will give ye the ability ta help a child in need, an’ that’s always good.”

Claire spread the word at work, and encouraged Jamie to do the same, as some of his coworkers had been foster parents.  Jamie even popped by Maisri’s, since she knew a lot of people and could be counted upon to make discreet inquiries.

Six months later, the Frasers’ opportunity presented itself.  A young mother who was also a college student from Japan had a baby with her Samoan boyfriend, also a college student.  They had tried as hard as they could, but they knew they couldn’t give Thomas the life he deserved.  The mother, Yuki, hadn’t even told her family she’d had a child – she knew her parents wouldn’t approve because the baby wasn’t full-blooded Japanese.  Iosefa, Thomas’ father, had left an impoverished upbringing in Samoa and could barely keep food on the table for himself and his family.  They reached the heartbreaking decision together to give Thomas up.  They reached out to children’s services and Thomas was placed with a foster family in Broch Mordha.  The parents signed over their rights to Thomas three months before he would be one-and-a-half years old. 

Kailie Brodie heard about Thomas from her best friend Marcail, who was his caseworker.  She approached Claire and gave her Marcail’s contact information.  Claire could barely focus on the last part of her workday.  She called Ellen and asked if she would mind keeping her grandson a little longer,

“Oh, nay, lass. The Brians are busy! They canna possibly be disturbed!’

“Uh, Ellen, should I be worried? Are they planning on world domination or something equally as important, like how to get Mrs. Crook to give them more of her cookies?” Claire snorted and Ellen laughed.  “Nay, they’re building things with Willie’s old blocks.  Or at least Big Brian is and

Wee Brian likes nothing better than to knock Grandda’s masterpiece to the ground!”

“Alright, thank you.  We’ll be by to pick him up in about two hours. Is that okay?”

“Och, aye, ‘tis.  Thank ye fer callin’.”

Gleefully, Claire called Jamie and asked him to meet her at Little Tokyo, their favorite Japanese place.

Twenty minutes later, they got a table and ordered green tea and sushi.  Over bites of sushi, Claire filled Jamie in on what she knew – Kailie’s best friend was a social worker and had an 18-month-old boy living in a foster situation in Inverness.  The only other thing Kailie knew was his name, Thomas.

“Thomas Fraser, aye, Sassenach, it has a ring to it; what do ye think?”

“Sure, Jamie, but remember, we have to apply to adopt him and a whole bunch of things have to happen before the adoption is approved, you know?”

“Oh, aye, mo ghaol, I ken; I’m jus’ excited, is all.” Jamie smiled at his wife, “Shall we go get Brian and have a wee talk wi’ him?”

Claire bussed Jamie on the cheek.  “Lead on, intrepid explorer!” They laughed and clasped hands until it was time to drive to Ellen and Brian’s in their separate vehicles.

They collected Brian and while Claire was nursing him, she and Jamie told him about Thomas and what a braw boy he was.  He just needed a family, and Mam and Da felt like they and Brian could give him a wonderful home and a large, loving extended family. 

They met the social worker, Marcail, three days later, who took all their information and promised to contact them soon regarding a home visit and suitability assessment. 

Just a week later, Marcail asked if they’d be ready for a home visit that week.  “Aye, Marcail, is everythin’ alrigh’ wi’ Thomas?”

Marcail scratched her scalp wearily, “Unfortunately, no.  He’s not doing well and we think he’s lonely for other children his age.  There are none in the home and the foster mom has other small kids who aren’t interested in playing with Thomas.”

“Marcail, I know that Claire and I would want to do anything possible to help him.  Come on by for a home visit and ye can give us more information on Thomas, as ye promised, aye?”

“Jamie, thank you so much.  I’ll schedule one for Thursday at 7p.m., if that’s alright with you two.”

O’course it is.  I’ll let Claire know when she comes home.”  He heard the door open and a happy squeal in the background, “Oh, Wee Brian just spotted his Mam,” he said, chuckling.

Jamie could hear the smile in Marcail’s voice, “Well, you better go corral your son. Have a good night and I’ll see ye on Thursday at 7pm.”

“Aye, Marcail, and thank ye.”

Jamie ended the call and kissed Claire hello and went into the kitchen to start dinner.  After dinner, when Brian was in bed, Jamie brought Claire a glass of wine and sat down across from her in the living room,

“Marcail called today and said that Thomas isn’t doing well.  She says that the foster family is essentially too busy to give him the attention he needs and he’s not thriving there.” He took Claire’s hand and said, “She asked for a home visit on Thursday at 7p.m. I think she’s going to try to move him as soon as she can.”

Claire’s eyes were rimmed with tears, “Oh, that poor boy.  We’ll clean this place up and get ready for the visit and hopefully he can join us sooner than later.”

“Aye, mo ghràidh, I kent ye’d say just that.  Shall we go up to bed?”

“Yes! Oh, it was such a long day.”  The Frasers went upstairs and fell asleep, dreaming of a baby they did not know yet.

Thursday came and Marcail arrived slightly early.  Jamie took her coat and umbrella and hung them in the hall closet.  Claire was holding Brian and showed Marcail to the kitchen table. Claire served everyone some orange coconut cake and decaf.  After they’d finished their refreshments, she pulled out her briefcase and extracted a thick manila folder.  Brian leaned over in Claire’s arms and slapped the folder with a meaty hand, “Do-do-toh-toh, mmmm” he said to her.  She looked at him and smiled, “Well, Brian, that’s right. This is the information on who I hope will become your brother soon, Thomas!“

She addressed Jamie and Claire, “My, he is observant, isn’t he?” 

Claire groaned, “You’re not kidding.  We’re already having to watch everything we say and do around him.”

“Aye, we do.  It’s not a problem, ken, it’s just an adjustment.” 

She smiled and put her hand on the file.  “As your son already intuited, this is Thomas’ file.  His full name is Thomas James Genji Maiava,” she said.  “Here’s his picture.”  Claire and Jamie crowded together to look at Thomas.  He was a beautiful boy, with skin the color of creamy coffee, curly black hair and enormous cat-like melted-chocolate eyes that slanted just a bit, just like Jamie’s.  He was the picture of health, with fat rolls and dimples in all the right place.  He was smiling in the picture and Claire traced her finger over his face and whispered.  “Hello, baby Thomas, are you coming home to Mam and Da soon?”

Jamie cleared the lump in his throat when he saw Claire’s eyes brimming with tears. 

“He’s a braw lad, Marcail.  I canna believe his second name is James.  He’ll be a welcome part of this family, I guarantee it.”  

Marcail continued, “His mother is full-blooded Japanese and his father is full-blooded Samoan. Oh, and Thomas is quite a bit bigger than other boys his age.  He’s already 18 kilos and 90 centimeters long, so you may want to consider that when you think about baby clothes.  His birthday is on December 12th.“ she paused when she saw both Frasers’ sharp intake of breath, “Is there something amiss?”

Claire found her voice first.  He was born on December 12, 2021, correct?”

“Yes, that’s right.  Is there a significance to the date?”

Jamie ventured slowly, “Thomas is exactly the same age as Brian.  Brian was born on the same day, same year.”

Now it was Marcail’s turn to be surprised, “My goodness, really?  She grinned, “Did you know that ‘Thomas’ means ‘twin’ and that ‘Genji’ means ‘two beginnings’?  If you decide to adopt Thomas, you will be his second beginning in life!”

Jamie and Claire burst out laughing at that.  “It’s got to be a sign, don’t you think, Marcail?”

She laughed, “Maybe.  Perhaps the fairies are at work here, pulling on the gossamer threads of destiny!”

The three of them laughed at the absurdity.  Fairies? Really?

Claire and Jamie finally finished Marcail’s paperwork and handed over their financial statements for the last five years, as well as character references from colleagues and close friends.  They even gave Marcail a little purple stuffed dog for Thomas.  They took her on a tour of the house and showed her Brian’s bedroom, where, hopefully, Thomas would be sleeping soon.  Marcail didn’t say much, but she was furiously scribbling notes on a legal pad.  She noted with approval that the boys would have their own bath and playroom and that Brian’s bedroom was large enough to hold two cribs. 

They went back to the table and Marcail skimmed over the family history description,

“I see you have living parents, three siblings, all married and several nieces and nephews.  Is your family close, Jamie?”

“Oh, aye, we are.  My folks own our family estate, which has been in the family since 1715.  It’s called Lallybroch, only about 20 minutes from here.  My father, Brian, is the Laird of Lallybroch and my mother, Ellen, is the Lady of Lallybroch.  It’s a working farm, with some cash crops, along with fields, streams, ponds, horses, cattle, chickens, sheep and pigs and a good bunch of guard dogs who all love children.”

“Holy cow.” Marcail realized what she said and blushed.  “Excuse me.”  I meant to say “my goodness.”

“Since the farm is more a hobby farm, we have our main business headquartered there and my  sister and her family and my brother Willie and his family live on family land, too.  We’re the Frasers behind “Fraser’s Whisky.”

“What do you do, Jamie?”

“I’m the VP of International Sales for the company.  My father is the head of the firm, and many of our family members work there, too.  Fraser Industries believes in supporting all its employees, which is why we have a daycare onsite.”

“Yes, and the hospital does, as well,” offered Claire. 

“Claire, you’re a surgeon?”

“Yes, board-certified.  I have a practice at the hospital itself.  I attended Oxford for all of my schooling and had a full-ride scholarship the entire time.”

Marcali busily notated the information. 

“Unfortunately, my parents are gone and I have no other surviving family.” She smiled, “Though, the Frasers never met a stranger.  They’ve assimilated me quite thoroughly, like The Borg.”

Marcali snorted and nearly choked on her coffee.  Horrified, Claire got her a dishtowel.  Thankfully, no coffee got on her clothing – just on the table.

“Oh, no, Marcali, I’m so sorry!  ‘The Borg’ is the most accurate description I can think of when it comes to describing how newcomers are absorbed into the Fraser family.  I couldn’t ask for a better set of in-laws.”

“Oh, God, Claire, that was funny.  All I could picture was Alice Krige and Hugh.” Marcali giggled.

“So, I think I’ve got plenty to go on.  Someone from my office will call to arrange a face-to-face meeting with Thomas.  And you might want to consider bringing Brian along; to see how they interact.  Jamie helped her with her coat and she turned to them, “I don’t foresee any difficulties with this placement.  If you can get a crib and some clothes by next week, that would be grand.  Just give me a ring and let me know, please.”

“Oh, we’ll have no problem wi’ that, Marcali.  I ken one of my brothers has a crib we can have.  And clothes? Thomas will never lack for clothes with so many cousins.”

“Marcali, thank you again for your time and this opportunity.  We really appreciate it,” Claire smiled and she, Brian and Jamie walked her out to her car.  Brian squealed at Marcali and waved his fist, chanting “do do do toh toh toh!” and gave her his winningest smile.
The following weekend was a maelstrom of activity.  A second crib was brought in, and Claire stocked up on more bottles and baby clothes.  A second dresser was brought in by Willie and Ian and placed next to Thomas’ crib.  Jamie had taken a picture of the picture of Thomas and sent it to Mam and Da, who got very excited,

“I have to start on a baby blanket for him!” He could hear her happiness.

“Aye, Jamie, tha’s a balach mòr fallain (big healthy boy)!” Crowed Brian, excitedly.

“Aye, Da, we’re goin’ ta see him on Monday night after work before he goes to bed.  We were advised to bring Wee Brian to see how the two of them get along.  We’re happy and we’ll call wi’ an update next week.” 

Jamie got off the phone with Da and went to check the nursery.  Did they need anything? He looked around, satisfied.  He didn’t notice that anything was missing, except Thomas, of course.  Claire would tell him what to get if she thought the room needed anything.  He got Brian’s dirty laundry and put it on and folded it immediately when it was dry.  He took it back upstairs with Brian and put the laundry away and then put his son to bed, but not before he settled into the rocker and gave his heir his nightly bottle,

“Tha’s right, mo chuisle, next week we’re all going to meet Thomas, and we hope ta welcome him home not too long after that. I hope the twa o’ ye get along like a house on fire.” 

Brian’s eyes had been growing steadily heavier and he was asleep before the last swallow of milk was out of the bottle.  Jamie laid him gently in his crib and tiptoed out and headed downstairs to lock up.  His wife was studying some case files in their office and he walked in just as her mouth was split open with an enormous yawn.  He walked up to her and massaged her shoulders and smiled at her happy groan, “Oh, Jamie, that feels so good.  Thank you, darling.  Is Brian down?”

“Aye, mo ghaol.  I did his wash as well an’ it’s all put away already.”

“Oh, you wonderful Da. Thank you so much for not leaving that for me!”

Jamie snorted, “Well, he’s my son, too.  I hate it when men think that childcare and everything adjacent is the mother’s duty.”

“Yes, we hate it too, believe me,” Claire smirked.  “I have friends who divorced their husbands because day after day, year after year, the men waited to be told to take care of things instead of acknowledging that it had to be done and just doing it, like women are trained from a young age to do.”

Monday night finally came and the Frasers headed over to Thomas’ foster home.  Brian sat perched on his father’s massive arm and clutched his favorite plush train in his fist, waving it excitedly.  Claire had a new toy for Thomas as well and Brian’s diaper bag.  Hopefully if they both had a toy, there wouldn’t be any squabbling. 

They rang the bell and Mrs. Murphy answered, “Ye must be the Frasers. Welcome to tha zoo,” She smiled tiredly and invited them in.  Mr. Murphy was on the couch with Thomas, dandling him on his knee.  Jamie and Claire’s first glimpse was of a stocky baby with the most endearing cloud of jet-black curls they’d ever seen.  His skin was a beautiful cafe latte color.  When Brian said, “Do do do doh toh toh toh bbbbbbb!” Thomas’ head whipped around and melted dark-chocolate eyes crinkled up in a huge smile.  Jamie and Claire greeted Mr. Murphy and Thomas, but didn’t come close, so Thomas wouldn’t feel threatened,

“Hello, Thomas, my name is Claire.  I came to meet you today and invite you to stay with us for a while.  This,” she gestured to Jamie, “is Jamie.  He’s my husband, and he’s holding Brian, our son.  Would you like to meet him?”  Thomas drooled on his sleeper in excitement.  She turned her face to Brian, “Do you want to say hello to Thomas?” 

Brian wiggled in Jamie’s arms, wanting to get down.

“Aye, hello Thomas, my name is Jamie, and like Claire said, we’re hoping you’ll decide to come live with us.  We’ll visit you here and you can come play with Brian if ye want before ye decide.  We dinna want ta put ye under pressure, ken?” Jamie smiled at Thomas and he crowed hello, which made Jamie laugh out loud, “Aye, ye’re a braw lad, Thomas.  Ye’ll fit in just fine!”

Brian nearly launched himself out of Jamie’s arms, so Jamie put him down on the floor.  Brian called to Thomas, “Toh toh toh toh!”  Thomas’ eyes got big and he cooed, ‘Buh-buh-duh” and launched himself to the floor.  Claire handed Mr. Murphy the toy for Thomas and he handed it to the boy at his feet.  Claire and Jamie were handed mugs of tea by Mrs. Murphy and took seats

to watch the children interact.  They crawled to each other and collapsed on their tummies, both speaking to each other at the same time.  When Brian got up on his knees and sat, so did Thomas.  They played with toys, but mostly stared at each other, gummy grins and chortles issuing from two Budda-like bellies.  Thomas crawled over to Brian and reached out a wet-from-drool hand, waving it in Brian’s face.  Jamie made a move to stop him, but Claire put her hand on his forearm and shook her head.  Neither of the babies were crying and Brian was just blinking, not making a fuss at all.  The babies continued playing and the adults enjoyed their own conversation.  At 8:00 p.m., Claire and Jamie gathered Brian’s things and bundled him into his jacket, preparing to leave.  That’s when the stramash hit.  Both Brian and Thomas wailed in a very loud concert of consternation and began to cry.  Frasers and Murphys tried in vain to calm their respective child, but they just fussed even more.  Finally, Jamie realized that there was nothing to do but leave and that’s what they did.  Claire promised Mrs. Murphy in a very loud voice that she would be happy to call and arrange another play date.  Mrs. Murphy replied “THAT SOUNDS LIKE A BRAW IDEA, DR. FRASER!” She smiled and wished them goodnight.  Even over Brian’s fussing, they could hear Thomas bellowing his discontent all the way to the car

When Marcali called the Frasers to see how the meet-and-greet went, Claire and Jamie laughed and said that it went so well that the babies cried when they were separated.  Marcali’s mouth fell open, “They cried?” 

Jamie responded, “Aye, they cried, screamed and carried on so loudly that we had to shout to be heard above them to set up the next play date!”

Marcali laughed in relief, “Well, trying to settle two screaming babies isn’t fun, but it’s wonderful to hear it went so well.”

The Frasers and Murphys kept visiting each other and met either at the Murphy or Fraser house.  They went as far as to trade babysitting duties, with Marcali’s okay.  After three months of play dates they progressed to overnight visits to Lallybroch.  Of course, Brian and Ellen insisted that the whole family come.  They rallied all their children and grandchildren, and it was a raucous family affair each time. 

On the way to Lallybroch one morning, Mrs. Murphy mentioned that they were going to go see Ellen Brian, Ian and Jenny.  Thomas piped up, “DEN DEN DEN!” and clapped his hands.  They looked at each other, wondering what Thomas meant with that.  When they pulled up to the house, Ian and Jenny were there to greet them.  Mr. Murphy unbuckled Thomas and greeted the Murrays.  When Thomas caught sight of Jenny, he pointed a slobbery finger at her and crowed, “DEN DEN DEN!” and tried to launch himself into her arms.  Her mouth dropped open and she looked to her husband, who smiled happily and shrugged.  Even Jamie and Claire were speechless.  Thomas hadn’t spoken that way to anyone, ever!  She tut-tutted, “Now, Thomas, mo chridhe, I won’t stand fer tha’, it’s not safe, ken?”  She kissed him in greeting and took him in her arms.  Thomas snuggled his head in her neck and said, “Den Den Den,” patted her cheek with a slimy hand and promptly closed his eyes for a nap.  Jenny didn’t dare put him down and sat in the easy chair and tipped it back gently, legs cushioned on the footrest.  Eventually, she, too, succumbed to sleep and Jamie tenderly covered her and the baby with a fluffy blanket.  Big Brian and Ian took a couple of photos of the two of them and framed the best for her birthday, sending another to the social worker, who responded with a “thumbs-up” emoji.  As she unwrapped the gift, she took one look and promptly burst into tears, gripping Ian’s hand, happy tears streaking her cheeks, murmuring, “Ah, there’s ma braw lad.” 

Thomas and Jenny’s relationship only strengthened from that day.  He worshipped her and she adored him like he was one of her own.  Every once in a while, they would go into town, just Thomas and Den-Den (he refused to call her anything else for the rest of his life) and have a good visit over fish and chips or tea somewhere.  They would go by themselves – nobody else was ever invited to come along.  Jenny bristled if anyone else tried to call her “Den-Den,” and Thomas got really annoyed, every single time. 

As Thomas grew older, he learned that Den-Den was a wonderful confidante.  He could talk to her about things that he couldn’t or didn’t want to discuss with others, like girls, issues with his parents, or, even his fears.  She, in turn, learned to confide in him.  They both knew what they spoke of on their outings was as safe as in a vault – it was between them and not discussed with others.  The family learned early on not to pry because they were both tight-lipped.  These “dates” were so sacrosanct that they continued even after Thomas married and became a father and Jenny a grandmother.  Eventually, of course, Thomas dwarfed his Den-Den, but that didn’t matter.  Her word was always law. 

When Jamie and Claire couldn’t make his sports games, she was there, cheering him on.  She and Claire, along with Murtagh and Suzette, were right near the center line when he and his soccer team won their last game of the season, catapulting them into the running for the regionals.  He and Wee Brian played on the same team.  Instead of joining the scrum of celebrating boys when the whistle sounded, Brian looked at his brother and winked. Brian smiled back and both raced towards Claire and Den-Den.  Brian hoisted his mother onto his shoulders and Thomas did the same with his Den-Den.  Both women were horrified and thrilled at the same time and hung on to the lads’ outstretched hands as tightly as they could, cackling like loons.  Pretty soon, the other boys saw what the commotion was, cheered the Frasers and went to hoist their own mams and sisters onto their shoulders.  The local paper had sent a photog and she got a few really good pictures of Thomas and Den-Den and Brian and Claire cheering and grinning madly.  She sent everyone their own copies as well as a copy of Jenny and Thomas to Claire and Claire and Brian to Jenny.  Both photos took pride of place among the family photos.  When Ian and Jamie returned from their business trip and saw the photos, they stared at them open-mouthed and crossed themselves, twice.

By the time Thomas was 16, he was 6’5” and weighed 230 lbs (104 kg), most of which was pure muscle.  One Friday night, he and Den-Den went out to a local pub to have a chat and spend some time together.  They ordered their dinners and a couple of pints.  After they were done eating, Jenny had excused herself to the ladies’ for a moment.  Thomas saw some of his schoolmates at another table and went to join them for a minute.  They were talking and laughing until Thomas heard Den-Den say, “back off, ye octopus, I said no! Are ye soft i’ the heid?” Thomas, who’d had his back to the bar, turned around so fast that he just about knocked the table over in his haste.  His friends saw his head whip around and his face grow dark.  They wisely grabbed the table to steady it.  He growled and strode quickly to the bar where his aunt was trying to remove a man’s hand from her upper arm,

“Is this poor excuse for a man botherin’ ye, Den-Den?”  He asked in Gàidhlig.  His face was red and his hands were clenched into fists,

“Aye, mo eun (my lamb), he is.  I came up here to order us another pint each and he started touchin’ me. Thank ye.” She answered him in the Ghadlig 

Thomas’ eyes turned black when he heard the word “touchin’.  He gripped the lech’s hand in his and yanked it back and up to his scapula.  He dug his other hand into the waistband of the man’s trousers and seethed fire into his ear in English,

“Apologize ta ma Auntie, now, ye wee buggering shite, then we’ll have a talk outside, aye?” 

The man whined, “Bu-but, I’m nae finished wi’ ma tipple!”

“Oh, aye, ye are!” This time, Thomas yanked the man’s hand up so high he heard bones pop and the man yelled in pain, “Fine, fine, I’m sorry for botherin’ ye, Ma’am.  It won’t happen again.” 

“Tha’s more like it.  Den-Den, please, go sit wi’ mah mates ower there for a wee bit until I’m done with this, aye?”  He looked at her with adoration in his eyes as she patted his cheek.  She knew she could say something to him, but the wanker deserved whatever was coming.  He blushed ten shades of pleased red, turned and marched off with his prize.  One of his friends had heard Thomas and scrambled up to escort Jenny there.

“Come sit wi’ us, Mrs. Murray, we’re glad o’ the company.” 

Jenny smiled and took his arm gratefully. 

Thomas steered the helpless man outside, released him and warned, “Tha next time ye see that woman, ye steer clear, aye?  I’ll be tellin’ her sons, my brother, da and my uncles about ye.  They’ll fix yer wagon but good!”  Just as the man thought he was to be let off easy, Thomas drove a massive fist into his jaw.  He thudded to the ground and Thomas left him there, pleased that justice had been done.  Just as with everything else, neither spoke a word about it, ever.  Thomas insisted on naming his first daughter Janet Elizabeth Claire Maiva Fraser, which made Den-Den cry at her great-niece’s christening.  Coincedentally, Elizabeth was his mother-in-law’s middle name as well as Claire’s.  When Jenny passed at 85, his wife Rebekah got the call from Claire and told her husband as gently as she could that Jenny was gone.  Her amazingly strong 6’6” mountain of man collapsed into her arms, sobbing for his beloved Den-Den.  She rocked him to sleep in her arms that terrible night.  He was a pallbearer with his brother and cousins, and tears streamed down his face the whole way up the aisle.  He never quite recovered from her death –some of the light left his warm brown eyes the day he lost the first love of his life.

After four months of agonizing waiting, the Frasers were finally allowed to take Thomas home for good.  They brought him and all of his things home, much to Wee Brian’s delight.  From that day on, the boys were as close as brothers could be.  They liked to sleep in the same crib and would chatter in their own “twin-talk” that nobody else could understand.  Very soon after he was adopted, his whole name became Thomas James Genji Maiava Fraser.

When Brian and Thomas were two, Jamie and Claire decided that they wanted to bring another child into the world.  They had a meeting with the family and Jenny approached them later and offered to be their surrogate. 

Jamie and Claire cried when she offered.  Jamie said timidly,

“A leannan, are ye sure? There’s a chance that more than one egg will fertilize, ye ken?”

“Aye, I ken it, Jamie.  Tha’s a chance I’m willin’ ta take, dinna fash.”  Ian and I already spoke on this at length and we’d like to give ye this gift.”

Claire started crying again, “Oh, Jenny, thank you.  I don’t know what to say, except I’ll babysit anytime you want!”

Jenny smiled wryly, “Aye, ye will, sister!” and smirked. 

Ian chuckled and remarked, “Weel, I’m proud of Jenny; I think it’s a grand undertaking.”

A year later, Jenny gave birth to fraternal twin girls, 24 minutes apart.  Gayle Elin Flora Beauchamp Fraser was firstborn, with Claire’s hair and Jamie’s eyes.  She was named for her Auntie Gayle.  Her younger sister, Elizabeth Janet Geilis MacKenzie Fraser was named for her Aunties Jenny and Geilis and looked just like Jamie, except she had Claire’s eyes, like her eldest brother, Brian.  The boys were excited by the thought of having younger siblings – they didn’t care if they were boys or girls; they just wanted more children in the house to play with.

The boys were in the same year, although not in the same class. 

They loved their sisters dearly and were very protective of her.  No fellow student pestered the Fraser girls for dates or tried to pressure them into anything they weren’t comfortable with; they knew they’d have to answer to Thomas or Brian.  The boys both excelled at school, because they wanted to and their parents expected it of them.  When they had both finished 6th Form, they were drafted onto the local rugby team, where they helped their team win three championships in a row.  They were then recruited by Edinburgh and under the coaches there, developed a fearsome reputation.  Thomas was now 6’6” and 250 lbs of pure grit.  His brother was 6’5” and 240 lbs, a mountain of a man and taller than his Da.  He also had “the sight,” just like Granny Ellen.  They were affectionately known as “The Terror Twins” to their fans.  To opposing players, they were considered unbeatable when on the field together.  Woe betide the player that went after one, because the other always followed to try to protect one another especially if they thought someone had played dirty. – but they were honorable, fair players.  Their parents and sisters were their greatest supporters.  They helped Scotland win the Rugby World Cup and Six Nations Cup.  When they got an extra ticket each for a guest at the World Cup, the boys agreed to invite Da and Uncle Ian after Claire and Jenny encouraged them to let it be a men’s overnight out .  As a surprise to their two favorite men, a 1959 Rolls Royce Phantom picked them up at Lallybroch and took them to suites at the Waldorf Astoria, where they were met by Brian and Thomas for dinner at The Kitchin, the best restaurant in town.  The game was the next day, Saturday.  Both Jamie and Ian were avid rugby fans, so access to the World Cup finale was a dream come true. The boys celebrated Scotland’s win by Thomas hoisting his Da on his shoulders and Brian his Uncle Ian and the brothers brought them into the celebrations on the field.  Ian and Jamie had a blast and had Gatorade and champagne poured on their heads and in their mouths, thanks to the two bottles Brian nicked and made sure to give them.  The whole family was at Lallybroch and cheered when Jamie and Ian were hoisted onto the boys’ heavily muscled shoulders – a BBC Sports news camera captured the whole thing.  “There go the Terror Twins, into the stands.  Wait, who are they talking to? Oh my goodness, Thomas is hoisting – is that his father, John?” The announcer asked his co-host.  “Yes, Pete,” John answered, “I’ve seen Jamie Fraser here with the rest of the family on plenty of occasions.  The man that Brian is putting on his shoulders is Jamie’s best friend and brother-in-law, Ian Murray.  Both Jamie and Ian are Highlanders, born and raised, and the whole family are huge fans of this team! They’re taking them into the celebration on the field on their shoulders!”  

The girls, obviously, were in the same grade but not the same class.  Elizabeth Janet Geilis MacKenzie Fraser (“Bee-Bee”), as she was named by her brothers, loved hunting, fishing, wood carving and the farm.  She especially adored her father, who called her mo sgàil bheag, “my wee shadow.”  She stayed on the farm after getting a master’s in modern farming practices and sustainable farming practices.  She and her husband built a house close to Claire and Jamie so they could raise their six children near their grandparents and eventually take over Lallybroch one day.  She was the sibling who took care of her parents in their old age when the time came.

Gayle, on the other hand, was named “Gigi“ by the boys, loved all animals, with the exception of loving only Donas among all the horses at Lallybroch.  Indeed, she had Donas wrapped around her little finger.  One day when Jamie was trying to settle him before a ride, the giant horse pushed past his master and shouldered his way into the yard, taking off at a gallop.  Claire was holding the girls’ hands, walking towards the stables to join Jamie.  She saw Donas running wild and stopped in her tracks, trying the best she could to stay calm.  Jamie watched in horror as the stallion bore down on his family, praying the damn animal would run around them.  To his and Claire’s surprise, Donas abruptly stopped less than a meter in front of Claire and the girls.  Jamie ran up to see Gayle had pulled herself away from Claire and was walking unsteadily towards Donas, completely fearless, cooing the entire time.  The horse lowered his massive head and she grabbed onto his forelock for balance.  He did nothing except breathe in her smell and lip her hair gently, which made her giggle.  She stretched out her tiny hand and patted his nose gently, murmuring “Dodas, Dodas” and kissed him.  He laid his neck gently on her shoulder and whuffed contentedly.  For the rest of his life, Jamie would say that the incident was one of the most incredible things he’d ever seen.  Claire and Jamie wondered why other horses steered clear of Gigi when Donas was in the pasture with them, until they saw how Donas actually kept other horses away from her, guarding the wee lass jealously, only happy when she was on his back.  She became a veterinarian and was known as the “animal whisperer” for having a way to communicate with animals that simply made her the best vet around.  She eventually opened her own practice and would make house calls to large animals.  Donas missed her so much when she was in college that Claire had to get Gigi to sleep with an old woolen scarf for a week.  She then hung it in his stall.  For four years, Gigi had to sleep with the scarf when she was home to renew her scent for Donas.  When Jamie and Claire buried him, under his favorite oak tree, they cushioned his great head on the scarf, now tattered and ragged.  Gayle and her husband chose not to have children.  Instead, Gigi focused on being the best Auntie ever. 

Claire and Jamie’s special purpose manifested itself in the rugby camp they helped their sons establish.  It was a month-long sleep-away camp for all children, ten to seventeen, girls and boys.  Children were accepted from around the world to the camp regardless of ability to pay.  If they showed promise, they were invited.  Many children got free rides or partial scholarships.  Former graduates came back to be coaches and mentors to new generations of children.  Clinics with professional rugby players, coaches, agents and financial consultants were offered.  Every child who was at least 14 was required to take a course on financial literacy with the financial consultant. 

When Robbie and Laoghire’s youngest, Angus, was born, he was diagnosed with severe cerebral palsy.  He was wheelchair-bound but was the joy of the family.  Brian and Thomas made sure to establish a foundation called “The Je Suis Prest Foundation” in order to funnel money and resources into research and treatment for children affected with CP and other illnesses to hopefully find a cure some day.  Part of the Foundation’s work was setting up dream vacations for families of children being assisted by Je Suis Prest.  They were gifted a week anywhere in the world, all expenses paid.

Jamie ended up seeing Wyatt about every 5 years or so until his final day on Earth in this lifetime.  He lived to an incredible 83 years old and had a wonderful life.  He and Claire had grandchildren and great-grandchildren; the family kept expanding over the years.  One afternoon, he and Claire went upstairs and took a nap together.  His last memory was the wonderful warmth of her tiny hand in his,

“I love ye always, mo chridhe,” he whispered.

“And I love you, my darling,” Claire whispered back.  They kissed, slowly and passionately, and both fell asleep with a smile on their faces and warmth in their hearts.  When Claire woke, she kissed him, “Come on, Sleepyhead, it’s time for tea,” and shook him gently.  When he didn’t respond, she checked his pulse and confirmed her worst fear.  Jamie was gone.  Tears dripped down her cheeks and she whispered, “Wait for me, my love.” And kissed him tenderly one last time. 

Claire died two weeks later.  Her children knew it was from a broken heart – their parents had never liked being apart for more than a few days at the most.  Her children knew they and their children and their children’s children were all loved, but Claire’s heart was too bereft and heavy without her love by her side. 

In the end, Wyatt did come for Jamie.  He found it easy to leave his body behind, but worried about Claire, “Wyatt, will she be alright?” Jamie fretted. 

“Aye, she’ll be alright, Jamie, an’ she’ll come when it’s her time.  In Paradise, time flows differently.  When ye see her, it’ll be like no time passed at all.” 

Seeing the doubting look on his charge’s face, he reassured him,

“Jamie, remember? Have faith in the Lord as He has in you, His son.”

His heart lightened, Jamie took Wyatt’s hand and they left the house.  His parents, Jenny, Ian, Murtagh and Suzette and the rest of his family was waiting for him and Jamie was filled with hope that he’d see his Sassenach soon, too. 

Sure enough, Wyatt visited him one day and guided him to the edge of Paradise.  Joe, Geilis, Gayle, Willie and her parents were waiting with him.  A shout of joy erupted from his throat - There she was, his beloved Sassenach!  With her was a young black woman who introduced herself as Penny.

“Jamie, oh, my love! It’s you, it’s really you!”  The misery of separation that crushed their hearts dissolved and their eternal love made them whole once again.

 

 

 

AUTHOR'S NOTES

 

A/N: Sterling silver roses are a gray-lavender color and are breathtaking. I wrote that they  smell good, but it's been over 20 years since I've seen any up-close enough to” smell 'em. https://www.teleflora.com/bouquet/forever-mine-by-teleflora?prodID=P_TEV17-1A&srccode=PS_GS&promotion=PSGS15&gclid=Cj0KCQjwmdzzBRC7ARIsANdqRRnTzV0Ci4If2maYXVP7HkqelazcHfA_SiA1TbjgtH7RP0gjoFEexlEaAoH8EALw_wcB

 

Paul Bunyan is a giant mythical American lumberjack. He owns a blue ox named Babe. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Bunyan

 

Carol Burnett is an American comedienne (who makes me laugh until I cry) and had her own variety show on network TV for many years. One of her comedy skits is so revered that her costume from that skit is on display in America's national museum, The Smithsonian, located in Washington, DC.  https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Went_with_the_Wind!

 

A Claymore is a large sword originating in the Scottish Highlands. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Claymore

 

"Double-secret-probation" is a quote from the movie "Animal House," an American classic. Some of the alumni are: the late John Belushi (Blues Brothers), Donald Sutherland (M A S H ), a not-yet-famous Kevin Bacon, Karen Allen (Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom), the late Stephen Furst  *sob*  (TV's St. Elsewhere) and Tom Hulce (the Mozart biopic Amadeus), among others.

 

To go "toe-to-toe" with someone is to meet them on a metaphorical equal footing.  https://www.collinsdictionary.com/us/dictionary/english/toe-to-toe

 

Elizabeth Taylor was a British-born actress who had a genetic anomaly that gave her a double-row of eyelashes. She also had violet eyes…  jeez… lucky girl!  

 

To "throw one's gauntlet (a man's glove that covers his whole hand, wrist and part of his forearm)" is an ancient way for a man to challenge another. If the second man picked up the thrower's glove from the ground, the challenge had been accepted.  https://www.dictionary.com/browse/throw--down--the--gauntlet

 

To "pop a woman's cherry" is a very crude way to describe taking a woman's (or a man's) virginity. It is also (a crude reference) used to indicate the first time something has happened. In Francis Ford Coppola's classic gangster movie "Goodfellas," the mob capo Paulie (Paul Sorvino) says that the young Henry Hill "popped his cherry" when he got arrested the first time and didn't rat out his mob compatriots.

 

To "give someone quarter" is an old phrase that originally meant that prisoners would not be executed. Today, it is generally understood to give someone a break or relief from something. https://www.thefreedictionary.com/To+give+quarter">To give quarter</a>

 

Candyland is a children's board game centering on, you guessed it, candy… my favorite were the ice-cream sandwich barge-floaty thingies. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Candy_Land

 

A centimeter is 2.54 American inches. https://convert.french-property.co.uk/

 

A kilo is 100 grams, or 2.205 American pounds. https://convert.french-property.co.uk/

 

A "short stack" is American restaurant lingo for less than a full order of pancakes. If a full order has three pancakes, a short stack may have only two. Jamie is calling Claire "Short Stack" because she's so much shorter than he is.

 

Kneadful Things Bakery is a real bakery located in Birmingham, Alabama, USA. Jasmine is the owner and baker and she makes wonderful confections. Please check her out on FB!

 

The story about the wedding dress is my story. The seamstress who fixed everything except one faint stain (you had to know where to look to find it on the train) was real. She told me "her ladies" who worked for her liked that it was old-school. I borrowed the jewelry from a close friend and, stupidly, gave it back to her :) The marriage didn't last, but I sure looked good that day ;)

 

Claire's Wedding Dress:

https://www.tiffanyrose.com/us/maternity/clothing/NLGI/Nicola-Lace-Maternity-Wedding-Gown-Long-Ivory.html

 

Claire's fundraiser outfit is this Rene Ruiz number:

https://www.neimanmarcus.com/p/rene-ruiz-off-the-shoulder-beaded-column-gown-prod229860214

 

“In like Flynn,” as least as I understand it, is about the late movie actor Errol Flynn, who was a very popular movie star in the 1930s-1940s in the U.S.:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_like_Flynn

 

Claire's silk peignoir: https://www.etsy.com/listing/514456894/lore-2-pc-white-100-silk-marabou-trimmed?ga_order=most_relevant&ga_search_type=all&ga_view_type=gallery&ga_search_query=silk+peignoir&ref=sr_gallery-1-29&organic_search_click=1&pro=1&frs=1

The African cuisine site:  https://www.tasteatlas.com/100-most-popular-foods-in-africa

 

The bangles really do exist, and the story I told is real. I don't look particularly good in silver and have no kids, so I sent them to my sister when our Mum passed.

 

It was my mum who let us play with her wedding dress playing dress-ups.